Nancy Tengler Special to USA Today: As you reshuffle your 401(k) for the Biden administration, look across the pond
You have heard it said that elections have consequences. They do, but, savvy investors find ways to make money no matter the result.
Four years ago, voters supported a red sweep, handing both houses of Congress and the presidency to Republicans. Suddenly, energy stocks moved out of the regulatory crosshairs and the U.S. became energy independent . Yet it didn’t help the stock performance of most energy companies.
Now, energy regulations have already been tightened as the result of a blue sweep of Congress and the election of Joe Biden to the presidency. Since then, green energy companies have been on a tear. The market giveth and the market taketh away!
Changes to policy regularly impact stock valuations. After the Great Financial Crisis, bank regulations were tightened, and financial stocks subsequently returned less than half of the return for the S&P 500. The regulations enforced by the Federal Reserve after a near melt-down in the financial system were put in place for all the right reasons, but they had a profound impact on the performance of those stocks. Elections swing the pendulum. Take note.
Diversification obviously helps mitigate the swings but we can make marginal adjustments to our 401(k) allocations to reflect a changing climate and improve our overall performance. Consider where the opportunities might surface and head in that direction.
Just about every year, strategists recommend a move to international stocks. We are told they’re cheap compared to U.S companies. Regression to the mean—that tried-and-true investment tenet that can take years, even decades, to realize—is provided as another reason global stocks should outperform U.S. stocks.
I have a better reason: When the vaccine is fully implemented and economies around the globe re-open economic growth will see a snapback and global synchronized growth is likely to return. Add to that a weaker dollar (which is good for emerging markets) and global stocks should benefit.
Target firms gaining from China truce
The Biden Administration is likely to strike a softer tone in our trade relationship with China. Early indications are that the U.S. will collaborate with our allies to develop a cohesive and coordinated approach to working with Beijing. This may benefit technology and consumer discretionary stocks with significant sales in China.
Leverage consumer spending surge
With Stimulus Check 2.0 on the way and another check likely to come in the spring, Americans have been saving at a historic rate. Some of this money was spent in the summer and spring but savings are still about $2 trillion dollars above pre-COVID levels. Investors like to refer to this as pent-up demand. Consumer discretionary stocks have benefited from the summer spend and are likely to continue to do so as consumers reduce savings and get back to work in 2021.
Growth or value?
Value has enjoyed recent outperformance after years of underperformance relative to growth. The jury is still out as to whether value will continue to outperform. Consequently you should create a balance in your U.S. equity allocation based on your risk tolerance and years to retirement. If you are young you may want to overweight growth to value. Regardless, you don’t have to be all-in or all-out of either group to achieve your investment goals. Establish a comfortable allocation to each style category and adjust it when weightings materially differ from your allocation.
Investing is about being mostly right. Monitor your allocations—quarterly reviews are more than adequate—and don’t be afraid to make adjustments. Because two years from now we are likely to have a new mix shift in D.C. and a new set of opportunities to make money in the market.