Trump's Charlottesville stance may do major market damage, too
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To resign, or not to resign, that is the question. Many investors are beginning to wonder what the answer will be for Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor to President Trump.

Cohn, the former Goldman Sachs president, is under mounting pressure to step down, both from people on Wall Street and his former company. At this point, it is still unclear which direction he will take. Cohn, who is Jewish, was disgusted and upset following the comments that Trump made in response to the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville.

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The fear of Cohn resigning alone sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbling 274.14 points Thursday. This is the largest one day sell-off in the Dow in over three months.

Should investors be concerned right now? Yes. Cohn is largely credited with helping shape Trump’s economic agenda that has propelled the stock market double digits since his victory last November. Trump’s campaign promised three major initiatives: tax reform, business regulation reform and infrastructure spending.

Cohn was brought on to help Trump navigate through business reform and tax reform. Without having Cohn in the White House, many are concerned that Trump will not be able to deliver on the promises that he has made.

I believe that if Cohn were to leave his position, there would be a significant sell-off in the market. People both in Washington and on Wall Street are already beginning to lose their confidence in Trump, and a resignation of Cohn would further aggravate their positions. After all, how can we expect to have any sort of significant reform if people keep vacating their positions in Trump’s cabinet?

Trump is a president of many impulsive tendencies, and Cohn was known widely as a moderator of some of Trump’s nationalist ideologies. Many credit Cohn for helping Trump realize the fallout that would ensue if he reinstated some of the Smoot-Hawley-style tariffs that plagued the 1930s. He was also known to help Trump soften his tactics on his trade deals. As an investor right now, I would be concerned that if Cohn resigned, Trump might decide to reinstate some of these controversial policies that would be detrimental to the United States.

For now, it appears that Cohn will stay put. White House officials were quoted yesterday that, “Gary intends to remain in his position as NEC Director at the White House. Nothing’s changed. Gary is focused on his responsibilities as NEC Director and any reports to the contrary are 100 percent false.” Of course, this is the stance that many have taken just days or weeks before their actual departure. So I don’t know how much faith we can actually put in this quote.

The question Cohn is asking himself is what sort of backlash he will leave on his legacy if he continues to stick with the Trump administration. At some point, he will have to be scratching his head wondering if it is really worth it. For now, Cohn appears to be more focused on getting his economic agenda passed and less on the perception that people have of him.

Let’s all hope that this continues to be his stance. I have significant doubts that anything good will come out of the administration if Cohn and others continue to bolt from their positions.

So what backlash would the markets face if Cohn decided he had enough of President Trump’s tweets? For starters, I think we would see significant sell-off in financial stocks. Cohn would be instrumental in helping repeal the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act that have crippled many bank stocks.

Next would be infrastructure-based companies. Cohn would be a key player in helping shape the policies and provisions that would allow companies to benefit from the passage of an infrastructure package. Last, I believe, would be small-cap stocks that seek to benefit the most from a reduction in corporate-tax rates. Let’s face it, the big companies can still shuttle profits overseas, but small companies lack the resources and ability to divert profits abroad. So they would benefit the most from a 10-15-percent reduction in corporate taxes.

The real question I think we need to be asking is what the market reaction will be if Trump resigns. With mounting pressures stemming from the Russian investigation and a cabinet that appears to be spiraling out of control, many wonder when Trump will say, "To heck with it." It seems like nothing he does right now is having any sort of positive impact. I wonder when Trump will say enough is enough and begin focusing on making deals on the golf course for his company and not for the country.

Andrew Denney, founder and CEO of Prosperity Financial Group (www.pfgmidwest.com), has more than 13 years’ experience in the finance industry, where he advises clients in such areas as retirement planning, asset protection, estate planning and wealth management. Denney holds Series 7 and Series 66 securities registrations with LPL Financial, in addition to a life insurance license. He has a degree in finance from Missouri State University.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.