Trump Silent On Stock Market After Coronavirus Plunge President Trump used to boast about stock market gains at every turn. But after coronavirus fears caused the worst plunge since 2008, he has gone silent on this pillar of his reelection pitch.

Trump Says 'Markets Will Take Care Of Themselves' After Stock Sell-Off

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We find out this morning where the stock market goes after a week of devastating losses. The people sure to watch closely include the president, as NPR's Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Even as he responded to growing fears about coronavirus, President Trump had his eye on the markets. At the start of what turned out to be a terrible, no-good week for stock prices, Trump tweeted, quote, "the coronavirus is very much under control in the U.S.A.," adding "stock market starting to look very good to me," exclamation point. By the end of the week, he was less sanguine.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think it's just people don't know - it's the unknown. You know, they look at it and they say, how long will this last?

KEITH: More than any other president in recent memory, President Trump has tied his fate to the stock market. He has tweeted about it more than 140 times since taking office and has made stock price gains a key part of his reelection pitch, often inflating the real numbers, as he did just 10 days ago in this video released by the White House.

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TRUMP: The stock market is up 80%, in some cases much higher than that; 401(k)s are at record levels.

KEITH: If you look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the real number on the day Trump said that was 56%, and that's if you calculate starting with his election rather than his inauguration, as Trump does. Some of those gains were erased in the last week. On Friday night at a rally in South Carolina, President Trump didn't mention the stock market, which is quite a change from his norm. In recent months, he's boasted about market records at rallies...

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TRUMP: And we've set 144 records on the stock market in three years - 144 records.

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KEITH: ...In his State of the Union...

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TRUMP: Since my election, U.S. stock markets have soared.

KEITH: ...Even at the National Prayer Breakfast.

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TRUMP: And for those of you that are interested in stocks, it looks like the stock market will be way up again today.

KEITH: Trump even has a riff he does at rallies about a man he calls Henry, whose wife was wowed by the performance of his 401(k).

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TRUMP: She thinks I'm a genius, sir. She loves me again. Shows what money can do, right?

KEITH: It's easy to get caught up in the exuberance of it all, says Matt McDonald, a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies, a political and economic consulting firm.

MATT MCDONALD: If the parade is going, there's a high temptation to just get in front of the parade. The problem is, you know, live by the markets, die by the markets. And, you know, we just went into correction territory the other day.

KEITH: The Dow set another record last Thursday - the largest point drop ever in a single day. Trump isn't boasting about that one. And while market movements aren't a particularly meaningful economic indicator, along with gas prices they are something consumers see on a regular basis, says McDonald.

MCDONALD: For presidents, they want to be careful about taking responsibility for things that they can't entirely control.

KEITH: And while the president can't control stock prices, he really does have responsibility for how he and his administration respond to coronavirus, something he acknowledged on Saturday after announcing the first U.S. death from the disease.

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TRUMP: Safety, health - No. 1. And we were - the markets will take care of themselves.

KEITH: White House officials are running through options of what to do if coronavirus infects the broader economy as well. For now, economic adviser Larry Kudlow is urging calm.

LARRY KUDLOW: But I just think everybody, whether you're an investor or whether you're, you know, ordinary, main street person, people should not overreact.

KEITH: How coronavirus plays out in the coming weeks and months and the Trump administration's response to it could have a lot more bearing on President Trump's reelection chances than what's happening on Wall Street.

Tamara Keith, NPR News.

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