Markets bugged by new COVID-19 variant

Colin BrinsdenAAP
Wall Street suffered its biggest one-day drop in months on Friday, hitting Australian share futures.
Camera IconWall Street suffered its biggest one-day drop in months on Friday, hitting Australian share futures. Credit: AP

Australian shares look set for a further hefty markdown at Monday’s opening with global markets sent into a tailspin on the emergence of a new coronavirus variant, Omicron.

Wall Street suffered its biggest one-day drop in months on Friday, dragging Australian share futures down 104 points or 1.4 per cent to 7166.

“Shares remain vulnerable to further short-term weakness with possible triggers being the rebound in coronavirus cases globally and the new Omicron variant,” AMP Capital chief economist Shane Oliver said.

The US Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 905.04 points, or 2.53 per cent, to 34,899.34, the S&P 500 lost 106.84 points, or 2.27 per cent, to 4,594.62; and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 353.57 points, or 2.23 per cent, to 15,491.66.

Australian shares already recorded their biggest slide in nearly two months on Friday ove concerns Omicron will affect global reopening prospects.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index tumbled 128 points, or 1.73 per cent, to 7279.3 points on Friday.

Potential market volatility could overshadow a busy week for domestic economic data, including the September quarter national accounts to be released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday.

That report is expected to show the economy contracted by 2.5 per cent in the quarter reflecting the impact of the Delta-induced lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.

Still, economists were already looking at this as “old news” given the strong signs of recovery, with retail sales spiking in October and payroll jobs picking up smartly and pointing to solid employment gains ahead.

The hope is this doesn’t prove to be a temporary pick-up in activity with the presence of a new COVID-19 variant.

Economists will finalise their expectations for September quarter national accounts after company profits and business inventories data on Monday and international trade and government spending on Tuesday.

Deputy Reserve Bank of Australia governor Guy Debelle will make two appearances on Tuesday, one as part of a panel at the 2021 Symposium on Indigenous Economies in the morning.

The other is described as a “fireside chat” at the ACI Australian Conference at lunchtime.

Meanwhile, there is a broad spread of housing-related figures this week, kicking off on Tuesday with building approvals for October, which are forecast to decline by two per cent.

One the same day, the RBA will release its monthly credit data for October and the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan consumer confidence index is due.

On Wednesday, the highly regarded CoreLogic home value index is released, which could report that house prices rose by a further 1.1 per cent in November. As of October, house prices were already 20.8 per cent higher on the year, the fastest growth since mid-1989.

Finally, housing finance data is released on Thursday, which is expected to show a two per cent increase for October, while the trade surplus for the same month is expected to narrow to $10.8 billion after $12.2 billion in September.

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