Stock market faces more potential turbulence in November as G-20 summit, elections loom

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Wall Street is wrapping up what has been a tumultuous month for stocks, but more volatility could be ahead.

November features several variables that could influence markets, including an upcoming G-20 summit of world leaders, the midterm elections, the latest jobs report and a Federal Reserve meeting on monetary policy.

Investors will kick off November after a rough month for the major stock indexes. The S&P 500 has fallen more than 6 percent in October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq Composite are also down sharply for the month.

White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said on Oct. 23 that President Donald Trump and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, will meet at the upcoming G-20 summit in Buenos Aires.

The meeting between the two leaders comes as the two largest economies engage in a heated trade spat. The U.S. has slapped tariffs on billions of dollars worth of Chinese goods. China has retaliated with levies of its own on U.S. goods. Investors have feared for most of the year that a protracted trade spat will lead to slower economic growth and diminishing profits for companies.

“The big risk is still with trade and China,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA Bank, noting the market has not fully priced in the possibility of a protracted trade war with China. “Investors are optimistic still. Most of them believe cooler heads will prevail.”

These tariffs have led companies to rethink their dealmaking and supply-chain strategies moving forward, according to an EY survey released last week. The survey, which polled 500 top executives, found that 84 percent of U.S. companies are reviewing or have already made chances to their strategies. Meanwhile, 72 percent of companies plan to offset the rising costs of tariffs by raising prices.

The two countries have been at a stalemate for months, with no formal trade negotiations taking place since late summer.

The midterm U.S. elections will take place on Tuesday. There are three possible ways the elections could unfold:

  1. The Democrats regain control of the House while the Senate remains under Republican control.
  2. The GOP fends off the so-called Blue Wave to retain a majority in both chambers.
  3. The Democrats get a majority in both the House and Senate.

According to various polls, Democrats are expected to take the majority in the House. But if Republicans manage to keep majorities in both chambers, that could boost stocks in the short term on expectations of more tax cuts ahead. A Democratic majority in both the House and Senate, on the other hand, could weigh on the market as it could mean more investigations into Trump. A divided Congress could help diffuse the current trade disputes with other countries.

“For markets, the key issues are whether to expect further fiscal stimulus, and what the implications are for trade policy,” said Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, in a note Wednesday. “On the former, unified Republican control is likely more bullish, while on the latter, divided government could de-escalate the current trade conflict.”

Historically, stocks do well following such contests. Since 1934, the S&P 500 has averaged a gain of 2.7 percent between the five days prior to the election and three days after, according to data from The Stock Trader’s Almanac.

The Labor Department is scheduled to release the latest employment numbers on Friday morning. Economists polled by Refinitiv expect to hear the U.S. economy added 190,000 jobs in October.

The report comes as investors fret over whether a tight labor market could lead to more inflation and potentially tighter monetary policy.

“The employment numbers are going to be strong,” said Gaffney of TIAA Bank. “The question is whether we see more wage pressure. That would solidify the Fed’s path.”

Next week, the Fed is scheduled to hold its latest monetary policy meeting. While the central bank is not expected to raise rates at this meeting, investors largely forecast one more rate-hike before year-end. The Fed has raised rates three times in 2018.

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