Markets turned cautious again Wednesday, erasing an early gain and ending lower as investors try to handicap how much the new coronavirus variant will impact the economy. The latest roller-coaster ride brought the S&P 500 index up 1.9% in the morning and down 1.2% by the closing bell, the AP reports. The afternoon reversal is the latest dizzying move in recent days as the omicron variant spreads. The S&P 500 fell 53.96 points to 4,513.04. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 461.68 points, or 1.3%, to 34,022.04. The Nasdaq fell 283.64 points, or 1.8%, to 15,254.05.
Markets were already headed lower Wednesday afternoon when the White House announced that the first case of the omicron variant had been found in the US, in a person who recently had returned from South Africa. "Investors are going to have to get used to the idea that this is not going to be the last variant," says Liz Young, chief investment strategist at SoFi. "This is likely something that is with us for a while and we have to learn to live with it and manage growth from an investment standpoint."
Some better-than-expected data on the economy failed to avert the late-day wave of selling. A report from the Institute for Supply Management showed that growth in the US manufacturing sector accelerated a touch faster last month than economists expected. A separate report from payroll processor ADP said that non-government employers hired more people in November than economists expected. That could raise expectations for Friday’s more comprehensive jobs report from the US government, though the ADP report doesn’t have a perfect track record predicting it.
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