We’re nearing the end of what has been the longest presidential campaign in history. And no matter which candidate you’re voting for, the opposition looks like a dangerous choice.
The truth is, as far as the market is concerned, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both dangerous, for different reasons.
Fortunately, no matter who you’re supporting, whether you’re a republican, or a democrat, or something in between, there are a few smart bets you can make now – and rake in good profits on the election outcome.
Here are the real dangers we’re facing this election…
Don’t Make Any Long-Term Moves
First of all, right now, the smart bets are all short-term moves.
That’s because there’s no way of knowing who’s going to win the election and which long-term bets are going to pay off, since both candidates have completely different political and economic agendas.
That said, the only long-term play to make right now is to do nothing… if you’re sitting on a diversified portfolio of great companies (not great stocks, mind you, but great companies).
In the long term, whomever wins the election – meaning which party runs the executive branch of government – doesn’t make much difference to the stock market.
According to Russ Koesterich, CFA and head of BlackRock’s global asset allocation team, “Historically, whether a Republican or Democrat occupies the White House has had no statistically significant impact on US equity markets.”
And research going back to 1853 shows that returns under Republican and Democrat administrations are virtually identical. That’s according to Dr. Jonathan Lemco of mutual fund giant Vanguard.
In the long term, which for me is five years out, stocks have nowhere to go but up.
If either candidate wins by a landslide, which is unlikely, there would be smart long-term plays to make, for sure. But we’ll cross that bridge if we come to it.
In the short-term, however, until the dust settles sometime after this election, staying on the sidelines with big money makes sense.
It also makes sense to put on smart short-term positions to profit from likely outcome turmoil.
My position on the outcome is that no matter who wins, unless it’s a landslide, the vote is going to be contested, lawsuits are likely to fly, we could face a constitutional crisis, and there could be civil unrest.
I’m not the only one who thinks there’s trouble ahead.
University of Michigan economist Justin Wolfers co-authored a study that warned a victory for Donald Trump could result in US, British, and Asian markets plummeting by 10% to 15%.
According to the report, which is based mostly on how markets acted during the first presidential debate on September 26, besides equities selling off, a Trump victory could cause oil to fall $4, and trigger a 25% decline in the Mexican peso.
Wolfers’ says that the “Trump discount” is comparable to those that accompanied the Brexit vote or the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and could “significantly increase expected future stock market volatility.”
And a 2012 Goldman Sachs report titled, “3 Reasons Why Investors Should Take US Election Cycles Very Seriously” says:
The political stakes in presidential, parliamentary, or legislative elections often translate into changes in policies that can reshape the economic environment. Second, the regularity with which elections take place in most countries may give place to cyclical patterns in government and investment behavior. And third, elections can markedly increase political and social uncertainty. These three factors have the potential to affect all asset classes, especially equities, given their strong sensitivity to changes in the economic outlook.
One Thing’s For Certain on November 8
America’s never had two more polarizing candidates. They not only seemingly hate each other, but rally their supporters into fighting corners and demand they come out swinging.
The one almost given in this election is that volatility is going to rule the markets, across all asset classes.
In my Capital Wave Forecast and Short-Side Fortunes trading services, we’re already long volatility, betting that the VIX is going to make new 52-week highs.
We’ve also got straddles on the U.S. market, which means we’ve taken a split position, at very cheap prices, that there will either be a huge relief rally if Clinton wins or a major selloff if Trump wins (or if the market goes down just because investors want to take profits in the face of what may be a very uncertain future).
We’re going to add to our downside bets and volatility bets as the odds of a Trump victory increase, which they have been doing lately.
Buying calls on the VIX, or buying call options on the more leveraged iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN (NYSEArca:VXX), makes sense if you’re expecting the kind of volatility that accompanies panicky markets – and we are.
And buying straddles – which make money if the market goes radically higher or lower, it doesn’t matter as long as there are big moves – makes sense too.
We own calls on a market-following ETF and calls on an inverse market ETF.
“Our financial markets have become a Vegas/Macau/Monte Carlo casino,” bond guru Bill Gross wrote in the October edition of his widely read monthly newsletter.
And the way to bet this election in the big casinos is by putting down short-term bets on volatility, on big moves either way, and on other positions that’ll tell you about on Friday.