I have the privilege of talking to investors (clients) every day. While the majority of the talk during these conversations involve planning and investment strategy, almost every investor I talk to right now is asking the same question: “What if they impeach Trump?”
After public hearings started this week, I feel pretty confident that articles of impeachment will eventually be introduced and passed in the House. In my opinion, this eventuality was cast when the Democrats retook the House in the 2018 election, it was only a matter of when and why at that point.
Although I’m not sure anyone in the country is objective anymore about this process, I am trying my hardest to be so.
I don’t like military aid in general. I don’t like the U.S. government providing funds to foreign governments to buy weapons from U.S. weapons manufacturers. I don’t like the administration leveraging this process to instigate additional investigations into matters progressing properly already (2016 election interference). I don’t like the conflicts of interest represented by the former vice president’s son being on payroll of a clearly adversarial foreign energy company, and I don’t like secret hearings, one-sided witness lists with selective leaks and headline baiting. In fact, I don’t like any of it, and I’m still trying to stay objective.
My truest feeling on it is that it is just ugly. Its an ugly process, being conducted to examine ugly activity, done by ugly political parties operating an ugly government. We as Americans deserve better, and we’d be smart to start demanding as much.
So, my answer to the question is, Trump will be impeached. If the current process being conducted by the Democrats in the House doesn’t improve, it will give the Republicans in the Senate a justifiable reason to not remove the president from office. Come May 2020, the drama will be behind us, so will the Democratic Party primary process, and we will go straight into a very contentious election season already rubbed raw by the trauma of all of it.
I also believe it’s a pretty safe bet that while Washington, D.C., is gripped by this distressing process, Congress won’t be passing much new legislation and the regulatory agencies won’t be starting any expansive new regulatory initiatives. So with the exception of the on-going Chinese trade talks, the business/government environment in the U.S. should be fairly predictable up until about August of next year, when the November election becomes the primary wild card.
A couple weeks ago, my column reviewed market performance during the Nixon and Clinton impeachment processes. Long story short, the market trended generally higher both times. I, of course, can’t predict what will happen this time, but I do think there are much more important market-related considerations to watch.
The third quarter 2019 earnings reporting season is mostly behind us, and according to FactSet, with 89% of the companies in the S&P 500 reporting actual results as of the 8th, so far 75% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive profit surprise and 60% of S&P 500 companies have reported a positive revenue surprise. So, nothing too troubling on the profit front.
In addition, during testimony to Congress this week, Chairman Powell of the Federal Reserve strongly implied that interest rate stability should be expected for the foreseeable future. With no Fed meddling to obsess over, market should enjoy some stability on this front as well.
With these things in mind, I guess my ultimate response to the question is: Be diligent about the short term, invest for the longer term, manage your risk level actively and turn off the 24-hour cable news of your choice. If we can pull this last one off, we might actually be able to pretend the insanity isn’t even happening.