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Europe Markets: European stocks skid on discovery of new virus variant as airlines, banks reel

European stocks were on track to their worst single-day performance of the year, getting hammered after the discovery of a new more virulent strain of coronavirus.

The Stoxx Europe 600
SXXP,
-2.55%

dropped 2.3% to 470.52, after the discovery of what for now is being called the B.1.1.529 variant, that’s believed to be driving a spike of cases in South Africa. The World Health Organization is holding an emergency meeting and may call the new variant ‘Nu.’

The French CAC 40
PX1,
-3.45%

dropped over 3%, as the German DAX
DAX,
-2.77%

and FTSE 100
UKX,
-2.80%

also slumped. U.S. stock futures
YM00,
-2.32%

ES00,
-1.85%

also were rocked.

“We think it’s too soon to quantify the likely impact of this new variant but markets have had a very strong run over the last 12 months, and so it is no surprise to see a reaction like this,” said Dan Boardman-Weston, chief investment officer at BRI Wealth Management.

Investors flocked to safer assets such as the German bunds, U.S. Treasurys, and gold, with the 10-year bund
TMBMKDE-10Y,
-0.320%

falling 7 basis points to -0.32%.

Each of the major sector indexes were dropping, led by travel and leisure and banks. Cruise operator Carnival
CCL,
-13.52%

lost 14%, and British Airways owner International Airlines Group
IAG,
-12.58%

stumbled 13%. The European Union was moving to halt air traffic from South Africa, a step the U.K. has already taken.

Italian diagnostics kit maker DiaSorin
DIA,
+6.82%

and French lab instrument maker Sartorius Stedim Biotech
DIM,
+6.30%

were among the few advancers.

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