US President Donald Trump and his supporters spent a lot of time talking about the stock market during the first year or so after his election. Lately, not so much.
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index both down more than 5 per cent since early October and up less than 1.5 per cent year-to-date, that’s understandable.
But with more than two years now having passed since Americans elected Trump on November 8, 2016, it seems like an appropriate time to revisit the stock market’s performance since that weird and fateful day. How does it compare, I wondered, with the first two years after the initial election of past presidents?
It so happens that I did a much more extensive review of stock market gains, losses and records set under every president since William McKinley in August 2017, and concluded that it was mostly a waste of time.
Stock market performance is not the same thing as presidential performance. A 2016 FiveThirtyEight aggregation of scholarly rankings of presidents put Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, whose terms coincided with very weak stock markets, in the top 10, and Calvin Coolidge, who enjoyed the biggest annualised market gains of all, in 27th place (out of 43).
Still, even if market performance isn’t the best measure of presidential performance or even a good one, it is a measure, and I was curious. This time I calculated the percentage change in the Dow from the day before the election (the New York Stock Exchange was closed on presidential election days until 1984) to two years later.
Yes, there are better market barometers than the Dow, and it might be more instructive to compare total return to investors (which factors in dividend yields) rather than just the change in the average. But the Dow average is the only one that goes all the way back to 1896, when McKinley was elected, and I wanted to keep things simple.
Trump’s stock market performance so far is the second-best on record, trailing only that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
I’m not going to add any other caveats or grumblings. The guy could use some good news with the month he’s been having.