World markets diverged in thin holiday trade on Monday as fears lingered over the spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.

The highly mutated strain has fuelled a massive increase in cases across the globe, with countries reviving lockdowns, thousands of flights cancelled, and cruise ships returning to port with Covid-infected passengers.

Frankfurt was up 0.1 percent and Paris was flat in midday trading while Asian markets finished down. London and Hong Kong were closed for a holiday.

"Omicron cases are surging in the US and Europe, and although markets have well and truly priced in a less virulent strain, the disruption to goods and services from isolating workers, notably air travel, seems to be the main fallout so far," said Jeffrey Halley, analyst at foreign exchange firm OANDA.

"That is only likely to cause short-term nerves, with the global recovery story for 2022 still on track," Halley said.

On Friday before the Christmas break, markets wavered in similarly subdued trade.

A day earlier on Wall Street, the S&P 500 ended the last session before the long holiday weekend at a fresh record following a raft of mostly decent US economic data.

A study released Sunday showed US consumers were in the mood to spend over the holiday season, with retail sales soaring 8.5 percent over last year.

Online sales were up 11 percent and in-store sales up 8.1 percent between November 1 and Christmas Eve, according to the Mastercard SpendingPulse study.

"Consumers splurged throughout the season," said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO of Saks Incorporated.

Xi-an lockdown
China's 'zero-Covid' strategy has largely kept infections in check, but new cases were bubbling up in Xi'an Photo: AFP / STR

Frankfurt - DAX: UP 0.1 percent at 15,775.85 points

Paris - CAC 40: Flat at 7,089.34

London - FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,372.10 points (Friday close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 28,676.46 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.1 percent at 23,223.76 (Friday close)

Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.06 percent at 3,615.97 (close)

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 35,950.56 (Thursday close)

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1317 from $1.1319

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3401 from $1.3400

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.45 pence from 84.47 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.2 percent at $72.88 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: FLAT at $76.17 per barrel

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