European markets retreat as omicron Covid variant fears are back; Stoxx 600 down 1.2%

Stoxx 600 down 1.2% as Omicron Covid variant fears return

December 3, 2021: -On Thursday, European stocks pulled back as concerns persisted over the omicron Covid variant. The pan-European Stoxx 600 decreased 1.2% in early trade, with tech stocks shedding 2.6% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses slid well into the red.

Major markets across Asia-Pacific and the U.S. had bounced back on Wednesday despite the fears about the variant and the Federal Reserve mulling a quicker-than-planned taper.

But global stocks appear to struggle to regain momentum amid continuing uncertainty near the risks posed by the new omicron Covid variant, first spotted in South Africa in the previous week and designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

On Wednesday, the WHO said that at least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have reported cases of omicron, “and we expect that number to grow.” It also said that hospitalizations are rising across South Africa but that it’s still too early to know if the omicron variant is increasing severe Covid-19 cases.

On Thursday, Asia-Pacific markets were mixed while U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open, after selling off on Wednesday as the CDC confirms the first case of the omicron variant in the U.S. The first case of the highly mutated variant was detected in northern California.

Data released on Thursday include the eurozone unemployment rate for October and producer prices for the same month.

At the top of the Stoxx 600, Vifor Pharma shares are increasing over 12% deals on reports that Australian biotech giant CSL is in talks to buy the Swiss group for nearly $10 billion.

At the bottom of the European blue-chip index, Britain’s Royal Mail fell more than 6%.

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