Ex-FBI Director James Comey testified in front of the US Senate on June 8. He answered questions about his complicated relationship with President Trump. His testimony, and much of the related media coverage, focused on a conversation between Comey and the president on February 14. That conversation has big implications for stock markets.
According to the former FBI director, the president said: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He’s a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Comey told the Senate that while he took the president’s words as a directive, they didn’t amount to an order—and therefore they don’t add up to obstruction of justice, the accusation the president’s fiercest opponents are gunning for.
Comey Talks and Stocks Rock
Many of President Trump’s critics played up the impact of Comey’s testimony, calling it “damning” and even claiming it grounds for impeachment.
Stock markets told a different story.
The Dow Jones gained 8 points on June 8—the day of the testimony—while the S&P 500 came just short of a record high of 2,440.23. The Nasdaq composite advanced .4 percent. “Investors are not spooked by this at all” said Eric Aanes, president and founder of Titus Wealth Management.
Comey’s testimony vindicated the president’s supporters and sent a clear message to investors. The ex-FBI director failed to produce a “smoking gun” that directly implicates the president in obstruction of justice. Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. interest rate strategy at BMO Capital Markets, told reporters the following:
“The release of Comey’s opening statement for his Thursday testimony late in the day by the Senate intelligence committee was a major event and was interpreted as risk-positive by the market since it did not appear to offer a smoking gun against the administration.”
Stock market gains did dip slightly over the weekend. The S&P 500 fell somewhat from its June 9 high of 2,445.13, closing June 12 at 2,429.48. Still, that’s significantly higher than where it was at the end of 2016 (2,238.83).
It was a similar story for the Dow Jones. After peaking at 21,291.96 on June 9, it closed June 12 at 21,237.21. Given that it hovered between 18-19,000 for most of 2016, that’s nothing to scoff at.
The Nasdaq Composite had a harder time shrugging off the weekend hangover. After hitting a five-year high of 6,321.76 on June 9—the day after Comey’s testimony—it dipped to 6,124.74 on Monday morning and closed the day at 6,175.18.
Where will stock markets go from here?
So, the Comey testimony is “risk-positive” for stocks. There’s little chance there will be any impeachment proceedings against the president either this year or next. That brings some much-needed stability to domestic and international markets, and should help sustain the “Trump Bump” that has pushed stock markets upward since President Trump’s election win last November.
But while the former FBI director’s testimony wasn’t damning, it didn’t totally vindicate the president in the court of public opinion, either. He and his Republican allies in Congress still face a lot of public opposition. They will have a hard time passing meaningful tax reform this year.
That’s not the end of the world, but tax reform—especially slashing corporate and income tax rates—was one of the president’s top campaign priorities. The expectation of tax reform was a big reason behind the Trump Bump, too.
The president’s supporters as well as stock market investors won’t get everything they wanted during his first year. However, the Comey testimony shows that President Trump is here to stay. That will continue to boost investor sentiment. Expect stock markets to continue to rise this summer.