Here are five things you must know for Friday, November 26:
1. -- Stock Futures Tumble As Variant Discovery Triggers 'Risk Off' Trade
U.S. equity futures plunged lower Friday, setting up Wall Street for one of the worst trading days of the year, as investors retreated from risk markets around the world amid concerns over the impact of a dangerous new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The World Health Organization will hold an emergency meeting Friday following the discovery of the variant, known as B.1.1.529, in a traveler visiting Israel from South Africa earlier this week. It has also been identified in Hong Kong, according to U.K. health officials.
The variant carries a spike protein -- the basis for infection -- that is vastly different to that which current vaccines are designed to neutralize, health authorities have said, and is mutating fast. Britain has restricted travel from South Africa, and several neighboring countries as a result, with the European Union following shortly after.
Market reaction to the variant's potential was swift and decisive: European stocks are set for their biggest single-day decline of the year, with the Stoxx 600 benchmark down 2.5% in mid-morning trading in Frankfurt, while oil prices tumbled and benchmark Treasury bond yields fell more than 10 basis points from closing levels on Wednesday.
On Wall Street, futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating an 800 point opening bell decline while those linked to the S&P 500 are priced for an 83 point slump. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite are indicating a 175 point slide at the start of trading.
U.S. markets are set to close at 1:00 PM Eastern time.
2. -- Pfizer and Moderna Surge on Viral Treatment, Vaccine Demand
Pfizer (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report shares were a rare pre-market gainer as investors piled into the drugmaker following confirmation of the new COVID variant and news that European officials have approved its Comirnaty vaccine for use in young children.
The European Medicines Agency said the vaccine, already used in adolescents between the age of 12 and 17, can now be used in kids between the ages of 5 and 11 -- albeit at a lower dose -- setting up the potential for a broader vaccine rollout over the world's biggest economic bloc.
Pfizer's COVID antiviral treatment, which may continue to be effective despite the vaccine resistance of the new variant, is another factor adding to the stock's pre-market move.
3. -- Stay-at-Home Stocks Leap
Peloton Interactive (PTON) - Get Peloton Interactive, Inc. Class A Report shares were marked 5.8% higher in pre-market trading and leading advances for so-called stay-at-home stocks as investors hedge the impact of the new COVID variant.
Zoom Video Communications (ZM) - Get Zoom Video Communications, Inc. Class A Report was also on the move, rising 8.8% to $226.60 each, as investors bet on a slower return to full-time office work while also seizing on the opportunity to snap-up a stock that has lost more than a quarter of its value over the past month. Other notable stay-at-home movers were Teladoc Health (TDOC) - Get Teladoc Health, Inc. Report, which was marked 6% higher, and Roku (ROKU) - Get Roku, Inc. Class A Report was marked 2.6% higher at $237.50 each.
Peloton shares were marked 6.3% higher in pre-market trading to indicate an opening bell price of $46.68 each.
4. -- Airline and Travel Stocks Slide
Airline and travel stocks were notably lower in pre-market trading, with domestic carriers slumping alongside their European rivals amid fears of new travel restrictions heading into the holiday season following the discovery of a potentially vaccine-resistant COVID variant.
Delta Air Lines (DAL) - Get Delta Air Lines, Inc. Report was marked 7.33% lower, while American Airlines (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group, Inc. Report slumped 7.3% and United Airlines was marked 7.555 lower in pre-market trading. Planemaker Boeing (BA) - Get Boeing Company Report fell 6.4% to $197.05 each while cruise operator Carnival Corp. (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report slumped 10.6%
In Europe, where Britain banned flights from South African and six of its neighboring countries, travel stocks fell to a one-month low, lead on the downside by British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines.
5. -- Black Friday Clouded By Inflation, Inventory and Infection Concerns
Retailers are hoping to lure shoppers back into the stores to find Black Friday deals this year as the traditional start to the holiday spending season beings with concerns over consumer price inflation and a shortage in key items linked to this year's supply chain chaos.
The National Retail Federation expects more than 165 million people will visit brick-and-mortar stores, or shop online, over the Black Friday to Cyber Monday period, with Adobe Insights having estimated a $3.5 million per minute spending rate over Thanksgiving Day itself, with an $11.3 billion tally expected for Cyber Monday.
"We’re on our way to a massive, record-breaking $207 billion holiday shopping season, and Thanksgiving weekend will continue to play a major role, especially online, as many physical stores have decided to close on Thursday," said Adobe director Taylor Schreiner. "As consumers are navigating a 'one-two punch' of inflation and supply chain concerns, they’ve already spent almost 20% more year-over year."