How does the presidential election cycle affect the market?
January 26, 2024
As we navigate into an election year, we find ourselves amidst a whirlwind of emotions and uncertainties, a common sentiment when politics take center stage. Our aim isn’t to delve into political discourse; rather, it’s to emphasize that prudent investing hinges on maintaining proper investment behavior. It’s a familiar refrain: the belief that if one’s preferred candidate triumphs, prosperity will ensue for the economy and the markets. Conversely, the defeat of one’s candidate is often seen as a harbinger of doom. While these sentiments may appear extreme, they underscore the emotive power of politics. Yet, it’s crucial to recognize a significant truth: history reveals a different story.
MARKET DYNAMICS AND ELECTION CYCLES
Historical data presents a compelling narrative: elections have not significantly swayed long-term market returns, regardless of the victor. This pattern holds true across election and non-election years alike. Since the inception of the S&P 500, there have been 24 election years with a close to even split between elected Democrats and Republicans. The data underscores a critical point: the political affiliation of the White House occupant has negligible correlation with stock market performance. In fact, a remarkable 83% of these election cycles witnessed positive returns.
Interestingly, election cycles often herald favorable market conditions. Typically, the market exhibits a weaker performance in the initial two years of a presidential term, followed by a more positive market in the latter half. This phenomenon can be attributed to the policy stance of new administrations, which often lean towards tougher measures initially, before pivoting to more voter-friendly policies as reelection campaigns loom. Hence, the latter half of a presidency can be synonymous with stronger market returns.
CURRENT MARKET SENTIMENTS
But why the current market turbulence? Historical trends often point to market volatility in the early part of the year, a period characterized by heightened focus on the presidential cycle and the uncertainties it brings. Such times, fraught with speculation about presidential agendas and key issues like Social Security, Medicare, and taxation, tend to inject volatility into the markets. Despite this, the period leading up to the election, particularly the three months preceding it, has historically been robust for the market. Post-election relief rallies further contribute to market strength towards the year’s end. As Bank of America notes, the latter half of the year, especially August and December, generally sees a strong market and significant market gains.
BEYOND POLITICS: THE TRUE MARKET MOVERS
Yet, it’s crucial to understand that market dynamics are less about the political cycle and more about economic factors. Elements such as monetary policy, the Federal Reserve’s decisions, interest rates, inflation, and corporate earnings are pivotal. These will likely have a more pronounced impact on the markets in 2024 than the election’s outcome.
NAVIGATING INVESTMENTS DURING ELECTION SEASON
So, how should one approach investments during these politically charged times? The answer lies in steadfastness and discipline. Regardless of one’s political leanings, the best strategy is to adhere to your investment plan. While elections may introduce a degree of uncertainty, focusing on the long-term fundamentals of economics and business remains paramount. Getting entangled in the fervor of election outcomes can detract from the focus on these enduring principles.
While the presidential election cycle brings its own dynamics to the market, it’s the underlying economic indicators and a disciplined investment approach that truly chart the course of one’s financial journey. Stay informed, stay disciplined, and let your investment strategy be guided by long-term economic fundamentals, not the transient winds of political change. Remember, the market’s course is steered more by economic cycles than electoral cycles. Stay the course, and you’re more likely to navigate through the election season and beyond with financial stability and peace of mind.