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Trump’s grade on the economy drops to a B

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

The stock market has been unkind to investors lately. President Trump is feeling the pain, too.

The 9.2% stock market decline in December bumped Trump from a B+ grade on the Yahoo Finance Trumponomics Report Card to a flat B. On all other measures, Trump scored the same in January as he did a month earlier. He still gets good marks on employment and earnings, compared with the last 6 presidents at the same point in their tenure. But the stock market’s performance under Trump fell from 6th best among recent presidents to 4th best. (Check out our full methodology.) Here’s the latest monthly report card:

Source: Yahoo Finance, Moody's Analytics

Trump’s weakest category is exports—and we don’t have the latest monthly numbers, because they come from the Census Bureau, which is one of the agencies currently shut down. But exports have struggled under Trump mostly because of a relatively strong dollar and the disruptive effects of Trump’s tariffs and other forms of protectionism.

Since we launched the report card in May 2017, with data provided by Moody’s Analytics, Trump’s grade on the economy has varied from a high of A- to a low of B. Overall, those are good grades reflecting a strong economy. The highest monthly grades, two A-minuses, came in the fall of 2017, when business spending was strong and stocks were soaring in anticipation of the coming tax cuts. The modest fall-off since then comes mostly from weakness in exports and, now, stocks.

The last jobs report was remarkably strong, with employers adding 312,000 jobs in December. But job growth was even stronger at the same point in Jimmy Carter’s first term, and also in Bill Clinton’s.

Source: Yahoo Finance, Moody's Analytics

There have been other signs, meanwhile, of a slight weakening in the economy, such as declines in small-business optimism and consumer confidence. Those are still at high levels though, and there are hardly any signs of a recession occurring any time soon.

Barring surprises, Trump’s grade is likely to stay in the B range for a couple of months. It’s pretty clear GDP growth is slowing, which could knock Trump down a notch in GDP per capita, one of the six indicators comprising our report card. A modest reversal in manufacturing employment could drop him a notch there. He could regain a notch, however, if stocks move modestly higher in January, and they’re off to a good start. If stocks continue to slide and other numbers weaken, Trump could be heading toward his first B-.

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman