Presidents are quick to take credit for any gains in the US economy, particularly when it’s related to the stock market. President Trump was quick to take credit for record highs in the S&P 500 back in 2018.


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President Trump has also been quick to deflect any losses in the economy—which is also typical of any sitting national-level policymaker.

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Here’s what we know: the presidential policy can affect the S&P, but sometimes it takes a while to take effect. Recently, Numerous companies have gone on record stating recent policy decisions will “lead to serious consequences for economic growth“. Companies are already doing their best to deflect costs associated with the new tariffs with China and abroad—like Target asking for its suppliers to absorb the costs of tariffs.

Comparing presidential performance on S&P performance is nothing new, so we thought we’d show you multiple perspectives and let you make your own decisions.

Let’s start with a view of the S&P 500 since 1950. The S&P 500, a stock market index that measures the stock performance of 500 of the largest companies in the United States, is one of the most commonly followed equity indices. It’s often considered the best representation of the U.S. stock market. You’ll notice the exponential growth over time of the market that is reflected in the chart below.

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The S&P 500 has reached its highest levels with President Trump, but it also started with the highest values. To better understand the market performance we have to look at how the market changed relative to a president’s start.

Growth by President

Of the thirteen presidents since 1950, all but two saw the S&P 500 end with overall growth. President Clinton oversaw an economy that grew more than two-hundred percent over an eight year period. Clinton created more than 22 million jobs, championed numerous free trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and reformed the financial sector and welfare.

Only Presidents George W. Bush and Nixon saw overall decreases in the S&P. President Bush’s economy was forced to deal with the dot-com bust, two wars, and the Great Recession. His economic policy was highlighted by tax cuts and expanding free trade.

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During the Eisenhower administration, the stock market grew by more than one-hundred twenty-nine percent despite the three separate recessions during his eight years. Eisenhower focused on maintaining a balanced economy not only by cutting spending, but also refusing to cut taxes. In fact, Eisenhower’s tax rates were some of the highest in United States history. The Eisenhower administration used these additional revenues to invest in infrastructure, expanded aid to education, and increased the minimum wage.

Over the course of the Trump presidency the market is up twenty-nine percent—which is in the middle of the pack with Presidents Ford, Carter, and Kennedy. President Trump has not yet completed his first term and its probably no surprise that his numbers are similar to Presidents Kennedy and Ford; both had tenures less than four years. For a fair comparison we need to compare like time periods for all presidents.

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Every presidency has its share of unexpected events—both good and bad—that can affect the stock market in one way or another. Five presidents saw the stock market be at a 10% gain as well as a 10% loss during their tenure in office. Meanwhile, Presidents Clinton, Obama, and Eisenhower all handle the most consistent growth during their tenure.

However, market volitility is perhaps captured most with President George W Bush. During the George W. Bush presidency, the stock market was down nearly 40% after two years. The market then shot up almost 13% before seeing it tumble back down to -40% by the end of his tenure.

Thus far, President Trump’s first two years in office have seen steady growth followed by a rocky third year that saw his total gain in office shrink to 10%. The number has since more-than-doubled to 27%.



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