A Rout in Crude-Oil Prices Hammers the Stock Market


A slump in oil prices sparked a global sell-off in financial markets on Friday with losses spreading from Asia to Europe to the U.S., where stocks fell sharply to cap their worst week since the summer.

The selling was broad, with all 10 sectors of the Standard and Poor’s 500 index ending down. Fearful investors put their money in government bonds, especially U.S. Treasurys. Another measure of anxiety, the so-called Vix index, jumped. It is now up 70 percent in just five days.

Energy shares, already decimated this year, fell 3.4 percent on Friday. Southwestern Energy plunged 14 percent. Freeport McMoRan, a mining giant, dropped 6 percent.

The trouble began with a report from the International Energy Agency that said the oversupply in oil would persist until late next year even as demand continues to weaken. Benchmark U.S. crude plunged $1.14, or 3 percent, to close at $35.62 a barrel in New York. It has been falling for 1 ½ years and is now at its lowest level since early 2009.

By the end of the day, the S&P 500 index had lost 39.86 points, or 1.9 percent, to 2,012.37. It was down 3.8 percent for the week, its worst showing since August.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 309.54 points, or 1.8 percent, to 17,265.21. The Nasdaq composite declined 111.71 points, or 2.2 percent, to 4,933.47.

In Europe, Germany’s DAX lost 2.4 percent, Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 2.2 percent and France’s CAC 40 shed 1.8 percent.

Investors were also rattled by trouble in a risky corner of the credit markets where bonds from heavily indebted companies are traded. Their prices have fallen sharply as investors fear the companies that issued the bonds might default. A fund that tracks the bonds, the iShares iBoxx USD High Yield Corporate Bond ETF, has dropped nearly 4 percent in five days.

Investors are also focused on a Federal Reserve meeting next week where the central bank is widely expected to announce an increase in its benchmark interest rate from a record low.

In a sign of trouble among commodity producers, Dow Chemical and DuPont on Friday announced a $130 billion deal to merge their businesses to counter falling prices. Their stocks had risen in previous days on reports the deal was forthcoming, but fell on Friday.

Dow Chemical dropped $1.54, or nearly 3 percent, to $53.37. DuPont lost $4.11, or 5.5 percent, to $70.44.

In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 1 percent, but most other major indexes fell. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.1 percent and mainland China’s Shanghai Composite lost 0.6 percent.

U.S. government bond prices rose sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.12 percent from 2.23 percent late Thursday, a big move. The dollar fell to 120.79 yen from 121.64 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.0995 from $1.0939.

Precious and industrial metals futures closed mixed. Gold edged up $3.70 to $1,075.70 an ounce, silver fell 23 cents to $13.88 an ounce and copper rose four cents to $2.12 a pound.

In other energy futures market, Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, fell $1.80, or 4.5 percent, to $37.93 a barrel in London. In New York, heating oil plunged eight cents, or 6.5 percent, to $1.146 a gallon, wholesale gasoline was little changed at $1.282 a gallon, and natural gas lost 2.5 cents, or 1.2 percent, to $1.99 per 1,000 cubic feet.