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S&P posts longest losing streak in nearly 36 years as investors gear up for US election

U.S. equities closed lower on Friday after the release of key employment data while investors braced themselves for the election next week.

The Dow Jones industrial average ended about 40 points lower, with Procter & Gamble contributing the most losses. The S&P 500 fell nearly 0.2 percent and extended its losing streak to nine sessions, with consumer staples leading decliners. The S&P's losing streak is the longest in almost 36 years. During that streak, the index has fallen nearly 3 percent.

The Nasdaq composite fell about a quarter of a percent. The three major indexes all posted weekly losses.

"Nobody wants to do anything today. ... Everybody is on hold for Tuesday," said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist at TD Ameritrade. "I think next week you'll start seeing Wall Street coronate winners and losers. What I mean is you're going to start seeing investors switching sectors very quickly."

The CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), widely considered the best gauge of fear in the market, rose 3.76 percent to trade near 22.9. The so-called fear gauge is also up more than 40 percent this week.

The race between Republican Donald Trump and his Democratic counterpart, Hillary Clinton, has become tighter since last week, when the FBI said it was investigating new emails related to Clinton. According to data from RealClearPolitics, the average spread between Clinton and trump is now just 1.7 points in a four-way race, down from about 5 points last week.

"The market is pricing in a Hillary Clinton victory, but it's also been pricing in a split ticket, with Clinton taking the White House and a split in Congress," said Tom Siomades, head of Hartford Funds Investment Consulting Group.

"It seems like the market is obsessed with the election," said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors, adding that price movements around an election are "very much a short-term thing."

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

On the data front, jobs in the U.S. grew by 161,000 last month, while economists polled by Reuters expected an increase of 175,000. The unemployment rate stood at 4.9 percent —in line with expectations —as investors got to digest the final payrolls report before Tuesday's presidential election.

"I would consider this a middle-of-the road report. I think the interesting thing about the report is that Hurricane Matthew didn't adversely affect jobs growth. In the past, we've seen hurricanes depress jobs growth," said Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor.

But the bigger number in the report could be wages, with average hourly earnings climbing 10 cents and reflecting a 2.8 percent annualized increase, according to the report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"This is a pretty positive wages picture and it's what you'd expect to see with such low unemployment," Glassdoor's Chamberlain said.

Investors have been paying even more attention to U.S. economic data as they try to determine the likelihood of the Federal Reserve raising rates.

Hartford Funds' Siomades said this jobs report "will lock in the December rate hike," adding that any number around these levels would have been "a green light for the Fed."

U.S. Treasurys traded higher, with the two-year note yield near 0.79 percent and the benchmark 10-year yield around 1.77 percent. The U.S. dollar fell against a basket of currencies, with the euro near $1.113 and the yen around 103.

"Things are hot, when it comes to the US economy and today's number has cement that idea. You can criticise the Fed that they are thinking of increasing the interest rate when the GDP growth could be slowing for the final quarter of this year," Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets, said in a note.

"But the fact is that the Fed is very close in achieving their GDP, inflation and unemployment target. Throughout this year, they have been aching to increase the rate," he said.

In a speech, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart said Fed rate hikes over the next two years would be very gradual. "I anticipate a very gradually rising interest rate environment over the next two years...I do not see rates marching higher for an extended period in a preprogrammed tightening campaign. The economy does not call for that, at least not at this time," he said.

Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said in another speech that the case for a rate hike was strengthening. and Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said the labor market is strong and the central bank could overshoot its goals.

In oil markets, U.S. crude prices whipsawed, settling 1.32 percent lower at $44.07 per barrel, after OPEC's secretary general denied reports of tensions resurfacing between Saudi Arabia and Iran that could scupper a key output cut deal. WTI had briefly traded positive after the news broke.

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 fell 42.39 points, or 0.24 percent, to close at 17,888.28, with Procter & Gamble leading decliners and Caterpillar the top advancer.

The S&P 500 fell 3.48 point, or 0.17 percent, to end at 2,085.18, with health care leading five sectors higher and consumer staples the biggest laggard.

The Nasdaq fell 12.04 points, or 0.24 percent, to 5,046.37.

Advancers were a step ahead of decliners at the New York Stock Exchange, with an exchange volume of 902.51 million and a composite volume of 3.774 billion at the close.

Gold futures for December delivery rose $1.20 to settle at $1,304.50 per ounce.

— CNBC's Jeff Cox and Reuters contributed to this report.

On tap this week:

Friday

4:00 p.m. Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer at IMF on policy changes after great recession