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Trump has been elected president — here's what's next for stocks

Myles Udland
Markets Reporter

In a stunning upset, Donald Trump has been elected as 45th president of the United States.

On Tuesday night, markets did not take the news well.

By Wednesday morning, the situation in the markets had changed dramatically. Stocks were handling the news better and were trading roughly unchanged, while gold was still surging and Treasury yields were spiking after an overnight rally.

At their nadir Tuesday night, US stock futures fell more than 4%, the Mexican peso lost over 13%, and the price of safe-haven assets like gold and US Treasuries soared.

So what’s next?

Almost certainly more volatility.

Certainly uncertain

The reaction we saw late Tuesday into early Wednesday — which followed market rallies on Monday and Tuesday — indicates a market that was caught flat-footed. And given the magnitude of this initial surprise, it will likely take a few days, if not longer, for markets to find something like an equilibrium.

Stocks round-trip on Wednesday.

In other words, don’t mistake Wednesday’s rally for an “all clear” sign from markets. The unknowns around any new presidency are considerable, and perhaps no recent administration presents more question marks for investors than  a Trump White House.

Adam Parker, a strategist at Morgan Stanley, wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday that, “We are more bearish today than we were yesterday because of increased uncertainty.”

Parker added, “There is no way around that impacting the price-to-earnings ratio in the short-term, and perhaps until after Trump’s inauguration at a minimum. It is just too difficult to predict what will happen in the first 100 days in a new administration, or frankly, what will happen before then.”

Markets, as the cliché goes, hate uncertainty.

And the snapback we’re seeing in stocks and the massive reversal in Treasury yields Wednesday morning are the kind of frantic moves you’d expect when no one is quite sure what to do.

In a note to clients out Monday, David Zervos at Jefferies cautioned that markets view any knee-jerk move following the election with “a high degree of skepticism,” citing the violent drop and recovery after Brexit as an example of how markets react to unexpected political developments.

At first blush the world is ending. Then, the sun comes up.

Déjà vu all over again

Wednesday’s reaction, however, is sort of what we’ve come expect from markets: panic selling met by panic buying.

Over the last couple years markets have dislocated on a few occasions — Treasuries flash-crashed in October 2014, currencies had a meltdown in January 2015, stocks flash-crashed in August 2015, and then currencies and global stocks had a meltdown in June 2016.

Each of these moves was triggered by external factors of varying clarity — one was a shock political event, one a surprise currency de-pegging, two vague fears about global growth — but a drop and recovery across assets featured in each of these moves.

Whether it is due to an increase in systematic trading or a lack of liquidity across financial markets, it is clear we are more prone to big swings and quick reversals in today’s market environment. Markets move bigger and faster and farther today… and then end up right back where we started.

In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, US stock futures began paring their losses after an initial panic.

By the time Donald Trump took the stage to celebrate his win, stocks were doing about 300 points off their lows. By the time Hillary Clinton took the stage Wednesday morning, stocks were basically flat for the day.

Looking at history

We know that history is kind to stocks when Republicans control the White House along with the Senate and the House.

According to an analysis from Bespoke Investment Group, the Dow has logged an annualized return of about 8% during the 13 instances in which this was the case since 1900.

In this sense, history favors stocks going forward.

Source: Bespoke Investment Group

Of course, as we wrote in the run-up to the election, markets viewed a Donald Trump presidency as a far greater unknown than a Clinton win. And that still holds today.

Trump has promised a massive infrastructure package, to repeal and replace Obamacare, and a major shift on immigration policy.

The extent to which he enacts these plans remains to be seen, and certainly how stocks fare going forward will be affected by each.

So what’s really next for stocks and the economy?

No one ever knows for sure, and certainly we don’t either.

But it seems at this point apt as anything to recall what Warren Buffett wrote in his most recent letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders.

“For 240 years it’s been a terrible mistake to bet against America, and now is no time to start,” Buffett wrote.

“America’s golden goose of commerce and innovation will continue to lay more and larger eggs. America’s social security promises will be honored and perhaps made more generous. And, yes, America’s kids will live far better than their parents did.”

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. 

Read more from Myles here; follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland