U.S. stocks halt two-day advance after presidential elections

U.S. stocks declined, snapping a two- day advance in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, as investors’ focus returned to the U.S. tax debate and Europe’s debt crisis following the re-election of President Barack Obama.

All 10 groups in the S&P 500 retreated today as phone, financial and energy companies had the biggest losses. Bank of America Corp., Apple Inc. and Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. fell at least 1.4 percent to pace losses among the largest companies. Fertilizer producers dropped as Agrium Inc. tumbled 7.6 percent amid disappointing earnings and revenue.

The S&P 500 declined 1.4 percent to 1,408.83 at 9:41 a.m. in New York. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures slid 175.87 points, or 1.3 percent, to 13,069.81. Trading in S&P 500 companies was 56 percent above the 30-day average at this time of day, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“Here we go again in Washington,” Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist at Yardeni Research Inc. in New York, wrote in a note today. “President Barack Obama has won a second term. While he promised last night that ‘the best is yet to come,’ more political storms are likely.”

Obama defeated Republican Mitt Romney, boosting speculation policy makers will add to stimulus in the world’s largest economy. While Obama received at least 303 electoral votes to Romney’s 206, Republicans kept a majority in the House of Representatives. Democrats retained control of the Senate.

Now that the election has been decided, investors will turn their focus to the $607 billion of tax increases and federal spending cuts set to kick in automatically in January, the so-called fiscal cliff. The Congressional Budget Office has said the U.S. economy would slow by as much as 0.5 percent next year if Congress fails to keep the increases from taking effect.

Biggest Plunge

While Obama’s victory in 2008 spurred the biggest plunge ever for the Dow on the day after an election, gains for American assets over the past four years are among the best in the developed world. Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s actions to revive the economy after the worst recession in seven decades helped send the Dow up 67 percent. The Dow has gained 3.9 percentage points more than the MSCI All-Country World Index since Obama’s inauguration, beating 16 of 24 developed countries.

Stocks have on average rallied 3 percent in the two months following Election Day after a tight race, according to Thomas J. Lee, the chief U.S. equity strategist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., who cited historical data from the last five elections with close contests.

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