Markets end lower on Omicron worries

Wall Street’s major indexes closed lower on Friday, with the Nasdaq leading the declines as investors bet that a strong jobs report would not slow the Federal Reserve’s withdrawal of support all while they grappled with uncertainty around the Omicron coronavirus variant. The Labor Department’s report, ahead of the session’s open, showed that while nonfarm job growth rose less than expected in November (210k vs 550k expected), the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2%, its lowest since February 2020, and wages increased. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.17%, the S&P 500 lost 0.84%, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 1.92%.

European shares fell on Friday, hitting session lows. The pan-European STOXX 600 erased morning gains to close down 0.6% after swinging between losses and gains all week on worries over the potential impact of the newly detected variant, and the U.S. Federal Reserve’s recent hawkish turn. France stocks were lower after the close on Friday, as losses in the Foods & Drugs, Gas & Water and General Financial sectors led shares lower. At the close in Paris, the CAC 40 fell 0.44%, while the SBF 120 index declined 0.46%. Germany stocks were lower after the close on Friday, as losses in the Retail, Consumer & Cyclical and Industrials sectors led shares lower. At the close in Frankfurt, the DAX lost 0.61%, while the MDAX index lost 0.19%, and the TecDAX index fell 0.38%. Data this week showed inflation in Europe surged, with Germany’s hitting highest in decades. But the European Central bank has maintained its ‘transitory’ inflation stance. The ECB may set policy for a relatively short period at this month’s meeting given heightened uncertainty, President Christine Lagarde told Reuters.

Asia Pacific stocks were mixed on Monday morning, as uncertainties about the omicron COVID-19 variant continue and investors await U.S. inflation data later in the week. Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.36% and South Korea’s KOSPI edged up 0.17%. In Australia, the ASX 200 was down 0.05%, with the Reserve Bank of Australia handing down its policy decision on Tuesday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.75%. China’s Shanghai Composite was up 0.40% and the Shenzhen Component edged up 0.13%.

The Russian stock market, which started trading with the growth of indices by 0.4-0.6%, ended Friday with a decline. The Moscow Exchange index fell by 0.87% whil the RTS index fell 1.29%.

Oil prices rose by more than $1 a barrel on Monday after top exporter Saudi Arabia raised prices for its crude sold to Asia and the United States, and as indirect U.S.-Iran talks on reviving a nuclear deal appeared to hit an impasse. Brent crude futures for February gained $1.39, or 2%, to $71.27 a barrel while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude for January were at $67.66 a barrel, up $1.40, or 2.1%.