Elections are often bad for markets.
They create uncertainty. Government policy impacts the economy. Uncertain government policy implies an uncertain economic direction. Markets hate uncertainty.
There’s even more uncertainty this year, given the wide divergence between the parties, and their voters. What might happen under a Republican Congress is different from what might happen under a Democratic Congress.
The best thing for an investor to do in these circumstances is to “election proof” your portfolio by avoiding those stocks, and sectors, that are most subject to uncertainty. The next best thing is to place a financial bet on the outcome. If you believe in the Republicans, avoid those sectors that would grow under Democrats, and vice versa.
Right now, odds favor a Republican takeover of the House but the Senate is up in the air. If this comes to pass then gridlock among the branches of government will likely shift public policy to the right. But what if the experts are wrong? In that case, it’s Democrats who may be turning against their political enemies, and they have many in the business world.
If Democrats win, here are three stocks to avoid.
Right now analysts are very high on SLB (NYSE:SLB), which is the rebranding of Schlumberger.
SLB is the dominant name in oilfield services and has been for decades. While management is trying to rebrand it as low carbon, its money still comes from drilling for, pumping, and managing oil and gas. My misgivings here are shared with other oilpatch names like Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), BakerHughes (NYSE:BKR), and Transocean (NYSE:RIG).
Despite any rebranding, it’s oil that has the analysts excited about SLB. Prices have doubled in a year, and the Biden administration has offered a profitable floor of $70/barrel as it depletes the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This has made 2022 a very good year for SLB. Earnings of $907 million, 63 cents/share, were up 75% over the previous year. Revenue of nearly $7.5 billion was up 28%.
What really attracted the SLB bulls was where the growth came from: Its international business. As a result, all 16 analysts following SLB at Tipranks now say buy it. After years of going nowhere, still selling below its price of 10 years ago, SLB is up 75% this year and heading higher. Zack’s calls it a “top momentum stock for the long term.”
Why not buy it? Well, I remember when everyone said to buy Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META). Fashions change. The next move from oil will be the last one. That’s why SLB calls itself a “technology company,” highlighting its business in reducing gas flares, capturing carbon, and reducing customers’ “carbon footprint.” SLB now says it wants to lead in clean hydrogen and lithium production.
This will require a complete transformation of the business, the kind Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is going through. You may like the destination, but until then they’re taking your money for a ride. Once the war in Ukraine ends, look for oil and gas prices to plummet, and SLB’s business with it.
They say they’re ready. But the stock price isn’t. SLB is definitely a stock to avoid if a “blue wave” takes Congress.
Coinbase Global (NASDAQ:COIN) has lost 70% of its value this year amid the crypto crash, one that has Bitcoin (BTC-USD) selling for half what it did in January.
My misgivings here are shared with other companies in the crypto space, from Bitcoin holders like MicroStrategy (NASDAQ:MSTR), to miners like Riot Blockchain (NASDAQ:RIOT), and even exchange-traded funds (ETFs) like Cathie Wood’s ARK Fintech Innovation Fund (NASDAQ:ARKF). Years of covering the space have made me a crypto skeptic. I ask, what’s the business model, and how can crypto do that better than existing solutions? When I hear silence, or word salad, I walk away.
Coinbase will report its third-quarter results on Nov. 3. Analysts are positioned for bad news, after a loss of nearly $1.1 billion, $4.98/share, during the second quarter. Coinbase recorded “restructuring charges” of $42 million during the quarter, to handle layoffs, but still handed out $391 million in “stock based compensation,” watering down the stake of investors.
Bulls like Cathie Woods believe the worst is over, and they’re buying. So are nine of the 20 analysts following Coinbase at Tipranks.
But Coinbase is fighting with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the agency’s efforts to define crypto as a security, subject to strict regulation. It is playing political hardball, creating its own think tank to advocate its position.
If Republicans sweep the midterms, Coinbase stock is going to rise. If Democrats hold their own, it’s going to face a harder road. You may want to take that bet. But I prefer short odds, and a coin flip isn’t short odds.
A year ago, Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) CEO Albert Bourla was my “executive of the year” for his management of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, PFE stock is down 10%.
I still think Bourla is an outstanding executive. Pfizer next reports on Nov. 1. Analysts expect earnings of $1.47/share. The second quarter saw adjusted earnings of $2.04/share on revenue of $27.7 billion.
The most important action the Biden administration has taken regarding drugs was a provision of the Inflation Reduction Act allowing Medicare to negotiate on drug prices.
These are still the early days of the policy, and a Republican Congress could reverse it. It’s still limited in scope. A $35/month price cap for Medicare patients on insulin barely made it through.
But the price cap will accelerate the move of diabetic patients from private care to Medicare. If negotiations continue, private insurers like CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) and UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH) will demand the same thing.
It’s a revolution that’s very bad for Pfizer, but also for competitors like Merck (NYSE:MRK), Abbvie (NASDAQ:ABBV), and Regeneron (NASDAQ:REGN). U.S. patients have long subsidized the industry’s costs and profits. Even when there are multiple drugs for a condition, prices for all of them remain elevated. If this is allowed to change, the industry will have to adjust. It’s why the price-to-earnings ratio for Pfizer is already just nine. But that’s based on this year’s stellar earnings. The future may not be as bright if a Democratic government gets its way.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in INTC. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.