FTSE 100 dives 3pc as new Covid variant rattles markets

Good morning. 

Some rather grim reading to kick off your Friday, I’m afraid, as news of the new Covid super-variant sends shockwaves through markets.

While not much is known about the B.1.1529 variant – first discovered in South Africa – warnings that it’s the most dangerous mutation ever seen have been enough to spook investors.

As well as the sharp drop in Asian stocks, US futures slumped and crude oil lost ground. US Treasuries and the yen have both pushed higher, while the South African rand dropped to its lowest level in a year.

5 things to start your day 

1) M&S under fire over plan to demolish flagship Marble Arch store  Critics say it risks advent of ‘ugly spreadsheet architecture’

2) More EU nationals left UK last year than arrived for first time in three decades  Net migration plunges as pandemic restrictions and post-Brexit rules came into force

3) Bank of England museum to host slavery exhibition  Portraits of former governors linked to slave trade will go on display when Bank museum reopens

4) Huel founder in line for hundreds of millions from £1bn float  Julian Hearn holds a 53pc stake in the meal-replacement drink company

5) Energy watchdog faces ‘serious questions’ over string of supplier collapses  Two more energy providers stopped trading on Thursday, affecting another 70,000 households

What happened overnight 

Stocks fell and headed for their largest weekly drop in almost two months on Friday, while safe haven assets such as bonds and the yen rallied as a new virus variant added to swirling concerns about future growth and higher US interest rates.

South Africa’s rand fell 1pc in early trade, as did US.crude futures. S&P 500 futures fell 0.4pc, while the risk-sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars dropped to three-month lows.

Japan’s Nikkei was down 1.7pc in early trade and Australian shares fell 0.6pc. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was down 0.2% for a weekly fall of 1pc.

Coming up today

  • Corporate: No company releases scheduled for today
  • Economics: Money supply (EU)