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European Stocks Close Lower as Investors Digest Omicron News; Hellofresh Down 11%

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  • The negative sentiment in Europe comes after a strong session on Tuesday, when global markets rallied as concerns about the potential severity of the omicron variant eased.
  • Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that three doses of their vaccine are effective at neutralizing the omicron variant, citing their own preliminary lab tests.

LONDON — European stocks closed lower on Wednesday, with investors continuing to digest the latest news around the omicron Covid variant.

After a choppy trading session, the pan-European Stoxx 600 provisionally closed down by 0.6% Wednesday, with retail stocks falling 1.9% to lead the losses.

The negative sentiment in Europe comes after a strong session on Tuesday, when global markets rallied as concerns about the potential severity of the omicron variant eased.

There have been mixed announcements regarding the omicron variant since.

South African scientists said Tuesday that omicron significantly reduces the antibody protection generated by Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine, according to a small preliminary study. Still, people who have recovered from the virus and received a booster shot will likely have more protection from severe disease, the study showed.

Pfizer and BioNTech said Wednesday that three doses of their vaccine are effective at neutralizing the omicron variant, citing their own preliminary lab tests.

Earlier, the White House's chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said preliminary data from South Africa last week was "encouraging" as it suggested omicron is not as severe as initially feared, while noting that more data is needed to fully assess the risk posed by the variant.

Overnight in Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong stocks lagged other markets, with troubled Chinese real estate developers back in the spotlight. Chinese social media giant Weibo also had a disappointing market debut in Hong Kong.

On Wall Street, U.S. stocks were mixed Wednesday, taking a pause after a two-day rally.

In terms of individual share price movement in Europe, Swedish online gambling company Evolution Gaming added more than 7% to lead the Stoxx 600.

British investment firm Man Group gained 2.6% after announcing a share buyback program of up to $250 million.

At the bottom of the European blue chip index, German meal kit delivery company Hellofresh fell almost 11% after missing earnings expectations.

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- CNBC's Ryan Browne contributed to this report

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