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Dow surges more than 350 points in best day since March as US election looms

U.S. equities kicked off the week on a high note, closing sharply higher on Monday after the FBI again cleared Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private server.

"The likelihood of [a split government] is now higher, but you also had the market down for nine days in a row, so you're also getting a rubber-band effect," said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab.

Financial markets in the U.S. and around the world had been largely pricing in a victory for Clinton over Republican nominee, Donald Trump. Market expectations for Congress, meanwhile, had been for the House to remain under GOP control while the Senate flips in favor of the Democrats.

"Assuming the election is as expected, ... I think investors will pivot to the Fed," Sonders said. "That said, if it's a Trump win, the market will continue to focus on that."

The Dow Jones industrial average rose approximately 370 points, with Goldman Sachs and UnitedHealth contributing the most gains to the tune of 35 points and 27 points, respectively.

"This is mostly a political-relief rally. The market tends to favor a divided-control scenario [in government] and this raises those odds," said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private Bank. "This is a week to settle out the election and then we'll see where investors turn their attention to."

The S&P 500 advanced more than 2 percent, as financials, industrials and health care led all sectors higher, and snapped a nine-day losing streak, its longest since December 1980. The Nasdaq composite outperformed, rising 2.4 percent. The three major indexes also posted their best day since March 1.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

"In terms of the market and its possible response on Wednesday, today's reaction to the FBI news is obvious evidence that market participants have wrapped up the world in a nice and easy box," said Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group.

"Hillary wins, good for stocks. Trump wins, bad for stocks. But, anyone who thinks deeper than this knows that the response is going to be much more nuanced. Ask any owner of a healthcare, financial or defense stock," he said in a note.

Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said in a note investors should also watch out for any surprises. "Donald Trump's victory will not only bring the knee jerk reaction for the market, but we are also concerned about the geopolitical uncertainty," he said.

In a letter sent to Congress on Sunday, FBI Director James Comey said the bureau had "not changed its conclusions," reached in July, on Clinton's private email server. This new investigation, which came to light on October 28, kept financial markets across the globe on edge.

Entering Monday, the S&P had fallen more than 2 percent since the new probe was announced. The Mexican peso, considered a proxy trade for the U.S. election — which will be held on Tuesday — had fallen as much as 3.89 percent since October 28. Since then, Clinton's lead in the polls over Trump has narrowed significantly, according to data from RealClearPolitics.

"From everything I've read, it seems like Clinton's winning by about 2 percent, ... but there is a concern out there that the polls are not correct, and that they underestimate the number of Trump supporters," said Thomas Wilson, senior investment manager at Brinker Capital.

But the Mexican currency popped around 2 percent against the greenback Monday to trade near 18.653. Mexican stocks also ripped higher, as the iShares MSCI Mexico Capped ETF (EWW) gained 5.4 percent, on posting its largest one-day percentage increase since 2011.

The U.S. dollar also rose broadly against a basket of currencies, with the euro near $1.104 and the yen around 104.5.

Other asset classes also saw significant moves, as investors unloaded previous risk-off positions. U.S. Treasurys fell, with the two-year note yield near 0.81 percent and the benchmark 10-year yield around 1.82 percent.

Gold futures for December delivery also fell, settling $25.10 lower at $1,279.40 per ounce. Meanwhile, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, fell 16.2 percent lower, near 18.87, and snapped a nine-day winning streak.

S&P (blue) vs gold futures (green) intradaySource: FactSet

Separately, in an interview with CNBC's "Squawk Box," Appaloosa Management founder David Tepper said Monday he has become more bullish on stocks in the past few weeks after generally being "pretty cautious on the market, not outright bearish."

In oil markets, U.S. crude gained 1.86 percent to settle at $44.89 per barrel, boosted by a commitment from OPEC to stick to a deal to cut output, but prices remained more than $7 below last month's high due to persistent doubts over the feasibility of the group's plan.

Symbol
Name
Price
 
Change
%Change
DJIA
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S&P 500
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NASDAQ
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The Dow Jones industrial average rose 371.32 points, or 2.08 percent, to close at 18,259.60, with Intel leading all 30 components higher.

The S&P 500 rose 46.34 points, or 2.22 percent, to end at 2,131.52, with health care leading all 11 sectors higher.

The Nasdaq composite gained 119.80 points, or 2.37 percent, to close at 5,166.17.

About five stocks advanced for every decliner at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 894.74 million and a composite volume of 3.643 billion in at the close.

High-frequency trading accounted for 52 percent of November's daily trading volume of about 7.91 billion shares as of Friday, according to TABB Group. During the peak levels of high-frequency trading in 2009, about 61 percent of 9.8 billion of average daily shares traded were executed by high-frequency traders.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

On tap this week:

Monday

3:00 p.m. Consumer credit

Tuesday

U.S. Election Day

Earnings: Toyota, ArcelorMittal, DR Horton, Johnson Controls, CVS Health, Cinemark, Valeant, Momo, SeaWorld, TripAdvisor,Echostar, Valvoline, Vivint Solar

6:00 a.m. NFIB survey

7:45 a.m. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans at Council on Foreign Relations

10:00 a.m. JOLTs survey

12:20 p.m. Chicago Fed's Evans

Wednesday

Earnings: Burberry, Viacom, Wendy's, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Dish Networks, Mylan Labs, SunLife Financial, Sunoco Logistics, Popeyes, Shake Shack, Silver Wheaton, The Container Store, Flowers Food, Atmos Energy, AmeriGas Partners

10:00 a.m. Wholesale trade

1:30 p.m. Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari

9:00 p.m. San Francisco Fed President John Williams

Thursday

Earnings: Disney, AstraZeneca, Siemens, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Kohl's, Macy's, Manulife Financial, Ralph Lauren, SodaStream, Nvidia, Petrobras, Blue Buffalo, Sunrun,

8:30 a.m. Initial claims

9:00 a.m. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard

2:00 p.m. Federal budget

Friday

Veterans Day

Bond market closed, stock market normal hours

Earnings: Allianz, JC Penney, Brookfield Asset Management

10:00 a.m. Consumer sentiment