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Stocks down due to concerns about Omicron

US jobs report creates further uncertainty

By AFP - Dec 04,2021 - Last updated at Dec 04,2021

Most global stock markets rebounded on Wednesday and oil prices went up following Omicron-driven losses (AFP file photo)

NEW YORK — Global stocks finished a volatile week on a downcast note on Friday, sunk by festering worries over the Omicron variant and disappointment at the most recent US job growth figures.

The latest COVID-19 variant has been detected in 38 countries but no deaths have yet been reported, the WHO said, as authorities worldwide rushed to stem the spread of the heavily mutated COVID-19 strain.

"Investors are clearly still anxious about the Omicron variant, despite anecdotal evidence suggesting symptoms are less severe" than first thought, said Craig Erlam, analyst at Oanda trading group.

"Heading into the weekend, when we could get more information on the new strain, it's natural that we're seeing more caution."

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva warned the latest virus strain could slow the global recovery, noting that "a new variant that may spread very rapidly can dent confidence".

Bourses in Paris, Frankfurt and London all declined. 

Wall Street stocks also had a difficult day, with the tech-rich Nasdaq leading major indices lower.

All three US indices finished with weekly losses in a period that also saw the Federal Reserve signal a plan to accelerate the withdrawal of its monetary stimulus and potentially hike rates sooner.

Wall Street investors shunned highly valued tech shares after DocuSign offered a disappointing outlook and signalled that demand for its e-signature business was ebbing after a strong run during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Shares of the company plunged more than 40 per cent, while other tech names like Adobe and several chipmakers were also hammered.

"The growth stocks are driving the declines," said analyst Patrick O'Hare, who also cited lingering unease over the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and disappointment that Thursday's rally in equities was not extended.

Friday's much-anticipated jobs report showed the US economy added just 210,000 jobs last month, less than half the increase forecasters expected.

But analysts characterised the report as better than the headline figure, noting the unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 per cent, a decline of four-tenths of a point from the prior month. 

The labour force participation rate also rose to its highest level since the pandemic.

"Looking past the disappointing headline print, the details of the November jobs report painted a more optimistic jobs picture," Oxford Economics said in a note.


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