President Donald Trump said the stock market rally since his election victory gives him the opportunity to be more aggressive in his trade war with China and other countries.
“This is the time. You know the expression we’re playing with the bank’s money,” he told CNBC's Joe Kernen in a “Squawk Box” interview aired Friday.
The president has a big cushion. The S&P 500 is up 31 percent since Trump's win on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016, through Thursday. The market's gain has slowed this year as the administration has implemented new tariffs on countries, with the benchmark index up 4.9 percent for 2018 through Thursday.
Trump added the market would likely be much higher if he didn’t escalate the trade issues with China and the rest of the world.
“We are being taking advantage of and I don’t like it,” he said. “I would have a higher stock market right now. … It could be 80 percent [since the election] if I didn’t want to do this.”
The president also said he is willing to slap tariffs on every Chinese good imported to the U.S. should the need arise.
"I'm ready to go to 500," Trump added.
The reference is to the dollar amount of Chinese imports the U.S. accepted in 2017 — $505.5 billion to be exact, compared with the $129.9 billion the U.S. exported to China, according to Census Bureau data.
So far in the trade war between the two largest economic powers in the world, the U.S. has slapped tariffs on just $34 billion of Chinese products, which China met with retaliatory duties.
— CNBC's Jeff Cox contributed to this report.