Currencies Stabilize After Turmoil as Omicron Panic Subsides

(Bloomberg) — The foreign-exchange market stabilized after Friday’s volatility amid signs the Omicron coronavirus variant causes only mild symptoms and vaccine reformulations against it can be achieved quickly.

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The U.S. dollar rose against the yen and euro during Asian trade. The currency of South Africa, where the variant was identified, rose as much as 1.3% against the greenback, and Mexico’s peso echoed those gains. The Australian dollar advanced against the U.S. currency and yen on short-covering as part of a broader recovery in commodity currencies.

The recovery comes after investors dumped stocks, commodities and non-haven currencies after the highly mutated Omicron variant sparked international travel bans, spurring concern the fragile global economic recovery will come grinding to a halt. Investors responded by pruning expectations for Federal Reserve rate hikes, which sent Treasuries soaring.

Since then, traders have had an opportunity to assess Omicron’s impact. Symptoms have been mild so far, according to a Covid-19 adviser to South Africa. Moderna Inc. Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said he suspects omicron may elude current vaccines and, if so, a reformulated shot could be available early next year. Still, the World Health Organization has urged caution over the new strain.

Latest on the virus: WHO Says Too Early to Understand Omicron Severity: Virus Update

Evidence is growing Omicron already entered many countries. The 13 cases identified in the Netherlands on Sunday suggest it has a foothold in Europe. It will “inevitably” arrive in the U.S., Anthony Fauci said, and that Americans should get vaccines and boosters as prevention.

On Friday, MSCI Inc.’s benchmark for global stocks tumbled the most in 13 months, oil slid 13%, and 10-year Treasury yields fell by the most since the March 2020 rout sparked by the original outbreak.

That selloff saw the CBOE Volatility Index known as the U.S. fear gauge jump the most since January, while emerging-market stocks witnessed the biggest slump since February. A JPMorgan Chase & Co. gauge of global currency volatility increased the most since March 2020. Treasuries declined in Asian hours on Monday, with the 10-year yield up five basis points to 1.53%.

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