Market politics: Trump loses his touch with the markets as coronavirus threat grows

When free fall began, the president was at the White House's pallet, leading the now-daily coronavirus task strength orientation about the latest measures taken to curb the public health crisis.
Despite the president's assurances that the country would "win," the markets heard otherwise: military intervention; closed borders; talk about the recession.

Trump has often dismissed fluctuations in the market as part of a natural correction, but several close to the president say he places as much importance on the health of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as validating his job performance as he does on polling figures.

Unlike former presidents, who traditionally avoided trying to influence the market, Trump's closest advisers say he is not keen on driving market volatility every time he shows up on the podium.


In part, he does not believe he is to blame, said an administrative official.

"He swallows it day by day," the official said, referring to the president. "Almost no one saw this coming."

As the stock market fluctuated this week, Trump has turned to advisers both inside and outside the White House in search of assurance that his administration's response to the crisis did not drive sales. For several days he has pointed to a Saudi Russia oil price war and to the virus itself to pull down the markets, and has tried to reassure those around him that the market's nosedive will not hurt his bid for re-election.

Trump publicly and privately tells his advisers that markets will inevitably bounce back, according to the official. "Not everyone agrees with him, but that's what he means," the official said.


While some of Trump's advisers prefer a more cautious approach, they ultimately say the markets will respond, regardless of the time the president addresses the nation.

"Getting information to the American people as often and as quickly as we can is top priority," said White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham.

In his Oval Office Address last Wednesday, the president announced the first in a series of travel restrictions for a handful of European nations, sending shares that collapsed the next day, causing many to fear the worst. But Trump suffered an adrenaline rush from the reaction to his news conference Friday, when he reappeared during the last 30 minutes of trading.
After Dow closed up nearly 2,000 points, he rolled over to the media on Saturday and autographed a chart showing the upward movement.

On Sunday, Trump was twice successful in scoring a cut in the Federal Reserve, announced just moments before he appeared in front of cameras. He said he was "very happy" with the Fed action and predicted a quick economic return when the pandemic fell.


On Monday, Trump was back before the cameras at 3:21 p.m. – about the same time he had spoken on Friday. But the markets could not be tamed. His announcement of strict new social distance guidelines failed to reverse today's brutal slump of nearly 3,000 points a day.

The president struck a more sober tone about the coronavirus threat, and the scale of fiscal responses it requires to protect the economy, as he spoke in Brady's press briefing just before noon Tuesday.

The market was up when he began to speak, and the president made it clear that he liked reviews of his increasingly serious attitude. "I've seen that … people actually liked it," he said.

The Dow rose more than 1,000 points on Tuesday. And on Wednesday he returned to the podium in the White House at noon.

This time, he received no positive feedback from the market, though the administration has begun to marshal federal resources with the pressure investors have wanted.

"We all know it's going to be a terrible second quarter, but he feels we're getting through this and the market will flip back," said the chief executive. "Don't make the time of day he comes out and addresses the country. The market will do what the market will do."

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