Asian stocks mostly lower as Omicron variant concerns linger

Asian stocks mostly lower as Omicron variant concerns linger

TOKYO Reuters Asian stock markets were generally weaker with U.S. crude in holiday-thinned trading on Monday, as uncertainty over the economic impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant weighed on investor sentiment.

U.S. airlines have cancelled or delayed thousands of flights over the past three days due to staff shortages related to COVID 19 and several cruise ships had to cancel stops after outbreaks on-board.

In Asia, China reported its highest daily rise in local COVID 19 cases in 21 months over the weekend as infections in the northwestern city of Xian, the country's latest COVID hot spot.

Mainland Chinese shares were mixed, with Shanghai's benchmark sliding 0.37%, while an index of blue chips edged 0.05% higher.

There is concern over the widening spread of the Omicron variant, which is making people cautious about taking stocks higher in Japan, said a market participant at a Japanese securities firm.

Wall Street trading resumes later in the day after a holiday on Friday. U.S. stocks closed at records on Thursday because of signs that Omicron may cause a milder level of illness, even as the highly transmissible strain resulted in a surge in case numbers around the world.

Emini futures point to a 0.1% rise for the S&P 500 when it is reopened.

The US dollar continued to languish near the bottom of its range last month against a basket of major peers, after hitting a 16 month high in November as Federal Reserve policymakers turned more hawkish.

The dollar index was flat at 96.116, near the bottom of the range from 95.544 to the 16 month peak at 96.938 reached on November 24.

U.S. West Texas Intermediate futures fell 59 cents to $73.20 a barrel in the crude market. The contract was not traded on Friday because of the U.S. market holiday.

It was rebounding from Friday's 71 cent decline, as Brent crude rose 26 cents to $76.40 a barrel.