U.S. stocks gain on widening Clinton lead, oil surges

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks strode higher on Monday, lifted by Hillary Clinton’s widening lead in the U.S. presidential campaign and by a surge in oil prices, while sterling was under pressure on concerns Britain will make a hard exit from the European Union.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., October 6, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Brent crude prices rose to their highest in a year after Russia said it was ready to join a proposed deal to cap oil production in the hope of stemming a two-year price slide, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in Istanbul.

Sterling extended losses from Friday, when the British currency plunged to a 31-year low in what has been described as a “flash crash” event.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released on Monday showed Clinton increasing the lead she has held over Donald Trump for months.

The survey, conducted over the weekend but before Sunday night’s debate, showed Clinton with 46-percent support among likely voters in a four-way match-up, compared to 35 percent for Trump.

“Investors probably perceive a Trump victory as a great unknown. As fresh opinion polls show Clinton’s lead widening, investors are likely taking some solace from that,” said Andrew Wilkinson, chief market strategist at Interactive Brokers LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.

A snap poll taken by CNN immediately following the debate indicated Clinton had beaten Trump, 57 percent to 34 percent.

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Investors see a Clinton administration as more predictable than one led by Trump, who has raised fears of market volatility around his candidacy, said Rick Meckler, president of hedge fund LibertyView Capital Management LLC in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The Mexican peso, the largest emerging market currency in terms of trading volume, surged almost 2 percent against the U.S. dollar as markets trimmed chances of a Trump victory in November.

The Republican candidate has vowed he would build a wall on the border with Mexico and renegotiate or scrap the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if he is elected.

Stocks in Europe rose in tandem with the U.S. market. The pan-regional FTSEurofirst 300 .FTEU3 index closed 0.86 percent higher at 1,350.29, while MSCI's all-country world equity index .MIWD00000PUS gained 0.37 percent.

The Dow Jones industrial average .DJI closed up 88.55 points, or 0.49 percent, to 18,329.04. The S&P 500 .SPX rose 9.92 points, or 0.46 percent, to 2,163.66 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 36.27 points, or 0.69 percent, to 5,328.67.

The dollar firmed across the board as it continued to benefit from expectations the Federal Reserve would likely raise interest rates in December. Traders expect a 70.2 percent chance that the Fed will hike at a Dec. 13-14 policymakers’ meeting, up from 66 percent early Friday, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Investors are looking to Wednesday’s release of minutes of the latest Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting to see how close the U.S. central bank was to hiking rates last month.

The dollar rose 0.69 percent against the yen to 103.61 yen JPY= and climbed against the euro, which fell 0.56 percent to $1.1136 EUR=. These gains pushed the dollar index up 0.30 percent at 96.921 .DXY.

Global benchmark Brent crude futures LCOc1 reached the highest level since Oct. 9, 2015 at $53.73, before paring some gains to settled $1.21 higher at $53.14.

U.S. futures CLc1 also gained, touching four-month highs, rising $1.54 to settle at $51.35 a barrel.

The U.S. bond market was closed for the Columbus Day holiday.

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by Nick Zieminski