Special Report

What the Stock Market Did Under Every President in the Last 100 Years

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

James Carter
> DJIA performance: -0.7%
> Served from: Jan. 20, 1977 – Jan. 20, 1981
> Months in office: 48
> Party affiliation: Democratic

During his four years, President Jimmy Carter struggled to adequately address the most serious economic issues of the day: inflation and unemployment. Though the unemployment rate dipped during the middle of his presidency, it was above 7% both when he entered and left office. A flagging economy was one of several reasons Carter lost to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan in the 1980 general election. Over the course of Carter’s single term in the White House, the Dow remained effectively flat.

Source: Getty Images / Getty Images

Ronald Reagan
> DJIA performance: +147.3%
> Served from: Jan. 20, 1981 – Jan. 20, 1989
> Months in office: 96
> Party affiliation: Republican

President Ronald Reagan was voted into the White House due in part to the widespread perception that his predecessor and political opponent, Jimmy Carter, had not done enough for the economy. An advocate for small government, Reagan cut taxes, social spending, and regulations on business, and increased military spending. Under Reagan’s economic policies, the United States accumulated deficits and became a debtor nation for the first time since WWI.

Less than half a year into Reagan’s presidency, the U.S. economy slipped into a recession. A year later — before the recession officially ended — the Dow surged and, with one glaring exception, barely stopped to slow down for the remainder of Reagan’s presidency. Despite the Black Monday crash of 1987, in which the Dow lost nearly 22% of its value in a single day, the Dow soared 147.3% under Reagan.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

George H. W. Bush
> DJIA performance: +41.3%
> Served from: Jan. 20, 1989 – Jan. 20, 1993
> Months in office: 48
> Party affiliation: Republican

President George H. W. Bush presided over some of the most seismic geopolitical shifts in history. During Bush’s time in office, the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was unified, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War ended. Also under Bush, Iraq was swiftly and successfully driven from Kuwait by American forces during the Gulf War.

Due to a brief recession and apparent neglect of pressing domestic issues, Bush was a single-term president. Still, the stock market performed relatively well under him. During his four years in office, the Dow climbed 41.3%.

Source: Noam Galai / Getty Images

William J. Clinton
> DJIA performance: +228.9%
> Served from: Jan. 20, 1993 – Jan. 20, 2001
> Months in office: 96
> Party affiliation: Democratic

The DJIA skyrocketed by nearly 230% under President Bill Clinton. Over the course of Clinton’s two terms — defined by nearly unprecedented peace and economic prosperity — the unemployment rate fell from about 7% to 4%, inflation dipped to its lowest level in 30 years, the government achieved a budget surplus, and the administration signed an agreement eliminating trade barriers between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Within two months of Clinton’s departure from office, the United States fell into a recession for the first time since George H.W. Bush was in office.

Source: Pool / Getty Images

George W. Bush
> DJIA performance: -26.5%
> Served from: Jan. 20, 2001 – Jan. 20, 2009
> Months in office: 96
> Party affiliation: Republican

Under President George W. Bush, the stock market was roiled by several major geopolitical events. After the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which occurred during Bush’s first year in office, the markets were closed for several days. On the first day of trading following the attacks, the DJIA plunged 14% in a massive selloff. Though the market would regain its previous value in less than a month, the War on Terror and turmoil in the Middle East undercut investor confidence.

By 2007, well into Bush’s second term, the DJIA reached its highest point in history at the time. However, later that year, stock markets responded to the onset of the subprime mortgage crisis and the unravelling of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s — the Dow lost more than half of its value over 18 months. Bush left office during a historic selloff, with the Dow down 26.5% under his leadership.