Market will pop if Trump appoints Romney to his cabinet OpEds

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Russel 2000, S&P 500and Nasdaq — four key market indicators — all reached record highs. Those market moves exemplify what has confounded financial prognosticators since Nov. 8 every bit as much as the political pollsters and pundits were baffled and bewildered by the election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. president. What’s next?

As the election results were coming in, shocks to the system were detailed by plummeting markets from Japan to Chicago. They were being badly beaten. The Hang Seng, Nikkei, futures on Nasdaq and the Dow had all plummeted by several percentage points. In the early morning hours, after the Clinton campaign chairman told supporters at their “victory celebration” they should go home, a completely atypical Donald Trump appeared before his followers. Gone was the seemingly crazed, even creepy at times, campaigner. Enter a fellow who had transitioned — a gentlemanly leader who appeared particularly presidential.

We recall governor Romney said some not so nice things about Mr. Trump — phony and fraud, etc… Mr. Trump rising above all that would produce a pretty pop to markets.

Traders responded in kind. Perhaps this campaigner caricature wasn’t the truth they expected. Maybe it wasn’t real “reality” TV. Things might work out after all. And in that momentous moment, markets turned and began a tear. At the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, where financial futures are traded, there was a seamless transition as high frequency traders and other market makers provided the other side of all bets. Other exchange venues, also taking the shift in stride, began to turn around. By and large, in many markets, that has continued most days.

Since the election, the president-elect has largely demonstrated continued class, including his meeting with President Obama at which Mr. Trump appeared particularly graceful. With a few exceptions, like Trump Tweets about protestors, Broadway and then “Saturday Night Live” actors which show a continued thin skin, he has conducted himself in a manner that hasn’t caused markets to falter.

The next steps, however, will be even more important. First: who will the president-elect select as his Secretary of Treasury nominee? A moderate (like former Massachusetts Governor and presidential candidate Mitt Romney) would demonstrate that when it comes to serious and significant personnel and policy positions, as President he won’t be petty or personal. We recall governor Romney said some not so nice things about Mr. Trump — phony and fraud, etc… Mr. Trump rising above all that would produce a pretty pop to markets.

Second: The new president will need to work fast and hard to deliver on his promise for tax reform, regulatory reform and a trillion dollar infrastructure initiative which will help markets and continue the economic progress that has been made since the Great Recession which began in 2008. Mr. Trump needs to demonstrate he has the tolerance and temperament to work with myriad personalities to get these key goals completed.

It will be an uphill battle. Despite countless efforts, there hasn’t been a significant tax reform since 1986. Mr. Trump’s call for regulatory reform remains fairly amorphous, save his call for repeal of Dodd-Frank (the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010) which actually provides protections to our economy from risky big bets that led not only to the Recession but to the big bank bailout. On infrastructure, well, a trillion dollars is a lot of money (even in Washington or on Wall Street). Most experts say that amount is needed to repair our crumbling roads, bridges and airports — not to mention the attention required for rail and ports. However getting that approved will be a titanic task. Last year, for example, President Obama proposed a $478 billion highway bill. Congress approved $300 billion. It’s hard to imagine the Republican-controlled Congress will now accept a trillion dollars for infrastructure.

All of those questions will take a while to answer. Getting them done in 2017 will be a hugely high hurdle. We’ll see if markets remain patient with the pace of Mr. Trump’s progress. In the meantime, the president-elect’s demeanor — that change which we witnessed when we knew he had won the presidency — will matter most.

Bart Chilton for CNBC

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