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European markets head for lower open as omicron Covid variant fears return

LONDON — European stocks are expected to open lower on Thursday as concerns persist over the omicron Covid variant.

The U.K.’s FTSE index is seen opening 80 points lower at 7,086, Germany’s DAX 176 points lower at 15,295, France’s CAC 40 down 91 points at 6,797 and Italy’s FTSE MIB 326 points lower at 26,026, according to data from IG.

Major markets across Asia-Pacific and the U.S. had bounced back Wednesday despite fears about the new variant and the Federal Reserve mulling a quicker-than-planned taper.

But global stocks appear to be struggling to regain momentum amid continuing uncertainty around the risks posed by the new omicron Covid variant, first spotted in South Africa last week and designated a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization.

The WHO said on Wednesday that at least 23 countries from five of six WHO regions have now reported cases of omicron, “and we expect that number to grow.” It also noted that hospitalizations are rising across South Africa, but said it’s still too early to know whether the omicron variant is driving an increase in severe Covid-19 cases.

Asia-Pacific markets were mixed Thursday while U.S. stock index futures inched higher during overnight trading after the CDC confirmed the first known case of the omicron variant in the U.S., sending stocks tumbling. The first case of the heavily mutated variant was detected in northern California.

Data releases include the euro zone unemployment rate for October and producer prices for the same month. There are no major earnings Thursday.

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