Stock markets around the world fell heavily yesterday as investors reacted to new 12-year lows for oil prices, auto sector woes and China’s struggling economy. 
Frankfurt was the worst hit among Europe’s largest exchanges, down 2.5%, making it not far off a bear market as it is now down around 16% from November. Paris’s CAC 40, which dropped 2.4% yesterday at 4,210.16 points, is also down around 16% from November. In London the FTSE 100 was 1.9% down at 5,804.10 points.
The losses topped off a rollercoaster week as a better-than-expected reading on Chinese trade failed to eradicate heightened worries about the health of Asia’s powerhouse economy. 
World oil prices, meanwhile, spiralled lower as traders readied for the return of Iranian crude in a market already awash with supplies. 
Brent oil sank to $29.30 per barrel — last seen February 10, 2004. New York’s West Texas Intermediate dived to $29.28 — a low dating back to November 5, 2003. 
While cheap crude is positive for oil consumers and many companies, stock markets have taken fright as the recent drops in oil prices have been driven to a large extent by fears about China’s slowing economy, which has been the main driver of global growth in recent years. 
US stocks were off sharply in midday trading, with the Dow down 2.5% and the Nasdaq 3.3%. 
Paris also motored lower on fears that French automaker Renault could be engulfed by an emissions scandal that has plagued German rival Volkswagen, dealers said. 
Back in Paris, shares in Renault and other car companies skidded lower once again. 
Renault had slumped by more than 20% during Thursday’s session after unions reported that anti-fraud investigators had raided several of the company’s sites, possibly looking for emissions cheating devices on diesel engines, before closing around 10% lower. 
At the close yesterday, Renault shares were down 3.4% at €75.13 on the Paris stock exchange. 
“Everybody wants to know whether Renault is cheating,” brokers Aurel BCG said. 
“The stock exchange context and the painful memories of the VW scandal have prompted investors to massively sell the stock,” they added, noting that French government ministers had been trying to “put out the fire”. 
The French government has a vested interest in Renault’s fortunes, owning a 19.7% stake in the carmaker. 
Shares in Peugeot, France’s biggest automaker ahead of Renault, fell 2.6% in Paris while Renault alliance partner Nissan’s stock closed 1.9% lower in Tokyo. 
Shares Daimler were down around 1.9%, BMW 2.6% and Volksagen 3.5% in Frankfurt.
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