Markets fall over Omicron concerns
By Liam Sheasby, News Editor
20 Dec 2021
The FTSE 100 is amongst the major markets currently down so far today, having fallen by 1.3% so far and 2.2% at its peak drop over concerns about the latest Covid variant – Omicron.
Despite a strong uptake in booster jabs with the NHS, Covid cases are rising rapidly in the UK on a daily basis, with fears that A&E units will be overwhelmed over the holidays due to household mixing for Christmas and New Year.
As a result, the pound is currently down 0.4% against the US dollar at $1.3195 – undoing the gains made last week following the Bank of England's interest rate rise.
Asia's markets were the warning sign for the west, with drops for Hong Kong, China, and Japan's major markets of between 1.1% to 2.2%. The DAX 30 in Germany is down 2.2% currently, and the CAC 40 in France is down 1.4%, with analysts predicting similar dips for the US markets including the Dow Jones and the S&P when they open.
Markets do typically slow down in the run up to Christmas but the pandemic has bucked the trend for what's considered normal economic behaviour. Based on normal expectations though, sharper fluctuations this week is more typical – based on the idea that with lower liquidity due to less financial activity, any shifts up or down are more exaggerated than usual.
Experts will be watching the pound sterling closely today to see if it sets a new 2021 low in the final days of the year, which itself would be odd given the BoE's new tack to challenge inflation. Diminished buying power at a time of increasing costs would hit an already beleaguered British public in their pockets – bad news for Boris Johnson's government given the current rule breach scandals being leaked to the media at present.