New Covid variant fears rattle global markets
Hong Kong (CNN Business)Asia Pacific markets were down on Monday as investors continued to digest news about a new Covid-19 variant.
As of 1:30 am ET on Monday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) was down about 1.6%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) had dipped 1.2%. South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 each edged down about 0.9% and 0.5%, respectively. China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) was flat.
But in the United States, stock futures pointed up. Dow futures, S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures each gained rose 0.5%, 0.8% and 1%, respectively.
Oil prices showed an upswing, too. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was up more than 3% to about $75 a barrel, as US crude jumped 4% to $71.
But analysts are still bracing for signs of how the Omicron variant could endanger more lives, disrupt the global economy and continue to affect markets after a dramatic sell-off on Friday.
Fear of the unknown
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has prompted a fresh round of travel restrictions across the world, and raised concern about what may be next in the pandemic.
On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the strain as a “variant of concern,” and said that multiple studies on it were underway.
That was followed by an update from the organization on Sunday, which urged people to continue social distancing, wear masks and maintain hand hygiene.
“It is not yet clear whether Omicron is more transmissible … compared to other variants, including Delta,” the WHO said.
“[The] WHO is working with technical partners to understand the potential impact of this variant on our existing countermeasures, including vaccines.”
In a note Saturday, Nohshad Shah of Goldman Sachs said that it was too early for analysts to “draw conclusions” just yet.
“It should be stressed that at this stage we have very little laboratory evidence and very limited real world data,” he noted.
But “the [selloff] after Friday’s news about the new variant of concern was a reminder of the heightened macro volatility in the current environment,” Shah, co-head of interest rates sales for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, wrote. “The next couple of weeks could be pretty nervy for markets.”
In a report Sunday, economists at Morgan Stanley said the emergence of the new strain posed “a near-term risk” to their outlook for Asia.
“However, with a much higher share of vaccinated population, the downside risk to growth could be less than what transpired in mid-2021, provided that the variant is not more challenging than Delta,” they added, referring to the highly contagious Delta variant that was first detected earlier this year.
“To assess the Omicron variant’s impact, we are watching for details on its transmissibility and impact on vaccine efficacy as well as on hospitalizations and mortality rates.”
On Friday, stocks around the world fell as fear gripped global markets. Oil prices plunged more than 10%.
In the United States, the Dow (INDU) logged its worst day in over a year, plummeting 905 points, or 2.5%.
The S&P 500 (SPX) also had its worst day since February, closing down 2.3%.
For the Nasdaq Composite (COMP), it was the worst day since September. The index finished down 2.2%.
Friday had a shortened trading session in the US that ended around lunchtime, after markets were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. Traditionally, the half-day session is lower in trading volume, which can exacerbate the swings in the market.
Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities, wrote in a note over the weekend that his team viewed the rout on Friday “as a clear buying opportunity.”
“Ultimately this is not the first or last variant scare,” he said.
“While volatility and news flow around this situation will grab the headlines, our tech [investing] playbook remains unchanged.”
-— Anneken Tappe, Christina Maxouris and Laura He contributed to this report.
Source: Read Full Article