We continue to hear a steady drumbeat of partisan political market commentary from all the usual quarters. Their claim — stunningly ignorant in its naïveté — is that the current market selloff has nothing to do with the Housing debacle or the credit collapse, $145 Oil, six consecutive months of negative employment data, nearly $5 per gallon gasoline, a 40% devaluing of the US Dollar, an exhausted US consumer, and massive financial sector write offs.
No, those are irrelevant to the market. Instead, we get an explanation that the market weakness is due to . . . Obama’s lead in the polls.
I have previously criticized this poor form of analysis as one that confuses Cause & Effect. It is a classic error of misunderstanding causation versus correlation.
Whenever a challenger is winning in a national election, it is most often because the current economy is so weak that it gets reflected in market conditions. That negative backdrop is also why the party that is not in possession of the White House outpolls the incumbent party. The SAME FACTORS — a punk economy, high inflation and weak employment — are causative of both the market selloff and the challenger’s lead.
Those who do not understand the difference between Causation & Correlation blame the market on the challenger, rather than recognize the reality. The same economic forces driving the market down are what also drive the challenger up.
Thus, these market based political comments end up being a Rorschach test, revealing nothing about equities, and everything about the speaker’s partisan leanings.
Remember the following article, circa Summer 2,000? It also wrongly blames the Nasdaq crash on the challenger’s rise in the polls — then Governor Bush.
Pricing in a Bush Presidency?
New York Times, July 9th 2000
"Stocks sold off again today as the markets is pricing in the likely impact of a George W. Bush presidency.
Since Bush has emerged as the polling leader in March, stocks have been hit hard. The NASDAQ has fallen 37%, while the S&P500 and the Dow are both down 20%, placing equities squarely in bear market territory.
Various Wall Street strategists have expressed concern regarding how a new set of Bush monetary and overseas policies could impact equities.
"My biggest concern is that the promised Bush tax cuts will be in extremely expensive. That would create huge deficits and be extremely inflationary" said Peter Leslie, a trader on the CBOT floor." Governor Bush has promised to reduce captial gains and dividend taxes, and lower the marginal rates on the nation’s biggest earners. He has not explained how these tax cuts will be funded.
Maverick Capital fund manager Henry Carlyle is more concerned with government spending than Tax cuts. The Dallas resident stated "I have followed Governor Bush in Texas, and fiscal discipline is not his strong suit." Cabot expects a big increase in federal spending and budget deficits that will have ramifications for both inflation and an interest rates.
Vanguard chief John Bogle is more concerned with a lax regulatory environment: "A return to the sort of crony capitalism that we’ve seen in the past would wreak havoc with investor confidence. We need a strong SEC to make sure companies are transparent, and report their accounting fully and fairly. We should not throw the individual investor to a wild and woolly free market that is totally lacking in supervision." The Vanguard chief has long been a proponent of a strong regulatory environment for the protection of individual investors. "I do not see that sort of regime under a President Bush."
Robert Rubin, the Treasury Secretary under Presdient Clinton who retired last year to join the Board of Citigroup, focused on the Federal Reserve. "The next president needs to make sure that the Federal Reserve fulfills its obligations as bank supervisor. I am concerned that Governor Bush, as President, would move away from strict regulation of markets for ideological reasons." Rubin, a Democrat, warned of negative repercussions for the housing and financial sectors. "[Since joining Citigroup], I have been looking into the issue of derivatives. This is another area that requires close scrutiny from both the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve. I see Bush lacking expertise in this crucial area."
Goldman Sachs chief investment strategist Robert Hormat, was even blunter in his assessment of a Bush Presidency: "I am looking for a market crash as a reaction to the election of George W. Bush. Investors should brace themselves for losses of 50% or more — and even worse in the Tech sector — should he be elected."
Legendary legendary oil trader T. Boone Pickens is more optimistic. "We should expect several military conflicts in the Middle East under President Bush, and while this may not be great for the economy it will be terrific for my energy holdings." If Bush gets elected, Pickens plans on opening a new oil based hedge fund, and is forecasting 100% increase in the price of oil to $40. "I’m an Oil, George is an Oil man, and his VP DIck Cheney is an Oil man. I expect energy returns to significantly outperform equity markets over the next eight years" he said."
For some strange satirical reason, I cannot seem to
find the URL for this specific
article . . .
Confusing Cause & Effect: Elections and Markets (January 2008)
The John McCain Market Selloff (March 2008)
Stock Market Politics & the McCain Market Rally (March 2008)
Dow Jones Returns by President Since 1929
Stocks point to Bush loss?
CNN/Money, June 23, 2004: 4:55 PM EDT