The stock market often logs gains in the first 100 days of a new President. This is usually the result of people's optimism that the new president will install policies that ignite the economy.
But the election of Donald Trump has defied most conventional wisdom. His outlandish remarks and ongoing fixation with marginal issues and perceived slights in the few days since his inauguration have underlined serious doubts about his ability to handle the presidency competently.
Despite equity markets' strength in recent weeks, Trump's behavior could undermine his deregulatory-focused, legislative agenda that attracted so many voters, and unsettle the economy, sending markets tumbling. Or voters could ignore his remarks and maintain their enthusiasm for the real estate developer as a change agent.
The Trump presidency is uncharted territory.
Already, Trump has signed a number of executive orders, including Monday removing the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The TPP lowered trade barriers with Canada, Mexico and nine other Asian-Pacific countries for decades creating a free-trade zone for those countries. The argument for the deal was that the TPP gave American companies access to fast-growing foreign markets. The argument against the deal was that it only benefitted wealthy corporations at the expense of the average American worker.
Consider below the last five Presidents. Each one faced a unique set of circumstances. Yet the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose in the first 100 days for each.
- After giving his inaugural address on Jan. 20 1981, Ronald Reagan quickly set about removing regulations that he felt were strangling U.S. companies. The DJIA rose nearly 5% in the first 100 days.
- George H.W. Bush's presidency came just as the Berlin Wall fell, which drove optimistic sentiment globally. In his first 100 days, the Dow Jones spiked more than 8%. This was the greatest, initial 100-day-gain among the last five presidencies.
- The DJIA rose by 5.72% in the first 100 days of Bill Clinton's presidency. Clinton was young and dynamic, and seemed to embody and new, more pragmatic Democrat. His election represented a change after 12 years of Republican administrations.
- With the first dot-com wave faltering, and amidst the bitter aftershocks of a bitterly contested election, the DJIA increased just 1.5% after George W. Bush took office in 2001.
- Barack Obama began his Presidency in 2009 amid the Great Recession. By the end of the first week of March, just six weeks after his inauguration, the Dow found its bottom at 6,547. However, over his first 100 days the Dow increased 2.75%.
It's unclear if the Trump presidency will see the same pattern of small to more robust gains in the DJIA. The Dow fell slightly in Monday trading, as did most of the other indices. All this seemed to reflect uncertainty among investors about Trump's first few hours on the job.
However, if the 100-day rally that followed each of the last five president's inaugurations is any indicator, investors have at least small reason to be optimistic about the near future.
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The author is an independent contributor who at the time of publication owned none of the stocks mentioned.