Do Presidents affect stock prices?

David MoonBlog

by David Moon

Don’t tell your republican friends, but the US stock market has performed better when a Democrat was president than during Republican administrations.  And it’s not even close.  The difference is too large to ignore, regardless of the time frame.

Since 1929, the S&P 500 has produced a total return of 204,398 percent, or 9.2 percent compounded annually. (Yes, that’s correct: 204 thousand percent.) The average annual return when a Democrat occupied the White House was 13.2 percent, compared to 4.6 percent during the 40 years of Republican administrations.

When separately compounded over the 40 Republican years and the 47 Democrat years, more than 95 percent of the total stock market returns since 1929 occurred during Democrat presidential administrations.

Despite having quadruple checked my math and asked someone else to do so, that is still hard for me to grasp.

My history-savvy Republican friends will quickly note that 1929 began the most volatile eight-year investment period in US history—with an 85 percent stock market drop during Herbert Hoover’s (R) administration and the subsequent rebound occurring during the first Franklin Roosevelt (D) term.

Even tossing out the best Republican years and the worst Democrat years, the outcome is no different; the Democrat return is 40.1 percent higher than the Republican return.

In the 50 years since 1965, the results are the same. The annual S&P 500 return during the Johnson/Carter/Clinton/Obama administrations was 13.8 percent, compared to 6.4 percent for Nixon/Reagan/Bush/Bush.

Even beginning the measurement period at the commencement of Republican Nirvana (Ronald Reagan’s inauguration in 1981), the results are no different. In the 35 years from 1981 through 2015, the S&P 500 returned 15.9 percent during the 15 Democrat years, vs. 7.2 percent during the 20 years of Republican administrations.

Another oddity is the S&P 500 return in a presidential election year, conditional on changes in the political party of the incoming president. The highest historical return in presidential election years were in those years in which a Republican was elected to succeed a Republican. This is true whether it is a president being elected to a second term, like Richard Nixon in 1972, or in presidential years in which one Republican candidate succeeds a different Republican president, such as Bush 41 following Ronald Reagan.

The worst election year returns have occurred when a Democrat was elected to succeed a Republican president, such as a 37 percent loss the year Barack Obama was elected to follow Bush 43 or the nine percent loss when Franklin Roosevelt succeeded Herbert Hoover.

I could speculate about multiple possible causes of these oddities, some of which are less obvious than they are likely. Instead, I offer the information without prejudice or conclusion. Use it in any way that suits your purpose, likely to irritate Republicans at cocktail parties.


David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).