Sunday, October 26, 2008

Landslide Elections and the U.S. Stock Market

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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There seem to be only two things that Americans voters will not forgive their politicians for. In the case of the President it is a failed economy, which led to a Democratic landslide in 1932 and a Republican landslide in 1980. While congressional voting is strongly affected by the economy as well, there is an additional factor of failing to deliver on a political party's core promises. When the Democrats couldn't pass a health care bill (something they had campaigned on for almost 50 years) in 1993, the voters turned on them en mass. This year, there is not only economic turmoil going into the election, but many Republicans in congress abandoned one of their party's most fundamental principals, fiscal conservatism, by supporting the Wall Street bailout bill. Conditions are ripe for a major political shift.

Presidential landslides are usually preceded by shifts in Congress two years earlier. In 1930, the Republicans, who had totally controlled Washington for the proceeding 10 years, lost 52 House seats and 8 Senate seats as the economy started to fall headlong into the Depression. Even with these losses, Republicans still had slight control of the U.S. senate and only lost their majority in the House after further defeats in special elections. While the U.S. economy was allegedly in good shape in 2006 (at least according to the official highly manipulated government figures), Republicans lost 30 House seats and 6 Senate seats in the election that year. This gave Democrats solid control of the House and a bare majority in the senate.

As bad as 1930 was for the Republicans, it was nothing like the political bloodbath that followed in 1932 when they lost 101 seats in the House and 12 seats in the senate. Best guesstimates as of now is that Democrats will pick up another 30 House seats this November. Interestingly, as many as 12 senate seats could also shift from Republican to Democratic hands this year, although the Democrats would only need 9 seats to have a filibuster proof majority. There is probably a slightly less than 50% chance of this happening, so it isn't a done deal yet. Wall Street would not react positively to this outcome and it has almost certainly not been factored into stock prices as of yet.

As for the Presidential election, Obama is clearly ahead of McCain and some perennial Republican strongholds like Indiana, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Virginia may go his way in addition to almost every swing state. Obama has the advantage in ad spending and field operations. Most polls show him way ahead in the race. While there are a few that don't, closer examination of them reveal that they are as statistically suspect as the U.S. governments inflation and GDP figures.

So what has a major political shift said about the prospects for the U.S. stock market in the past? The stock market actually bottomed before the 1932 election and entered a multi-year rally period after FDR's inauguration in March. In 1980, Regan was elected while a recession was already underway (as is the case in 2008) and another recession immediately followed that one.
Two years later though, U.S. stocks started an 18 year secular bull market. Generally, things have to be very bad economically for there to be a large change in the previous U.S. political balance. By the time this happens, the worst is likely to be over soon thereafter.

NEXT: Start Looking for Capitulation

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer, New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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