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Trump, Running Alongside the Market’s Bulls, Risks Being Trampled

WASHINGTON — As President Trump boasted about the economy during a speech on Monday, he left out one of his favorite lines. Nowhere did he mention the skyrocketing stock market.

Viewers at home understood why. In the corner of their television screens, a graphic showed the Dow Jones industrial average seemingly in free fall — down 500 points, down 600, down 800, down 1,000.

By the time a bullish Mr. Trump was done speaking in Blue Ash, Ohio, the bearish market had plunged by nearly 1,600 points before recovering somewhat to close 1,175 points down.

No president in modern times has connected his political fortunes to the stock market as much as Mr. Trump, who relentlessly cited its meteoric rise as a sign of his success at restoring confidence in the American economy. But the drastic sell-off on Friday and Monday demonstrated why most presidents scrupulously avoid talking about short-term gyrations in share prices: If you live by the Dow, you may die by the Dow.

Barely a week went by last year when Mr. Trump did not crow about the rising market, making it a major talking point for his case to the country that he had made a difference. He took credit for the market at least 25 times in January alone. Even when the Dow fell 363 points on the day of his State of the Union address last week, Mr. Trump simply ignored the drop and talked about how the market had “smashed one record after another” since his election.

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Despite the stumble of the past two trading sessions — totaling 1,841 points, or 7 percent — the Dow remains far higher under Mr. Trump, and there is no sign that the broader economy has lost momentum. But critics who have chafed at what they considered the president’s shortsighted boasting for the past year saw Monday’s meltdown as overdue comeuppance and eagerly piled on.

“Good time to recall that in the previous administration, we NEVER boasted about the stock market — even though the Dow more than doubled on Obama’s watch — because we knew two things: 1) the stock market is not the economy; and 2) if you claim the rise, you own the fall,” Jay Carney, a White House press secretary for President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter.

It would be an exaggeration to say that Mr. Obama never trumpeted the market’s performance — “the stock market is booming,” he said in 2014, a few days after boasting, “I don’t have to tell you about the stock market and where that’s gone.” But it was rare enough that it stood out. Likewise, Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush made a point of generally avoiding public commentary on short-term market movements.

After Monday’s tumble, Mr. Trump’s aides were left in the awkward position of ignoring it or explaining that it was not especially meaningful. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who accompanied Mr. Trump to Ohio, declined to comment on the market when he encountered reporters on Air Force One during the trip back to Washington and again on the tarmac after it landed. The television on the plane was tuned to Fox Business Network as it dissected the day’s dark developments.