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How has the stock market done under Trump, Obama and other presidents?

What to expect in State of the Union address
What to expect from Trump's State of the Union address 05:56

Donald Trump loves to boast about how well the stock market has done under his presidency. He's likely to list that again among his achievements on Tuesday night during his State of the Union address.

Indeed, the Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped another 410 points, or about 1.4%, on Tuesday, while the S&P 500-stock index  was up 1.5%. 

In all, the stock market's gains under Mr Trump during the first three years of his presidency — up 43% since his January 2017 inauguration — are impressive, but they are not extraordinary among U.S. presidents.

In fact, out of the past four presidents Mr. Trump ranks third in terms of stock market performance during his first three years in office, trailing both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, according to Macrotrends, a market data website that has compiled how the stock market has done under all of the presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.

"My view is that the stock market's performance hasn't been particularly brilliant under (Mr.) Trump," said Desmond Lachman, a resident scholar at the right-leaning American Economic Institute. "Not that different than (Mr.) Obama."

And Mr. Trump's 43% gain is far from the best among the presidents. That title goes to Franklin Roosevelt. He presided over a 135% rise in the stock market during his first three years in office. 

Macrotrends based its analysis on the S&P 500, which tracks 500 of the largest publicly traded companies based in the United States from all sectors in the economy. These days, it includes such household names as Apple, Exxon Mobile, General Electric, McDonalds and others. And the S&P return numbers from Macrotrends factor in just the increase in the prices of the stocks and not the extra gains from their dividends.

The data firm also started each president's stock clock on his first Inauguration Day. Turn back the clock to Election Day, as Mr. Trump's supporters often do, and Mr. Trump's stock market return through the next 38 months increases to 51%, giving him bragging rights over Mr. Obama's 33% for the similar period. 

Either way, the U.S. stock market has done well — and certainly better than its average annual 10% return since 1926 — under Mr. Trump.

The more important question is what does that achievement mean. As most economists will tell you, the stock market is not the economy. The best recent example of this was the stock market rebound in 2009, long before the economy actually turned for most Americans.

Last year, the stock market gained an impressive 29%. Economic activity was up only 2.1% — slower than the economy's rate of growth in the last three years of Mr. Obama's presidency.

What's more, stocks are only owned by a little more than half of all Americans, according to the most recent data from the Federal Reserve. And more than 80% of the wealth in the stock market is owned by the top 10% of the wealthiest Americans. So most people don't get the benefit of a higher stock market.

"For blue-collar workers, I would think the increase in the stock market would be a source of resentment, not proof of (Mr.) Trump's economic success," Lachman said.

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