Undoubtedly, the biggest news item in finance is “Dow 20000” – finally, that elusive benchmark that the President Donald Trump-inspired market rally flirted with in December is here. Intent was signaled on Tuesday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average had a relatively robust 0.6% move, suggesting that Dow 20k was right around the corner. Market insiders also appeared to settle in to the reality of a Donald Trump administration.
The President was certainly happy, but unusually subdued, tweeting only “Great!” The rest of his staff and close supporters were much more expansive in their enthusiasm. Donald Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway – the first woman to manage a successful presidential campaign – tweeted that Dow 20000 was a result of “The Trump Effect.” Eric Trump chimed in, remarking “Amazing… and he is just getting started!”
Self-aggrandizement is no stranger to the world of politics. Certainly, Donald Trump is the master of it, and he’s not going to let Dow 20000 go by without at least a comment. But despite the psychological enormity of the record-breaking market rally, I find it curious that the President only found one word to tweet. Could he be worrying about something further down the line?
On surface level, Dow 20k appears to be buttressed by substantive fundamentals. Coincidentally, these fundamentals were addressed earlier today during Donald Trump’s speech at the Department of Homeland Security. Immigration is a hot topic issue, and securing the border was a hallmark promise of Trump’s campaign.
Among the winners of the Dow 20000 market rally were construction stocks. Primarily, Martin Marietta Materials (NYSE:MLM) hit an all-time record high according to CNBC, while Vulcan Materials Co. (NYSE:VMC) is not far behind. Both are bolstered by Trump’s proposal of building the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Obviously, this is a huge tailwind for the construction sector which had weathered tough economic cycles during the previous Obama administration. In turn, the agenda is step forward to another one of Donald Trump’s grandiose promises – put Americans back to work.
Building the border wall will do exactly that. At the same time, it’s not the most effective answer at solving America’s economic riddle. So long as the dollar remains strong, insisting on using only American companies and hiring American labor will get awfully expensive. Yes, Trump insisted previously that the Mexicans will pay for it, but let’s get real – there’s no way any country will agree to such an undertaking.
The reason goes beyond pride. By paying for the wall, Mexico will get nothing out of it. The zero-reward equation works on our side of the border too. The government will invest billions, but that money will not have direct returns associated with it.
The solution will have to be two-fold, with border security being only half of the answer. The other half is engaging in stronger economic partnerships with Mexico, and helping to increase their wealth. By having another rich neighbor, Mexican nationals are much less incentivized to cross the border.
Of course, this will mean loosening some of the tough talk out of the Trump administration. Nevertheless, the new White House will have to pull out their negotiating skills if they are going to make Dow 20000 more than just an interesting footnote.