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European markets head for tepid open as investors digest omicron news

LONDON — European stocks are expected to open modestly higher on Wednesday with investors continuing to digest the latest news around the new omicron Covid variant.

The U.K.’s FTSE index is seen opening 3 points higher at 7,344, Germany’s DAX 8 points higher at 15,827, France’s CAC 40 up 16 points at 7,076 and Italy’s FTSE MIB 23 points higher at 27,139, according to data from IG.

The tepid open expected in Europe Wednesday comes after a strong session for European stocks on Tuesday, with global markets rallying as concerns about the potential severity of the omicron variant eased.

There’s been mixed news regarding the omicron variant since. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Tuesday said the omicron variant appears to be milder than previous strains, but also seems to spread faster and could lead to more mutations in the future.

However, South African scientists said Tuesday that omicron significantly reduces the antibody protection generated by Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, according to a small preliminary study. Still, people who have recovered from the virus and received a booster shot will likely have more protection from severe disease, the study showed.

Earlier, the White House’s chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said preliminary data from South Africa last week was “encouraging” as it suggested omicron is not as severe as initially feared, while noting that more data is needed to fully assess the risk posed by the variant.

In the meantime, the U.S. CDC said Tuesday that the new variant has now been found in 50 countries and 19 American states.

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Overnight in Asia-Pacific markets, Hong Kong stocks lagged other markets, with troubled Chinese real estate developers back in the spotlight. Chinese social media giant Weibo also had a disappointing market debut in Hong Kong.

U.S. stock futures also rose in overnight trading on Tuesday after stocks continued their upward climb from the omicron sell-off seen last week.

Earnings come from TUI and data releases include Russian inflation figures for November.

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