Home > S&P 500 Index: Charting Presidential Stock Performance From Carter to Obama (INDEXSP:.INX)
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S&P 500 Index: Charting Presidential Stock Performance From Carter to Obama (INDEXSP:.INX)

August 31st, 2012

Corey Rosenbloom: With the 2012 Presidential Campaign now in full swing, I thought it would be interesting to observe prior performance of the stock market under the different presidential administrations from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama.

The charts below all begin and end on January 20th as the starting and ending day of a presidential term for comparison purposes.

Each chart plots the S&P 500 Index activity throughout each term.

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Charts are presented without commentary and without any sort of bias.

Be sure to read the brief caveats at the end of the post:

Jimmy Carter:  1977 – 1981

Ronald Reagan (1st):  1981 – 1985

Ronald Reagan (2nd):  1985 – 1989

George H. W. Bush:  1989 – 1993

William “Bill” Clinton (1st):  1993 – 1997

William “Bill” Clinton (2nd):  1997 – 2001

George W. Bush (1st):  2001 – 2005

George W. Bush (2nd):  2005 – 2009

Barack Obama (5 months remain):  2009 – 2013

Composite S&P 500 Percentage Performance (by term):

Quick Caveats:

  • No president can implement all the policies he wishes.
  • Administrations are constrained by Congress (House and Senate), Lobbyists/Interest Groups, Public Opinion, and finally the Supreme Court.
  • Many presidents have encountered “Divided Government,” where the Congress is controlled by the opposition party (Reagan, Clinton, and Obama, for example).
  • Events always occur that are out of any president’s control.  Also, the government does not control the economy.
  • Policies that help or hurt the free market economy include tax policies (rates), regulatory policies, and federal budgetary policies/investment (to name a few).
  • Policies implemented may take months or even years to affect the economy.
  • A better method for assessing stock market and presidential performance may be to start the comparisons after the first full year of a new administration (with the exception being the re-election of incumbents)
  • The policies of the independent Federal Reserve (interest rates, stimulus) greatly effect the broader economy.

Despite the numerous caveats for extrapolation, it’s interesting to observe how the stock market has performed over specific administrations, particularly with respect to major events (1987’s crash, the late 1990’s tech bubble, the early 2000’s tech crash, the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks, the 2008 crash).

The most interesting observation I had is that the stock market has such a bullish 4-year performance over all administrations, save for 2001 – 2009 (two recessions that occurred like book-ends to the decade).

As the campaign continues into the November 2012 election, it’s interesting to learn about stock performance under prior administrations and policies.

Related: S&P 500 Index (INDEXSP:.INX).

Written By Corey Rosenbloom, CMT From Afraid To Trade

My name is Corey Rosenbloom, CMT (Chartered Market Technician)  trader, educator, analyst, and I am excited to share with you my  experiences studying and trading the markets and to hear from you  regarding your experiences, challenges, and frustrations, and successes.  My goal is to create a community dedicated to reaching out to those who  have been burned by the market or are anxious about risking their money to make money in the stock, options, or futures markets. Together, we can share strategies and learn how to overcome crippling fears that keep  us from achieving our highest potential.


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  1. James
    September 12th, 2012 at 11:13 | #1

    The real issue for us now is Obama…..the difference with past administrations, except for Geo W. Bush…..was minimal. Obama is growing the debt at an unsustainable rate. He has increased the federal debt more than 50% in just 40 months…..a rate of debt growth NEVER matched by any president………none even close………We WILL soon go bankrupt with him and Harry Reid in control of the finances.

  2. Paul
    September 7th, 2012 at 15:20 | #2

    National debt increases far more during republican administrations due to tax cuts and wars. The increase in the national debt under Obama is not out of line with Reagan and either Bush. Admittedly it is out of line when compared to Carter and Clinton due to the Bush tax cut extensions and stimulus effforts. I make this statement on a percent/year basis (see http://www.skymachines.com/US-National-Debt-Per-Capita-Percent-of-GDP-and-by-Presidental-Term.htm for example)

  3. James
    September 4th, 2012 at 17:21 | #3

    I will ad one post note. While it is not normally possible for the president to significantly impact financial markets….they can significant destroy the economic health of a country. Bush ran up deficits at a bad pace….Obama has tripled down on this Bush legacy with his totally irresponsible wild spending action by increasing the national debt from $10 Trillion to 16 Trillion in less than 4 years….spending at a pace that could lead us to bankruptcy by 2013 or 2014. So in that sense, a president can have a huge….negative…. impact.

  4. mike
    August 31st, 2012 at 14:13 | #4

    “the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks”…. not exactly… towers went down in 2001.

  5. James
    August 31st, 2012 at 13:24 | #5

    This little exercise is, to a large degree, meaningless. Most presidents are subject to the times and cycles of the market in which they are elected.

    Bottom line…….markets move in waves…..and wherever you jump in……your fate is pre-determined. Oh yes, the Fed and the president can make little, short term adjustments……but overall, they actually have little influence. In 1939, after spending the 2012 equivalent of trillions of dollars on “stimulus projects”, FDR’s Sec of the Treasury stated to effect, “It didn’t matter a twit.”

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