Stocks Rally, Dollar Gains As Omicron Fears Ease

NEW YORK:The dollar edged higher while U.S. and European shares rallied on Monday after reassuring news about the Omicron COVID-19 variant led investors to buy stocks that will likely perform well in a rising interest rate environment.

Yields on U.S. government debt rose, with the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield briefly climbing back above 1.4% after sliding last week to its lowest level since late September.

Gold prices eased on the firmer dollar and rising Treasury yields, but losses were limited by expectations that U.S. consumer price data due later this week will show the pace of inflation quickening.

Stocks on Wall Street were a sea of green as economically-sensitive value stocks, led by banks and energy shares, rose 1.96% compared to a 1.25% gain in growth stocks.

Federal Reserve policymakers are likely to accelerate the tapering of their bond-buying program when they meet next week as they respond to a tightening labor market and hike rates earlier than they had projected to tap inflation down.

There have been roughly six periods since the 1990s marked by rising rates when value did better than growth, said Brian Pietrangelo, managing director of investment strategy at Key Private Bank in Cleveland.

“Looking at those six different eras, generally speaking value-oriented stocks performed better,” Pietrangelo said.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 2.12%, the S&P 500 rose 1.53% and the Nasdaq Composite added 1.25%.

MSCI’s all-country world index advanced 1.03% and the broad STOXX Europe 600 index rose 1.28%.

Energy and banking also were big movers in Europe, closing up 1.86% and 1.83%, respectively.

The rebound after a recent sell-off shows investors are not giving up on the prospect of a Santa Claus rally as Omicron fears recede, said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

“This Omicron variant, while still largely unknown, through anecdotal evidence points to something that will not be as ground-shaking as was originally thought,” he said.

Omicron has spread to about one-third of U.S. states, but the Delta version remains the majority of COVID-19 infections in the United States, health officials said on Sunday.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease official, told CNN it does not look like Omicron has a “great degree of severity.”

Earlier in Asia, the MSCI index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan lost 1%.

China’s central bank said it would cut the amount of cash banks must hold as reserves in an attempt to revive economic growth. The region has seen a series of corporate setbacks after ride-hailing giant Didi decided to withdraw from its New York listing last week.

Shares in China’s Evergrande plunged about 20% after the developer said there was no guarantee it would have enough funds to meet debt repayments.

The dollar index rose 0.108%, with the euro down 0.28% to $1.1281. The Japanese yen weakened 0.63% versus the greenback at 113.51 per dollar.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose 9.8 basis points to 1.439%, after losing almost 13 basis points last week.

The market still expects aggressive Fed tightening to fight rising inflation.

“By severely limiting the FOMC’s ability to respond to downside risks posed by Omicron, inflation has effectively destroyed the Fed put,” Jefferies analysts said in note.

Inflation is “now the dominant driver of not only rates, but all risk assets,” they added as traders wait for Friday’s U.S. consumer price report.

Bitcoin last traded down 8.25% at $49,169.46 after hitting a low of $41,967 over the weekend as profit-taking and macro-economic concerns prompted nearly $1 billion worth of selling across cryptocurrencies.

Oil climbed more than 4% on hopes Omicron will have a less damaging economic impact if its symptoms prove to be mostly mild and as the prospect of an imminent rise in Iranian oil exports receded.

Brent crude rose $3.20 to settle at $73.08 a barrel. U.S. crude settled up $3.23 at $69.49 a barrel.

U.S. gold futures settled down 0.3% at 1,779.50 an ounce.

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