Donald Trump stunned many investors around the world when he beat Hillary Clinton to win the U.S. presidential election.
Markets initially tumbled in overnight trading, with the S&P 500 Index down as much as 5%. Many long-term dividend investors, me included, went to sleep excited for some incremental buying opportunities in the morning.
However, we woke up disappointed. The market had made a complete U-turn and was roughly flat with its previous close within just minutes of trading.
The S&P 500 ended up closing higher by roughly 1% on Wednesday and gained more ground Thursday, but there has been meaningful dispersion between sectors.
Over the last two days, the best-performing sector beat the S&P 00 by 6.8%, while the worst-performing sector trailed the market by 7.3%. Those are some massive moves!
Some dividend stocks performed extremely well, while others were clobbered. In this article, I will examine the biggest winners and losers and analyze Donald Trump’s potential impact on dividend stocks as we think about how to position our portfolios for the next four years.
Does a New President Really Matter for Stocks?
Before reviewing the stock market’s response to Trump’s victory, it’s worth mentioning that Republicans and Democrats have not been conclusively better or worse for the stock market.
Here’s an excerpt from a Kiplinger article:
“Conventional wisdom might suggest that Republicans, who are supposedly more business-friendly than the Democrats, would be more beneficial for your stock holdings. In fact, looking back to 1900, Democrats have been slightly better for stocks, with the Dow up an average of nearly 9% annually when the Democrats are in control, compared with nearly 6% per year during Republican administrations. But normal variations in annual stock market returns dwarf that difference, says Russ Koesterich, chief investment strategist at BlackRock. He concludes that a focus on which party wins the White House is unwarranted—at least from an investing standpoint.”
For whatever it is worth, Warren Buffett said he remains “100% optimistic” about America in a recent CNN interview. Unsurprisingly, he thinks any stock market predictions being made about Trump’s presidency are silly – the market will be higher in 10, 20, and 30 years regardless of who is in the office. Warren Buffett’s investment advice is excellent, and I agree with him here.
There are so many other factors that impact markets in unpredictable and more powerful ways than who our country’s leader is. From wars to natural disasters and financial shocks, numerous developments can change the course of the economy and stock market with little to no warning – and there is little that the president can often do about it.
The next four years will be marked by rapid technological developments, the continued rise of the baby boomer generation, and many more factors that are not even knowable today. A new president can certainly tilt the long-term direction our country heads in, but it is sort of like trying to turn a car with failed power steering – turning the wheel in a new direction is very difficult, or even impossible in some cases.
With that said, some companies can certainly thrive or struggle to survive depending on specific policies that are passed. Look at the widespread impact ObamaCare has had on the healthcare value chain, for example.
The market’s rather violent response this week certainly indicated that some investors see clear winners and losers under Trump – regardless of where the overall market heads the next four years.
The Best and Worst Stocks After Donald Trump’s Victory
American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction.”
I found these words to be quite fitting when pondering the impact a new president can have on our country and seeing the market’s reaction in recent days.
Looking at Trump’s policies, it’s immediately clear that Trump’s presidency intends to mark a stark change from the eight years we have had under President Obama.
From plans to repeal ObamaCare, renegotiate NAFTA, and build a wall to slashing corporate tax rates, reducing regulations, and investing heavily in infrastructure, there is a lot to digest.
All of these policies are designed with the hopes of fueling job growth and accelerating GDP growth. I agree with many of his policies around taxes and regulation, which have potential to structurally improve the economy (in theory). The market’s vote has been strongly positive, and I sure hope it is right.
As seen in the chart below, financials, industrials, and health care all outperformed the market by more than 3% from November 9th through November 10th.
Less onerous regulations would be a very positive development for banks and financial services firms, which have been under attack by stringent policies such as the Dodd-Frank Act, which has been called the most far reaching Wall Street reform in history. If the economy’s growth picks up, higher interest rates would also help many lenders.
Industrial stocks are likely benefiting from Trump’s commitment to negotiating better trade deals, which could help protect domestic manufacturers. His plans to invest over $500 billion in U.S. infrastructure could also be a boon for industrial companies that have struggled to achieve real growth in recent years.
Healthcare is benefiting from the potential for looser regulation as well, including the potential repeal of ObamaCare. Drug prices have come under a lot of regulatory pressure over the last year, too, but the worst might be over. Who knows. I am not a healthcare expert, but it will be really interesting to see how this space evolves post-ObamaCare. I plan to avoid most of the sector because of all the moving parts that are just too complicated for me to comfortably understand.
Not every sector has been a winner. As seen above, the technology sector trailed the market by 3%. The driver behind the technology sector’s underperformance is harder to pinpoint.
From what I have read, it is tied to two main factors. First, many tech companies have moved their operations and support overseas. Second, Trump’s anti-immigration stance could threaten the number of H-1B visas that are available, reducing the number of skilled workers available for tech giants.
The three worst performing sectors in the market were REITs, consumer staples, and utilities, which trailed the S&P 500 by 4.5%, 5.3%, and 7.3%, respectively.
These areas of the market are sensitive to changes in interest rates over short periods of time and are viewed more as defensive safe havens. As the market began pricing in better economic growth and, in turn, higher interest rates, money flowed out of these sectors into riskier, economy-sensitive sectors. This doesn’t mean these are bad companies or long-term investments. Far from it.
These sectors have just benefited from the low growth, low inflation, and low rate environment observed in recent years. As I have been pointing out in our monthly newsletter, they have traded at P/E multiples 15-20% above their 10-year average multiples and were more sensitive to a correction. For that reason, I have been avoiding putting new capital to work in those areas of the market, even despite their fundamental safety (valuation still matters).
The 10-year Treasury yield spiked from 1.88% on November 8 to 2.15% on November 10, causing knee-jerk selling in interest rate-sensitive sectors. Past studies have shown that higher interest rates result in short-term underperformance for many higher-yielding dividend stocks, and that is exactly what has been happening recently.
Given how low rates have been for so long, I wouldn’t be surprised if the selling was sharper and longer compared to past periods of rising rates (assuming rates actually do rise over the coming years – far from a guarantee). However, longer term, quality dividend growth stocks have historically prevailed, and I expect the future outcome to be no different.
At the end of the day, the market’s flurry of chess moves can feel intimidating at first. However, stepping back, it shouldn’t have any impact on our investment process, ability to predict the future, or approach to building a diversified stream of growing dividend income.
The market is notorious for making knee-jerk reactions, and this past week was a prime example, in my opinion. No one can forecast the economy’s future growth trajectory, and there remains a good deal of uncertainty regarding how well Trump and Congress can work together on his policy ideas.
As conservative, buy-and-hold dividend investors, the continued drop in many stable, higher-yielding stocks such as utilities, consumer staples, and REITs could provide some investment opportunities in the coming weeks. These areas of the market have been the most overvalued relative to history, and I think their recent correction is healthy.
Lower prices also mean more dividend income for every new dollar we have to invest. I’m certainly watching these areas closely for our Conservative Retirees dividend portfolio. Another 10% correction in Consumer Staples and Utilities would put their P/E multiples in line with their 10-year averages, according to data from FactSet.
If Trump is able to improve economic growth and inflation over the next few years, that is good news for virtually all businesses – utilities enjoy stronger power demand, REITs post higher occupancy rates and raise rents, and consumer staples see consumption increase for their products.
Rather than try to predict all of the “what if” scenarios under Trump (or any leader, really), I think our energy is better spent working to identify safe dividend growth stocks that will continue to thrive for many decades to come, regardless of who is in office. Building a reasonably diversified dividend portfolio protects us from any single economic outcome as well.
Many of the moves in stock prices that we have seen in the market this past week are not (yet) justified by current fundamentals. I would compare it to a company’s management team raising guidance for earnings growth over the next five years (i.e. Trump intending to significantly boost GDP growth), and the company’s stock price surging in response (i.e. the sector rotation we reviewed above). Management now has to deliver on its promises (i.e. get Congress to agree on policies and see each policy deliver its intended goals), which is often far from a guarantee.
Whether the economy improves or contracts over the next few years, it won’t change my dividend investing habits and investment process. Stay disciplined and remain focused on the long term. This approach has treated investors well over the last 100 years, and it is likely to treat them equally well over the next century.