Moneybox

Donald Trump Says the Stock Market Made a “Big Mistake” by Falling

This might actually signal progress.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - FEBRUARY 6: (AFP-OUT) U.S. President Donald Trump hosts a law enforcement round table on MS-13 at the White House on February 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)
He’s looking less tan these days, no?
Pool/Getty Images

After a few days of silence, our president finally decided to weigh in on the choppy state of the stock market this morning.

It’s easy to read this as just another example of Trump being Trump. The man has spent much of his time in office taking credit for rising stock prices. Now that they have suffered a light setback, he feels compelled to deflect blame—as is his wont—and redirect it onto misguided traders, targeting the entire equities market the way he does Head Clown Chuck Schumer or Sleazy Adam Schiff.

But there is a glimmer of truth to the tweet. Trump is right that the stock market’s fluctuations are pretty counterintuitive these days. There really was a time when good news about the economy would have sent the Dow Jones and S&P 500 higher. No longer! Now, the faintest hint that the economy could be heating up is apparently enough to spook investors into a sell-off. After all, the most recent tumult started after the government reported some mildly positive news about wage growth.

This is a big conceptual leap forward for the president, though he still has some ways to go: The market’s initial reaction wasn’t necessarily a “mistake,” at least from the perspective of a money manager. If wage increases accelerate, it could theoretically lead to higher inflation, which may encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner rather than later, which would probably be bad for stock prices. But eventually, the market started swinging wildly for reasons that ostensibly had nothing to do with economic fundamentals. Much of the selling may have been an overreaction that seems to be partly reversing itself now.

In other words, stocks have been weird, and the president is grokking that. So maybe this tweet is an inchoate acknowledgment that the market is not, actually, always an accurate reflection the wider economy.

Or maybe our nation’s angry grandpa is just shouting at clouds again. I don’t know.