NEW YORK – The S&P 500 index fell on Friday (Nov 4) for the ninth straight day, with anxiety over the close White House race dragging equities markets down heading into the final weekend before the vote.
The fall came despite relatively good news about the health of US jobs markets.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the US economy had added a solid 161,000 new jobs in October while the unemployment rate edged lower to 4.9 per cent, a result which analysts said pointed to general all-around health in the economy and suggested the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates next month.
The S&P closed down 3.48 points (0.17 per cent) at 2,085.18.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 42.39 points (0.24 per cent) to 17,888.28 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also lost 12.04 points (0.24 per cent) to settle at 5,046.37.
Uncertainty about next week’s bitterly fought elections has roiled markets ever since the Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed on October 28 that it had uncovered new emails potentially tied to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Chris Low of FTN Financial said investors were girding themselves for the outcome of Tuesday’s vote.
“Last time the market was at this level was back in early July right after the terrible Shanghai sell off,” he told AFP. “Most of the traders I talked to today said they are positioned and are now waiting for Tuesday, and then they’ll make a decision where they go from there.”
Ohio-based consumer goods company Procter & Gamble was among the heaviest blue chip losers of the day, finishing down 1.8 per cent at US$85.08, erasing much of the gains made since reporting stronger third-quarter earnings last week.
Oil majors were also mostly down, with Chevron falling 0.6 per cent and Exxon Mobil losing 0.1 per cent as crude prices continued to fall.
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer also finished in positive territory, up 0.4 per cent, as did the Israeli generics maker Teva, which gained 2.65 per cent and EpiPen producer Mylan, up 2.5 per cent. The sector had fallen sharply on Thursday when word of looming enforcement actions for price-fixing dragged stock prices in the sector downward.
Coffee store chain Starbucks finished up 1.9 per cent, retreating from gains made earlier in the day after reporting a 23 per cent rise in fourth-quarter earnings.
POUND UP ON BREXIT POLITICS
The British pound though powered higher on Thursday’s London court ruling that the British government would need parliamentary approval to officially move to pull out of the European Union.
The pound pushed up to US$1.2519, its highest level in a month.
“The High Court ruling has introduced a whole new set of political uncertainties,” Rabobank analyst Jane Foley told AFP. “However, since most of these are seen as reducing the chances of a bitter divorce from the European Union’s single market, the pound is better supported.”
Oil prices meanwhile fell again amid talk Saudi Arabia may raise output again to bring prices down if Iran fails to agree to OPEC production cuts.