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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.

Party in Power and Currency Exchange Rates

Are there predictable dollar exchange rate trends according to which U.S. political party is in power? In their March 2024 paper entitled “Presidential Cycles and Exchange Rates”, Pasquale Della Corte and Hsuan Fu investigate whether the party holding the U.S. presidency predicts the dollar exchange rate. Their presidential cycle starts in November with a presidential election and ends four years later at the end of October. They express all exchange rates in U.S. dollars per unit of foreign currency. They consider currencies of countries with developed and emerging economies, making adjustments for introduction of the euro in January 1999, starting with nine currencies in 1983 and ending with 20 currencies. They relate findings to differences in country interest rates and inflation rates and to shifts in trade policy (tariffs). Using end-of-month dollar exchange rates for the selected currencies, global economic data and a measure of aggregate global trade restrictions during October 1983 through January 2024, they find that:

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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 Feb 2024 (about 96 years and 24 presidential terms) and focusing on “political quarters” (Feb-Apr, May-Jul, Aug-Oct and Nov-Jan), we find that: Keep Reading

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 2023 (96 years), we find that: Keep Reading

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 2023, we find that:

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Growing Political Effect?

“Seasonal Strategy for QQQ?” finds an interesting even year-odd year effect in Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) annual returns. The Trading Calendar and “Monthly Returns During Presidential and Congressional Election Years” find notable differences in S&P 500 Index performances for even years and odd years. A plausible culprit is federal elections. Is this effect growing over time? To investigate, we look at four indexes over their full histories:

  1. Shiller’s S&P Composite Index during 1871 through 2023 (152 annual returns).
  2. The S&P 500 Index during 1927 through 2023 (96 returns).
  3. The NASDAQ 100 Index during 1985 through 2023 (38 returns).
  4. The Russell 200 Index during 1987 through 2023 (36 returns).

For each index, we calculate annual returns for even years and odd years and look at the separate trends in these returns over time. Using the selected end-of-year index levels, 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 recently available quarterly aggregate operating earnings for that time. 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 October 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Monthly Returns During Presidential and Congressional Election Years

Do hopes and fears of U.S. election outcomes, and 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 September 2023 (nearly 96 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Congressional Trade Tracking ETFs

Do funds based on holdings/trades of members of the U.S. Congress and their families beat the market? To investigate, we look at performances of two recently introduced exchange-traded funds (ETF):

  1. Unusual Whales Subversive Democratic Trading ETF (NANC) – invests primarily in stocks held by Democratic members of Congress and/or their families per public disclosure filings.
  2. Unusual Whales Subversive Republican Trading ETF (KRUZ) – invests primarily in stocks held by Republican members of Congress and/or their families per public disclosure filings.

We use SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) as a benchmark. Using daily dividend-adjusted prices for NANC, KRUZ and SPY during February 7, 2023 (NANC and KRUZ inception) through October 6, 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

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 August 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

U.S. Debt Ceiling Changes and the U.S. Stock Market

How does the U.S. stock market typically react to U.S. debt ceiling discussions/actions? To investigate, we look at cumulative S&P 500 Index returns around actions to change the debt ceiling. Using daily S&P 500 Index returns and debt ceiling action dates during mid-June 1940 through May 2023 (90 quantitative actions), we find that: Keep Reading

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