Two familiar culprits are behind the stock market’s “insanely emotional” swings, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Wednesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average erased its yearly gains, the S&P 500 turned negative and the Nasdaq saw its worst day since 2011.
“The two men with the most influence over the stock market in the world, the president and the Fed chief, are engaged in a totally destructive tug of war where both sides are wrong,” the “Mad Money” host said. “That’s right, President Trump and Fed Chairman Jerome Powell have staked out opposite sides of the economy and the real loser is you, the investor.”
Cramer couldn’t understate the tension between the central bank and the executive branch, saying he couldn’t recall “a moment more convoluted than this one” when it came to the macroeconomic layout.
One one side sits the Fed, bent on raising interest rates in order to combat inflation before it takes off, and on the other, President Trump, who has said he believes that the “biggest threat” to his presidency is the Fed’s rate hike agenda.
The Fed has already raised interest rates three times this year. After its most recent hike, officials laid out a plan to raise rates once more in December and three times in 2019 based on a belief that the economy is accelerating.
“Now, ironically, both the Fed and the president are wrong here, and they’re wrong about the same thing,” Cramer argued.
“They both think the economy is red-hot, but the data we’ve gotten over the last few weeks and the earnings reports we’re getting right now, well, they paint a very different picture,” he continued. “That picture suggests that the economy’s gotten tepid, and in some areas, it’s downright nasty.”
Reiterating his recent arguments, Cramer pointed to the housing and auto sectors, both of which seem to be weakening based on recent data. On top of that, the Trump administration’s tariffs are raising the cost of business, and U.S.-China tensions show no signs of subsiding.
“You never want to see the head of state go to war with your central bank, but more importantly, every time the president bashes him, he actually makes it harder for Powell to back down. If he blinks now, it will damage the Fed’s credibility,” he said. “On the other hand, if Powell doesn’t blink, [he] could crush the economy.”
And while Cramer said it was possible things could somehow work out for the stock market, like if stocks reach such low levels that they manage to correct themselves on their own, he wasn’t so sure.
“Even after today’s pasting, I don’t think we’re out of the woods. There’s still some more bad news lurking in many places, and prices? They’re just adjusting. I don’t want you to be a hero,” he advised. “The worst may not be over. President Trump and the Fed need to stop fighting over what they believe is a red-hot economy and they need to realize that business has slowed, as unpalatable as that may be. Until that happens, you need to stay cautious. We’ll get through this, as a lot of it is man-made, but the people who made it have to change their minds before we can be too positive, even with these now dramatically lower stock prices.”