All Eyes On Georgia: Will Voters Deliver Biden the Senate — and What Happens Then to Stocks?

“A house divided against itself cannot stand” is one of the most memorable lines of Abraham Lincoln’s renowned oratory.

However, maxims in politics do not necessarily hold when it comes to investing.

There are still uncertainties whether the Senate will flip to Democratic control. We have two Georgia runoff elections in January with which to contend.

A Democratic sweep could give the incoming Biden administration control of all three branches of the government, the same as President Trump enjoyed in his first two years in office.

Given the circumstances, it is useful to look at historical return patterns. A divided Congress, it turns out, may not be so bad for financial markets after all.

In the United States, equity returns during periods of divided federal government have typically exceeded returns achieved when one political party controls the White House, Senate, and House of Representatives.

Since 1928, excluding recessions, when the federal government was controlled by a single party, the S&P 500 median 12-month return equaled 9%.

In comparison, the median return under a divided government was 12%.

However, this same analysis also shows the returns variance to be tighter for the divided governments occurrences vs. for the unified governments.

The return data above encompass all periods, election and non-election years. Interestingly, equity returns for the two-month period immediately following an election show a different story.

Since 1928, when the election resulted in a divided government, the median stock market return between Election Day and year-end equaled 1% compared with a 3% return when the outcome was a unified government.

Gary has more than 30 years of industry experience, which includes research analysis and portfolio management for both retail and institutional accounts. He worked as a Senior Vice President at Wells Fargo Advisors and Wells Fargo Investment Institute for approximately 14 years in total, where he was a senior portfolio manager for both equity and asset allocation portfolios. He was also involved in investment manager due diligence and selection for the firm’s multi-manager portfolio models. Prior to joining Wells Fargo, Gary held senior-level investment management positions with several registered investment advisory organizations. He has been a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) charter-holder since 1989. The CFA is a professional credential earned by investment management professionals after successfully passing three years of rigorous examinations and recording several years as a practising professional within the industry. Gary received his Bachelor of Science in Engineering from Purdue University and his M.B.A. in Finance from The University of Missouri. Additionally, Gary holds his FINRA SIE, Series 7 and Series 66 securities registrations as well as his Missouri Life Accident & Health insurance license. He is a member of the CFA Society of St. Louis and the Financial Executives Networking Group. He resides in Kirkwood, MO with his wife Kathy, and they have three adult age children, Aly, Ryan and Josh.