Crude oil prices fell briefly below the US$50 a barrel level in US trading on Monday, sending energy shares sharply lower and dragging the broader market down nearly 2 percent on Wall Street.
Concerns that supply will outstrip demand in the coming months accelerated a selloff in oil, causing prices to fall to their lowest since the first half of 2009.
Light, sweet oil for February delivery settled down 5 percent at US$50.04 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, after trading as low as US$49.92 a barrel in intraday trading, the Wall Street Journal reported. The closing level marked the lowest since April 28, 2009.
Brent crude, the international benchmark, slid 5.9 percent to US$53.11, the lowest level since May 1, 2009.
The plunge in oil markets triggered a wave of selling on the equity markets, causing the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) to plummet more than 300 points and kicking off 2015 on a sour note.
The DJIA ended down 331.34 points, or 1.9 percent, at 17501.65, marking the biggest one-day loss for the blue chips since early October.
The S&P 500 index shed 37.62 points, or 1.8 percent, to 2020.58, also its worst showing in three months.
The decline in oil prices, while helping the consumer, has dented the broader stock market by curbing profits within the once-booming energy sector, which makes up a growing piece of the US economy amid resurgent domestic oil production, the Journal noted.
Amid the rout in equities, investors flocked to the perceived safe-haven of government bonds and gold. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note fell to 2.038 percent as prices fell.
Gold futures jumped 1.5 percent to US$1203.90 an ounce.
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