US election fears stalking global markets

LONDON – Jitters over the U.S. presidential election weighed heavily on global stock markets on Friday as jobs data reinforced speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates again in December.

KEEPING SCORE: In Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 0.8 per cent to 10,238 while the CAC 40 in France fell slipped 1 per cent to 4,366. Britain’s FTSE 100 sank 1.6 per cent to 6,685. U.S. stock markets were poised for modest declines at the open with Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.1 per cent.

PRESIDENTIAL RACE: With five days left until the election, Hillary Clinton is still leading in national polling but Donald Trump appears to have narrowed the gap, particularly in swing states. Investors like certainty, and Clinton is seen as likely to maintain the status quo. Trump’s policies are less clear, and the uncertainty has caused jitters in financial markets. The VIX, a measure of volatility that is called Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” jumped 16 per cent this week to its highest level since June. The measure is up 36 per cent this week alone.

ANALYST TAKE: “No one really knows what Trump would do should he get into power, probably not even himself,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG. “It is that uncertainty that is driving the market negativity that has dominated this week.”

JOBS BACKDROP: In most months, monthly U.S. jobs data would garner most attention in financial markets, especially at a time when the Fed is mulling a rate hike. The October figures, released Friday, showed that U.S. employers added a decent 161,000 jobs in October, and that the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 per cent from 5 per cent.

POUND UP AGAIN: The British pound remained firm, rising above $1.25 for the first time in a month before retreating slightly to trade 0.1 per cent higher at $1.2477. The pound has been in the ascendant since a court ruling Thursday that the government needs Parliament’s approval before invoking Article 50 of the EU treaty, which formally begins a two-year countdown to Britain’s exit. The decision by the three-man court has the potential to delay that process. “Barring a dramatic reversal, the pound looks set for its biggest weekly rise since the EU referendum,” said David Cheetham, market analyst at XTB.

CURRENCIES: The euro was down 0.2 per cent at $1.1082 while the dollar rose 0.2 per cent to 103.12 yen.

ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.3 per cent to 16,905.36 and South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.1 per cent to 1,982.02. Australia’s S&P ASX 200 fell 0.9 per cent to 5,180.80. Shanghai’s Composite index slipped 0.1 per cent to 3,125.32 and the Sensex of India lost 0.5 per cent to 27,306.14. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gave up earlier gains to fall 0.2 per cent to 22,642.62.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 41 cents to $44.25 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, declined 58 cents at $45.77.