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US: Stocks fall again as election fears mount


[NEW YORK] The S&P 500 fell for the eighth straight session Thursday as stocks continued to price in a potential win by Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Mr Trump, who is seen by many investors as an unpredictable wildcard, continues to trail Democrat Hillary Clinton in most polls, but has significantly narrowed the gap in the last 10 days.

"This election is causing jitters for investors," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank.

"An increasing number of investors would prefer to watch this election from the sidelines and not have the full exposure that they've got."

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.2 per cent 17,930.67, its sixth straight decline.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.4 per cent to 2,088.66, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index tumbled 0.9 per cent to 5,058.41, its eighth straight fall.

Signs of nervousness showed in the Vix volatility index, which measures market fear. The index vaulted about 14 per cent to 22.08, the highest level since it hit 25.76 after Britain's shock vote in June to exit the European Union. Th Vix was up more than 40 per cent since Oct 27.

Facebook sank 5.6 per cent despite reporting a 166 per cent jump in third-quarter profits to US$2.4 billon. Analysts said investors were unnerved by a warning of weaker revenue growth in 2017 and a plan to beef up investment in engineers and data-centers.

Shares of generic drug makers plunged after Bloomberg reported that US antitrust investigators could unveil criminal charges of price-fixing by the industry before year-end. These included Mylan, down 6.9 per cent, and Teva, down 9.6 per cent.

Other pharmaceutical stocks were also under pressure, with Dow members Pfizer falling 2.4 per cent and Merck 0.7 per cent.

Insurer AIG fell 4.0 per cent after reporting third quarter operating earnings of US$1.00 per share, below the US$1.21 expected by analysts. The results included US$622 million in expenses because of increased costs in payments for customers who are living longer, particularly those on disability.

Media-entertainment group 21st Century Fox surged 7.3 per cent as it reported a 22 per cent rise in net profit to US$821 million for the quarter ending Sept 30, bolstered by its Fox News Channel amid a busy US election campaign.

Some other media stocks were also strong, with CBS rising 0.6 per cent and Dow member Disney 1.6 per cent.

Other companies with major moves after earnings included Fitbit, down 33.6 per cent, Marathon Oil, up 10.7 per cent and US Steel, up 7.7 per cent.