Stock market tumbles as new Covid variant panics investors in airlines and banks

Black Friday hit the stock market as investors took flight amid concerns over a new coronavirus variant.

Airline stocks bore the brunt of the selloff as the UK’s benchmark FTSE-100 index suffered hefty falls in morning trading. Stock markets around the world fell on fears that the new Covid strain could hamper economic recovery.

In London, shares in British Airways parent IAG and budget carrier EasyJet dropped sharply in early trading.

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Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at financial services group Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Fear has gripped the financial markets with the travel industry flying into another violent storm, after the discovery of a new Covid strain which could be far more contagious and may render vaccines less effective.

Stock markets around the world fell on fears that the new Covid strain could hamper economic recovery. Picture: Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP/Getty Images

“The decision by the UK government to impose stringent quarantine rules on six southern African countries within hours has severely rattled the travel and tourism industry. It’s set off a fresh bout of extreme turbulence for the travel sector.”

Russ Mould, investment director at investment platform AJ Bell, noted: “Forget Black Friday; today has been renamed Red Friday after the colour of share price screens as stocks slump globally on fears over a new Covid strain.

“Markets are clearly speculating that a rapid spread of a more brutal Covid strain could once again derail the global economy. Banking stocks were also weak as they are closely tied to economic activity.

“The flipside of falling commodity prices is that a weaker oil price should provide some relief in terms of inflationary pressures.”

The FTSE-100 was down 2.6 per cent in late morning trade.

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