President-elect Donald Trump's honeymoon ended before his administration even began. In the wake of his surprise election victory, the U.S. stock market delivered a second surprise by rallying. But equities have since pulled back, as traders begin to fret about rising inflation and the prospect of turmoil both at home and abroad.
In the holiday-shortened week ahead, Trump's provocative intentions and appointments are likely to stoke anxieties and further weigh on markets. Certain "defensive growth" bets make sense now; we highlight our favorites below. But first, let's look at the growing causes for concern.
Trump shocked the world by eking out an Electoral College victory, with tight wins in "Rust Belt" states that were expected to go Democratic. That said, Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by more than 1 million ballots, racking up huge leads in the bluest states.
Americans unhappy with the results have taken to the streets in cities across the country, with a massive protest planned in Washington, D.C., for Jan. 21, the day after inauguration. None of this is a recipe for "healing."
Republicans will control the White House and both chambers of Congress, but the bitter partisan divide in Washington will only get worse as Trump appoints hard-right candidates to key positions. GOP leaders also indicate that they want to keep the Senate filibuster, to restrain the new and mercurial president.
Politics aside, fundamental macroeconomic factors don't bode well, either. Warren Buffett once said: "In the short term the market is a popularity contest; in the long term it is a weighing machine." The prospect of a laissez-faire administration got Wall Street's "animal spirits" racing in the immediate aftermath of the election, but that euphoria already is fizzling as traders more clearly weigh the dangers ahead.
Indeed, the conservative and highly influential Economist magazine has called a Trump presidency a major threat to the global economy.
Let's start with inflation, which investors have had the luxury of ignoring for several years. Energy prices are rising, joblessness is falling, and the U.S. economy is growing at an unexpectedly healthy rate. Accordingly, the Federal Reserve this month forecast that inflation would rise to at least 2% in 2017, up from its current rate of about 1%.
The strongest catalyst for inflation will be Trump's plans to massively boost defense and infrastructure spending, combined with deep tax cuts. Rising inflation expectations have fueled a surge in the U.S. dollar, which in turn hurts the competitiveness of U.S. exports.
Meanwhile, Trump's economic nationalism will result in the country's withdrawal from major trade pacts and international treaties. These protectionist "America First" actions could spark trade wars and tensions with allies and rivals alike, which is just the sort of uncertainty that Wall Street hates.
The aging bull market in stocks is getting wobbly; it's now more than seven years old and long overdue for a correction. Plenty of triggers for a major market decline lay ahead, which makes the traditional hedge of gold a sensible play now. The strategists at bullion bank UBS (UBS) predict gold will reach $1,400 an ounce by the end of 2016, for a gain of nearly 16% from its current level of $1,207. You can expect an outbreak of "Gold Mania" for the rest of this year and well into 2017.
Another investment area that looks appealing now is aerospace/defense, as Trump appoints extremely hawkish candidates to key national security and defense posts. The SPDR S&P Aerospace & Defense ETF (XAR) has gained 19.88% year to date and 8.19% since Nov. 9, compared to 7.18% and 3.50%, respectively, for the S&P 500 (SPY) .
XAR's top holdings include Lockheed Martin (LMT) , General Dynamics (GD) , Boeing (BA) , and Raytheon (RTN) , each of which should post robust capital appreciation during the next four years as the Pentagon pours more money into their coffers during a Trump administration.
Thanksgiving Week Data to Watch
Among the three, only Medtronic is expected to post a year-over-year increase in earnings, as the healthcare sector continues to boom but solar and agricultural demand slackens. Canadian Solar appears to be oversold, though, based on unwarranted fears that a fossil-fuel friendly Trump regime would gut solar subsidies and tax breaks.
Fact is, solar power's customers are increasingly dependent on inexpensive, reliable power from the sun and see no reason to switch, regardless of government assistance or the price of oil.
The cost of photovoltaic cells continues to plunge and solar energy's infrastructure is entrenched, pervasive and efficient. In addition, European countries such as Germany and major developing countries such as China are devoting significant resources to renewable energy, solar in particular. We think Canadian Solar is a well-timed value play now.
The key economic reports on the calendar during Thanksgiving week are Existing Home Sales (Tuesday), and Durable Goods Orders and Jobless Claims (Wednesday).
Donald Trump's win hasn't crashed the markets ... at least not yet. As you get your mind around the surreal notion of a Trump presidency, remember that no election settles matters once and for all. Further battles and surprises surely lie ahead; remain cautious.
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