Martin Flanagan: Can markets stay immune from Trump?

Martin Flanagan considers whether stock markets will remain unaffected by 'one-man hurricane' Donald Trump. Picture: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Martin Flanagan considers whether stock markets will remain unaffected by 'one-man hurricane' Donald Trump. Picture: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
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One wonders periodically whether the stock market lives in a hermetically sealed room away from reality, enveloped in its internalised conflict between greed and fear.

Shakespeare was rarely wrong. But to buy or not buy, that is the question.

Markets have had a Trump bump since he won the US presidency, a momentum far from derailed since his defiant, divisive, yet oddly gloomy inauguration speech recently.

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With some fluctuation, stocks on both sides of the Atlantic have largely enjoyed investor favour. This may have surprised many stock market mavens who thought the maverick billionaire Republican was to macro-economic stability what Attilla the Hun was to basket-weaving.

The FTSE 100 index closed down just shy of 1 per cent yesterday, reflected in a similar dip in both European equities and on Wall Street. But the occasional retreats in shares prices have had the feeling of blips rather than any riptide dragging overly sanguine investors under.

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Markets quite simply have bought into Trump’s promise of slashed American corporation tax and massive infrastructure spending. Good for company earnings, let’s fill our boots.

But with each stunning example of how radically unprecedented a presidency this is, with government by Twitter and rat-a-tat executive order, and searing controversy the default presidential position, one wonders how long stock markets can hold their nose.

Not out of any sense of sensitivity (money isn’t sensitive), but out of sheer fear Trump will upset the applecart so fundamentally that all bets will be off on where markets will go.

A “beautiful” new wall from California to Texas on the Mexican border, a ban on persecuted refugees from seven mainly Muslim countries, marching protests round the world (including more than one million Britons asking for his state visit here to be cancelled), Trump’s unabated protectionist talk and bullying of American companies, cosying up to Russia’s Putin, verbally sabre-ratting with China, upsetting the environmental lobby.

Can stock markets really remain above the political cataclysm, unaffected by the one-man hurricane? It will be interesting to see.

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