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S.African Stocks Fall, Global Markets Hit by Omicron Worries

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 20 (Reuters) - South African stocks weakened on Monday amid a broader fall in emerging and developed equity markets, dragged down by renewed concerns over the fast-spreading Omicron variant, while the rand reversed earlier losses as the dollar steadied.

The overall mood was bearish across global markets, with investors selling equities, riskier currencies and commodities as the spread of Omicron saw the Netherlands go into lockdown on Sunday while other countries weighed similar steps. 

The World Health Organization said on Saturday that Omicron cases were doubling in 1.5 to 3 days in areas of the world with community transmission, but noted that much remains unknown about the variant, including the severity of the illness it causes. 

"The Santa rally may elude us this year after an impressive pre-Christmas rebound following the initial Omicron shock," Craig Erlam, Senior Market Analyst for UK & EMEA region at OANDA said of global markets.

"Given the amount of downside risks going into the new year, it's hardly surprising to see investors adopting a more cautious approach as they log off for the holidays."

Travel and leisure stocks were among the fallers. Montecasino owner Tsogo Sun Gaming dropped 1.31% to lead declines among hospitality companies. Hotel and casino owner Sun International slipped 1.17%.

Commodity stocks also fell, with the mining index down 3.61%.

Overall the Johannesburg All-Share index closed down 1.57% at 70,087 points, while the Top-40 index fell 1.59% to 63,652 points.

In the currency market, the rand was trading at 15.7430 against the dollar at 1519 GMT, 0.84% stronger than its previous close.

Reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Pravin Char

Source: Reuters

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