Markets waver on Christmas Eve as Covid fears recede

·3-min read
Generally positive US economic data and receding Omicron fears cheered investors (AFP/Frederic J. BROWN)

World stock markets wavered Friday in subdued Christmas Eve trade as investors mulled receding Omicron coronavirus fears, with European bourses wrapping up early before the long holiday weekend.

Asian equities mostly rose in thin volumes after Wall Street finished its trading week Thursday with strong gains on solid economic data.

The London and Paris stock exchanges ran out of steam in a half-day session with traders somewhat wary over more possible restrictions to curb Omicron.

"Markets ... remain reticent today due to lower volumes as traders are away for a holiday period," AvaTrade analyst Naeem Aslam told AFP.

"We believe overall there is still plenty of optimism about Covid vaccines -- however, concerns are real that more restrictions may be placed ahead of New Year's Eve to curtail the spread of Covid."

Frankfurt's DAX index had shut Thursday, closing the week with a 1.0-percent gain at 15,756.31 points.

Studies indicating Omicron infections are less likely to result in hospitalisation have increased confidence that the pandemic will have less impact on the economy.

Sentiment has also been buoyed by US approval of drugs from Merck and Pfizer to add to a growing arsenal of weapons against Covid.

"Omicron is looking more like a short-term disruption to the economic outlook and not a destructive headwind that knocks the economy off its course," added OANDA analyst Edward Moya.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended the last session before the long holiday weekend at a fresh record following a raft of mostly decent US economic data.

Commerce Department data showed consumer spending climbed in November, though at a slower rate, and new home sales rose.

Jobless benefit claims held steady from the prior week and orders for big-ticket manufactured goods climbed, though mostly due to aircraft.

Inflation, however, posted the biggest increase in nearly four decades, illustrating the delicate balancing act the Federal Reserve faces between reining in inflationary pressures and keeping the economic recovery on track.

Omicron "will create some slowdowns in the economy, perhaps some slowdowns of production which could add to inflation pressures in the short term," Paul Christopher, head of global market strategy at Wells Fargo Investment Institute, told Bloomberg Television, adding however that the economy would work its way through the situation.

The optimistic mood carried over to Asia with most markets rising, although in quiet trade with several stock exchanges shut or on shortened hours ahead of the Christmas holiday.

- Key figures around 1315 GMT -

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,372.10 points (close)

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.3 percent at 7,086.58 (close)

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 1.0 percent at 15,756.31 (Thursday close)

EURO STOXX 50: UP 1.0 percent at 4,259.38

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.1 percent at 28,782.59 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 23,223.76 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,618.05 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 35,950.56 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1335 from $1.1327 late on Thursday

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3417 from $1.3408

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.44 pence from 84.48 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 114.38 from 114.39 yen

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.2 percent at $75.95 per barrel

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