World stock markets rise as Covid fears ease

AFP , Thursday 23 Dec 2021

US approval of Pfizer s anti-Covid pill and studies indicating Omicron infections were less likely to result in hospitalisation have cheered markets AFP

Asian and European stock markets advanced Thursday on fading fears over both the Omicron coronavirus variant and elevated inflationary pressures, dealers said.

Natural gas prices continued to fall sharply from record peaks that were struck earlier this week, but crude oil edged upwards.

The upbeat pre-holiday markets mood was helped by two preliminary studies from Britain indicating Omicron infections were less likely to result in hospitalisation compared with the Delta variant, confirming a trend first identified in South Africa.

Global equities climbed on "optimism that Omicron could lead to fewer hospitalisations than Delta", noted Interactive Investor analyst Victoria Scholar.

The cautious optimism was also lifted by news that the US Food and Drug Administration had authorised Pfizer's anti-Covid pill, providing fresh tools to battle the disease.

Sentiment won another shot in the arm after Britain's AstraZeneca revealed that the third, or booster, dose of its Covid-19 vaccine "significantly" lifted antibody levels against the Omicron strain in a laboratory study.

New cases of the highly mutated Omicron strain however continued to soar, but market watchers are becoming more confident the health effects will be milder than with earlier strains.

Wall Street closed with healthy gains on Wednesday after US data showed consumers remained upbeat about the economy despite the rise of the fast-spreading Omicron strain.

The Conference Board's consumer confidence index jumped nearly four points to 115.8 compared to the prior month.

Sentiment was also boosted by revised data from the US Commerce Department showing GDP expanded at a faster annual rate of 2.3 percent in the third quarter, up from earlier estimates of 2.1 percent.

The positive mood spilled over into Asia Thursday, with Tokyo adding 0.8 percent.

Even a Covid lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi'an failed to dampen enthusiasm, with Shanghai closing 0.6 percent higher and Hong Kong up 0.4 percent.

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