Democrats, GOP Fail to Calm Worried Investors

CHARLOTTE, N.C. ( TheStreet) -- President Barack Obama delivered his convention speech Thursday night, but it didn't offer substance for worried investors.

Democrats and Republicans alike failed to quell any uncertainty about a looming fiscal cliff and a stagnant jobs market.

"This uncertainty within the election as two diametrically opposite philosophies when it comes to the economy ... leads to confusion," said Jeffrey Sica, chief investment officer of Sica Wealth Management. "I think when investors get too confused, and there's not a level of transparency or certainty, there's a much greater likelihood that markets will sell off based on that."

Polls suggest that Americans could be in for a tight race between now and the election.

Investors, Sica said, are treating this election like economic data: When Mitt Romney or Obama unveils more specific economic policies, it allows them to prepare a clearer strategy in the event that either candidate scores victory in 2012. But there's no way to know for certain which direction fiscal issues are headed without knowing who will win.

Of course, that won't be decided until Nov. 6.

One early indicator investors could watch for is a post-convention bump that sustains itself.

"When all is said and Obama gets like a five- or six-point blip, and that thing doesn't disappear, then that would be significant," said Doug Roberts, an analyst at Channel Capital

A comfortable lead could cause investors to assume Obama (or in the reverse situation, Romney) and his economic policies as the inevitable victors. But an Obama or Romney victory doesn't guarantee a policy monopoly.

Control of the House and Senate proves hugely critical to Washington policy-making.

Republicans have been spending heavily on Senate races as Democrats hold the majority of seats up for grabs.

Earlier this week, Democrats held a press conference at the convention to express their confidence in retaining a Senate majority.

Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, added that he has never seen so many tight Senate races in his career. Cecil went state-by-state to point out the fundraising advantages and disadvantages for Democrats in each race. He even pointed out different strategies on social and economic issues that may favor Democrats in the long run.

In Virginia, for example, former Sen. George Allen trails former Gov. Tim Kaine by less than one percentage point. To beat Allen, Cecil said Democrats would use GOP tactics against the former senator.

"We plan on drawing a very sharp contrast, and I think if you look at the third-party ads, particularly on the Democratic side, we are not afraid to draw the contrast on debt, deficit, budget and spending in the comparison between Tim Kaine and George Allen," said Cecil.

As the past two years of Obama's term have shown, the president needs a cooperative Congress to pass significant legislation.

"You really have to look at the presidential election, the House and who is controlling the Senate ... because certain policies may want to be put in place that can't be because of the other bodies of government," said Steve Billimack, a managing director at HighTower.

The outcomes in Senate races could be even more important, Billimack pointed out, because of the longer terms senators serve. Investors, he said, are committed to longer-term planning.

As for the conventions, it may be interesting to see what the next generation of policy leaders may offer -- think of Obama at the 2004 Democratic convention -- but it won't drive changes in investors' portfolios, Billimack said.

The question many traders may be asking is which party offers them a better opportunity to grow their money in the stock market?

Historically, Democrats have provided a better boost.

Since, 1900, the S&P 500 rose a median 12.1% when a Democrat was in the White House, while it rose just 5.1% during Republican administrations, wrote Sam Stovall, chief equity strategist at S&P Capital IQ.

"So while one might say that Democrats are the 'tax and spend' party, the important part of that equation may be the 'spend.' When you spend, that usually improves the economy and increases corporate earnings," Stovall wrote in a note.

Ultimately, market analysts agree that European Central Bank President Mario Draghi and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have more of a grip on investors' attention, in the near-term, than Obama or Romney.

Come Election Day, though, the worn headlines of the Fed and eurozone could finally take a back seat to fiscal choices from fresh-faced lawmakers in Washington.

-- Written by Joe Deaux in Charlotte, N.C.

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