Biden long avoided touting stock market gains. Now he can’t resist.

Biden long avoided touting stock market gains. Now he can’t resist.

President Joe Biden spent his first few years in office trying to reverse a hallmark of the Trump era: Touting (and taking credit) whenever the stock market hit a new milestone.

But new market highs in recent months and the opportunity to bait Donald Trump in an election year have proven simply too tempting to resist.

The latest example was the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) closing above 40,000 for the first time ever last week.

The Dow touching the milestone Thursday and then closing above it Friday spurred a flurry of Biden-world commentary. It closed just below 40,000 on Monday.

The marker was noted from campaign press releases to White House social media accounts to the White House press briefing.

Biden long avoided touting stock market gains. Now he can’t resist.

President Joe Biden offers a thumbs-up during a trip to San Francisco in 2023. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images)

“Record stock market highs under President Biden are good for retirement accounts and household wealth and that is just a fact,” noted White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Thursday.

She offered her thoughts in response to a question and went on to make the case that stock highs were evidence that Biden’s economic plan was working.

Stock market watchers and economists often stress that market moves in any given week or month often have little to do with the Oval Office occupant. The recent run-up, for example, is largely attributed to a cooler inflation reading across the economy.

Biden also has a long way to go to reach Trump levels of stock market punditry. The former president seemed to comment on every stock market milestone throughout his 4 years in office.

Trump has also kept up a high velocity of commentary since leaving Washington, with his take changing dramatically depending on market ups and downs. Trump has at times in recent years taken credit for market rallies and also predicting crashes because of Biden.

But Biden more and more is emulating the Trumpian patterns with commentary in recent weeks that could be used against him if — as markets sometimes do — things take a dip between now and November.

Touting market highs is a temptation for all presidents, but Biden marked it early as one of the countless ways he wanted to distance himself from Trump and operate in office differently.

“I don’t look at the stock market as a means by which to judge the economy like my predecessor did,” he said during a speech in July 2021.

Biden did offer a not-so-subtle allusion to the strong stock market gains in those months but also added “that’s not how I judge whether or not we have economic growth.”

By the following January, with the market even higher, Biden couldn’t resist more of a direct comment.

“By the way, the stock market — the last guy’s measure of everything — is about 20 percent higher than it was when my predecessor was there,” he said during a Jan. 7, 2022 speech on jobs. “It has hit record after record after record on my watch.”

But that proved to be ominous timing for Biden as markets that January were about to have a bumpy year which saw the S&P 500 (GSPC) down about 20%, according to Yahoo Finance data.

Biden’s light touting even came back to vex him and his aides.

“We know families are concerned about inflation and the stock market,” Jean-Pierre acknowledged in June 2022 when she was pressed about his January comments.

Then on September 13 of that year, Biden held a celebration at the White House for his recently enacted “Inflation Reduction Act” but encountered a snag that day when a surprise inflation reading kicked off the worst day for all three major averages since June 2020.

Jean-Pierre was again pressed the next day, calling stocks just “one measure of how the economy is doing.”

Trump, meanwhile, spent much of 2022 comparing the downturn to the Great Depression and charging that the US economy was collapsing.

Stocks, of course, regained their losses and ended 2023 back in record territory.

They reached those new highs just as an election year rematch between Biden and Trump began to take shape.

It was an irresistible combination as Biden bragged on market highs in December and resurfaced comments from Trump predicting a crash.

Then in recent weeks — as the Dow pierced the 40k barrier — the floodgates flew open.

The past week saw a flood of releases. Messages appeared on platforms ranging from Elon Musk’s X to Meta’s Threads and Instagram. Biden even marked the moment on TikTok.

The posts celebrated the new highs and again resurrected old video footage of Trump predicting a stock market crash under Biden.

“If he’s elected,” Trump said in 2020 while pointing across the debate stage at Biden in just one of the many similar examples, “the stock market will crash.”

It was a drumbeat from the Biden campaign that was also notable for its quantity. One campaign account even posted a series of videos of conservative outlets like Fox and Newsmax reporting the good news for investors.

Trump himself naturally could resist weighing in — and trying to take credit for himself.

He veered into the topic of markets during a recent speech to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

Trump claimed a Wall Street insider named “Scott” — an apparent reference to former Soros Fund Management CIO Scott Bessent — told him “the only reason that the stock market is doing well is because Trump is leading in all of the polls.”

“He said it but I said it too,” Trump told the crowd. “I believe it.”

DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 18: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the NRA ILA Leadership Forum at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 18, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. The National Rifle Association's annual meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 18: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the NRA ILA Leadership Forum at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting & Exhibits at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center on May 18, 2024 in Dallas, Texas. The National Rifle Association's annual meeting and exhibit runs through Sunday. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Former president Donald Trump at the National Rifle Association (NRA) Annual Meeting on May 18 in Dallas. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images) (Justin Sullivan via Getty Images)

It of course remains to be seen which direction the market goes in the months ahead. Perhaps the only thing for sure is that both candidates are likely to weigh in.

Ben Werschkul is Washington correspondent for Yahoo Finance.

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