Asian shares languish as jittery investors eye 2016 election

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

Shares fell in Asia on Wednesday as jitters over the U.S. presidential election and weaker oil prices shook investor confidence.

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KEEPING SCORE: Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.8 percent to 17,118.29 as the yen rose against the U.S. dollar. The Hang Seng of Hong Kong dropped 1.4 percent to 22,819.92 and South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.4 percent to 1,979.13. The S&P ASX/200 of Australia sank 1.2 percent to 5,229.00 and the Shanghai Composite lost 0.5 percent to 3,106.66. Shares also fell in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.

WALL STREET: The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.6 percent to 18,037.10 and the Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.7 percent to 2,111.72. The Nasdaq composite also lost 0.7 percent, to 5,153.58.

ELECTION WATCH: Investors increasingly are focusing on the presidential race, as polls between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump appear to have tightened following last week's news that the FBI had opened a new investigation into Clinton's private email server. The narrowing in the race has brought more uncertainty: The VIX, a volatility measure dubbed the "fear gauge" for Wall Street, jumped 14 percent on Tuesday to its highest level since June.

QUOTABLE: "It was always likely that investors were going to be cautious in the lead up to next week's U.S. election. However, with polls suggesting that Donald Trump's prospects are improving that caution is translating into nervousness," said Ric Spooner, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

FED WATCH: Aside from the election cliffhanger, the Federal Reserve will wrap up a two-day meeting on Wednesday. It is widely expected the nation's central bank will keep interest rates stable since the election is just next week.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark oil futures lost 36 cents to $46.31 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 19 cents to $46.67 a barrel Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, was down 30 cents at $47.84 a barrel. It lost 47 cents to $48.14 a barrel in London.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 103.85 yen from 104.02 yen, while the euro rose to $1.1071 from $1.1055.