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Stock markets rattled by fears about emerging COVID variant

Price of the North American oil benchmark has lost $5 a barrel

A trader watches Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell speak about the U.S. central bank's latest policy decision in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Global stock markets and oil prices fell Friday on news of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa and a return of travel restrictions in parts of the EU.

A trader watches Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell speak about the U.S. central bank's latest policy decision in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Global stock markets and oil prices fell Friday on news of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa and a return of travel restrictions in parts of the EU.

Photo: (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

RCI

Global stock markets and oil prices tumbled Friday after South Africa identified a new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant and the European Union proposed suspending air travel from the region.

Global stock markets and oil prices tumbled Friday after South Africa identified a new, fast-spreading coronavirus variant and the European Union proposed suspending air travel from the region.

The 27-nation EU proposed a mass travel suspension to member governments after South Africa said the variant was spreading in its most populous province (new window).

Britain banned flights from South Africa and five nearby countries. Austria imposed a 10-day lockdown while Italy restricted activity by unvaccinated people. Americans were advised by their government to avoid Germany and Denmark. Belgium has already reported two cases of the emerging variant, and the slew of data points has added up to a flurry of uncertainty.

Investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known, Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said of the market action.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, the S&P 500, and the TSX Composite Index were all down by about two per cent within minutes of markets opening.

This news has completely overshadowed early anecdotal reports of strong in-person and online traffic for Black Friday sales, said Colin Cieszynski with SIA Wealth Management in Toronto.

 

Anything related to energy or travel and tourism is being hit especially hard as investors digest the prospect of another round of limitations on international travel.

The North American benchmark oil price known as West Texas Intermediate lost more than $5, or more than seven per cent, to trade below $73 a barrel.

Air Canada shares lost six per cent while those of cruise line Carnival lost 11 per cent. Hotel chains Hilton and Marriott were both down by more than eight per cent.

These announcements have sparked a sell-off in travel-related stocks (airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc.) and has sparked a rally in stay-at-home and vaccine stocks, Cieszynski said.

CBC News with files from The Associated Press

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