What investors are watching for the election – and what could go wrong


The stakes are high for financial markets as Americans go to the polls on Tuesday in U.S. elections that have already made history with a record number of early votes cast.

From potential major policy changes to huge election night volatility and post-election swings, this is what investors are watching out for on and after Nov. 3:

  • Trading on the night. Stocks have been rocky in the run-up to the election and the CBOE Volatility Index .VIX, Wall Street’s “fear gauge,” has surged. Traders will be glued to screens following how U.S. futures EScv1 react to every twist and turn on election night, as well as U.S. Treasury futures TYv1 and the dollar =USD.
  • U.S. Treasuries. The $20 trillion U.S. Treasury market has been asleep for months but recently showed signs of life, as opposing bets on how the economy will perform clash amid jitters over the election.
  • Currencies. Election-induced volatility may give a boost to the dollar.
  • How robust exchanges are. Exchanges and retail brokers, under scrutiny after recent outages, have spent months planning for the U.S. election. Now their preparations for what could be a highly volatile trading period are about to be put to the test.
  • Market safeguards. Price limits and circuit breakers are safeguards meant to stop a market from moving too far or too fast over a specific period of time. Here is how they would work if markets tumbled post-Election Day.
  • Liquidity crunches. Large Wall Street banks have been running “war game” drills in their trading businesses and preparing clients for unexpected scenarios, hoping to avoid liquidity crunches or technical errors as markets react to news.
  • Credit rating scrutiny. Some of the more influential observers of the election process will be the agencies that determine the country’s credit rating.
  • Major policy shifts. Investors could confront dramatically different paths for the country on taxes, government spending, trade and regulation, depending on who wins. [L1N2HL050]
  • Stocks to watch. Various stocks and sectors could see dramatic swings, and investors have spent months trying to identify potential winners and losers. [L1N2HD17T]
  • A bullish stock market. For those looking for stronger gains ahead, a Trump win may be a favored outcome according to one measure.
  • Big Tech. If Biden wins, as polls suggest, technology companies could face higher tax rates and tax-motivated selling as well as increased regulation. [L1N2HL33B]
  • Green funds. Fund managers have been betting that green-type stocks with environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials would benefit from a Biden win.
  • Healthcare stocks. A Biden victory and a potential Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate could clear the way for prescription drug price and healthcare coverage reforms, generally seen as potential negatives for companies in the sector.