Business

Asia's shares hit by commodity price slides

Coal being dumped at a mine Image copyright AFP

Asian stock markets saw sharp falls as a drop in the price of commodities hit mining companies and energy-related stocks.

Commodity prices have been falling all week, with the price of copper hitting a six-year low, and oil near six-and-a-half-year lows.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed down 2.2% at 22,396.14 - leading Asia's losses.

Shares in mining giant Glencore fell 6.7%, after having seen its London-listed shares drop 7.6% on Thursday.

Like all mining companies, Glencore has been affected by the fall in commodity prices, but it is also seeking to reduce huge debt levels.

In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite fell 1.4% to 3,580.84.

Miners slump

Australia's benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index closed down 1.45% at 5,051.30.

Shares in BHP Billiton, Australia's biggest miner, were down as much as 3% in early trade, but recovered slightly to close down 1.84%.

"The slide in commodities has seen BHP at its lowest price in a decade and has seen the Australian energy sector cross over the 30% decline level for the first time this year," IG Market's Evan Lucas told the BBC.

He said the materials sector - which includes mining and refining of metals as well as chemical producers - was now making up 13.5% of the Australian stock exchange, down from 27% in 2011.

"The only commodities to see green in overnight trade were coffee, sugar and beef," Mr Lucas added.

Adding to BHP's problems, the Brazilian government fined BHP Billiton and its partner Vale for a dam burst at their jointly-owned mine.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.5% at 19,596.91, while South Korea's Kospi index ended lower by 1% at 1,973.29.

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