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How the election results could impact tech investors

November 2, 2020, 9:08 PM UTC

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Most investors are on edge this election season. But tech investors in particular are grappling with what the sector will look like after Nov. 3.

Tech and the election-related “ripple effects” from Tuesday’s presidential contest have been a topic of several notes from Wall Street analysts in recent days. And for a sector that has seen returns far outpace the overall market over recent months, there’s understandable angst around valuations and future performance.

According to Dan Ives, managing director of equity research and analyst at Wedbush Securities, one “major ripple effect” from the outcome of the election for tech will be “the future direction of the US/China relationship as tensions between the two powerhouse countries have morphed into a ‘technology cold war,’” he wrote in a note Monday.

To be sure, President Trump has warred with China over his four-year term, taking a “hard stance on Chinese IP, trade, and security, which has led to a seesaw battle on a number of issues including Huawei, Broadcom/Qualcomm merger blockade, TikTok’s forced sale and ultimately partnership with Oracle, and the 5G technology battle,” notes Wedbush’s Ives.

Given Trump’s hard-line stance, Ives notes the Street largely views a Biden administration as more favorable to China tech, expecting Biden to “take a relatively softer tone on China technology and policy issues,” which could “ratchet down tensions and rhetoric between the US/China across the enterprise and consumer technology ecosystem,” he notes.

But that’s not to say tech will be in the clear after Nov. 3 if Biden wins the presidency. Wedbush’s Ives argues the “long-standing issues around piracy and IP theft are not going away,” and investors should beware: The likes of “Apple, Cisco, and the semi food chain remain the most impacted by this US/China decoupling path, in our opinion.”

Others like David Bianco, the chief investment officer for the Americas at DWS Group, aren’t convinced that either party will pose a meaningful threat to tech’s supremacy. Bianco doesn’t think investors will see any “difficult legislation” around tech no matter who secures the White House on Tuesday, he recently told Fortune. “There’s competition of Western tech versus Eastern tech, and I don’t think U.S. politicians are going to do things that hobble the ability of Western tech to compete,” he argued.

Yet while Biden’s administration may go somewhat easier on Chinese tech, some analysts argue a Blue Wave (or a Biden win plus a Democrat-controlled Congress) could negatively impact the antitrust concerns of some of the biggest names in the market.

A possible Blue Wave on Tuesday would “make a formidable force going after antitrust law changes with breakups possibly on the radar,” Ives believes. “For now this is a contained risk, but ultimately this could morph into a threat for Big Tech as we head into 2021…[And] we also believe the ongoing DOJ and State AG antitrust movement will play an important role in this Big Tech vs. Beltway issue over the coming year.”

If there remains a divided Congress, however, analysts like Ives don’t see any major legislative changes being enacted.

To help dampen tech sector worries as much as possible, portfolio managers earmarked a few names that may be somewhat out of the crosshairs from either election result in Fortune’s Q4 investor guide, including Microsoft and Taiwan Semiconductor.

But some firms like J.P. Morgan are cooling off tech heading into the election, cutting the sector from “overweight” to a “neutral” rating, and arguing “the markets are primed for a broadening in leadership, having seen record-ever bifurcation so far year-to-date,” J.P. Morgan strategists led by Mislav Matejka wrote in a note Monday. That rotation would likely happen “irrespective of the U.S. elections winner, while the regional rotation would be more dependent on the actual election outcome,” they wrote.

Leading up to the election, investors have been antsy: The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.5% on Friday ahead of Election Day, having traded off over 5% for the week, but managed to close in the green on Monday.