U.S. stocks dropped sharply on Friday as a new COVID variant found in South Africa triggered a global shift away from risk assets.
The Dow Jones Industrials cratered 905.04 points, or 2.5%, to conclude the post-Thanksgiving session at 34,899.34. U.S. markets were closed Thursday on Thanksgiving Day, and shut down early (around 1 p.m. EST) Friday.
The loss on the week for the blue-chip index was 702 points, or 1.97%.
The S&P 500 index demurred 106.34 points, or 2.3%, to 4,594.62, for a downturn over the last four trading days of 103 points, or 2.2%.
The NASDAQ tumbled 353.57 points, or 2.2%, to 15,481.66, for a loss on the week of 576 points, or 3.59%.
Travel-related stocks were hit hardest with Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean down 11% and 13.2%, respectively. United Airlines dropped more than 9%, while American Airlines dropped 8.8%. Boeing lost more than 5% and Marriott International fell nearly 6.5%.
Bank shares retreated on fears of the slowdown in economic activity and the retreat in rates. Bank of America dropped 3.9% and Citigroup slid 2.7%.
Industrials linked to the global economy declined led by Caterpillar off by 4%. Chevron dropped 2.3% as energy stocks reacted to the rollover in crude prices.
On the flip side, investors huddled into the vaccine makers. Moderna shares surged more than 20%. Pfizer shares added 6.1%.
Some of the stay-at-home plays that gained in the earlier months of the pandemic were higher again. Zoom Video and Peloton each added more than 5%.
The downward moves came after WHO officials on Thursday warned of a new COVID-19 variant that’s been detected in South Africa. The new variant contains more mutations to the spike protein, the component of the virus that binds to cells, than the highly contagious Delta variant.
Because of these mutations, scientists fear it could have increased resistance to vaccines, though WHO said further investigation is needed.
The United Kingdom temporarily suspended flights from six African countries due to the variant. Israel barred travel to several nations after reporting one case in a traveler. Two cases were identified in Hong Kong. Belgium also confirmed a case.
Prices for 10-year Treasurys gained sharply, lowering yields to 1.48% from Wednesday’s 1.64%. Treasury prices and yields move in opposite directions.
Oil prices hurtled earthward $10.22 to $68.17 U.S. a barrel.
Gold prices gained eight dollars to $1,792.30 U.S. an ounce.