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Investors have their eyes on one thing this morning: just how bad is the omicron coronavirus going to be for economies across the world. UK and European stock market futures suggest that traders are rattled: the FTSE 100 is on course to fall by 1.9% on opening, while Germany’s Dax benchmark index and France’s Cac 40 are set for declines of 2.4% apiece.
The week before Christmas is usually a fairly odd affair on financial markets, as investors lock up their trading terminals and put their feet up. The last two years have been somewhat different. Omicron is the ghost of Christmas past following last year’s holiday lockdowns when the delta coronavirus variant swept across the world.
Asian markets have set the tone: Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 2.2%, while China’s SSE Composite index, which covers Shanghai-listed shares, dropped 1.1% and Japan’s broad-based Topix fell 2.2%.
There was no sign in the UK of any new restrictions – but that has not stopped a large proportion of the population from locking down in order to save themselves from a Christmas period of self-isolation. Pubs and restaurants say their business has evaporated like England’s batting lineup.
Neither over the weekend have we seen any action from the UK government to help hospitality companies whose Christmas trading period has been destroyed – although health secretary Sajid Javid trailed the possibility of restrictions to come yesterday.
The calls for support have been flooding in, including so far this morning from the bosses of restaurant chain Franco Manca, pub chain Greene King, and the boss of the City of London Corporation, which runs London’s central business district, which is already looking like the ghost of Christmas future.
Instead, the government is fighting yet another battle over its apparent habit of holding gatherings during lockdowns. Here is the Guardian exclusive picture that has sparked the latest round of criticisms:
Deputy prime minister and secretary of state for justice Dominic Raab has this morning opined that the wine and cheese evening constituted work.
And let’s not forget that the under-pressure government also faced the resignation of the man who had been tasked with renegotiating key parts of the UK’s trading arrangement with its largest trading partner, the EU. Foreign secretary Liz Truss will take charge of talks over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which Boris Johnson signed up to just two years ago to rush a Brexit deal through.