Having experienced nearly every other type of intrigue this year, we find ourselves now in the midst of a contested Presidential election.
Going into the election, any number of scenarios were possible, though the market seemed to have been pricing in a so-called “blue wave”, a Democratic sweep of the White House, Senate and House. The belief was that a Democratic agenda would include a robust stimulus package of greater than $2 trillion, followed by a large tax-hike and increased social spending.
It now appears clear that Joe Biden will be the next President, the House stayed in Democratic hands albeit with a smaller majority, and the Senate remains in Republican hands, at least until the January 9, 2021 special elections in Georgia.
The financial markets cheered this outcome with a nice 5% rally post-election last week. We may see some volatility over the next several weeks as vote recounts occur in a couple of states and lawsuits by President Trump and Republicans work through the legal system. The likelihood of any of that changing the outcome are quite slim.
It’s our belief that the media cares a lot more about elections than markets. True, major policy shifts can have an outsized short-term impact on markets as sectors and asset classes get re-priced. In the long-run, however, the market has a tendency to shrug off changes in political leadership, and focus more on the ability of corporate America to grow earnings.
During the transition period – now through Inauguration on January 20, 2021 – the US still faces some serious challenges: (1) Covid cases are spiking to over 125,000 a day; (2) the economic recovery seems to be slowing due to this spike in the virus; (3) because of this slowdown we need a stimulus bill passed sooner rather than later; (4) the government needs to approve a spending bill by December 11, 2020 or face a shut-down. The risk here is that President Trump’s challenge to the election results drags out (the 2000 election wasn’t decided until 12/8/2000) and that Congress can’t/won’t compromise and pass stimulus and spending bills during the transition period. This would definitely set the economy back and mean a terrible holiday season for those dealing with Covid and those unemployed because of it.
So now let’s turn to the future under a President Biden with a split Congress. Let’s Make a Deal!
While Washington DC is a politically toxic city and we just had several years of hyper-partisanship, there is a glimmer of hope that Biden and McConnell will have a cordial and productive relationship. They worked together for 24 years in the Senate, back in the 80’s and 90’s, when there was more willingness to compromise. They even worked together when Biden was Vice President under Obama and served as that administration’s point person with the Senate. By most accounts, they have a good relationship. McConnell was the only Republican member of Congress to attend Beau Biden’s funeral.
Both of them are known as master deal-makers, with extraordinary institutional knowledge of the Senate. They know how to get things done. By contrast, neither Barack Obama nor Donald Trump were comfortable dealing with the Senate. However, in order to get much done, both Biden and McConnell may have to tilt toward the center. There’s a decent chance for things like a stimulus bill or infrastructure spending.
So will there be nothing but gridlock? Maybe not. There may be surprising deal-making between these two old adversaries, who surely realize that they may have to cooperate if they want to get anything done.
As we had no bias going into the election, your portfolios were positioned for whatever outcome might ensue. Our strategies are designed to pay off over years, not weeks or months. We will be watching closely as things change over coming weeks. If the facts change, our decisions may change. Until then, our diversified allocations continue to limit risk, offer the potential for relative returns, and allow us to stay open to changing circumstances.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions. Also, please share this update with anyone who you feel it would benefit.
Sources: Nottingham Advisors, Ivy Investments
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