Dusseldorf A new variant of the coronavirus caused a sell-off on the Asian stock market on Friday: The Japanese leading index Nikkei closed 2.5 percent in the red – the largest loss in five months.
The trading volume increased by more than 40 percent compared to the previous day. All sectors were in the red, with tourism stocks falling particularly heavily: the travel agency HIS fell by 7.3 percent while Japan Airlines lost 6.5 percent.
But not only the Japanese stock market fell significantly: The MSCI Asia Pacific Index, which tracks large and medium-sized companies from five industrialized countries and nine emerging countries in the Asia-Pacific region, lost 1.7 percent. The leading German index Dax was more than two percent in the red before the trading day, the futures for the broad US S&P 500 Index were around one percent weaker after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The trigger for the violent price movements is a new coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa. According to experts, it could be more contagious than the currently rampant Delta type and more resistant to the previous vaccines. The World Health Organization WHO is already investigating whether the variant with the name B.1.1.529 should be classified as worrying.
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The South African Institute for Infectious Diseases NICD announced on Thursday that 22 cases of the new variant had been detected in South Africa. More cases are to be expected in the course of the ongoing genome analyzes. Two confirmed cases of the new variant have also been identified in Hong Kong.
Mutation changes the risk assessment on the stock exchanges
“Today would have been a quiet trading day if it hadn’t been for the news about the new variant,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, chief market strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui DS Asset Management, told Bloomberg news agency. “Even before this news, virus cases were increasing again in the US and Europe, so investors are now cautious because the infections with a new variant could spread all at once.”
Thomas Altmann, from QC Partners stated: “The new mutation changes the risk assessment of the pandemic on the floor. If this variant is actually more contagious and immune to vaccines, the only thing left to combat it is massive restrictions. ”However, new global restrictions would be poison for the development of economic growth and the development of corporate profits.
Investors are therefore withdrawing from the stock market and heading for the “safe haven” of gold. The precious metal has risen by almost a percent to $ 1803 a troy ounce. In addition, investors shift their money into the US government bonds, which are also considered safe. In return, the yield on ten-year US Treasuries will drop by eight basis points.
“Looking at the delta wave earlier this year, investors are likely to shoot first and ask questions later until more is known,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanada. “Probably the safest option is to assume the worst for now.”
The growth concerns were also evident on the commodities market: investors withdrew from the crude oil market for fear of falling demand. The Brent variety from the North Sea is 2.5 percent cheaper to $ 80.14 per barrel.
With material from Bloomberg and Reuters.
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