Stock-index futures were rising again early Wednesday morning, as investors settle in for a vote-counting process that is expected to stretch into at least another day.
Markets whipsawed back and forth for much of Tuesday night, but futures’ latest gains suggest that traders aren’t particularly concerned that there won’t be a quick resolution of the 2020 U.S. election. An extended vote means more uncertainty for investors in a tumultuous period for the markets.
Futures tied to the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100, in particular, were sharply higher—at one point rising 4%.
Initial results from several states showed a tight electoral-college race. Michigan, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Pennsylvania were living up to their reputations as battleground states. Final tallies from those and other states were unlikely to come before Wednesday morning. And without those electoral votes, it won’t be possible to declare a presidential winner either.
Around 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, Biden addressed a car rally in Wilmington, Delaware, and said it could take some time before a result was declared in several states. “We believe we’re on track to win this election,” he said.
Trump tweeted that he would make a statement Wednesday. “We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the Election,” Trump tweeted after Biden had finished speaking. “We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Poles are closed!”
Following a solid rally Tuesday, S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average futures had both been up about 1% early in the evening, then dipped into negative territory as early state polls closed and pointed to a tight race. But as the night continued, futures rallied again. Shortly after 1 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, S&P 500 futures pointed to a 0.7% gain at Wednesday’s open, while Nasdaq 100 futures were up 2.2%.
Other assets suggested a flight-to-safety trade was underway, thoughy less strongly than earlier in the night. The U.S. dollar surged—weighing on commodities prices—and government bond yields were lower. Yields fall as prices rise.
By 1 a.m. Wednesday, the Associated Press had declared President Donald Trump the winner in 23 states worth 212 electoral votes, including Tennessee, Indiana, South Carolina, and Missouri. Vice President Joseph Biden has been declared the winner in New York, Illinois, New Jersey, California, and 15 other states plus Washington D.C., for a total of 223 electors. The first candidate to 270 electoral votes wins.
Futures tied to the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX, first rose more than 3%, then fell by a similar amount, an indication that expectations for market volatility increased, and then diminished.
Stock indexes in Asia were mostly up. Australia’s ASX All Ordinaries and China’s Shanghai Composite were just above even, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose after opening down, and South Korea’s Kospi Composite and Taiwan’s Taiex extended gains. Japan’s Nikkei 225 was sharply higher, up more than 2% on Wednesday, after being closed on Tuesday.
The projected results appeared to be much closer than polls ahead of Election Day suggested they would be. Biden held a 7-point national vote lead over Trump on Tuesday, according to an average of polls from Real Clear Politics. Poll averages also had Biden slightly ahead in the crucial states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, and Arizona.
Control of Congress is also on the ballot, with tight Senate races in states including North Carolina, Iowa, Arizona, Maine, and Alabama. Democrats are projected by the AP to flip a seat in Colorado, with former governor John Hickenlooper prevailing over Republican incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner. In Alabama, Republican Tommy Tuberville was projected to prevail over incumbent Democrat Doug Jones. A Georgia senate race appeared likely to go to a runoff.
Democrats are heavily favored to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives.
Some 100 million voters cast their ballots before election day in 2020, a record by a mile. Close races may take longer to declare winners, while some states only began counting absentee ballots on election day. If the electoral-college count comes down to a handful of votes, it make take several days to declare a winner. The stock market won’t like that uncertainty.
The gains this week follow a volatile and wobbly stretch for the market—not uncommon in the months leading up to an election. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite are each down more than 3% since Labor Day, while the Dow has slipped 4.3%. Rising coronavirus cases in Europe and the U.S., fiscal stimulus wrangling, and an eventful third-quarter earnings season have contributed to big daily moves in both directions in recent weeks.
Write to Nicholas Jasinski at email@example.com