Europe stocks, crude down sharply as new coronavirus variant sparks travel bans

Jonathan Lopez


MADRID (ICIS)–European markets and crude oil prices were suffering their own Black Friday as a new highly transmissible coronavirus variant detected in South Africa sparks travels bans from countries in the region.

Crude oil futures for delivery in January were falling around 6% in European afternoon trading, extending the losses posted earlier in the day.

Crude oil Brent, the international reference, was trading at $77.42/bbl, down from Thursday’s closing price of $82.22/bbl.

Naphtha prices followed suit and fell sharply in Europe – where it is the feedstock for many other petrochemicals – to $693/tonne, down by $41/tonne from the prior closing – that is a fall of 5.6%.

European stock exchanges were falling around 3% by 11:45 GMT on Friday, following Asian stocks.

The STXE 600 Chemicals index, where the largest European chemicals producers are listed, dropped by around 2%.

Stocks for petrochemicals majors like BASF, Covestro, and Solvay were down around 5% from Thursday’s close.

The UK and some EU countries – Germany, Italy, the Netherlands – have banned flights from South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, and Zimbabwe.

The new variant, known for now as B.1.1.529, was detected this week in the surroundings of Johannesburg after a sharp rise in infections.

Only a few cases have been identified for now, in South Africa, Hong Kong, Israel, and Botswana.

As well as being highly transmissible, more than the Delta variant which now dominates globally, experts fear the new variant could be more resistant to the vaccines, which were designed to fight off the Wuhan strain first detected in China early in 2020.

South African scientists are set to meet officials form the World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday to discuss the new variant, when it will probably be assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet to name it.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said on Friday morning it will propose the 27 member countries to ban flights from the South African region.

“The Commission will propose, in close coordination with Member States, to activate the emergency brake to stop air travel from the southern African region due to the variant of concern B.1.1.529,” said on social network Twitter the Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen.

Black Friday: Brent falls sharply
Source: Reuters

Front page picture source: Cris Faga/Shutterstock 


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