Shares fell across Europe as the UK signalled the introduction of further Covid curbs while vaccine makers said their jabs worked against the Omicron strain.
Dealers said they endured a “yo-yo day” with stocks plunging on news that Britain could step up virus restrictions from Thursday, then gathering momentum on news that a third Pfizer-Biontech jab neutralises Omicron, then fading again into the close of business.
Ryanair closed 3.34 per cent down at €15.21 having slipped to €14.90 at one point and surged to €15.50 at another.
Building materials giant CRH fell 1.49 per cent to €44.93. “There were a few sellers around,” noted one trader, who suggested that some investors were cashing in profits on the stock.
Paddy Power and Betfair owner Flutter Entertainment climbed 1 per cent to €131.20.
Elsewhere food stocks proved popular as investors shifted to defensive names. Glanbia added 1 per cent to €12.10. Kerry Group closed 1.93 per cent ahead at €110.75.
Traders expect a quiet few weeks into the end of the year as investors opt to hold gains made over what has been a volatile 12 months.
UK’s main stock indexes ended flat on Wednesday after hitting session lows as positive headlines on Covid vaccines helped offset concerns about Britain implementing tougher coronavirus measures as early as Thursday.
Cineworld dropped 2.6 per cent to 51.64 pence sterling, making it the top loser on the travel and leisure sub-index.
London’s benchmark FTSE 100 has rebounded to levels seen before the detection of the Omicron variant in late-November, as experts say the new strain might not be as severe as feared.
Tour operator TUI recouped early losses rising 1.7 per cent to 221.3p despite posting an annual loss of more than € 2 billion.
Homebuilder Berkeley Group Holdings added 2.4 per cent to 4,744p as it raised annual profit outlook after sales recovered to pre-pandemic levels.
Aer Lingus and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group inched up 0.46 per cent to 142.76. Rival Easyjet dipped 0.7 per cent to 550.2p.
Shares in chocolate and coffee maker Nestlé advanced 1.58 per cent to 123.8 Swiss francs after the group announced that it was selling €9 billion worth of shares in cosmetics giant L’Oreal. Nestlé is cashing in on a recent surge in the perfume maker’s stock.
Air France KLM closed 0.6 per cent ahead at €4.02 at the end of an up-and-down day that saw its stock dip to €3.86 around midday.
German rival Lufthansa followed a similar trajectory, closing 0.94 per cent up at €6.20.
Vaccine maker Biontech fell 2.61 per cent to €261 even after the company said a third shot of the inoculation developed jointly with Pfizer neutralised Omicron in lab tests. The broad Stoxx Europe 600 index closed down 0.44 per cent.
US stocks struggled for direction on Wednesday after a strong start to the week, as investors digested Pfizer and BioNTech’s latest update but the the fast-spreading Omicron variant kept bigger bets in check.
Travel stocks rebounded, with the S&P 1500 Airlines index up 3.7 per cent, while Norwegian Cruise Line led gains among cruiseliners.
Tesla Inc, Alphabet, Microsoft, Amazon and Nvidia Corp shed between 0.3 per cent and 1.4 per cent, while Apple and Meta Platforms moved higher.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co rose 5.8 per cent after Deutsche Bank upgraded the stock to “buy” from “hold”. Stanley Black & Decker added 4.3 per cent after Sweden’s Securitas agreed to buy its electronic security solutions business for $3.2 billion.
At 11:50 am eastern time, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 72.73 points, or 0.20 per cent, at 35,646.70, the S&P 500 was down 0.34 points, or 0.01 per cent, at 4,686.41, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 47.14 points, or 0.30 per cent at 15,734.06. – Additional reporting: Reuters