Latest news updates: UK’s Raab confident Christmas will not be cancelled by Covid

Asia-Pacific stocks slide over US jobs and Omicron worries

Asia-Pacific markets slid on Monday morning after traders considered the fallout from US jobs data released on Friday and the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Japan’s Topix dropped as much as 0.8 per cent and South Korea’s Kospi lost more than 1 per cent, while Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 was down as much as 0.4 per cent in early trading.

US futures gained after dipping on Friday, with S&P 500 futures up 0.4 per cent. The yield on the US ten-year treasury note, which moves inversely to its price, gained just under 5 basis points to reach 1.39 per cent.

The US slides followed news that the US added far fewer jobs than forecast last month, but that unemployment still fell to its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Brent crude contracts for February delivery added 2.2 per cent to trade at just under $71.40 a barrel.

Futures in Hong Kong were down 1.7 per cent ahead of the open.

What to watch in Asia today

Aung San Suu Kyi: The first verdicts in the trial of Myanmar’s ousted leader are set to be announced after being postponed from November 30. 

Narendra Modi and Vladimir Putin: The Indian prime minister will host the Russian president in a one-to-one meeting on the sidelines of the India-Russia Annual Summit, where 10 bilateral agreements are set to be signed. 

Hang Seng index: Hong Kong’s benchmark index undergoes a shake-up today with gaming company NetEase and ecommerce group both joining. Evergrande, the country’s indebted property developer, will be removed from the Hang Seng China Enterprises index.

Markets: Asian equities looked set to start the week lower with futures in Hong Kong and Japan both down and Australian markets flat in early trading.

Raab confident Christmas will not be cancelled by Covid

Dominic Raab, UK deputy prime minister, has predicted Britons will enjoy “a great Christmas” amid hopes in Downing Street that no new Covid-19 restrictions would be needed in England before the new year to deal with the Omicron variant.

Ministers believe that new and existing anti-Covid measures — including the planned expansion of the vaccine booster programme and a fresh requirement for travellers to the UK to undertake a coronavirus test before departure — will be sufficient for now.

Raab struck a bullish note on Sunday, saying this Christmas would be “totally different” to the last one and that people should plan with confidence to spend time with family and friends.

“I think it’s going to be a great Christmas,” the justice secretary told the BBC. “I think people should enjoy Christmas, get their loved ones around them, celebrate it in a way we haven’t been able to do in the past.”

Asked whether companies should continue with plans to hold big Christmas parties, he said employers could be “trusted to take a common sense approach to the circumstances in their businesses”.

Boris Johnson and his team are expected to review the latest data on Omicron around December 16, but one ally of the prime minister played down the prospect of any additional restrictions before Christmas, saying: “Our ambition is that nothing new will be needed this side of the new year.”

Read more about Raab’s Christmas comments.

Eric Zemmour’s first big campaign rally marred by melee

A melee broke out at the first campaign rally held by Eric Zemmour, the anti-immigration polemicist who is running for French president, after activists from an anti-racism organisation sought to interrupt his speech.

Soon after Zemmour began speaking to a crowd of more than 10,000 at a conference hall outside Paris, activists from SOS Racisme stood up to reveal black shirts spelling out the slogan “No to Racism”. They were set upon by Zemmour supporters, and videos taken by journalists showed men punching the activists and chairs being thrown, while security officials tried to break up the fight.

The episode ended quickly but showed how Zemmour’s far-right candidacy has provoked tensions in France as the television pundit and author has risen in the polls since summer. While his supporters waved French flags in a northern suburb of the capital, roughly 8,000 others took to the streets of Paris to denounce his xenophobic platform. Police said they had made 48 arrests.

The 63-year-old, who argues that once-great France is declining because of unchecked immigration and an excess of political correctness, had risen as high as second in the polls in early November. But his popularity has waned recently to fall back to third place behind president Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen, according to pollster Harris Interactive.

Read more about Eric Zemmour’s rally.

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