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Debunking the Trump Trade Myth

The stock market has been on a roll lately as reflected in the 20% gain in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY) over the past 11 months. Much of the credit has gone to the so-called “Trump Trade.”

You know, all that money that is going to be made from cheaper health care, tax cuts, and building a lot of stuff. At the rate things are going, that idea is starting to sound a little iffy.

Want to know who has been making a lot of money since Trump’s election? Try Ameriprise Financial (NYSE: AMP) +72%, Xerox (NYSE: XRX) +52%, and Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) +50%. They were the top performing stocks in our Growth portfolio from November 1 through September 29. 

Those are not most people’s idea of high growth stocks. Yet, they easily more than doubled the return of the market over the past eleven months.

The “smart money” on Wall Street wasn’t expecting these stocks to soar after Trump took office. That’s because they were perceived to be outside the sweet spot of where a lot of money would be spent.

So why did these three stocks perform so well if they possess none of those high growth traits? Knowing the answer to that question is more than an academic exercise, because it may be the key to beating the market in the years to come.

Reflation is the result of a lot of money being pumped into the economy by the Fed or by Congress. The Fed has already done its part by pushing interest rates about as low they can go.

Now it’s up to Congress to see if a tax cut can get passed. But even if that happens, the economy is not likely to benefit much more than it already has.

The Fed’s actions prevented the economy from collapsing nine years ago. Since then the stock market has doubled and unemployment has dropped by half.

In short, almost all of the benefits of reflation have been fully realized. A tax cut might help a handful of companies, but even then it is not clear how much of that money will find its way into the economy.

If that’s true then what will drive stock prices higher next year is not more reflation. Instead, companies that do not need help from the Fed or Congress to grow profits will lead the market higher.

Best Buy appears to be the opposite of a Trump Trade stock. It has spent the past three years retooling its stores and revising its product mix to fend off Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN). The result is a business that has increased per-share profits by 24% during the past year, far greater than most analysts anticipated.

Another stock that fails the Trump Trade test is Ameriprise since most of its revenue consists of fee income from client accounts. Yet, it used its growing profits to raise its dividend by 23% over the past two years.

Earlier this year Xerox pared down to its core business of document technology by spinning off its business services division. Since then, the company has found new life. Xerox’s basic per-share profits have grown by 35% during the past year, catching the stock market off guard.

That’s why I stick to my IDEAL Stock Rating System when evaluating which companies to own. At the beginning of this year, it told me that Ameriprise, Best Buy, and Xerox were each undervalued, and it was right.

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