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Stocks rise despite the Omicron fear

LONDON: European stocks mostly rose Thursday in slow end-of-year trading overshadowed by fears about the Omicron Covid-19 variant, while US markets also pressed higher.

Paris and Frankfurt both climbed but London fell, as across the Atlantic the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq all booked gains by late morning.

“Worries about the Omicron variant have receded, but the speed of its spread is tempering sentiment,” analysts at Charles Schwab wrote.

The world’s top economy had hit its highest-ever seven-day average of new Covid cases Wednesday.

Meanwhile the World Health Organization warned a “tsunami” of infections would push health systems to the brink of collapse, as a count showed the world topped one million cases detected in 24 hours for the first time.

Investors have clung to data showing a reduced risk of hospitalization from Omicron, and the fact that trading volumes are extremely low in the period between Christmas and the New Year.

Markets are also “showing some resiliency in the face of expectations that the Fed could accelerate its monetary tightening campaign and as inflation pressures persist,” Schwab said.

One bright spot for traders was a lower-than-expected US jobless claims report for last week.

Asia’s main indices had earlier ended mixed, while Chinese artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime was a big winner with a 23-percent jump to its share price on its Hong Kong debut.

Aviation giant Emirates said it expects business to grow next year despite the surge in global coronavirus cases fueled by Omicron.

Tokyo closed lower Thursday, its last trading day of 2021, but the benchmark Nikkei index rose nearly five percent for the year to its highest annual close since the 1989 boom.

Elsewhere in Asia, embattled Chinese property giant Evergrande tumbled 10 percent after a report that the group had failed to meet two more offshore payments.

In Europe, data showed that a record number of companies made their market debut on the Euronext index in 2021 as the pan-European exchange benefited from Brexit and added Milan to the group.

Euronext said 212 companies were newly listed this year for a total market capitalization of 123 billion euros ($139 billion), but it did not indicate how many had delisted.

The index includes exchanges in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dublin, Lisbon, Oslo, Paris and Milan, which joined the group this year.

– Key figures around 1445 GMT –
New York – Dow: UP 0.1 percent at 36,505.35 points
London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.2 percent at 7,403.01 (close)
Frankfurt – DAX: UP 0.2 percent at 15,884.86 (close)
Paris – CAC 40: UP 0.2 percent at 7,173.23 (close)
EURO STOXX 50: UP 0.5 percent at 4,306.07
Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,791.71 (close)
Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 23,112.01 (close)
Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.6 percent at 3,619.19 (close)
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1320 from $1.1347
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3496 from $1.3499
Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.88 pence from 84.06 pence
Dollar/yen: UP at 115.17 yen from 115.01 yen
Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.4 percent at $79.29 per barrel
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.8 percent at $76.56 per barrel

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M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.