Friday 27/04/2018 - 09:52 am


How great Dow art not


2018.02.06 12:31

We’re guessing that President Trump won’t be gloating about the stock market in upcoming speeches the way he did during last weeks State of the Union Address.

After losing 666 points on Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 1,175 on Monday, the largest one-day point drop in Dow history.

To some degree, this can be seen as a rush to the exits by investors looking to lock in profits. As the old adage goes, the stock market takes the steps up and the elevator down.

Even with the two-day bloodletting, the Dow is still up 21% in the past 12 months and 272% since the beginning of the bull market in 2009. On a percentage basis, Mondays 4.6% decline was not even in the top 20.

Even so, something else might also be at work here. Congress just passed a large economic stimulus package with an economy already humming. The implications include rising interest rates, the possibility of inflation and surging government deficits. None of these is good for stocks:

►Rising interest rates hurt because stocks compete with bonds for investor dollars. As investors can get better rates of return on bonds, they pull money out of stocks.

►Inflation has not been a problem in decades. But once investors think that the inflation threat is real, they will pull out of stocks and pour into the few investments — such as gold and other commodities — that do well in an inflationary environment.

►Huge deficits can hurt stocks by driving up interest rates and raising questions about the nations creditworthiness.

For years, elected officials have been unwilling to address Washington’s chronic borrowing, driven by spending on health care and retirement coupled with relatively low taxes. The fact that Republicans, members of the party that supposedly cares most about deficits, would add to the problem with $1.5 trillion in new borrowing over the next decade is unlikely to instill much confidence.

That they would do so because they are tied at the hip to an erratic president only makes matters worse. Previous presidents have avoided wrapping themselves in market gains because, as former Obama press secretary Jay Carney tweeted Monday, "1) the stock market is not the economy; and 2) if you claim the rise, you own the fall."

It’s a fool’s errand to predict what the market will do in the coming days. But Mondays big sell-off suggests that the recent euphoria is wearing off.

USA TODAYs editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff. Most editorials are coupled with an opposing view — a unique USA TODAY feature.

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