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Stocks drop as U.S. reports its first case of the Omicron coronavirus variant

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Yahoo Finance's Anjalee Khemlani runs down the CDC's report of the first case of the Omicron variant in the U.S., while Markets Reporter Ines Ferre breaks down how markets and travel sectors are reacting to this news.

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING]

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Welcome to Yahoo Finance Live, everyone. I'm Alexis Christoforous here with Karina Mitchell. And we've got some breaking news for you. The US has reported its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant. It is in California. This is according to the White House, which has confirmed that case. And we have our health reporter, Anjalee Khemlani, joining us now with the very latest. So, Anjalee, what do we know?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: Well, what we do know, Alexis, is that this case was confirmed in California in San Francisco specifically. The health department there confirmed the positive case, and then the CDC then confirmed that it was, in fact, an omicron variant. We do know that this person was a returning traveler from South Africa, and the case was positive. The positive case came in on November 22nd. So, as you recall, that predates the Thanksgiving holiday, which is when we found out from South Africa that this variant had been, in fact, circulating.

We do know that the White House has, as a result of that, placed a ban, travel ban, on South Africa, among other southern African countries, is considering the tighter restrictions on testing for inbound travelers. And this is just an example of that. What we do know right now about what everyone should be considering when it comes to the omicron variant, Dr. Anthony Fauci now talking to the press about the importance of boosting and the importance of getting vaccines, even as several mandates from the White House, from the Biden administration, have been held up in court.

But what experts have been saying is that some companywide mandates that have made it through are showing some effect for growing US vaccinations. And that should help, because as it stands right now, we do know that based on a clue from Israel reported today, that the vaccine, especially Pfizer, which they largely use is holding up.

Meanwhile, we also know from some early South African reports that the disease is presenting with mild symptoms. And that is exactly what the traveler experienced. They were a fully vaccinated traveler, and they did experience mild symptoms. So, all of that is just what we know for right now. Again, the details of the variant and its impact are yet to be confirmed by the CDC and US labs. But we're waiting to hear more on that right now. Back to you.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Anjalee Khemlani, thanks so much for that. I want to get Wall Street's reaction to all this. Yahoo Finance's Ines Ferre joining us now. And Ines, I can see here there was an immediate pullback off our highs of the day once word hit that we've got the first omicron case confirmed here in the US.

INES FERRE: Yeah, that's right, and you can see the pullback right here, right about the time when we got that headline. We had come off the highs of the session. You had seen the Dow up about 500 points at one point. The NASDAQ right now is up about 1/10 of a percent, but again, the same type of move with these major averages in two cases, the Dow and the NASDAQ hitting the flatline. Taking a look at where we're at with the sector action, we are seeing that utilities and healthcare are still in green territory, but not seeing this type of gains that we were seeing earlier in the session.

I want to mention what we're seeing with the travel stocks because we had seen these airlines, Delta had been in green territory earlier, and then we saw them slowly declining. And you can see here at the lows of the session when we got that news of that first case of the omicron variant in the US. Right now, Delta down more than 4%, American also lower, United also lower. There have been travel restrictions from countries-- from South African countries. In the UK, there's been travel restrictions. Different countries that have been putting on these restrictions over the last several days.

And then, finally, what we're seeing also with oil, because oil has been moving to the downside after we got these headlines. You can see WTI crude oil had been up more than 4% at one point and then went into negative territory. Here, Brent crude is down also, also had gone into negative territory. It's up about 2/10 of a percent right now. And WTI hovering around $66.38 a barrel. Alexis, Karina.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Ines Ferre, thanks so much for that.

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