posted at 9:01 am on November 10, 2016 by Ed Morrissey
Is it safe to call off the Stockopocalypse? As Election Night results began to tilt in Donald Trump’s direction, cable news nets began painting a dire picture of panic in trading markets. Dow Jones futures dropped a thousand points (5% of their closing value), and Asian markets opened to furious sell-offs. Newscasters warned that Wednesday would produce a hangover worse than the legendary Black Thursday almost thirty years ago, and that the advent of Trump meant the bears were loose for the next four years.
Instead of Black Thursday, we got Green Wednesday. And Wall Street wasn’t the only place that turned out to have a lot of bull present:
Wall Street roared to life Wednesday after a tumultuous day of trading in global financial markets amid hopes that President-elect Donald Trump would reinvigorate the American economy by combining big tax cuts with new government investments.
What initially was a panicked global sell-off Tuesday night transformed into a near-record high for Wall Street by the end of trading on Wednesday. The turnaround began as Trump struck a conciliatory tone in his early-morning acceptance speech, calling on voters to “bind the wounds of division.” In addition, the Republican sweep of Congress raised the probability that Trump’s proposals to radically reform the tax code and rebuild the nation’s infrastructure could actually become a reality.
The blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average surged ahead about 250 points, or 1.4 percent, close to an all-time high — despite futures markets overnight signaling a decline of as much as 800 points. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq each gained about 1 percent.
“The one thing everybody wants is Washington to work and something to get done,” said Joseph LaVorgna, chief U.S. economist at Deustche Bank. “Now you have a situation where you’re going to get arguably a more business-friendly backdrop.”
If you thought yesterday was good — and if you have a retirement account, you should — then today’s looking even better. CNBC’s Patti Domm reports that investors appear much more optimistic after Trump’s election than first thought:
U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday morning as traders digested Tuesday’s presidential election.
It was widely expected that if Donald Trump — who is set to meet with President Barack Obama on Thursday — won, there would be chaos in markets since Wall Street had been seemingly expecting a Clinton win.
While there’s still an edge of uncertainty, on Wednesday markets chose to focus on elements from Trump’s acceptance speech, in which he discussed spending on infrastructure projects that could boost growth.
Of course theres’ an “air of uncertainty.” We have begun a transition of power from one president to another, and from one party to another. It’s the latter that prompted some of the panic seen on Tuesday night. Investors make decisions based on their sense of the immediate and long-term future, and got as surprised as everyone else when Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton. Investors had expected continuity, and had in fact bet on it with lots and lots of real money. With a disruption candidate coming into the White House, the first instinct would have been to sell off some positions out of caution, and that appears to have turned into a momentary panic.
Assigning the break in panic to Trump’s brief mention of infrastructure projects is particularly difficult to credit. Trump has talked about the need to rebuild American infrastructure since the early days of his campaign; he blamed the Iraq War for wasting money that could have been spent on those projects, a point he emphasized in at least one televised primary debate. In fact, both candidates offered gauzy pledges on infrastructure, with even gauzier explanations about where they’d find the money to pay for it.
Smart players understood the panic, and the opportunity. Carl Icahn grabbed $1 billion worth of stock as it initially plummeted, and cleaned up nicely as a result:
“I went home and bought some stocks,” Icahn said. “I usually don’t trade so I feel good about that because I really don’t think having Donald Trump in the White House … is going to be so terrible.”
Actually, he bought a lot of stock, about $1 billion worth, Icahn told Bloomberg TV. “I would have tried to put a lot more to work, but I couldn’t put more than about $1 billion to work, and then the market got away. But I’m still happy about it,’’ Icahn said.
Icahn’s bet was prescient. The Dow, an index of 30-blue chip stocks, was up nearly 1 percent in the early afternoon, while the Standard & Poors 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq were up about .5 percent.
One percent may not sound like much, but on a billion-dollar bet, it’s a cool $10 million. Others may have finally gotten the message:
“I would have expected a much more significant decline this morning,” said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist for Federated Investors. “Maybe everyone is starting to get comfortable with the idea that this isn’t the end of the world as we know it, and there is a silver lining here.”
Exactly. It’s not the end of the world at all, even if there may or may not be a significant silver lining. Uncertainty? Sure. A need to recast strategies for a new approach to regulation and policy, rather than the continuity everyone expected? Probably. But discussing those rationally isn’t as dramatic as showing graphs with lines plunging in real time while warning that the sky is falling, the sky is falling — which on stock and commodity markets runs the risk of creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Investors took a deep breath. More of us should do the same.