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Wall Street Opens Mixed as Omicron Relief Rally Fizzles; Dow up 17 Pts

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By Geoffrey Smith

Investing.com -- U.S. stock markets opened mixed on Wednesday, the relief rally of recent days stalling as Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech acknowledged that most people will need a third shot of their vaccine to protect themselves against the fast-spreading Omicron variant of Covid-19.

The market was arguably due a breather after a riotous rally in the last couple of days, driven by relief at reports that the new variant, while more transmissible than Delta, appears to cause a milder form of sickness. By 9:45 AM ET (1445 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 17 points, or less than 0.1%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were up by comparable amounts.

Pfizer and BioNTech said earlier that only a third dose of its vaccine will generate the same degree of protection against Omicron as is currently enjoyed by those who have been jabbed twice. There is, naturally, no evidence yet on how long a third dose will stay effective. Previous studies - and the recent rise in case rates across the Northern hemisphere - have shown that the effectiveness of the double-jabbing regime wanes after around five months.

Pfizer stock fell 1.0% in early trading, while BioNTech stock fell 2.4%. Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) stock also fell 2.5%

Data about the Omicron variant is still being accumulated. Evidence from South Africa, where it was first detected, suggests that the disease is 'almost certainly' not more likely to cause acute illness than the previously dominant Delta variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said on Wednesday. However, the speed of its spread - infections have risen more than 40-fold in South Africa since it was first detected - suggests that it still has the potential to put pressure on public health systems and consequently generate fresh restrictions on economic and social life.

Earlier, the Labor Department's monthly survey of job openings and labor turnover saw vacancies rocket to within a whisker of August's record high, while last month's number was also revised significantly higher. The data illustrate a nationwide labor shortage that is also driving a number of high-profile company level disputes. Unions at cereal-maker Kellogg have rejected a new offer by management, which is looking to replace 1,400 staff who have walked off the job. Kellogg (NYSE:K) stock was up 0.1%.

Elsewhere, Roku (NASDAQ:ROKU) stock surged 9.4% after striking a peace deal with Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGL)'s YouTube that will keep the latter's content on Roku's streaming devices. One of the biggest winners of the pandemic due to the accelerated spread of streaming, Roku stock has fallen more than 50% from its July peak and hit a 14-month low at the end of November.

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