It’s The Trump Slump—But Don’t Blame The Donald!

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by David Stockman, David Stockman’s Contra Corner:

The are few snarkier defenders of the current rotten financial status quo than Ben White of Politico’s Money Morning. So it’s not surprising that he is out this AM with the latest Trumb-o-phobe meme from Swamp Dweller’s Central.

To wit, the renewed stock market swoon is purportedly all the Donald’s fault owing to his unhinged tweet storms, protectionist trade initiatives and attacks on the casino’s sacred cow of the moment, Amazon:

WELCOME TO THE TRUMP SLUMP – President Donald Trump is killing his own stock market rally. The president’s tweet storm attacking Amazon and his protectionist trade actions against China and other nations helped crush the stock market on Monday with the Dow falling over 700 points in late afternoon trade before closing down 458, or close to 2 percent.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq fell even further, led by a five percent drop in Amazon after the president ripped the company over its delivery deals with the United States Postal Service. The Dow, Nasdaq and S&P are all now down for the year. The Dow has plunged 11 percent since its all-time high of 26,616 on Jan. 26, entering official correction territory.

Traders, money managers and economists on Monday laid much of the blame for recent declines on Trump, who spent most of 2017 bragging on a near daily basis about the massive run-up in stock prices that followed his election and the passage of sweeping corporate tax cuts.

The above is just unadulterated rubbish, of course. It’s a tribute to the mindless anti-Trump bias that dominates the Imperial City press and the context-free Recency Bias that passes for financial analysis.

On at least this matter, the Donald is definitely not guilty because he hasn’t been around nearly long enough to take the blame or the praise for anything related to the economy. The phony stock market boom has been gestating for three decades owing to central bank monetary madness; the up-leg since election day reflects nothing more than the final phase of an horribly metastasized financial bubble that has now reached its sell-by date.

In fact, our clueless medicine show impresario has confused the last gasp of the robo-machines and dip-buyers for an endorsement of his cockamamie brew of protectionism, nationalism, populism and unhinged Keynesian borrow and spend. So rather than puncturing the bubble he accurately identified during the campaign, he’ll soon be dripping with implosion splatter from comb-over to toe.

Likewise, the market’s post-election rip has nothing to do with a putative Trump economic boom because there hasn’t been one. A 2.0% or lower real GDP growth rate is now virtually baked into the cake for Q1 based on the economic releases to date. That would amount to a $75 billion gain over the Q4 annualized level of real GDP.

Accordingly, the first five quarters of the Trump Economy will have generated an average real GDP gain of $102 billion per quarter. Then again, during the previous three years (2014-2016) the quarterly growth rate was $99 billion per quarter.

We’d call that a distinction without a difference. Indeed, the notion that there has been some-kind of Trump fostered economic acceleration is, well, Fake News.

In fact, what we have is a plodding business expansion that is freighted down by debt and financial engineering—both gifts of a rogue central bank that has been inflicting harm on the main street economy for decades.

As we have frequently demonstrated, the C-suites of corporate America have been strip-mining their cash flows and balance sheets in order to goose near-term share prices and stock option packages, thereby drastically short-changing investments in long term productivity and growth. Since the turn of the century, in fact, upwards of $20 trillion has been shunted into unproductive M&A deals, stock buybacks and leveraged recaps of every dimension.

Not surprisingly, this massive diversion of cash and capital into Wall Street has left main street high and dry. What counts for growth and productivity, of course, is net investment after inflation and replenishment of capital consumed in current year depreciation and amortization.

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