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Expand chart
Data: Factset; Chart: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Axios told you on Tuesday that 2018 has been "brutal" for the stock market, and Bloomberg's Stephen Gandel followed up on Wednesday by saying that it's even worse than that. Above is a chart of one key valuation metric: the stock market's price-to-earnings ratio.

For the first year of the Trump presidency, valuations rose steadily. But in his second year, they've imploded and are now well below their level when he took office. The S&P 500 now trades at 17.5 times its earnings over the past 12 months. That's down 25% from the peak of 23.4 in January.

The big picture: This is not bad news. In many ways, it's exactly what you'd expect from a president who came in to office promising a large corporate tax cut.

  • Lower corporate taxes mean higher corporate earnings. Therefore, as the tax cut becomes increasingly likely, stock prices rise in anticipation of those higher earnings. That drives p/e ratios higher.
  • Once the tax cut arrives, earnings go up, in line with expectations. But the higher earnings mean a higher denominator for p/e ratios and therefore lower multiples.

The bottom line: When the market trades on a trailing p/e of 17.5, it no longer looks particularly frothy. Stock prices can certainly fall from these levels, especially if a tight labor market forces companies to pay their workers more and eats into profit margins. But most Americans would prefer higher wages to higher stock prices.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Biden reviews U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

Trump struck several large arms deals with Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi Arabia. Photo: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told Axios.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Trump supporter found with pipe bombs accused of plot to attack Democrats

Five improvised explosive devices that the FBI says "were fully operational and could cause great bodily harm or injury if handled improperly." Photo: FBI/Justice Department

The FBI believes California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and the Bay Area headquarters of Twitter and Facebook were targets of a man facing federal explosives charges, according to a criminal complaint.

Driving the news: Prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers after finding weapons including five pipe bombs, 49 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition following a Jan. 15 search of his Napa County home and auto repair business. His alleged goal was to ensure former President Trump remained in office.

7 hours ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

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