Wall Street set to drop as Omicron worries linger

(Reuters) -U.S. stock indexes were set to open lower on Wednesday, cooling off after a day-earlier rally, as worries lingered around the Omicron variant of the coronavirus and its impact on global economic recovery.

A trader in a face mask works on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Wall Street’s main indexes ended with hefty gains on Tuesday, but few market-moving catalysts and thin volumes in the last two weeks of trading this year are seen pushing up volatility. For 2021, the S&P 500 index is up about 24%.

Investors looked for updates on the Omicron variant after Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Portugal, the Netherlands and South Korea re-imposed lockdowns or other curbs.

“We’ve really seen significant selling days in a row followed by a bounce back day. That gets us back to neutral territory and priced in some of the new headwinds, including the rapid pace of transmission of the Omicron variant, and the shelving of the Build Back Better bill,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

U.S. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin earlier this week rejected President Joe Biden’s social and climate policy plan, delivering a blow to financial markets.

Most big technology stocks fell in premarket trading. Apple Inc, Amazon.com Inc, Meta Platforms and Alphabet Inc dropped between 0.1% and 0.4%.

Tesla Inc gained 3.5%, bucking a trend among its megacap peers. According to an interview released on Tuesday, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said he had sold “enough stock” to reach his plan to sell 10% of his shares in company.

At 8:39 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 47 points, or 0.13%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 11.75 points, or 0.25%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 58 points, or 0.36%.

Pfizer rose 0.1% after saying it will provide an additional 2.5 million doses of its COVID-19 pill Paxlovid to the United Kingdom.

Additionally, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to authorize COVID-19 treatment pills from both Pfizer and Merck as early as Wednesday, as per a Bloomberg News report. Merck climbed around 0.6%.

Markets also awaited President Joe Biden’s meeting later in the day along with U.S. officials and private sector companies, including FedEx, to talk about ongoing efforts to address supply chain disruptions.

A final reading of gross domestic product data showed economic growth slowed sharply in the third quarter amid a flare-up in COVID-19 infections, but activity has since picked up, putting the economy on track to record its best performance this year since 1984.

Separately, data from the Conference Board later in the day will likely show consumer confidence edged up to 110.8 in December from 109.5 in November.

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