Election update: Blue-nami flips to consensus bull catalyst

US Presidential Election

US presidential election update: Bank of America strategists say the Blue-nami outcome, which had been initially considered negative for equities, is being priced in better by the market and may now be a positive. “Blue wave election outcome (Democrats winning) has curiously flipped from consensus bear to bull catalyst in recent months,” they say. 

The S&P 500 corrected through September, flushing out some of the weaker hands and allowing longs to cautiously rebuild as the market traded the 3200-3400 range. The recent upside break came despite negotiations around a broad $2.2tn stimulus package all but breaking down entirely. In this period polls have reverted to showing a greater likelihood of a Biden win and odds shortening on a Democrat clean sweep. 

As noted in our election playbookthere are lots of reasons why the market could really like a Biden presidency, even if tax and regulation could be a problem.  

Clean sweep

Ultimately though it may matter less in the long run who enters the White House than whether the Senate turns blue or stays red. Unusually, the economy may benefit more from unity than the current polarisation – the normal idea that gridlock in Washington is good, because it stops politicians from interfering with the free market, doesn’t quite wash this time. 

The pandemic has upended the norms and the economic backdrop to this election. Cohesion in Washington would likely deliver the kind of fiscal stimulus required to flood the economy with money and get the wheels turning again. 

A Democrat clean sweep would probably result in a far larger package of support and therefore deliver a much stronger stimulus than we would anticipate if Trump wins and the Senate remains in Republican hands whilst the House of Representatives stays blue. Biden’s plans to stimulate the economy involve enormous spending pledges – and to be fair, an increase in the budget deficit is exactly what the economy needs right now. The Federal Reserve has already said it will not get in the way by raising rates should inflation emerge – a major policy shift announced in August that has huge implications for the economy and the application of fiscal policy. 

Wall St or Main St?

Joe Biden would raise taxes, which is supposed to be bad, but Trump’s tax cuts disproportionately benefited the rich, large corporations and people who own stocks. This does not generate additional consumer spend in the same way as a more evenly distributed tax cut. To borrow a line from a leading economist, how many additional swimming pools did Jeff Bezos put in because his tax rate fell under Trump? 

JPMorgan conducted an investor survey recently: 79 per cent said the worst-case scenario would be a Democrat president and Senate, whilst 49 per cent said the best would be a Republican president and Senate. But that may be more about a fear of regulation (and higher taxes) than a belief that a Biden presidency and Democrat clean sweep would be bad for stocks. 

Meanwhile the BoA report also highlighted how renewable energy stocks may front run a Democratic victory in presidential and Congressional elections. Clean energy stocks make up a large part of our Biden20 Blend.