New York (CNN Business)President Donald Trump has cast himself as “tariff man,” a “very stable genius,” and even the “Chosen One.” Now improving economic numbers have him once again playing the role of stock market cheerleader-in-chief.
At a meeting on police reforms Tuesday, the president pivoted to Wall Street.
“The stock market went through the roof. These good numbers, they drove it up to a level that we’re almost at the same level, hard to believe,” he said. “We’re getting very close to the level we were before the pandemic and before all of the things that you’ve seen happen happened.”
After Tuesday morning’s stronger-than-expected May retail sales report, he tweeted, “Wow! May retail sales show biggest one-month increase of ALL TIME, up 17.7%. Far bigger than projected. Looks like a BIG DAY FOR THE STOCK MARKET AND JOBS!”
The coronavirus recession that began in February looked like it would rob Trump of a central argument for his re-election — the strong economy. But as the economy stops crashing and job and retail sales numbers begin the long climb out of a deep hole, the president is rebranding the economy as a Trump success story.
After a surprise net 2.5 million jobs were added in May, he tweeted: “Really Big Jobs Report. Great going President Trump (kidding but true)!”
The economy, of course, has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. Not even close. Millions are out of work. More than a quarter of the labor force at the beginning of March was on jobless benefits by the end of April. Layoff announcements come almost daily. Economists expect a second-quarter GDP number as horrific as NEGATIVE 40 percent. The economy is re-opening, but Americans are still going hungry. Food banks report nearly 60% growth in demand.
Trump’s victory lap in the middle of a recession is risky — potentially alienating Main Street when he talks up returns for investors. The health and financial suffering of American families is without modern precedent, yet the Nasdaq is up 10 percent this year, and blue chip stocks have roared back from the lows in March. The S&P 500 is just about 8 percent lower for the year, buoyed by promises of record stimulus from Congress and the Federal Reserve.
The disconnect is obvious. Investors are making money again while on nearly every level American daily life has been disrupted. Parents are working from home — or out of work — with kids out of school and facing a summer with no summer camp.
More than 116,000 people in the US have been killed by the coronavirus, and cases are spiking in states like Arizona, Texas, Florida and Oklahoma.
And in the middle of this pandemic, there is a public outcry over systemic racism in America. For three weeks, protestors have taken to the streets demanding police reform and racial equality –highlighting the lack of fairness in the very economy the president is taking credit for.
Taking all the credit and none of the blame is vintage Trump by now, but that predisposition to cheerlead the numbers may be risky given what the recession has put the country through.
And there is no guarantee that stocks keep rising. Famed investor Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer at Guggenheim Partners thinks a reckoning is coming. He says the S&P 500 could fall back as low as 1,600.