Shares in energy firms tumbled Friday after oil prices hit four-year lows in reaction to OPEC's decision to ignore calls for an output cut, although the prospect of cheaper fuel sent airlines surging.
Sydney's ASX/S&P 200, the home of commodity giants such as BHP Billiton, Woodside and Santos, was the stand-out loser, although Asian stock markets were mixed as cheaper oil means lower import costs.
At a closely watched meeting Thursday the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said it would "maintain the production level of 30 million barrels per day", where it has been for the past three years.
The 12-nation cartel, which pumps a third of global oil supplies, made the move despite calls from around the world -- including from some of its own members -- to cut output as prices had fallen by a third since June.The news was greeted with a huge sell-off on oil markets, with both main contracts diving around five percent to four-year lows. New York's West Texas Intermediate (WTI) at one point slumped to $67.75 a barrel and London's Brent North Sea crude touched $71.25 -- both four-year troughs -- before slightly recovering.
In afternoon Asian trade WTI was at $68.82, down 23 cents from its settle price in electronic trading in New York on Thursday. US floor trading was closed due to Thanksgiving. Brent dropped 21 cents to $72.37.
"It seems there were still plenty of traders holding out hope that the supply of oil from the world's largest group of producers would be cut," Scott Schuberg, chief executive at Rivkin Securities in Sydney, told Dow Jones Newswires.
- Airline gains -
Among regional markets Sydney shed 1.56 percent, Hong Kong lost 0.11 percent by lunch and Seoul was 0.16 percent lower but Shanghai added 0.73 percent.Tokyo jumped 1.17 percent thanks to a weakening yen, while the lower oil prices will provide some support to Japan, which has ramped up imports of the black gold to make up for lost energy caused by the shuttering of the country's nuclear power stations.
In Sydney the biggest casualty was Santos, which plunged 10.85 percent in late trade, while BHP Billiton lost 3.5 percent and Woodside was off 6.42 percent.
Hong Kong-listed shares in CNOOC shed 5.33 percent and PetroChina sank 3.3 percent.
However, Asian airlines -- whose main cost is fuel -- soared.
In Hong Kong, Air China jumped 5.7 percent and Cathay Pacific gained 7.13 percent, while Tokyo-listed Japan Airlines added 5.7 percent and rival ANA jumped 6.32 percent. Qantas gained 7.2 percent in Sydney and Korean Airlines was up 4.9 percent in Seoul.
On foreign exchange markets the euro was mixed after sinking on Thursday in reaction to speculation the European Central Bank could begin buying government bonds as part of a monetary easing drive.
The euro bought $1.2445 against $1.2460 and 147.24 yen compared with 146.74 yen.
The yen came under pressure again after data showed inflation slowing in October from the previous month.
The dollar was trading at 118.29 yen, up from 117.74 yen in London.
Gold was at $1,185.10 an ounce, compared with $1,196.58 late Wednesday.