US stocks rally on Omicron optimism; Nasdaq surges three percent

The major averages climbed at least two percent on Tuesday on hopes that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus won’t derail global growth.

Technology shares that bore the brunt of last week’s selloff led the rebound on Tuesday, with the Nasdaq 100 closing up three percent higher [File: Brendan McDermid/Reuters]

U.S. stocks staged the biggest rally in nine months, with major averages climbing at least 2% on optimism the omicron variant won’t derail global growth. Treasuries fell, sending two-year yields to the highest since March 2020.

Technology shares that led last week’s decline paced the rebound. The Nasdaq 100 Index surged 3%, an ETF that tracks newly public companies jumped 5% and small caps climbed 2%. The S&P 500 erased all the losses suffered after Jerome Powell’s hawkish tilt a week ago and was just 0.3% below its last close before the omicron variant rocked markets. The Cboe Volatility Index plunged five points to 22. The dollar dipped and crude rose above $71 a barrel in New York.

Risk assets are recovering this week after initial data showed the surge in omicron cases hasn’t overwhelmed hospitals and as China moved to expand support for the economy. Among the riskiest assets, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. basket of non-profitable tech firms jumped nearly 6% Tuesday, clawing back almost half of last week’s losses.

“The market mood has been notably more upbeat this week after several health experts across the globe, including the U.S.’s Dr. Anthony Fauci, have said omicron symptoms appear milder, so far,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior financial markets analyst at City Index. “Whilst it is still early days, the encouraging news sparked bargain hunters into action. Who would want to miss out on the possibility that a milder variant could accelerate natural immunity to Covid?”

On the data front, the U.S. trade deficit narrowed while third quarter productivity fell. Private consumption was the largest contributor to the euro area’s most recent economic expansion. U.K. house prices hit an all-time high. And China’s exports grew faster than expected to a record on external demand and an easing power crunch.

Additionally, research showed that a Covid-19 vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Canada’s Medicago Inc. was effective against multiple variants of the disease. Congress also reached a deal to raise the nation’s debt ceiling.

“This morning’s rally is being fueled by the belief that the omicron variant will not create many problems for the global economy and that China has pledged measures to support economic growth,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist for Miller Tabak + Co. “If those were the reasons why the market has seen such a big increase in volatility since Thanksgiving, we’d agree the worst is likely over and that investors should jump back into the market with both feet.”

However, equity markets could still be in for further turbulence amid new restrictions to stem the spread of omicron and resurfacing geopolitical tensions. The threat of sanctions still loom if Russia invades Ukraine, following a call between U.S. and Russian leaders Tuesday. China threatened the U.S. with retaliation against its decision to declare a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics. And Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that U.S. reliance on foreign supply chains has proved a vulnerability, boosting policies that may be considered protectionist.

With possible headwinds ahead, George Pearkes, global macro strategist at Bespoke Investment Group, said the tech rally “feels really extreme.”

“Mostly this just feels like a counter-trend move after some big negative catalysts and sentiment challenges hit the market over the past couple of weeks, but I’m surprised it’s as large as it is,” he said.

Here are some key events to watch this week:

  • Reserve Bank of India rate decision Wednesday
  • Olaf Scholz set to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor Wednesday
  • European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde speaks at a conference Wednesday
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis President Neel Kashkari speaks Thursday
  • Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe speaks Thursday
  • China CPI, PPI, money supply, new yuan loans, aggregate financing Thursday
  • U.S. CPI Friday

Some of the main moves in markets:


  • The S&P 500 rose 2.1% as of 4:05 p.m. New York time
  • The Nasdaq 100 rose 3%
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.4%
  • The MSCI World index rose 2.1%


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index fell 0.2%
  • The euro fell 0.2% to $1.1266
  • The British pound fell 0.2% to $1.3239
  • The Japanese yen was little changed at 113.54 per dollar


  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries advanced four basis points to 1.47%
  • Germany’s 10-year yield advanced one basis point to -0.38%
  • Britain’s 10-year yield was little changed at 0.73%


  • West Texas Intermediate crude rose 3.1% to $71.65 a barrel
  • Gold futures rose 0.4% to $1,785.80 an ounce
Source: Bloomberg