ASX down 1.7 pc; Travel stocks dip on COVID fears


Asian stocks suffered their biggest drop in two months on Friday after the detection of a new, possibly vaccine-resistant variant of the coronavirus that prompted investors to rush to the safety of bonds, the yen and the dollar.

The MSCI’s largest Asia-Pacific stock index outside of Japan fell 1.3 percent, its biggest drop since September. Casino and beverage stocks were sold in Hong Kong, and travel stocks fell in Sydney.

Japan’s Nikkei slipped 2.5% and US crude oil futures fell nearly 2% on new demand fears.

Scientists said the variant, detected in South Africa, may be able to evade immune responses. British officials believe it is the most important variant to date, fear it may be vaccine resistant and have rushed to impose travel restrictions on South Africa.

“You shoot first and ask questions later when this kind of news breaks out,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank in Sydney.

The South African rand fell 1% to its lowest level in a year in early trading. The risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars fell to three-month lows and S&P 500 futures fell 0.9%.

Sales in Asia have global stocks on course for their worst week since early October. Dow Jones futures fell 1%, while FTSE and Euro STOXX 50 futures fell about 1.4% each.


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