European stocks fell sharply on Friday as reports of a newly identified and possibly vaccine-resistant coronavirus variant added to concerns over surging Covid cases in Europe.
Little is known of the variant detected in South Africa, Botswana and Hong Kong, but scientists said it may be able to evade immune responses or make it more transmissible.
The World Health Organization will hold a “special meeting” today to discuss if the heavily mutated strain will become a variant of interest or a variant of concern.
The pan European Stoxx 600 was down 2.9 percent at 467.64, with selling seen across the board.
The German DAX fell over 3 percent, France’s CAC 40 index lost as much as 3.9 percent and the U.K.’s FTSE 100 was down 3 percent.
Banks Commerzbank, BNP Paribas, Lloyds Bank and Deutsche Bank lost 5-6 percent, tracking falls in bond yields.
Travel stocks were hit hard as the U.K. issued a temporary flight ban on six African countries.
British Airways owner IAG and airline EasyJet both plunged around 11 percent, while travel company TUI lost 9 percent.
Air France KLM slumped 7.9 percent and Lufthansa fell as much as 11 percent.
Commodity-related stocks fell broadly as oil and metal prices declined on economic slowdown worries.
Miners Anglo American, Antofagasta and Glencore shed 4-5 percent while oil & gas company BP Plc lost 6.3 percent and Royal Dutch Shell gave up 5 percent.
Beverage company Diageo declined 2.8 percent after announcing it has started the next tranche of its return of capital program.
Infineon Technologies was down 2.9 percent. The semiconductor company announced the appointment of Jochen Hanebeck as the new Chief Executive Officer, effective April 1.
Stay-at-home stocks bucked the weak trend, with Delivery Hero and Just Eat Takeaway.com both rising around 2 percent.
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