Markets Tumble as New Coronavirus Variant Brings Travel Restrictions

After the discovery of a new coronaviruses variant in South Africa prompted another round of travel restrictions and renewed concerns about the economic toll of the epidemic, stocks around the world fell on Friday.

The S&P 500 had its worst day since February as a growing list of nations, including the United States, banned travel from a number of African countries. The stock market had been performing well, but the uncertainty shook it and may continue as countries assess the risks of the variant.

Fears that the new variant could be especially contagious and make current vaccines less effective have been raised. Scientists haven't come to a conclusion yet.

The market is selling off because of bad news, but also because of the fact that the market has had a strong run with relatively low volatility for a while. It is too early to judge what this variant will do.

The S&P 500 closed 2.3 percent lower. The European stock markets fell.

The stock markets were closed on Thursday and Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday. Thin trading can make the swings worse.

The benchmark S&P 500 fell further from a record high reached last week. Amid supply chain disruptions and shortages of goods and workers in some sectors, investors have been preoccupied by rising prices and expectations about central banks withdrawing stimulus to combat inflation.

The emergence of a new variant shifted their focus back to the main issues of the epidemic. A fourth wave of the virus in Europe has led to tighter restrictions.

The Covid variant is one of the biggest risks to markets, and is likely to continue to inject volatility, according to a note to clients written by a strategist at Truist.

Mr. Lerner said that a modest sell-off is not surprising given the high prices of stocks. He wrote that they are not making any changes to their investment guidance at this time.

West Texas Intermediate oil fell to its lowest in more than a year. The price of oil is sensitive to virus restrictions. The drop comes just three days after the United States and five other countries announced a coordinated effort to try to drive down gas prices.

The European benchmark fell 11 percent to about $73 a barrel. The price of oil will rise to $90 a barrel by March, partly because of the expectation that the fears about new virus restrictions will be temporary, according to Mr. Ganesh.

The prices of government bonds went up and their yields went down as demand for the relative safety of government bonds went up. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell the most in over a year. The yield on Germany's bund, Europe's benchmark bond, fell 9 basis points.

In an echo of last year's market fluctuations, stocks that flourished under lock and key rose, including Zoom and Peloton. Boeing, the plane maker, and Carnival, the cruise company, fell.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong declined by over 2 percent while the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 2.5 percent lower.

Energy stocks led the markets lower. The index closed down. The major stock indexes in France and Spain fell.

Airline stocks dropped as countries rushed to restrict flights from South Africa and other African nations. IAG, the parent company of British Airways, fell the most in the UK.

The industry has already been faced with lockdowns in Europe, so this fall in confidence is the last blow it needs. It will take more than a discounted ticket to calm nerves and restore optimism.