SYDNEY, NSW, Australia - Asian markets fell Monday, however, European bourses began picking up in early trading as debate raged over the new Covid variant Omicron, cases of which have now been discovered in Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, and Scotland.
Israel has already closed its borders to all international travel, while Japan announced Monday it too would shut down international arrivals.
While WHO has warned the risks are "very high," many experts are saying it is too early to tell whether the variant will rage as its predecessor Delta did. A number of market watchers were saying there has been an overreaction.
"There is a lot we don't know about Omicron, but markets have been forced to reassess the global growth outlook until we know more," Rodrigo Catril, a market strategist at NAB told Reuters Monday.
"Pfizer expects to know within two weeks if Omicron is resistant to its current vaccine, others suggest it may take several weeks. Until then markets are likely to remain jittery," he said.
Asian markets followed Friday's falls with another major leg down, although China's Shanghai Composite finished flat.
The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo declined 467.70 points or 1.63 percent to 28,283.92.
In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng dropped 228.28 points or 0.95 percent to 23852.24.
The Australian All Ordinaries fell 37.40 points or 0.49 percent to 7,562.50.
The Shanghai Composite inched down 1.39 points or 0.04 percent to 7,562.70.
The U.S. dollar was little changed. The euro last traded at 1.1286 in mid-morning trading in Europe Monday.
The British pound edged lower to 1.3355. The Japanese yen remained strong at 113.47. The Swiss franc was little changed at 0.9257.
The Canadian, Australian, and New Zealand dollars traded in a tight range around 1.2735, 0.7152, and 0.6828 respectively.