Investors cling to hope as Omicron spreads, shares rebound



* U.S. stock indices open higher

* European shares rise

* Omicron spreads, but markets hope effects will be mild

* Crude futures rise more than 5%

* 10-year U.S. Treasury yields rise

* Graphic: Global asset performance Link

* Graphic: World FX rates Link

By Matt Scuffham and Dhara Ranasinghe

NEW YORK/LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - A semblance of calm returned to world markets on Monday as investors waited for more details to assess the severity of the Omicron coronavirus variant on the world economy, allowing battered stocks and oil prices to rebound.

Global stocks rallied, oil prices bounced and safe-haven bonds lost ground as markets latched onto hopes the new variant of concern would prove milder than initially feared.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI rose 137.09 points, or 0.39%, to 35,036.43, the S&P 500 .SPX gained 38.91 points, or 0.85%, to 4,633.53 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 166.47 points, or 1.07%, to 15,658.12.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index .STOXX rose 1.15% and MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS gained 0.42%.

News of the variant triggered alarm and a sell-off on Friday that wiped roughly $2 trillion off the value of global stocks, as countries slapped on new restrictions for fear the variant could resist vaccinations and upend a nascent economic re-opening after a two-year global pandemic.

Omicron has now been found as far afield as Canada and Australia. The World Health Organisation said on Monday the heavily mutated variant poses a very high risk of infection surges.

Still, investors drew comfort from signs that its impact may not be as grave as feared. In Southern Africa, where the new strain was detected last week, a top infectious disease expert said existing COVID-19 vaccines are probably effective at preventing severe disease and hospitalisation.

Though experts said it was too early to say for certain how severe the illness caused by the variant will be, a South African doctor who was one of the first to suspect a new strain said on Sunday patients so far appeared to have mild symptoms.

"We're all still reaching around in the dark and will need more data, but things do seem a bit more hopeful than they were on Friday," said BlueBay Asset Management CIO Mark Dowding.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS eased 0.4%, but found support ahead of its 2021 low. Japan's blue-chip Nikkei .N225 fell 1.6% as the country moved to bar foreigners to head off the Omicron strain.

Oil prices, having plunged more than 10% on Friday in their biggest one-day drop since April 2020, rallied more than 5%.

U.S. crude CLc1 recently rose 6.62% to $72.66 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was at $76.73, up 5.51% on the day.

Speculation that oil producing group OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, may pause an output increase in response to the spread of Omicron aided the oil price rebound.

SHIFTING EXPECTATIONS

European Central Bank policymakers sought to reassure investors rattled by the new variant, arguing that the euro zone's economy had learned to cope with successive waves of the pandemic.

This encouraged a move out of safe-haven bond markets, which had rallied on Friday as investors priced in the risk of a slower start to rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve, and less tightening by some other central banks.

Benchmark 10-year notes US10YT=RR last fell 21/32 in price to yield 1.5569%, from 1.485% late on Friday day.

European sovereign bond yields rose DE10YT=RR GB10YT=RR , with latest inflation numbers highlighting the challenges ahead for the ECB.

German inflation is set to surpass the 5% threshold in November for the first time in nearly three decades, regional data from several states suggested on Monday.

The dollar index =USD rose 0.16%, with the euro EUR= down 0.44% to $1.1267.

Agnès Belaisch, chief strategist Europe at Barings Investment Institute, said that as Fed hikes get priced out and the dollar weakens, currencies such as the euro and yen should benefit.

"Safe assets will keep a bid and duration will be a good place to position again," she said. "Careful investors would want to take some profit in equities after a good run - the reopening trade will come back later, hopefully with revenge."



Emerging markets Link
Global asset performance Link
Morning bid Link
Brent bounce Link



Additional reporting by Wayne Cole in Sydney; graphics by
Danilo Masoni and Sujata Rao; Editing by Alex Richardson, Peter
Graff and Susan Fenton



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