Friday Briefing

Omicron crashes global New Year's party.

Views expressed in this geopolitical news summary are those of the reporters and correspondents.

Accessed on 31 December 2021, 1922 UTC.

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Russ Roberts

The Reuters Daily Briefing

Friday, December 31, 2021

by Linda Noakes


Here's what you need to know.

South Africa says its COVID fourth wave has peaked, Russia test-fires new hypersonic missiles, and stocks see in the New Year near record highs after a banner 2021

Today's biggest stories

A barber colors the digits of the number 2022 after cutting a man's hair to welcome the upcoming new year, in Ahmedabad, India, December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Amit Dave

Twenty twenty-one is slinking off with farewell celebrations mostly muffled by the pandemic. But good news from South Africa - the first country to pronounce itself past its Omicron wave - has brought new hope for a joyous New Year.

As the New Year moves from East to West, with New Zealand already into 2022 without the official fireworks in Auckland, Australia is promising to open the global celebration in vintage style, with its usual spectacular pyrotechnics reflected in the harbor below the Sydney Opera House.

Fireworks were also called off over Paris's Arc de Triomphe, London's Big Ben and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The golden ball is due to drop at New York's Times Square, but the crowd shouting out the countdown of the year's exit will be a quarter the usual size, masked up, socially distanced and with vaccine papers in hand.

U.S. health experts urged Americans to prepare for severe disruptions in coming weeks as the rising wave of COVID-19 cases led by the Omicron variant threatens hospitals, schools and other sectors impacting their daily lives.

Hong Kong's health officials said the Omicron variant has made its way past some of the world's toughest COVID 19 restrictions, with the city reporting its first cases outside its strict quarantine system.

South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew on people's movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth COVID-19 wave driven by Omicron.

Rohingya refugees arrive by boat at a port in Lhokseumawe, Aceh, Indonesia, December 31, 2021. REUTERS/Hidayatullah Tahjuddin


More than 100 Rohingya refugees who had been adrift on a sinking boat off the western coast of Indonesia were allowed to disembark, after authorities relented following international pressure to give them refuge.

Russia test-fired around 10 new Tsirkon hypersonic cruise missiles from a frigate and two more from a submarine, Interfax news agency said. President Vladimir Putin has lauded the weapon as part of a new generation of unrivaled arms systems.

The police raid on Hong Kong media organisation Stand News this week was "completely lawful and beyond reproach", said a spokesperson with the Chinese embassy in Britain, hitting back at foreign criticism of the move.

Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was released from prison nearly five years after being convicted of corruption, fueling debate over whether she would play any role ahead of a March presidential election.


Stock markets dipped in thin trading but are set to see in the New Year with double-digit gains for 2021 while oil prices hovered near $80 a barrel following their biggest annual rise since 2009.

Oil analysts have lowered their price forecasts for 2022 as the Omicron coronavirus variant poses headwinds to recovering fuel demand and risks a supply glut as producers pump more oil, a Reuters poll shows.

Global dealmaking is set to maintain its scorching pace next year, after a historic year for merger and acquisition activity that was fueled largely by easy availability of cheap financing and booming stock markets. Global M&A volumes topped $5 trillion for the first time ever, comfortably eclipsing the previous record of $4.55 trillion set in 2007, Dealogic data showed.

A U.S. appeals court revived litigation accusing a slew of large banks of conspiring to rig the Libor interest rate benchmark, including during the 2008 financial crisis, to boost profits at investors' expense and make the banks appear healthier than they were.

Quote of the day

"As long as we don't take our own money as a benchmark, we are doomed to sink"

Erdogan calls on Turks to keep all savings in lira

Video of the day

Colorado wildfire prompts mass evacuations

A fierce, wind-driven wildfire destroyed hundreds of homes, injured at least a half dozen people and prompted the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in and around two towns near Denver.

And finally…

Some cautious, many fed up, Americans prepare to ring in the New Year

In some spots, including Los Angeles, the latest virus wave shattered official New Year's Eve bash plans. But New York and several other cities say the party will go on, even if in a curtailed fashion.

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