US markets hit by FBI probe of Clinton


New York (AFP)

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 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.

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 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 percent at 18,161.19.

The broad-based S&P 500 declined 0.3 percent at 2,126.41, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.5 percent 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 percent pace in the third quarter, data that weighed against 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 percent and McKesson dived 22.7 percent.

Other health stocks to fall included Merck, down 4.0 percent, drugstore chain CVS Health, down 4.4 percent and pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, down 6.0 percent.

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

Chevron jumped 3.9 percent after it reported that third-quarter profits fell 36.8 percent to $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 percent as it reported a 37.5 percent drop in third-quarter earnings to $2.7 billion. The oil giant warned it might have to cut its estimate of its commercially viable reserves by nearly 20 percent due to low oil prices.

Among other companies reporting earnings, Goodyear Tire & Rubber slumped 9.0 percent, Baidu rose 2.6 percent and Expedia gained 4.1 percent. Google parent Alphabet was flat after reporting better-than-expected results.