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NEW YORK: Wall Street finished lower on Friday, weighed down by Big Tech as investors worried about the Omicron coronavirus variant and digested the Federal Reserve's decision to end its pandemic-era stimulus faster.
All three main U.S. stock indexes ended with a decline for the week after the Fed on Wednesday signaled three quarter-percentage-point interest rate hikes by the end of 2022 to combat surging inflation.
Nvidia dropped 2.1% and Alphabet lost 1.9%, both weighing on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.
The S&P 500 growth index lost 0.7% and the value index declined 1.4%.
All of the 11 major S&P 500 sector indexes fell, with financials leading the way down with a 2.3% drop. Energy lost 2.2%.
Adding to uncertainty, Pfizer said on Friday the pandemic could extend through next year. European countries geared up for further travel and social restrictions and a study warned that the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant was five times more likely to reinfect people than its predecessor, Delta.
Traders also pointed to year-end tax selling and the simultaneous expiration of stock options, stock index futures and index options contracts - known as triple witching - as potential causes for volatility.
"It's a big options expiration day," said Joe Saluzzi, co-manager of trading at Themis Trading in Chatham, New Jersey. "And now you draw on top of that some Omicron, and you've got volatility, and I think it creates a lot of uncertainty amongst investors. Where are you going to position for the end of the year?"
Heavyweight growth stocks including Nvidia and Microsoft have outperformed the broader market in 2021, while the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index has surged about 35%. The benchmark S&P 500 index gained around 23% in the same period.
In Friday's session, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.48% to end at 35,365.44 points, while the S&P 500 lost 1.03% to 4,620.64.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 0.07% to 15,169.68.
On a positive note, the small-cap Russell 2000 index rallied 1% after having fallen more than 10% from a record high in early November.
With options expiring, volume on U.S. exchanges jumped to 16.6 billion shares, far above the 11.9 billion average over the last 20 trading days.
For the week, the S&P 500 fell 1.9%, the Dow lost 1.7% and the Nasdaq declined 2.9%.
In Friday's session, Oracle tumbled 6.4% after the Wall Street Journal reported the enterprise software maker is in talks to buy electronic medical records company Cerner in a deal that could be valued at $30 billion. Shares of Cerner surged 12.9%.
FedEx Corp rose almost 5% after the delivery firm reinstated its original fiscal 2022 forecast on Thursday, even as persistent labor woes chipped away profits.