Nov 9, 2020 - Economy

Trump's biggest corporate winners and losers

Illustration of a hand on a mouse and a hand working with an electric tool

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big tech has been the biggest corporate winner of the Trump presidency, according to an Axios analysis of public-company corporate financials.

Why it matters: The tech giants have spent the past four years facing increased scrutiny from Washington, and Google has even been hit by an antitrust lawsuit. But Google parent Alphabet has seen its profits soar by $12 billion per year since Trump's surprise election in November 2016.

  • That's second only to Apple, whose profits have risen by $13 billion.

How it works: The overarching economic story of the past four years has been the Fed, which cut interest rates to zero and has promised to keep them there indefinitely. The central bank has had much more effect on corporate results than all of Trump's trade wars and campaign promises.

  • Low interest rates make growth companies more valuable, since large future profits are worth more money today.
  • Apple and Amazon both gained more than $1 trillion in market value under Trump. The next biggest gainers are also fast-growing technology stocks: Alphabet, up $500 billion, and Tesla, up more than $300 billion.

The biggest losers are in old-fashioned manufacturing. General Electric and Boeing have both lost $35 billion per year in revenue, while Ford, still in the midst of a drawn-out restructuring effort, is down $20 billion.

  • GE is also one of the biggest losers in terms of market capitalization, along with ExxonMobil and scandal-hit Wells Fargo. All three lost about $200 billion in value even as the broader stock market was soaring.

When it comes to jobs, the fastest-growing employer is again Amazon, which added some 450,000 employees under Trump. But that measure can be deceiving, as companies can decide to move employees on or off their official payroll more or less at will.

  • McDonald's officially lost 170,000 employees over the past four years, for instance, but that's not because fewer people work at its restaurants. It's because the company made a strategic decision at the end of 2015 to slash the proportion of restaurants it runs itself from 19% to 7%.

The bottom line: Both the Fed and the coronavirus have had much more impact on the list of winners and losers than any decisions made in the White House.

  • Trump has been broadly good for corporate America, and healthcare companies in particular have done well under his administration. But fears of Trump picking individual winners and losers have proved largely unfounded.
  • The winners that Trump did try to pick — the coal industry, for example — have often underperformed.
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