Possible New COVID Strain Weighs Market

U.S. stock futures dropped on Friday on renewed Covid fears over a new variant found in South Africa.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrials withered 784 points, or 2.2%, to 34,964.

Futures for the S&P 500 stumbled 77 points, or 1.6%, to 4,622.

Futures for the NASDAQ cratered 156.25 points, or 1%, to 16,209.75.

Friday is a shortened trading day because of the Thanksgiving holiday with U.S. markets closing at 1 p.m. ET.

The downward moves came after World Health Organization 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.

Travel-related stocks were hit hardest with Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean down more than 10% apiece in pre-market trading. United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines were each down more than 7%. Boeing lost 6%. Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide fell more than 5%.

Bank shares retreated on fears of the slowdown in economic activity and the retreat in rates. Bank of America, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup were each down more than 4%.

Industrials linked to the global economy declined led by Caterpillar off by 3%. Dow Inc. shed 2%.

Chevron dropped nearly 5% as energy stocks reacted to the rollover in crude prices.

On the flip side, investors huddled into the vaccine makers. Moderna shares gained more than 8%. Pfizer shares added 5%.

Some of the stay-at-home plays that gained in the earlier months of the pandemic were higher again. Zoom Video added 9%. Netflix was up 2%.

Overseas, markets in Japan faltered 2.5%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 2.7%.

Oil prices tumbled $4.48 to $73.91.

Gold prices hiked $20.30 to $1,804.60 U.S. an ounce.