A common argument nowadays among Trump supporters is that the stock market’s performance since last November’s election is a ringing endorsement of President Trump’s economic policies.
After all, since his election stock market prices have rallied by some 15 percent to reach new record highs.
Is a booming stock market not conclusive proof that the markets recognize that President Trump is good for the US economy and that he is on the right economic policy track?
Before jumping to conclusions, Trump supporters might want to consider that their stock market argument could equally be used to make the case that President Obama’s administration was a roaring economic success.
After all, during the Obama years the stock market increased by a staggering 230 percent. How could there have been anything wrong with Obamanomics if the stock market performed so well during his tenure?
The truth of the matter is that stock market prices are not a very useful measure of how successful an administration’s economic policies might have been. Rather, stock market prices are driven by many factors that oftentimes have very little to do with underlying economic fundamentals.
One factor that might be the primary explanation of why stock prices have been so buoyant during both the Obama and the Trump Administrations could be the extraordinarily loose stance of monetary policy not just in the United States but also in most other major industrialized economies.
Global interest rates have never been lower, nor have central banks across the world resorted to money printing on the scale that they have been doing over the past few years. This makes for a very friendly world stock market environment.
Rather than look to stock market performance to assess the relative success of a president’s economic policies, one has to look to indicators of how the economy might actually have grown and how employment might have increased during that president’s tenure.
Judged by GDP growth or the increase in employment, so far the success of President Trump’s policies appears not very different from that of his predecessor.
Since last November, the economy continues to grow at the same lackluster pace as it has done over the past eight years, while job growth over the past six months has remained modest at best.
It seems implausible that stock market prices will remain as elevated as they are today during the remainder of the Trump administration. This would seem to be particularly the case once the process of monetary policy normalization by the world’s major central banks gets seriously underway. Indeed, stock market prices could very well be in for a big correction.
For which reason, Trump supporters might want to think twice before so vocally arguing that stock market prices are a reliable indicator of the success of a president’s economic policies.
Desmond Lachman joined AEI after serving as a managing director and chief emerging market economic strategist at Salomon Smith Barney. He previously served as deputy director in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Policy Development and Review Department and was active in staff formulation of IMF policies. Mr. Lachman has written extensively on the global economic crisis, the U.S. housing market bust, the U.S. dollar, and the strains in the euro area. At AEI, Mr. Lachman is focused on the global macroeconomy, global currency issues, and the multilateral lending agencies.
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