Asian stocks slid on Wednesday as Egypt’s unfolding political crisis pushed the price of oil to its highest level in more than a year, adding to an uncertain global economic outlook.
Benchmark crude for August delivery was up $2.20 to $101.80 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest since early May last year.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged down 0.1 percent to 14,081.35 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1.8 percent to 20,281.62. Seoul’s Kospi was down 1 percent to 1836.24. In China, the Shanghai Composite lost 1.3 percent to 1,979.98. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell by 2.1 percent to 4,732.40.
The sell-off came as embattled Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy vowed not to resign despite the demands of millions of protesters and a threat by military to suspend the constitution, disband parliament and install a new leadership.
Egypt is not an oil producer but its control of the Suez canal, one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, which links the Mediterranean with the Red Sea gives it a crucial role in maintaining global energy supplies.
Airlines are most immediately affected by changes in energy prices since fuel accounts for a large share of their expenses, but a sustained rise in oil prices could have a ripple effect on the global economy which is already beset by a recession in Europe and a shaky recovery in China.
The Egyptian crisis offset positive signs that the U.S. economy is slowly rebounding, causing American stocks to end slightly lower Tuesday after a morning rally.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 closed down 0.88 point, or 0.1 percent, at 1,614.08 The Dow Jones industrial average fell 42.55 points, or 0.3 percent, to close at 14,932.41. The Nasdaq slipped 1.09 points, a fraction of a percentage point, to 3,433.40
In currencies, the euro fell slightly to $1.3000 from $1.3020 late Tuesday in New York. The dollar slipped to 100.69 yen from 100.77 yen.