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Trump's Lack of Accomplishments Hasn't Killed Hope on Wall Street

Emily Stewart

Hope springs eternal on Wall Street as President Trump arrives at his 100th day in office.

The Trump administration has yet to deliver on many of the promises that drove markets higher after his election -- namely, tax reform, deregulation and infrastructure spending. But despite a number of "incompletes" on the White House report card, many investors give Trump the benefit of the doubt and see signs of progress, if not concrete accomplishments.

Trump has signed a slew of executive orders since his January 20 inauguration and rolled back about a dozen Obama-era regulations through the Congressional Review Act. However, he has not yet made any major legislative achievements, and most of the orders he has signed have not yet had any meaningful effect.

"If you look at the tangible accomplishments, there are not many, at least through the eyes of Wall Street," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. "The intangibles are still positive. There is a new tone in Washington."

"Basically, the hope is there, but there's been no action," said Dick Bove, financial sector analyst at Rafferty Capital.

Stocks jumped on March 1 on the back of the president's address to a joint session of Congress, but since then, the White House has done little to spur investor confidence for what's ahead. Congressional Republicans' decision to pull a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare from the House floor sowed doubts about the GOP's ability to coalesce around legislative initiatives.

"He made a big mistake messing with health care first. He's probably down 14-0 on the scoreboard," said Trip Miller, managing partner at Memphis-based hedge fund Gullane Capital Partners.

"It was a turning point that was a confrontation of expectations and reality," said Ablin.

The White House's Wednesday release of a blueprint for tax reform left much to be desired. Stocks declined as the administration's one-page set of principles generated more questions than answers. Stocks ended the day Friday, Trump's 99thth day in office, with modest declines.

"The market expected a document outlining the administration's 100,000-foot view on tax reform, but instead was given a view from the space station," said Compass Point analyst Isaac Boltansky in a note.

Capitol Hill's handling of government funding hasn't inspired investor confidence, either. Congress on Friday passed a one-week stopgap bill to keep the government up and running. They'll take up negotiations again next week.

Trump has, at times, thrown a wrench in negotiations, first insisting that wall funding being included in a budget deal and on Thursday firing off a handful of tweets blaming Democrats for failing to strike a deal.

"All these elements are indications that essentially policymaking in D.C. has not really changed," said Greg Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, emphasizing that Trump's shortcomings have largely been a question of expectations. "If you set the expectations quite high, then you're essentially shooting yourself in the foot, and you will disappoint voters, and you will disappoint markets, and that's really what we've seen."

Michael Mussio, president at wealth management firm FBB Capital Partners, looked at the bright side -- the first 100 days weren't as volatile as the first 10, when the White House spent an inordinate amount of time and energy arguing over the size of his inauguration crowd, caused an uproar with a travel ban and fired the deputy attorney general.

"If the first 100 days was going to feel like the first seven, you're gripping the handrails white-knuckled," he said.

Investors are looking beyond Trump's first 100 days with cautious optimism, despite the obstacles ahead.

"He can't be doing that badly if the markets are still giving him relatively high grades in the form of market performance," said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research.

"One hundred days is nothing compared to the 1400 or so days that he will be president," said Daco. "We're not even 10% of the way there, so let's take a breather."

Editors' pick: Originally published April 28.

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