Stocks recoup some losses as Biden says Omicron is ‘not a cause for panic’

Stocks jumped Monday to recover some losses after Friday’s slide, when uncertainty over a new coronavirus variant stoked volatility across global markets. 

The Dow advanced. On Friday, the index had seen its worst day since October 2020, dropping more than 900 points, or 2.5{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}. Bitcoin prices rebounded to trade above $58,000 during the afternoon session. 

U.S. airlines and other travel stocks were mostly higher to steady after steep losses from late last week, when initial concerns over the newly discovered Omicron variant of the coronavirus in South Africa fueled fears over renewed global restrictions. Meanwhile, Zoom Video Communications (ZM), Peloton (PTON) and other stocks that have been mainstays of the “stay-at-home” trade gave back some of Friday’s gains. Technology stocks that had become defensive plays during the pandemic largely held up on Monday, however, and the Nasdaq outperformed with a gain of more than 2{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} at session highs. 

“Ultimately this is not the first or last variant scare and our tech playbook over the last 18 months has been to use these macro/risk-off events as buying opportunities to own the tech sector specifically cloud, cyber-security, and 5G winners,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives wrote in a note Monday morning. “While we are seeing a return to normalcy, a semi-remote workforce environment we believe is here to stay which underscores our tech cloud thesis into 2022 that the digital transformation build-out will be accelerated and is not a one time COVID pull forward event”

The U.S. and European Union have been among a host of destinations to ban flights from several African countries after the new variant was discovered. But cases of the variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO) has so far designated as a “variant of concern,” have also detected in regions including the U.K., Hong Kong, Australia, Germany and Italy, among others. Japan, Israel and Morocco each announced in the past few days they would be blocking foreign visitors from visiting amid the latest variant’s spread. 

While much is still yet to be confirmed about the Omicron variant — including whether it is more transmissible or causes more severe illness than previous variants — vaccine makers have already said they are working to adapt their existing inoculations to the new strain. Moderna’s (MRNA). Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton told BBC on Sunday that a new vaccine to address Omicron could be widely available in early 2022. Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) said last week they expected to have data on the latest variant within two weeks, and it could take about 100 days to create a vaccine specifically tailored to a new variant. The WHO has said preliminary evidence about Omicron suggested “an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other [variants of concern].”

Many market pundits have maintained it is still too early to tell how Omicron behaves from an epidemiological standpoint and how it will impact economic activity, should lockdowns or stay-in-place behavior broaden out. 

“What should we be looking for? A strong leading indicator will be what happens to hospitalizations and deaths in South Africa, where this has become dominant. If there is a noticeable spike, then that carries concerning implications for elsewhere,” Henry Allen, Deustche Bank research analysts, wrote in a note. 

“Nevertheless, there are two key differences worth bearing in mind between South Africa and much of the developed worked: First, Europe and the U.S. have much higher vaccination rates, which (assuming the vaccine is not ineffective) may offer greater protection,” he added, noting that South Africa has fully vaccinated 24{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} of its population compared to 58{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} in the U.S. and 69{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} in France. “This suggests they may have advantages relative to South Africa. But second, Europe and the U.S. have much older populations, and age is a factor that strongly correlates with the likelihood of hospitalization and death. In South Africa, the median age in the country is 28, much lower than Western Europe’s median age of 44.” 

4:03 p.m. ET: Tech stocks lead rebound rally after Biden says Omicron ‘not a cause for panic’: Nasdaq gains 1.9{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}

Here were the main moves in markets as of 4:03 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +60.65 (+1.32{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 4,655.27

  • Dow (^DJI): +236.60 (+0.68{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 35,135.94

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +291.18 (+1.88{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 15,782.83

  • Crude (CL=F): +$1.47 (+2.16{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $69.62 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$3.30 (-0.18{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $1,784.80 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +4.8 bps to yield 1.5300{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}

2:23 p.m. ET: Bitcoin prices rebound as virus concerns recede

Bitcoin prices rebounded after a steep selloff on Friday, with risk assets across the board getting a boost as initial fears over the Omicron variant began to ease.

The largest cryptocurrency by market cap saw prices jump by nearly 7{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} Monday afternoon to trade above $58,000. On Friday, Bitcoin prices had posted a drop that sent it 20{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} below its November all-time high of over $68,000. Prices for other major cryptocurrencies including Ethereum and XRP also gained on Monday. 

12:07 p.m. ET: ‘This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic’: Biden

President Joe Biden on Monday addressed the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. 

“This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccines in the world, the best medicine, the best scientists, and we’re learning more every single day,” Biden said in a speech. “We have more tools today to fight the variant than we ever have before.”

“The best protection against this new variant or any of the variants out there, the ones we’ve been dealing with already, is getting fully vaccinated and getting a booster shot,” he added. “Most Americans are fully vaccinated but not yet boosted. If you are 18 years or older and got vaccinated before June 1, go get the booster shot today.”

“In the event hopefully unlikely that updated vaccinations or boosters are needed to respond to this near variant, we will accelerate … their deployment with every available tool,” Biden said. “We do not yet believe that any additional measures will be needed.” 

He added that the White House was already working with Pfizer and Moderna to work on contingency plans, should any new or updated vaccines or boosters be needed. He also said the White House was set to put out a strategy on how to address COVID this winter on Thursday, adding that the plan was not to implement widespread lockdowns, but to focus on vaccinations, boosters and testing. 

10:51 a.m. ET: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to step down, be replaced by CTO Parag Agrawal 

Twitter’s (TWTR) Jack Dorsey will step down as CEO of the social media platform and be replaced by Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal, effective immediately, the company announced on Monday. This confirmed a CNBC report from earlier Monday morning suggesting Dorsey was set to depart from his role leading the platform. 

Dorsey is set to remain a member of Twitter’s Board of Directors until his term ends next year. 

“I’ve decided to leave Twitter because I believe the company is ready to move on from its founders. My trust in Parag as Twitter’s CEO is deep. His work over the past 10 years has been transformational. I’m deeply grateful for his skill, heart, and soul. It’s his time to lead,” Dorsey said in a press statement. 

10:34 a.m. ET: Cyber Monday sales expected to match last year’s level’s: Salesforce

Cyber Monday sales are expected to come in at $11 billion this year in the U.S., coming in roughly in-line with last year’s levels, according to projections from 

The online shopping holiday, taking place annually the Monday after Thanksgiving, is poised to see about $43 billion in total global sales, or also approximately flat compared to last year. On Black Friday, however, U.S. sales rose 5{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} compared to last year to reach $13.4 billion, Salesforce added. 

10:02 a.m. ET: Pending home sales stage rebound after September slide

Home contract-signings surged in October to recover after a September drop, with rising rent prices and still-low mortgage rates helping stoke purchases.

Pending home sales jumped by 7.5{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} in October, the National Association of Realtors said in its latest monthly report. This was far better than the 1.0{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} rise expected, according to Bloomberg consensus data. And in September, pending home sales dropped by 2.4{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}, with this figure downwardly revised from the 2.3{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} decrease previously reported for the month. 

“Motivated by fast-rising rents and the anticipated increase in mortgage rates, consumers that are on strong financial footing are signing contracts to purchase a home sooner rather than later,” Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, said in a statement. “This solid buying is a testament to demand still being relatively high, as it is occurring during a time when inventory is still markedly low.”

9:35 a.m. ET: Shares of Twitter jump after CNBC reports Dorsey to step down

CNBC reported Monday that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was expected to step down from his role leading the social media platform.

Shares of Twitter surged by more than 11{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} immediately following the report, which cited unnamed people familiar with the matter. Dorsey serves as CEO of both Twitter and financial technology platform Square, which is also publicly traded. 

9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open higher, Dow gains 350+ points

Here’s where markets were trading just after the opening bell: 

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +56.62 (+1.23{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 4,651.24

  • Dow (^DJI): +352.24 (+1.01{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 35,251.58

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +231.13 (+1.49{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 15,721.53

  • Crude (CL=F): +$4.55 (+6.68{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $72.70 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$0.70 (-0.04{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $1,787.40 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +7.7 bps to yield 1.562{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}

8:45 a.m. ET: Vaccine-makers’ stocks jump as companies work on shots to address Omicron

Shares of major COVID-19 vaccine-makers including Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna jumped Monday morning after executives from these companies said they were working on inoculations that would directly address the new Omicron version of the virus. 

BioNTech American depository receipts were up more than 5.5{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} in pre-market trading. Pfizer shares gained 1.7{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}, while Moderna shares outperformed with a jump of more than 10{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a} in the early session. 

7:45 a.m. ET Monday: Stock futures recover some losses

Here were the main moves in markets ahead of the opening bell

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +31.75 points (+0.69{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}), to 4,627.50

  • Dow futures (YM=F): +180 points (+0.52{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}), to 35,038.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +132 points (+0.82{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to 16,183.00

  • Crude (CL=F): +$3.33 (+4.89{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $71.48 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$5.20 (+0.29{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}) to $1,793.30 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +6.2 bps to yield 1.547{1b90e59fe8a6c14b55fbbae1d9373c165823754d058ebf80beecafc6dee5063a}

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 30, 2021 in New York City. In afternoon trading the Dow was down over 250 points as investors continue to worry about inflation, wages and supply chain issues. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 30: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on September 30, 2021 in New York City. In afternoon trading the Dow was down over 250 points as investors continue to worry about inflation, wages and supply chain issues. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter

Christopher Lewis

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