Wall Street, corporate America and the diplomatic world are settling on a strategy to deal with President Donald Trump’s rapidly shifting statements on critical issues like trade deals and Russia sanctions: Just ignore him.
Trump last week shocked the world by suggesting he might rejoin the giant Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-nation pact among nations representing 13 percent of the global economy. He reversed himself days later.
Beyond TPP, Trump in recent weeks has declared war on Amazon then not done very much about it. He settled on Russia sanctions only to ditch them, leaving American allies and members of his own administration completely befuddled.
In ordinary times, a declaration like the one Trump made about TPP would have sent stocks soaring, thrilled exporters and sent corporate strategists scrambling to assess the impact.
But none of that really happened.
Financial markets and America’s trading partners largely ignored the comments as a throwaway line, and the market wisdom proved to be correct when Trump tweeted that he did not “like the deal for the U.S,” deflating the TPP trial balloon before it left the ground.
All of this has led investors, executives and diplomats to the conclusion that trying to act on any single thing Trump says or tweets is a fool’s game. The more effective strategy, these people say, is to look for trends in the broad sweep of Trump’s approach to governance and ignore all the noise.
“He’s clearly proven that he tends to shoot first and ask questions later and that is very, very difficult for anyone on Wall Street or really anywhere to navigate,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Cresset Wealth Advisors. “You can get free traders in the administration pushing stuff like rejoining TPP then he wipes it all out with a single tweet. So what we’ve tended to do is just look at the trends from 30,000 feet and shrug off the random tweets.”
In the case of Amazon, Trump roasted the company for days on Twitter at the end of March, crushing its stock price. Since then he’s only asked for a review of Post Office contracts, including the one it has with Amazon. Investors consider the review unlikely to amount to anything. Fears of a full-bore assault on the online retail giant have evaporated and its shares are climbing again.
One of the wealthiest hedge fund managers in the world, who is a Trump supporter and did not want to be identified by name criticizing the president, said trading on any single Trump comment — whether Amazon or anything else — was ill advised given how quickly he can change positions or simply move on to another subject.