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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.

Do Investors Prefer an Idle Congress?

“When Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Sell!” summarizes research finding that the U.S. stock market generates higher and less volatile when Congress is not in session. Is this finding robust to inclusion of recent data? To check, we examine average daily returns when the U.S. Senate is in session and out of session based on open-to-open market data (for alignment of daily Senate activity to potentially related daily trading). Using Senate in session data, party in power data and daily opening levels of the S&P 500 Index for 1978 through 2009 (partial through June 12), we find that: Keep Reading

“It’s the P/E, Stupid!”

Is there a relationship between investor risk-aversion, as indicated by the aggregate U.S. stock market price-earnings ratio (P/E), and level of public satisfaction with the performance of the President? In their December 2008 paper entitled “Speculating on Presidential Success: Exploring the Link between the Price-Earnings Ratio and Approval Ratings”, Tomasz Wisniewski, Geoffrey Lightfoot and Simon Lilley examine the relationship between aggregate stock market P/E and the surveyed level of public approval of the current President. Using quarterly P/E for the S&P Composite Stock Price Index derived from Robert Shiller’s long-run dataset and Gallup presidential approval survey data from the beginning of 1950 through the third quarter of 2007 (231 observations), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Spectral Analysis of Stock Market Cyclicality

Are there reliable periodicities in U.S. stock returns tied to national election cycles? In their October 2008 paper entitled “Financial Astrology: Mapping the Presidential Election Cycle in US Stock Markets”, Wing-Keung Wong and Michael McAleer apply spectral analysis to identify and quantify cycles in U.S. stock market returns, including a presidential election cycle. Using weekly S&P 500 index data for the period 1965-2003, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Presidential Politics and Industry Returns

Do certain market industries outperform when Democrats or Republicans hold the U.S. presidency, or during certain years of the presidential term? In their recent paper entitled “Political Cycles in US Industry Returns”, Jeffrey Stangl and Ben Jacobsen investigate whether specific industries tend to perform better: (1) under Democratic or Republican presidents; and (2) during the last two years of a presidency. Using return data for 48 industries representing all stocks listed on the major U.S. exchanges during 1926-2006, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Political Influences on Stock Valuation Levels

Do political factors influence stock valuation levels? In his July 2007 paper entitled “Can Political Factors Explain the Behavior of Stock Prices Beyond the Standard Present Value Models?”, Tomasz Wisniewski explores the degree to which political factors affect valuation of U.S. equities. Specifically, he examines whether party holding the Presidency (12 presidencies), Presidential approval ratings and timing of eight major military conflicts affect stock price levels relative to rational valuation models. Using data from a variety of sources for the period 1945-2005, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Left Versus Right Down Under

Are “hands-off” (right-leaning) governments better for stocks than “hands-on” (left-leaning) governments? In their recent paper entitled “Investment Returns Under Right- and Left-Wing Governments in Australasia”, Hamish Anderson, Christopher Malone and Ben Marshall examine the effect of ruling party orientation on inflation, and thereby on stock, property and bond returns, in Australia and New Zealand. Using monthly, annual and political-term data as available across the period 1910-2006, they find that: Keep Reading

The Political Campaign Contribution Effect

Do companies that “grease the wheels” of our political system via campaign contributions benefit from such participation? In other words, is there a significant positive correlation between company campaign contributions and stock returns? In their October 2006 paper entitled “Corporate Political Contributions and Stock Returns”, Michael Cooper, Huseyin Gulen and Alexei Ovtchinnikov construct a measure of the breadth of company campaign contribution activity and investigate whether this measure relates systematically to returns for shareholders. Combining data from the Federal Election Commission on political action committee (PAC) contributions of publicly traded firms for the period 1979-2004 (over 800,000 contributions by 1,930 firms) with associated stock price and financial data, they conclude that: Keep Reading

A Republican Risk Premium?

Is the media more likely to accentuate the negative when Republicans hold the Presidency? In their October 2004 paper entitled “Is Newspaper Coverage of Economic Events Politically Biased?”, John Lott Jr. and Kevin Hassett of the American Enterprise Institute test for political bias in the economic (durable goods, GDP, retail sales and unemployment) news coverage of American newspapers, after controlling for economic content. Using headlines from a database of newspaper and wire service articles from 389 newspapers covering January 1991 through May 2004 (and back to 1985 for the top ten newspapers: USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, New York Post, Chicago Tribune, Newsday and Houston Chronicle), they find that: Keep Reading

Left or Right, and Up or Down

Should investors lean toward governments at one end of the country political spectrum to find outperforming equity markets? In their October 2003 paper entitled “The Presidential Puzzle: Political Cycles and the Stock Market”, Pedro Santa-Clara and Rossen Valkanov examine monthly U.S. stock market performance versus executive branch party across 18 Presidential elections (1927-1998, 864 months) encompassing 10 Democratic and 8 Republican Presidencies. In their July 2006 paper entitled “Political Orientation of Government and Stock Market Returns”, Jedrzej Bialkowski, Katrin Gottschalk and Tomasz Wisniewski investigate whether the political orientation of 173 different governments systematically affects the performance of 24 international (mostly European) stock markets. Findings are: Keep Reading

When Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Sell!

In their March 2005 paper entitled “Congress and the Stock Market,” Michael Ferguson and Douglas Witte examine the relationship between stock market returns and the imminent quantity and the “quality” of Congressional activity using various stock indices over long periods. They find that: Keep Reading

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