Asian markets traded mixed in morning trade Wednesday, as a holiday Santa Claus rally showed signs of fatigue and continued fears over the Omicron variant as well as uncertainty about economic prospects for 2022 weighed on markets.
Covid 19 cases have surged across the world, prompting governments to impose new measures to limit contagion while the travel industry faced thousands of flight cancellations.
The WHO warned that the risk from the variant remains very high, which has compounded the sense of gloom that the epidemic is far from over, though the data showing a reduced risk of hospitalisation has lifted spirits.
On Wednesday, Tokyo opened flat, with analysts expecting the market to face some downward pressure due to technical reasons related to dividends.
Seoul was also down, while Sydney and Wellington went up.
In China, markets fell with the Hang Seng Index down as investors looked at uncertain prospects for 2022 as well as a continued debt crisis in the mainland's property market.
Trading volumes are relatively thin going into the new year, when the prospects for global growth and the long-term impact of the Omicron variant are expected to be clearer.
Maris Ogg, Tower Bridge Advisors, said you don't have a trend going one way or the other.
Moody's economist Mark Zandi predicted that the Omicron wave will dent growth in the first quarter but not have a significant impact on 2022 growth because of a rebound later in the year, he said.
There will be more than one other wave after the Omicron wave abates. He said that each new wave will be less disruptive to the healthcare system and economy than the wave before it.
Katie Nixon, the chief investment officer for Northern Trust Wealth Management, was optimistic, saying her firm was pretty constructive going into 2022. We're having fits and starts related to this omicron variant of course. There was optimism on the oil markets, with crude holding a roughly one-month high on hopes that the Omicron variant will not dent global travel in the ways many had feared.
The euro pound was DOWN at 84.16 pence from 84.21 pence.
Dollar yen: DOWN at 114.77 yen from 114.81 yen
West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.01 percent at $75.99 per barrel.
Brent crude in the North Sea was up 0.16 percent at $79.07 per barrel.
New York - S&P 500: DOWN 0.1 percent at 4,786.