Investing in the face of the American Election

November 3, 2016

The run-up to the US presidential election has been going on since March 2015 when prospective Republican nominees began to put themselves forward, although for some it may feel that it has been longer. It has been a campaign that has divided the US more than any previous presidential election and is likely to leave lasting scars, whoever wins.

The rise of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate serves as another wake-up call for the political class around the world, if Brexit and election of Rodrigo Duterte weren’t enough. Many voters are frustrated with the current economic system and elitist political classes and feel it is not working for them. Trump has preyed on voters who have a dissatisfaction with globalisation and migration, and his election would certainly mean a changing of the tide towards more significant protectionist policies.

Trump has been significantly helped by Hilary Clinton’s perceived lack of integrity. Furthermore, for many she epitomises a mainstream politician; having been in politics all her life, receiving funding by Wall Street and conducting business away from public scrutiny. It is likely that her term would be a continuation of what has come before. As the previous Secretary of State, she has a more outward looking perspective regarding America’s role in the world.

While the possible result of the election has been heavily covered in the media and developments, have influenced financial markets, the long-term impact on portfolios is debatable. There are enough checks and balances in the US political system to dampen or slow significant changes in policy. These controls have been apparent in the two-term Obama Presidency, which was born out of great optimism but has delivered few of the promises, having been restricted in its ability by a Republican controlled Congress and Senate. Both candidates have policies which could have a positive impact on the US economy. However, it is unlikely that the full magnitude of these would be realised.

The most significant impact of a Trump victory may be in the change in attitude of the US and the American people towards the rest of the World, and the World’s response to this. A less interventionist America may lead to an increasingly unstable geopolitical landscape, from Russia to the Middle East as well as the Asia Pacific region. Resurgent powers may look to take advantage of the absence of the “world’s police”. This would be unlikely to have an impact in the shorter term. However, instability globally is a significant problem for an ever more interconnected economy.

The majority of companies domiciled or operating in the US are unlikely to see an impact from the result in the longer term and therefore there is reluctance to make a changes to a portfolio purely on market sentiment. There maybe volatility as the result of the election filters though and this could present itself as a buying opportunity, however, this will be dependent on the market’s reaction.

US Election