H&W in the Media

History indicates Trump rally could continue for now

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The so-called Trump rally stands a good chance of continuing in the weeks ahead of the inauguration, especially as stocks enter one of their historically strongest periods of the year.

December is the best month for the S&P 500 and the second best for the Dow Jones industrial average since 1950, with an average gain of 1.6 percent for each index, according to the “Stock Trader’s Almanac.”

U.S. stocks have surged to all-time highs on promises of tax cuts and infrastructure spending after President-elect Donald Trump won the election in early November. Most encouraging for analysts, the broad market looks healthy as several different indexes from small-caps to the industrials sector have posted records, while economic data has been solid.
As a result, although the almanac said average market performance weakens “modestly” in December of election years, editor Jeffrey Hirsch said in a Tuesday note that “this rally has legs and is not likely to get derailed until a new Trump administration fumbles, falters and really screws something up.”

“And that can’t officially happen until January 20 when Trump takes office,” he said.

This week, markets received clarity on several key Cabinet positions. Trump picked former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin for Treasury secretary and billionaire Wilbur Ross as secretary of commerce. The highly anticipated pick for secretary of state has yet to be announced, and the formal nominations come after Inauguration Day and face Senate approval.

“Today’s announcement regarding the economic team is probably helping to boost the market as well as oil prices,” said Kelly Bogdanov, vice president and portfolio analyst at RBC Wealth Management.

“To us the big wild card is U.S. trade policy, and we have a system in place that’s been a longstanding framework,” she said. “It may not be the best system, but it’s the system corporate executives are used to. If that system is jolted in any way, it could cause a higher level of uncertainty. That could cause volatility for the market from time to time.”

Trump has called for major overhauls of existing trade policies, but for now strategists generally expect little change as those deals will likely take at least months to renegotiate.

Meanwhile, if history is any guide, some of the stock sectors that have performed well in the Trump rally should continue to beat the market in December.

In Decembers going back to 1996, the Russell 2000 rose 80 percent of the time with an average return of 2.83 percent, according to analysis using Kensho. The data also showed that industrials climbed three-fourths of the time, with an average gain of 1.74 percent, while financials rose 65 percent of the time with an average gain of 1.35 percent.

The small-cap Russell 2000 index was on track to close more than 11 percent higher for November, which would be its best month since October 2011.

U.S. stocks rallied to fresh all-time highs Wednesday, the last trading day of November. The S&P 500 and Dow were on pace to snap a three-month losing streak with their best month since March.

With Wednesday’s gains, the S&P 500 was tracking for an 8 percent gain for the year, after falling 0.7 percent in 2015 and hitting a near two-year low in this past February’s “Dimon” bottom. No event has caused the S&P to drop more than 10 percent, or fall into correction, since then.

“We’re seeing institutional clients much more active than they basically have since February,” said Peter Coleman, head trader at Convergex.

“In general, unless you see a crazy statement come out of the Fed, I’d expect the uptrend to continue,” he said. “Investors have become very bullish on the growth in the economy.”

Despite the supportive seasonal trends and investor expectations, December is still filled with key events that could hit the market, beginning with the monthly jobs report due this Friday. Italy is set to hold a referendum Sunday that looks to be another disruption of the status quo. And the Federal Reserve could surprise with its statement, while widely expected to raise rates for the second time in about a decade at its Dec. 13 to 14 meeting.

“There’s an abundance of investment opportunities that are out there right now, but it doesn’t necessarily mean investors should abandon their investment strategies, because all of this right now is speculation,” said Kevin Mahn, president and CIO at Hennion & Walsh Asset Management.

“The trading that you’re seeing for the balance of this year, you’ll see some semblance of a Santa Claus rally,” he said, referring to the historical tendency for stocks to climb between Dec. 23 and the second trading day of the New Year. “But then it’s going to be a very wait-and-see approach until January and early February.”

And “in years when Santa Claus did not come to Wall Street, bear markets or sizable corrections have often materialized in the coming year,” the “Stock Trader’s Almanac” said.

On Wednesday, Goldman Sachs said the S&P 500 should climb to 2,400 by the first quarter of next year, and end the year slightly lower at an upwardly revised target of 2,300.

Disclosure: CNBC’s parent NBCUniversal is a minority stakeholder in Kensho.

— CNBC’s Gina Francolla and George Manessis contributed to this report.


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