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The 'Dow vigilante': Stock market could keep President Trump in check

  • Strategas' Trennert says the stock market has the power to temper the actions of lawmakers like the bond-market vigilante of the 1980s and 90s.
  • Trump and Congress face their next test passing a government spending bill to avert a shutdown like that in 2013, which sent the Dow industrials tumbling 5 percent.
  • September could be an opportunity to buy the dip, Trennert said.

The threat of a stock market correction may keep the Trump administration and the GOP in Congress focused on getting something done this fall.

Strategas Chief Investment Officer Jason DeSena Trennert sees the stock market as the new vigilante, tempering the actions of policymakers much like the bond market behaved in the 1980s and 1990s.

President Donald Trump likes to take credit for the string of records set by the Dow Jones industrial average since his election in November. Arguing in his favor are strong corporate profits, nearly full employment, and optimism about economic growth. Trennert said in a note to clients on Friday that it's not likely Trump would want to mess with that.

"While the President seems impervious to the criticisms of a media he views as unfair and subjective, his obvious affinity for the Dow Jones industrial average may render stock prices a more important governor on the high wire act the Administration has become," Trennert wrote in a note to clients on Friday. "A little less schtick and a few more legislative accomplishments might allow everyone to take a much-needed breather from politics."

Events are lining up much like they did at this point in 2013. Then, as now, Congress faced a vote on raising the debt ceiling and approving a spending bill; the Federal Reserve was about to reduce the amount of money it was pumping into the financial system; a search for the next Fed chief was underway; political tensions were rising abroad and the stock market was rallying.

The difference is back then the president was in his second term, having put some major agenda victories behind him, while this time around first-term Trump has no such track record.

His efforts to repeal and replace Obama-era health-care law — with a willing GOP majority in both houses of Congress — have failed twice. Tax reform, infrastructure spending, a border wall with Mexico and other campaign promises await action. His administration has been rocked by high-level staff turnover and communications challenges.

Trump's next test is the debt ceiling and a spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown like the one four years ago that sent the stock market into a sharp 5 percent decline from Sept. 18 to Oct. 8, 2013.

But there is a positive sign this administration can point to: Once the government got back to work in late October 2013, the Dow rallied 12 percent for the rest of the year.

The Dow is up 10.6 percent so far this year. Whether a 5 percent to 10 percent correction will be enough of a threat to keep lawmakers in check remains to be seen, Trennert said in his note on Friday, but "September could be time to buy the dip. Stay tuned."

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