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Investors not fretting about impeachment as stocks notch new records

House votes to approve impeachment rules

As the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump heats up, White House officials say the investigation is making life harder for investors. "I think the impeachment story in fits and starts has hurt the stock market," Larry Kudlow, Mr. Trump's top economic adviser, told reporters on Friday. Kudlow was echoing Mr. Trump himself, who in a tweet Thursday said the "Impeachment Hoax" is "hurting our Stock Market!" 

Yet for now Wall Street seems unfazed, with the S&P 500-stock index and Nasdaq composite both closing at all-time highs and the Dow adding 301 points, or 1.1%, to close at 27,347. Even the president himself had to note that markets are on a roll: "Stock Market up BIG! Record highs for S&P 500 and NASDAQ. Enjoy!," he tweeted on Friday.

That investors should shrug off political turmoil comes as no surprise to veteran stock watchers.

"It's very difficult to imagine the impeachment process is disruptive to the market — full stop," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Holdings. 

The simple reason, he explained, is that investors are far more focused on economic issues, such as today's healthy hiring data or on the state of play in trade relations between the U.S. and China, than on the political turbulence in Washington, D.C.

Another reason to think the impeachment process may ultimately do little to roil markets: history. While stocks fell as much as 20% in the months leading up to President Bill Clinton's impeachment in late 1998, the S&P 500 surged as much as 41% over the following six months, according to Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist at LPL Financial.

Although stocks fell sharply ahead of President Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974, other factors had a far bigger impact, including soaring oil prices and the remnants of "stagflation" — a spike in both unemployment and inflation.

"The market will tend to focus on what is economic and can be counted, versus what is political and tends to be emotional," Hogan said.

Meanwhile, the policies enacted by the Trump administration that have done the most to lift stocks, such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, are likely to stay in place for the foreseeable future — even if Mr. Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate. 

"The impeachment process has been going on for some time, and the market is at all-time highs," Hogan said. "What would be good for markets right now would be some sort of exit on the trade-war highway." 

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