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Asia stocks shaky as FBI review of Clinton emails rattles markets

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SINGAPORE: Most Asian stocks struggled higher on Monday but investors were rattled by news that the FBI is planning to review more emails related to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s private server, just a week before the election.

European markets also looked set for a shaky start, with financial spreadbetter CMC Markets expecting Britain’s FTSE 100, France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX <.GDAXI to all open down 0.1 percent.

Federal investigators have secured a warrant to examine newly discovered emails, a source familiar with the matter said on Sunday.

Clinton had opened a recent lead over her unpredictable Republican rival Donald Trump in national polls, but it had been narrowing even before the email controversy resurfaced. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Sunday showed Clinton with a statistically insignificant 1-point national lead.

The Mexican peso, which strengthens along with the chances for a Clinton win, remained weak, while the U.S. dollar edged up against other major currencies.

“There seems little doubt that a Trump victory would trigger selling in stock markets from current levels,” Rick Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets in Sydney, wrote in a note.

“This has traders nervous as they start the week assimilating fresh news on Hillary Clinton’s email problems.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan hit a six-week low on Monday before recovering 0.3 percent. It is set to end the month down 1.6 percent.

Japan’s Nikkei, which touched a six-month high on Friday, closed 0.1 percent lower on Monday, but is up 5.9 percent in October.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid to a two-month low but revived to gain 0.2 percent, on track for a 1.35 percent loss in October. China’s Shanghai Composite index fell 0.1 percent, paring gains this month to 3.2 percent.

On Friday, Wall Street and the dollar closed lower, after Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey sent a letter to the U.S. Congress informing it that the agency is again reviewing emails related to the private server Clinton used when she was secretary of state.

Markets have tended to see Clinton as a candidate who will largely maintain the status quo, while there is greater uncertainty over what a victory for Trump might mean for U.S. foreign policy, international trade deals and the domestic economy.

Comey had decided in July that the FBI was not going to seek prosecution of Clinton for her handling of classified materials.

DOLLAR DIPS

The dollar hit a three-week high against the Mexican peso on Friday before closing up 0.7 percent. It retreated 0.1 percent to 18.9322 peso on Monday.

A Trump victory has been viewed as a key risk for the Mexican currency given his promises to clamp down on immigration and redraw trade relations with the country.

The dollar was little changed at 104.76 yen on Monday, and remains up 3.3 percent for the month.

On Friday, it hit a three-month peak after third-quarter U.S. economic growth beat expectations, before ending the day down 0.4 percent on the news about the Clinton email investigation.

The dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global peers, added 0.1 percent to 93.43, shrinking Friday’s 0.6 percent loss. It is set to end October with a 3.1 percent gain.

The euro retreated 0.2 percent to $1.09655 after jumping 0.9 percent on Friday. It is poised to end October with a 2.5 percent loss.

Adding to the list of potential market-moving events this week is a raft of factory activity surveys on Tuesday for many economies; central bank policy meetings, including Japan and Australia on Tuesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday and the Bank of England on Thursday; and U.S. October non-farm payrolls on Friday.

Oil prices extended their slide – driven by renewed oversupply concerns – and have surrendered most of the gains made in the first half of October. They are set to end the month with meager gains.

The latest oil woes came after non-OPEC producers failed to make any specific commitment to join the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in limiting output to support prices on Saturday.

U.S. crude slid 0.4 percent to $48.52 a barrel on Monday, but looked set to edge up 0.6 percent for the month, while global benchmark Brent also retreated 0.4 percent to $49.50, up 0.9 percent in October.

“There was a lot of talk and nobody managed to agree on anything. That has been pushing the market down,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA brokerage in Singapore.

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