Neither Economies, Nor Candidates, Are Recession Proof

The first time I voted in a U.S. presidential election was 1980, as a 21-year-old college senior. The choice then, as now, was between a conservative who earned his fame in the entertainment industry versus a dyed-in-the-wool liberal that previously occupied a governor’s mansion in the South.

 As we all know, Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter in that election and went on to become the gold standard by which all subsequent Republican presidential candidates are measured, while Carter is generally regarded as the president Democrats would rather forget.

So I was surprised, but not shocked, by Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton this time around since he represented a clear break from the largely dissatisfying status quo, just as Reagan did 36 years ago. Reagan entered the Oval Office just as hyper-inflation from the 1970s was approaching its peak, compounded by a double-digit unemployment rate and America’s cold war with Russia teetering on the outbreak of war. Of course, no such armed conflict erupted, at least not directly between the two nations, and our economy reversed course within a couple of years to ignite a long-lived bull market that pushed the stock market to unthinkable heights and helped the Soviet Union to collapse.

That is one main difference between now and then. Donald Trump will be taking over shortly after the U.S. stock market has hit record highs, with inflation as low as it has been in our lifetimes and Russia no longer viewed as a military or economic equal to the USA. So the policy initiatives implemented this time around should not be the same, either. And since Trump has provided virtually no details in his vision statement for the economy, we can only speculate as to what that may be.

If you believe, as I do, that long term economic cycles repeat themselves, then the next couple of years don’t look too promising. If this remarkably consistent pattern holds true, then the stock market is likely to suffer a major correction during Trump’s first term as the economy goes through a long overdue recession, which may prevent him from winning reelection in 2020. By the way, the same holds true if Hillary Clinton had won the election, since the macroeconomic forces at work are gigantic and have been several decades in the making.

The good news for whoever wins that election is the subsequent bull market should coincide with a new wave of economic prosperity that could go on for many years, such as occurred with Reagan. As an investor, you can cash in on this phenomenon by ignoring the inevitable political finger-pointing that will erupt when the next recession hits.

Instead, you should have a short list of stocks that you’d like to own at lower prices, and then wait for the market to come to you. The challenge is in having the courage to actually go through with those purchases while everyone else is selling, which is why having some sort of disciplined approach to identify precisely when to buy each stock is critical.

Of course, your timing probably won’t be perfect, but it doesn’t need to be to reap huge rewards. Consider the stock market crash from eight years ago; after peaking in September of 2007, the S&P 500 lost more than 50% of its value over the next eighteen months. Had you bought an index fund either six months before, or six months after, its lowest point in March of 2009, you still would have participated in 80% of the subsequent recovery. That’s a full year’s worth of imperfect timing, but still good enough to have more than doubled you money over the next six years.

And if you are able to select individual stocks that will do better than the overall market, such as the ones favored by my IDEAL Stock Rating System, then your returns could be far greater than that. For example, while the S&P 500 Index was doubling in value, shares of Apple grew more than six-fold! Even stodgy old companies like General Electric, Ford and Dow Chemical more than tripled in price after bottoming out in 2009.

I don’t expect to see a stock market crash of that magnitude anytime soon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next recession induces a temporary drop in the market in the 15% to 25% range. And just like last time, a lot of very good companies will get punished along with the rest of the market when investors rush for the exits. So while everyone else is blaming our newly-elected president for whatever economic hiccups occur over the next couple of years, you should be getting prepared to jump in on the next round of stocks that will lead the market higher.