It's carnage out there today, especially if you're an investor in banks and financial companies.
Bank of America (NYSE:BAC) is off close to 6%. Citigroup (NYSE:C) and JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) are both down almost 5%. Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) is down more than 5%. Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS) is practically crashing as it's fallen more than 7%.
It's no coincidence that this battering follows closely on the heels of President Obama's reelection. The president has been widely seen as an enemy of Wall Street, banks, and the wealthy folk that sit atop both. It's not all perception -- at least, if we follow the money. As Amanda Alix pointed out, the financial vote from Wall Street went heavily to Mitt Romney.
There may truly be some meat to the concerns over Obama. Dodd-Frank is still slowly but surely coming to life, and key provisions like the Volcker Rule have yet to put into action. Leniency on the final versions of these rules is less likely to be found in an Obama administration. Further, litigation against banks has been raging, and a Democratic executive branch is far more likely to turn the screws further. And that's not to mention the perception and PR problems that come from a president that likes to nod at Wall Street and talk about "reckless behavior and unchecked excess."
Of course, there may be less to fear than meets the eye. While Obama has talked tough on banks, in the big picture, he still supported the nursing-back-to life process that started under his predecessor and will be in favor of an easy-money Federal Reserve chief (even if Ben Bernanke steps down). And with the economy (slowly) on the mend and banks now sporting much-improved balance sheets, the improvements in their overall businesses may make what the government's doing seem more like an annoying sideline than a serious threat.
The bigger question may be whether Obama is even the banks' biggest threat in the government. For fans of financials it was hard to miss the victory that Elizabeth Warren notched over Scott Brown to grab a seat in the Senate. The former Harvard law professor and driving force behind the the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is no friend to Wall Street and is likely headed straight for a spot on the Senate Banking Committee. Following the election, online site Gather ran a headline: "Elizabeth Warren: Why Wall Street Should be Scared."
In terms of "playing" these election developments though, the knee-jerk selling seems overdone. The banks may have found more leniency under Romney, but is that worth $5 billion to $6 billion on the value of Bank of America? And let's be honest -- an Obama victory was expected, so much of the impact should have already been priced in. Not to mention the fact that Obama and Liz Warren can have any view they'd like, but if nothing can get done in a deadlocked Congress, it won't mean much.
Useful takeaways? Banks fared well during Obama's first term, not that past results are a promise of future performance. Perhaps more importantly, betting on stock market impacts from a presidential election is a fool's game.