Chaos 2020: Will Markets Melt Down If No One Concedes the Election?
As pundits weigh in daily on who has the edge in this year’s political horserace, investors want to know how the election will affect their pocketbook.
It could affect it in a big way. A major disruptive threat looms in the 2020 election like no other in recent history.
It’s not that one candidate or the other would be uniquely bad for markets. Wall Street could be okay with either a Trump or a Biden victory, albeit probably for different reasons.
Both candidates are by now totally familiar. And despite their significant policy differences, either Trump or Biden would be tolerable from the standpoint of America’s biggest corporations – many of which now align ideologically with Democrats.
Yes, the stock market has posted new records under President Donald Trump. But it also posted new records during the second term of the Obama/Biden administration.
So why should investors worry about this election in particular?
Because given the unusual circumstances surrounding mail-in voting, there is a very real risk that no winner will be declared on Election Day… or the day after… or perhaps even weeks after.
If there is anything Wall Street can’t stand, it’s uncertainty.
Volatility traders in the futures market are currently in a heightened potential for a botched election that results in turmoil. According to Bloomberg, the November contest represents “the most-expensive event risk on record.”
Democrats and state officials are already making plans for drawn-out election.
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says it could take up to a week to count all of the swing state’s expected absentee ballots.
Democrat pollsters, meanwhile, anticipate Trump to be the apparent winner among the voters who go to the polls on Election Day. Democrat “vote counters” are counting on Biden votes to pour in days later to ultimately put him over the top.
As Axios reported, “A top Democratic data and analytics firm told ‘Axios on HBO’ it’s highly likely that President Trump will appear to have won — potentially in a landslide — on election night, even if he ultimately loses when all the votes are counted.”
The legal battle over which votes to count and which ones to throw out could drag on in multiple states, making the Al Gore vs. George W. Bush “hanging chad” controversy in Florida look like a minor dispute by comparison.
There’s an outside chance election result will not be settled peacefully, raising the prospect of the next President of the United States being determined by who the military brass decide to back.
Over the summer, two former Army officers wrote an open letter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs calling on him to deploy the 82nd Airborne Division to drag President Trump from the Oval Office, if necessary, when his first term ends.
The Transition Integrity Project, comprised of Democrats and “Never Trump” Republicans, is warning about what could happen in a contested election. Although the Transition Integrity Project specifically focuses on the scenario of Trump refusing to leave office after being declared the loser, one of its contributors, Georgetown law professor Rosa Brooks, sees only one “good” scenario.
“A landslide for Joe Biden resulted in a relatively orderly transfer of power. Every other scenario we looked at involved street-level violence and political crisis,” Brooks wrote in the Washington Post.
Would Democrats accept defeat? Hillary Clinton had reluctantly honored the result of the 2016 election, declining to protest the electoral college or wage a post-election campaign for “faithless” electors to overturn the will of voters.
Now she seems to regret that decision. Hillary Clinton declared last month that Joe Biden should not concede the election “under any circumstances.”
Democrat-aligned social media companies are now also much more actively interjecting themselves than they were in 2016.
Twitter is removing and/or adding warning labels to President Trump’s tweets on almost daily basis. Facebook, meanwhile, recently announced it would restrict political ads and bar candidates from declaring victory until it says the results are final.
The self-appointed regulators of internet political speech may try to stage a virtual coup by way of manipulating public perception of the election’s legitimacy.
Another strange scenario that wouldn’t have seemed plausible in any but this strangest of years is that Joe Biden wins the election but doesn’t actually serve as President. Instead, he hands off the presidency to his running mate Kamala Harris.
Questions surrounding Biden’s mental and physical fitness lead some to suspect that he is serving merely as a placeholder to enable a woman – and a more radically left administration – to govern.
Given all the unusual risks surrounding the 2020 election, investors should brace for potential spikes in volatility – possibly on the scale seen in the panic of March this year.
When markets become unhinged, they can’t be counted on to produce rational outcomes. One day quality assets might get pounded, the next they might see stupendous gains.
“During times of extreme fear and uncertainty, precious metals tend to fare better than 'risk' assets such as stocks.”
During times of extreme fear and uncertainty, however, precious metals tend to fare better than “risk” assets such as stocks.
The Federal Reserve Note “dollar” often serves as a temporary safe haven from turmoil in equities.
But when the turmoil is triggered by a loss of confidence in the U.S. political system, the currency that it produces may not necessarily hold up very well.
It will certainly lose value over time regardless of what the election brings – that’s the promise of the Federal Reserve.
The promise of gold and silver is to serve as hard money. Precious metals can help make investors’ portfolios more resilient to the threats of inflation, financial instability, and political upheaval.