Any direct impact that President-Elect Donald J. Trump will have on investments is several months away because of the nature of his new job.
Yes some of Trump’s proposals would be a radical departure from American policy of the last two decades, but most of them would take a long time to implement. There are also a few Trump policies that might be impossible to implement in today’s political environment.
As President there will be two ways Trump can influence policy. He will be able to change some regulations and procedures in the federal government through executive order.
For example Trump will be in a position to overturn the strict regulations President Obama imposed on some coal-burning power plants in the United States. He will also be able to order federal agencies to enforce existing laws; such as one providing for the deportation of illegal immigrants with felony convictions.
Trump might not be Able to Save Coal
Even though they can quickly be enforced, executive orders will take time to write and implement. My guess is that it will take Trump’s team several weeks or months simply to write the executive orders. Such orders have to be carefully written to avoid legal challenges in the courts.
Some of the Trump executive orders might benefit certain industries. Changing air pollution regulations might increase the demand for coal, but it may not benefit the coal industry. The low price of natural gas makes coal uncompetitive and gives utilities a strong incentive to replace with coal-burning power plants.
Experts think that large numbers of coal-burning power plants will close in the next few years because the average electric power plant in the United States was built in 1972 making the average age 44 years, The Morning Consult reported. Those plants are wearing out, and there is a cheaper fuel available in the form of natural gas. Gas is cleaner burning than coal and can be moved in pipelines rather than trains further reducing costs. Even Trump’s nominal political ally, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) doubts the regulatory changes will lead to more demand for coal or mining jobs.
Some of Trump’s other proposed executive orders such as ones opening more public lands to oil and gas exploration might benefit companies (and some stocks) if there is greater demand for those fuels. Unfortunately that will only occur if oil prices increase; which seems unlikely in the near future.
Another problem with expansion of oil and gas drilling is that it will face legal challenges from environmental groups some of which are well organized and well financed. That might lead to court battles some of which will take years to resolve.
Trump and Trade
Another executive order Trump might try to implement is his threats to impose a 45% tariff on Chinese imports or a 35% tariff on Mexican imports. Yes, Trump has the power to do that; and Congress has the power to reverse it, which might lead to an ugly political battle and a trade war.
Either a battle with Congress or a trade war would be political suicide. The last U.S. President to engage in a trade war was Herbert Hoover; who lost reelection in a landslide in 1932.
Since it is doubtful that Trump wants to face either of those developments, it is likely the tariffs are simply a negotiating tactic. Donald has a long history of using aggressive and over the top threats to force a deal. Instead of ordering tariff increases, Trump will try to negotiate some sort of face saving deal with China and Mexico.
What that deal would be and how it would impact trade are impossible to say at this point. Such a deal would have a big impact on a wide variety of sectors; including agriculture, mining, transportation, manufacturing and retail.
Why it will take Years to Implement the Agenda
The other “power” the president has over policy is even more limited than executive orders. The president can suggest legislation and budgetary changes to Congress, which has the power to write law and the budget.
Such Trump proposals as the border wall, and increased infrastructure spending would have to be approved by Congress. He would have to send those proposals to Congress and wait them to pass which can take a long time.
To become a law has to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (lower house) or Senate (upper house). Then it has to be reviewed and approved by a committee (a process that can take several months. Once then the entire house or senate votes on the legislation, if approved it has to go to the other house where the process is repeated.
Even then the bill might have to be reviewed and rewritten by a conference committee of members both bodies. At best this process will take several months, but it can also take years.
Trump’s party the Republicans controls both houses of Congress, but Democrats have enough votes in both bodies to block or slow down his legislation. To make matters worse many Republicans have profound ideological and philosophical differences with Trump which might give them cause to kill his legislation. Some of them are likely to oppose or sabotage some of his agenda; fiscal conservatives are likely to oppose infrastructure spending.
It will be a miracle if Congress gives Trump anything beyond a modest increase in infrastructure spending after a long political battle. His agenda is likely to be dead on arrival at the Capitol, because Democrats will have no incentive to work with moderate Republicans to get anything passed.
Another strong possibility is Trump will send Congress a modest agenda of the few things that are likely to pass. That way the President will be able to claim he has achieved at least part of his “agenda.”
The Trump Effect is a long way off
All this means that it will take a long time probably well over a year for Trump’s policies to have any measurable effect on the economy or investments. Any influence the Trump presidency will have on the markets for the foreseeable future; will be generated by emotions such as fear rather than anything the president actually does.