Trump’s Wrong-Track Economy Means Voters Shrug at Stocks Rebound
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump rarely passes up an opportunity to tout the stock market.
In the last week alone, the president has remarked on the market’s recent resurgence in a conference call with supporters in Wisconsin, a White House law-enforcement event, during a visit to U.S. Southern Command in Doral, Florida, in an interview with Fox News, and on Facebook Live rallies with his supporters.
“I will tell you, if Biden got in, this economy would be destroyed,” he said on July 13 of his Democratic opponent in November, Joe Biden.
But with an extra million-plus Americans joining jobless rolls every week, and unemployment still higher than seen in any previous postwar recession, equity gains don’t equate to credit for economic success. Half of voters surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll released on July 15 said they trusted Biden as a better steward of the economy, while 45% sided with Trump -- the first time he’s trailed on that issue.
In the financial crisis of 2008-2009, many workers saw the value of their 401(k) accounts and other investments plummet, forcing some to delay their retirement for years. This time around millions more Americans have flat out lost their jobs.
“When you talk to Main Street America, it’s a very different view than I think Wall Street sees,” said Alfredo Ortiz, who heads the Job Creators Network, an advocacy group for small businesses.
Only around 14% of U.S. families directly own stocks, and less than half of private-sector workers participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan. That leaves many with little benefit from the Nasdaq 100 hitting a record high this month, or the total return for the S&P 500 Index inching back into positive territory for the year.
Unemployment is 11.1%, with some economists warning that payrolls could start declining again as soon as this month thanks to surging coronavirus cases. The states of California, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Washington, where virus cases are rising and a range of new restrictions have been put into effect or considered, saw upticks in jobless claims in the week ended July 11.
Households are also still largely remaining at home, with both same-store sales at merchandise retailers and restaurant bookings well below pre-pandemic levels.
That helps explain why two-thirds of Americans -- including 47% of Republicans -- said the country was on the wrong track in a recent Reuters poll.
“I think the economy is expanding and growing beautifully,” Trump said in the Fox News interview taped at the White House on Friday. “We’re coming back and we’re coming back at a level that nobody would have thought possible.”
That feel-good sentiment might need to spread from Wall Street before it benefits the president’s campaign.
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