Stock futures rise ahead of first trading day of December after omicron fears dent markets

Finance

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) at the start of trading on Monday following Fridays steep decline in global stocks over fears of the new omicron Covid variant discovered in South Africa on November 29, 2021 in New York City.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. stock futures were higher in overnight trading on Tuesday following a sell-off on Wall Street over fears about the new Covid variant, omicron, and the Federal Reserve mulling a quicker-than-planned taper.

Dow futures rose 90 points. S&P 500 futures gained 0.5% and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 0.65%.

The major averages have seen several volatile sessions, starting last Friday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced its worst day since October 2020. Stocks rebounded on Monday, only to turn downward again on Tuesday.

Wednesday marks the first trading day of the final month of 2021.

On Tuesday, the Dow lost more than 650 points. The S&P 500 shed 1.9% and the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite dipped 1.6%. The small-cap benchmark Russell 2000 tumbled 1.9% as cyclical names dragged on the markets.

Stocks hit their session lows when Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank will discuss speeding up the bond-buying taper at its December meeting. Despite the potential disruption of omicron, the Fed chief said he thinks reducing the pace of monthly bond buys can move quicker than the $15 billion-a-month schedule announced earlier this month.

“At this point, the economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are higher, and it is therefore appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases … perhaps a few months sooner,” Powell said. “I expect that we will discuss that at our upcoming meeting.”

Expediting the removal of the Fed’s easy policies tells investors that the central bank is focusing on addressing inflation, instead of new threats from the pandemic.

“Markets appear to be having trouble digesting the combo of elevated uncertainty around the impact of the Omicron variant and a hawkish Fed pivot in the context of persistently elevated inflation,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

Bond yields also retreated on Tuesday with the U.S. 10-year Treasury dropping 8 basis points to below 1.45% on mounting omicron fears.

The new Covid variant, first detected in South Africa, has now been identified in more than a dozen countries, causing many to restrict travel. Denting sentiment on Tuesday, the Moderna CEO told the Financial Times that he expects existing vaccines to be less effective against the new variant.

Stocks wrapped up a volatile month of trading on Tuesday. The Dow lost 3.7% for its second month of losses in three. The S&P 500 fell 0.8%, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 0.25% in November. The Russell 2000 shed 4.3% in November, its worst month since March 2020.

Still, the major averages are up solidly for the year. The Dow is up 12.7% and the S&P 500 is up 21.6% in 2021. The Nasdaq Composite is up an impressive 20.6% this year.

On Wednesday, investors will be evaluating updates on the omicron variant, as well as some key economic reports. November’s Manufacturing PMI, ISM Manufacturing print and October’s construction spending are set to release on Wednesday morning.

ADP’s private payroll data will be out at 8:15 a.m. Economists polled by Dow Jones expected 506,000 private jobs were added in November, down from October’s 571,000.

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