US defence secretary Lloyd Austin has said China’s development and test of a hypersonic weapon had increased tensions in the Indo-Pacific region and underscored why China was the top challenge for the American military.

“We know that China conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon on the 27th of July,” Austin said in his first confirmation of the test that was first reported by the Financial Times.

“We’ll continue to maintain the capabilities to defend and deter against a range of potential threats from the PRC to ourselves and our allies,” he added during a visit to Seoul.

China flew

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European and Asian equities rose and oil prices rebounded on Wednesday, after a punishing session in which the economic impact of the Omicron coronavirus variant and hawkish comments from the chair of the US Federal Reserve weighed on global markets.

Europe’s Stoxx 600 index rose 0.7 per cent in early dealings, after closing down 0.9 per cent in the previous session. The UK’s FTSE 100 share gauge was up 1 per cent, having closed down 0.7 per cent on Tuesday. In Asian markets, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.8 per cent while Japan’s Topix index rose 0.4 per cent.

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European and Asian stock markets fell on Tuesday, while investors parked money in high-grade government bonds, as traders’ attention was dominated by concerns over the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The regional Stoxx 600 share index, which had rallied on Monday along with Wall Street stocks to reflect a burst of optimism that market volatility sparked by Omicron would turn out to be a buying opportunity, fell around 1.3 per cent with the UK’s FTSE 100, Germany’s Dax and France’s Cac 40 all down by around the same margin.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.6 per cent and Tokyo’s Nikkei 225

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The government’s scientific advisers are expected to recommend an expansion of the booster programme to all adults in the UK, as a further six cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant were confirmed in Scotland.

The booster programme will be expanded to all over-18s and the six-month gap between second and third doses will be “substantially reduced” to maximise immunity as the Omicron variant begins to spread, following new guidance from the government’s vaccine advisers.

Scientists believe that the new Omicron variant, which was identified in South Africa last week and has already spread to multiple countries around the world,

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Boris Johnson has announced measures designed to contain the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant, as the UK’s chief medical officer warned there was a reasonable chance of “vaccine escape”.

The UK’s measures follow further signs the variant is entering Europe and came as governments around the world tightened travel restrictions. Israel banned foreign visitors for two weeks while Australia confirmed it had detected two cases and introduced new travel curbs. Other Asia-Pacific countries warned they would have to reconsider easing measures.

In the UK, anyone entering the country will be required to take a PCR test within

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Americans were expected to open their wallets on Black Friday even after getting a jump on holiday spending in the weeks before, undaunted by higher prices and less generous discounts.

The day after the US Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally drawn consumers chasing deals in stores and online.

Almost two-thirds of Black Friday shoppers in the US planned to go to stores rather than shop online this year, up from 51 per cent in 2020, before coronavirus vaccines were widely available, according to a National Retail Federation survey.

In-store sales were up 42.9 per cent over last year as of Friday

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