Markets sold off worldwide on Friday after South Africa raised alarm about the new “variant of concern” that the World Health Organization named Omicron. The panic may be driven more by the fear of new government lockdowns and social distancing than by the variant itself.
The Dow fell 2.5% while U.S. crude prices tumbled 13% as the U.S. and other countries restricted travel to southern Africa. President Biden wants lower oil prices, and he may get his wish. But the frantic response by governments and markets may be overwrought given how little we still know about Omicron and how much we’ve learned during the pandemic.