Elections can be bad for investors. They create uncertainty. Government policy impacts the economy, and uncertain government policy implies an uncertain economic direction. Markets hate uncertainty, so investors are keeping an eye out for stocks to avoid ahead of election day.
There’s more uncertainty this year given the wide differences between the parties and their voters. What happens to the market under a Republican-led Congress may be quite different from what happens under a Democratic majority.
The best thing to do is to “election proof” your portfolio by avoiding stocks and sectors most subject to uncertainty. The next-best thing is to place a financial bet on the outcome. If you believe in the Democrats’ chances of winning, avoid those sectors that would do best under Republicans, and vice versa.
Rather than focus on specific stocks, I’ve made selections based on which sectors are most likely to be hurt by the election outcome going against Democrats, resulting in a “red wave.” If Republicans win, here are three stocks to avoid.
General Motors (GM)
President Joe Biden’s administration has placed great store on “inshoring” production of basic items and increasing American manufacturing. General Motors (NYSE:GM) has become the poster child for the effort. A Republican Congress could easily reverse that course on grounds of “socialism.” I don’t want to be holding any GM stock on Nov. 8.
I’d be reluctant to hold any U.S. manufacturing picks if Republicans win. Economic nationalism isn’t their thing. I’d be just as reluctant to hold Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) in a red wave as GM.
The problem is that GM is already a cheap stock. The forward price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio is below 7. The market cap is less than 40% of sales, and the shares are down 38% this year. You’re selling low here.
But you’re also selling a less-favored stock. While GM is rolling out a full range of electric vehicles and a platform for building them called Ultium, its value is less than 8% that of Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA).
What’s worse for the bears is that as the electric vehicle (EV) market becomes a mass market, GM may have hidden strengths. The Chevy Bolt is a mid-market car whose price starts at $25,500, barely half that of the lowest-priced Tesla model.
Additionally, the best-selling electric car in China is Wuling Motors’ Hongguang Mini, in which GM is a joint venture partner. GM also wants to compete with Tesla in energy storage and management.
GM is so oversold that 9 of the 14 TipRanks analysts following it recommend the stock. They’re equally positive on Tesla. But make no mistake — losing Washington would hurt GM badly, so keep it on your list of stocks to avoid in this scenario.
No company has benefitted as much from Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare over the last decade as Centene (NYSE:CNC). Likewise, no company would be hurt as much by a full-throated attack on those programs.
The same is true for other companies that operate medical facilities or offer coverage around government-run programs. All depend on heavy government reimbursements for their profits, like Humana (NYSE:HUM), up 16% in 2022. States that still have not expanded Medicaid, like Georgia, are also closing medical facilities.
Centene’s secret sauce is its mastery of managed care. It owns many of the facilities its patients visit. It practices basic medicine, avoiding expensive treatments. It works to manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease with cheap, generic drugs. Profits come from the difference between what it pays to provide care and what it can get from government and customers.
In most years, this comes to slightly more than 1% of revenues. Last year it had $126 billion in revenue. Analysts seem unaware of any trouble ahead, as most say buy and none say sell.
These bulls were buoyed by third-quarter results on Oct. 25. Revenue was up 11% year-over-year, driven by Medicare and Medicaid growth. Earnings guidance for the full year increased to $5.65 to $5.75 of net income. Operating cash flow for the quarter was over $3.3 billion.
The stock jumped 10% in reaction to the news. If it matches its own fourth-quarter estimates, you’re paying about 13 times earnings.
With low double-digit growth, shares are up 2% this year. It’s a bubble the election results could pop. I wouldn’t want to own this if the politicians come calling for it.
A Republican Congress may be beholden to groups like evangelical Christians, as they have overwhelmingly voted for the party’s candidates in recent years. This spells big trouble for cannabis stocks like Curaleaf Holdings (OTCMKTS:CURLF). Holders of Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), Tilray Brands (NASDAQ:TLRY) and Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON) take note.
While Curaleaf CEO Joe Bayern is an experienced packaged goods executive, founder Boris Jordan has a second job as CEO of Renaissance Capital, with close ties to his parents’ native Russia.
Curaleaf is the most valuable cannabis stock on the board because, under Jordan, it has focused on marijuana as an ingredient in oils, gels and edibles, not just smokable products. This gives it an aura of respectability and an ability to carefully dose the active ingredient to please regulators.
But cannabis is still a Schedule 1 drug, like heroin. Republicans won’t be able to reverse President Biden’s marijuana possession pardons, but they can slow-walk moves toward federal regulation and keep companies like Curaleaf from growing. Rainbow fentanyl may be nothing but politics, but Curaleaf chocolate is a real thing that can stoke similar fears from cannabis opponents.
Despite support from Democrats, Curaleaf stock is still down 38% in 2022. To get back to its highs, it could use an end to federal prohibition. It’s unlikely to get that from a Republican Congress. It could also use a crackdown on the illegal trade, which offers a product indistinguishable from the legal stuff, often for less. It may not get that, either.
Curaleaf has a lot of fans in the analyst community, but they could scatter if the political winds shift.
On the date of publication, Dana Blankenhorn held a long position in INTC. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.