Equities markets worldwide plunged Thursday, shaken by new signs that a double-dip recession is underway. Given the sagging demand outlook, light sweet crude oil for November delivery fell below the $80 mark.
After bottoming out at $79.66, the WTI ultimately settled at $80.51 a barrel—a 6.3-percent drop from Wednesday. It peaked at $85.00. Losing 4.4 percent was the November Brent contract price, which ended the day at $105.49. Brent futures traded within a range from $105.00 to $108.95.
When it announced its "Operation Twist" monetary policy action Wednesday in yet another attempt to spur economic growth, the Federal Reserve projected "significant downside risks" to the U.S. economy. The latest Fed move, the goal of which is to make long-term borrowing cheaper and more attractive for businesses and consumers, has been widely panned by the investment community.
Mounting fears of a slower economic growth rate in China, along with disappointing new manufacturing and services data from the euro-zone and that region's ongoing debt crisis, prompted selloffs in major stock exchanges worldwide. The FTSE 100 on the London Stock Exchange lost 4.67 percent while the Paris-based CAC 40 benchmark fell 5.25 percent. In Asia the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slid 4.85 percent while major indexes in Shanghai and Tokyo posted more modest losses of 2.78 and 2.07 percent, respectively. Back in the U.S., the Dow lost 3.51 percent; the S&P 500 fell 3.19 percent, and the Nasdaq lost 3.25 percent.
The October reformulated gasoline contract price also fell dramatically Thursday, declining 4.1 percent to settle at $2.56 a gallon. Gasoline futures fluctuated between $2.54 and $2.65.
Natural gas futures, which have fallen recently on milder weather in the Midwest and Northwest, edged downward to $3.705 per thousand cubic feet. October natural gas traded within a range from $3.66 to $3.76 Thursday.
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