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LONDON: World stocks sank Monday as the spreading Delta virus variant fuelled fears it could undermine the economic recovery, while oil prices tanked after leading producers finally agreed to hike output.

Oil prices plunged after the OPEC+ alliance agreed Sunday to pump an extra 400,000 barrels per day a month from August to meet rising demand as economies reopen.

London stocks gave up 2.6 percent in afternoon deals meanwhile after the UK government lifted England's daily pandemic curbs despite soaring infection rates.

In eurozone trade, Frankfurt slumped by 2.9 percent and Paris shed 3.0 percent, and in New York the Dow Jones index was off by 2.1 percent in morning exchanges.

US oil tumbles over 6 percent as markets tank

Europe mirrored sharp losses in Asia as investors dumped risky investments and fretted that runaway inflation could spark interest rate hikes.

'Covid knocks confidence'

"Risk aversion has remained the dominant theme," noted Fawad Razaqzada, an analyst at ThinkMarkets.

"The sell-off has been quite brutal for stocks, but it is difficult to say whether this is just a retracement ahead of more gains at some later point in time or whether this is the start of something really major," he added.

US yields slide on fears virus variant to hamper growth

In England meanwhile, almost all Covid-19 restrictions were lifted on Monday, a move criticised by many health experts -- but hailed by media and supporters as "freedom day".

"Far from bringing an added dose of confidence to investors, 'Freedom Day' appears to be a setback," Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter told AFP.

"The sharply rising Covid infection rates across the UK, and concerns about fresh easing of restrictions, is likely to be behind the drop."

Spanner in works

In Asia, Hong Kong was the worst-hit market after the United States warned businesses about the "growing risks" of operating in the city as China tightens its grip, raising concerns about its future as a financial hub.

With vaccines being rolled out around the world and some governments easing lockdowns, equities enjoyed a healthy first half of 2021, with many markets hitting records or multi-year highs as traders bet on a strong rebound from the pandemic.

But the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant has thrown a spanner in the works as leaders in several countries -- particularly those with slow inoculation programmes -- reimpose lockdowns and other containment measures.

World shares steady, US yields hover near lows ahead of fresh data

At the same time, surging inflation has rekindled speculation the Federal Reserve and other central banks could be forced to wind down their ultra-loose monetary policies and raise interest rates sooner than expected.

Key figures around 1450 GMT

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 2.6 percent at 6,825.65 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 2.9 percent at 15,082.96

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 3.0 percent at 6,266.48

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 3.0 percent at 3,913.87

New York - Dow: DOWN 2.1 percent at 33,975.22

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 5.7 percent at $69.37 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 6.5 percent at $67.16 per barrel

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.3 percent at 27,652.74 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: DOWN 1.8 percent at 27,489.78 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: FLAT at 3,539.12 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1808 from $1.1806 at 2100 GMT Friday

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3669 from $1.3767

Euro/pound: UP at 86.38 from 85.76 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.41 from 110.07 yen

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