Stocks to Watch Under the Biden Administration
With the executive and legislative branches under control, the new US president is poised to roil some markets.
President Joe Biden was officially inaugurated on 20 January, offering a dramatically changed political outlook from the outgoing Trump administration. Equally significant, Biden enters office buoyed by a “blue wave” that has seen Democrats gain majority power in the Senate while retaining a majority in the House of Representatives, granting the party effective control of both the legislative branch and the presidency for the first time since 2011.
Though the new administration will be faced with numerous economic challenges, it will have the political clout to enact drastic policies to tackle them. What does this mean for investors on the hunt for prime stocks? What are safe bets, and what bubbles may soon burst?
“Build Back Better” has been a common slogan ever since the 2020 campaign, broadly summarising the new administration’s aim for the US economy. The Biden-Harris campaign website specifies the creation of “an equitable, clean energy future” as a key plank in this. With the spectre of climate change becoming an ever-greater threat to the global economy, we can expect to see a good deal of renewed attention given to green business.
Naturally, this is good news for companies with a focus on renewable energy. Investors may soon see positive movement in NextEra and other utilities with wind and solar assets. Clean energy system manufacturers such as First Solar and Emphase Energy are also worth a look – as are electric vehicles companies. With Biden having voiced ambitions of creating 1 million jobs in the auto sector and incentivise EV production, the future looks bright for the likes of Tesla and Workhorse Group.
Alongside Biden’s promises of greater green energy investment is a pledge to invest comprehensively in American infrastructure. Roads, bridges and energy grids are all noted as areas of concern that will soon see government investment.
With the spectre of climate change becoming an ever-greater threat to the global economy, we can expect to see a good deal of renewed attention given to green business.
A natural beneficiary of this focus on infrastructure (if Biden is serious) would be construction companies like building materials supplier Martin Marietta and equipment maker Caterpillar, both of which were heavily impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but have since rebounded. It’s a telling portent that the Global X US Infrastructure Development ETF (PAVE), which tracks some of the largest industrial, construction and transportation companies in the US, saw a rally in the week of the election and an overall jump of 26% in the past three months.
While the optimistic rumours of a big infrastructure deal may not come to anything under the new government, telecom providers in particular can expect a boost from Biden’s promise to work towards universal broadband. AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, among other big players, can be expected to make significant gains.
Tech giants like Amazon, Google and Facebook occupy a strange position in the US economy. Though their market values have never been higher, and they have managed to keep up consistently high performance during the COVID-19 pandemic while other businesses have foundered, politicians from both sides of the aisle have managed to find an opponent in big tech.
Now, with majority power in Congress, Biden and his party are in a position to heavily regulate or even break up the “Big Five” of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet. Notable Democrats like Elizabeth Warren have come out in support of breaking up tech giants; the Democrat-led House antitrust committee has found that the Big Five “hold monopoly power”. Biden himself has publicly criticised Facebook for providing a platform for his predecessor to “spread fear and misleading information”, though he has stopped short of recommending its breakup.
With tech companies enjoying more influence than ever before, it remains to be seen just how far the new administration will go to curb their power. The September and November tech selloffs have shown that the Big Five’s stock is not invincible; 2021 may see the end of tech giants as a sure bet for investment.
Though their market values have never been higher, and they have managed to keep up consistently high performance during the COVID-19 pandemic while other businesses have foundered, politicians from both sides of the aisle have managed to find an opponent in big tech.
Though not as high-profile an issue as climate change, the debate surrounding the regulation of cannabis played a role in the outcome of the presidential election and will likely have consequences for the markets. Biden’s campaign platform included the decriminalisation of cannabis at the federal level, which – while not the same as outright legalising the drug – would pave the way for long-awaited cannabis banking reform and greater acceptance of the substance’s recreational use over time.
Several other Democrat leaders, including New York governor Andrew Cuomo, have vocally supported the legalisation of cannabis, as have 66% of Americans, which bodes well for the future of the industry. Worldwide cannabis sales tripled to almost $11 billion from 2014 to 2018; Wall Street analysts predict that figure could land anywhere between $50 billion and $200 billion a year by 2030. In the shorter term, investors may want to keep a close eye on Canadian cannabis producers such as Organigram Holdings or Harvest Health & Recreation Inc – or Tilray, which managed to double its value in January alone.
One of the final sectors that is sure to see movement in the Biden era is healthcare. Looking past the headline-making pharmaceutical companies producing COVID-19 vaccines, and the fact that Biden has not embraced “Medicare for all” like many of his fellow Democrats, the health industry will undoubtedly be boosted in at least some areas by the new president’s policies. Biden has promised an option “like Medicare” for individual health plans, a boon for existing Medicare supplemental plan providers like UnitedHealth Group. As many as 23 million Americans could be made eligible for Medicare under Biden’s policies, which is sure to elevate healthcare fortunes.
And to move back from specific industries, there is reason for investors across the board to take note of the incoming administration’s policies. Biden has stated his intention to raise the corporate tax rate back to its pre-Trump level of 28% and to tax foreign income more aggressively, which obviously bodes poorly for the stock market. But before that can occur, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package is sitting on the table, sure to lift US markets broadly should it pass Congress.
This stimulus package and the measures that may follow it, with a second spending plan slated to arrive “in the first few weeks” of Biden’s term, should give traders plenty to be optimistic about in the short term. Whether the specific industries listed above ultimately see their fortunes raised will depend on negotiations in government and the evolution of external factors like the ongoing pandemic, but prospective investors would do well to plan for the new president’s policy objectives in the years ahead.