U.S. stocks traded mixed Monday, while the dollar extended gains against its global peers and oil prices rebounded firmly, as investors entered the week eyeing developments in the Omicron spread while closing tracking inflation data ahead of a key release later this week.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Sunday that data from South Africa, where the new variant was first discovered, indicates that Omicron may induce milder symptoms than previously forecast, although its rapid spread continues to worry virologists around the world.
"Thus far, it does not look like there's a great degree of severity to it," Fauci told told CNN's 'State of the Union'. "But we have really got to be careful before we make any determinations that it is less severe or it really doesn't cause any severe illness, comparable to delta."
Omicron concerns have also been paired with bets on a more hawkish Federal Reserve, which cautioned last week that the tapering of its bond purchase plan -- the first of many steps toward higher headline interest rates -- could quicken in the face of faster inflation prospects.
Weaker-than-expected jobs data Friday, which showed only 210,000 new positions added in November, has thus far failed to temper those bets, with traders eying Friday's November CPI release.
In overseas markets, Asia stocks slumped amid renewed concerns linked to China Evergrande Group, which plunged to an all time low Monday after the indebted property developer faces $342.5 million in payments to creditors as its chairman was summoned by authorities in Beijing.
The concerns were broad enough to trigger a form of interest rate easing from the People's Bank of China for only the second time this year Monday, while stocks in the region tumbled amid worries linked to both the indebted property sector and overvalued tech stocks.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 615 points by late morning, while the S&P 500 gained 44 points. The tech-focused Nasdaq Composite, however, gained a more modest 14 points as benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields held at 1.4% in early New York trading.
Bitcoin prices were under pressure again Monday following another wild weekend for the global crypocurrency market that hived more than $1 billion from its collective value.
Many local Bitcoin exchanges closed out leveraged positions over the weekend, as well, accelerating the price decline in other markets and pulling rival coins such as ether -- which is down 18.5% from its November 10 high -- sharply lower.
Bitcoin prices were last seen 3.1% lower from Sunday's levels and changing hands at $47,926.75 each.
Lucid Group (LCID) - Get Lucid Group, Inc. Report shares were a notable early mover, slumping 19% after the upstart luxury electric carmaker said it received a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission linked to a probe into its July merger with Churchill Capital.
It's larger rival, Tesla (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc Report, was down 4.7% following reports that the SEC has opened a probe into the clean-energy carmaker linked to whistleblower claims of defects in its solar panels.
Kohl's (KSS) - Get Kohl's Corporation Report, meanwhile, jumped 4.65% as the retailer faced renewed pressure from activist investors to consider separating its e-commerce division from its legacy business.
In other markets, global oil prices bounced firmly higher as investors added to long bets on the back of reports noting milder infections from the Omicron variant, which offset reports that Saudi Arabia has raised January delivery prices for U.S. and Asia-based customers.
WTI futures for January delivery were marked $2.11 higher from Friday's close to change hands at $68.37 per barrel while Brent contracts for February, the global pricing benchmark, jumped $2.05 to $71.95 per barrel.
The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, was marked 0.3% higher on the session at 96.356 while benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields held at 1.4% ahead of a key $36 billion re-opening auction on Wednesday.
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