The world may well heave a collective sigh of relief on Wednesday morning when the results of the US election are announced. Relief, because we won’t have to hear about it anymore… that is, assuming the result is decisive, the losing candidate accepts the result and there are no hanging chads!
The markets have already decided with the FTSE rallying this morning, and banks and natural resource stocks leading the way. Mining giants BHP Billiton, Antofagasta, Rio Tinto and Glencore were all among the early risers, along with HSBC.
Shares also jumped in Asia and Europe, with investors opting for equities and taking cash out of safe assets such as gold and the Japanese yen. The Mexican peso has become a popular market proxy of the US presidential campaign neighbour, strengthened 2.2% to 18.6 per dollar.
The chances of the Donald becoming President have apparently dipped as a result of the FBI confirming that there’s no case to answer in the 600,000 or so emails that have been reviewed in just under two weeks. However, more than 40m votes had already been cast over that period, so maybe the confirmation has come too late. In 2000 there were fewer than 600 votes in it in Florida, which eventually handed Bush the election, so 40m certainly could be decisive.
Bloomberg have come up with a cheatsheet as to how stocks, commodities, US treasuries, the US dollar and emerging markets will react to differing results. You don’t have to be a genius to guess that equities and the US dollar will be down with gold and treasuries up.
If the result is decisive, we should find out at about 05:00 London time and before markets open, but if 2000 is anything to go by, we could be waiting a month. I have a hunch that the Donald will do anything he possibly can to contest the result if he does not win.
Two tracking polls produced by CBS News and ABC/Washington Post each give Mrs Clinton a four-point lead nationally. However, an average of polls calculated by Real Clear Politics (see above) estimated a slimmer advantage of 2% after factoring in results of polls produced by LA Times/USC Tracking and IBD/TIPP Tracking, which put Mr Trump ahead by five and two points respectively.
Investors appear to be beginning to price in a Clinton victory, but I hope they remember 24 June. The market had similarly priced in a remain victory and since then the pound has tanked and the market rallied. It could happen again this week, Luke Hickmore, Senior Fixed Income Fund Manager at Aberdeen Asset Management, warns:
Markets are edging towards Clinton largely because of polling and we saw in the Brexit referendum how wrong that can be. The memory of that referendum should loom large in investors’ memories because so much of the polling was wrong then.
Simply put, whatever you think of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, markets will react negatively to Trump and positively to Clinton. He offers uncertainty in a number of areas and has no track record of policy, whereas she has a track record and a detailed policy programme.
If Trump wins, Barclays has predicted an 11% to 13% selloff in the S&P 500 – but also on the S&P/TSX, international markets, developing-economy currencies (especially the Mexican peso) and the Canadian dollar. The yen and euro may soar against the greenback, which would not be good news for those low-growth markets. Maybe the pound would not look quite so cheap!
The election has not exactly been an advert for Western democracy. In the absence of a decisive victory for either candidate, there’s likely to be significant deadlock in Washington. That means more political and policy stagnation, which cannot be good news for anyone, least of all global markets.
So let’s cross our fingers, for the sake of the markets and our own sanity, that the result is decisive. Surely none of us can take more uncertainty!