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European shares drop in thin trade as pandemic uncertainties rise

European shares fell in holiday-thinned trading on Monday as risk sentiment took a blow from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 driving up infections around the world.

he pan-European STOXX 600 fell 0.2pc as of 0816 GMT, following a mixed session for Asian shares.

Banks and tech firms were among the biggest decliners in the benchmark, while oil stocks tracked lower crude prices. Defensive sectors including healthcare and real estate led gains.

Britain, Australia and Hong Kong markets were closed for holidays, while Wall Street will resume trading later in the session following a holiday on Friday.

Airlines around the world cancelled more than 4,500 flights over the Christmas weekend due to uncertainty around the Omicron variant, while China reported its highest daily rise in local infections in 21 months over the weekend.

Meanwhile, France hit another COVID-19 infection record on Friday, prompting the government to convene a special meeting on Monday that could trigger new restrictions. The nation’s blue-chip CAC 40 was flat in early trading.

Among individual stocks, high-tech industrial group Groupe Gorge rose 1pc after confirming an indicative offer for its acquisition of iXblue.

Roche gained 1pc after saying on Friday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to its COVID-19 at-home rapid test that can be used by people as young as 14.

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