Election cycles — especially during presidential campaigns — can have an impact on the stock market as traders wait to see how policymaking changes with a new president.
Presidential elections can also impact consumer spending as shoppers become distracted by the campaign.
In an analysis by Deborah Weinswig, managing director at Fung Global Retail & Technology, the analyst noted that it is unclear how the stock market and consumer environment will be impacted in 2016, “but election years have generally added a layer of uncertainty to the stock market.”
“Traditionally, there is a pullback in consumer spending early in an election year followed by a recovery later in the year,” Weinswig said. “During election years from 1928 through 2012, the S&P 500 Index averaged a gain of 7 percent, slightly below its historical average of 7.5 percent for all years during the same period.”
Weinswig said shopping activity slows as Election Day approaches, which is likely due to consumers being fixated on how the election progresses as well as results. “And retailers struggle to find airtime between political ads in the run-up to Election Day, so they are less able to lure shoppers to their stores,” she said adding that political advertising is expected to total $11.6 billion this year, and as “politics heats up, traditional advertisers [will] have to pay more if they want to get into the market.”
In the 2012 election, ShopperTrak noted a drop in traffic by 6.1 percent in the two weeks prior to Election Day. One week out, traffic plummeted 12.9 percent, while the week of Election Day saw a 12.4 percent decline in traffic. On Wall Street, the impact could be drawn out.
The analyst said following a presidential election, “volatility tends to develop as the [stock] market digests change. Investors generally assume that periods prior to a presidential election are better times for business conditions, corporate bottom lines and stock prices because administrative actions and campaign rhetoric tend to be more consistent and predictable, as are their anticipated influences on the economy.”
In separate research from Dr. Marshall Nickles at Pepperdine’s School of Business and Management, policy changes prior to an election such as interest rate changes, new federal programs and other initiatives, as well as campaign promises, often create “some euphoria among voters and investors alike.”
“On the other hand, post-election periods seem to have suffered from an opposite effect that has resulted in less investor optimism,” the economist noted. “Because of the consistency and predictability of administrative actions and campaign rhetoric and their anticipated influences on the economy, investors have come to assume better times for business conditions, corporate bottom lines, and stock prices in the period prior to a presidential election and a less robust period following those periods.”