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Asia: Stocks struggle on US election worries

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[HONG KONG] Asian traders moved cautiously on Monday as news that the FBI would further probe Hillary Clinton's emails fuelled fresh uncertainty about the outcome of the US presidential election just eight days before the vote.

Traders globally had broadly expected Democratic candidate and Wall Street favourite Clinton to sweep to victory, with her rival Donald Trump considered a loose cannon.

But FBI chief James Comey's announcement that he was again looking at her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state sent shudders through trading floors, with US stocks tumbling and the dollar taking a hit.

The sell-off filtered through to Asia, where dealers are also nervously awaiting a series of key events this week, including central bank policy meetings in Japan and the US and the release of US jobs figures on Friday.

Trading conditions this week will be "slippery and shifty", said Stephen Innes, senior trader at forex firm OANDA.

"The calendar is full of high-risk events making for a treacherous path to navigate in the lead-up the monumental November 8 US election," he said in a note.

Tokyo's Nikkei ended 0.1 per cent lower and Shanghai closed 0.1 per cent off, while Seoul slipped 0.6 per cent and Taipei was 0.2 per cent off.

But Hong Kong reversed early gains to sit 0.2 per cent higher in the afternoon and Sydney rose 0.6 per cent.

The development also caused the dollar to wobble, falling to 104.73 yen in New York Friday from 105.30 yen earlier in the day in Asia. On Monday it struggled to bounce back, sitting at 104.80 yen, while it also edged up against the pound and euro.

It held most gains against the Mexican peso on worries about a possible win by Trump, who has promised to tear up a trade deal between the two countries and build a wall on their border.

The dollar bought 18.9340 pesos in Asia, having broken 19.10 pesos Friday, and well up from the 18.8190 on Thursday.

"Until the election, the general theme will be uncertainty, which will have implications not just on the stock market, but on the dollar and Treasuries," Chad Morganlander, a money manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in the US, told Bloomberg News.

Oil prices also fell - dragging energy firms lower - following Opec's failure last week to hammer out details of an agreement to cut output and ease a supply glut.

The lack of a deal in Vienna on Friday raised questions about the group's ability to deliver the reductions. It came just days after Opec member Iraq and non-member Russia said they felt they should be exempt.