Investors must be careful to avoid being ‘whiplashed’

Currency dealers monitor exchange rates in a trading room at KEB Hana Bank in Seoul on November 4, 2020, as Asian markets react to early predictions following the U.S. presidential election.JUNG YEON-JE | AFP | Getty ImagesInvestors should tread carefully to avoid being “whiplashed” by ongoing market “confusion,” economists have told CNBC, as the race to the White House appears likely to drag on for days.The winner of the U.S. election remains too close to call on Wednesday morning. With polls now closed, President Donald Trump is projected to win Florida, Ohio and Texas, while former Vice President Joe Biden voiced confidence he would ultimately prevail. Shortly after Biden addressed his supporters, Trump falsely claimed an election victory. His remarks came with millions of legitimate ballots still left to count.Many market participants had expected Biden to deliver a clear victory. However, the Democratic nominee failed to win key swing states that count votes quickly and will now need to wait on states to finish counting a huge number of postal ballots cast amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were flat on Wednesday morning, after alternating between sharp gains and losses as the results of the election rolled in without a clear winner. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 index were both slightly higher.European stocks were slightly lower during morning deals, as investors closely monitored the latest developments. People watch a big screen displaying the live election results in Florida at Black Lives Matter plaza across from the White House on election day in Washington, DC on November 3, 2020.Olivier Douliery | AFP | Getty ImagesGregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, told CNBC via telephone that market participants should be “very careful” to avoid being “whiplashed” as different states certify their election results. “Essentially, depending on the outcome we may get one of multiple scenarios but assuming things go relatively smoothly, and we do not have a prolonged period of uncertainty … then in that environment, I think you would get more of a classical market reaction based on the candidate’s policy proposals,” Daco said.He identified energy firms, particularly green energy stocks, and those orientated toward infrastructure, growth, trade and agriculture as companies likely to benefit from a Biden win or evidence that the Democrats were destined to secure the House, Senate and White House.Alternatively, if Trump and the Republicans were seemingly on course to clinching victory, Daco said investors could expect to see greater growth in the banking sector, defense stocks, pharmaceuticals and biotech.”Those might be sectors where regulation would be perceived to be less under a Trump administration than a Biden one,” Daco said.Market winners and losersAs of 3:35 a.m. ET, Biden had secured 220 electoral votes while Trump had picked up 213, according to NBC News projections. Both candidates are seeking 270 electoral votes to secure the presidency.Market focus is now turning to three crucial Rust Belt states, but final results may not come for Michigan or Wisconsin until later Wednesday morning and Pennsylvania may not be called until later in the week.Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email that the absence of a clear result in the presidential election would “continue to create market confusion.””Markets appear to have priced in the likelihood that the results will take longer to tabulate this year, given the unique conditions created by Covid-19, and as a result we do not anticipate significant market volatility under our core forecast,” Birch said.”Roughly speaking, ‘winners’ under Biden would be renewables and construction, plus a boost in overall market sentiment owing to the prospect of greater policy clarity and a second round of stimulus in 2021,” she continued.”Potential winners under Trump would be fossil fuels and mining, and potentially financial services. But in any event, we will need several days to start seeing sectoral impacts, once the final election results are confirmed.”A worker with the Detroit Department of Elections waits for the next absentee ballot to be sorted through at the Central Counting Board in the TCF Center on November 4, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.Elaine Cromie | Getty ImagesOliver Jones, senior market economist at Capital Economics, told CNBC via email that investors had primarily focused on the prospects for more near-term fiscal support, and substantial support will be much easier to deliver via a united Congress.He added there would “still be some hurdles short of one side achieving a filibuster-proof Senate majority.””Conversely, any outcome that leaves Congress divided might well be negative for equities and positive for Treasuries, regardless of who ends up in the White House,” Jones said.

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