As of 2 p.m. New York time today the Standard & Poor’s 500 was up 2.99%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was ahead 2.38%. The NASDAQ Composite had jumped a huge 4.16% and the NASDAQ 100 was up an even stronger 4.69%. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) had gained 3.20%.
The small cap Russell 2000 lagged with a gain of 0.32%.
At the close, the figures for the indexes were S&P 50 up 2.30%, Dow ahead 1.34%; NASDAQ higher by 3.85%; NASDAQ 100 increase of 4.41%; and the Russell 2000 lagging with a 0.05% gain.
It’s tempting to attribute today’s gains to some market preference for a Biden over a Trump administration. Or general relief that the election so far (knock on wood) hasn’t resulted in violence.
But instead of spinning your wheels in big picture speculation, take a look at what sectors are climbing and which are down today.
First, we’re seeing the typical knee-jerk Wall Street vote in favor of divided government. But this time there is some substance to the reaction. There’s a sense today that the failure of Democrats to take control of the Senate means diminished odds of a big coronavirus stimulus package in January. That’s why the Russell 2000, which has been the index most responsive to hopes of stimulus to the U.S. economy is lagging.
And it’s also one reason that technology stocks are up so strongly today. Amazon (AMZN) is ahead 6.03%. Facebook (FB) has gained 8.78%. Alphabet (GOOG) is higher by 6.22%. Tech stocks, especially big tech stocks, have been able to climb even while the economy spun its wheels during the coronavirus economy. Buying in this sector today is a replay of a trade that has worked really well for most of the year. The rally has extended to momentum plays in the sector with PayPal (PYPL) up 6.60%; Twilio (TWLO) ahead 8.57%; and Veeva Systems (VEEV) higher by 5.37%.
Second, we’re seeing a rally in New York-traded China stocks on speculation that Biden might win the White House and that a Biden administration would be more likely to negotiate with China rather than implement an expanded trade war. JD.Com (JD), for example, is up 7.24% and Meituan Dianping (MPNGF) is higher by 11.82%.
Third, we seeing a big move higher in the drug sector–everything from Big Pharma to biotech–in the bet that a divided Congress won’t be able to do anything drastic to control drug prices. Pfizer (PFE) for example, is up 3.87% today: Merck has gained 6.21%; and AbbVie (ABBV) has picked up 9.70. Among biotechs, where speculation on lower drug prices figures directly into the price that investors are willing to pay for a pipeline of future drugs, Seattle Genetics (SGEN) has gained 10.2%; Incyte (INCY) has rallied 8.08%; and Acadia Pharmaceuticals (ACAD) is higher by 6.46%.
Fourth, and not to be under-estimated, Wall Street sees a dividend Congress as unlikely to pass any of the tax increases–on Wall Street–that Biden had included in his election platform. Another Trump term, of course, would be more likely to produce tax cuts than tax increases.
And fifth, to the downside, there’s betting that a divided Congress means no big infrastructure package in 2021. Aggregate producer Vulcan Materials (VMC) is down 8.31%; Caterpillar (CAT) is lower by 6.92%; and Cummins (CMI) has dropped 2.66%.
As the day goes on, Wall Street will get more vote counts from Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. We’ll see how more certainly about the results of the Presidential race affects Wall Street sentiment. But even today Wall Street does know that the Senate will remain in Republican hands–at least until the January run-off election in Georgia.