Special Commentary • November 10, 2022
OSCARLYN ELDER: And to unpack that with some of our experts, and also relate it back to your own wealth. So with that, I am Oscarlyn Elder, Co-Chief Investment Officer for Truist Wealth. I lead the teams that are responsible for selecting and researching our investment solutions and strategies that your advisor may use in your portfolio.
Joining me today, I'm very excited to introduce Keith Lerner, our Co-Chief Investment Officer and Chief Market Strategist. Keith and his team help guide our advisors and our clients through all sorts of market environments. They provide advice that's timely and important to helping you achieve your goals.
He leads our portfolio and market strategy teams, as well as our equity and fixed income team. And you've likely seen him on CNBC or Bloomberg. He's often in the media.
Joining us will be Mark Oesterle. He is Truist Deputy General Counsel and Head of Government Affairs. And the way that I think about Mark's role is that he is Truist's eyes and ears in DC. So his insight and his expertise really help our executives navigate complex and ever-evolving political and regulatory landscape. And we are really lucky to have him on the call today.
He's got more than 25 years of experience in financial services policy and legislative practice. And again, Mark, we welcome you to the call. We're glad that you can spend this time with our clients. So I'll say from a historic perspective, Tuesday was meaningful.
And as I indicated, we are still in a state of limbo. Specifically, we are waiting on results from Arizona and Nevada for the Senate. We have indications that Republicans have flipped the House, but by a much lower margin than had been anticipated going into the election. So we have got a lot to unpack, a lot to discuss. And first, I'd like to talk with Mark.
So Mark, what is your take on the election results?
MARK OESTERLE: Well, thank you very much for having me, and good morning to everybody. I think where we are is where everybody's a little bit surprised. I think what they thought would drive outcome and turnout, I think everybody took kind of a running picture over the course of six months and then forgot each of those steps and assumed that Election Day itself was only going to be driven by a few issues when it was driven by a number of issues. And interestingly, for different folks, it looks like there are two channels.
One group of people way over on one side thought about inflation, the economy, about the situation with the border, about potentially crime. And that's all they thought about. Whereas other folks far on the other side thought about abortion access and a few other issues. And there wasn't a lot of crossover. So we ended up getting almost single issue or very focused voters having impact on specific races. And whoever's side had more of the folks focused on that particular set of issues won. And the side who didn't kind of got surprised. Or at least for the Republicans, was surprised.
So we're going into a more divided government. America sent a Congress that looks like America. I think when it all shakes out, that will continue to be the case. And it's going to be a very interesting place for people to try to govern from, including the President, who seems pretty happy right now. But when gavel's switch, things change a bunch. So we'll have to circle back and see if he's smiling as much in March as he was yesterday.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Yeah, let's go there a little bit more Mark. So given what we know of the election outcome today-- and again, we're in limbo. We have indications of how we think the House and the Senate-- especially the House will go the Senate. It's still kind of a toss up. But given what we know today, what changes because of the election? Who benefits? Who loses? Maybe who is it a net neutral for?
MARK OESTERLE: I think one big macro change are things that everyone has to worry about, like debt ceiling and working through government funding become much harder. So the government itself is going to be on a little bumpier path. Things are not going to get through as readily. And when you highlight the inflation issue, a lot of the Republicans-- to the point I made before-- think they got elected to address fixing the economy. And they think one of the ways to do that is fixing spending.
Now, alternatively, another way they think they need to go about doing that is working on energy access, on lowering the price of energy, which is fundamental to most everything in the economy via from permitting to piping and all the various things and a lot of carbon-based energy sources. I think they're going to work pretty hard to try to open that up. I'm not sure they're going to be immediately successful because the Senate will still be so close and there are a lot of folks who are maybe not interested in seeing that. But they'll try.
And I think as we see gas prices go and energy prices, and if there's difficulties with folks heating their homes this winter, their success will be tied to that. I also think they're going to try to address-- I don't even know what the word is, but the Chips Bill, where they were looking to onshore the manufacturing of high-end chips in the United States. I think it's a good sign for other kind of on-sourcing efforts. And those might get bipartisan support.
The one thing that I think will last the longest from the Trump administration is that China is now in a different place on trade and that they're not necessarily the best partner to have in all cases. And I think that's going to be a bipartisan issue. So I don't know exactly where that manifests itself. I think the chip stuff is rolling. But I do think you're going to see maybe in the drug sector, maybe in a lot of sectors, especially if the energy stuff picks up and it becomes cheaper to domesticate economic activity. I think the Republicans are going to be looking for partners to bring jobs back to a lot of different places across a lot of different sectors.
I think ironically you didn't ask this, but I think Wall Street-- potentially, banking-- but Wall Street and tech are the big losers. I think they don't have a lot of friends as-is. And we've already seen that some members that might get gavels are going after "wokesters" and woke capitalism. And they have axes to grind. And interestingly, one of the places that coincides with what I just said is China is not seen as being a good friend. A lot of people who have done a lot of partnership with China include the tech space and include Wall Street.
And I think R's and D's are going to come down on them for that as well. So it'll be interesting. A lot of that will be kind of political and kind of show efforts. But they're going to expose the activities of those sectors vis-a-vis China on a pretty repeated basis because there's really no political downside for doing that.
OSCARLYN ELDER: So Mark, what I heard you what I think I heard you say-- was onshoring, that's an area where you would expect-- I don't want to put words in your mouth, but it sounds like that's an area where you would expect we could get some positive momentum, possibly some bipartisan agreement?
MARK OESTERLE: Yeah. Yeah, I believe so. Yeah.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Yeah. And then areas of potential conflict might be the debt ceiling. Sounds like there could be a battle there. Other areas, you mentioned pharma.
And what are you thinking-- let's dive into a little bit more of the pharma, as well as the energy part of the discussion that you want that.
MARK OESTERLE: Yeah, I think part of the issue with pharma is the outsourcing across the world. So there's going to be a lot of focus on trying to bring back production to the United States. That's the positive.
The potential negatives are do we see that there are other issues associated with vaccinations. When the folks came out and said, well, we actually never really analyzed whether this would stop transmission, I think a lot of people on Capitol Hill said, hey, wait, what? And so there's going to be a little bit of a look back over COVID. And that will involve dragging some of the big pharma folks who are involved in developing vaccines back in.
But like I said, they may be able to find ways to get benefits on onshoring and re-domesticating a lot of different productive aspects of pharma. With respect to energy, I really think it's going to be-- I mean, the fight is real there. The spread between committed climate supporters and committed energy supporters is as big as anything in American politics. But gas prices go up, home heating goes up, the war continues, if the Chinese get their economy back online and oil demand goes back up in China, there's going to be a lot of pressure on everybody, really, to push forward to do more energy production.
And I think the natural gas folks are going to continue to push the notion that they have the cleanest and easiest short-term solution to helping with America's energy needs. And I think it may come down to picking who can help the most, the quickest, and the cleanest. And I'm not an energy expert, so I don't know who that is. I assume it's natural gas. It may be down the road nukes, kind all of the above strategy.
But I think in the immediate future, the question's going to be what can be done and where can the climate folks be brought in on cleanliness, because if they hold their position now, we're not going to see more development and it's going to lead to more of the same high prices through the winter and potentially exceedingly high prices again in the summer next year.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Are there areas that we would recommend that we look at, our clients look at that could surprise us? You know, topics that we're not talking about that might come out of left field that could gain attention or gain in importance to this?
MARK OESTERLE: Well, I mean, on the negative side, I think you're going to see a significant crackdown on crypto. I mean, it's not been a good year and it's not been a good few days. And I think the regulators and many of the people on Capitol Hill have an interest in seeing things tighten up there. It was hard to predict who would win during COVID. It's going to be hard to predict who's going to do well coming out of COVID and how back to work and full back to work and that kind of stuff is going to work.
I think Congress is aware that even though jobs are still going up, there's been a productivity problem that we're not getting the same amount out of workers as before. And I think they're going to look at that. I don't know if there's much they can do about that. And I certainly know there's not a lot the Fed can do. And it feels like everybody's sitting there other than the energy stuff and some of the onshoring, most of the rest of the next part of the conversation is, what's the Fed going to do? And what do we need to do to either help or get out of their way as they try to deal with interest rates?
So minding what Keith says, minding the data is going to be a huge thing, because the data is going to drive how the next six months play out. So I know Washington matters, but I think they're so tightly-- it's so tight on the spreads that it's not going to be all that productive to open up, say, some particular industry in the near future. I think what they're going to do is sit in the sidecar, do what they do on the areas they think they can affect and otherwise watch the Fed. And Fed-driven outcomes are going to matter probably for the next nine months to a year.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Thanks, Mark. I have a couple more questions for you. We heard from clients as they registered for this call today. A number of them were asking about tax policy. And we know that taxes matter to all of us on multiple levels, whether it's the personal level, the business level, or estate tax. So what do you think happens with tax policy given election outcomes that we know so far?
MARK OESTERLE: I can't see a major tax bill passing on anything. Some of the tax extenders provisions and their smaller, littler things, they'll get dealt with. But right now I think because tax bills have to start in the House under the Constitution, and the House looks like it's about to flip, the House Republicans are going to be looking for pro-growth concepts and the Biden administration might be looking for pro revenue concepts, and those things may not align. So at the outset, where we are is where we'll be.
If this time next year I had a conversation and somebody told me the tax code was radically changed, I'd say about 500 amazing things otherwise blew up to make that possible. It looks like the tax code is where it's going to be probably until the next presidential election.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Great. Thank you. That's very helpful. And one additional question. Given what we know so far, again, about election outcomes, how does this play into the 2024 presidential race? What are the implications for what has happened for the 2024 race?
MARK OESTERLE: The 2024 race started on Wednesday. So we're two days into it here, or a day and a half into it. I think President Biden got some charge. I think he thinks, hey, I'm the guy. And I think he is going to try to maneuver and make an announcement pretty soon to achieve that.
I think on the Republican side, Ron DeSantis had a great day. I think one of the things that actually messed with the psyche of Republicans was how convincing Republicans and early Republicans won on election night in Florida. And I thought people thought-- I think people thought-- that would carry through across the country. Because by 8:00, it was clear Republicans had done great there. And it led to a lot of heightened expectations that then were undone.
But I think that plays into Governor DeSantis's benefit. He showed what he could do without Trump being behind him. And competence matters. I mean, the guy, he won 50 something of women and a large percentage of Hispanics, and moved his numbers from Hispanics massively, and won county's Republicans don't win, and that kind of stuff. So I think he's standing there saying I'm the guy who can help build a coalition that gets people elected.
And I mentioned President Trump briefly. I think President Trump lost a lot. He picked a lot of nominees, cleared fields for them, and they massively underperformed in a year where you think they would have done much better. And historically, that would have been the case. Candidate quality matters is something that had been said throughout the summer.
And I think we saw that it did not help. I know the primaries decided who these candidates were. But they had a lot of support from President Trump. And President Trump is now looking like the guy who kind of botched two Senate elections in a row. So I think he's in a diminished role.
You know, it'd be interesting to see if it was Trump/Biden again. I don't think the country would like it. But going back to your other question, if it's Trump/Biden again, everybody should invest in local TV stations and cable news, because their ratings will absolutely explode. But I do think Governor DeSantis is in an elevated position and is going to do his best to try to push President Trump off the stage.
I think the first place you'll see to happen-- it will be interesting to see how this happens-- if Nevada goes for the Republicans and Georgia becomes the fight for control of the Senate, everybody who's running for the presidency in 2024 on the Republican side will absolutely show up and try to do their best to move the needle for Herschel Walker and then take credit for it. So like I noted, the campaign began two days ago. It steps up in earnest on December 6 and between now and December 6 when the Georgia runoff is.
So watch there. You'll get a lot of insight and input out of who's in Georgia, what they're doing, who's effective, and whether or not they can claim they delivered things for the Republican Party.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Thanks Mark. Thank you for that perspective. I'm going to bring Keith into the conversation now. So Keith, we've heard from Mark, gotten a good assessment of where we are from an implications perspective on election results.
What's your perspective on how important elections are to our clients wealth? You know, ultimately to their portfolio, to their returns. How much do elections matter?
KEITH LERNER: Sure, and thanks Oscarlyn. And thanks, everyone, for being with us. I always love also hearing from Mark. We've done this a couple of times over the cycles and I always feel like we have this really kind of Washington insider perspective that I know myself, you, and the team really appreciates.
But going to your question, Oscarlyn. Our mantra really for over 20-plus years that we've been doing market analysis is elections matter, but other things matter more collectively. And I would say what's interesting is normally we started writing a lot about the elections in January and February. We really waited to write on the elections to really last month, and then this week, because in the grand scheme of this complex global market economy that we're in, it's been a lower impact for the markets as well.
And even beyond this, again, going back to doing this over 20 years, what we find in the work and what's really important is that, again, elections do matter. And we have our fixed income team, equity teams looking at the impacts on an individual level. But on an aggregate level, where you are on the business cycle matters more. Mark has talked about this, what the Fed is doing is really important.
The direction of inflation. We saw that today. You know, what's happened geopolitically. So again, I think elections matter. But again, the other things matter more.
And the first chart we just wanted to show you is this just shows historic returns depending on the composition in Washington. And what you notice is in general, there isn't a huge divergence. Markets have done fine under whether it's a Democratic president and a Republican House, and let's say a Democratic Senate as an example. I think this is just a starting point, but this chart really tells me that there's other things going on as well.
And going back to maybe-- I know this was a midterm election, but if we go back to let's say the last 20 years or so, I want to just bring this to life a little bit. If you think about heading into the 2000 election, for those of us who were invested in following markets, at that point we had a technology bubble, we had the longest expansion in history. And that point of view is that whoever came into office after really strong returns in the '90s was going to have a difficult time. You fast forward to 2009, it was the opposite.
You had really cheap valuations after one of the worst periods of the market in history. And we had a really good market going forward. And then if we fast forward to the 2020 elections-- again, I'm talking more about the presidential elections at this point. But I remember writing about this and also discussing with our clients back then that, as Mark discussed, that was Trump and Biden, and there was so much anticipation about who was going to win and what that means for the market.
Our point of view right then was, hey, we're early into an economic cycle. We have massive stimulus. And what's going to be a more important driver for this market is going to be whether we have a vaccine or not. And what happened basically the same week that we found out who won the election, we had really positive news on the vaccinations that really drove markets.
So again, I want to make sure I'm clear. I'm not saying that elections don't matter. I'm just saying you have to put that into context as a whole.
And as I mentioned, I think one of the most important things for this market moving forward is what happens with inflation, what happens with the Fed and whether we go into a recession. And again, I mentioned this this morning, and I thought this could happen, is that we had a CPI report that was more tame, or inflation report that was more tame. And you're seeing the market up over 800 points, at least before we started this today. And again over the next six to 12 months, we think where the market trends and inflation is going to be more important.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Keith, are there specific sectors that you think will benefit from the outcome? And we've already heard Mark highlight some sectors that he's watching and give us his perspective. How about yours. How do you see that?
KEITH LERNER: Well, it's a similar story. So I'll get into what sectors we like. But I do want to give some context even going back to, hey, how much does the election matter to different sectors. Mark mentioned, there's going to be some areas that could benefit and ones that may get hit more. But again, there's other factors as far as valuations, where they priced already.
If you remember-- well, actually, if we go back to Trump and Obama, their policies were a lot different. The top two sectors under both presidents was tech and consumer discretionary. And why was that?
Well, we were in a post-financial crisis environment where we had really slow economic growth and low rates. So investors gravitated and paid a premium for tech under both presidents. And then when Biden was elected, there was a lot of discussion that it would be really bad for the energy sector or health care, financials. And coincidentally, those are the three top sectors since he's been elected. And energy has been the top sector by far, up over 85%.
And why is that? Well, because supply was more constrained, corporations focused more on cash flow in the energy sector. So again, kind of keep that intact. Today, our favorite sectors-- and we've have had a favorable view of energy since early last year. We still like that sector. We still think it's actually reasonably priced with really good fundamentals. We also like areas like industrials.
One thing that Mark talked about that I think was really insightful in what we're seeing is the industrial sector is typically not an area that you would typically view as positive if you thought the economy was slowing down. But the reshoring that we're seeing, some of the stimulus as well. And also, aerospace and defense, think about geopolitical how much spending is going to be increasing not just in the US, but especially globally if you think about Europe. So we think that has some tailwinds as well.
But we also have the view that the overall economy will likely slow over the next six to 12 months. So we like areas like health care and staples, which are a bit more defensive, a little bit less dependent on the economic cycle.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Thank you, Keith. Let's take a second and go from the sector view and zoom out because a number of our clients sent questions about overall portfolio and asset allocation. And I know our process is really rooted in those asset allocation decisions. So if you could just take a moment and walk us through what are we thinking around asset allocation and how have our views changed over the last, say, six to 12 months.
KEITH LERNER: Sure. And maybe I'll take the last part of that question first just because to provide a little context. I would say coming out of that pandemic, I mean, we're very positive, very bullish on the markets early on because we saw that stimulus, we had optimism that there was going to be a vaccine, and valuations were really low. But I would say starting earlier this year, starting in February, our tone had started to shift.
And we've done this in a systematic fashion where we've been reducing risk, reducing equities, and as rates have moved up, slowly increasing fixed income at least in our guidance as a whole. And that's where we stand today. The biggest shift this year that we've seen is we've had this massive move up in interest rates.
And what that means is that fixed income is productive again. The 10-year before today was above 4%. That's the highest level since before the financial crisis. So we're finding really attractive yields. I will say our big picture view as we think about the next six to 12 months is that we do think the odds of recession have risen materially. It's not a foregone conclusion that we'll go into recession, but our work suggests the probabilities are relatively high.
So in that environment, we still want to be a bit more defensive in our overall asset allocation. So at this point, we're actually recommending for the first time in many years actually to have a slightly higher allocation to fixed income relative to equities. Because at this point, even as we look at this rally today, our best estimate is the upside is likely capped around 5% to 7% or 8% on the upside here near-term. If you look at the fixed income, without a lot of risk, you can get near 4% yields just at high-quality fixed income. And then if you go outside and take a little bit more risk in the fixed income, we could actually have that a bit higher.
So it's a time where we also expect markets to be extremely choppy. I think short-term with a CPI report, the inflation report today is helpful. I think going into year-end where we've had a tough year, a lot of investors are somewhat underweight equities, you could see a little bit of a fear of missing out, maybe a little bit of an overshoot near short-term.
But I would say when we're looking at really over the next six to 12 months, we still think it's going to be somewhat challenging and choppy because we can't forget even if the Fed does pivot and we thought that it would energize a rally, all that tightening that we've seen, right. The Fed's moved up from 0% to almost 4% here. All that movement in interest rates works with a lag in.
Really, it's hard to see how that doesn't impact the economy. We're already seeing that in housing. We expect that to continue into next year as well. So again, we're going to be continue to be tactical. As you know, that's when our teams have been a lot more tactical this year as far as trying to take advantage of these moves.
So I would say even though it's a choppy environment, it doesn't mean, hey, well, you just have to live with a choppy environment. Our teams, collectively, are trying to see where to take advantage of those overshoots in both directions.
OSCARLYN ELDER: And Keith, it's a fair statement to say we are much more focused on the Fed and understanding the Fed's path and the impact to portfolios than we are the election results.
KEITH LERNER: Correct. Yeah, I don't know there's a lot of change right now from Washington because of the division. But I do think it will probably invoke some volatility if, let's say, we have a big debt debate at some point. You'll see that invoking.
But to your point, Oscarlyn, the biggest impact to the markets over the next year I think will continue to be the Fed and the direction of inflation and corporate earnings.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Thank you. What I'd like to do now is bring Mark back into the conversation and have both Mark and Keith, we'd love to ask you both a few questions. We'd like for a second to arc more towards global geopolitical. And Mark, specifically, how does the election impact the Russia/Ukraine war?
We have been dealing with the impact really of the Russian invasion of Ukraine since February. And we're just kind of interested in your take on what happens there?
MARK OESTERLE: Well, I do think Republicans have a little more skepticism with respect to the administration's kind of engagement there. I'm not sure they go so far as to try to pull things back. I mean, they don't really have the levers because the president kind of has the job of conducting foreign policy.
But I do think they have the ability to examine much more closely the spending to pull people in and ask them questions. You know, what do we know about this, is it really going the way they say, what about this, what about that? So I think the president will continue to be able to kind of prosecute with European allies the war as it's been. But he's got to recognize he's going to be-- he'll be trusted, but there's going to be an effort to verify.
And they will kick the tires and check under the hood to make sure what's going on is actually working. And I think that's going to play out not just in what's going on in Ukraine. I think you're going to see a lot more people talk about, OK, Ukraine and Taiwan, how does this all work together? And for Republicans, the effort will be we've got to find ways to show the president isn't doing a great job on either.
So there will be more kind of highlights of any failures or difficulties. That will get more attention. And so it basically ups the pressure on the administration get it right in the first place, because if they don't, it's going to get scrutinized.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Thank you, Mark. I'd like to arc for a second, actually, back to the economy and our expectation that we will see recession sometime in 2023 because of how the Fed has raised interest rates this year. Given where we are, given the expectation that we have, Mark, of a recession, are there any levers for DC that are left to pull if we do go into recession? So what's possible from a fiscal stimulus perspective?
MARK OESTERLE: I think that's going to be really tough. The Republicans would want to stimulate via the tax code. Democrats want to stimulate via government programs or specifically extending the child care tax credit, things like that. I don't know if there's enough of column A and enough of column B that can be put together to pull a deal off, especially with a lot of people who just want on the Republican side running on the notion that the government overspent and the overspending led to the inflationary issues.
I know it's more complicated than that, but that's the kind of statement they have on their resume at this point. They're against more spending. So I think it's going to be really difficult. Both sides will run to, hey, we tried something. The other guys didn't let us get it through. And they'll try radically different things-- energy policy, tax policy with the Republicans that won't get over the goal line, spending for the Democrats that probably won't get over the goal line.
So I think we're going to be in a stayed place, like I noted before, where everybody's watching the Fed. And they're the only ones who can really move. So I don't know how many rate increases they have left, but all the power shifted to Jay Powell at this point.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Keith, if you'll respond to that. How do you think about what Mark has said in relationship to markets and how we should think about outside of the next six months?
KEITH LERNER: Yeah, I think it's incredibly important. I'll start with the Fed, because as Mark mentioned, really the Fed has the power today. We've had so much stimulus. We saw the inflation. It's going to be hard to get more fiscal stimulus. And we don't know that necessarily that would be a great thing for the markets anyway given the inflation backdrop.
But a big picture view that we've had for some time about the Fed, and we've talked about this for the last six months, is we think the Fed has scar tissue, and that they're going to be more apprehensive to provide as much support as they have. If you think about the last decade, the Fed's been on call. Any time the market's been going down or the economy's weakened, they've shifted pretty quickly and pretty dramatically as well.
We think that that's changing or that will change not only for the next year, but probably over the next few cycles because this is the first time in over a decade that the Fed has had to worry about inflation. If you remember back in, say, 2008-2009, there was a lot of discussion that all this Fed printing is going to lead to inflation. It never came. But now it's come.
So I think if we do go into recession next year, they will eventually cut rates. They probably won't be as aggressive. We're probably not going back to 0% interest rates. That could energize, again, a short-term rally.
But again, I think we have to think about this market being a little bit-- or, the economic and market cycle as being a bit more volatile. And that means the approach to investing, it changes a bit too. That means that what we've done this year will likely continue being a bit more tactical in our thinking.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Right. And it also really speaks, Keith, to the change we made in the fixed income that you noted earlier as well. It connects back to that.
KEITH LERNER: That's right.
OSCARLYN ELDER: Yeah, well, I want to thank both Keith and Mark for joining us today for this discussion. Again, we certainly appreciate you taking time out of your morning to be with us. We thank you for trusting Truist to be part of your journey. If you have any questions, just reach out to your advisors. They are always there to speak with you, to help guide you through these volatile elections, as well as market cycles.
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Co-chief investment officer
Truist Advisory Services, Inc.
We wanted to share a recent webcast from our investment and government affairs experts discussing timely analysis and perspectives, focusing on implications for public policy and investment portfolio positioning. Please let us know if you have any questions about the mid-term election results' potential impact on your wealth.