Money managers are getting a number of questions from clients about the election — not whom to vote for but how it could affect their money.
The historical trading data can be parsed a number of ways, but the consensus view from money managers: Don’t be rash.
“You don’t want to trade your portfolio based on the outcome of an election,” said Carol Schleif, chief investment officer of Abbot Downing, the Minneapolis-based wealth management arm of Wells Fargo.
“Aside from the election, underneath you’ve got a pretty solid economy going on,” she said. “It’s not great gangbusters, but you’ve got two barbells of demographics going on.”
Baby boomers, she said, are feeling more comfortable about prospects of retiring, and younger workers are moving into peak earnings years with plenty of good job prospects. Both groups should boost the economy, with retirees able to spend their savings or pensions and the younger generation building families and buying homes.
Schleif advocates sticking with your investment strategy this fall, since campaign rhetoric is generally more severe than any policy that eventually gets negotiated between Congress and a president.
Strategists at Wells looked at four possible outcomes: a Democratic president and divided Congress; Republican president and divided Congress; Democratic president and Republican Congress; and a Republican president and Republican Congress.
They don’t see more than a 40 percent probability for any of the four. But their prediction for the best possible outcome for the market, based on historical data, slightly favored the 40 percent probability of a Democratic president with a divided Congress.
“No matter which way the election comes down, it will remove a chunk of uncertainty,” Schleif said.
Other investment pros also cautioned not to drive long-term investment decisions by the elections.
“There is no question that empirical evidence suggests that markets tend to get a little volatile the closer you get to an election, and even a little bit afterward while the dust settles,” said David Joy, chief market strategist for Minneapolis-based Ameriprise. “All of that argues for a little bit of a cautious view.”
Joy believes U.S. stocks may be a little overvalued right now, but that earnings growth should improve in the fourth quarter and that the U.S. economy will do better in the second half than it did in the first. He believes the markets have likely priced in the probability of rate hike from the Fed, so there remains room for the market to rise yet this year.
“We think from where the U.S. market is right now that we’ll close the year slightly higher,” he said. “Our year-end forecast that we made back in January was 2,175 (for the S&P 500). We revisited it a couple times, but haven’t changed it.”
“By no means would we suggest you stay out of the market,” Joy said.
Other managers can’t resist diving into historical market data to divine trends. Craig Johnson, Piper Jaffray’s senior technical research strategist, looked at Dow Jones industrial average pricing data back to 1887.
“Historically, when market returns are positive leading into an election (for the prior three months), the incumbent party generally wins the election,” he said in a recently published report.
Joy also referenced S&P 500 pricing data that showed similar results to the Dow index data. Up markets heading into the election favor incumbents.
The Dow is currently below its Aug. 1 close, so based just on the historical figures the current market trend favors a Trump presidency.
The Dow and S&P pricing stats have been right about 80 percent of the time. Current market and polling data indicate this year could fall into that other 20 percent, but there are about three trading weeks left before the election where the markets could gain ground.
“I think it’s important to look at history,” Joy said. “It can inform your thought process, but it is certainly not infallible.”
Johnson also looked at pricing trends of the Dow after elections.
“When a nonincumbent political party wins the election, the market tends to underperform relative to an incumbent victory,” he said.
His pricing history suggests the best outcome for the markets would be a Democratic president and a split or Republican-controlled Congress.
However, John Tousley, senior market strategist at Goldman Sachs, told the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of Minnesota’s InvestMNt conference in the summer that investing should not be tied so tightly to politics.
His advice: “Don’t go for the headlines about who is best for the markets. Express your political passion with a vote, not a trade.”