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PARIS: US and eurozone stock markets advanced on Monday, shrugging off lingering fears over the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant after the Christmas holiday.

The highly mutated strain has fuelled a massive increase in cases across the globe, with countries reviving lockdowns, thousands of flights cancelled, and cruise ships returning to port with Covid-infected passengers.

There is, however, a “belief that Omicron is going to be a nuisance but not a dire strait for the global economy — at least not for long,” said Briefing.com analyst Patrick O’Hare.

Wall Street was up in midday trading, with the S&P 500 rising by almost one percent as it built on last week’s record close, which had followed a raft of mostly decent US economic data.

The US session opened a seven-day stretch starting just after Christmas, known as a historically strong season for stocks, a period marked by low trading volumes.

But leading airlines such as United and Delta dropped following mass flight cancellations due to infections or quarantines among airline and airport staff.

Eurozone markets closed higher while Asian markets finished down. London and Hong Kong were closed for holidays.

“Investors are continuing to shake off concerns regarding the Omicron variant following reports that the risk of hospitalisation is much lower compared to previous variants,” said a note by Schwab analysts.

A study released Sunday showed US consumers were in the mood to spend over the holiday season, with retail sales soaring 8.5 percent over last year.

Online sales were up 11 percent and in-store sales up 8.1 percent between November 1 and Christmas Eve, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse study.

“Consumers splurged throughout the season,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO of Saks Incorporated.

Key figures around 1655 GMT

Dow: UP 0.6 percent

DAX: UP 0.5 percent

Paris: UP 0.8 percent

Tokyo: DOWN 0.4 percent

Shanghai: DOWN 0.06 percent

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1328

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3435

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.32 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 114.85

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