This website uses cookies to collect usage information in order to offer a better browsing experience. By browsing this site or by clicking on the "ACCEPT COOKIES" button you accept our Cookie Policy.

November Nail-Biter?

With days remaining until Election Day, polls indicate Vice President Joe Biden holds a sizeable lead over President Donald Trump. Though 2016 polls incorrectly pointed to a Clinton win, the margins by which Biden leads are generally outside of the margin of error. On the Senate, Democrats appear to have gained ground or held firm in enough races that they may swing to a majority position. This does not rule out a repeat of 2016’s skewed polling or the possibility that legal battles could swing the outcome, but given the current structure of the race, a Democratic presidency looks likely, coupled with a very slight Democratic edge in the Senate.

U.S. election scenario analysis summary

U.S. election scenario analysis summary

The outlook for stimulus and tax changes

Over the summer, we published a report on the policy and investment implications for different election outcomes. However, given the direction the race is headed, it is important to revisit the implications from the Democratic sweep scenario as that outcome has risen in probability.

Though we initially viewed this outcome as negative for risk assets, the failure of Congress to pass additional fiscal stimulus measures has changed our thinking. Over the longer term, a Democratic sweep will mean higher corporate taxes and higher personal taxes for high earners, but we believe the potential for additional fiscal stimulus and spending will outweigh these negatives and have a short-term positive effect on equities. In addition to stimulus checks and funds for state governments, a Democratic government would likely push for additional spending in areas such as infrastructure as part of a larger-scale bill later in 2021.

Should the Republicans hold the Senate along with a Biden win, our base case is that a Republican Senate has little interest in passing a large spending bill and will greatly limit the size of any stimulus into 2021. After a massive fiscal expansion this year, the U.S. would experience a large-scale fiscal contraction next year.

A Biden presidency would also have some clear negative implications for equities. The first and probably most likely to get enacted is an increase in corporate taxes. Biden has campaigned aggressively and openly on this issue, which plays well with progressives. Though Biden has proposed an increase in the corporate tax rate to 28%, we believe the final number will likely be closer to 25% and phased in over a number of years. Still, in the longer-term this will hurt after-tax earnings for corporations. In tandem with taxing domestic earnings, a Biden administration will probably reform the way foreign earnings are taxed and implement a minimum tax. Should Republicans hold the Senate or President Trump win re-election, we do not expect much change on the tax side other than an extension of the current policy passed by the Trump administration.

On the personal income tax side, the Biden campaign has a number of proposals, all targeting individuals earning $400,000 or more. First, a roll-back of the Trump tax cuts to return the top marginal tax rate to 39.6%. Itemized deductions would also be capped at 28%. Those who qualify for the higher marginal tax would also be exposed to a new 12% Social Security payroll tax. Additionally, capital gains taxes will go up to 39.6% for those making $1,000,000 or more a year. If the election results in a split government, we expect more modest tax changes such as a small increase to the estate tax, while a Republican-controlled Senate and second Trump term may look for ways to cut taxes, such as indexing capital gains taxes to inflation.

Other policy objectives that seem likely to pass through a Democratic government are an expansion in health-insurance subsidies, a large bill to combat climate change, an increase in infrastructure spending and the reduction of prescription drug prices. Passage of such bills would represent an aggressive expansion of the U.S. budget deficit for an administration that will also have to continue the fight against COVID-19 and provide the economy with enough stimulus to avoid a double-dip recession.

Investment implications

As for investment implications of the three possible election outcomes, our general views are as follows. Under a Democratic sweep scenario, we believe equities will respond well in the short term as we would expect a large fiscal package early next year. However, in the longer term, we think that this positive stimulus will be somewhat offset by higher taxes for corporations and individuals, which will be slightly negative for equities. A reduction in trade tensions would be beneficial to international equities. The U.S.–China relationship is likely to remain contentious, though U.S. tactics may become less outwardly hostile.

Should Republicans hold onto the presidency and the Senate, we think the outcome will be neutral to slightly positive for equities. Corporate and individual tax policy will remain accommodative, but it is unlikely that Republican Senators have the desire to pass multiple fiscal packages in the year to come. We expect the U.S. to outperform the world in this scenario and the dollar to strengthen.

Finally, if we have a divided government where Democrats win the presidency but lose the Senate, we think gridlock will ensue and little will get done. Only a small fiscal package would likely pass next year, which we believe would be negative for equities.


Heading into the election, we have moved our portfolios to neutral equity weights due to cases of COVID-19 spiking and the possibility for volatility around election results. A narrowing in polls or an unexpected polling error similar to 2016 may mean that results will be unknown for quite some time and the election will be in the hands of the courts. Though not an optimal outcome, we think the experience of the 2000 election proves the extent to which the legal system can help resolve disputes. In that case, the long-term effects on the market were minimal, though volatility was high in the short run. Despite the possibility of short-term turbulence, the U.S. remains our preferred market for equity risk as the election noise fades and the economy continues to slowly recover.

Originally Posted in October 2020 – November Nail-Biter?


This is not intended to serve as a complete analysis of every material fact regarding any company, industry or security. The opinions expressed here reflect our judgment at this date and are subject to change. Information has been obtained from sources we consider to be reliable, but we cannot guarantee the accuracy. This presentation may contain forward-looking statements. “Forward-looking statements,” can be identified by the use of forward-looking terminology such as “may”, “should”, “expect”, “anticipate”, “outlook”, “project”, “estimate”, “intend”, “continue” or “believe” or the negatives thereof, or variations thereon, or other comparable terminology. Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such statements, as actual results could differ materially due to various risks and uncertainties. This publication is prepared for general information only. This material does not constitute investment advice and is not intended as an endorsement of any specific investment. It does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and the particular needs of any specific person who may receive this report. Investors should seek advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in any securities or investment strategies discussed or recommended in this report and should understand that statements regarding future prospects may not be realized. Investment involves risk. Market conditions and trends will fluctuate. The value of an investment as well as income associated with investments may rise or fall. Accordingly, investors may receive back less than originally invested.

Foreign investing involves special risks due to factors such as increased volatility, currency fluctuation and political uncertainties. Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in well-established foreign markets.

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance. Asset allocation does not ensure a profit or guarantee against loss.

Disclosure: BMO Global Asset Management

This website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide a complete description of BMO Global Asset Management’s products or services. Past performance is not indicative of future results. It should not be construed as investment advice or relied upon in making an investment decision. Information on this website does not constitute an offer for products or services, or a solicitation of an offer in any jurisdiction in which such solicitation or offer would be unlawful. Products and services can only be offered by appropriate representatives of the respective manager. Notice to residents of the United Kingdom: For the avoidance of any doubt, the information on this website does not constitute an offer for products or services to persons in the United Kingdom.

BMO Asset Management Corp. is the investment adviser to the BMO Funds. BMO Funds are distributed by Foreside Financial Services, LLC.

All investments involve risk, including the loss of principal.

Foreign investing involves special risks due to factors such as increased volatility, currency fluctuation and political uncertainties.

Investors should carefully consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the BMO Funds. This and other important information is contained in the prospectuses and/or summary prospectuses, which can be obtained by calling 1-800-236-3863. Please read carefully before investing.

BMO Global Asset Management is the brand name for various affiliated entities of BMO Financial Group that provide investment management and trust and custody services. Certain of the products and services offered under the brand name BMO Global Asset Management are designed specifically for various categories of investors in a number of different countries and regions and may not be available to all investors. Products and services are only offered to such investors in those countries and regions in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. BMO Financial Group is a service mark of Bank of Montreal (BMO).

BMO Asset Management U.S. consists of BMO Asset Management Corp., BMO Asset Management (Canada)® includes BMO Asset Management Inc.

BMO Taft-Hartley Services and BMO Trust and Custody Services are a part of BMO Global Asset Management and a division of BMO Harris Bank N.A., offering products and services through various affiliated entities of BMO Financial Group.

Investment advisory services in the United States are provided by BMO Asset Management Corp., BMO Asset Management Limited, LGM Investments Limited, BMO Global Asset Management (Asia) Limited, Pyrford International Ltd and Taplin, Canida & Habacht, LLC.

Investment advisory services in Canada are provided by BMO Asset Management Inc., BMO Asset Management Corp., LGM Investments Limited, BMO Global Asset Management (Asia) Limited and Pyrford International Ltd.

Financial promotions in the United Kingdom are provided by LGM Investments Limited, Pyrford International Ltd, and BMO Asset Management Limited. LGM Investments Limited, Pyrford International Ltd, and BMO Asset Management Limited are authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority in the United Kingdom.

Asset management services in Hong Kong are provided by BMO Global Asset Management (Asia) Limited, licensed by the Securities and Futures Commission to conduct regulated activity Type 9 – asset management under the Securities and Futures Ordinance.

Please read the Privacy Policy and Legal Disclosures reached through links above for important information.

Investment products are: Not a Deposit — Not FDIC Insured — No Bank Guarantee — May Lose Value.

Copyright © 2021. BMO Financial Corp. All Rights Reserved.

TM/® Trade-marks/registered trade-marks of Bank of Montreal, used under license.

Disclosure: Interactive Brokers

Information posted on IBKR Traders’ Insight that is provided by third-parties and not by Interactive Brokers does NOT constitute a recommendation by Interactive Brokers that you should contract for the services of that third party. Third-party participants who contribute to IBKR Traders’ Insight are independent of Interactive Brokers and Interactive Brokers does not make any representations or warranties concerning the services offered, their past or future performance, or the accuracy of the information provided by the third party. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

This material is from BMO Global Asset Management and is being posted with permission from BMO Global Asset Management. The views expressed in this material are solely those of the author and/or BMO Global Asset Management and IBKR is not endorsing or recommending any investment or trading discussed in the material. This material is not and should not be construed as an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy any security. To the extent that this material discusses general market activity, industry or sector trends or other broad based economic or political conditions, it should not be construed as research or investment advice. To the extent that it includes references to specific securities, commodities, currencies, or other instruments, those references do not constitute a recommendation to buy, sell or hold such security. This material does not and is not intended to take into account the particular financial conditions, investment objectives or requirements of individual customers. Before acting on this material, you should consider whether it is suitable for your particular circumstances and, as necessary, seek professional advice.

In accordance with EU regulation: The statements in this document shall not be considered as an objective or independent explanation of the matters. Please note that this document (a) has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research, and (b) is not subject to any prohibition on dealing ahead of the dissemination or publication of investment research.

trading top