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TICK BY TICK: How markets reacted to midterm election results

Investors had been bracing for a congressional shake-up in the wake of the US midterm elections. The results will lay the groundwork for the next two years and the back half of President Donald Trump’s term, holding major implications for policy-sensitive sectors and industries. 

The widely-expected outcome of Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, and Republicans retaining control of the Senate came to fruition on Tuesday evening. This is the first time in 10 years that the Democrats will be in charge of the House.

Futures had ups and downs for as the early results came in. They were little changed for much of the late evening. But at around 3 a.m. ET Wednesday morning, stock futures took a leg higher as the Dow e-mini (YM=F) soared 0.74%, or 190 points – indicating a strong triple-digit open for the index.  The S&P 500 e-mini (ES=F) rose 0.89%, or 24.50 points at 6:13 a.m. ET, and the Nasdaq e-mini (NQ=F) was 1.18%, or 82.75 points higher.

S&P 500 futures had their ups and downs. But far more ups than downs.

Regardless of the election results, the stock market has generally seen positive returns in the 12 months following midterm elections, according to John Lynch, LPL Financial’s chief investment strategist.

“When it comes to stock market performance, we would argue that election outcomes are not particularly important. Regardless of the election’s outcome, the S&P 500 Index has been positive during the 12 months following the midterm election 18 straight times going back to 1946,” he said in a note on Tuesday.

Here are some of the market reactions from the evening.

11:32 p.m. ET: Democrat Kendra Horn upsets incumbent Steve Russell

Considered one of the biggest upsets of the night, Democrat Kendra Horn has won the House seat in Oklahoma’s 5th district, according to NBC. The district was considered safely Republican, and incumbent Steve Russell won the district by more than 20 points in 2016. Health care was a large focus of Horn’s campaign.

10:42 p.m. ET: Markets return to closing levels as results begin to shape up

Stock futures traded at levels close to their closing levels Tuesday as results continued to pour in. Markets had priced in an outcome of Democrats taking control of the House and Republicans retaining the Senate. With this result edging closer and closer to this expected result, equity futures traded sideways.

S&P 500 futures

Ryan Nauman, a market strategist from Information Investment Solutions, said he doesn’t foresee major market implications from a split Congress. “A blue/red wave would have riled markets,” Nauman said.

“History shows gridlock is not a bad thing for markets, as markets historically have performed well during times of gridlock, and I don’t think that will change this go around, in large part, due to strong fundamentals,” Nauman added. “I don’t think there will be major legislative changes, as the deregulation and tax cuts already in place will remain. Uncertainty around fiscal deadlines and a debt ceiling standoff will ensue, and there would be more opposition to pro-growth policies.”

10:35 p.m. ET: NBC echoes Fox’s prediction that Democrats will control the House

Following a slew of Democratic pickups in the House race, NBC joined Fox News in predicting that Democrats would take control of the House. Some of these included races that had been widely forecast to lean Republican, including New York’s 11th congressional district, where Democrat Max Rose won out over GOP candidate Dan Donovan. Another significant upset included Colin Allred’s unseating of Republican Pete Sessions, chairman of the House Rules Committee, in Texas’s 32nd congressional district.

10:18 p.m. ET: NBC, Bloomberg call for Republicans to retain Senate after GOP candidates win in key races

Republican Kevin Cramer unseated North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp in the closely watched Senate race in North Dakota, where President Donald Trump won by more than 35 points in the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, Republican Ted Cruz won re-election for the Senate seat in Texas, beating Beto O’Rourke, who had been among the most popular Democratic candidates to run in years. The two key wins led major outlets including NBC and Bloomberg to project that the Republicans retain control of the Senate.

9:44 p.m. ET: Democrats gain House seat after Florida Republican Carlos Curbelo concedes

Incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo conceded to Democratic candidate Debbie Mucarsel-Powell for Florida’s 16th congressional district in a tossup race, giving Democrats their third pick-up.

9:42 p.m. ET: Fox News says Democrats will gain House control, knocking stock futures

Stock futures fell from session highs and bond yields ticked down following a report from Fox News’s Decision Desk that Democrats would take control of the House. As of 9:42 p.m. ET, it is unclear what data the outlet is using to come to the conclusion, as Democrats have picked up just two of the 23 seats they need so far.

9:25 p.m. ET: S&P 500 futures trade at session highs

S&P 500 futures (ES=F) hit a session high of 2,772.75 as races point toward Republicans retaining control of the Senate, as had been anticipated. Equity markets have been particularly sensitive to the results during the session, with signals of maintaining the current balance of power sending stock futures higher.

Dow futures also spiked “as the prospect of a ‘blue wave” simmers,’ Ryan Nauman, market strategist at Information Investment Solutions, told Yahoo Finance.

As results come in, JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, said one aspect of policy that likely won’t be budging is trade.

“I believe that early results show that [‘the Trump trade’] will remain in place,” he told Yahoo Finance. “However, I think until we see more results, caution remains the word, and in either scenario I don’t believe volatility abates too significantly until tariffs are resolved.”

8:47 p.m. ET: Mike Braun wins Indiana Senate race in Republican pick-up

Republican and businessman Mike Braun won Indiana’s Senate seat over Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly, AP reported. This means Democrats would need to maintain other Senate tossup seats including Missouri, Tennessee and North Dakota, which is Lean Republican, according to Cook Political Report. Braun has been a frequent critic of foreign outsourcing and a proponent of Trump’s policies of putting America first with trade and business.

8:46 p.m. ET: Republican Andy Barr takes Kentucky’s 6th district

Republican incumbent Andy Barr won Kentucky’s 6th district against Democratic challenger Amy McGrath in a toss-up race widely viewed as a bellwether for control of the House. Trump had won the district by 16 points in 2016.

8:34 p.m. EST: Stock futures erase losses

S&P 500 E-minis turned around and climbed 0.34% to 2,769.25 after falling earlier on as results began trickling in. Equity markets are continuing the status quo – which in this case was a rally at market close – in the absence of certainty in the early hours of congressional race results.

S&P 500 futures

8:21 p.m. ET: Donna Shalala wins Florida’s 27th district, earning Democrats their second pick-up

Donna Shalala won the race to replace retiring Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for Florida’s 27th congressional district, beating Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, according to AP. Though Shalala was expected to come out ahead since the district voted largely for Hillary Clinton, the win represented another much-needed pick-up for Democrats clawing for the majority.

The upset is yet another hint of the materialization of a “Blue Wave” scenario, with Democrats flipping the House. This was the consensus expectation among investors going into the midterm elections.

But pushed further, a “Blue Tsunami” situation with Democrats taking both chambers of Congress “would likely be a net negative for equity market sentiment,” Barclays analyst Aroop Chatterjee wrote in a note. “Without fiscal stimulus/deregulation as a catalyst, the possibility of calls for impeachment and increased investigations would likely intensify the overhang on sentiment.” 

7:44 p.m. ET: Stock futures plunge after Democrat Jennifer Wexton defeats incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock

Stock futures turned lower after the first upset of the evening in the House race, with Democrat Jennifer Wexton defeating incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock for Virginia’s 10th congressional district, according to a call from NBC and CNN.

S&P 500 futures went from around 2,757 down to 2,745 in a matter of minutes after the results were reported.

Investors began flocking to safe havens following the results. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to below 3.2%, while gold and the Japanese yen also advanced.

S&P 500 futures

VA-10 had been viewed as a key barometer for the Democrats in the House race ahead of results, according to some analysts.

“If Jennifer Wexton can’t carry a district where her average polling lead is 7.7%, it doesn’t bode well for the Democrats to win the ~18 similar likely or solid Democratic seats they need to capture a majority,” Michael Zezas of Morgan Stanley wrote in a note Monday.

Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck

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