The question everyone is asking this morning is who won the debate. The answer is: it depends who you ask.
To be sure, conservative website Drudge Report had Trump a blow out winner with over 82% of the nearly 500,000 votes cast, which however can probably be explained by the self-fulfilling ideology of most of the site's visitors.
Alternatively, the left-leaning CNN, conducted a snap poll, which gave Clinton the win with 62% to Trump's 27%. It was the biggest, and fastest, exercise conducted by an opinion polling firm. The poll of 521 registered voters who watched the debate was a sample which the network warned leaned more Democratic than the average - starting the night with Clinton ahead 26 per cent among the sample. While CNN handed the victory overwhelmingly to Clinton, it was more mixed on whether the debate will make a difference, with 47 per cent saying it would not affect their vote, 34 per cent saying it moved them towards Clinton, and 18% towards Trump.
More surprising was a poll by CNBC, where of the 748,000 votes cast as of this morning, Trump had collected nearly two-thirds of the votes, although Trump's outperformance here may be explained by the fact that this, too, was linked off the Drudge main page, the same as a Time poll.
Many other snap polls also showed a preference for Trump:
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And so on.
To be sure, the markets' take was different, and as we noted last night, looking at the most direct proxy of Trump performance in recent weeks, namely the move in the Mexican Peso, traders "handed" it to Hillary.
As WSJ noted this morning, the Mexican currency was up roughly 1.5% against the U.S. dollar Tuesday, showing a sharp surge during the debate, which pitted Mrs. Clinton against Donald Trump. Other emerging market currencies, from the South African rand to Indonesia’s rupiah, also rallied on a belief that Trump presidency is now less likely.
Amid the confusion, the Mexican peso has emerged as a market proxy for the chances of a Trump’s presidency on Nov. 8. Mexico is seen as a likely victim of his professed dislike of trade deals, including deals between the U.S. and its southern neighbor. Mr. Trump has also pledged to build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to prevent the entrance of illegal immigrants.
The implied volatility of the peso against the dollar, which is a gauge of how much money investors are paying to either insure themselves—or bet—against large swings in the currency, has also spiked up for those contracts expiring after the election.
Tuesday’s rally in emerging market currencies, particularly the peso, was widely interpreted by analysts as a sign that investors thought Clinton won the debate. “Anyone who had wondered what had caused [peso] weakness over the past few weeks received a clear answer last night,” said Esther Reichelt, analyst at German lender Commerzbank.
And then there were the online betting markets, according to which Clinton's probability of winning the White House gained in online betting following the first debate of the campaign on Monday night between her and Republican Donald Trump.
A Clinton contract on the popular PredictIt betting market gained 6 cents from the previous day's level to 69 cents, though fading modestly after peaking...
... while a contract favoring Donald Trump's prospects for victory tumbled 7 cents to 31 cents, after which it rebounded modestly to 34. Contracts are priced from 0 cents to 100 cents, with the contract price equating to a probability of whether that candidate will win the Nov. 8 election.
The price swings for both candidates were the largest since early August, and placed Clinton's lead in that market at the widest in about two weeks.
Clinton's prospects also improved on the Irish betting site Paddy Power. About halfway through Monday's debate, she was shown as a 1-to-2 favorite, and those odds shortened to 4-to-9 in the moments after the debate ended. Trump's odds lengthened to 23-to-10 from 9-to-4.
The swing following the debate put the brakes on a big Trump price rally on PredictIt that coincided with a tightening in most public opinion polls. The implied probability of him winning had risen to 38 cents on Sunday from just 28 cents at the end of August. Bets on Trump fell as low as 5 cents on February but went up as high as 44 cents in May. Bets on Clinton, the persistent favorite in most wagering markets, went as low as 37 cents in January and as high as 79 cents in August.
The big caveat here, of course, is that virtually all online bookmakers had Brexit as a sure-on non-event, only to be proven wrong as the Brexit vote unfolded.
Perhaps the biggest take home message from last night's debate was the lack of a clear winner, and the absence of a "knock out punch" by either candidate. As such the only question is how, if at all, did undecided candidates change their opinion toward either candidate. The answer to that will have to wait until the next set of official polls is released.