TSX, Wall Street stock markets head lower as U.S. Fed meets; gold rallies

TORONTO – Stock markets in Toronto and New York racked up losses Tuesday as the U.S. Federal Reserve kicked off a two-day policy meeting and uncertainty continued to dominate investors’ minds a week before Americans head to the polls.

In Canada, the S&P/TSX composite index lost 8.95 points at 14,778.32, as losses were kept in check by a rally in gold, health care and materials stocks.

The December gold contract rose $14.90 to US$1,288 an ounce, as investors bought the precious metal, which is viewed as a safe haven in turbulent times.

“This is a time that people really want the comfort of moving into something that they consider a little more stable,” said John Stephenson, president and CEO at Stephenson & Co. Capital Management.

“Given that we are in such uncertain times, it is likely that you could see gold move higher in the next week at least and possibly longer depending on what the (election) outcome is.”

The TSX was also helped as shares in Valeant Pharmaceuticals (TSX:VRX) soared more than 30 per cent, or $7.24, to $31.18 after a media report that it was in advanced talks to sell its stomach-drug business.

Valeant has seen its stock plunge about 90 per cent since its record high in August 2015 amid controversy about the company’s steep drug price increases and allegedly unorthodox business practices. It is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s offices in two states.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average fell 105.32 points to 18,037.10 and the S&P 500 faded 14.43 points to 2,111.72. The Nasdaq composite dropped 35.56 points to 5,153.58.

The U.S. Federal Reserve started a two-day meeting to decide on whether it will move on interest rates. It is widely expected that policy makers will keep interest rates stable, with the possibility of a hike to come next month.

Stock markets have seen increased volatility in recent days as voters prepare to head to polls for the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8.

Stephenson said markets have not priced in the possibility of a win by Republican Donald Trump, who has seen his odds increase since the FBI announced last week it was reviewing more emails related to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s private email server.

“Now, all of a sudden, you got what looks like a bit more of a coin toss for election day,” he said.

The Canadian dollar was ahead 0.10 of a cent at 74.67 cents US, as the December crude contract faded 19 cents to US$46.67 per barrel.

The December natural gas contract fell 12 cents to US$2.90 mmBtu and December copper contracts were up two cents at US$2.22 a pound.

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