The 2016 U.S. election is unusually consequential. The underlying dynamics are driven by widening income inequality across the world, and a growing perception that the benefits of trade and globalization have accrued to few.
Whoever moves into the White House will have to address these issues, and the resulting policies will have important implications for investors. The BlackRock Investment Institute examines the political landscape and policy proposals from each candidate, as well as the potential investing impacts, in our new paper “A Consequential Election.” Here’s a quick look at the major investing takeaways.
Washington decision making is likely to become more fractious regardless of the election result. Divisions between and within the Republican and Democratic parties have been growing, and an outcome whereby neither party would have a significant majority in the House of Representatives is a possibility. This could make it harder to reach consensus on legislation, potentially heralding a return to the days of dramatic showdowns over budgets and the U.S. debt ceiling.
Yet corporate tax reform and increased spending on infrastructure appear to have some bipartisan support—and would be a ripe area for negotiation in a divided Congress. We could see fiscal expansion directed at improving infrastructure. Infrastructure spending should boost growth more than usual amid rock-bottom rates, in our view.
A growing backlash against free trade and immigration threatens to make economies more insular—at a time when economic growth and productivity in many countries are barely above stall speed. Emerging markets have the most to lose, especially under a victory by Republican nominee Donald Trump. Mexico is a clear potential loser given its heavy reliance on exports to the U.S.
Potential changes to income taxes would have ripple effects on U.S. municipal bonds. The U.S. election campaign suggests rising populist sentiment around the globe is likely here to stay, and we see potential changes to income taxes. These could range from changing the tax treatment of carried interest to capping deductions for charitable giving and mortgage interest. Our focus is on any moves to limit the amount of interest from U.S. municipal bonds individuals can claim as tax exempt. Either candidate could introduce a cap, in our view, which would make munis less attractive and lead to a rise in yields in the US$3.8 trillion market. We see Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s planned tax increases on the wealthy supporting munis, as they would raise the value of any tax-exempt interest income for individuals facing higher taxes. Conversely, Trump’s plan to slash personal tax rates could deal a blow to the asset class.
We see two sectors that could be most affected by the U.S. election: U.S. financials and U.S. health care. We see tough times ahead for many U.S. financials as the sales practices of large U.S. banks come under greater scrutiny, especially under a Clinton presidency. U.S. health care stocks could be hit by renewed pressure to curb price increases on drugs, a crackdown on large-scale mergers as well as uncertainty over a likely shakeup of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Finally, mergers and acquisitions are set to face increased scrutiny if Clinton prevails, as her party appears to view anti-trust enforcement as a tool to boost competition and address inequality.
Our bottom line: This is an unusually consequential election that challenges the post-crisis status quo. Read more in the full paper, “A Consequential Election.”