THE TICKER

President Trump is notching his highest-ever marks for his handling of the economy, helping lift his overall approval rating to match his record peak of 44 percent, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The survey finds 56 percent of Americans give Trump a thumbs-up on his economic stewardship, 10 points higher than the last reading on that question in September and 5 points above the president's previous record, set in July.

The result is buoying the president even as the nation remains split over Trump's ongoing Senate impeachment trial. Though 39 percent approve of how Trump has responded to his impeachment, Americans are split on his removal from office, 49 percent opposed to 47 percent in favor, the poll finds.

The president is also benefiting from rising support from men. “The poll also finds a 57 percent majority of men approve of Trump, up 12 percentage points from October to the highest level of his presidency,” Post polling director Scott Clement writes. “By contrast, 33 percent of women approve of Trump’s performance, little changed from 31 percent in the fall. The 24-percentage-point gender gap in Trump’s approval rating is the largest in Post-ABC polls since he took office.”

The gap carried through to assessments of Trump’s handling of the economy. The overwhelming majority of men approved of his performance on that count, 70 to 25 percent. By contrast, only 44 percent of women gave Trump positive reviews for the economy, while 50 percent disapproved

It’s not clear what accounts for the apparently dramatic improvement in the reviews for Trump’s handling of the economy since the fall. Economists estimate fourth-quarter growth will underwhelm, with projections at 2 percent or worse — far below the 3.5 percent growth or better Trump has promised. Annual growth should clock in around 2.2 percent and is projected to slow further next year.

On the brighter side, unemployment remains at a five-decade low, a development that looks to be translating into wage gains, especially for those at the bottom of the income scale. The gains, at about 3 percent a year, are modest. But Goldman Sachs economists project they will continue to gain steam, rising to about 3.5 percent by the end of the year.

What the economy’s performance means for Trump’s reelection chances is a matter of debate. As the Wall Street Journal’s Jerry Seib notes, “The effects of the good economic news don’t cut evenly or neatly across the land, and political effects simply aren’t what analysts traditionally would have expected.”

“Some of those benefiting most from the Trump economy reside in urban areas on the coasts. Yet their hatred of the president burns hot despite the economic benefits they feel,” he writes. “Conversely, some of those who are still struggling in the Trump economy actually reside in the Trump strongholds of rural America and the working-class neighborhoods of the Rust Belt. Yet their support of the president seems as staunch as ever.”

MARKET MOVERS

Virus fears keep weighing on stocks. WSJ's Anna Hirtenstein: "Stocks and crude oil tumbled Monday on concerns about a dangerous viral outbreak in China, as the detection of infected patients in the U.S., Australia and France led to escalating concerns about its containment and potential economic impact.

Futures linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average index dropped 1.5%. In Europe, the Stoxx Europe 600 retreated 2.1%, led by declines in the U.K. and France. The Chinese yuan slumped 0.8% against the dollar in offshore trading and the Australian dollar declined 0.7%."

State of play. "Even as China takes more stringent measures to limit the movement of the vast country’s population during the biggest travel period of the year, there are increasing fears that the quarantine will not be enough to stop the spread of the coronavirus," The Post's Gerry Shih and Simon Denyer write. "The government in Beijing broadened an extraordinary quarantine to more than 50 million people, but the mayor of the Wuhan epicenter said 5 million people have already succeeded in leaving the city."

Virus is getting worse. More from Shih and Denyer: "China’s health minister said the coronavirus is increasing in virulence and now could be contagious even before people exhibit symptoms, making apparently healthy people possible carriers."

It's a gut punch for the Chinese and Hong Kong economies. In China, WSJ's James Areddy writes, "Anxiety may be spreading faster than the coronavirus that emerged from the central Chinese city of Wuhan in recent weeks. That adds risks to what was already expected to be a very challenging year for the economy in China." And in Hong Kong, which is already in recession, "as fear of the coronavirus spreading rises, consumer spending is set to be a casualty as people stay away from restaurants, malls and crowded places."

Bloomberg News has this rundown of what big companies with presences in Wuhan are saying about the virus's impact. 

 

But viral outbreaks haven't always translated into market downturns, as this chart from Renaissance Macro Research demonstrates: 

Housing markets across the world are losing steam, holding back prospects for the global economy that last year grew at its slowest rate since the financial crisis.
WSJ
As part of their contingency planning for the next recession, the Fed is looking at a stimulus scheme the U.S. last used during and after World War II.
WSJ

TRUMP TRACKER

TRADE FLY-AROUND:

Trump to sign USMCA this week:Trump will sign the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at the White House on Wednesday, the White House confirmed. The signing will come in the middle of the Senate trial determining whether to convict him on two articles of impeachment,” CBS MoneyWatch's Kathryn Watson reports.

“The U.S.M.C.A. passage in the House and Senate marked a significant achievement for the Trump White House, particularly during such a divisive time on Capitol Hill. The agreement's prospects were uncertain during the House's impeachment inquiry.”

And here's what's coming next: “... The Trump trade team is now turning its attention to a deal with post-Brexit U.K. and the ongoing stalemate at the World Trade Organization,” CNBC's Thomas Franck reports.

“Questions also remain over the direction of trade discussions between the U.S. and the European Union as the American trade front shifts to targets across the Atlantic. [Trump] highlighted the less-than-rosy relations earlier this week from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.”

TRUMP WATCH:

More drama for Linton-Mnuchin: “Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, deleted a post on Instagram on Saturday in which she had expressed support for the teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg, who has been publicly sparring with Mnuchin over whether the U.S. should divest from fossil fuels,” CNBC's Tucker Higgins reports.

“Mnuchin had dismissed the Swedish activist’s call for the U.S. to divest from the sector on Thursday, saying that the 17-year-old should study economics in college, and then “she can come back and explain that to us ... 'I stand with Greta on this issue,' wrote Linton, an actress and animal rights activist, in the since-deleted post. Linton wrote that she didn’t have a degree in economics either. 'We need to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. Keep up the fight @gretathunberg,' Linton added.”

IMPEACHMENT MINUTE: A speed read on the latest from the congressional impeachment process.

"Trump Tied Ukraine Aid to Inquiries He Sought, Bolton Book Says." By the New York Times's Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt

"Democrats call for Bolton to testify in Trump impeachment trial after new report on aid to Ukraine." By The Post's Seung Min Kim, Felicia Sonmez and Josh Dawsey 

"Keep your mouth shut, except to yawn: Oh, the trials of impeachment." By The Post's Avi Selk 

POCKET CHANGE

 

Google probe could lead to states teaming up with DOJ: “State attorneys general will meet with U.S. Justice Department attorneys next week to share information on their respective probes of Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, a step that could eventually lead to both groups joining forces, according to people familiar with the matter,” the Wall Street Journal's John D. McKinnon, Ryan Tracy and Brent Kendall report.

“To date, federal and state authorities involved in the probe haven’t shared investigative materials about their concurrent probes of Google, some of the people said. At least seven state attorneys general who are part of the investigation have been invited to the meeting, one of the people said. The group — comprising the executive committee of the states’ investigation into Google — is led by Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general.”

Apple's rally: “A year ago, Apple looked to be headed for a prolonged slump. Chief Executive Tim Cook slashed guidance because of sluggish iPhone sales and analysts fretted over slowing demand in China,” the WSJ's Tripp Mickle reports.

“But instead of a slump, investors got one of the biggest one-year stock rallies in history. The tech giant’s share price has more than doubled, adding over $725 billion to its value, more than JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. combined — and well above the total value of Facebook Inc. The surge is driven partly by renewed iPhone anticipation, and investors are eager for more even as some are aware of the cyclical nature of the company’s past rallies. Apple’s stock closed Friday at $318.31, and the company now has a market value of nearly $1.4 trillion.”

Boeing gets some good news: Boeing Co successfully staged the first flight of the world’s largest twin-engined jetliner on Saturday in a respite from the crisis over its smallest model, the grounded 737 MAX,” Reuters's Tim Hepher reports.

OPINIONS

Tweak tax rules to reveal what companies pay. The Post's Allan Sloan: "The documents that publicly traded U.S. companies file with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are the source of the numbers, lump all sorts of things together, making it impossible to tell how much federal income tax a company pays for a given year...

"What’s the solution, you ask? It’s simple: require companies that file information with the SEC to reveal information from two lines of their federal income tax returns. Those two lines are 'taxable income' and 'total tax.'

"If we had the numbers from those two lines, we’d know how much federal income tax (if any) is paid for a given year by companies such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon (whose chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post) and Alphabet (which owns Google) that are considered major tax avoiders, compared with the overall profits they report."

THE REGULATORS

Trump administration moves to scrap Obama era anti-discrimination rules in housing. Politico's Katy O'Donnell and Victoria Guida: "The Trump administration is working to roll back former President Barack Obama’s efforts to combat racial segregation — potentially making it easier for banks to deny loans to black and Hispanic people or for cities to confine poor families to minority neighborhoods.

One Trump Cabinet member, Housing secretary Ben Carson, is moving to scrap an Obama policy withholding federal funds from cities if they don’t address segregation. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has proposed cutting back on collecting data that helps track discrimination in the mortgage market. And activists warn that a Trump financial regulator could encourage banks to invest in inner-city projects benefiting outsiders instead of local residents."

DAYBOOK

Today:

  • Sprint and Whirlpool are among the notable companies reporting their earnings, per Kiplinger 
  • The Bipartisan Policy Center holds an event on reforming the proxy process

Tuesday:

  • Apple, Starbucks, Pfizer, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, Harley-Davidson, 3M, eBay Inc. are among the notable companies reporting their earnings
  • SEC Chairman Jay Clayton addresses the 47th Annual Securities Regulation Institute
  • The Hamilton Project holds an event on equitable ways to raise tax revenue 

Wednesday:

  • Trump is expected to sign the USMCA 
  • Boeing, Tesla, Facebook, Microsoft, McDonald's, General Electric and AT&T are among the notable companies reporting their earnings

Thursday:

THE FUNNIES

From The Post's Tom Toles:

BULL SESSION