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Why Wall Street is turning on Trump

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

With Hillary Clinton leading in the polls, there has been a feeling of a safety net in place for the markets and the economy. It's because a HRC win would be somewhat neutralized by the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House. But then there's the Trump wild card factor and the little matter of the civil war he's started in the Republican party.

In the past few weeks, Donald Trump has been throwing punches at everyone from House Speaker Paul Ryan to Senator John McCain. Once Ryan said he would no longer defend or campaign for Trump, Trump declared on Twitter: "It's so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to."

All of this inter-feuding has created a new uncertainty for the markets and the election.

What happens if the Democrats not only sweep the White House but also the House and Senate, too? Then you potentially have a very anti-business agenda coming from the White House and a very difficult healthcare/pharma/bio landscape. There's also concern of a lower retail environment with a zero percent chance of lowered corporate tax. And none of this sounds good to Wall Street.

Back in August when I checked in with the finance community, industry professionals were starting to lean towards casting a Clinton vote in November (60 percent of the people in my highly unscientific poll). But it was Trump who had gained ground in the national polls as we moved from late summer to early fall. And here we are in October still digesting #Trumptapes and a Republican Party meltdown.

I reached out to finance professionals to see what their current opinion was of the election and its effects on the markets. And it's more divided than ever.

"It feels like folks have started to turn on Trump," said Joe, a sales trader Joe. "They hate HRC, but it's hard to stomach Trump. Even over here (his firm) which is a very conservative shop and not terribly politically correct."

But I found almost as many Trump supporters. "I'm still voting for Trump," Randy, a hedge-fund trader, said. "But he needs to stop going after the Republican Party. He'll be fine if he sticks to the issues." Although it's divided—no one seems to be pulling out the pompoms for either candidate. "Trump is a douche," Amy, a sales trader, said. "But I'm still voting for him."

What is the Wall Street locker room saying about Trump?

It's a 50/50 split on Trump's recent recorded bombshell with Billy Bush in 2005, where he is caught making crude comments about women. Some were offended – but not everyone on Wall Street, which has one of the crudest locker rooms, was bothered by it.

"I've heard much worse," Michael said. "And it's joking around. It's harmless."

"Nobody talks like that," Steve a sell-side analyst said. "Seriously? Who says that? It's offensive."

Policy proposal – Trump wins

Despite the media's coverage that Clinton is friendly with Wall Street, the overwhelming majority think her stringent regulation would weigh on the industry. Trump has a much friendlier proposal for the industry with taking away the Obama-era regulations.

Taxes – Trump wins

Finance professionals largely feel that Trump's claim to cut taxes for everyone and corporate tax rates could lead to better jobs, productivity and consumption. The biggest hesitation for both sides is if this is even possible without increasing the debt and depleting the military.

Certainty – Clinton wins

Clinton is a known quantity -- it is much easier to predict the markets if Clinton is president. There's a widespread feeling that she can communicate with world leaders and provide a stability that Trump can't. If Trump is elected, you can throw everything you think you know out the window. It ranges from trade deals, monetary policy and foreign relations which will become unknown.

If the candidates were a stock – Clinton wins

Most Wall Streeters feel like most of the negative news is already priced into Clinton. There aren't many more negative things we can learn about Clinton. But with Trump, on the other hand, there's huge risk. The looming question of tax returns could answer a lot of questions. And there are a few main concerns from the Street. How much money does he owe to various banks and which ones? What is his relationship with Deutsche Bank? Who is he doing business dealings with? Wall Street is very interested in finding out who he owes money to.

So, the bottom line when it comes to the Wall Street vote is: Yes, they're still worried about the triple threat of a Democrat sweep of the White House, Senate and House but at the end of the day, they lean toward the known entity, Clinton, over the loose cannon, Trump.

Still, there are a few weeks to go and what we've learned in this election so far is that A LOT can happen in a day, nevermind a few weeks. More to be revealed…

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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