The Canadian stock market ended sharply lower on Friday on widespread selling following reports a new and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa.
With several countries in Europe seeing a surge in new coronavirus cases, the new about the new variant has raised concerns the pandemic could continue to wreak havon on the global economy.
The U.K. has already issued a temporary ban on flights from six African countries. It looks very likely that more countries will start imposing stricter restrictions on movements in order to prevent the spread of the variant.
The World Health Organization, which held an emergency meeting today, declared the new virus variant a matter of concern, noting its transmissibility and named it the omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index ended with a loss of 487.28 points or 2.25% at 21,125.90.
Energy stocks plunged sharply after crude oil prices tanked as much as 13% on worries about the outlook for oil demand. Healthcare, information technology, consumer discretionary, industrials, materials and financials shares tumbled as well.
The Capped Energy Index shed 5.68%. The Healthcare Index drifted down 3.28%, while the indices tracking the performance of financial, consumer staples, materials, real estate, industrials, consumer discretionary and information technology stocks fell 1.88% to 2.5%.
Baytex Energy (BTE.TO) plunged more than 9%. Air Canada (AC.TO), Crescent Point Energy (CPG.TO), Whitecap Resources (WCP.TO) and Suncor Energy (SU.TO) lost 6 to 9%.
Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO), Bombardier Inc (BBD.B.TO), Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), B2Gold Corp (BTO.TO), Enbridge Inc (ENB.TO), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD.TO) and Royal Bank of Canada (RY.TO) shed 1.5 to 5.5% on huge volumes.
The market breadth was very weak. As many as 981 stocks closed lower while 131 stocks moved up and 71 stocks settled flat.
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