Who won the first US presidential debate?

US Presidential Election

Blonde Money CEO and XRay regular Helen Thomas recaps what we learned – or didn’t – from the first debate of the US Presidential Election between President Trump and Joe Biden.

Don’t forget you can catch the latest insight from Helen every week on XRay.

 

US Presidential Election Weekly: Federal Reserve & US Election

US Presidential Election

Our resident political commentator, XRay regular and Blonde Money CEO Helen Thomas, takes a look at the latest big developments in the race for the White House. This week, the focus is on why the Federal Reserve’s switch to average inflation targeting could help Donald Trump in the polls over the coming weeks.

Don’t forget you can catch more great insight from Helen every week with Blonde Markets and our Election2020 Weekly shows on XRay. For all the latest election updates, including polling data, visit our US Presidential Election 2020 microsite.

US Presidential Election Weekly: Republican National Convention

US Presidential Election

Our resident political commentator, XRay regular and Blonde Money CEO Helen Thomas, takes a look at the latest big developments in the race for the White House. This week, the focus is on the Republican National Convention.

Don’t forget you can catch more great insight from Helen every week with Blonde Markets and our Election2020 Weekly shows on XRay. For all the latest election updates, including polling data, visit our US Presidential Election 2020 microsite.

Mail-in Ballots: The Battle That Will Decide the War?

US Presidential Election

Track all the latest developments in the race for the White House with the special US Presidential Election 2020 site from Markets.com.

With the coronavirus pandemic calling into question the safety of in-person voting this November, many states have already taken steps towards allowing voters to cast their ballots from home during the US Presidential Election 2020.

President Trump has repeatedly spoken out against such actions, citing rampant voter fraud as a potential consequence of mail-in voting. However, behind the veneer of concern for electoral integrity, lies the real reason for Trump’s focus on the issue: turnout.

Turnout concerns for Trump as ‘swing states’ expand mail-in voting

If voters had turned out in 2016 as they had four years previously, Hillary Clinton would now be sitting pretty in the White House: a recent study shows that her 2016 defeat was largely down to a sharp decline in minority voting.

Recent research by the New York Times suggests that the proliferation of mail-in voting nationally could increase overall turnout by as much as 9%, with particularly large upswings among young and minority voters.

Given that these demographics heavily favour the Democrats, it is easy to see why the President is eager to discourage any move towards mail-in voting for November’s election. And yet, despite Pres Trump’s protestations, every one of the crucial ‘swing states’ has already taken steps towards a liberalisation of their vote from home policy.

Do mail-in ballots really disadvantage Trump?

If we look at each of these states in more detail however, we see Trump has less to fear. The rust belt states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania simply don’t have the diversity that would benefit from the mail-in votes.

If the Democrats are winning there, then they’ve already got enough cross-community support to be sure of success, whether it’s through ballots cast in person or through the post.

Focus on Florida in US Presidential Election

There is one state that is diverse enough to cause Trump to stumble, and that’s Florida. Famous for George Bush’s hanging chad victory in 2000, where he scraped out a gain of just 0.01% of the vote, it’s possible that mail-in ballots might boost the Democratic demographic enough for Biden to steal the state.

Hence Trump’s latest provocation. He has threatened to withhold funding from the US Postal Service (USPS), which could render mail-in voting unfeasible. It could also upset the President’s own voter base, as it risks alienating rural voters who are heavily dependent on the USPS.

Will threatening USPS aid progress on new stimulus bill?

The truth is that he is merely using this threat as a bargaining chip in the latest round of Congressional stimulus negotiations. If the Democrats play ball with his fiscal plans, he will leave the USPS alone.

It also is yet another classic Trumpian tactic to provoke the woke. He relishes poking at the dividing lines of America. The noise delivers oxygen to his campaign, stealing headlines from his opponents, as well as forcing the liberal left into ever more pearl-clutching outrage that incenses his right-wing voter base.

Impact of mail-in voting on the Senate

Given that any President’s legislative agenda depends on which parties hold the balance of power in Congress, mail-in ballots might prove decisive for determining if the Republicans can hold onto the Senate.

The picture here is rather similar to that of the Presidential election: the vast majority of competitive states lack the diversity required for mail-in voting to be decisive, but a small and significant minority should still be highlighted.

In particular, of the ten states that will decide the balance of power in Washington come 2021, two are likely to see a sizeable Democratic advantage, thanks to new vote from home protocols: Georgia and North Carolina. However these are typically Republican leaning, so the Democrats will have to be sweeping across the nation to ensure they pick them up.

How worried should Republicans be?

Given that many states have already opted to shift towards mail-in voting, the Republicans have already lost the battle over voting from home. Whilst the President will continue to make a lot of noise on this issue, dragging out threats of USPS defunding, come election day voting from home will be ubiquitous.

Far from being the final nail in the coffin for the Trump campaign, voting from home poses only a minimal obstacle to re-election in the vast majority of swing states.

Florida is the only, but perhaps crucial, exception to this rule. Whilst not election-deciding in and of itself, we have seen Presidential elections in the past be decided by far, far smaller margins. And in the case of the Senate, we see a similar story: small but potentially crucial areas where mail-in voting could have the deciding impact.

Advantage Biden. Advantage Democrats. But only just.

Don’t forget to check out the latest polling data for the US Presidential Election 2020.

What will happen to the US dollar if Trump wins re-election?

US Presidential Election

After years of threatening a devaluation, in the face of China’s own currency manipulation, President Trump recently indicated that he is now in favour of a strong dollar. Given the President’s inconsistency on the issue, and the current turbulent economic environment, what exactly would a second term entail for the most important currency in the world?

How a second Trump term could impact USD

The crucial distinction here is one of means versus ends. In the mind of President Trump, the currency is just a tool to deliver a buoyant stock market and booming economy, whatever he might tweet.

The Trump administration will do whatever it takes to catalyse the recovery, whether appreciation or depreciation is the required remedy. In our view, the latter will prove to fit the bill, and so the US dollar’s value will fall if the Trump train continues to roll through November.

Whilst the dollar has been relatively stable in its value over the course of Trump’s first three years in office, the gargantuan nature of the economic task at hand means that this trend simply cannot continue.

When he began his first term, the economy looked to be in a relatively healthy state. Discounting the remote possibility of a miraculous economic recovery, his second term will debut in very different circumstances.

Massive relief spending set to continue

Looking at the demand side, one could be forgiven for assuming that a dollar appreciation was imminent. The US economy comfortably outperformed the G7 and G20 averages in the first quarter of 2020, shrinking by just 1.3% compared to 2% and 3.4% respectively.

This is likely the result of mammoth congressional stimulus packages, which have allowed the US to lead the world nominally in terms of relief spending and come second in terms of percentage of GDP.

A second Trump term would almost certainly see further waves of relief, likely in the form of his $1 trillion infrastructure plan. This particular avenue of execution benefits from relatively healthy levels of bipartisan support, meaning that such spending can be expected no matter who controls the Congress come 2021.

US stocks likely to continue outperforming, pressuring USD

And in terms of the stock markets, the US has also consistently outperformed global averages throughout the President’s first term, including in the post-Covid era.

This is exemplified by the fact that the S&P 500 index has risen by over 50% since 2016, whilst the FTSE has fallen by around 9% in this same period. Given all of the above, the US is likely to continue attracting investors the world over, delivering inflationary demand-side pressures that would support USD.

However, the aforementioned upward pressure caused by a healthy economy will be insignificant when compared with the deflationary pressure instigated on the supply-side.

Federal Reserve stimulus measures will help Trump get weaker dollar

Since February, the Federal Reserve has increased its balance sheet by almost $3 trillion, moving from $4.2 trillion to $7 trillion. This rapid increase is expected to continue, with Trump calling the policy ‘something that’s really great for our country’.

In addition, the possibility of extreme measures in the form of yield curve control is rising, with several current Fed governors commenting that the policy should be on the table if necessary.

All of this is indicative of our central point: the authorities are prepared to do whatever it takes to prop up the stock market and the real economy and will stop at nothing to achieve this end.

Expanded balance sheet, flat interest rates, yield curve control to cause dollar depreciation

Trump has repeatedly held up rising stock prices as a beacon of success in his first term and will continue to do so if he wins a second. With quasi-control over the Fed, afforded to him by his position at the bully pulpit, the President will get what he desires, no matter the cost.

In this particular instance, the cost will be an expanding Fed balance sheet, rock-bottom interest rates and, if it comes to it, yield curve control measures. The sheer enormity of the response on the supply-side will be more than enough to drown out any inflationary pressures on the demand-side – depreciation inbound.

Overall, Pres Trump doesn’t really care about the value of the dollar outside of its utility as an economic tool or a stick with which to hit China. The real motivation behind the President’s actions in a second term will mirror those of the first: growth in the stock market and the real economy, in that order of importance.

In his pursuit of these goals, no policy instrument is off limits, whether it be a trusty expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, or an as yet untested tool like yield curve control.

Whilst the Fed is technically a quasi-independent body, such independence is illusory, particularly in the context of Trump’s propensity for the use of public pressure. Whilst some demand-side inflationary effects will be initiated by a better-than-average recovery, such effects will be lost in the vastness of the supply-side avalanche that is to come.

If he achieves a second term, Pres Trump will leave office in 2024 having achieved two things that he initially desired: a stock market on the rise and a depreciated dollar.

Stay on top of the US Presidential Election 2020 with our new XRay show

US Presidential Election

Get the headlines and insight you need to trade the US Presidential Election with XRay, your dedicated in-platform streaming service on Marketsx. Join Blonde Money CEO and XRay regular Helen Thomas for Election2020 Weekly for a look at the biggest developments in the race for the White House.

And don’t forget you can also join Helen every week for Blonde Markets to get the wider political and macroeconomic view on what’s driving the markets.

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