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For first time US oil falls below $20 a barrel as demand dries up

US oil has fallen below $20 a barrel for the first time signalling a worsening of prospects for crude in a world ravaged by the deadly Coronavirus outbreak.

The US benchmark crude known as West Texas Intermediate or WTI touched $19.92 a barrel, losing 8 percent while Brent traded at $23.30 a barrel in New York trading.

Major equity futures reversed an opening decline to trade higher Monday as investors took in the latest developments on the coronavirus spread. Asian shares pared losses.

In a mixed day for risk assets, the dollar snapped a four-day slide, while the yen advanced along with sovereign bonds.

Oil in New York dropped below $20 for the first time in 18 years.

Japan’s Topix underperformed as a majority of its members traded without the right to the latest dividend.

The yuan slid as China’s central bank lowered short-term funding rates and injected cash into its financial system.

Singapore’s dollar fluctuated after the monetary authority there — which uses the exchange rate as its main policy tool — announced a modest easing, reducing the slope of its currency band to zero while affirming the current level.

Emerging currencies including South Africa’s rand and Mexico’s peso tumbled amid concerns about debt downgrades.

The latest news on the coronavirus underlined how, while policy makers the world over have dramatically stepped up their efforts to prevent the health crisis from becoming a financial one, the health situation itself does continue to deteriorate.

The top American infectious disease expert said deaths from the coronavirus in the world’s largest economy may reach 200,000. Australia limited public gatherings to just two people.

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