Investing.com – European stock markets slumped Friday, with the travel sector hit hard, on concerns a new Covid variant will prompt fresh mobility restrictions, hindering the region’s economic recovery.
Virus cases have soared in Europe in the last month, with a number of countries introducing stricter Covid measures. But a degree of urgency was added to the situation by the announcement late Thursday by the World Health Organization that it’s monitoring a new Covid-19 variant with “a large number of mutations”, detected mainly in southern Africa.
The United Nations agency is set to hold a special meeting later Friday to discuss the implications for vaccines and treatments given the degree of mutation from the original strain. Ahead of that, the U.K. has already announced a temporary flight ban from a number of southern African countries and put travelers from the region into quarantine.
This news knocked the region’s travel sector very hard, with a number of the airline stocks falling to their lows for the year. Lufthansa (DE:LHAG) stock fell 12%, Ryanair (LON:RYA) stock slumped 13%, easyJet (LON:EZJ) stock fell 16%, as did the stock of IAG (LON:ICAG), the owner of British Airways. Travel agency Tui (DE:TUIGn) also weakened dramatically, with its stock falling 10%.
“We still don’t know how infectious the virus is … it’s a general uncertainty. Markets are anticipating the risk here of another global wave of infections if vaccines are ineffective,” Reuters reported Moh Siong Sim, an analyst with the Bank of Singapore, as saying. “Reopening hopes could be dashed.”
Elsewhere, Telecom Italia (MI:TLIT) stock rose 1.5%, bucking the overall negative tone, after Bloomberg reported that private equity giants KKR and CVC are considering joining together on a bid for the Italian telecommunications giant.
KKR indicated its interest last weekend, but Vivendi (OTC:VIVHY), Telecom Italia’s largest shareholder, dismissed the offer as not representing value.
Wall Street was closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, and will close early on Friday in a shortened session. Ahead of that U.S. stock futures point to a sharply lower open, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average contract over 600 points lower.
Crude prices slumped Friday as the announcement of a new Covid-19 strain raised concerns about demand just as a U.S.-led coalition of major consumers is adding output to the global supply.
Worries are growing that this will result in a global supply surplus in the first quarter, and brings next week’s meeting of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and allies, a group known as OPEC+, firmly into focus
The group is to decide whether it will continue raising output by 400,000 barrels per day in January, or to hold back supply.