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Shares slide, paradises rise as new COVID-19 variant scares investors




Passers-by wearing protective masks are reflected in an electronic chart showing stock prices outside an intermediary between the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2021. REUTERS / Issei Kato

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SYDNEY, Nov 26 (Reuters) – Asian stocks fell the most in two months on Friday as the discovery of a new, possibly vaccine-resistant variant prompted investors to rush to bond, yen and dollar security.

The broader MSCI Asia-Pacific Index of shares outside Japan (.MIAPJ0000PUS) fell 1.3%, its biggest drop since September. Shares of casinos and drinks were sold in Hong Kong and travel shares fell in Sydney.

Japan’s Nikkei (.N225) slipped 2.5% and U.S. crude oil futures contracts fell nearly 2% also amid fears of new demand.

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The scientists said the variant, discovered in South Africa, may be able to evade immune responses. The British authorities think it is the most significant option to date, are concerned that it may resist vaccines and have rushed to impose travel restrictions on South Africa. Read more

“You shoot first and ask questions later when such news breaks out,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at the National Bank of Australia in Sydney.

The South African rand fell 1% to a one-year low in early trade. The Australian and New Zealand dollar-sensitive dollar fell to three-month lows and S&P 500 futures fell 0.9%.

The sale in Asia has global stocks (.MIWD00000PUS), on course for their worst week since early October. Dow Jones futures fell 1%, while FTSE and Euro STOXX 50 futures each fell about 1.4%.

Little is known about the new variant. However scientists told reporters that there are “very unusual constellations” of mutations, worrying because they can help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible. Read more

“Markets are predicting here the risk of another global wave of infections if vaccines are ineffective,” said Moh Siong Sim, a currency analyst at the Bank of Singapore.

“Hopes for reopening may be dashed.”

Movements in treasuries were also sharp after Thanksgiving and yields quickly pulled in some of the week’s gains. 10-year standard yields fell nearly 6 basis points to 1.5841%.

The yen jumped about 0.4% to $ 114.84 and the Aussie last fell 0.5% to $ 0.7148.

The moves come against a backdrop of concern about COVID-19 outbreaks causing restrictions on movement and activity within and as markets aggressively push up U.S. price rates next year.

European countries expanded COVID-19 booster vaccines and tightened overnight restrictions. Slovakia announced a two-week blockade, the Czech government will close the rails early, and Germany crossed the 100,000 COVID-19-related death threshold. Read more

Shanghai on Friday restricted tourist activities and a nearby city cut off public transport as China doubles its zero-tolerance approach that is also troubling traders. Read more

At the same time, a host of stronger-than-expected data points has prompted Fed funds futures markets to price up to three rate hikes in 2022.

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Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Edited by Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: Principles of Trust by Thomson Reuters.




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