President Donald Trump loves to talk about how well the stock market has performed since he became president. It has also been a frequent rallying cry for his supporters. In fact, the stock market has done well during the Trump administration. However, no matter how you measure it, the stock market did significantly better under former President Barack Obama, as well as several other recent presidents.

At this point in their presidency, stocks performed better under George H.W. Bush (up 36 percent), Bill Clinton (up 29 percent) and Barack Obama (up 39 percent) compared to under Trump (up 27 percent). These data were calculated by Matt Egan, Annalyn Turtz, Tal Yellin and Will Houp, writing for CNN.com, who looked at stock market performances during the first 644 days (as of August 12, 2019) of each administration.


Trump has a way to go to beat other presidents during their first term in office. For example, as measured by the S&P 500, stocks increased by 30 percent during Ronald Reagan’s first term, 51 percent during the senior Bush’s term, 79 percent during Clinton’s first term, and a whopping 85 percent during Obama’s first term.

The only recent president Trump is beating is former president George W. Bush who saw stocks decrease by 12 percent during his first term and by 31 percent during his second term.

Stock prices did very well during Trump's first year in office (2017).

Then he hurt the economy, especially the farm and industrial belts, with tariff wars against Canada, Mexico, Europe, and China. He continues to hurt the American economy, as well as the world economy, with his escalating tariff war with China, as demonstrated by the significant drop in stock prices this month.

Trump recently decided to hold off on additional tariffs against imports from China, stating that he wanted to avoid increased prices for American consumers during their holiday shopping. But, wait!

Didn't Trump say that China was paying for the tariffs? So it seems, at last, that Trump does understand that Americans, not China, are paying for his tariff wars.

Max Gokhman of Pacific Life Fund Advisors, stated that any economic good that came out of the 2018 tax cut was wiped out by Trump’s tariff war. While stocks increased 29 percent from January 2017 to January 2018, the Dow decreased 5.6 percent from January 2018 to January 2019.

The S&P fell 6.2 percent and the Nasdaq fell 4 percent. In fact, 2018 was the worse year for stocks since 2008.

Additional tariffs with China, according to Myron Brilliant of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “will only inflict greater pain on American businesses, farmers, workers, and consumers, and undermine an otherwise strong U.S. economy.”

Time will tell how the stock market finishes in 2019. The Federal Reserve has lowered interest rates signaling their concern that both the American and world economies are slowing down. It is unlikely, however, based upon his performance so far, that Trump will ever catch up with Clinton, Obama, or Reagan, who posted increases of 210 percent, 182 percent, and 118 percent increases, prospectively, in the S&P 500 during their eight years in the White House.

Then, of course, there is the Brexit mess. If the United Kingdom goes solo from the European Union without a trade agreement, the entire world will feel the impact. Unfortunately, instead of helping our European allies reach a Brexit deal good for everyone, Trump has pushed a go-it-alone deal for Britain that ignores the interconnectedness of world trade.

Trump likes one-to-one trade deals, but the world is too complicated for one-on-one deals when an American auto factory, for example, needs parts from three dozen nations to assemble one car.

Many believe the U.S. is heading into a recession. According to Washington Post writers Thomas Heath, Taylor Telford, and Damian Paletta, the U.S.-China trade war and the looming threat of a hard Brexit are the two main contributors to the Dow being 5 percent off its all-time high of one month ago.

On March 2, 2018, Trump tweeted, “Trade wars are good and easy to win.” In reality, however, trade wars have been bad for almost everyone involved and almost everyone loses. And unlike Trump, the numbers don’t lie.


Tom Zirpoli is program coordinator of the Human Services Management graduate program at McDaniel College. He writes from Westminster. His column appears Wednesdays. Email him at tzirpoli@mcdaniel.edu.