Worries over the looming U.S. presidential election sent stocks lower for another session on Wednesday, even overshadowing an announcement from the Federal Reserve.
The S&P 500 was down 0.65%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.42%, and the Nasdaq decreased 0.93%. The S&P 500 has declined for seven straight sessions.
Conflicting polls have bred uncertainty over the upcoming presidential election throughout the week. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton holds a small advantage over battleground states in most polls, though an ABC poll on Tuesday showed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with a one-point lead.
"Trump's election chances have improved markedly since the release of FBI Director Comey's letter to Congress last Friday," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. "The revelation that the FBI reopened candidate Clinton's e-mail investigation has eroded her lead, and prompted investors to reevaluate their baseline election scenarios."
Safe-haven assets, such as gold and government bonds, rose on worries over the election. The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell 1.7% to 1.80%. Yields fall as bond prices rise. Gold rose 1.6% to $1,308 an ounce. The Mexican peso, seen as an indicator of Trump's chances of winning, fell 0.9% against the U.S. dollar.
The Fed left the fed funds rate at 0.25% to 0.5% at its November meeting, noting that it was waiting for some further evidence of progress toward its goals of full employment and 2% inflation. The decision was 8 to 2 with Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Kansas City Fed President Esther George the two dissenters.
"The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has continued to strengthen but decided, for the time being, to wait for some further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives," the central bank said in a statement. "The stance of monetary policy remains accommodative, thereby supporting further improvement."
The Fed's policy-making group was expected to stand pat on interest rates. A press conference hasn't been scheduled. The chances of a December rate hike sits at 72%, according to CME Group fed funds futures.
"All the signs now point to a hike in December," said Luke Bartholomew, fixed income investment manager at Aberdeen Asset Management. "The labor market is doing well, inflation is creeping up and growth is good. However, there's the small matter of the U.S. election to navigate in between now and the U.S. Federal Reserve's next meeting."
Crude inventories in the U.S. increased by 14.4 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 28, according to the Energy Information Administration. The increase was even worse than a separate reading from the American Petroleum Institute which showed an increase of 9.3 million barrels.
Prices were already under pressure on fading hopes that major oil producers, including the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, would agree to a production freeze deal. OPEC production rose by 170,000 barrels per day to new records in October.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil declined 2.73% to $46.12 a barrel on Wednesday, its lowest settlement since September 27.
The private sector added 147,000 jobs in October, according to the latest ADP report. Consensus was for a stronger reading of 170,000. The official U.S. jobs report for October will be released on Friday. Economists anticipate 173,000 jobs to have been added to nonfarm payrolls in October, accelerating from 156,000 in September. The unemployment rate is expected to dip to 4.9% from 5%, while average hourly earnings should climb to 0.3% from 0.2%.
In earnings news, Time Warner (TWX) slipped 1% despite breezing past third-quarter earnings estimates and exceeding sales forecasts. The media conglomerate earned an adjusted $1.83 a share, higher than consensus of $1.37. Revenue of $7.17 billion topped estimates of $7 billion. Higher profit and revenue was largely driven by the box office successes of Suicide Squad and Sully. AT&T (T) announced last month its intent to acquire Time Warner.
Alibaba (BABA) dropped more than 2% despite besting revenue and earnings estimates in its third quarter, a result the company said reflects its "increasing ability to monetize" its user base. The Chinese e-commerce site reported a 14% jump in annual active buyers to 439 million. Mobile monthly active users increased 30%. Total revenue jumped 55%.
Etsy (ETSY) reported a 33% surge in third-quarter revenue but shares fell 13%. Revenue increased to $87.6 million over the quarter, higher than an anticipated $86.8 million. The crafts marketplace also announced that its chief financial officer Kristina Salen had decided to leave the company in March. The search for a new CFO will begin immediately.
Square (SQ) narrowed its quarterly loss over its third quarter, besting analysts' estimates. The payments company reported a net loss of 9 cents a share, far narrower than 35 cents a year earlier. Consensus was for a net loss of 11 cents a share. Revenue also surpassed estimates.
More than two-thirds of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings so far this season. Of those that have reported, 71% have exceeded earnings estimates, while 53% have passed revenue forecasts. Third-quarter earnings are expected to grow 3.3%, according to Thomson Reuters, snapping the longest earnings recession since 2009.
In deal news, Broadcom (AVGO) agreed to acquire Brocade Communications (BRCD) for $5.9 billion, or $12.75 a share. The all-cash deal will be funded with new debt financing and available cash. Brocade shares surged nearly 10%.
Tesla (TSLA) said Tuesday that its deal to buy SolarCity (SCTY) , initially valued at $2.6 billion, is expected to add to its cash balance and contribute more than $1 billion to revenue in 2017. The company said in a Q&A session on Tuesday evening that it expects "SolarCity to add more than half a billion dollars in cash to Tesla's balance sheet over the next three years."