European equities were trading near the flat line on Wednesday, as investors paused to digest a roller coaster week so far amid headlines on the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index SXXP, +0.35% rose 0.2% to 474, the French CAC 40 PX1, +0.56% rose 0.2%, the German DAX DAX, +0.41% rose 0.1%. The euro EURUSD, +0.28% rose 0.2% to $1.3155 and the pound GBPUSD, +0.49% climbed 0.5% to $1.3329, as the dollar weakened.
Investors continue to watch surging COVID-19 infections, with Spain’s Madrid region, for example, setting a record on Tuesday with 11,221 infections, the highest of the pandemic thus far as pharmacies ran out of antigen testing kits and healthcare centers came under strain. One region in Spain, Catalonia, has announced restrictions on some business and consumer activity.
Several European countries also announced tighter measures to control movement ahead of the holidays and after. That said, there was some upbeat news on the omicron variant.
“Some preliminary results from the UK Health and Security agency around the effects of the Omicron variant appear to be being received positively today,” said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets, in a note to clients. “In line with South Africa’s experience, it would appear that the Omicron variant does indeed appear to be milder, although the report also suggests that the higher infection rate could also place increased strain on hospitals, if enough people get it even if mortality is lower.”
“Nonetheless, it is still good news, and helps justify the move to delay a decision on new restrictions in England until after Christmas, and potentially allow greater leeway next week when restrictions could well change again,” he said.
The Euronext and FTSE 100 will both observe a half day of trading on Friday, Christmas Eve. The London market will not reopen again until Wednesday, Dec. 29.
Among stocks on the move, shares of Danish shipping giant AP Moeller-Maersk MAERSK.B, +0.45% rose 0.5% after agreeing to buy privately held Asian warehouse group LF Logistics in an all-cash deal worth $3.6 billion.
“We see the transaction further strengthens Maersk capability in offering end to end logistics. Moreover, the deal also strengthens the footprint in the fast growing Asian market,” said a team of Citi analysts led by Sathish Sivakumar.
Delivery Hero DHER, +5.74% shares surged 6% to the top of the Stoxx 600’s gainer’s list after the food delivery group said it would pare its German Foodpanda unit and divest the Japan Foodpanda unit.
Software companies, apparel and footwear and aerospace were among the best performing sectors, with shares of Capgemini CAP, +3.23% up 3.6%, adidas ADS, +1.28% rising 1.3%, and Airbus AIR, +3.24% up more than 3%.