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Investors dump pandemic darlings as results disappoint

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LONDON, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Pandemic market darlings Netflix and Peloton each saw about a fifth of their market value wiped out on Thursday after both said business was slowing, a sign, say analysts, of growing market jitters about the business prospects of such companies.

Peloton shares plunged 24% on Thursday wiping off nearly $2.5 billion in market value after the exercise bike maker's CEO said it was reviewing the size of its workforce and "resetting" production levels, though it denied the company was temporarily halting production.

Meanwhile Netflix shares tumbled nearly 20% after it forecast new subscriber growth in the first quarter would be less than half of analysts' predictions.

Both companies were part of a group, along with others such as Zoom and Docusign whose shares soared in 2020, and in some cases 2021 as well, as people around the world were forced to stay at home in the face of the new coronavirus epidemic.

However, thanks to vaccine roll outs and the spread of the less severe Omicron strain of COVID-19, life is returning to something similar to normal in many countries, leaving companies like Netflix and Peloton struggling to sustain high sales figures.

According to data from S3 Partners, short-sellers doubled their profits by betting against Peloton in 2021, the third best returning U.S. short.

"With a return to the office and travel lanes opening, darlings of the WFH (work from home) thematic are reflecting the growing reality that the world is moving slowly but with certainty towards a new normalcy," said Justin Tang, head of Asian research at United First Partners in Singapore.

Direxion's Work from Home ETF has fallen more than 9% in first three weeks of the year, compared to a 6% drop in the fall of the broader U.S. stock market Blackrock's virtual work and life multisector ETF has weakened more than 8% this year.

In Europe, lockdown winners are also going through a rough patch with the fears related the Omicron wave waning adding to the stress rising bond yields are putting on growth and tech stocks.

Online British supermarket group Ocado, Germany's Meal-kit delivery firm HelloFresh and food delivery company Delivery Hero which emerged as European stay-at-home champions in the early days of the pandemic have underperformed the pan-European STOXX 600 so far in 2022. (Reporting by Alun John; additional reporting by Julien Ponthus; Editing by Saikat Chatterjee)