SYDNEY, NSW, Australia - Fears of a new, more infectious variant of Covid-19 tore through Asian markets on Friday putting downward pressure on stocks.
The hospitality sector took the biggest hit.
The variant appears to have emerged just this week in South Africa, Botswana, and Hong Kong, and early reports say current vaccines may not be as effective as against other strains.
"Markets are anticipating the risk here of another global wave of infections if vaccines are ineffective," \ Moh Siong Sim, a currency analyst at the Bank of Singapore told Reuters Friday. "Reopening hopes could be dashed," Sim said.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan plummeted 742.74 points or 2.52 percent to close Friday at 28,756.54.
The Australian All Ordinaries fell 137.00 points or 1.77 percent to 7,599.90.
The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was still trading, down nearly 600 points. China's Shanghai Composite was off around twenty points in late trading.
The concerning news of the virus helped the U.S. dollar, the Swiss franc, and the Japanese yen, all considered safe-haven currencies. The yen rose to 114.55 around the Sydney close Friday.
The euro fell to 1.1220. The British pound was weaker at 1.3298. The Swiss franc firmed to 0.9307.
The Canadian dollar was soft at 1.2718. The Australian and New Zealand dollars were sold off, to 0.7133 and 0.6814.
U.S. stock markets were closed overnight, but will reopen Friday for a shortened session.