There’s a contradiction built into this tweet.
“It would be really nice if the Fake News Media would report the virtually unprecedented Stock Market growth since the election,” President Trump said, then added, “Need tax cuts.”
We have pointed out before that this is a strange argument that’s very of-a-piece with other arguments Trump makes. Trump wants both credit for the booming markets and tax cuts, and that the former suggests less need for the latter doesn’t matter. In the past, he’s talked generally about the need to create jobs and so on, even while acknowledging that the markets are doing well; here, constrained by the character limit of Twitter, he just throws it all in together. Economy great. Need tax cuts to make the economy great. Okay.
Today, though, let’s focus on the first part of that statement, the part about the “virtually unprecedented Stock Market growth.” While it may be true that the “Fake News Media” — whatever that is — hasn’t reported on the markets’ increase, The Washington Post has, repeatedly. We looked at how the current bull market (which started in the first year of President Barack Obama’s first term) looks compared with other bull markets: It is quite strong. We’ve also compared the increase in the Dow Jones industrial average with past presidents, finding in March that it was unusually good.
But March was a long time ago. Tuesday was the 336th day after the election, nearly a year later. This is the point at which Trump would like the media to compare the markets’ track record with others.
He’ll probably wish we hadn’t.
We looked at three indexes over the past century: the Dow, the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq composite index (starting in 1938). It’s a period that covers nearly 37,200 days, including days during which the markets were closed. (For those days, we considered the value of each market as the value at the prior day’s close.)
By one metric, Trump is right. In terms of the actual increase in the value of each index, the dollar amount by which it increased over the preceding 336 days, the difference between Oct. 10, 2017, and Nov. 8, 2016, was exceptional. Fewer than 1 in 100 days over the past century saw similar increases over a similar period.
That’s not really a fair metric, though. The value of these indexes is far greater now than it was 90 years ago for a number of reasons. If we look at the relative change — how much the indexes have increased in value as a percentage of the value 336 days prior — the post-election bump looks less “virtually unprecedented.”
On nearly 8,800 days since Jan. 1, 1916, the S&P has seen more growth over a 336-day period than it has since last year’s election. On nearly 5,000 days, the Nasdaq has, a bit less than the 5,700 days for which that applies to the Dow.
Let’s consider only 26 of those days, though: The 26 days following each of the presidential elections from 1916 to 2016. How does Trump’s surge compare?
On raw value, it stands alone.
But again, that comparison is problematic because of the overall increase in value over time. Looking at relative gains since Election Day, the markets have all done well — but the 2016-2017 surge ranks in fifth place at best over that period.
Here is how each market has performed in the 336 days after each election over the past century.
Twice in the past 30 years, in fact, the S&P, Dow and Nasdaq all performed better relative to their position on Election Day than they have since last November: It happened in both 1988 and 1996.
It’s true that the markets are doing well. It’s also true that this has more of a positive effect on some parts of the country than others. It’s also true that the gains since Election Day are good, but not “virtually unprecedented.”
Not that the Fake News Media will tell you that.