Asian markets extended losses but oil bounces after Omicron rout
HONG KONG, Nov 29, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Asian markets fell again Monday but
oil rebounded strongly as investors try to assess the threat of the new
Omicron Covid strain on the global economic recovery.
Equities around the world went into freefall Friday on news of the heavily
mutated variant, which some fear could evade vaccines, as it forced several
governments to throw up flight bans from southern Africa where it was
discovered and introduced fresh containment measures.
The crisis added to an already jittery mood on trading floors caused by
surging inflation and central banks starting to roll back their ultra-loose
monetary policies to prevent prices from running out of control.
"Omicron's uncertainty has triggered a rethink on the global economic
outlook," said National Australia Bank's Rodrigo Catril. "A new Covid wave
may or may not be more infectious or deadly, but until we know more markets
are likely to remain jittery."
Some traders were taking solace in comments from two South African health
experts who said symptoms of Omicron appeared to be mild so far, though the
World Health Organization has urged caution.
And analysts warned markets would remain on edge until more was known about
"So perhaps we have a highly contagious, yet mild strain," said Matt
Simpson of StoneX Financial. "And if that is the case, markets could very
well rally through December (as original fears recede) and markets refocus on
Fed tightening and of course Santa's rally.
But Priya Misra, at TD Securities, added: "We really need some more answers
to figure out the impact on growth.
"Risk assets are pricing in uncertainty."
All three main indexes on Wall Street ended more than two percent down,
while London, Paris and Frankfurt were also pummelled at least 3.6 percent
But even those losses were dwarfed by crude, which fell off a cliff on its
worst day since WTI went below $0 at the outset of the pandemic, with dealers
fretting over the possible impact on demand if more lockdowns are introduced.
And Asian equities, which also suffered hefty selling pressure, extended
losses on Monday, though the selling was a lot lighter.
Tokyo and Hong Kong flirted with positive territory in the morning but
remained in the red, while Shanghai, Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei,
Wellington, Manila and Jakarta also retreated.
But crude enjoyed a bounce, with WTI up more than five percent and Brent
more than four percent higher -- having cratered 13.1 percent and 11.5
percent, respectively, on Friday.
The gains came as reports said OPEC and other major producers were
considering whether or not to continue their plan of raising output each
month, in light of the latest rout and with the prospect of new shutdowns if
Omicron becomes a major problem.
In Hong Kong, casino operators plunged after police said the head of
gambling enclave Macau's largest junket operator had confessed to running
illegal betting activities.
The arrest of Alvin Chau at the weekend marks the first of such a high-
profile figure from the city's gaming industry and comes as Beijing embarks
on a crackdown, with plans announced in September to increase government
regulation of the sector.
MGM China lost more than nine percent, while Galaxy Entertainment, Wynn
Macau and Sands China all shed more than seven percent.