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W. House refuses to ‘criticize or defend’ FBI director over Clinton emails

Obama and clinton
Obama and Clinton during early campaigning. The White House is cautious on the FBI email allegations

Washington, United States | AFP | 

The White House on Monday opted for caution in reacting to FBI Director James Comey’s bombshell decision to announce further investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email days before the 2016 presidential election.

Spokesman Josh Earnest said he would “neither defend nor criticize” Comey, who has been blasted by Democrats since Friday.

Earnest described him as a “man of integrity” but also pointed to norms that “limit public discussion of facts that are collected in the context” of ongoing investigations.

“The president believes that it’s important for those norms and traditions and guidelines to be followed,” the spokesman said.

US vote twist spooks stock markets

European and Asian stocks slipped Monday while Wall Street recovered some poise after being spooked by the latest dramatic twist in the US presidential election race.

Caution was the watchword following news the FBI would further probe Hillary Clinton’s emails, in a move that fuelled fresh uncertainty about the outcome of the US presidential election barely a week away.

Traders globally broadly expect Democratic candidate and Wall Street favourite Clinton to sweep to victory over rival Donald Trump, considered a loose cannon.

But FBI chief James Comey’s announcement that the bureau was investigating newly-found emails which may be pertinent to the Clinton case sent shudders through trading floors, with US stocks tumbling Friday — and the dollar taking a brief hit.

It was “the idea of a Trump presidency that was spooking markets on Monday”, said CMC Markets analyst Jasper Lawler as the Dow, London’s FTSE-100, Germany’s DAX and the Paris CAC-40 all lost ground, London and Paris losing more than half of one percent.

Madrid, Rome and Amsterdam likewise drifted down — by 1.15 percent in Milan’s case.

“Stocks in Europe are feeling the aftershock of US election jitters that struck US markets on Friday when the FBI opened up a new probe into Hillary Clinton’s emails,” said Lawler, foreseeing “a source of uncertainty that could taint Hillary Clinton’s initial time in the Oval Office.”

For Craig Erlam of Oanda, “coming just over a week before the election, the new probe into Clinton’s emails could do real damage” to Clinton’s poll lead.

But he added: “Markets aren’t exactly getting too carried away” at this stage, with polls still pointing to a victory for the Democrat.

Wall Street’s sell-off Friday filtered through to Asia, where dealers are waiting on a series of key events this week, including central bank policy meetings in Japan and the US, and the release of US jobs figures on Friday.

“People are very much waiting n the central banks,” Saxo Banque analyst Andrea Tueni told AFP, adding: “We’re into the US election run-up amid a little anxiety on the outcome, engendering much hesitation.”

 Uncertainty at BoE 

In Europe, the Bank of England delivers its latest monetary policy decisions Thursday alongside updated growth and inflation forecasts as uncertainty lingers over Brexit and clouds over the future of BoE governor Mark Carney.

Media speculation over the weekend was divided on the fate of Canadian national Carney, with competing claims as to whether he was set to announce his departure.

“Pro-Brexit politicians have accused the governor of interference, but are now, somewhat ironically, interfering themselves in their calls for Mr Carney to either go or stick narrowly to his brief,” said Rebecca O’Keeffe, head of investment at stockbroker Interactive Investor.

“This increased political interference is unhelpful and pushes against the boundaries of the Bank of England’s independence.”

Elsewhere Monday, oil prices also fell — dragging energy firms lower — following OPEC’s failure last week to hammer out details of an agreement to cut output and ease a supply glut.

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