There is no doubt that Trump's chaotic form of "governing" is anxiety provoking, dangerous and often inhumane, but in spite of all his grandiose talking points to the contrary, 2018 has been the stock market's worst year since the financial crisis that Obama inherited, and if Trump is allowed to continue his poor decisions, 2019 is predicted to be as bad or worse.
So much for the oft touted accolades the Right keeps giving to Trump the "business man!"
Wall Street's moderate gains in New Year's Eve trading were nowhere near enough to avert the worst year for American stocks since the financial crisis.
The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 5.6 percent in 2018, its first annual drop since a 2.2 percent decrease in 2015 but a mere fraction of the 34 percent slide in 2008. The broader S&P 500 tumbled 6.2 percent, its first year in the red since a 0.7 percent slip in 2015, while the Nasdaq is down 3.9 percent. Both indexes lost more than a third of their value in 2008.
The dour performance, which undercuts one of President Trump's favorite economic talking points during his first year in the White House, reflects concern about Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, fallout from tariffs the administration has posed on allies and rivals alike, and speculation that growth will slow in 2019.
"We know the economy is likely to slow because you have the waning effects of tax cuts, you have the impact of higher rates already, and you have trade friction," said Fred Cannon, director of research at New York brokerage Keefe, Bruyette & Woods. Still, "the Fed and most people looking at the U.S. economy don't believe it's going to fall into a recession."
The central bank has raised short-term interest rates nine times, to a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent, since cutting them to nearly zero during the financial crisis. The last 25 basis-point increase, occurring the week before Christmas, dragged markets lower and prompted bitter criticism of Fed Chariman Jerome Powell from Trump, who appointed him to succeed Janet Yellen.
Indeed, the president's musings about whether he could fire Powell injected further volatility into the markets, which rely on the central bank's independent management of the U.S. economy.
"Tension between the Fed and the president is obvious," said David Bianco, Americas chief investment officer for New York-based wealth-management firm DWS. "This is not a first for the Fed," he added, noting market frustration with the Christmas hike. "The Fed must make the right decision for the economy, not its credibility or autonomy."
Along with interest rates, corporate executives and economists will pay close attention during the coming year to trade policy, given Trump's threats to add tariffs to another $267 billion in Chinese imports. The president vows to add the tariffs unless he's able to strike a deal with Beijing that addresses a trade imbalance and Chinese theft of U.S. intellectual property.
The White House has already imposed duties on $250 billion of Chinese goods, driving up supply costs for U.S. businesses, as well as double-digit levies on steel and aluminum. Trump has also threatened tariffs on imports of automobiles and parts.
"We see slowing across the board, and we think tariffs are driving much of that slowdown," said Rob Martin, an economist with the Swiss lender UBS.