Markets collapsed around the world on Friday, and several economic sectors began to fear a return of a crisis due to widespread concern over the new variant from southern Africa, dubbed “omicron” by the World Organization of health and about which little is known yet.
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As health authorities have reiterated, the available data on the new variant are extremely limited and it will take several days to have more accurate scientific assessments. But the assumptions, even judging by the sharp increase in infections in the South African region of Gauteng, the one where Johannesburg is located and where the variant has spread, are not encouraging. These concerns, although still to be confirmed, were enough to scare the markets, and dynamics similar to those of the first spread of the coronavirus and subsequently of the more worrying variants, such as the delta, have been witnessed all over the world.
In general, all the big bags have collapsed. Milan closed at -4.6 percent, and in Europe things went similarly: Madrid lost 5 percent, Paris 4.7, London 3.6. In the morning the Asian stock exchanges had also collapsed, while in the evening the American stock market closed with a sharp drop.
As has already happened on other occasions when the stock exchanges feared a worsening of the pandemic, the economic sectors and companies that could be damaged by any restrictions have been particularly affected: as the Sole 24 Ore, the travel sector lost 8.7 per cent, the banking sector 6.8 per cent and the auto sector 6 per cent.
Among the biggest collapses was that of the price of oil, which fell by more than 10 per cent in the various price lists; aircraft manufacturers, such as Airbus and Boeing, and airlines, probably affected by the blocking of flights imposed by many countries of the world on southern Africa, were also affected by the general collapse: the declines were in many cases greater to 10 percent.
Conversely, the shares of companies that could benefit from measures such as lockdowns rose on the stock market: in the United States, the video calling company Zoom grew by 6 percent, while Peloton, a company that produces internet-connected exercise bikes, 5 percent off.
Concerns about the spread of the omicron variant also come at a time when new cases in Europe are rising considerably: even before Friday, many analysts feared that the new European wave would risk slowing down the economic recovery. It is a concern expressed for example by the governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, who on Friday at a conference said that the worsening of the health situation in Europe brings “consequences that are difficult to anticipate today, even if the short-term indicators continue to be favorable on the whole “.