Nov 8, 2022 - Economy & Business

Midterms aren't the main event for Wall Street

Illustration of polling, voting, and chart symbols on a grid

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The potentially combustible cocktail of American politics and markets will get a fresh shake from voters Tuesday. Few on Wall Street expect much fizz, however.

State of play: Republicans look set to take control of the House of Representatives — and potentially the Senate.

The big picture: But analysts seem skeptical that a change in control of Congress to the GOP will generate a giant move — up or down — for the badly battered stock market.

  • The S&P 500 has shed over 20% this year and is on track for its worst year since 2009.
  • The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite is down over 30%.
  • The sell-off has been driven by Fed's six — count 'em, six! — rate hikes this year, which have hammered so-called growth stocks particularly hard.

What they're saying: "The election appears to rank relatively low on the list of macro factors concerning equity investors. Inflation, monetary policy, recession risk, and geopolitics have been far more important drivers of equity market moves than the potential for modest changes in US fiscal policy," wrote Ben Snider, an equity market analyst at Goldman Sachs, in a recent note.

  • A recent survey of investors from JPMorgan showed 40% of respondents expected the elections to be a positive catalyst for the market, while 12% thought it would be negative.
  • About 48% thought the elections would be a nonevent.

Yes, but: That doesn't mean markets won't do anything after the votes are counted. It's fairly common for stocks to get a lift after elections, as the uncertainty surrounding winners and losers dissipates.

  • Since 1950, all 18 midterm elections have been followed by an up year for stocks, with nearly identical returns after wins by both Democrats and Republicans, according to research from LPL Financial.
  • "As far as markets are concerned, the policy impact is likely to be small, and market participants will continue to be more focused on central bank policy and inflation," LPL analysts wrote recently.

What we're watching: The fight between the Fed and inflation — not Democrats and Republicans — is what matters most for markets right now.

  • It's Thursday's report on consumer inflation for October, not the elections, that stands to move markets the most this week.

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