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Overnight Markets: Wall Street ends flat as oil stocks plummet

Crude at 12-year lows is stoking fears on Wall Street of deeper losses for energy companies.

Overnight Markets: Wall Street ends flat as oil stocks plummet

Wall Street ended flat after a choppy session on Tuesday as another plunge in oil prices battered energy stocks and an economic report showed slower growth in China.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended up 0.17% at 16,016 points. The S&P 500 gained one point to end at 1,881. The Nasdaq Composite fell 0.26% to 4,477.

Materials and oil stocks plummeted after US benchmark crude dropped more than 3% to below $29 a barrel. Oil at 12-year lows is stoking fears on Wall Street of deeper losses for energy companies and the potential that some may fail to pay their debts.

Exxon Mobil dropped 1.52% and was the largest drag on the S&P 500. Chevron fell 2.58%. Gold miner Newmont Mining lost 7.9% and copper producer Freeport-McMoRan gave up 9%.

In China, growth in 2015 was the slowest in 25 years but in line with expectations, a report showed. That can affect demand for everything from energy to metals to consumer goods and heavy machinery.

After the bell, Netflix surged 8% after the streaming service's fourth-quarter subscriber additions topped expectations thanks to strong international growth.

Bank of America fell 1.52% despite beating fourth-quarter profit expectations, after it expressed concerns about weak oil prices.

UnitedHealth added 3.02%, limiting losses on the Dow and S&P after the health insurer reported a 30% rise in quarterly revenue. Tiffany lost 5.07% after the upscale jeweller said holiday season sales fell 6%.

Safe-play stocks like utilities and telecommunications companies rose the most. AT&T added 1.5% and NextEra Energy gained 2.4%. Consumer goods maker Procter & Gamble rose 2.3%.

In Asia, shares were down in morning trade on Wednesday as investors digest the deluge of data out of China on Tuesday.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was lower by 0.72%, while in South Korea, the Kospi fell 0.53%. In China, Shanghai Composite Index opened 0.15% lower, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was trading 2.16% down. In Australia, ASX 200 fell 0.65%.

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