Stocks slide as Omicron variant cases surge globally

Click to play video: 'Wall Street skids over Omicron COVID-19 variant concerns'
Wall Street skids over Omicron COVID-19 variant concerns
WATCH: Wall Street skids over Omicron COVID-19 variant concerns – Dec 20, 2021

Wall Street’s main indexes dropped more than one per cent on Monday in a broad selloff as investors worried about a deluge in COVID-19 cases potentially undercutting the economic rebound and a critical blow to President Joe Biden’s domestic investment bill.

All major S&P 500 sectors were lower as coronavirus cases surged in New York City and around the United States over the weekend, dashing hopes for a more normal holiday season. Britain’s leader said he would take more steps to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant if needed, after the Netherlands began a fourth lockdown and as other European nations considered restrictions.

“Typically what happens in Europe is a bit of a preview for what we see in the United States. So, if we see a lot more infections in the U.S., it could stress hospitals, make people less reluctant to get out, spend and partake in the economy. That’s definitely a cause of concern,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance.

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Click to play video: 'Global News Morning Market and Business Report – Dec. 20, 2021'
Global News Morning Market and Business Report – Dec. 20, 2021

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 551.14 points, or 1.56 per cent, to 34,814.3, the S&P 500 lost 67.14 points, or 1.45 per cent, to 4,553.5 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 233.33 points, or 1.54 per cent, to 14,936.35.

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The benchmark S&P 500 traded below its 50-day moving average, a key technical level.

Economically sensitive S&P 500 groups such as financials and materials were among the biggest sector decliners.

Meanwhile, Canada’s main stock index also started the trading week on a downward spiral amid concerns that surging Omicron COVID-19 cases could dampen economic growth and exacerbate supply chain problems.

The S&P/TSX composite index down 322.67 points at 20,416.52.

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The Canadian dollar traded for 77.18 cents US compared with 77.85 cents US on Friday.

The February crude contract was down four cents at US$66.65 per barrel and the January natural gas contract was up a penny at US$3.87 per mmBTU.

The February gold contract was up US$9.10 at US$1795.80 an ounce and the March copper contract was unchanged at US$4.30 a pound.

In a further knock to market sentiment, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin said on Sunday he would not support Biden’s $1.75 trillion domestic investment bill.

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Money Matters with the Baun Investment Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth


Goldman Sachs trimmed its quarterly U.S. GDP forecasts for 2022 after Manchin’s comments.

The developments came as the Federal Reserve decided last week to end its pandemic-era stimulus faster, with the central bank signaling at least three quarter-percentage-point interest rate hikes by the end of 2022.

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The S&P 500 was now logging a loss for the month of December. Investors have taken a more defensive stance so far this month, with sectors such as consumer staples, real estate and utilities leading gains.

The S&P 500 remains up some 20 per cent so far in 2021.

“Given the strength of the market so far this year, in some ways you could see investors take some profits and look for greater clarity in the new year,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors.

In company news, Oracle Corp shares fell 4.5 per cent after the business software maker said it would buy electronic medical records company Cerner Corp for $28.3 billion. Shares of Cerner added about one per cent.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 5.25-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 3.56-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted two new 52-week highs and 11 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 10 new highs and 321 new lows.

(Reporting by Lewis Krauskopf in New York, Shreyashi Sanyal and Anisha Sircar in Bengaluru; editing by Uttaresh.V, Maju Samuel and Cynthia Osterman)

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With files from the Canadian Press 

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