Two weeks before Election Day 2020, Donald Trump and Joe Biden met for their final debate, and the incumbent president made a prediction. "If he's elected, the stock market will crash," the Republican claimed, pointing at his rival.
Biden was elected soon after. The stock market, at least for now, has not crashed. In fact, the headline on this Wall Street Journal report yesterday read, "Stocks Are Off to Best Start to a Presidential Term Since Great Depression."
The stock market closed out President Biden's first 100 days in office on Thursday with its best start to a presidential term since the days of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The S&P 500 has risen 11% since Mr. Biden's Jan. 20 inauguration. The index recorded its strongest performance since the start of Mr. Roosevelt's first term in 1933, when it surged 80% after a spectacular crash in the Great Depression, according to a Dow Jones Market Data analysis.
CNBC ran a similar report earlier this week, noting the stock market's performance in the nascent Biden era "easily trounces" any of his modern predecessors.
At a certain level, none of this should come as too big of a surprise. The nation is starting to crawl out of its pandemic hole, and the robust federal response -- widespread investments, coupled with vaccinations and Federal Reserve support -- is fueling a strong recovery. A Wall Street upturn seemed inevitable.
What's more, any such analysis should come with all kinds of caveats, starting with the most important: the major stock market indexes are not the economy and do not always reflect economic health.
This week's reports stood out as notable, however, in large part because this is likely the one part of Biden's record that frustrates Trump the most.
It's not just that the Republican promised Americans "the stock market will crash" in the event of a Biden presidency -- one of several unfortunate Trump predictions from the fall -- it's also Trump's persistent belief that Wall Street offers a real-time barometer of the incumbent president's performance.
Though the former president's tweets have been removed, Trump spent much of his term in the White House bragging about assorted bull markets. As regular readers may recall, it was a matter of intense preoccupation for the Republican, with every new high seen as proof of his genius.
He even incorporated Wall Street into entirely unrelated stories. In late 2019, for example, Trump argued via Twitter that if he were impeached, "it would lead to the biggest FALL in Market History. It's called a Depression, not a Recession!" Soon after, he was impeached. Investors didn't much care.
Trump spent years operating from the assumption that Wall Street was a direct reflection of the American presidency -- and upturns were proof of Oval Office excellence. That never made any sense, but as the major indexes climb under Biden, I'll look forward to the explanation as to why the stock markets are no longer politically relevant.