The slow, steady retreat of the US stock market ahead of the 2016 presidential election continued on Friday, with the market falling for a ninth straight day. Wall Street is now in its longest period of decline in more than three decades.
Investors continue to focus on the US presidential election, which has become too close for comfort for some investors and has put the market on the defensive.
The Dow Jones industrial average lost 42.39 points, or 0.2%, to 17,888.28. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 3.48 points, or 0.2%, to 2,085.18 and the Nasdaq composite lost 12.04 points, or 0.2%, to 5,046.37.
The last time the S&P 500 fell for nine straight days is December 1980, nearly 36 years ago. Ronald Reagan was not even president yet.
However the nine days’ worth of declines has been relatively minor, comparatively speaking. The S&P 500 fell 9.4% during the 1980 nine-day losing streak, according to Howard Silverblatt at S&P Global Market Intelligence, compared with the 3.1% decline in this sell-off.
Investors point to one reason for the drop: Donald Trump.
With only a few days left until the election, Hillary Clinton is still leading in national polling but Mr Trump appears to have considerably narrowed the gap, particularly in swing states. Investors like certainty, and Mrs Clinton is seen as likely to maintain the status quo. Mr Trump’s policies are less clear, and the uncertainty and uncomfortable closeness of the polls has caused jitters in financial markets.
“Some investors are afraid of Donald Trump becoming president,” said Michael Scanlon, a portfolio manager at Manulife Asset Management.
Other portfolio managers and market strategists have made similar comments, saying that it is likely a drop would continue on Wall Street if Mr Trump were to prevail, at least in the short term. The VIX, a measure of volatility nicknamed Wall Street’s “fear gauge” because it allows investors to bet on how much the stock market will swing in the next 30 days, has surged 40% this week. That’s its highest level since June, when Britain voted to leave the European Union.
“No one really knows what Trump would do should he get into power, probably not even himself,” said Joshua Mahony, market analyst at IG. “It is that uncertainty that is driving the market negativity that has dominated this week.”
Some encouraging news on the US economy did keep the market higher most of the day, but the gains faded in the last hour of trading. Traders did not want to hold positions into the weekend with the election and retreated to their usual hamlets of safety: US government bonds and gold.
US employers added a solid 161,000 jobs in October and raised pay sharply for many workers.
The Labour Department’s monthly employment report on Friday sketched a picture of a resilient job market. The pace of hiring has been consistent with a decent economy. The unemployment rate fell to 4.9% from 5%. And average hourly pay took a big step up, rising 10 cents an hour to an average of 25.92 dollars. That is 2.8% higher than a year ago and is the sharpest 12-month rise in seven years.
“This is really good for the US consumer, especially as we head into the critical holiday shopping season,” Mr Scanlon said.
With the election coming up in less than a week, the October jobs report is likely to give the Federal Reserve enough ammunition to raise interest rates at its December meeting, economists said. Fed policymakers ended a two-day meeting on Wednesday where they decided to hold rates steady.
“It seems that the only remaining obstacle to the Fed hiking in December would be a significant adverse financial market reaction to the US presidential election,” said Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, in an email.
In company news: GoPro, the maker of wearable cameras, lost 78 cents, or 6.5%, to 11.16 dollars.
The company reported a 40% drop in revenue in the quarter, and gave a negative outlook for the holiday season. Like Fitbit, GoPro is showing signs of being unable to expand the audience for its product line. The stock did recover part of an earlier loss.
In energy, benchmark US crude oil lost 59 cents to 44.07 dollars a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, declined 77 cents to 45.58 dollars a barrel in London.
Heating oil fell three cents to 1.43 dollars a gallon, wholesale petrol fell 4.5 cents to 1.38 dollars a gallon and natural gas futures fell less than one cent to 2.767 dollars per 1,000 cubic feet.
US government bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.78% from 1.81% the day before.
The euro rose to 1.1117 from 1.1109 dollars and the dollar rose to 103.13 yen from 102.99 yen.
Gold rose 1.20 to 1,304.50 dollars an ounce, silver fell five cents to 18.37 dollars an ounce and copper rose two cents to 2.27 dollars a pound.