More than an hour before May’s jobs report was to release, President Donald Trump blasted out a tweet to his millions of followers Friday morning, teasing that the numbers would be good – and the markets responded.
The post appeared to skirt strict rules on government employees not commenting on the highly sensitive economic data until an hour after its public release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
Trump, who received the numbers Thursday night on Air Force One, did not include any of the jobs data in his tweet. But it appeared positive enough to suggest to Wall Street that a good number was coming Friday morning.
When the report finally hit the public sphere, the numbers turned out to be very good: The 223,000 jobs added to the economy beat expectations, and unemployment hit its lowest level since April of 2000 at 3.8 percent.
The markets responded again.
But markets were already moving before the release and popped immediately after Trump’s tweet, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note moving higher along with stock market futures. The rise in the 10-year yield suggested traders assumed Trump’s tweet meant the jobs number would be strong and push the Fed to raise interest rates more quickly.
Many were quick to note that the president appeared to have violated rules barring anyone with access to the numbers prior to their release from speaking about it publicly.
But White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump had done nothing wrong – even though he was briefed on the report the night before – because he didn’t post the actual numbers.
Trump’s chair of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow – who informed the president on the report Thursday night – also said Trump did nothing untoward, telling CNBC that one could “read into [the tweet] 10 different things”.
“He chose to tweet. His tweet basically said, like everybody else, we await the jobs number. You can read into that 10 different things if you want to read into it,” he said. “I don’t think he gave anything away incidentally. I think this is all according to routine.”
Politico noted, however, that even without revealing the numbers themselves, Trump hinted at a good report by saying he was "looking forward" to its release.
If he tweets nothing prior to subsequent reports, Wall Street might infer a negative report is headed down the pike.
The jobs report data is governed by rules issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget including the provision that officials wait an hour to say anything. A Labor Department economist on Friday described the delivery of the figures to the president as “a courtesy.”
Prior presidents generally followed the protocol closely, though in the 1960s President Lyndon Johnson had a habit of talking about the numbers in advance.