Investors hoping for an easy Christmas week could be sorely disappointed as stocks and oil prices slid in the face of growing threats to the global economy.
The Dow fell nearly 600 points, or 1.7%, in early morning trading Monday. The S&P 500 was down 1.4% while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 1.2%. Benchmark Brent crude prices were down more than 3% to below $71 a barrel. Major stock market indexes in Europe also fell by about 1%. Most Asian markets suffered bigger drops, although the Shanghai Composite fared slightly better, drawing modest support from a Chinese interest rate cut.
On Friday, the Dow finished down 532 points, or 1.5%. It was its worst drop in three weeks. The S&P 500 closed down 1%. Both are still sitting on healthy gains for the year so far. Two factors appeared to be driving Monday’s losses.
Soaring cases of the Omicron variant in Europe and the United States are already slamming businesses and forcing governments to tighten restrictions on activity at a critical time of year for the leisure and retail industries. And the prospects for the US economy dimmed after Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin said he would oppose the Biden administration’s $1.75 trillion “Build Back Better” bill.
“A combination of increasing Omicron nerves, particularly in the UK and Europe, and the failure of President Biden’s spending plan… has seen Asian equities head directly south in sympathy with Wall Street’s Friday finish,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst, Asia Pacific, at Oanda.