Sunday, October 30, 2016

"How do I protect myself if Trump is elected?"

by Bill McBride on 10/30/2016 12:01:00 PM

Quite a few readers have asked me this question. My usual answer is that I expect Ms. Clinton to be elected President, and that the expansion will continue.

I've spoken to several key analysts and economists, and for their forecasts, all are assuming Ms. Clinton will be the next President (my forecasts also assume a Clinton presidency).  So if Trump is elected, expect some market volatility as forecasts are changed.  As Merrill Lynch recently noted:

"As our strategists have noted, the initial reaction to a potential Trump victory would likely be a risk-off event in the markets, which we think could end up delaying the Fed from hiking in December."
That is just a guess at the short term reaction.  The general rule is don't invest based on your political views. 

However policy does matter for investing and the economy.  As an example, it was obvious to invest in oil when George W. Bush became President.  And insurance companies like United Healthcare and Aetna seemed like good bets with a President Obama.

Another example of policy is the deregulation of banks (and the anti-regulation attitude of the Bush administration) as part of the housing bubble story.

But what about with Mr. Trump?  He has said he'd "build a wall" along the border with Mexico, renegotiate all trade deals, cut taxes on high income earners, repeal Obamacare and more.   But it is unclear what he'd actually do as President.   As an example, no one really thinks a wall will be built along the entire border (maybe sections of a wall - and Mexico wouldn't pay for it).

Repealing the ACA - without a replacement - would lead to many millions of Americans without health insurance.  And those with preexisting conditions would be uninsurable.   This seems politically unlikely (without a replacement policy), but if it happens, sell those health insurance companies.

Right now it is hard to guess what policy would look like with Mr. Trump (Trump doesn't seem to understand policy issues - like his ignorant comments on the VAT while talking about trade with Mexico).  One key concern with Trump is the potential for a trade war - and that could happen almost without warning.

Long time readers remember when I used to write about the impact of policy (both good and bad), but there hasn't been much policy to discuss for the last few years.  If Trump is elected, I'd expect a GOP sweep, and then I'll be writing frequently about policy again.  Since Trump is at war with the data (he rejects data that doesn't fit his views), I don't expect evidence based policy proposals - and that almost always means bad results.

Until we see the actual policy proposals, it is hard to predict the impact.  I will not predict a recession just because Trump is elected, but I do think the economy would perform better under Clinton than Trump.

Also, the words of a President matter.  Mr Trump has been reckless and irresponsible with his comments, and that would probably continue. One absurd comment could send the markets into a tailspin (and that could happen at any time).   That should make investors more cautious (as an example, I'm recommending that my home builder friends ease back on their spec building if Trump is elected).

In conclusion: I expect Ms. Clinton to be elected and I'm currently taking no action to protect myself against the risks of a Trump presidency.    The risks are real, but I think the odds of Trump winning are very low.  If the unimaginable happens, I'll be writing about when to head to the bunker.