S&P 500 Clings to Biggest Post-Election Rally Since JFK

NYSE trader FBN

Wall Street let some air out of its euphoric Trump rally Thursday as investors craved more clarity from the president-elect on his policy proposals. Though short on details, Donald Trump’s press conference Wednesday afternoon socked drug stocks, and forced investors to consider whether their enthusiasm had driven equity prices up too far too fast.

Before clawing back steep losses of about 1%, early trading put both the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 on track for their worst one-day declines since October. The blue-chip average remained short of its 20000 milestone, closing down 63 points , or 0.32% to 19891. The broader S&P 500 declined 4 points, or 0.21%, to 2270 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq broke a six-session win streak as it fell 16 points, or 0.29% to 5547.

Despite the pullback, the S&P continued to cling to its biggest post-election rally since voters sent John F. Kennedy to the White House in 1960. At that time, the index jumped 8.8% in the time period between Election Day and Inauguration Day. This time around, the benchmark index has registered gains of more than 6% since the November 8 close, as investors remain hopeful about the promise of fiscal stimulus and relaxed Wall-Street regulations from the incoming Trump administration alongside improving economic fundamentals.

While sentiment helps fuel market strength, economic fundamentals also heavily influence direction. For context, after President Barack Obama won the election during the Great Recession in 2008, the S&P declined 19.9%. The index declined 6.24% after George W. Bush’s win in 2001 after the tech bubble burst, and 19.34% following the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 during the Great Depression.

The big question remains: Is there any fuel left in the market’s rally tank?

The short answer is yes, said Global Markets Advisory Group Senior Market Strategist Peter Kenny. But the near-term answer is much more nuanced due to a number of factors at play, including fourth-quarter earnings season, which begins Friday ahead of the opening bell.

“Right now, it’s all going to be about earnings until Trump gets into the White House and we see what the first 100 days are like and what the fiscal priorities are,” Kenny said.

“Right now, it’s all going to be about earnings until Trump gets into the White House and we see what the first 100 days are like and what the fiscal priorities are."

- Peter Kenny, Global Markets Advisory Group

Three of America’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC), kick off bank earnings with their results Friday, followed by Morgan Stanley on Tuesday and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) Wednesday. Investment banking is forecasted to have seen high single-digit growth over the period, analysts at S&P Global’s CFRA said, while overall 4Q earnings per share results are forecast to rise 4.4% from a year ago.

Forward-looking investors, though, likely won’t be satisfied with in-line or above-expected earnings results. Full-year guidance will also be key to validating the market’s momentous move higher.

“This is not an emotional or anticipatory trade anymore. We’re getting down to valuations, results -- metrics of measure that support trends,” Kenny said, suggesting that equity valuations are stretched at current levels with price-to-earnings ratios, which indicate how much investors are willing to pay per dollar of profit, for the Dow and S&P 500 sitting at 18.86 and 21.24, respectively. A high ratio indicates investors anticipate higher future growth.

“It’s really important to consider we’ve seen largely horizontal moves in price action the last several weeks. There’s a reason for that. Smart money wants to see actual results,” he said.

Historically, stocks have trended higher from inauguration day to the end of the new president’s first 100 days in office, the Dow Jones Market Data Group figures show. Under JFK, not only did stocks rally from Election Day to inauguration day, they posted another 8.92% gain through his first 100 days.

Still, portfolio positioning can be tricky ahead of what could be an uncertain future led by a boisterous president with no prior government experience. At his first press conference as president-elect on Wednesday, Trump proved not only can he move markets with his tweets – recently blasting American car companies that had plans to build production facilities in Mexico – he can also crush market caps from the podium.

In just two sentences, Trump sent health care stocks plunging and sent the Nasdaq Biotechnology Index dropping nearly 4%. The president-elect said the drug industry has been “disastrous,” and expressed a need to “create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.” Market values of Johnson and Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE), the two biggest U.S. pharmaceutical companies, plunged by 10.2 billion on the heels of those remarks.

Despite targeted remarks from the president-elect aimed at specific companies or industries, Nuveen Asset Management Chief Equity Strategist Bob Doll, and others on the Street, predict continued economic expansion, higher interest rates, and further equity-market gains. As recent consumer and investor confidence surveys have suggested, Doll sees a continued shift in sentiment away from fear and safety trades, into a “glass half full” mindset.

“We have a shot at some growth, we’ve seen it pick up in the back half of last year. Investors care more about total return than yield. They’re ready for more risk and volume. It’s going to be a touch year, but the mood is changing a bit,” he said.