SIGN IN to access Harper’s Magazine
1. Sign in to Customer Care using your account number or postal address.
2. Select Email/Password Information.
3. Enter your new information and click on Save My Changes.
Subscribers can find additional help here. Not a subscriber? Subscribe today!
Has Wall Street made up its mind on this election? One analyst, Jeffrey Kleintop, has divined just who the investment class believes will be president by developing one of those magic election-year metrics. (Double the price of a bag of groceries in St. Louis, divide by each candidate’s favorability rating in the Rust Belt, and voilà—the winner!) Kleintop’s Wall Street Election Year Index (.pdf) looks at specific stocks that are enjoying an uptick. The theory goes that a certain basket of stocks traditionally does better under Democratic presidents and a different basket does better under Republican presidents. Check to see which basket is doing better in the run-up to the election, and you know who Wall Street thinks will win.
This year’s mix is revealing. Kleintop believes a good hedge fund, confident in a win for Mitt Romney, would move its portfolios toward major segments of the energy sector. Conversely, since an unrepealed Affordable Care Act promises to bring in millions of new customers to the health care industry, one might expect a rise in stocks specializing in “health care facilities” and “health care services” in anticipation of an Obama win.
Kleintop says he not only looks at the top stocks, but also employs an algorithm that will “strip out and balance out the cyclicality,” as he told CNBC’s Jeff Macke earlier this summer. Checking the top five or ten health care and energy stocks on an anecdotal basis (and thus surrendering to the evils of cyclicality) reveals no demonstrable prediction from Wall Street. But according to Kleintop’s algorithm, another class of investments is also set to grow if Obama wins reelection—the one that encompasses “construction materials,” “homebuilding,” and “construction and farm machinery.” And here, the big portfolio managers seem to have shaken their Magic 8 balls and come up “Obama.”
I googled the top stocks in the category of construction materials, and what I saw was fascinating. Not only does Wall Street seem to be betting its portfolios on Obama, it would appear that its collective realization occurred during the ramp-up to the conventions, sometime in July. At that time, Wall Street started to see a rosy future in the construction sector—a view that seems to be prevailing, with the top stocks there surging from 20 to 50 percent a few weeks ago. Below are charts showing trends for the top ten construction-materials stocks. The jump is unmistakable—you don’t find a loser until you get to the tenth, Clarcor.
In Connecticut, where I live, there’s no hiding the fact that while the state at large might prefer Obama, the money—i.e., Fairfield County: Greenwich, Stamford, Cos Cob, suburban Bridgeport—has abandoned him this time around. In 2008, in the part of Bridgeport where the big funders live, Obama raised nearly $4.5 million, compared with $2.8 million for John McCain. This time, Obama has come away with just over $1 million, while Romney has gathered about $4 million.
A friend of mine recounted for me a luncheon for equity-fund managers a few days ago in New York, at which the host asked some 500 of Wall Street’s finest to use a private voting device to answer a few questions. “The MC asked us to vote on who we WANT to win the election,” my friend wrote. “53% of the room said they wanted Romney to win. Obama got 47%.”
Perhaps that vote by itself is news—47 percent of equity-fund managers prefer Obama? But then the MC asked who they thought would actually win. “Over 70% said Obama would,” said my friend.
So, while the leaders of our financial sector are betting their personal funds on Romney, they’re betting their portfolios on Obama. I guess they don’t call it hedging for nothing.
More from Jack Hitt:
Political Asylum — November 6, 2012, 2:01 pm
Obama’s data-driven approach may decide today’s race—and determine the future of the G.O.P.
i. stand with israel
I listen to a lot of conservative talk radio. Confident masculine voices telling me the enemy is everywhere and victory is near — I often find it affirming: there’s a reason I don’t think that way. Last spring, many right-wing commentators made much of a Bloomberg poll that asked Americans, “Are you more sympathetic to Netanyahu or Obama?” Republicans picked the Israeli prime minister over their own president, 67 to 16 percent. There was a lot of affected shock that things had come to this. Rush Limbaugh said of Netanyahu that he wished “we had this kind of forceful moral, ethical clarity leading our own country”; Mark Levin described him as “the leader of the free world.” For a few days there I yelled quite a bit in my car.
The one conservative radio show I do find myself enjoying is hosted by Dennis Prager. At the Thanksgiving dinner of American radio personalities (Limbaugh is your jittery brother-in-law, Michael Savage is your racist uncle, Hugh Hewitt is Hugh Hewitt) Dennis Prager is the turkey-carving patriarch trying to keep the conversation moderately high-minded. While Prager obviously doesn’t like liberals — “The gaps between the left and right on almost every issue that matters are in fact unbridgeable,” he has said — he often invites them onto his show for debate, which is rare among right-wing hosts. Yet his gently exasperated take on the Obama–Netanyahu matchup was among the least charitable: “Those who do not confront evil resent those who do.”
Average number of Americans who are injured by chain saws each year:
A farmer in Kenya bit a python who tried to eat him.
A former prison in Philadelphia that has served as a horror-movie set was being prepared as a detention center for protesters arrested at the upcoming Democratic National Convention, and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager.
Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!
“Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'”