Markets Sink on Omicron Fears and Setback on U.S. Spending Plan

The S&P 500 was set to fall more than 1 percent when Wall Street opens for trading.,

Global markets sunk on Monday, and Wall Street was poised for a drop, as investors took in the latest grim forecasts about the sudden surge in the Omicron variant and a critical setback in President Biden’s efforts to pass a massive domestic policy bill.

The S&P 500 was set to fall more than 1 percent when the U.S. markets open, futures showed. In Europe, markets were down 1 to 2 percent, with the Stoxx Europe 600 1.5 percent lower. Asian indexes closed lower.

“The rampant nature of Omicron and its potential impact in sharply slowing global growth is continuing to unnerve investors,” Susannah Streeter, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, wrote in a note to clients. “Uncertainty about the year ahead is rippling through the markets.”

Over the weekend, more European countries announced restrictions to control the spread of the coronavirus. The Netherlands on Saturday became the first European country to announce a lockdown in response to the variant. Britain’s health secretary said on Sunday that he could not rule out imposing new restrictions before Christmas. The minister, Sajid Javid, did not deny speculation that the government was considering a two-week “circuit breaker” that could mean curbs on pubs and restaurants.

Germany’s central bank, the Bundesbank, said it would scale back its predictions of economic growth because of recent pandemic restrictions. The bank forecast the German economy would expand by 2.5 percent in the current quarter, down from the 3.7 percent increase predicted in June.

Airline and travel stocks fell sharply in early European trading. But the biggest decliner in Britain’s FTSE 100 was Informa, which organizes large in-person events. It fell 4.5 percent, after shedding as much as 6.9 percent earlier.

In the United States, the future of President Biden’s $2.2 trillion domestic policy bill was put in doubt after Senator Joe Manchin III, the West Virginia Democrat, said he would vote against it because he feared it would inflame inflation.

The impact began to weigh on prospects for the economy, adding to the negative sentiment in markets. Goldman Sachs said in a research note that it would scale back its projected growth for the U.S. economy next year.

Oil prices also fell on Monday. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark dropped more than 3 percent to $68.66 a barrel. Energy stocks were among the biggest fallers in global markets.

Moderna shares rose 5 percent in premarket trading after the vaccine maker said a third or booster shot significantly raised the level of antibodies that can thwart the Omicron variant.

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