Shares fall, havens rise as new COVID-19 variant scares investors By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Passers-by with protective masks are reflected on an electronic board showing stock prices outside a brokerage house in the middle of the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19), in Tokyo, Japan, September 29, 2021. REUTERS / Issei Kato

By Tom Westbrook

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Shares fell and headed for their biggest weekly fall in almost two months on Friday, while safe-haven assets such as bonds and the yen rose as a new virus variant, contributing to swirling concerns about future growth and higher US interest rates.

The variant, discovered by researchers in South Africa, may be able to avoid immune responses and has led the UK to quickly impose travel restrictions on South Africa.

fell 1[ads1]% in early trading, as did futures. fell 0.4%, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars fell to a three-month low.

“The trigger was the news of this COVID variant … and the uncertainty of what it means,” said Ray Attrill, Head of Currency Strategy at the National Australia Bank (OTC) in Sydney. “You shoot first and ask questions later when this kind of news breaks out.”

was down 1.7% in early trading and Australian equities fell 0.6%. [.T][.AX]

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific equities outside Japan fell 0.2% for a weekly fall of 1% and world equities, while still close to record highs, led to a weekly fall of 0.7%, the largest since the beginning of October .

Little is known about the new variant. However, researchers told reporters that it has a “very unusual constellation” of mutations, because they can help it avoid the body’s immune response and make it more transmissible.

British authorities believe it is the most important variant to date, and are concerned that it may resist vaccines.

Movements in government bonds were sharp in Tokyo – after the Thanksgiving party – as interest rates quickly withdrew some of the week’s rise. Benchmark 10-year interest rates fell 5 basis points to 1.5927%.

The yen jumped 0.4% to $ 114.91 per ounce and gold rose 0.2% to $ 1,792 per ounce. [FRX/][GOL/]

The measures come against a backdrop of concerns about the outbreak of covid-19, which is pushing restrictions on movement and activity in Europe, and as markets aggressively raise prices next year in the United States.

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