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What do the U.S. midterm results mean for institutional investors?

November 7, 2018
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The political congestion likely to stem from the United States’ midterm election results has equally mixed implications for equity markets, with Democrats taking a majority in the House of Representatives and Republicans making further gains in their majority in the Senate.

“A split Congress may bring gridlock, but the stock market has historically fared well with divided government,” said Dec Mullarkey, managing director in the investment strategy group at Sun Life Investment Management Inc. “More balance prevents political overreach, resulting in a stable backdrop. Therefore, expect the result to be broadly bullish for equities as it supports the status quo.”

Read: Equity investors facing uncertainty, volatility as path to de-globalization continues

Leading up to the midterms, the financial world was watching potential policy risks, largely centring around whether President Donald Trump would see a Congress more eager to investigate various allegations against him, up to and including moving on impeachment. “The likelihood of impeachment is significantly reduced,” says Salman Baig, investment manager on Unigestion’s multi-asset navigator fund. He notes that Nancy Pelosi, who will likely become majority leader of the House, previously said Democrats won’t move on attempting to impeach Trump unless there’s by-partisan support.

It’s important to note, however, that while the House has the power to vote to impeach the president, Trump still has veto power, which would have to be overturned by a two-thirds vote from the Senate, says Baig. In general, important issues for the Democrats still have a muted outlook since this election cycle hasn’t given the power to ram through preferred legislation, he adds.

Read: Trump and the tariffs: What are the long-term impacts of shifting trade policies?

For those watching the markets, issues of infrastructure spending are also a key component, according to Baig. While there’s far less philosophical divide on the issue, Republicans and Democrats want to implement new policy in different ways, he says. “You probably would have seen some juice there already if anything was going to get done.”

Trade policy risk, however, will solider on with issues like China still unresolved, noted Mullarkey. “Trump has little incentive to settle the issue quickly as it appears to be a major talking point, firing up his base. Expect greater geopolitical risk in the coming year as the President gets tough on foreign policy.”

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