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Trump touts wage gains and factory jobs in Economic Club of New York speech

Trump speaks at Economic Club of New York

President Donald Trump told business leaders in New York on Tuesday that he plans to continue to enact policies that will allow U.S. companies to "compete and win." U.S. manufacturers have brought back 600,000 jobs under his presidency, he said, and 7 million Americans have come off of food stamps.

"We will be pro-growth, pro-American, and more is yet to come," Mr. Trump said in a speech at the Economic Club of New York on Tuesday. "You will see things, even in this room, you will be surprised to see. We have tremendous economic potential." One surprise for the room on Tuesday: Mr. Trump said that wages for the average American worker during his presidency had risen $10,000. That was $3,000 more than the $7,000 that Trump claimed workers had gained just three weeks ago.   

The claim is based on a report from a private economic research group. But according to data from the Census, median incomes in America were basically unchanged in 2018. 

Mr. Trump said about $2,000 of the income gain he cited came from lower taxes. Meantime, many experts have said that the gains for average Americans from Mr. Trump's late 2017 tax cuts have been less than $1,000.

Mr. Trump also said that 10,000 factories have opened in the U.S. under his watch, adding that companies are bringing jobs back from overseas. "Many more want to, and are planning on coming back to the U.S.," he said. "I know it is true because i have been saying it for three years and the fake news has never corrected me. It would be headlines, 'Trump made a mistake,' but they can't say it."

Still awaiting a trade deal

Investors and businesses hoping that Mr. Trump would announce progress on closing what he has called "stage one" of a trade deal with China will be disappointed. The president gave no details of that in Tuesday's speech, merely expressing confidence that the sides would clinch an agreement soon.

"We're close," Mr. Trump said. At the same time, he said he would continue to raise tariffs on China if talks fell through, which he said remains a possibility. "We will only accept a deal if it's good for the U.S. and our workers and our great companies," Mr. Trump added.

Tariff opponents have blamed The Trump administration's ongoing trade war with China for causing the biggest slump in U.S. manufacturing since the the Great Recession.

Later this week, the administration faces a deadline on whether to raise tariffs on European Union auto imports. But Mr. Trump didn't address whether he would delay the increase. Many have been expecting him to put off new tariffs on EU autos for another six months, moving the decision closer to the 2020 election. 

"They recently reported a poll that said Obama is far more popular in Germany than Trump," Trump said at the event. "He should be."

Mr. Trump credited his administration's policies with the continued U.S. economic expansion. He tweeted before the speech: "Economy is booming. Seems set to have another record day."

Mr. Trump's remarks come as the pace of U.S. economic growth has slowed to roughly 2% annually, which would be far from a record. 

Financial markets rose modestly on Tuesday. The S&P 500 stock index was up nearly 0.25%, or 12 points, to 3,099, around noon. The index has never closed above 3,100. 

Recession fears recede

Despite Mr. Trump's focus on the stock market, many Americans, particularly lower-income ones, do not have any money invested in stocks. Economists have long questioned the ties between the stock market and the performance of the real economy.

Still, despite fears earlier this year that a trade war could tip the economy into recession, the unemployment rate remains near record lows and the stock market near record highs. While the status of trade negotiations is unclear, the U.S. announced a preliminary deal in October that opens the door to a reduction in tariffs, which corporate leaders say are hurting business investment as well as broader economic growth.

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