LONDON: Global equity markets rose on Thursday (December 23) on easing fears over both the Omicron coronavirus variant and increased inflationary pressures, traders said.
Natural gas prices continued to fall sharply from record highs earlier this week, but crude oil rose slightly.
The pre-holiday positive sentiment was supported by two preliminary studies from the UK, which indicated that Omicron infections were less likely to result in hospital admissions compared to the Delta variant, confirming a trend first seen in South Africa.
Global stocks rose on “optimism that Omicron could result in fewer hospital admissions than Delta,” noted interactive investor analyst Victoria Scholar.
Cautious optimism was also lifted by news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved Pfizer’s anti-COVID-19 pill, which offers new tools to fight the disease.
The mood gained another shot in the arm after UK company AstraZeneca revealed that the third or booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine “significantly” raised antibody levels against the Omicron strain in a laboratory study.
New cases of the highly mutated Omicron strain continued to surge, but market watchers are more confident that the health effects will be milder than previous variants.
The rebound from Monday’s sharp sell-off over Omicron fears “does not mean the market is not worried about Omicron,” said Briefing.com market analyst Patrick J O’Hare.
“But it suggests that the market isn’t too concerned that Omicron is causing greater economic damage.”
The data released on Wednesday showed that despite the surge in the rapidly expanding Omicron tribe, U.S. consumers remained optimistic about the economy.
The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index rose almost four points from the previous month to 115.8.
Sentiment was also bolstered by revised data from the US Department of Commerce showing that third-quarter GDP grew 2.3 percent faster than earlier estimates of 2.1 percent.
The positive sentiment spilled over to Asia on Thursday, with Tokyo adding 0.8 percent.
Even a COVID-19 lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an couldn’t dampen enthusiasm, with Shanghai gaining 0.6 percent and Hong Kong gaining 0.4 percent.
Data released Thursday morning showed the US economy continued to advance, with personal income and spending rising, as well as orders for durable goods. Initial jobless claims remained at pre-pandemic levels.
Thursday is the last trading day before Christmas for Wall Street, as well as for the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Both London and Paris are open for half a day of trading on Friday.