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Stocks tumble as fears over new Covid-19 variant grip global markets


By Anneken Tappe

The Dow opened some 800 points lower on Black Friday as stocks around the world tumbled in the face of a new Covid-19 variant.

The variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel, prompting some countries to put flight bans in place.

The news has sent financial markets into a tizzy, with stock and oil prices falling sharply.

Over the summer, the Delta variant spooked consumers and weighed on sectors like leisure and hospitality. Now investors and economists worry this new variant could do the same.

At the opening bell Friday, Wall Street was deep in the red, with the Dow falling 2.2%, or about 800 points. The broader S&P 500 tumbled 1.5% and the Nasdaq Composite opened down 1.1%.

It’s a shortened trading session as the New York Stock Exchange will close at 1 pm ET after being closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. Reduced trading volume during this half-day session is also likely to exacerbate the swings in the market.

Nevertheless, it could shape up to be one of the worst days of the year for stocks.

But it’s not just stocks that are getting a beating.

Oil prices are tumbling as well. US oil futures fell 6.5%, or more than $5, to $73.23 per barrel around the time of the stock market open. The global benchmark Brent dropped 5.9% to $77.38 per barrel.

The US dollar, measured by the ICE US Dollar Index, which pegs it against its main rivals, was down 0.6% Friday morning.

Cryptocurrencies also felt the heat, dropping across the board. Bitcoin was down nearly 7% around the time of the stock market open, according to CoinDesk data.

Meanwhile, investors are pushing into safe haven investments. The 10-year US Treasury bond got more expensive and yields fell more than 0.1 percentage points to 1.54% Friday morning. Gold prices also jumped.

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