US crude oil prices fell by about 10 per cent per on Friday as global concerns grow over the Nu COVID variant and Joe Biden imposed new travel bans.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures, the US oil benchmark, dropped $68.85 per barrel on Friday after soaring to near historic heights in recent weeks.
It had begun the day at around $77 dollars.
The sudden drop in oil prices came as the Dow Jones Industrial Average reported a 1,000 point drop, or about 2.5 per cent decrease, the worst drop of the year. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both reported a drop of 2.2 per cent.
The blow to the national economy arrived as the World Health Organization warned of the 'most infectious' variant of COVID-19 yet, named Nu or Omicron, in South Africa.
West Texas Intermediate crude futures serves as the benchmark for US oil prices. The cost per barrel dropped by about 10 per cent on Friday
The Dow Jones tumbled on Friday morning by more than 1000 points
There are no recorded cases of the variant in the US yet.
Most of the warnings are coming from the UK, where an unnamed senior expert from the Health Security Agency, the British COVID authority, has described the variant as 'the worst we have seen yet.'
The US has banned travel to South Africa and seven other neighboring countries after European nations began imposing travel restrictions, and travel and aerospace shares took a blow.
Canada has also done the same, banning anyone who has visited any of the eight countries in the past 14 days from crossing its borders.
Boeing reported more than a 6 per cent drop Friday afternoon, and Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, the only US carriers who had services schedule to and from South Africa, also took a dramatic hit, CNBC reported.
Delta's stock dropped by more than 10 per cent and United fell by 11 per cent. American Airlines also fell by nearly 10 per cent.
United had 87 nonstop flights to South Africa scheduled for December, and Delta had 35 set up.
Boeing's stock fell by more than 6 per cent while American Airlines tumbled by nearly 10
The airline industries took a blow amid the hectic holiday rush that saw million of travels
'Delta will continue to work closely with our government partners to evaluate any changes to U.S. policy,' the airline said in a statement.
The blow to the airlines came as millions of US travelers experienced long waits and delays at airports across the nation for the Thanksgiving holiday.
The instability of the current economy is only muddled further through the rise inflation - which is at 6.2 per cent, the highest it's been since 1990 - causing the price of basic goods and services to soar.
The Consumer Price Index rose 6.2 percent in October 2021 from one year prior - the highest it has been since 1990
The Consumer Price Index shows a rise in prices in every category from used cars, laundry equipment, furniture to food
The variant, B.1.1.529, is believed to have emerged in Botswana - from where there are no direct flights to the U.S. - and is also being found in neighboring South Africa.
The Nu variant named omicron was first spotted in Botswana before spreading to South Africa. Health experts believe it is the most infectious variant of COVID so far
Hong Kong reported a case after a passenger who had recently traveled from South Africa was found to be infected with the variant, and then infected another person while in the same hotel, quarantining.
Israel has also identified a case 'in a person who returned from Malawi,' with 'two more cases of people returning from abroad' placed in quarantine, the country's health ministry said Friday.
Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, said initial data from the variant was worrying and border restrictions should be imposed.
'Looks like vaccine evasion could be real with this variant,' he tweeted, pointing out that the two patients in Hong Kong who had the variant were both doubled-jabbed with the Pfizer vaccine.
Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they can quickly update their vaccines if they need to to take the new variant on.
The US had recovered from a spike in COVID-19 cases that began in late August due to the deadly Delta variant.
The nation reported about 34,522 new cases this past day and 394 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
There were nearly 600,000 new cases reported this past week and more than 7,000 new deaths.
More than 74 per cent of eligible Americans, including kids 5 and up, have received at least one jab of the vaccine, with about 60 per cent of the population fully vaccinated against the virus.