Trump's first 100 days: the verdict
Gillian Tett, the FT's US Managing Editor, looks at the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency and the impact so far achieved on markets, consumer confidence and the whole American economy
Produced by Ben Marino. Edited by Alessia Giustiniano. Filmed by Donell Newkirk. Graphics by Russell Birkett.
Donald Trump, the United States President, is a man who knows all about the power of symbols. And right now, he's facing a very important one. The so-called 100-day milestone is typically when people try to assess whether a new president is actually committed to radical change or simply deliver more of the same. So what can we make of what Donald Trump has done so far?
Now, if you want to be optimistic, one thing that Donald Trump has achieved in doing is boosting the stock market quite dramatically. Before his election in November, there was a lot of prediction that if he actually became president, the stock market would crash. In fact, the reverse has happened.
The S&P 500 have let up hitting 2,400 at the beginning of the year before later coming down a bit. And that reflects a lot of investor excitement about the promises that Donald Trump has been making about deregulation, tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and the repatriation of overseas cash piles. Many investors, it seems, have been certainly applauding Donald Trump very loudly.
Another area where Donald Trump has had considerable success has been in terms of consumer confidence. Now consumer confidence has been pretty low in recent years, which, frankly, is no surprise given the aftermath of the financial crisis, the long recession, and then the fact the wages just haven't been going up in America.
But since Donald Trump was elected, we've seen a dramatic increase in consumer confidence, according to the University of Michigan, Consumer Sentiment Indicator. In fact, it's actually hit a 17-year high, which is quite remarkable. So when it comes to looking at how people with money in their pockets are feeling about the future, it seems that Trump has, again, scored a pretty dramatic win.
Unfortunately, there's one big problem on the economic front, which is that although the so-called soft indicators of the economy-- those linked with sentiment and confidence-- have been rising, if you look at the hard data-- the tangible statistics on what's actually happened in the economy in recent months-- those aren't so encouraging at all.
For example, if you look at auto sales or retail sales or corporate investment or industrial production, all of those numbers have been flatlining. And if you look at the picture of GDP overall, the Atlanta Fed comprises a measure called GDPNow, which suggests the economy only expanded by 0.5% percent on a quarterly basis in the first three months of the year. And that's a slower pace of growth than last year and a lot slower than Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail when he said he would deliver 4% growth.
Now, although the economic signals are mixed, if you want to be optimistic, you can say, well, that's just a matter of time. When Donald Trump's reforms actually start to bite, we'll see the economy accelerate. And he's recently been promising new measures to push forward tax reform. He says at some point he'll get health care fixed. Let's see. And he's also promising deregulation and infrastructure boost.
And when you look at the measure of how voters are feeling, it seems that, at least, part of the public is indeed approving what he's doing. The approval rate dipped down a bit at the beginning of the year, it's actually been rising in recent days. But overall, it's been fairly stable at around 40%, 45% in recent months. That's lower than historical patterns, but it's not too bad.
Similarly, the disapproval rate has been going up and down a bit. What's clear though is that the electorate is still very divided because the [INAUDIBLE] polls show that people who were already supporting Donald Trump, essentially, haven't lost their support. People who hated him from the get go, still, essentially, don't like what he's doing. But the independents, it does seem, are starting to get cold feet. What's clear is that the next few months are going to be crucial to see whether Donald Trump can actually deliver on his bold promises.