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Trump’s grade on the economy rises one notch

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

As the third U.S. president ever impeached, Donald Trump is now a tarnished leader, permanently sullied.

But the Trump economy is looking up.  

Trump’s grade on the Yahoo Finance Trumponomics Report Card ticked up a notch in December, from B to B+. Since January, Trump’s grade has been a solid B, with only tiny variations in stock values, earnings and GDP. But a surging stock market this fall, combined with solid earnings growth, tipped Trump into the B+ range.

Graphic by David Foster

Yahoo Finance has been grading the Trump economy since Trump took office, using data on total employmentmanufacturing employment, earnings, exports, GPD and stock values compiled by Moody’s Analytics. We compare the performance of the Trump economy to that of six prior presidents, at the same point in their first terms. Here’s where he stands overall:

Graphic by David Foster

The Trump economy performs best of the 7 presidents on average hourly earnings growth. Earnings growth has been stronger in the past, but we measure growth relative to earnings when each president took office. By that measure, Trump is best since at least Jimmy Carter.

On total employment, Trump ranks third out of 7, behind Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. On manufacturing employment, Trump ranks second, behind only Carter. Trump is third on performance of the S&P 500 stock index (^GSPC). It did better under Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Trump also ranks third on GDP per capita, behind Clinton and Carter, once again.

Trump’s weakest spot on our report card is exports. That data only goes back to 1993, so we can only compare Trump with three prior presidents. He ranks second out of 4. That seems unlikely to improve, given Trump’s penchant for tariffs and other protectionist measures that limit trade. Trump recently announced a “phase one” trade deal with China that’s supposed to boost U.S. exports to China. But many trade experts are skeptical it will accomplish anything like that, especially since both sides have failed to live up to terms of prior agreements.

If the economy stays as it is for another year, it could give the embattled Trump a plausible shot at reelection, even with the stain of impeachment. His approval rating seems solid in the low 40s, and some voters who don’t like or approve of Trump may give him another shot if they feel like they’re better off.

That’s an uncertain prospect, however. While few economists are predicting a recession, many think growth could slow and the hot job market could cool down. On the Trumponomics Report Card, Trump could fall to worst out of 4 on exports, if there’s a slowdown, and he could drop at least two notches on stocks if there’s a selloff. It wouldn’t be surprising—or necessarily problematic—if Trump fell back to a B. But if he falls to B- or worse, it would signal real danger for his reelection—and impeachment won’t help.

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available. Click here to get Rick’s stories by email.

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