Consider this tweet, from Feb. 19.
Highest Stock Market In History, By Far!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 19, 2020
It wasn’t really the highest market “by far,” given that the S&P 500’s close that day — its all-time high — was only about half a percentage point higher than the day prior. But the point was made: The Trump economy was sending markets through the roof.
Trump’s enthusiasm was short-lived. Feb. 19 was the S&P 500’s high because stocks began to slip. Then they began to plunge. Then things really got bad.
Since that peak, the S&P 500 is down 27 percent as of close on Thursday. It dropped 9.5 percent since Wednesday. Since Trump took office, it’s up only 9 percent, about what it gained in the last seven months of Barack Obama’s presidency.
When it had dropped 5 percent by Feb. 24, Trump tried to assuage investors’s concerns. Much of the decline was a function of concern about how the spread of the coronavirus would affect the economy; Trump insisted that the virus was “under control.”
“Stock Market starting to look very good to me!” he tweeted on Feb. 24. Since then, the S&P 500 has fallen 23 percent.
The Dow Jones industrial average has been similarly battered. It fell 10 percent on Thursday, the biggest single-day drop since the market crash in 1987. Since Trump took office, the Dow has seen only 7 percent growth. The Dow is down 28 percent from its peak.
On Monday, Trump tried to argue that the decline in the market (8 percent off its peak by the end of trading that day) was a function of oil prices and “the Fake News.” Why was the news to blame? Because news reports indicated that the coronavirus, far from being under control, had spread across the country. By Wednesday, the longest bull run in the history of Wall Street had ended. Trump’s speech to the country Wednesday night was meant at least in part to soothe investors’ concerns. As he spoke, futures markets sank.
Ever a public optimist about his own initiatives, Trump told reporters that everything was well in hand.
“We have a lot of things that we’re working on with the financial markets,” Trump said in the Oval Office. “And it’s going to work out fine. You have to remember, the stock market, as an example, is still much higher than when I got here. And it’s taken a big hit, but it’s going to all bounce back, and it’s going to bounce back very big at the right time.”
Both the Dow and the S&P are, indeed, up since Trump took office. Another day of 10 percent drops, though, and they won’t be.
Stuart Stevens, a former adviser to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and a frequent Trump antagonist, summarized the week in political terms Trump would surely understand.
“A question for November: Are you better off today than four years ago?” Stevens wrote on Twitter.
It’s a question that Trump himself might have proudly asked back on Feb. 19.