An investing strategy for election month
What stocks will be affected by this year's election and how should investors respond?
Evolution has hardwired us to hate uncertainty. We have a preference for predictable outcomes and the 18 May federal election isn't going to be one. Until then, you can expect plenty of wobble and bounce in stocks as the market digests the last-minute flurry of promises from Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten.
So what stocks may be in for a shaky month? So far, we know a Labor Government will spend more on public healthcare, so an ALP win could mean a rising share price for GP and pathology providers Healius (ASX: HLS) and Sonic Healthcare (ASX: SHL) if it loosens up Medicare rebates.
Private healthcare stocks, on the other hand, would be negatively affected by the ALP's proposed cap to health insurance premium growth and a boost to public hospital funding. Medibank Private (ASX: MPL), NIB (ASX: NHF), Ramsay Health Care (ASX: RHC) and Healthscope (ASX:HSO) may all face slowing revenue growth under a Labor Government. Ramsay has bounced strongly since our Buy recommendations late last year, but we're hopeful of another opportunity.
Another hot topic this year is energy regulation and funding. To reduce the fallout from climate change, Labor has proposed a 50% renewable energy target by 2030, so it's possible that Australia's largest wind generator, Infigen Energy (ASX: IFN), may win some extra Government financial incentives or projects. Coal and gas generators like Origin Energy (ASX: ORG) and AGL (ASX: AGL), however, may become political targets.
A Labor Government could also upset the already battered property sector if it successfully ends negative gearing. The changes could cause property price declines and scare off investors, so developers Stockland (ASX: SGP) and Mirvac (ASX: MGR) could face a rough few years.
It's reasonable to assume that share prices are going to be particularly volatile in the coming weeks - especially for those stocks above - depending on new election promises and polling results. How do you turn this to your advantage?
The first thing is to accept that uncertainty goes hand in hand with investing. As Warren Buffett said in a 2011 CNBC interview: 'The world is always uncertain. The world was uncertain on December 6th 1941, we just didn't know it. The world was uncertain on September 10th 2001, we just didn't know it. Now the question is, what do you do with your money? If you leave it in your pocket, it'll become worth less over time. That's certain.'
It's probably a mistake to make any buy or sell decisions this month based on who you think will win. Too many personal biases will be involved and much of the information, such as new poll results, will be reflected in prices before you have time to act. Many of the stocks above, for example, have already seen large share price changes to reflect their better or worse prospects.
What matters is working with the facts as they stand and focusing on the long term. No matter who wins the election, proposals can't be enacted overnight, and most companies don't just sit idly and let their business evaporate - they innovate and create new strategies to grow under the changing conditions.
Election time can produce unique opportunities, but only if you can keep your cool and stick to buying high-quality companies at discounts to their intrinsic value, then hold for the long term. Ten stocks are on our current Buy list. If you have a firm grasp of a company's valuation, extra short-term volatility can help you buy and sell at more favourable prices.
One last thing to be mindful of in the coming weeks is information bias - our tendency to believe that the more information we acquire, the better our decision will be, even if the additional information is irrelevant.
If you find it hard to pull the trigger when buying or selling and justify it with thoughts like 'I'll wait until after the election to see what happens', remember it is times of uncertainty that often deliver the best opportunities. Take a deep breath, and enjoy the hunt!
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