By fantasizing aloud for months that his presence was driving stock-market gains, President Donald Trump built no credibility with which to now explain why it fell.
It may seem surprising to those warily eyeing their retirement accounts that only 90 days ago, their president was encouraging, even demanding, celebration.
On Jan. 5 Trump tweeted that the Dow “jumped 1000 points in last 5 weeks. Record fastest 1000 point move in history. This is all about the Make America Great Again agenda! Six trillion dollars in value created!”
He did this kind of cheerleading dozens of times last year for the same Wall Street he derided during the campaign and whose leaders he turned around and hired for his Cabinet.
Weeks later, with a slide under way, his immediate Twitter message conveyed pouting and blame.
“In the ‘old days,’ when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up,” he sniffed on Feb. 7. “Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (Great) news about the economy!”
This week, U.S. stocks saw their worst April start since 1929, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. In the first quarter of the year, the Dow lost more than 2 percent, snapping a winning streak that began in the Obama administration.
Just as the corporate tax breaks drafted and enacted by Congress last year drew public credit for extending the up market, the administration’s recent exchange of hostile tariff moves with China was blamed for the latest falloff.
Tech stocks led the wider swoon, but, of course, the results go day-to-day and Tuesday marked a moderate uptick. They’re snapshots of the moment. As before, the president neither builds nor destroys the market and there is always a complex web of players and forces.
Still, his overwrought, politically driven attacks on Amazon and threats of moves against it seem related to the internet giant’s stock drop. Even a denizen of Trump’s TV safe space, Maria Bartiromo of Fox News, warned Trump “to be careful about calling out individual companies” like Amazon. She said vaguely that there is a “risk” to doing so.
Whether an aggressive trade policy works in the long term remains to be seen. The president’s more down-to-earth trade adviser Peter Navarro told CNBC that the market isn’t reacting to the “unbelievable” strength of the administration’s economic agenda.
Navarro said the “singular focus is on economic growth, rising wages and a strong manufacturing and defense industrial base.”
“If we hit all points,” he said, “the market will go up.”
Trump created a kind of integrity bubble with his stock-market strutting. All bubbles burst, some sooner than others.