Asia-Pacific stocks tumbled on Friday morning, ending the week with a decline amid the discovery of a new strain of coronavirus. This is their steepest drop in 3 months. Oil also fell after a new and possibly vaccine-resistant variant of the coronavirus was discovered. The news pushed investors towards safer assets — bonds, the U.S. dollar and the yen.
The yen rose, while the risk-sensitive South African rand and the Australian dollar fell on Friday following news of the discovery of a new coronavirus strain. The rise in the yen, franc and euro pushed the dollar index, which measures the dollar against these and three other currencies, even further from Wednesday's 96.938 high, its maximum in nearly 17 months. The index is now trading near the 96.707 level.
Oil prices fell more than 2% on Friday on fears that global oversupply could widen in the first quarter following a US-led coordinated release of crude oil inventories. The price of Brent crude is at the moment $ 78.86 per barrel, WTI — $ 74.75. EUR/USD is at 1.1243, GBP/USD — 1.3288, gold is at $ 1,807.13 per ounce.