The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Trump’s team celebrates another stock-market high. Here’s the broader context.

A trader wears a hat displaying the name of President Trump while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on Jan. 20. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg News)
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Forty-five times since he has been president, Donald Trump has celebrated the stock markets on Twitter. It’s a perfect metric for him: business-related, reflecting his background, and going up consistently. Sure, he called it “a bubble” when the markets were rising under President Barack Obama, but on his watch, it’s a sign that he’s doing things right. (It’s certainly a much better metric for him to point to than, say, approval ratings.)

After the market closed on Monday, Trump praised the Dow Jones industrial average yet again.

This is true. The previous record was set in 1995, when the Dow set new records 69 times times, a nice start to the boom of the late 1990s.

The year 2017 has also seen a relatively low number of days on which the market dropped. It has happened 102 times this year, the lowest since 1955. There are still a few days left, though, and the recent record is looming: In 2013, the Dow fell on only 106 days.

Trump’s press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders cited another metric, crediting Trump for the market’s success.

That year-over-year change is from mid-December 2016 to now. But the same general effect applies when looking at change during the 2017 calendar year. It’s not quite 5,000 points yet, but it’s getting there.

That graph makes clear one important bit of context: The Dow is much higher now than it was in years past, so a gain of 5,000 is a smaller increase relative to the market than the country has seen before.

If we look at the change in the Dow over the course of this year, it’s up just shy of 25 percent, tacking on one-quarter of its value since the first close of 2017. In 1995, the Dow added about a third of its value over the course of the year. In 1915, it added a massive 78.8 percent — although that was a gain of less than 100 total points.

The broader context of Team Trump’s celebratory tweets is that the improving market doesn’t help all Americans equally. As we noted earlier this year, Gallup data from April found that about 4-in-10 Americans had no money in the market. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham found another data point on Monday that’s pertinent to this discussion: 90 percent of the wealth in the stock market is held by the richest 20 percent of Americans. The top 1 percent alone hold 40.3 percent of it. The top 5 percent of Americans own 70 percent of stock.

Last month, Politico wrote that Trump still embraced poll numbers, he just tended to look at the ones that gave him the good news he wanted to hear, like that his base was standing by him. The Dow works in a similar way. It’s just a different part of Trump’s base that is shown doing well.