President Trump was up early one year ago and, in short order, picked up his phone. The night prior, the Dow Jones industrial average had closed at 24,792.20, a record high. Trump tweeted a celebration.
The Senate was poised to pass tax cuts that Trump had pledged would serve as “rocket fuel” for the economy. In a follow-up tweet, he made a similar pledge.
“Stocks and the economy have a long way to go after the Tax Cut Bill is totally understood and appreciated in scope and size,” he wrote. “Immediate expensing will have a big impact. Biggest Tax Cuts and Reform EVER passed. Enjoy, and create many beautiful JOBS!”
For a few more months, it seemed as if Trump’s embrace of the markets and the tax cuts had paid off. Between mid-December 2017 and early February, the Dow surged more than 1,000 points. And then things got bumpy.
As of writing, both the Dow and the S&P 500 are down for the year. For as good as Trump’s first year was — and, in terms of market expansion, it was good — his second year hasn’t been that great. In fact, it’s poised to be one of the worst second years for any president in the history of the Dow in terms of points.
The only one that has been worse? 2002, George W. Bush’s second year in office.
The best second year? Barack Obama’s.
There are some important caveats there. One is that the markets have been very volatile of late, so things could change rapidly. Another is that the Dow is much higher now than it was even two decades ago, meaning that changes have been much larger.
If we look at the change in 2018 to date as a percentage of where it started, 2018 is the eighth-worst second year for any president since William McKinley. The worst was at the outset of the Great Depression in 1930 (when the markets were open more frequently); the best, 1954.
The percentages for the S&P 500 look similar. So does the raw change, as below.
The most recent occasion when Trump wrote about market valuations (excluding a tweet on Tuesday meant to guide the Federal Reserve to holding interest rates steady) was the morning of Nov. 12, less than a week after the midterm elections.
The surge in the stock market in his first year was a function of his making America great again; that it was dropping on Nov. 12 was the Democrats' fault.
By market close that day, the Dow had dropped down to where it had been Jan. 10, 2018. Since that date, it’s dropped to where it was in late November 2017. As far as the Dow is concerned at the moment, it’s like 2018 didn’t happen — much less that celebratory December that Trump enjoyed last year.