President Donald Trump might come to regret tethering his success to the stock market sooner rather than later. The market entered meltdown mode on Monday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average seeing its biggest one-day point drop in history and the S&P 500 turning negative for 2018.
It was the worst day for the markets since August 2011.
The Dow fell by as much as 1,500 points during Monday trading before ending the day down 1,175 points to 24,345 — a 4.6 percent decline for the day. The S&P 500 fell by 4.1 percent and Nasdaq declined by 3.8 percent.
Market volatility, which has been historically low in recent months, spiked, with Cboe Volatility Index, commonly considered a gauge of investor fear, jumping by more than 100 percent.
In other words, the long-awaited stock market correction — generally defined of a decline of at least 10 percent from its previous high — might finally be here.
Monday could be considered pullback territory, a short-term drop amid overall stock market gains. But correction territory (an S&P drop of 10 to 20 percent) is probably on the horizon “before this sell-off is done,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at the investment research firm CFRA Research, in an email. “I don’t see a bear market since I don’t think a recession is on the horizon.”
In other words, we probably aren’t in for Great Recession 2.0, but you might not want to check your 401(k) for a while, either.
Rising wages actually make stock investors nervous. Also, people have been talking about a correction forever.
The market selloff started on Friday, largely driven by investor fears about inflation and what that might mean for Federal Reserve action on interest rates.
“The key for the market today is rising interest rates,” Mike Baele, managing director at US Bank Wealth Management, told CNBC on Friday. “The old adage is: ‘Bull markets don’t die of old age, they are killed by higher interest rates.’ That looms large.”
Friday’s jobs report showed 2.9 percent wage growth from the year before. That signals a tightening labor market — a good thing — but also that increased inflation might be on the horizon. The yield of 10-year Treasury notes, which tend to rise on signs of inflation, also jumped to its highest level since early 2014.
If the economy continues to heat up and inflation rises, that might spur the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates faster than expected. And the Fed increasing interest rates, plus rising bond yields, typically makes stock investors nervous.
“The concern today is that the Fed may need to raise interest rates more quickly and that could hinder economic growth,” said Alexandra Coupe, associate director of investment firm PAAMCO, in an email. “As equity investors reassess the Fed policy outlook, this forces a reassessment of equity valuations as well.”
What started on Friday continued on Monday and reached far beyond the US. Asian and European markets saw selloffs. Oil prices declined. Bitcoin, a sort of hyper-amplified symbol of Wall Street optimism that has pervaded in recent months, plunged to below $7,000. It was trading above $19,000 in December.
In the grand scheme of things, Monday’s sell-off isn’t the end of the world. The Dow and S&P are now in negative territory for 2018 but are still up about 20 percent and 15 percent, respectively, over the past year. And the Nasdaq is still about 1 percent higher than where it was at the start of 2018.
Stocks didn’t fall so much on Monday that regulators stopped trading altogether — in other words, it could have been worse. Market “circuit breakers” — or small pauses in trading regulators can impose to prevent a stock market crash from occurring — don’t begin to kick in until the S&P 500 drops by 7 percent in a single day.
It is also worth noting that market observers have been predicting a correction on the horizon for quite some time, given that markets have largely been climbing since the recession and bull markets can’t last forever.
The CAPE ratio (cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio), a widely followed measure designed by Yale economist Robert Shiller that compares stock prices to corporate earnings, is currently at about 32, or double its historical median of 16. Shiller warned in a New York Times op-ed that investors “should not be tempted to bet aggressively on the Trump bull market” — in March of last year.
Trump owned the stock market’s rise. He probably doesn’t want to own its fall.
The funny thing about markets is that they are notoriously unpredictable — which should have been a sign for Trump that tying his presidency’s success to it wasn’t a great idea. Trump has consistently touted the stock market since arriving at the White House. At his State of the Union address, delivered less than a week ago, he bragged that the “stock market has smashed one record after another.”
On Monday, it smashed another one — the Dow’s biggest one-day point drop ever. Probably not the kind he had in mind. In August 2015, he tweeted that investors should “be careful” when the Dow fell more than 500 points, half of what it did on Monday.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said in a podcast interview in November of last year that it was “crazy for a president to wrap himself in the stock market.”
“This is a risk that the president clearly set himself up for,” Chuck Gabriel, president of Washington-based research firm Capital Alpha Partners, told Politico’s Ben White on Monday. “Until now, Trump’s had kind of a free ride in this market and taken so much credit for it, even though so much of it was due to easy-money policies from Janet Yellen and the Fed. Now she’s out the door and volatility is back.”
Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve who Trump declined to renominate for the spot despite her success, had her last day at the Fed on Friday. Trump’s pick, Jerome Powell, was sworn in on Monday.
Thus far, Trump hasn’t said anything about the market declines. A White House official on Monday told CNBC, “We’re always concerned when the market loses any value, but we’re also confident in the economy’s fundamentals.”
It’s not clear how long the stock selloff will last, what might turn things around, or how low it will go. The sell-off continued after market close Monday in futures markets. But those Dow 25,000 hats are relevant again — and the New York Stock Exchange is still selling them.
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