I have political views, but I try to keep them out of my classes and my blog posts. I teach and write about corporate finance/valuation, not political science, and I don’t think it is fair to subject my students or readers of this blog to my views on politics. I would be committing malpractice, though, if I avoid talking about Tuesday’s election, since it does have consequences for investing. That said, I know that nerves are exposed and emotions are raw and I want (perhaps unsuccessfully) to stay away from the hot-button issues and focus, as best as I can, on the investment implications of a Trump Presidency. As I started writing, I realized that I was repeating almost word for word what I had written in June, after UK voters voted for Brexit. Consequently, I decided to go back and copy the Brexit post, change “Brexit” to “Trump Election”, to see how close they were. The changes are in red and the replaced words are crossed out. You can be the judge on the parallels!
There are few events that catch markets by complete surprise but the decision by British US voters to leave the EU elect Donald Trump as President comes close. As markets struggle to adjust to the aftermath, analysts and experts are looking backward, likening the event to past crises election surprises and modeling their responses accordingly. There are some who see the seeds of a market meltdown, and believe that it is time to cash out of the market. There are others who argue that not only will markets bounce back but that it is a buying opportunity. Not finding much clarity in these arguments and suspicious of bias on both sides, I decided to open up my crisis survival kit, last in use in August 2015, in the midst of another market meltdown.
The Pricing Effect
I am sure that you have been bombarded with news stories about how the market has reacted to the Brexit vote Trump Election and I won’t bore you with the gory details. Suffice to say that, for the most part, it has not followed the crisis rule book: Government bond rates in developed market currencies (the US, Germany, Japan and even the UK) the United States have dropped risen, gold prices have risen stayed flat, the price of risk has increased decreased and equity markets have declined risen. The picture below captures the fallout of the vote across markets:
As the election results came out on Tuesday night, the immediate market reaction was dire, with Dow futures dropping almost 800 points, triggering circuit breakers. By Wednesday morning, though, the panic seemed to have subsided and the market effect in the two days since the election have been not just benign, but positive. I know that it is early and that much can happen in the next few weeks to spook markets again, but as things stand now, here is what we see. Rates on US treasuries have risen sharply, with interpretations varying depending upon your election priors, with those negatively inclined to Trump viewing the rise as a sign that foreign buyers are pulling out the market, leery of his comments about and those positively inclined arguing that the rise reflects expectations of higher growth in the future. The dollar has held its own against other currencies and the fear indices (gold and the VIX) have fallen since Tuesday, with the VIX dropping dramatically. US stocks have risen in the two days since the election, with small cap stocks in Russel 2000 rising more than the large cap stocks. If you are puzzled by the NASDAQ’s inability to join the rally, you can see why when you look at the returns across the S&P sectors:
|Last 5 days||Last 3 months||YTD (2016)|
The stock market rise in the last few days has been uneven with consumer staples, utility, technology and real estate stocks (ironically) lagging and financial firms, health care and industrials doing well. Though it is dangerous to try to create full-blown stories based on stock market behavior over a few days, it seems likely that the rally in financials and pharmaceuticals can be traced as much to expectations about what Trump has said he will do (repeal Obamacare, for instance) as to relief that some of the regulations/restrictions that Clinton had proposed (on pharmaceutical pricing and more constraints on banks) would not longer be on the table. The decline in utilities can be attributed to rising interest rates but the swoon in tech stocks bears watching, since it could be an indication that tech companies, who strongly backed Clinton, may face headwinds in a Trump administration.
The Value Effect
[drizzle]As markets make their moves, the advice that is being offered is contradictory. At one end of the spectrum, some are suggesting that Brexit Trump election could trigger a financial crisis similar to 2008, pulling markets down and the global economy into a recession, and that investors should therefore reduce or eliminate their equity exposures and batten down the hatches. At the other end are those who feel that this is much ado about nothing, that Brexit will not happen or that the UK will renegotiate new terms to live with the EU and that investors should view the market drops as buying opportunities the Trump effect can be more positive than negative, with changes in taxes and regulations offsetting any negative consequences from his trade policies. Given how badly expert advice served us during the run-up to Brexit the Trump election, I am loath to trust either side and decided to go back to basics to understand how the value of stocks could be affected by the event and perhaps pass judgment on whether the pricing effect is under or overstated. The value of stocks collectively can be written as a function of three key inputs: the cash flows from existing investment, the expected growth in earnings and cash flows and the required return on stocks (composed of a risk free rate and a price for risk). The following figure looks at the possible ways in which Brexit the Trump presidency can affect value:
I know the perils of assuming that campaign promises and rhetoric will become policy, but broadly speaking, you can outline the possible consequence for companies of Trump’s proposed policy changes. The biggest and potentially most negative effect would come from his trade policies, where protectionist policies can and will draw protectionist responses from other countries, putting global trade and growth at risk. Trump has been ambivalent about both the Federal Reserve’s interest rate policies and financial markets, arguing that the Fed has played politics with interest rates and that financial markets are in bubble territory. It will be interesting to see whether the FOMC, when it meets in January, takes into account the election results, in making its widely telegraphed decision to raise rates (at least the ones that it controls). Trump has proposed major changes to both corporate and individual tax rates, and if