|Ronald Reagan overcame a whole term of economic volatility to win in 1984|
Quarterly unemployment was above 10% at the end of four straight quarters during Reagan's first term -- the worst quarter-ending rate under Obama has been 9.9% -- but by May 22, 1984, the rate had dropped to 7.8%, or 0.4 percentage points lower than Obama's current rate. Quarterly gross domestic product growth shows that Reagan oversaw a massive contraction from the first to the second quarter in 1981. When the former president entered office, the United States reported GDP percent change of 8.6% in the first quarter before a dive at -3.2% in the second quarter. Obama hasn't seen that great of a drop, but he entered at a GDP bottom -- during his first quarter, it contracted by -6.7%, but slowly crept up to 3.9% growth by the first quarter of his second year. Whereas Obama has sat on relatively flat quarter-to-quarter change in GDP, Reagan, after two straight quarters (fourth quarter of his first year, and first quarter of his second year) that saw contraction by -4.9% and -6.4%, enjoyed a healthy explosion. December of 1982 showed 0.3% growth, and by March of 1984 there was an 8% jump. Then there's the health of the stock market as measured by the performance of the S&P 500. A glance at quarter-to-quarter volatility of the index shows a roller coaster of swings for both presidents' first terms. The worst S&P slump during Reagan's first four years was an 11.5% drop from the June 1981 close to the September 1981 close. But the index gained 16.8% during its most robust period -- the end of September 1982 to the December 1982 close.
By comparison, Obama's saw the biggest S&P gains early -- it jumped 15.2% during the second quarter of his first year. But the S&P has also experienced double-digit losses in two quarters of Obama's presidency -- an 11.9% drop in the second quarter of 2010 and a 14.3% drop in third quarter of 2011. The S&P closed on Reagan's Inauguration Day at 131.65 and it rose to 153.88 by May 22, 1984. That's a 16.9% gain. On Obama's Inauguration Day, the index finished at 805.22. The index closed at 1,316.63 on Tuesday, marking a 63.4% gain. -- Written by Joe Deaux in New York.