Fun Facts on The Election & The Stock Market…and Why None of Them Matter

Crosby_2015Dr. Daniel Crosby, Executive Director, The Center for Outcomes & Founder, Nocturne Capital

With less than one month remaining until the election, the already frenzied political coverage is sure to become even more fevered in the coming days. While each presidential election is unpredictable, it seems certain that this one is destined for the history books. For all of their sophistication, are there any political pundits that correctly predicted the rise of Bernie Sanders or that Donald Trump would emerge from a pack of 16 more politically experienced Republicans?

Adding to the confusion is that recent popular votes of all stripes—from Brexit to the Colombian peace deal—have not gone the way pollsters predicted. In the face of all of this uncertainty it is natural to wonder, “could the U.S. be the next surprise?” And a natural follow-on question is, “What does all of this mean for my money?” To begin to answer these questions, let’s look at some historical trends around U.S. elections and the stock market.

Incumbent vs. Challenger

Most considerations of political impact examine how potential candidates might influence the market, but let’s begin our study by flipping that on its head and ask, “How might the market help determine who wins the election?” As you might expect, incumbent parties are helped enormously by a rising market and challengers tend to be swept into power by a poor market.

washington_wallstreetSince 1928, 14 of the 22 presidential elections saw a rise in the broad market in the three months leading up to the big vote. In all but two of those instances, the incumbent party stayed in their comfy digs on Pennsylvania Avenue. But what of the eight instances where the market was down in the run up to the election? All but one of those more bearish periods saw the incumbent ousted from power.

This phenomenon was seen most recently in the failed reelection campaigns of George H.W. Bush (1992) and Jimmy Carter (1980). Bill Clinton, sensing the natural tendency of hard economic times to bring about change chided the senior Bush with his now famous “It’s the economy, stupid” line. The date to watch for this particular metric in this election cycle is August 1, at which time the S&P 500 closed at 2,170.84.

Democrats versus Republicans

Inasmuch as Republicans are broadly perceived as the more pro-business of the two parties, it may come as a surprise that the stock market has performed considerably better under Democratic than Republican presidents. In fact, since 1945 the average annual gain under a Democratic president is 9.7%, easily besting the average gain of 6.7% on the Republican’s watch.

But a closer look at the statistics tells a more nuanced story as, to borrow a Dickensian turn of phrase, Republicans have presided over both the best of times and the worst of times. The market’s most successful run occurred under Republican Gerald Ford—a whopping 18.6% annualized. However, the elephants also own the only two losing records in modern (post-1945) market history, with George W. Bush (-4.6% annualized) and Richard Nixon (-5.1% annualized) both overseeing periods of extended bearishness.

electionThe Election Cycle

Having now examined the market’s ability to predict the winner of the election and the impact of parties on performance, let’s look at the influence of the presidential cycle on market returns.

Since 1833, the market has typically produced the best returns in the year preceding an election, averaging 10.4% annualized. Election years themselves have tended to be good as well, with average returns at right around 6%. The worst years in the election cycle have been the first and second years of a president’s term, averaging 2.5% and 4.2% respectively. The conventional logic has been that familiarity breeds comfort and that the uncertainty surrounding the economic policies of a new leader have driven low returns early in the cycle.

Why None of This Matters

Having gone to some pain to research the relationship between the election and the market, let me now suggest that none of what you have read above matters. None of it. Our desire to look for signal in the unending noise surrounding political campaigns is a waste of time at best and can be dangerous to our financial well-being at worst. The government produces data on 45,000 pieces of economic each year and when they are laid on top of the mountain of data collected by political scientists, correlations emerge and most of them are spurious. To quote political pollster Nate Silver, “The temptation that some economists succumb to is to put all this data into a blender and claim that the resulting gruel is haute cuisine.” To make this point more concretely, consider some of the following:

  • Since 1928, election years like this one without an incumbent running for reelection have been some of the worst on record, clocking a -2.8% annualized return. Had you been aware of and acted on this information, you would missed the 5.37% gain for the large cap index year to date.
  • As discussed above, the market tends to gain 6% in election years. Great, but small comfort to those who lost 34% in 2008, an election year. It has been joked that a six-foot man can easily drown in a river that is three feet deep on average (since many parts of the river might be much deeper). The same can certainly be said of market returns where long-term averages tend to mask the more dramatic volatility underneath. The performance of the market is more attributable to economic conditions than superior policies. Democratic Presidents Roosevelt and Obama both inherited markets broken by the Great Depression and Great Recession respectively. While both deserve credit for guiding the nation during difficult times, they are also the beneficiaries of a tendency for stock prices to mean-revert and bounce back from dramatic lows. Bulls and bears may have less to do with donkeys and elephants than the statistics might suggest.
  • Finally, consider the research suggesting that the first year of a President’s term leads to the most paltry returns. Had you acted on this knowledge, you would have missed the 23.45% rise in the market in Obama’s first year in office and the double-digit advance in the first year of Bill Clinton’s presidency. By definition, averages are generalities that are not true of any specific situation and relying on them can cause deviation from an otherwise sound financial plan.

Election years introduce volatility and uncertainty into financial markets that leave investors and advisors alike searching for a calm port in a wild political storm. But in our efforts to make sense of the political and economic landscape, we run a real risk of finding connections where none exist. In 2016, one of America’s most powerful political dynasties was nearly upended by an independent and self-proclaimed democratic socialist. The Republican Party is now helmed by a reality television star who has never held office. The Cubs are in the playoffs.

At uncertain times like this, investors must return to what Jason Zweig refers to as “controlling the controllable.” The outcome of the election and the accompanying market reaction are very much unknowable. What remains very much in your control are your ability to diversify across multiple asset classes, maintain a long-term focus and work closely with a competent advisor to manage your own behavior. I don’t know who will win the White House and neither do you, but I know with some certainty that patient investors adhering to first principles will always come out ahead.

Sources:

http://www.kiplinger.com/article/investing/T043-C008-S003-how-presidential-elections-affect-the-stock-market.html

https://tickertape.tdameritrade.com/investing/2016/08/can-election-predict-market-performance-10313

https://www.ml.com/articles/how-presidential-elections-affect-the-markets.html

http://money.cnn.com/2015/10/28/investing/stock-market-democrats-republicans/index.html

http://www.comstocksmag.com/article/data-driven-0

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Will The Santa Claus Rally Deliver in 2015?

HartChris Hart, Core Investment Manager

It is that time of year again. The time when Wall Street pundits begin to talk about the potential for the stock market to deliver its year-end present to investors, neatly wrapped in the form of positive gains to finish out the year, and even carry over into January. While seasonality is typically associated with the entire fourth quarter of a given year—as November and December tend to be stronger months for the S&P 500 Index—the “Santa Claus rally” is a more defined subset.

The Santa Claus rally concept was first popularized in 1972 by Yale Hirsch, the publisher of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, when he identified the positive trend between the last five trading days of the year and the first two trading days of the New Year. Over those seven trading days since 1969, the S&P 500 Index posted an average gain of 1.4%. However, investors have had to wait until the last week of the month to see if the actual Santa Claus rally occurs.

Over the years, analysts have speculated many possible explanations for the notion of a Santa Claus rally. One is that investors are simply more optimistic in the holiday season and market bears are on vacation. Others contend that consumers may be investing their holiday bonuses. A more technical explanations could be that year-end, tax-loss selling creates oversold conditions (i.e. buying opportunities) for value investors to buy stocks. Some propose the theory that portfolio managers may try to “window dress” their portfolios in an effort to squeeze out additional performance before year end. Regardless of the various possible explanations, market data supports the idea that since 1950, December has been the best month of the year for the S&P 500 Index.

Strategas: Historically the Best Month of the Year

Source: Strategas

That said, there are no guarantees on Wall Street and the delivery of a Santa Claus rally is no exception. In fact, the lack of a rally could be an important market signal. The Stock Trader’s Almanac warns, “If Santa Claus should fail to call; bears may come to Broad & Wall.” Interestingly, Jeffery Hirsch, son of Yale Hirsch and current editor of the Stock Trader’s Almanac, notes that over the past 21 years, the Santa Claus rally has failed to materialize only four times, and that preceded flat market performance in 1994 & 2005, and down markets in 2000 and 2008.

With so many macro forces at work here in the U.S. and globally, the presence of both headwinds and tailwinds in the current market allows room for debate as to whether or not the Santa Claus rally will occur 2015. The dollar remains strong, manufacturing is slowing, and energy remains under pressure due to low oil prices. However, valuations are not unreasonable, economic growth continues, albeit modestly, and we are seven years into a domestic bull market that continues to move higher amid shorter-term bouts of resistance and volatility. While some naysayers contend that the abnormally strong gains in October may have cannibalized some of December’s potential rally, I believe the Federal Reserve is one of the real wild cards here. If the Fed decides to raise interest rates in mid-December for the first time since 2008, higher levels of uncertainty could temper investor enthusiasm, depending on the Fed’s language regarding the duration and magnitude of any such action.

While I remain a believer in the magic of the holidays and am optimistic that the market can justify a Santa Claus rally in 2015, there are too many mixed signals across the markets to be certain. In the end, I just hope the Santa Rally of 2015 does not prove to be as elusive as that clever little Elf on the Shelf.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change. Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor.

Handling ETFs at the Brinker Capital Trading Desk

Joe PreisserJoe Preisser, Portfolio Specialist, Brinker Capital

In light of the continued media attention focused on the performance of certain exchange traded funds, during the equity market selloff at the end of August, we thought it prudent to discuss the steps we take here at Brinker Capital to ensure that all of the client orders entrusted to us are handled with the utmost care.

The price action seen across the exchange traded fund (ETF) landscape in late August, and in particular on the 24th, was nothing short of extreme, and is something our trading desk makes every effort to protect our client’s orders from.  We use our trading expertise and depth of experience to ensure that we make every effort to achieve the best executions available for our client’s orders.  ETFs have truly changed the investment landscape through their unique construction and, as a result, require a thorough understanding of their characteristics in order to effectively trade them. We pride ourselves on having gathered a great deal of knowledge, insight and experience in trading these instruments over the past five and a half years, and on having developed strong relationships with a number of well-respected trading desks on Wall Street to further enhance our expertise.

As many of the articles in the financial press discussed, there was a historic level of volatility during the first hour of trading on Monday, August 24, with much of the drastic price swings caused by the exorbitant number of trading halts that occurred across equity markets.  As an ETF is predominantly a simple reflection of the average price of its components, if those underlying constituents are halted, the ETF will not be priced appropriately by the market makers transacting in the security.  This problem can also occur on more mundane openings as well, as an ETF’s components open for trading at slightly differing times.  As a result of this phenomena, unless we have a very specific reason for trading an ETF during the first few minutes of a trading session—an ETF with European exposure would be an example of an exception—we will generally avoid trading during the first fifteen to thirty minutes of the session in order to allow for all of an ETF’s underlying holdings to open and the initial volatility to abate.  Although we did not have any active orders during the morning of August 24, if we had we would not have been transacting until the volatility abated.

shutterstock_70010218The strong relationships I mentioned earlier, with several of the most respected trading desks on Wall Street, allows us to leverage their expertise whenever we are moving into or out of a large position. We carefully examine every instrument we are asked to trade, and make our decisions on an individual basis as to what the best approach would be in order to minimize our impact on that instrument and to attempt to achieve the best possible executions.  Often, when we have a large order in an ETF, which itself is relatively illiquid, we will utilize the expertise of one of our trading partners to transact directly in the basket of securities that comprise the ETF in order to access the truly available liquidity and to minimize our impact on the security we are trading.  This strategy of course would not have helped on the 24th because it was the temporary illiquidity of the underlying securities that rendered the ETFs themselves illiquid, but I feel this example is important as it highlights the efforts we undertake in an effort to seek the best possible prices for our clients. In addition, a number of the articles discussing this episode highlighted the importance of imposing price limits while avoiding the use of “market” orders and this is a guideline we strictly adhere to.  Whenever we have a meaningful trade, we always set an appropriate limit, and will closely monitor the trade until its completion to ensure that the price does not deviate from the parameters which we put in place.

While this article has discussed our approach to ETF trading, we certainly apply the same level of expertise, care and attention to all of the client orders placed in our care, regardless of the investment vehicle.

Brinker Capital, Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor. The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are not intended as investment advice or recommendation. For informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change.

The “Don’ts” for Periods of Market Volatility

Crosby_2015Dr. Daniel Crosby, Founder, Nocturne Capital

Having checked in this week with many of our advisors and the clients they serve, we know that this has been a stressful week for everyone involved in the market. On Monday, we wanted to provide a few proactive starting points and created a list of “do’s” for volatile markets. However, at times like this, knowing what not to do can be just as important as knowing what to do. With that, we present a list of things you should absolutely not be doing in periods of market volatility.

  • Don’t lose your sense of history – The average intrayear drawdown over the past 35 years has been just over 14%. The market ended the year higher on 27 of those 35 years. A relatively placid six years has lulled investors into a false reality, but nothing that we have experienced this year is out of the average by historical measures.
  • Don’t equate risk with volatility – Repeat after me, “volatility does not equal risk.” Risk is the likelihood that you will not have the money you need at the time you need it to live the life you want to live. Nothing more, nothing less. Paper losses are not “risk” and neither are the gyrations of a volatile market.
  • Don’t focus on the minute to minute – Despite the enormous wealth creating power of the market, looking at it too closely can be terrifying. A daily look at portfolio values means you see a loss 46.7% of the time, whereas a yearly look shows a loss a mere 27.6% of the time. Limited looking leads to increased feelings of security and improved decision-making.
  • Don’t forget how markets work – Do you know why stocks outperform other asset classes by about 5% on a volatility-adjusted basis? Because they can be scary at times, that’s why! Long term investors have been handsomely rewarded by equity markets, but those rewards come at the price of bravery during periods short-term uncertainty.
  • Don’t give in to action bias – At most times and in most situations, increased effort leads to improved outcomes. Want to lose weight? Start running! Want to learn a new skill set? Go back to school. Investing is that rare world where doing less actually gets you more. James O’Shaughnessy of “What Works on Wall Street” fame relates an illustrative story of a study done at Fidelity. When they surveyed their accounts to see which had done best, they uncovered something counterintuitive. The best-performing accounts were those that had been forgotten entirely. In the immortal words of Jack Bogle, “don’t do something, just stand there!”

Views expressed are for illustrative purposes only. The information was created and supplied by Dr. Daniel Crosby of Nocturne Capital, an unaffiliated third party. Brinker Capital Inc., a Registered Investment Advisor

Investment Insights Podcast – April 1, 2014

Bill MillerBill Miller, Chief Investment Officer

On this week’s podcast (recorded March 31, 2014):

  • What we like: CBS’s “60 Minutes” segment on high-frequency trading; traders may have an unfair advantage on trade execution, so regulators looking into it
  • What we don’t like: Inflammatory aspect of segment saying all of Wall Street is rigged, but that isn’t the case; millisecond in time in trade execution doesn’t impact all types of investing; even with high-frequency traders, today we’re trading cheaper, better, and faster
  • What we are doing about it: Spread trades across custodians, brokers, etc.; try not to limit our trades to any one, specific entity; pleased with our order execution, but look forward to regulators taking a hard look at high-frequency traders

Click the play icon below to launch the audio recording.

The views expressed are those of Brinker Capital and are for informational purposes only. Holdings are subject to change.