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US: Markets hit by FBI probe of Clinton

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[NEW YORK] US stocks dropped with a jolt Friday after news that the FBI reopened a probe into Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.

US stocks had been comfortably in positive territory prior to news that Federal Bureau of Investigation head James Comey informed lawmakers that he was restarting the probe.

Mrs Clinton has been the market's preferred choice compared with Republican Donald Trump, viewed by many investors as unpredictable. Analysts said the news raises the chances of a Trump win, after weeks during which Mrs Clinton handily led the polls.

"One of the things we felt more certain about over the course of the last week or two has been the result at the top of the ballot, and this probably throws that into question," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities.

"That's not going to be good for markets."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.1 per cent at 18,161.19.

The broad-based S&P 500 declined 0.3 per cent at 2,126.41, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.5 per cent to 5,190.10.

The Clinton news followed the release of official data showing the US economy grew at a better-than-expected 2.9 per cent pace in the third quarter, data that weighed against Mr Trump, who has repeatedly called the economy "broken".

Health care stocks were hit hard after drugmakers Amgen and McKesson both highlighted an increasingly cutthroat pharmaceutical pricing environment. Amgen slumped 9.6 per cent and McKesson dived 22.7 per cent.

Other health stocks to fall included Merck, down 4 per cent, drugstore chain CVS Health, down 4.4 per cent and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, down 6 per cent.

Amazon sank 5.2 per cent after it reported earnings that translated into 52 US cents per share, much below the analyst forecast for 78 US cents, as a ramp-up in investment caught investors off guard.

Chevron jumped 3.9 per cent after it reported that third-quarter profits fell 36.8 per cent to US$1.3 billion. The results bested analyst expectations and marked a big improvement over the first two quarters of 2016, when it reported losses.

ExxonMobil however fell 2.5 per cent as it reported a 37.5 per cent drop in third-quarter earnings to US$2.7 billion. The oil giant warned it might have to cut its estimate of its commercially viable reserves by nearly 20 per cent due to low oil prices.

Among other companies reporting earnings, Goodyear Tire & Rubber slumped 9 per cent, Baidu rose 2.6 per cent and Expedia gained 4.1 per cent. Google parent Alphabet was flat after reporting better-than-expected results.