Markets collapse over Omicron fears and US spending plan rollback

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Markets fell on Monday and Wall Street was set to extend losses from last week, as investors took into account the latest gloomy predictions regarding the surge of the Omicron variant and after a critical setback in the country’s efforts. President Biden to pass a comprehensive domestic policy bill.

The S&P 500 fell about 1.7%. The index fell almost 2% last week.

“For the first time since Omicron’s appearance, we have reason to fear that the variant will impact the growth trajectory of the economy,” said Lindsey Bell, chief currency and markets strategist at Ally Invest, a foreign exchange company. “A slowdown could mean inflation persists a bit longer given supply chain constraints.”

Despite its recent swings, the S&P 500 is still up 21% this year.

In the White House, the future of Mr. Biden’s $ 2.2 trillion domestic policy bill has been questioned after West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin III said he would vote against because he feared it would ignite inflation.

The impact began to weigh on the outlook for the US economy, adding to negative sentiment in the markets. Goldman Sachs said in a research note that it will reduce its projected growth for the economy next year and now expects 2% growth in the first quarter, down from 3%. Researchers at the bank said Congress may pass a version of the bill, focusing on manufacturing and supply chain issues.

Investors are also grappling with the prospect that the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates next year, a policy move designed to suppress inflation.

Over the weekend, more European countries announced restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus. And Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, has said it will lower its forecast for economic growth due to recent pandemic restrictions. European markets were down 1-2%, with the Stoxx Europe 600 closing down 1.4%. Asian indices closed lower.

Airlines and travel stocks fell sharply in European midday trading. But the UK’s biggest FTSE 100 decline was Informa, which hosts big in-person events. It fell 5.3%, after losing as much as 6.9% previously.

The spread of the new variant has also prompted companies to walk away altogether, exclude non-essential staff from the office, and cancel mass gatherings. CNN and JPMorgan Chase are among the companies that have implemented renewed models of working from home. The World Economic Forum announced on Monday that it was postponement of its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Economists say the prospect of a stock market rally at the end of the year is marred by information about the Omicron variant. At the same time, trading is generally light during the holidays which makes the market more volatile.

“Given the number of downside risks for the New Year, it’s no surprise that investors are taking a more cautious approach when they log off for the holidays,” wrote Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA, in a note.

Sen. Manchin’s claim that he could not support the domestic policy bill – which would offer tax credits of up to $ 12,500 for consumers purchasing electric vehicles – appeared to weigh on stocks from automakers on Monday. Automakers are investing heavily in the production of electric vehicles, believing that they will represent a growing share of the automotive market in the years to come.

Lucid shares are down 5.9% and are down almost a third from their high. Rivian was down 7.7% on Monday and has lost almost half of its value since its peak last month. And Tesla shares are down 3.3% and have lost more than a quarter of their value since their peak last month.

Investors have increased their shares in Ford Motor and General Motors this year as these companies have decided to make electric vehicles a large part of their product lines. Ford stock was down 3.1% on Monday, but was still up 118% for the year. GM fell 2.9% on Monday but gained 28% this year.

The bill would have extended and increased existing tax credits; Lucid and Rivian would still benefit from the credits available under the current program.

Oil prices also fell on Monday. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark fell more than 5% to $ 66.77 per barrel. Energy stocks were among the worst performers on the S&P 500, with Devon Energy Corporation down 5.2 and Enphase Energy 5.7%.

Pierre Eavis and Coral Murphy Marcos contributed reports.


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