The stock market liked these presidents better than Trump

President Donald Trump thinks he doesn’t get enough credit for a stock market that recently hit a new record high.

“The Stock Market hit an all-time record high today and they’re actually talking impeachment?” he tweeted on April 23. “Will I ever be given credit for anything?”

If Trump deserves credit for a roaring stock market, then Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan do as well. In fact, all of them presided over more total record highs in the S&P 500 Index (^GSPC) than Trump has so far.

Using TradeStation data, Yahoo Finance’s Jared Blikre crunched the numbers going back to Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. We counted stock-market highs in the S&P 500 from election day to election day, since stock values reflect expectations of future performance the moment investors know the election outcome.

Trump has presided over more S&P records during his first term than most of his predecessors did in their first four years. Yet for now, Trump’s total number of records fall short of those seen during the Obama, Clinton and Reagan years.

Here’s the breakdown:

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Graphic by David Foster

It’s a bit silly to gauge a president’s mettle by the number of stock-market highs, since the stock market consistently hits new highs as the economy grows.

“In a rising market, you will see new highs on a regular basis,” Brad McMillan of Commonwealth Financial Network wrote to clients on April 24. “From a fundamental perspective, the rise really doesn’t tell us much.”

The stock market has performed well under Trump, with the S&P 500 up 37% since Trump was elected in 2016. Trump deserve at least some credit for those gains, based on the 2017 tax cuts that sent corporate profits soaring, and boosted GDP growth in 2018.

But the stock market performance under Trump isn’t unusual. The S&P 500 rose 42% during the four years following Obama’s first election in 2008, and 50% following his 2012 reelection. The S&P 500, in fact, rose by double digits during every four-year period since Election Day 1980—except for George W. Bush’s two terms.

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President Donald Trump in Washington on April 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Trump is barely 2 years into his term, so future gains might make his record look better. Or, if the economy turns down, it could get worse.

Yet under any president, timing most likely has more to do with the stock market’s performance than administration policies.

The best 4-year performance since 1980 came after Bill Clinton was reelected in 1996, with the S&P 500 gaining 101%. But we know now that much of that was the Dot-com boom— which became a huge bust starting in 2001.

That’s why the worst four-year performance came after George W. Bush’s election in 2000, with stocks tumbling 21% during the next four years. Bush basically inherited a bear market.

Obama won election in 2008 amid a financial collapse and stock-market wipeout—which helped his record, based solely on the numbers. Most of the stock market’s losses came before Obama’s election, with Wall Street bottoming out four months later. Stocks then began a rally that persists to this day.