We knew this election would be a binary event – a decision in which there are two possible outcomes, and the difference would be huge. The pre-election polls suggested that Hillary Clinton would win, therefore things would not change much from an economic or regulatory perspective – very modest growth, very gently rising interest rates. This favors economically insensitive, dividend-paying stocks, because if the economy is not going to grow much, profits won’t rise. Most of an investor’s return, it follows, will have to come from dividends. Utility, Consumer Staples, and Telecom stocks became effectively bonds, since they pay a pretty good dividend and they tend to be recession resistant.
Of course, Hillary Clinton did not win. The market believes that the Donald Trump administration is almost certainly going to change things quite a bit. Yesterday gave us a taste of what the market expects from Donald Trump. Some of the changes to note:
- The market expects deficit spending as several new infrastructure programs are initiated. This favorably impacted industrial and materials stocks. Bonds were crushed as the market digested the inflationary potential of this change.
- The market expects the regulatory environment to change 180 degrees. Environmental concerns will no longer stop oil drilling or coal mining. Energy and materials stocks got a boost. Environmental services companies understandably did not fare well.
- With inflation concerns causing long term bond yields to spike, financial services companies gained. Wider net interest margins are bullish for lenders.
- With the cost of borrowing money rising, slow growing large companies will have a tougher time borrowing money to buy back their shares to give the illusion of faster growth (or even ANY growth). P/E multiples for the Cola-Colas and IBMs of the world are almost certain to contract.
- Technology companies were among Clinton’s biggest supporters as they rely on liberal immigration policies to attract qualified foreign tech workers. Tech was the only economically sensitive industry to decline yesterday. I don’t foresee it being a market-leading industry in the near term.
- Emerging markets had a terrible day. The dollar strengthened on the idea of stronger economic growth in the U.S., while the threat of trade wars weighed heavily in the minds of emerging market investors. EM stocks had performed very well this year as their fundamentals are on the whole better than those of developed markets. That move is OVER. That argument holds true for EM bonds as well.
So, unless President Trump governs differently from candidate Trump, investors should consider:
- Prepare for higher inflation by reducing interest rate sensitivity in their bond portfolios;
- Prepare for greater economic growth by shifting stock portfolios away from stability and dividends and toward economic sensitivity and revenue growth.
- Prepare for trade conflict by cutting exposure to emerging markets (and perhaps non-dollar investments in general).
- Humans are experts at pattern recognition. The stock market didn’t sell off partly because everyone compared the election to Brexit, and we all know that selling after Brexit proved to be foolish. This is not Brexit. That said, a lot of money came out of the market prior to the election and is coming back in now that uncertainty is removed. A relief rally in the short term is a pretty sure bet. The bigger problems – staggering public debt in developed countries, lack of growth globally, and poor demographics – are still going to be with us, however. Add risk exposure, but thoughtfully.
- The sharp change in the characteristics of the market provides an opportunity for active management to shine. Active managers need dispersion (high variation in performance between both industries and stocks within an industry) in order to outperform the indices and it appears that we are going to get it.