Dow tumbles 950 points as fears over new COVID-19 variant grip global markets

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Courtesy: Nikada/Getty Images

(CNN) — Wall Street is in a frenzy on Black Friday as stocks around the world tumbled in the face of a new COVID-19 variant.

US equities took a dive at the open and continued their downward path. With less than one hour left in the shortened trading session, the Dow was trading about 950 points lower. Oil prices were also badly hit.

The new variant has been detected in South Africa, Botswana, Hong Kong and Israel, prompting some countries to put flight bans in place.

Over the summer, the Delta variant spooked consumers and weighed on sectors like leisure and hospitality. Now investors and economists worry this new variant could do the same.

Wall Street was deep in the red around noon, with the Dow falling some 950 points, or 2.7%, in what has been a volatile session. The broader S&P 500 fell 2.2% and the Nasdaq Composite was down 2.1%.

It's a shortened trading session as the New York Stock Exchange will close at 1 pm ET after being closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. Reduced trading volume during this half-day session has also likely exacerbated the swings in the market.

Nevertheless, the Dow is on track for its worst performance since October 2020, while the S&P is looking at its worst day since February. For the Nasdaq, it could be the worst day since October.

"The pandemic and COVID variants remain one of the biggest risks to markets, and are likely to continue to inject volatility over the next year" or even beyond, said Keith Lerner, co-chief investment officer and chief market strategist at Truist Advisory Services, in a note to clients.

"It's hard to say at this point how lasting or impactful this latest variant will be for markets," he added.

But not all stocks are taking a beating. Within the S&P 500, healthcare stocks are climbing, led by Covid vaccine manufacturers Moderna and Pfizer. Moderna shares were up nearly 23% around at midday, while Pfizer stock climbed more than 6%.

Outside of equities, other asset classes were also struggling Friday.

Oil prices are tumbling, for example. US oil futures fell nearly 13%, or almost $10, to $68.36 per barrel around noon. The global benchmark Brent dropped more than 11% to $73.08 per barrel.

The US dollar, measured by the ICE US Dollar Index, which pegs it against its main rivals, was down 0.7% at midday.

Cryptocurrencies also felt the heat, dropping across the board. Bitcoin was down nearly 8% around noon, according to CoinDesk data.

Meanwhile, investors are pushing into safe haven investments. The 10-year US Treasury bond got more expensive and yields fell by more than 0.1 percentage points to 1.5% around midday Friday. Gold prices also jumped.

This story was first published on CNN.com, "Dow tumbles 950 points as fears over new Covid-19 variant grip global markets."