Here we are in the middle of June, in the third year of a Presidential Cycle, and no one is talking of its historical bullish implications. Despite all the present gloom and doom about the economy and the stock market, here’s something to remember. There has never been a negative return in the stock market during the third year of any president’s four year term since 1939.
Sure, there could always be a first time. And if you look at the historical data and compare it to this cycle, you can understand why. Usually, the year immediately following a president’s election is negative. Barak Obama’s first year, however, was extremely positive. The stock market lows were put in March of that year and the S&P 500 Index gained 23.5% in 2009 and then another 12.8% last year.
Right now, all three stock market averages are roughly flat for the year after climbing as high as 8.9% earlier in the year. Most pundits believe we still have more downside ahead of us. How much, is the question? Some strategists believe we are closer to a bottom than a top; me included. Of course, we could technically have an up year by simply gaining 1 or 2% from here. Yet, only once in the last 72 years has the S&P 500 closed more than 10% below its previous end of year close during a president’s third year in office. On the other hand, the index has gained over 10% (or more) at least once during the third year on 15 out of the last 17 occurrences. We have yet to do that.
There is a political rhythm to this cycle which makes a good deal of economic sense. Initially, when a new president is elected, he makes the hard choices and absorbs any negative fallout in the economy in his first and second years. Raising taxes or cutting spending are simply two examples of a new administration “biting the bullet” early on. By year three, reelection considerations come to the forefront.
The state of the economy is usually a major determinant on who will be elected and what party will dominate the political arena. This election cycle it is already clear that the economy will be the major factor in next year’s presidential election. Traditionally, the sitting president will do everything in his power (whether a lame duck or not) to insure that his party garners the most votes possible.
The problem this time around is that the Obama Administration has already done everything in its power to both stimulate the economy and get people working again. The Federal Reserve Bank and its board, which is ostensibly above politics but in reality owes their positions to the sitting administration, is already doing all they can to stimulate the economy. Tactics such as reducing interest rates and other “easy money” policies are already in place and have been for two years.
I have often said that when things look the darkest, that’s usually the time to pay attention to the facts and not get sucked down into an emotional morass. Although the presidential cycle is not, nor will ever be, the determining factor in whether this market finishes the year with a loss or a gain, I believe it is simply another arrow in my quiver when I say that good times lie ahead for the market and the economy this year.