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Marketmind: It's looking like a Black Friday

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Special discount on Black Friday sales is offered at a fashion store in Zurich

(Reuters) - A look at the day ahead from Dhara Ranasinghe.

COVID-19, a worry that investors had pushed down their list of top concerns in recent months, has soared back up to the number one spot as a new variant spreads across South Africa.

Asia stocks outside Japan slid over 2%, Europe and U.S. stock futures are down sharply, oil prices drops almost 3.5%, the safe-haven yen is up around three-quarters of a percent, and U.S. Treasury yields are down almost 10 basis points.

Thin liquidity following Thursday's U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday likely exacerbates price moves for sure, but there's little doubt overnight headlines have taken markets by surprise on Friday.

Little is known of the variant, detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but scientists reckon it has an unusual combination of mutations and may be able to evade immune responses or make it more transmissible.

The news comes as Europe already battles a resurgent COVID-19 outbreak, triggering fresh restrictions that raise uncertainty over the near-term economic outlook.

That poses a fresh challenge for central banks such as the European Central Bank, which has just started to acknowledge that a push in inflation is lasting longer than anticipated.

And on top of the latest COVID headlines, there are other reasons for unease, some warn -- the general lift up in Fed rate hike expectations, Ukraine/Russia tensions that has broader geopolitical ramifications and a property-led slowdown in China.

In emerging markets, the spotlight passes from Turkey to South Africa for now as the rand breaches the 16.00 level to the dollar for the first time this year.

Key developments that should provide more direction to markets on Friday:

- ECB speakers: ECB President Christine Lagarde

- BOE chief economist Huw Pill speaks

- Q4 Canadian Survey on Business Conditions

- Japan PM Kishida urges companies to raise wages by 3% or more

- China Evergrande soccer stadium taken over by government -source

- China asks Didi to delist from U.S. on data security fears - Bloomberg News New Covid variants rattle markets, https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/zgpomkobopd/MB2611.png

(Reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe, editing by Karin Strohecker)