Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dow under Bush: Worst Returns Since Hoover

With the end of his Presidency racing towards us, there have been many reviews of the Bush administration's performance over his eight years. Some of these have focused on his foreign policy. Others on his domestic agenda and still others on various parts of the economy.

Several years ago, when I noticed the stock market was going nowhere, I decided to analyze the returns of the Dow Jones Industrial Average as far back as I could and compare it across presidential administrations. The Dow was introduced in 1897; for consistency, I chose to start my analysis with Theodore Roosevelt's administration in 1901.

The chart shows that the overall annualized return during President Bush's eight year term was negative 3.27%. That is, $100 dollars would drop to $96.73 after one year, $93.57 after two years, etc.

As of this writing, President Bush is just behind President Nixon (with a -3.20 return for his 5 1/2 years). To find a President with a worse record of results on the Dow, one would have to go all the way back to 1933, when President Hoover left office. On his watch, the Dow went from around 314 to 54, which means that each year of his presidency, it fell another 35%.

Many will argue that President Bush had a lot to deal with that was not his fault, including two wars, a terrorist attack, two recessions, huge deficits, a falling dollar, a bursting housing bubble, etc. To some extent, these things are true and can be somewhat of a defense for the President.

However, I challenge anyone to identify a President who had nothing big happen in the course of his administration that impacted the economy. President Reagan had to deal with a severe recession. President George H. W. Bush had a war of his own and a recession.

For a supposedly business friendly administration, they didn't do investors any favors.

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