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After Election, Stock Bump for Corporations Who Bet on the Winner

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Color us surprised (or not). MarketWatch’s Jonnelle Marte looks into the post-election performance of a successful presidential candidate’s largest corporate donor and finds its stocks tends to get a boost. For instance, he notes Goldman Sachs, whose executives and employees gave $1 million to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 versus $240,000 to John McCain, saw its share price gain 102% in 2009.

He contrasts that with AT&T, whose workers gave $200,000 to McCain but as a group weren’t a top-50 contributor to the Obama campaign, gained 4% that year, compared with a 26% gain by the S&P 500-stock index.

“Whether the big donors’ success is due to added clout stemming from their contributions, policies favoring their businesses, or just good business sense, is unclear,” Marte hedges, but then goes on to note that experts say the overall trend is well documented.

He refers to a report released last fall by researchers at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, which looked at the stock market performance of the top contributors for U.S. presidential elections from 1992 to 2004 and found that, “a hypothetical portfolio of the 30 public companies that made a bigger percentage of their campaign contributions in any given election during that period would have outperformed the S&P 500 by an average of more than 6 percentage points during the first year after an election.”

That stock advantage also appeared to hold true for the top contributors in the 2008 election, he adds. A look at 10 publicly traded companies whose employees gave a higher percentage of their contributions to Obama, including Microsoft, Google and Time Warner, showed that they outperformed the S&P 500 by an average of 17.6 percentage points in 2009.

“In contrast, the 10 companies among McCain’s top contributors who donated more heavily to him than Obama, including AT&T, Bank of New York Mellon and American Financial Group, underperformed the S&P 500 by an average of 2.4 percentage points in 2009,” Marte writes. “Investors may be able to capitalize on this phenomenon, pros say—but only to a point.”

He points to Randy Warren, a financial advisor near Philadelphia, who doesn’t make bets strictly based on campaign fundraising lists, but “he does consider which sectors might gain from a president’s policies when choosing stocks—a strategy that likely points to some of that candidate’s top donors.”

 For instance, he notes Warren might add health care stocks if Obama is re-elected, because the president’s Affordable Care Act is expected to increase health care spending—and boost profits for medical companies—over the next several years.

“Romney, meanwhile, vows to repeal the measure. The health care industry is backing Obama more heavily, donating nearly $9 million to his campaign so far this election, compared with $6 million in contributions for Romney,” he wrote, citing the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research group that tracks political donations.


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