Historically, Black Friday has been one of the quietest days of the year for US stock markets with many participants away and the market only open for a half day.
Not this year. Overnight the WHO announced that a new COVID variant with several mutations has been identified in South Africa sparking some countries to announce new travel restrictions. These announcements have sparked a selloff in travel related stocks (airlines, cruise lines, hotels, etc.) and has sparked a rally in stay-at-home and vaccine stocks. This news has completely overshadowed early anecdotal reports of strong in-person and online traffic for Black Friday sales.
Overseas stock markets plunged overnight with the Dax, FTSE, Nikkei and Hang Seng all nosediving between 2.5% and 3.0%. US index futures are also under pressure this morning with Dow futures down 2.0% and NASDAQ futures down 1.0%.
Commodities are under particular pressure today, driven down by uncertainty surrounding the impact of this new variant on the global economy. WTI crude oil is down 5.8% while copper is down 3.0%. On the other hand, forecasts for cold weather and winter storms in North America for this weekend have ignited a 4.7% rally for natural gas.
A flight to traditional safe havens and a sudden easing in inflation pressures has also been playing out today. The Japanese Yen is soaring 1.1% against the greenback, while gold has gained 1.2%, and the Swiss Franc is up 1.0%. US bonds have also been on the rise, pushing the 10-year treasury note yield down over 0.1% in a day back toward 1.50%.