The 2016 American presidential election campaign featured non-stop drama, climaxing in Donald Trump's upset win over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and a sharp sell-off in markets on news of the Republican's victory. Here are first-person accounts of what Bay Street executives experienced over the course of an eventful election night and the following morning.
TUESDAY, NOV. 8
Bill Holland, executive chairman at CI Financial Corp., was at home as the first U.S. polls closed, confident the pundits had it right: A victory for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats taking the Senate.
"It was going to be complete and utter status quo," Mr. Holland recalled. CI Financial did not make significant portfolio movements ahead of the vote. "Remember Brexit?" Mr. Holland said. "Everyone thought the world was going to end. And two weeks later, who would have thought the right hedge on Brexit was to be long U.K. stocks?"
At 10 p.m., Mr. Holland realized that the status quo would not prevail. He began monitoring indicators such as the futures market, gold and the U.S. dollar. He considered going to bed but couldn't turn off the TV and was "shocked by the results. I really couldn't believe it until 2:45," when Ms. Clinton conceded in a call to Mr. Trump that he had won the election. Mr. Holland was still tuning in at 3:15 a.m., when Mr. Trump spoke.
"I thought the speech was exceptional. If you didn't look at his face, he sounded like [U.S. President Barack] Obama. I believed that the market was going to be very positive. I didn't believe that 800-point drop [in the Dow Jones futures] for a second," said Mr. Holland, who went to bed at 4 a.m.
"Ultimately, I think it's really good for Canada," Mr. Holland said. "I think you have a better chance of seeing the tooth fairy than seeing NAFTA ripped up. There's going to be, probably, the biggest infrastructure spend since after World War Two, and that's great for commodities. The other thing is that it should spur inflation, which I think is sorely needed, and it will help move interest rates up, which I think is a good idea. So, I'm feeling good sitting in Canada."
Kevin Muir, a retired trader from RBC Dominion Securities Inc., is now a dedicated day trader. He decided to invest his own money in S&P 500 index futures, a position that would benefit from an overnight rally in stock markets, which he expected on the assumption Ms. Clinton would win.
"I haven't been that embarrassed by a premature performance in 30 years," Mr. Muir said. "By midnight when the S&P futures [hit their daily loss limit], I was offside. Big time. Complete panic. That piece of trading is nothing to be proud about."
At midnight, Mr. Muir decided to not only hold onto his trade, but short sell U.S. government bonds, an extremely contrarian move, as U.S. Treasuries had been rallying for much of the night on the perception they represent a haven. Both positions ended up making money by early morning, as North American equity markets rebounded and the bond market sold off. The trader stayed up almost the entire night.
Energy executive Bill Ramos, a Texas native, arrived at downtown Toronto's Marche restaurant to attend what he thought would be a victory party hosted by Democrats Aboard, an organization that gets out the vote by Americans living outside the country. Roughly 250 people were in the room to watch a Clinton coronation. Beer was flowing and Democrats were giddy.
"Mixed results from Florida were the first sign things might go badly," Mr. Ramos said. "As Wisconsin and Michigan results came in, the mood got more and more sombre. By midnight, it was clear things were not going to go Hillary's way and the room just cleared out."
"At some point, I realized the market was down 500 points," said Mr. Ramos, who turned in just after midnight. "I think markets turned later, when we got the conciliatory speech from Trump. In American elections, once it's over, it's over."
David Rosenberg, chief economist and strategist at Gluskin Sheff, was at home, flipping between CNN, Fox and a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins (the Habs won).
"When I saw how close the early results were in Florida and Ohio, I knew something didn't smell right. And Wolf Blitzer was practically foaming at the mouth. I switched from pinot noir to mocha java," Mr. Rosenberg said. "I had some time to sit back and reflect. I worked on a report until about 1 a.m., and then got up at 4 a.m. to get back at it, and catch a cab to the airport.
"You have to keep in mind that Americans are risk takers, though this is extreme. The message here is that voters are willing to embrace change at any cost. This came down to policy, not personality."
Dennis Mitchell, senior vice-president of Sprott Asset Management Corp., had tickets to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs lose to the L.A. Kings. He left the Air Canada Centre after the second period, with the Leafs down 5-zip.
"I left one massacre for another. I spent the night reviewing our holdings with a view towards how they would fare in a scenario when Republicans hold all three levels of government. In Asia, we had nothing to do, as we mainly own infrastructure stocks. In Europe, there were consumer staple stocks that were hit due to their emerging market exposure, and that was of interest. In North America, we got out a few names where we judged there was large exposure to Mexico."
Sprott staff began showing up for work at 3 a.m. on Wednesday. Mr. Mitchell tried to sleep but gave up after 90 restless minutes. "I think everyone got in early this morning. We all expected something ugly. I think the rally started as people realized single party rule is bullish for economic growth. People were willing to put capital to work."
Victoria Ramos, a finance executive and board member at Democrats Abroad, was in front of the cameras at CTV's television studio as part of a political panel.
"I went in thinking I would be talking about an historic victory. When they announced that Florida had gone to Trump, everyone turned to me for comment. I was sitting there in stunned disbelief. My stomach fell.
"Later, we were debating if there were enough Democrats in Wayne County, Michigan to turn the state for Hillary. And I realized we were clutching at straws, that we had lost. It is enormously depressing," she said.
Peter Lukasiewicz could have pulled an all-nighter, but the chief executive officer of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP chose to turn in at midnight and get a few hours' sleep. He said: "When Hillary lost Florida and was trailing in North Carolina and Michigan, for me, the election was over. I decided at that point she was going to lose and the mystery was over."
Along with his family, he settled in front of the TV last night at 8 p.m. and spent the night watching NBC. (Mr. Lukasiewicz's brother works at NBC News and produced last night's election coverage.) His daughter occasionally checked her phone for the score of the hockey game. The Leafs lost 7-0. "It was a long night in many respects," Mr. Lukasiewicz said.
As morning came, Mr. Lukasiewicz and his partners were reaching out to clients, as the law firm and Corporate Canada began thinking about how Mr. Trump's policies on trade could rattle their industries and transform their businesses.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 9
The morning after, National Bank of Canada CEO Louis Vachon was trying to put the U.S. election into perspective.
"This is 'Brexit, Part Two.' It's exactly the same phenomenon," the former derivatives trader said. "The political system works off human nature, so by definition, you will be surprised by what humans are doing." And for that very reason, "you need to have a balance sheet and a business plan that can sustain shocks."
The bank CEO acknowledged how easy it is to get short-term market calls wrong. "When [Trump] started going up in the polls a few weeks ago, we ran the scenarios. But in the scenarios, I thought, frankly, stocks [would be] going down." With markets rising early Wednesday, after a win by Mr. Trump, Mr. Vachon said: "A lot of people were turning on the revisionist history."