While there may be some theatrics on election night and the days that follow, I’m not expecting the winner of the upcoming presidential election to matter all that much to the market’s performance.
As I wrote back in August, the S&P 500’s historical performance hasn’t been all that different under Democrat or Republican administrations.
The president’s political party hasn’t mattered much to the overall health of the market. But certain sectors should benefit more under one party or the other. (Read about the most bullish outcome for pot stocks as an example.)
For tech investors, the key election to watch isn’t Trump vs. Biden. It’s actually the race for the Senate.
The Trump Administration has considered antitrust action against some of the big boys in social media and tech. While information is still somewhat sketchy, Alphabet (Google), Facebook and Amazon are all reportedly under investigation for antitrust violations.
The two candidates have different motivations:
- Trump has cited anti-conservative censorship and bias in media.
- Biden focuses more on the spreading of fake news and privacy violations.
But Biden’s view that Big Tech needs more aggressive oversight is essentially the same. If Trump brought a formal suit against any of these companies, a President Biden would likely continue those efforts after taking office.
The key here is the Senate.
Why the Senate Matters
While the executive branch can take antitrust action, there are limits to how far it can go. A major overhaul of tech regulation would need Congress on board. The likelihood of a Republican-controlled Senate and a Democrat-controlled House agreeing on much of anything isn’t likely.
But if the Democrats take the Senate, we could be looking at a very different scenario.
Just this past week, the House antitrust subcommittee called for the breakup of Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook. If that was approved by the full House and by the Senate, we could see four of America’s biggest tech names fighting for their lives.
And there’s more. Biden has called for stricter privacy standards similar to those in Europe.
That sounds harmless until you consider how Facebook, Twitter and other social media companies make money. None of these companies sell social networking software. They give that away for free.
What they sell is you, or more accurately your browsing history and preferences. If you’ve been Googling basketball scores, it’s no coincidence that ads for LeBron James jerseys start showing up in your feed.
In January of this year, California enacted the Consumer Privacy Act, which — among other things — allows users to opt out of selling their personal information. Without the ability to sell your personal information, Facebook or Google‘s business model loses viability.
Now, California doesn’t have the enforcement power than the federal government has. And we don’t know how effective the law will be.
But a “blue wave” of new Democratic seats in the U.S. House and Senate could change that. What if Congress produces a national privacy act?
Suddenly, Big Tech has a big problem.
Should You Sell Big Tech Stocks?
I’m not going to recommend you sell your big tech stocks, or at least not yet. Most still rate exceptionally high in our Green Zone Rating system.
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Alphabet Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOGL), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Facebook Inc.’s (Nasdaq: FB) stock have overall ratings of 76, 84, 84 and 86, respectively. These are some of the highest-rated stocks in the S&P 500. By our model, they are positioned to deliver market-beating returns over the next year. I recently highlighted each of these here.
But, be smart. Keep your position sizes reasonable. No matter how good a stock looks, something can disrupt them. Think about how many businesses saw their models implode under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a general rule, I recommend limiting all position sizes between 3% and 5% of your total portfolio.
Also, don’t be afraid to take profits when the time comes. If, following the election, tech stocks start to sag, there’s nothing wrong with selling part of your position. When I can’t make up my mind whether I want to take profits or let a winning position run, I split the difference and sell half. It’s not an exact science, but it works for me.
Money & Markets contributor Charles Sizemore specializes in income and retirement topics. Charles is a regular on The Bull & The Bear podcast. He is also a frequent guest on CNBC, Bloomberg and Fox Business.
Follow Charles on Twitter @CharlesSizemore.