Brent Oil Drops under $70 for First Time since April


Oil prices and stock markets slumped Friday, with Brent North Sea crude tumbling under $70, while the dollar strengthened as the Federal Reserve flagged more US interest rate hikes.

Brent struck a seven-month low points on surging US energy stockpiles before a weekend meeting of major oil producing nations.

European and Asian stock markets slid as a rally triggered by unsurprising US midterm election results faded further.

In midday deals, London's benchmark FTSE 100 index lost 0.8 percent, as markets waited also on a Brexit deal to smooth Britain's exit from the European Union.

In the eurozone, Frankfurt's DAX 30 index dropped 0.6 percent and the Paris CAC 40 retreated 1.0 percent, also as worries resurfaced over Italy's troubled economy.

US stock markets closed mostly lower Thursday, with Asian equities following suit on Friday.

Tokyo ended down 1.1 percent. Hong Kong shed 2.4 percent and Shanghai finished 1.4 percent lower, also after data showed another drop in Chinese factory prices, while tech firms were hit by a series of weak earnings results from mainland firms.

Benchmark oil contract, Brent North Sea crude for delivery in January, slumped to $69.13 per barrel, the lowest level since April. 

It later recovered to $69.75, but still down almost a dollar since Thursday's close.

New York's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for December tanked to a February low of $59.28 per barrel -- later trading at $59.82.

"European markets are following their Asian counterparts lower... as a hawkish Fed quelled bullish sentiment seen throughout much of the week," noted Joshua Mahony, analyst at IG trading group. 

"The dollar has been the centre of much of the post-Fed price action, with recent declines in the greenback reversing overnight. 

"The strength in the dollar has helped enhance the decline in the pound," which took a knock also from mixed British growth data, he added.

Shares in European energy companies meanwhile tanked in the wake of oil's drop.

BP shed 2.0 percent, Shell gave up 1.0 percent and Total lost 2.5 percent.

Stock markets had enjoyed a midweek rally after traders bet that the expected gridlock on Capitol Hill would keep US President Donald Trump from pushing through measures that would likely stoke inflation and in turn rate hikes.

Rising US borrowing costs have been one of the major issues weighing on global equities this year.

However after its latest policy meeting Thursday, the Fed repeated that it expected "further gradual increases" in the key interest rate as the US economy strengthens.

- Key figures around 1230 GMT -Oil - Brent Crude: DOWN 90 cents at $69.75 per barrel

Oil - West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 85 cents at $59.82

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,081.18 points  

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.6 percent at 11,454.46 

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 1.0 percent at 5,082.81

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.8 percent at 3,211.49 

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.1 percent at 22,250.25 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 2.4 percent at 25,601.92 (close) 

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 1.4 percent at 2,598.87 (close)

New York - Dow: FLAT at 26,191.22 (close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1349 from $1.1364 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3028 from $1.3063

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 113.85 yen from 114.07 yen


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