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UPDATE 1-Trump-Biden clash over climate change adds to cloud over oil stocks

(Changes lead, adds comments on oil)

Oct 23 (Reuters) - U.S. Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden’s clean energy plans put the spotlight on oil companies and stocks during Thursday’s final debate with President Donald Trump, even though crude oil futures fell very marginally after the statements.

The last debate ahead of the Nov.3 contest saw a restrained Trump and Biden discuss a range of topics, including the economy, the coronavirus pandemic and climate change.

Trump pounced on Biden’s comment that he “would transition from the oil industry”, asking voters in states where the oil industry is important to note his stance, while other Republicans also said Biden would kill millions of jobs.

U.S. crude oil futures dipped 0.17% to $40.58 a barrel, following a 1.5% gain in the previous session.

After the debate, Biden told reporters he was referring to a plan to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and there would be jobs created in other alternatives.

“It does sound like a reiteration of existing policy,” said Rob Carnell, Asia research head at Dutch bank ING, since Biden’s pledge of net-zero-emissions by 2050 will require less reliance on oil and more reliance on renewables for energy.

“But there is a little bit of denial, everywhere, that this is actually going to happen...it’s possible that the market reaction has been the dawning realisation that this is actually what it means.”

The Dow Jones oil and gas index is down nearly 49% this year.

U.S. stock futures barely moved after the debate although the Japanese yen ticked up investors’ caution increased into the election.

U.S. S&P 500 E-minis were down 0.07% at 3,452 points at 0500 GMT.

“Biden came through better than Trump in this debate and this should help to cement his lead over Trump and may just help him to cross the final line with a win,” said Vasu Menon, a senior strategist at OCBC Wealth Management in Singapore.

The debate followed over a week of choppy trade on Wall Street, with investors worried about whether Congress and Trump will approve another fiscal stimulus package before the election.

Despite a recent decline, the S&P 500 remains up over 3% since the first Trump-Biden debate on Sept. 29, with investors voicing growing comfort with a potential Biden victory as he increased his lead in polls.

Many investors in recent months have held that a second term for Trump, who favors tax cuts and deregulation, would be good for the stock market.

The S&P 500 is up more than 60% since Trump’s unexpected election victory on Nov. 8, 2016, beating the 42% gain in the first four years after Democratic President Barack Obama won in 2008.

Investors view Biden as likely to raise taxes, especially if Democrats wrest control of the Senate from Republicans. However, a Biden presidency, coupled with a Democratic Senate, would likely mean a larger fiscal stimulus plan than what a Republican Senate would agree to, many investors believe.

However, it is unclear how Wall Street would react to the election outcome. In the run-up to the 2016 election, investors widely predicted that a Trump victory would hurt stocks due to his unpredictability and trade-war threats against China and Mexico.

With expectations that the increased use of mail-in ballots by voters concerned about the coronavirus could mean no immediate winner is announced, S&P 500 options show investors are bracing for volatility in November and December.

With 12 days to go, some 47.5 million Americans have turned in ballots, roughly eight times the number of early votes cast at about same point before the 2016 presidential contest, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project. (Reporting by Noel Randewich in San Francisco, Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong, Tom Westbrook and Anshuman Daga in Singapore Editing by Vidya Ranganathan, Sam Holmes and Kim Coghill)

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