Stocks, dollar gain as unclear U.S. election thwarts Democratic sweep
By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones
NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – The dollar rose and world equity markets rallied on Wednesday as investors bet that a progressive “Blue Wave” Democratic agenda of heavy fiscal spending and more regulation was unlikely as the outcome of the U.S. presidential election remained unclear.
The dollar jumped more than 1% early on Wednesday after President Donald Trump won the major battleground state of Florida, leading investors to believe Democratic Party control of Congress was not in the cards even if former vice president Joe Biden winds up winning the White House.
Biden extended his narrow lead in Michigan while maintaining a slight edge in Wisconsin, according to Edison Research. CNN and the Associated Press projected Biden would win the state.
Trump, who falsely claimed victory and made unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud, won both of the pivotal battleground states in 2016.
Officials from each campaign insisted their candidate would prevail in the fight for 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency.
But Republicans were likely to retain control of the Senate after Senator Susan Collins scored a surprise re-election victory in Maine, which would effectively forestall any major change in taxes, regulation or spending.
Growth stocks pushed the major indexes on Wall Street sharply higher on the notion that a divided Congress would curb efforts to tax the big U.S. technology heavyweights.
“That decisive Blue Wave doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, and I think that markets are comfortable, perhaps, even if Biden wins,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.
“Investors have headed back to their security blankets,” he said. “Reliable growth technology companies, 10-year Treasuries are rallying, a pivot toward safety and the U.S. dollar.”
Stocks surged, with MSCI’s benchmark for global markets posting its biggest daily percentage gain since mid-June. The gauge of equity performance in 49 countries rose 1.94% to 579.09, and the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed up 2.1% at 1406.62.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.34% and the S&P 500 gained 2.20%. The Nasdaq Composite added 3.85% – the biggest daily percentage gain since mid-April.
(For the latest results and news on U.S. election, click: https://www.reuters.com/world/us-election2020)
The dollar will weaken next year as a divided Congress will likely force the Federal Reserve to do more in the coming months to help the economy recover, said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA in New York.
“You’re probably going to see that the dollar decline will still take place, it just won’t be as accelerated as with what would have happened with a blue wave,” he said.
The dollar index rose 0.385%, with the euro up 0.03% to $1.1714. The Japanese yen weakened 0.05% versus the greenback at 104.53 per dollar.
Long-dated U.S. Treasury yields, which had climbed to multi-month highs ahead of the election results, plummeted when the likelihood of a Democratic sweep that had been priced into the market faded.
“Yesterday afternoon the market was probably pricing in about a 70%-75% chance of a Dem sweep,” said Michael de Pass, global head of U.S. Treasury trading at Citadel Securities.
“As Trump won Florida and you realized this was going to be a bit of a close race and not a landslide, the tone changed very, very quickly,” de Pass said.
Yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note fell 11.0 basis points to 0.7713%.
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In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished 1.7% higher, while MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan edged up 0.4%.
Chinese blue chips rose 0.7%, with markets uncertain how Sino-U.S. relations would develop.
Emerging market currencies pinballed. The Mexican peso recovered from a 2% tumble when the sudden chance of a Trump victory sparked nerves about U.S. trade policies continuing to favor tariffs.
Norway’s crown, Australia’s risk-sensitive dollar and Britain’s pound were all fighting back too, China’s yuan spun to hit a 2-week high while the Russian rouble, which had been one of the hardest decliners in the election run-up, gave back overnight gains. [EMRG/FRX]
(GRAPHIC: World stocks market cap rise over last four years – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/bdwpkjmoovm/Pasted%20image%201604323646730.png)
Gold had been buoyed by the extensive liquidity but ran into profit-taking, losing as much 1% to $1,883 an ounce.
U.S. gold futures settled down 0.7% at $1,896.20.
Oil prices rose almost 4% as it is unlikely for U.S. gas and oil incentives to be removed in a split Congress and as data showed a large decline in U.S. crude inventories.
Brent crude futures rose $1.52 to settle at $41.23 a barrel. U.S. crude futures settled up $1.49 to $39.15 a barrel.
(GRAPHIC: Global markets since Trump’s election – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/jbyprxazdpe/Pasted%20image%201604321715307.png)
(Reporting by Herbert Lash in New York; Additional reporting by Karen Brettell in New York; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Matthew Lewis)