Asian shares slump on worries falling crude signals weak global growth

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Asian shares weakerAsian shares weaker - Concerns that falling oil prices signal a wider economic global slowdown hit Asian shares Wednesday, with stocks in Australia leading losses.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.6%, after U.S. oil prices closed below $50 a barrel overnight for the first time in nearly six years. The six-month-long selloff in the commodity has accelerated on worries that demand from Europe and Asia will be weaker than expected while output from the U.S. remains strong.

Markets like Australia have been particularly hurt as lower oil prices are expected to weigh on margins of producers of iron ore, oil and other commodities. Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd (ASX:LNG), Sundance Energy Australia Ltd (ASX:SEA) and Santos Ltd (ASX:STO) have led losses since the beginning of January, each shedding more than 10%.

Elsewhere in Asia, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.2% and Korea's Kospi was down 0.2%.

Overnight, U.S. stocks were lower after the close on Tuesday, as losses in the Oil & Gas, Technology and Financials sectors led shares lower.

At the close in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.74%, while the S&P 500 index declined 0.89%, and the NASDAQ Composite index declined 1.29%.

Investors will be turning their attention to Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for further indications on the strength of the recovery in the labor market. Wednesday’s Federal Reserve meeting minutes will be also closely watched.

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