By Steve Goldstein
European stocks were on track to their worst single-day performance of the year, getting hammered after the discovery of a new more virulent strain of coronavirus.
The Stoxx Europe 600 /zigman2/quotes/210599654/delayed XX:SXXP -0.88% dropped 2.3% to 470.52, after the discovery of what for now is being called the B.1.1.529 variant, that’s believed to be driving a spike of cases in South Africa. The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting and may call the new variant ‘Nu.’
The French CAC 40 /zigman2/quotes/210597958/delayed FR:PX1 -1.52% dropped over 3%, as the German DAX /zigman2/quotes/210597999/delayed DX:DAX -0.89% and FTSE 100 /zigman2/quotes/210598409/delayed UK:UKX -0.92% also slumped. U.S. stock futures /zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed YM00 -0.19% /zigman2/quotes/209948968/delayed ES00 -0.45% also were rocked.
“We think it’s too soon to quantify the likely impact of this new variant but markets have had a very strong run over the last 12 months, and so it is no surprise to see a reaction like this,” said Dan Boardman-Weston, chief investment officer at BRI Wealth Management.
Investors flocked to safer assets such as German bunds, U.S. Treasurys, and gold /zigman2/quotes/210034565/delayed GC00 +0.26% , with the 10-year bund /zigman2/quotes/211347112/realtime BX:TMBMKDE-10Y +4.23% falling 7 basis points to -0.32%.
Each of the major sector indexes were dropping, led by travel and leisure and banks. Cruise operator Carnival /zigman2/quotes/210414141/delayed UK:CCL -2.61% lost 14%, and British Airways owner International Airlines Group /zigman2/quotes/208070069/delayed UK:IAG -1.56% stumbled 13%. The European Union was moving to halt air traffic from South Africa , a step the U.K. has already taken.
Italian diagnostics kit maker DiaSorin /zigman2/quotes/204234418/delayed IT:DIA +0.49% and French lab instrument maker Sartorius Stedim Biotech /zigman2/quotes/200966147/delayed FR:DIM +0.81% were among the few advancers.