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Obama or Romney: Who’s Best for Investors and the Economy?

How each could leave their mark on jobs, growth and Wall Street


Barack Obama

Well, if you’re one of the 47% Romney believes are freeloaders, the answer’s self-evident. For the remaining 52% of the voting population — the wealthiest 1% will vote for the former Massachusetts governor — it’s a vexing question for sure.

As a Canadian, my editors thought I’d have a unique approach in defending the Obama/Democratic approach to resurrecting the economy. Once a huge supporter of Ronald Reagan, I’ve grown fond of the Democratic party’s approach to leadership. Barack Obama has put the country on sounder footing since his election in November 2008. A second term is vital to America’s future.

I write about investments for a living. I’m as cynical as they come about CEOs and leadership. And I wasn’t at all convinced Obama was the real deal. Four years later, I’ve seen him tackle issues that his predecessor wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

Health care in America is a complete and utter mess (Canada’s not much better). Wading into an issue that most strategists would suggest is at best a political hot potato and at worst a career killer, the president has made an impassioned plea to make health care coverage available for all Americans, including the 47% that Mitt Romney so casually dismisses. It was a gutsy move that shows he’s more than capable of making difficult decisions that affect 100% of the American people. If I could vote, he’d get mine, which I wouldn’t have said four years ago.

If you invested $10,000 in the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (NYSE:SPY) on Jan. 20, 2009 — the date of Obama’s inauguration — you would have $16,100 as of Sept. 28 of this year. That’s an annualized return of 19.52%. In the first 44 months of Bill Clinton’s first term as president, a $10,000 investment in the SPY (inception was two days after 1993 inauguration) generated an annualized return of 12.95% — 657 basis points less.

Fidelity studied 48 years of elections and found that the average annual return under a Democrat president was 12% compared to 4% for the Republicans. Further, an incumbent victory tends to result in a 10% boost to stock prices compared to a slight decline when the incumbent loses.

If you’re an investor, a Barack Obama victory is clearly the better scenario.

The Republicans suggest President Obama has been woeful in the creation of new jobs since taking office. But according to revised labor numbers, Obama actually has created a net gain of 125,000 private-sector jobs in his 44 months in office. At the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton reminded us that since 1961, the Democrats have created 42 million private-sector jobs compared to 24 million for the Republicans. In terms of presidents, no one has done a better job than Clinton himself, who created almost 21 million in his two terms in office.

The worst offender on that list: George W. Bush, with a loss of 646,000 jobs over eight years.

While Americans are rightfully impatient with the progress, private-sector job growth has continued for 30 straight months, and the numbers would have been even better if the Republicans had passed Obama’s job plan.

The U.S. is Canada’s largest trading partner by a country mile, so what happens in November means a great deal to the Canadian economy. It’s for this reason that Canadians like me tend to view this subject with the utmost consideration. If I thought it made sense to switch horses mid-stride, I’d have no problem supporting a Republican candidate. In my opinion, however, Americans are wise to go with the one they took to the dance.

Ultimately, Obama will be better than Romney for both investors and the economy.

— Will Ashworth

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writers.

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