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Trump's First 100 Days: Is the "Trump Trade" Already Dead?

Ryan McQueeney

After Donald Trump’s surprising presidential election victory, it took the market a bit of time to adjust. Nevertheless, investors prepared themselves quickly, and stocks went up shortly after the upset win. Armed with a new plan—dubbed the “Trump Trade” by many—stock experts everywhere geared up to pump cash into the industries that stood to benefit from the new president’s campaign promises.

The real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star-turned-president’s pledge to “Make America Great Again,” resonated with a growing populist movement throughout the country, and Trump’s upset win meant a new, “America First” platform policy was headed to Washington.

By focusing on Trump’s own words, the “Trump Trade” was born. Secure in the belief that the successful businessman could continue his streak of artful deal-making in his new political initiatives, investors predicted that his darling industries would benefit, while those that felt the brunt of his often-harsh rhetoric would falter.

At its simplest level, the Trump Trade made a ton of sense. Building a wall on the southern border and leveraging our import power to pay for it would probably hurt Mexican industry; rolling back environment regulations would make life for coal companies easier; streamlining the approval process would benefit the biotech industry.

And Trump’s confidence to execute his plans—bolstered by his own upset victory—meant the president had quite the schedule for his first 100 days in office.

But the rookie politician seemed to underestimate the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, and alongside multiple investigations into his campaign team’s ties to Russia, as well as public outcry about his frequent trips to Florida, the president’s first 100 days plan sputtered.

Trump’s infrastructure deal was delayed, the Republican Obamacare replacement bill failed to make it out of the House, and a chemical weapons attack in Syria—seemingly perpetrated by the Assad regime—shifted the nation’s focus elsewhere.

April 29 marks the 100th day of the administration, and other than a handful of key executive orders, little has been accomplished from a strictly policy-based perspective. Politifact recently rated Trump’s claim that “No administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days” as “False.”

Nevertheless, Trump remains persistent, and it looks like some of his key ideas are finally starting to gain momentum. Investors reacted positively when Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin hinted that the administration’s tax reform bill was making progress last week, and now Trump himself is scheduled to reveal more details on the law this Wednesday.

Trump is also claiming victory after Neil Gorsuch, his nominee for the vacant spot on the Supreme Court, was approved following a long partisan deadlock that saw Republican Congressmen opt for the “nuclear option” to push him through.

And despite the sluggish start to Trump’s presidency, investors are seemingly still confident in his ability to produce his end-goals eventually. Just take a look at some of the industries that the Trump Trade investors were confident in.

Against an S&P 500 that has gained about 4.5% since Trump’s inauguration, the PowerShares Building and Construction ETF PKB is up nearly 6%, the VanEck Coal ETF KOL is up more than 8%, the SPDR S&P Biotech ETF XBI is up roughly 9.5%, and the iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF ITA is up almost 8%.

What’s interesting here is that, although these industries have outperformed the S&P 500 since Trump’s inauguration, most of their gains were seen immediately following the election. Other ETFs, like the SPDR Financial Select Sector ETF XLF—which surged “bigly” after Trump’s win—do an even better job of illustrating this phenomenon. XLF has basically kept pace with the S&P 500 since the inauguration, but it obviously has not given back any of its post-election gains.

In contrast, some of the ETFs that Trump Traders picked to lose are indeed slacking. For example, the Guggenheim Solar Energy ETF TAN has slipped nearly 3%, and as traders prepare for an individual tax cut, the SPDR S&P High Yield Municipal Bond ETF HYMB has gained just over 1%.

Of course, there are many outliers here, and since there has been such a limited amount of substantial policy enacted so far, a lot of this trading can be attributed to speculation.

But that leads us to the most important question: how long are Trump Traders willing to speculate?

If the markets are being supported by a sense of confidence in Trump, there could be a bit of a pullback if the pace of his administration does not pick up soon. If the president’s proposed bills die like the GOP’s American Healthcare Act did, we might be on the verge of a big bubble burst.

The Trump Trade has slowed down over the first 100 days of this presidency because the first 100 days of this presidency have been quite slow. If that becomes a trend, perhaps some of these industries will start to shed some of their post-election gains.

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SPDR-FINL SELS (XLF): ETF Research Reports
 
PWRSH-DYN BLDG (PKB): ETF Research Reports
 
GUGG-SOLAR (TAN): ETF Research Reports
 
ISHARS-US AEROS (ITA): ETF Research Reports
 
SPDR-NU SP HYMB (HYMB): ETF Research Reports
 
SPDR-SP BIOTECH (XBI): ETF Research Reports
 
VANECK-COAL (KOL): ETF Research Reports
 
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