Wall Street fell on warnings of a US coronavirus outbreak, while Australian Securities Exchange futures were fell massively on Wednesday morning after the S and P 500 plummeted 3%.
Yesterday, the statistics of infection cases worldwide: 81,000 (78,000 on mainland China);
• Deaths worldwide: nearly 2800 (2715 on mainland China);
• Countries and territories with confirmed cases: at least 44;
• Daily number of infections worldwide higher than in China; and
• Brazil confirms first case in Latin America.
"Italy and South Korea's spikes in confirmed cases demonstrate that once an outbreak has occurred in a country, the case numbers grow exponentially once authorities begin systematic testing," UK broker Peel Hunt said.
"Iran, with 15 deaths, is reporting less than 100 cases, which is statistically unlikely and many other countries could be acting as quiet incubators for the virus due to lack of testing and reporting. This is a big hindrance to the global response."
Oil lost 3% and gold dropped 2.3% to $1637.80 an ounce. Platinum and silver lost more than 4% each, while palladium rose more than 4%.
Base metals fared reasonably, with lead up 2% and tin up 1%.
Meanwhile Oil Search is pressing to revive talks between Exxon Mobil and the government over the $13 billion plan to double the country's natural gas exports, new Oil Search CEO Keiran Wulff has said.
Wulff said he hoped negotiations could resume "within weeks" between its partner Exxon and the state, Reuters reported.
The government discontinued talks in January with Exxon on terms for developing the P'nyang gas field to feed an expansion of Exxon's PNG LNG plant, as part of a push to gain benefits from resources projects,
Oil Search's veteran boss Peter Botten, who just retired as CEO but is still working for the company, is sounding out the government this week on what it would need to resume talks, Wulff said.
"We would hope to see some sort of formal negotiations recommence between Exxon and the state negotiating team within a reasonable period of time," Wulff told Reuters in an interview after the company released earnings this week.
"We're hopeful that it's weeks. We don't think it'll be months," he said.
Oil Search reported an 8% fall in annual net profit to $312.4 million, hit by weaker oil and LNG prices, missing analysts' forecasts of around $339 million, according to Refinitiv IBES estimates.
Oil Search's growth prospects are largely tied to a combined plan to develop P'nyang and Papua LNG, led by France's Total SA, to feed three new processing units, called trains, at Exxon's PNG LNG plant.
All the partners want a three-train development, Oil Search said, as sharing infrastructure would be the most efficient way to develop P'nyang and Papua LNG.
"For us we're strongly behind the operator to pursue a three-train development, which is as much in the joint venture's interest as it is in the state's," Wulff said.
He said they would only consider a two-train development without P'nyang "after all options were exhausted".
Reuters says Exxon Mobil had no immediate comment, but CEO Darren Woods said earlier this month the company hoped to revive talks on P'nyang to get to a "win-win proposition".
The coronavirus has dampened demand for LNG from China, but Oil Search said it expected that only to be a short term issue.
"We are confident in our ability to secure LNG offtake agreements once we resume discussions with potential Asian buyers, due to the attractiveness of LNG from PNG," Botten said in a statement.
If an agreement is reached on P'nyang and early engineering work on a three-train development begins in 2020, Oil Search expects its capital spending this year will be in the range of $710 million to $845 million.