Investors reassessed risks associated with the new omicron Covid variant on Tuesday, reversing Monday’s rebound on Wall Street.
After Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will discuss speeding up the bond-buying taper at its December meeting, major averages fell to session lows.
Losses in American Express and Coca-Cola dragged down the Dow Jones Industrial Average by about 560 points. The S&P 500 index fell by 1.5 percent. The Nasdaq Composite, which is heavily weighted in technology, fell 1.5 percent. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks fell 1.9 percent.
In testimony before a Senate committee, the Fed chairman said he believes the pace of monthly bond purchases can be reduced faster than the $15 billion per month plan announced earlier this month.
“At this point, the economy is very strong, and inflationary pressures are higher, so it is appropriate in my opinion to consider wrapping up our asset purchases… perhaps a few months sooner,” Powell said. “I expect we’ll talk about that at our next meeting.”
After Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times that existing vaccines will be less effective against the new variant, the company reversed its decision on Tuesday. According to the CEO, there could be a “material drop” in the effectiveness of current vaccines against this variant. Bancel told CNBC on Monday that developing and shipping an omicron-specific vaccine could take months. Moderna’s stock was down nearly 4%.
Separately, Regeneron stated that its antibody treatment for omicron may have decreased effectiveness.
According to Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at Leuthold Group, “the stock market is laser focused on news flow tied to Omicron.” “On Monday, the rally was bolstered by soothing reports from South Africa that its symptoms appeared to be mild, and today, it is being rocked by news from Moderna that Omicron could invalidate our existing vaccines, necessitating the development of a new and improved vaccine that could take months.”
Travel stocks, which were among the first to fall on Friday before recovering on Monday, were hit hard again on Tuesday. Expedia Group lost 2%, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings lost 2%, and American Airlines lost 2.5 percent of its value.
“We have to expect that the scenarios, all scenarios, include discoveries of people in this country with omicron and talk that the vaccines don’t work or if they did those who have had Covid have no immunity,” wrote Jim Cramer on Twitter Tuesday. “These all cause selling.”
Some tech stocks defied the market’s general trend. Netflix, a stay-at-home stock, gained 1.4 percent, Apple gained 1%, and Tesla gained 1.5 percent.
The 10-year Treasury yield fell below 1.45% as investors feared the economy would slow as a result of the new variant. The 10-year rate is now 1.44 percent, down 9 basis points (1 basis point equals 0.01 percent ). Last week, the benchmark yield reached 1.69 percent before falling below 1.5 percent on Friday.
The stock market’s decline comes after a tumultuous few sessions as investors assess the impact of the omicron. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 905 points on Friday before rebounding 237 points on Monday. On Monday, major averages hit new highs after President Joe Biden said that economic lockdowns are no longer an option and that there will be no new travel restrictions.
Dow’s volatile reaction to omicron.
The new Covid variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, has now been discovered in more than a dozen countries, prompting many to impose travel restrictions. On Friday, when the Dow fell 900 points to its lowest level since October 2020, the World Health Organization designated the omicron strain as a “variant of concern.”
The South African doctor who first raised the alarm about the new strain described the covid symptoms linked to the omicron variant as “extremely mild.” Nonetheless, the WHO stated that determining how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines will take weeks.
During Monday’s rally, the CBOE volatility index, also known as the VIX or Wall Street’s fear gauge, fell but remained above 22. On Friday, the gauge reached a high of over 28 points. On Tuesday, the VIX rose once more.
“With the VIX volatility index surging to its highest level in months,” Paulsen continued, “it appears investors may be in for several days of outsized market gyrations.”
The final trading day of November, which proved to be a perplexing month for investors, is Tuesday. In November, the Dow is down about 2.7 percent. The S&P 500 is up 0.5 percent this month, while the Nasdaq is up 1.7 percent.
Stay always updated with us on Facebook, subscribe!