Politicians who crow about stock market gains face hazard when market drops

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The Dow Jones industrial average plunged more than 1,100 points Monday as stocks took their worst loss in six and a half years. Two days of steep losses have erased the market’s gains from the start of this year and ended a period of record-setting calm for stocks. (Feb. 5)
AP

As the stock market soared following his election, President Trump was eager to take credit, often using Twitter to proclaim victory each time the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed a new barrier.

But the closest he came by 5 p.m. Monday to acknowledging a two-day drop in the Dow of 1,841 points, or 7%, was a Tweet about how workers’ paychecks were growing because of tax cuts.

“The president’s focus is on our long-term economic fundamentals, which remain exceptionally strong, with strengthening U.S. economic growth, historically low unemployment, and increasing wages for American workers,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “The president’s tax cuts and regulatory reforms will further enhance the U.S. economy and continue to increase prosperity for the American people.”

Experts said that while presidents can move markets by declaring war or making major trade decisions, they don’t have as much power as the Federal Reserve to affect daily trading prices, the upside or the downside.

The surge in stock prices for more than a year — the Dow grew 45% from Trump’s election to the record close on Jan. 26 — was due to the resumption, after a pause, in growth in corporate earnings and positive economic news in most developed countries around the world, said Jason Ware, chief investment officer at Albion Financial Group in Salt Lake City.

The recent sell-off was a result of a positive reports on job growth and payroll numbers on Friday, and concerns that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates faster than expected.

“Factors that are out of the control of the president are driving the upside and the downside, despite the fact that he’d like to take credit for upside,” Ware said. “Interest rates and inflation creep were the spark of the past week.”

The Dow average dropped by 1,175 points on Monday, breaking the record for the largest single-day point drop, but as a percentage, the 4.6% decline would not rank it close to the top 20 worst trading days. 

Tom Block, a policy strategist at FundStrat Global investors, said presidents can make dramatic announcements that affect the markets, but those are rare.

At the same time, he said policies Trump supported and Republicans in Congress approved are stimulating the economy. That has stock markets worried, however, that higher interest rates will create more competition for investor dollars.

“People are selling because they believe one of the effects of the economy heating up is a need for quicker interest rate hikes,” Block said. “People are concerned equities are not going to be the only game in town, as they have been when interest rates were near zero.”

Democrats argued that if Trump wanted to take credit for increases, he deserved blame for declines.

Jay Carney, White House press secretary under President Barack Obama, said the administration “NEVER” took credit for market increases because the “if you claim the rise, you own the fall.” 

That policy did not hold throughout Obama’s full term, however, as he did take credit at times for the economic recovery.

“I don’t have to tell you about the stock market and where that’s gone,” Obama said in a July 24 interview with CNBC, for example. “Corporate profits: record highs.”  

Carney later clarified his missive, saying that while Obama “would on occasion mention the stock market’s revival as part of a broad observation … we didn’t boast about daily or weekly spikes, for the aforementioned reasons.”

Contributing: David Jackson, Ledyard King

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