Wall Street is giving up on Donald Trump

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech about national security in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 13, 2016.
Brian Snyder | Reuters
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers a campaign speech about national security in Manchester, New Hampshire, June 13, 2016.

The list of Republican names jumping off the Trump train and publicly endorsing Hillary Clinton is growing. And now, you can add one more to that: Wall Street.

Back in May, I surveyed more than 50 financial professionals across the board. And the overwhelming majority said they were secretly planning on voting for Trump come Election Day. But that was two months ago and now the tides have turned. With the last piece of convention confetti dropped and all of the red and blue balloons popped, I decided to check back in with the financial folks a few days ago. And now, Wall Street is leaning toward Hillary Clinton.

I would say roughly 60 percent of the people I spoke to in my (highly unscientific) poll said if the election were held today, they'd vote for Clinton.

"I don’t like her. But she’s a known quantity and being a New York senator, she’s industry friendly. And that’s why I’ve changed my mind on voting for Trump." -Michael, a hedge-fund trader

It's widely known that Clinton has taken a ton of money from the Street but she has recently joined Donald Trump in talking tough against the industry. She is making income inequality and financial regulation part of her campaign narrative. She has vowed to re-regulate the financial industry and go after the trillion-dollar derivatives industry to protect taxpayers.

But most Wall Streeters see that as an effort to placate the Democratic base and reel in Bernie Sanders votes.

"They both have to talk against the industry," said Bill, a hedge-fund portfolio manager. "Otherwise, they'll lose votes."

For sure, Wall Streeters think both Trump and Clinton are dishonest in some ways. But it's not about honesty for them. It's about the risk factor. And Trump is a gigantic risk.

"I don't like her," Michael, a hedge-fund trader said. "But she's a known quantity and being a New York senator, she's industry friendly. And that's why I've changed my mind on voting for Trump."

"I was going to vote for Trump, but she's the safe pick." said John, a program trader. "With Trump, there's too much uncertainty. It's not good for the markets."

On Wall Street, there's something known as "headline risk." It's basically the possibility that a news story will unfavorably affect a stock's price or the entire market in general. And most of the people I spoke with who are still considering a Trump vote voiced this as their biggest concern.

"Trump is a loose cannon," said Nancy, a sell-side trader. "He's not particularly talented or smart. And he's full of sh--. I think his policies are anti-growth and if he wins there's a much higher chance of black swan events."

(Those are events that occur beyond normal expectations — a phrase popularized by risk expert Nassim Taleb in his book, "The Black Swan.")

But there are still some on the Street who plan on voting for Donald Trump. One of the more influential industry professionals beating the Trump drum is Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital. He believes Trump will be good for the economy because he'll cut back on business-limiting regulations and bring in tax reform.

Trump also has the backing of hedge-fund titan John Paulson and billionaire investor Carl Icahn.

Despite their best efforts, the possibility of a Trump win isn't priced into the market.

"Donald Trump can't move the markets," Bill said. "He can say anything and the market doesn't believe him. But Clinton needs to be much more careful with her words. She can move markets."

If investors believed that Trump was going to be victorious, then you'd see an asset allocation out of U.S. businesses that produce their goods overseas and into the companies that deal solely with domestic customers and suppliers. You would also expect a sharp selloff of the Mexican stock market. And as of yet, nobody is placing their Trump casino chips down on the election roulette table.

The consensus? Stocks don't lie — politicians do.

Commentary by Turney Duff, a former trader at the hedge fund Galleon Group. Duff chronicled the spectacular rise and fall of his career on Wall Street in the book, "The Buy Side." He is a commentator on CNBC's "Filthy Rich Guide" and a consultant on the Showtime show, "Billions," starring Damian Lewis and Paul Giamatti. Follow him on Twitter @turneyduff.

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