Jean Boivin, Head of BlackRock Investment Institute together with Mike Pyle, Global Chief Investment Strategist, Elga Bartsch, Head of Macro Research and Scott Thiel, Chief Fixed Income Strategist, all part of the BlackRock Investment Institute, share their insights on global economy, markets and geopolitics. Their views are theirs alone and are not intended to be construed as investment advice.
Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential race likely ushers in a near-term market environment dominated by low rates, a hunt for yield and growth stocks. A Democratic takeover of the Senate looks unlikely, which would constrain the Biden administration’s ability to implement large-scale fiscal stimulus and public investment, tax, healthcare and climate related legislation.
President-elect Biden flipped the key states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, giving him more than the needed 270 electoral votes to win the White House. See the chart above. We see the likelihood that recounts and legal challenges could overturn this outcome as remote and favor looking through any resulting market volatility. Democrats’ effort to take control of the Senate has met roadblocks. Two Senate seats in Georgia are headed for a January runoff election, giving Democrats a narrow path to winning both and yielding a 50-50 Senate, with the vice president as the tie breaker. A divided government – with Republicans retaining their control of the Senate – could see greater regulation for many sectors, but big-ticket legislative actions including large-scale fiscal stimulus and public investment, tax, healthcare and climate related legislation would likely face insurmountable hurdles.
Fiscal policy is critical for preventing permanent economic damage from the virus shock. Some fiscal relief looks possible in the near term during the lame-duck session of Congress, but we see the scope and size of fiscal stimulus and public investment as much more modest than what a united Democratic government might deliver. We’re monitoring the fiscal response closely, as a premature retrenchment could set back an economic restart that has so far surprised to the upside. Taxation policies would likely stay steady under a Republican Senate. Long-term U.S. Treasury yields had run up ahead of Election Day in anticipation of a Democratic sweep, bringing forward a rise in yields we expect to see in a higher inflation regime in the medium term. The prospect of a divided government removed the accelerant and brought yields down for now. Yet we still expect yields to slowly move up over the next few years, boding well for risk assets, especially for credit and growth companies that have dominated markets for much of the post-crisis period.
A Biden win likely signifies a return to more predictable trade and foreign policy. We believe emerging market (EM) assets should perform on improved trade sentiment, especially in Asia ex-Japan. In addition, many Asian countries have managed to contain the virus and are ahead in the economic restart. Yet we see U.S.-China rivalry staying structurally elevated across technology, trade and investment, due to bipartisan support for a more competitive stance on China. We also see an increased focus on sustainability under a divided government through regulatory actions, rather than via tax policy or spending on green infrastructure, and a rejoining of the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.
The bottom line: A Biden divided government would bring significant changes in foreign policy and regulation – both in substance and tone. Yet the legislative agenda would be constrained, taking off the table the more transformative scenarios being contemplated ahead of the election. The likely implication: continuity in the market environment. We expect the quality style factor and large-cap equities to perform strongly – as they have often done in the past. Large-cap tech stocks have led the post-election rally, yet we note they would face regulatory pressure even under a divided government. We are reviewing our tactical asset views in light of the election result. Other key inputs include the evolution of the virus shock and the timeline for a vaccine – and their potential to bring forward market expectations of inflation and change equity market leadership to cyclicals.
A resurgence in Covid infections has led a number of European countries to re-impose national lockdowns, though they are less stringent than seen during the initial outbreak. We see the virus resurgence and new government restrictions temporarily disrupting the economic restart that had been stronger than expected. The U.S. election outcome and potentially a smaller-than-expected fiscal package raise the question on the extent of permanent scarring of the economy.
A number of economic indicators from the U.S. and euro area will be in focus. Markets are watching for signs that a Covid resurgence – and new lockdown measures in Europe – could put pressure on the activity restart.
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