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Political Indicators

It is plausible that political winds might sway the economy and therefore financial markets. To what degree do politics matter for equity investors? Should they worry about the philosophy of the party in power or unusual market behavior relative to elections? Should they act on the prognostications of political experts? These blog entries address relationships between politics and the stock market.

Ziemba Party Holding Presidency Strategy Update

“Exploiting the Presidential Cycle and Party in Power” summarizes strategies that hold small stocks (large stock or bonds) when Democrats (Republicans) hold the U.S. presidency. How has this strategy performed in recent years? To investigate, we consider three strategy alternatives using exchange-traded funds (ETF):

  1. D-IWM:R-SPY: hold iShares Russell 2000 (IWM) when Democrats hold the presidency and SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when Republicans hold it.
  2. D-IWM:R-LQD: hold IWM when Democrats hold the presidency and iShares iBoxx Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD) when Republicans hold it.
  3. D-IWM:R-IEF: hold IWM when Democrats hold the presidency and iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF) when Republicans hold it.

We use calendar years to determine party holding the presidency. As benchmarks, we consider buying and holding each of SPY, IWM, LQD or IEF and annually rebalanced portfolios of 60% SPY and 40% LQD (60 SPY-40 LQD) or 60% SPY and 40% IEF (60 SPY-40 IEF). We consider as performance metrics: average annual excess return (relative to the yield on 1-year U.S. Treasury notes at the beginning of each year); standard deviation of annual excess returns; annual Sharpe ratio; compound annual growth rate (CAGR); and, maximum annual drawdown (annual MaxDD). We assume portfolio switching/rebalancing frictions are negligible. Except for CAGR, computations are for full calendar years only. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the specified ETFs during July 2002 (limited by LQD and IEF) through December 2020, we find that:

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Party in Power and Stock Returns

Past research relating U.S. stock market returns to the party holding the Presidency mostly concludes that Democratic presidents are better for the stock market than Republican presidents. However, Presidents share power conferred by the electorate with Congress. Does historical data confirm that Democratic control of Congress is also better for stock market returns than Republican control of Congress? Is control of the smaller Senate more decisive than control of the House of Representatives? To check, we relate annual U.S. stock market (S&P 500 Index) returns to various combinations of party control of the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Using party in power data and annual levels of the S&P 500 Index for December 1927 through December 2020 (93 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Hope for Stocks Around Inauguration Day?

Do investors swing toward optimism around U.S. presidential inauguration days, focusing on future opportunities? Or, does the day remind investors of political uncertainty and conflict? To investigate, we analyze daily returns of the S&P 500 Index around inauguration day. We consider subsamples of no party change and party change. Using inauguration dates since 1928 and daily S&P 500 Index levels during 1928 through 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Combining Economic Policy Uncertainty and Stock Market Trend

A subscriber requested, as in “Combine Market Trend and Economic Trend Signals?”, testing of a strategy that combines: (1) U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index, as described and tested separately in “Economic Policy Uncertainty and the Stock Market”; and, (2) U.S. stock market trend. We consider two such combinations. The first combines:

  • 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) for the broad U.S. stock market as proxied by the S&P 500 Index. The trend is bullish (bearish) when the index is above (below) its SMA10 at the end of last month.
  • Sign of the change in EPU Index last month. A positive (negative) sign is bearish (bullish).

The second combines:

  • SMA10 for the S&P 500 Index as above.
  • 12-month simple moving average (SMA12) for the EPU Index. The trend is bullish (bearish) when the EPU Index is below (above) its SMA12 at the end of last month.

We consider alternative timing strategies that hold SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when: the S&P 500 Index SMA10 is bullish; the EPU Index indicator is bullish; either indicator for a combination is bullish; or, both indicators for a combination are bullish. When not in SPY, we use the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the return on cash, with 0.1% switching frictions. We assume all indicators for a given month can be accurately estimated for signal execution at the market close the same month. We compute average net monthly return, standard deviation of monthly returns, net monthly Sharpe ratio (with monthly T-bill yield as the risk-free rate), net compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key strategy performance metrics. We calculate the number of switches for each scenario to indicate sensitivities to switching frictions and taxes. Using monthly values for the EPU Index, the S&P 500 Index, SPY and T-bill yield during January 1993 (inception of SPY) through September 2020, we find that:

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Economic Policy Uncertainty and the Stock Market

Does quantified uncertainty in government economic policy reliably predict stock market returns? To investigate, we consider the U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index, created by Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom and Steven Davis and constructed from three components:

  1. Coverage of policy-related economic uncertainty by prominent newspapers.
  2. Number of temporary federal tax code provisions set to expire in future years.
  3. Level of disagreement in one-year forecasts among participants in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters for both (a) the consumer price index (CPI) and (b) purchasing of goods and services by federal, state and local governments.

They normalize each component by its own standard deviation prior to 2012 and then compute a weighted average of components, assigning a weight of one half to news coverage and one sixth each to tax code uncertainty, CPI forecast disagreement and government purchasing forecast disagreement. They update the index monthly at the beginning of the following month, potentially revising recent months. Using monthly levels of the EPU Index and the S&P 500 Index during January 1985 through September 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Indicators of U.S. Presidential Re-election Results

What economic/financial variables are most useful in predicting re-election prospects for incumbent U.S. presidents? In the November 2012 revision of their paper entitled “Social Mood, Stock Market Performance and U.S. Presidential Elections: A Socionomic Perspective on Voting Results”, Robert Prechter, Deepak Goel, Wayne Parker and Matt Lampert analyze relationships between prior U.S. economic and equity market performance and incumbent performance in relevant U.S. presidential elections. They focus on incumbent national popular vote margin, but also consider for validation: percentage of total popular vote, percentage of total electoral vote, electoral vote margin and election wins/losses. They estimate annual U.S. stock market returns from November through October based on a modeled Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) starting 1789 dovetailed with actual DJIA returns starting 1897. They look at Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation (producer price index, PPI) and unemployment as key economic performance measures. Using specified DJIA, economic data as available and election results during 1824 (first availability of popular vote results) through 2008, they find that: Keep Reading

Stock Market and the National Election Cycle

Some stock market experts cite the year (1, 2, 3 or 4) of the U.S. presidential term cycle as a useful indicator of U.S. stock market returns. Game theory suggests that presidents deliver bad news immediately after being elected and do everything in their power to create good news just before ensuing biennial elections. Are some presidential term cycle years reliably good or bad? If so, do abnormal returns concentrate in certain quarters? Finally, what does the stock market do in the period immediately before and after a national election? Using daily and monthly S&P 500 Index levels from January 1928 through July 2020 (about 92 years and 23 presidential terms) and focusing on “political quarters” (Feb-Apr, May-Jul, Aug-Oct and Nov-Jan), we find that: Keep Reading

Should Investors Care About “the Way Things Are Going”?

Are broad measures of public sociopolitical sentiment relevant to investors? Do they predict stock returns as indicators of exuberance and fear? To investigate, we relate S&P 500 Index return and 12-month trailing S&P 500 price-operating earnings ratio (P/E) to the percentage of respondents saying “yes” to the recurring Gallup polling question: “In general, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with the way things are going in the United States at this time?” Since individual polls span several days, we use S&P 500 Index levels for about the middle of the polling interval. To calculate market P/E, we use current S&P 500 Index level and most recent quarterly aggregate operating earnings. Using Gallup polling resultsS&P 500 Index levels and 12-month trailing S&P 500 operating earnings as available during July 1990 (when polling frequency becomes about monthly) through mid-July 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Monthly Returns During Presidential and Congressional Election Years

Do hopes and fears of U.S. election outcomes, associated political machinations, alter the “normal” seasonal variation in monthly stock market returns? To check, we compare average returns and variabilities (standard deviations of returns) by calendar month for the S&P 500 Index during years with and without quadrennial U.S. presidential elections and biennial congressional elections. Using monthly S&P 500 Index closes over the period December 1927 through July 2020 (nearly 93 years), we find that: Keep Reading

National Election Cycle and Stocks Over the Long Run

“Stock Market and the National Election Cycle” examines the behavior of the U.S. stock market across the U.S. presidential term cycle (years 1, 2, 3 or 4) starting in 1950. Is a longer sample informative? To extend the sample period, we use the long run S&P Composite Index of Robert Shiller. The value of this index each month is the average daily level during that month. It is therefore “blurry” compared to a month-end series, but the blurriness is not of much concern over a 4-year cycle. Using monthly S&P Composite Index levels from the end of December 1872 through August 2019 (about 37.5 presidential terms), we find that:

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