S&P 500 down for ninth day in a row, election uncertainty still weighs on traders

TORONTO – The S&P 500 saw its ninth consecutive day of losses as uncertainty around the outcome of the U.S. election continued to weigh on stock markets Friday.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern today waiting for the election on Tuesday,” said Norman Levine, managing director at Toronto-based Portfolio Management Corp.

“There’s not a huge ton of movement.”

The S&P 500 slipped 3.48 points to 2,085.18. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42.39 points to 17,888.28 and the Nasdaq composite was off 12.04 points at 5,046.37.

Polls suggest while Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton remains in the lead, the gap between her and Republican rival Donald Trump has narrowed recently, making the race tighter and leaving traders cautious.

Meanwhile, solid jobs data south of the border has raised expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve will hike its trend-setting interest rates next month, Levine said.

The U.S. Labor Department said employers added 161,000 jobs last month and increased many workers’ pay. Unemployment fell to 4.9 per cent from five per cent.

In Canada, the economy added 44,000 jobs in October. However, Statistics Canada said the rise was fuelled by part-time employment, which offset a loss in full-time positions.

“Canada was somewhat disappointing because it had, on the surface, some nice job growth, but underneath it was all part-time,” Levine said.

Lower oil prices weighed on the Toronto stock market, as the S&P/TSX composite index gave back 74.17 points to close at 14,509.25.

The broad-based decline saw most sectors of the TSX trending lower, with materials stocks slipping 0.98 per cent while energy companies lost 0.96 per cent.

The only sectors of the Toronto stock market that didn’t fall were utilities companies, which gained 0.77 per cent, and real estate stocks, which climbed 0.6 per cent. The base metals sector was flat.

The loonie was at 74.61 cents US, down 0.11 of a U.S. cent from Thursday’s close.

In commodities, the December crude contract fell 59 cents to US$44.07 per barrel and December natural gas was essentially flat at US$2.77 per mmBTU.

December gold rose $1.20 to US$1,304.50 an ounce and December copper contracts were up two cents to US$2.27 a pound.

Levine said crude prices have been lagging due to the combination of a stronger U.S. dollar and a lack of progress towards a proposed output cut deal by OPEC.

“Oil had strengthened on hopes that OPEC and Russia would cut back on production … but that doesn’t seem to be happening, so it looks like the path of least resistance for oil for now is down,” Levine said.

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