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Stock Futures on Pins & Needles as Iowa Caucus Results Finally Roll In

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:32 PM
Josiah Wilmoth
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:32 PM
  • The Iowa caucus results began rolling in on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders jumped to an early lead.
  • This is how the stock market responded to the Iowa debacle – as well as what comes next.

After a “total meltdown” rocked the Iowa caucuses  and portended an ominous Democratic presidential primary season, the results are finally in. And they set up an interesting dichotomy for the stock market.

Well, not all of the results are in. Approximately 62% of precincts have reported, and the early tallies show that Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are the clear leaders.

iowa caucus results
Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are the clear leaders in early Iowa caucus reporting. | Source: NYT 

How will investors respond?

Stock Market Reacts to Iowa Caucuses – And Trump’s Unexpected Victory

The stock market secured phenomenal gains on Tuesday, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 400 points before the Iowa results were finally released.

The futures market was singing a different tune in overnight trading, with Dow Jones mini contracts edging down 16 points, or 0.1%.

Dow Jones futures
Dow futures begin overnight trading session slightly lower. | Chart: Yahoo Finance 

U.S. stock futures had surged overnight leading into Tuesday’s rally after a technical debacle delayed the reporting results of Iowa’s long-awaited Democratic caucuses – and the formal beginning of the 2020 presidential primary season.

The chaos allowed Trump to score two victories in Iowa. He won the all-but-uncontested Republican vote in a landslide, but the Democratic meltdown delivered him another unexpected triumph.

“The only person that can claim a very big victory in Iowa last night is ‘Trump,’ he gloated.

donald trump, iowa caucuses, stock market
Source: Twitter 

The Next Steps on the Road to Super Tuesday

But the Iowa results are finally in, shifting the focus to the next steps of the Democratic presidential primary.

Iowa only awards 41 delegates – just 2% of the 1,990 needed to win the nomination – and those were split among several candidates.

But it’s a crucial momentum builder as the Democratic primary ramps up to an inflection point: Super Tuesday (March 3) , when 15 states and territories will award more than 1,300 pledged delegates.

how super tuesday changes democratic primary race
The early primaries are all about building momentum ahead of Super Tuesday, when around one-third of all pledged delegates will be awarded. | Source: New York Times 

By March 4, the Democratic primary should be a two-horse race. Depending on how the pendulum swings, it could quickly evolve into a victory lap for the presumptive nominee.

Nationally, Joe Biden maintains an edge on Bernie Sanders, according to the RealClearPolitics average . But that gap is narrowing, and Sanders boasts a comfortable lead in New Hampshire ahead of the Feb. 11 primary.

realclear politics democratic primary poll national average
Bernie Sanders (blue) has been gaining on Joe Biden (green) in national polls. Will the Iowa results have any impact on that trend? | Source: RealClearPolitics 

A Sanders victory in New Hampshire (Feb. 11) could spiral into an upset win in Nevada (Feb. 22), where he only trails by 3.5 points in the latest RCP average .

That would put Joe Biden in a precarious position when South Carolina – his southern stronghold – votes on Feb. 29.

One place where the primary race is not close is the betting markets. Sanders is trouncing Biden  on prediction platform PredictIt.

democratic presidential primary betting market after iowa
Bernie Sanders maintains a sizable edge in the betting markets. | Source: PredictIt 

The senator from Vermont’s implied odds took a big hit after the first Iowa results rolled in. But they’re still more than double those of the former vice president, who actually ranks third behind billionaire Mike Bloomberg.

Buttigieg, despite his strong Iowa performance, is a distant fourth.

Trump-Sanders Showdown Could Trigger Historic Stock Market Volatility

Donald Trump is universally viewed as the most investor-friendly candidate, and his administration has already begun to tease a second round of tax cuts that the president claims would boost economic growth – and the stock market.

Given his ties to the financial establishment, Wall Street would be relieved if Michael Bloomberg ran the table . “Moderates” like Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg would likely take a conventional Democratic approach to the economy as well.

Bernie Sanders, on the other hand, is not Wall Street’s dream candidate. According to some stock market analysts, a Sanders presidency would be more like a nightmare.

Presidential elections are always risk events for equities. But a Trump-Sanders showdown could magnify that volatility to historic proportions.