Scoreboard: Oil tumble

The sliding oil price weighed on energy stocks in overseas markets, while US investors played it safe ahead of earnings season.

In US economic data, the employment trends index rose from 127.83 to 128.43 in December.

European shares rose on Monday. Falling oil prices drove the market, lifting airline stocks and weighing on the energy sector. Shares in Lufthansa rose by 1.7 per cent. Greek shares rose 3.8 per cent. Reuters reports that "polls over the weekend continued to show the far left Syriza party is leading by a small margin and would need to seek alliances to form a government." The FTSEurofirst 300 index rose by 0.6 per cent with the German Dax up by 1.4 per cent and the UK FTSE was flat (up less than 1 point). In London trade, shares in BHP Billiton lost 1.8 per cent while Rio Tinto fell by 2 per cent.

US sharemarkets eased again on Monday with the ongoing slide in oil prices weighing on the energy sector -- the S&P Energy sector fell by 2.9 per cent. Traders focussed on a number of mergers in the pharmaceutical sector. There was caution by investors ahead of the start of earnings season. After being down 165 points at one stage, the Dow Jones closed lower by 96 points or 0.5% with the S&P 500 index down by 0.8% and the Nasdaq fell by 39 points or 0.8 per cent. After the bell, shares in Alcoa rose by 2.0% after releasing earnings.

US treasuries rose on Monday (yields lower) with solid demand for a $24 billion auction of three-year notes. US two-year yields fell by 2 points to 0.55 per cent while US 10-year yields fell by 4 points to 1.907 per cent.

Major currencies fell against the greenback in European and US trade on Monday, clawing back some of Friday's losses. The Euro fell from highs near $US1.1870 to lows near $US1.1765 and was near $US1.1840 in afternoon US trade. The Aussie dollar fell from highs near US82.55c to lows around US81.30c and was near US81.65c in afternoon US trade. And the Japanese yen eased from 118.10 yen per US dollar to ¥119.29 and was back near ¥118.25 in afternoon US trade.

World oil prices fell again on Monday with more analysts updating their calls for how far prices can fall. Smaller OPEC oil producers are suffering from the price drop and on Saturday, Reuters reported that Iran vowed to help Venezuela stem the oil price fall. Brent crude fell by $US2.68 or 5.3 per cent to $US47.43 a barrel while the US Nymex crude price fell by $US2.29 or 4.7 per cent to $US46.07 a barrel.

Base metal prices were lower by up to 1.4 per cent on the London Metal Exchange on Monday. Nickel led the declines but tin rose by 1.8 per cent with aluminium up 0.1 per cent. Gold rose on Monday as investors continued to embrace safe-haven assets. The Comex gold futures price was up by $US16.70 an ounce or 1.4 per cent to $US1,232.80 per ounce. Iron ore fell by $US1.30 to $US68.50 a tonne on Monday.

Ahead: In Australia, weekly consumer confidence data is released. In China, trade data is released. In the US, the Federal Budget, JOLTS job openings series and NFIB business optimism index are issued.

Craig James is chief economist with Commsec.