Playing Politics With Mr. Market

A WSJ columnist slaps Obama for "his" seven-week bear market two years ago

There’s a long and boring history of hacks, typically on the right, blaming or crediting presidents for whatever the stock market happens to be doing at the moment. The press falls for it, too, sometimes.

But the mark of a real hack is to blame your political opponent for the bear markets but somehow forget all about him when the bulls are on the march.

Consider The Wall Street Journal’s Evan Newmark, who writes about the current bull market today, noting that lots of investors panicked and missed out on a 98 percent surge in less than two years. Not Newmark, though. He stayed the course, as they say:

By early 2009, my investment portfolio had plummeted nearly 50% from its 2007 peak. That meant half of my life’s savings gone - at least on paper.

If you didn’t know me well, you wouldn’t have noticed much angst. I wrote my columns and pestered my colleagues here at the WSJ as I always did.

But these were not fun days. Every evening, I checked my online accounts, screaming silently. Every night in bed, I dreamed up a new bank collapse or Obama pronouncement that would drive the market even lower.

And indeed he did.

Here’s Newmark on March 4, 2009—two days before the bottom hit and the bull market began (criticizing Obama for calling a bottom, of all things):

The day of the election, the Dow was driven to more than 9600. Today, post-release of the Obama budget, it is at 6800, down 30%.

The more investors have learned about the state of the economy and Obama’s plans for it, the less they rate the stock market’s prospects.

Obama’s higher taxes and antibusiness policies have shaken investor confidence.

Two days before that, Newmark said Obama was “killing America”:

So far I’ve lost about 25% on my stock market investments since Obama’s election. Why would I put in any more money when the President and the Congress are at war with Wall Street?

A week earlier Newmark had warned readers about “Obama’s Dow 5000.”

Two years later, “Obama’s Dow”—such that it is—is at 12,233.


So Newmark hangs a falling stock market pricing in apocalypse around the neck of a president in office eight weeks trying to pick up the pieces from a bumbling predecessor. But now, with the hindsight of two years and a roaring stock recovery, he’s not calling it “Obama’s Dow 12,233” and crediting the president for the “sharpest, fastest and greatest bull market run of your investing lifetime.”

No, all the president gets is a slap for how Newmark thought his policies were driving the markets lower two years ago.

Now that’s hacktacular.

Further Reading:

It’s Obama’s Bear Market, Says Bloomberg. Dude’s been in office six weeks. The stock market is a notoriously impossible-to-predict-or-interpret animal. It goes where it may, for reasons the smartest traders can only guess at.

Now Bloomberg Calls it an Obama Bull Market. That relatively quick turnaround ought to show you how foolish it is to peg stock market moves to a president.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,