Donald Trump is starting to get worried about the stock market.
For most of his presidency, analysts and economists have variously warned that Trump was setting himself up for trouble by going out of his way to take credit for the ongoing rally on Wall Street.
To be sure, there’s some truth to the idea that Trump’s policies were behind the latter stages of the longest bull market in history, but it’s important that voters understand just how far stocks had already rallied off their 2009 lows by the time he took office.
That doesn’t even bear mentioning for investors, but if you’re a market participant, what you should note is that the majority of Trump’s support base likely has no conception of it whatsoever. The President has gone out of his way (and then some) to perpetuate the lie that this is “his” stock market rally, when the reality of the situation is this (and this is from inauguration day in 2009 to inauguration day in 2017):
Obviously, you can’t really give Obama “credit” for the post-crisis rally either. Almost all “credit” goes to Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, Mario Draghi and Haruhiko Kuroda. Everybody with any sense of the market knows that, including and especially Donald Trump, who in 2016 famously called the Yellen stock market “a big fat ugly bubble.”
At the time, then candidate Trump accused Yellen of “doing political things”. “The Fed isn’t doing its job”, he added.
Well now the Fed is “doing its job”, where that means responding to the ebullient economic data that’s come courtesy of Trump’s plunge into late-cycle stimulus. Part of that “job” involves tightening financial conditions to avoid further excessive risk taking.
Now, Trump wants the Fed to go back to doing “political things”, something he’s made clear on any number of occasions since July and something he reiterated on Tuesday morning when he quoted a Wells Fargo analyst on Twitter.
“If the Fed backs off and starts talking a little more Dovish, I think we’re going to be right back to our 2,800 to 2,900 target range that we’ve had for the S&P 500.” Scott Wren, Wells Fargo.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 30, 2018
Of course Trump refuses to admit that Fed hikes aren’t the only reason why U.S. stocks are on pace for their worst month since 2009. His trade war was bound to trigger losses for stocks eventually, if not due to souring sentiment, then via the hit to corporate bottom lines that will invariably accompany the imposition of tariffs on the entirety of Chinese imports.
Goldman, for instance, calculates that if Trump goes “all-in” on China (as he is expected to do), EPS growth for the S&P 500 will flatline in 2019.
In yet another example of the administration’s attempts to deny reality by positing conspiracy theories, Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett told CNN earlier this month that Goldman is “like the Democratic opposition”. Asked if he had read the actual report that found the bank doing the math behind their prediction, he said he hadn’t. Go figure.
Trump will never admit that his fiscal policies are forcing the Fed to hike, nor will he ever admit that his “greatest” tariffs are denting market sentiment and set the stage for lower corporate earnings. Rather, he’ll try to blame Fed Chair Jerome Powell (who Trump appointed) and if that doesn’t work, he’ll blame Democrats.
“The Stock Market is up massively since the Election, but is now taking a little pause – people want to see what happens with the Midterms”, the President tweeted on Tuesday morning, before saying this:
If you want your Stocks to go down, I strongly suggest voting Democrat. They like the Venezuela financial model, High Taxes & Open Borders!
I would again refer you to the chart above. Under Obama, U.S. stocks rallied some 173% and if you’re inclined to say that was primarily due to Fed policy, well then you need to explain why Donald Trump refused to reappoint the very Fed Chair who made it happen, opting instead for Jerome Powell, who everybody knew would be less inclined to countenance further speculation in risky assets.
The bottom line is that Trump is now using the stock market as a campaign tactic, and in the course of doing so, he is leaving out several key facts, not the least of which are: i) the market soared during the Obama years, and ii) if Trump wants to point the finger at the Fed, he needs to look in the mirror, because if it weren’t for him, Janet Yellen would still be running the show.