European stock markets are expected to open lower Friday, handing back some of the week’s strong gains as investors assess the impact of the Omicron Covid variant and disappointing U.K. GDP numbers ahead of the release of key U.S. inflation data.
The main European indices, in conjunction with most global stock markets, have posted gains this week helped by studies suggesting the Omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus results in less severe reactions in patients than previous versions.
Additionally, drugmakers have voiced confidence that their current vaccines would be able to cope with the mutations if populations take advantage of booster jabs.
However, there still exists a degree of caution on Friday as many European countries battle a potential fourth wave of the virus with new mobility restrictions ahead of the holiday season, a vital period for the retail sector in particular.
Investors are also likely taking a breather before the release of important U.S. inflation data, where a strong reading will strengthen the case for a policy tightening decision at the Federal Reserve’s meeting next week.
Economists are calling for consumer prices to rise 0.7% on the month in November, an annual gain of 6.8%, which would be the highest year-on-year figure since 1982.
The Fed is expected to confirm that it will speed up the pace of its bond purchase taper next week and also possibly indicate a more aggressive path for interest rate hikes in 2022.
Back in Europe, U.K. third quarter GDP rose marginally in October, climbing just 0.1% compared with the expected 0.4% gain, and is still 0.5% below its pre-pandemic peak.
German consumer prices fell 0.2% on the month in November, as widely expected, a rise of 5.2% on the year.
Oil prices edged lower Friday, but are still on course for their biggest weekly gain since late August on easing fears the Omicron variant will lead to a significant hit to global crude demand.
By 2:10 AM ET, U.S. crude futures traded 0.3% lower at $70.70 a barrel, while the Brent contract fell 0.4% to $74.12. Both benchmarks are on course to rise more than 6% this week, even with a brief bout of profit-taking, their first weekly gain in seven weeks.