The most divisive and chaotic Presidential election campaign in recent memory is now over. Donald Trump emerged as the victor and now the markets must digest the news. Here are my impressions and analysis of what investors could expect moving forward.
Conventional wisdom was that Hillary Clinton would be the 45th President and that at least one house in the Congress would remain in Republican hands. Many investors have felt comfortable with a divided government.
It was predicted that if Donald Trump won the election, the stock markets would move violently lower. On the night of the election, as the results poured in and it looked more likely that Donald Trump had a chance of winning, the stock market futures sold off in excess of 850 points! As this possibility became a reality, the markets started to determine winners and losers of a Trump presidency.
Cause for Optimism?
There was already some optimism built into the stock market outlook for 2017. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (S&P 500 Index) has had declining earnings for the past five quarters in a row. The Earnings Per Share growth (loss) for 2016 is estimated to be -0.2%, which is disappointing, but reflects the nagging drag energy has had. Upcoming 2017 is anticipated to be a different story. The consensus view points to a recovery of 6.1% in earnings with robust revenue growth because of higher wages, low gas prices and personal wealth gains (largely from the stock and housing markets). (Zacks Investment Management Newsletter, November 9, 2016)
However, there seems to be more optimism about the potential for even faster growth in the economy. This perception results from the view that there will be greater spending on infrastructure, lower tax rates, less regulation and, in general, a more business-friendly climate. That can be offset, in part, by the fear of a disruption in foreign trade resulting from challenging established trade agreements and a tougher stance on immigration.
The following is a list of sectors that can be affected by a Trump Presidency and a Republican Congress.
Energy – Expect fewer regulations for big oil companies and reduced subsidies for alternative energy. I expect more permits for development on federal lands, more drilling, more pipelines, and more coal, which could also benefit some railroad companies. However, some of the energy stocks may not perform as well because the potential additional supply could cause the price of oil to go down and stay down for an extended period of time.
Financials – There has been a very strong rally in this sector as soon as it was announced that Trump won the presidential election. He has promised to freeze new financial regulations and roll back some of the older ones including the controversial Dodd-Frank Act. This would likely favor smaller banks, which would benefit more from reduced regulatory costs. In addition, if interest rates move higher (see below), banks will enjoy higher net margin interest, which is crucial to their profitability.
Manufacturing – This will be an interesting sector to watch. On the one hand, manufacturing could be hurt with Trump’s tough talk on trade, including tariffs (particularly on imports from China) and tearing up NAFTA. It could be just tough talk and the start of a negotiation. On the other hand, lower energy prices could help manufacturing companies reduce costs.
Infrastructure – Most people agree that America needs to revitalize its ailing infrastructure. I expect big spending in this area. This would probably lead to more jobs, faster economic growth and a higher deficit, which could lead to higher interest rates. Trump has mentioned that he would have companies invest their own money to fund some of these projects, which would lead these companies to charge the users (i.e., toll roads) so the projects wouldn’t be all funded by the government.
Health Care – Trump wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and allow individuals to buy policies directly from insurers that would likely be cheaper, but may not provide equally complete coverage. A centerpiece of his plan is allowing insurers to sell policies across state lines to promote competition. Fewer restrictions may bode well for health care and pharmaceutical companies.
Technology – These are worldwide companies. Since the election this sector has sold off for three reasons:
- Technology companies use all of the tools available, such as using lower-tax countries (i.e., Ireland) to claim their income, thereby paying a lower tax rate than they would if they claimed the income in the U.S. With corporate tax reform, this tool may be removed and these companies may have to pay tax at a higher rate.
- Many of these companies depend on foreign workers and any reform or restriction to immigration may negatively affect these companies.
- The stocks have done very well during the last year and it is possible some money managers are locking in profits in this sector and reallocating some money to other sectors, such as financials and infrastructure plays.
Bonds – Interest rates have risen fairly dramatically since the election. One could say it was a knee-jerk reaction to an unexpected result. The bond market has quickly re-priced bonds to reflect a new reality. It appears that the new President and Congress will agree to new fiscal measures that will complement monetary policy and fuel more growth in the economy. The consensus view is that this will in turn fuel inflation and, hence, higher interest rates. This is bad for bonds that are interest rate sensitive, such as longer-dated Treasuries or high-quality corporate bonds (although in time this will be better for savers).
The level of optimism in the markets is surprising given the derision Trump faced from Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce during the election. While markets have initially rallied, we will be measured in our approach and take our time to review potential opportunities as well as areas to avoid. When we make recommendations to adjust, where appropriate, they will be based not on knee-jerk reactions but on the expected fundamentals going forward.
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