KEY POINTS

  • Trump's Oval Office address was incoherent at times and light on details
  • The street was looking for specific actions and is more interested in the public health side of the issue than the economic response
  • Trump's change in tone over the severity of the virus also may have spooked investors

President Trump’s Oval Office address on coronavirus appeared to fuel anxiety over the outbreak rather than reassure investors and the public at large, with analysts Thursday saying what he left out was likely even more important than what he said.

The number of confirmed U.S. cases of the virus exceeded 1,300 Thursday with at least 38 deaths.

After weeks of downplaying the severity of the outbreak, Trump on Wednesday night suspended travel from Europe for 30 days and on Thursday, left open the possibility of domestic restrictions. Trump also offered several measures meant to mitigate the economic impact as schools shut down, employers sent workers home and entertainment venues postponed events.

House Democrats planned a vote Thursday on an emergency response package. but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Republicans wouldn’t support it. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell canceled next week’s scheduled break for lawmakers to deal with the situation.

What Trump’s address lacked was clarity on specific points and a comprehensive public health plan to contain the virus. Several errors had to be corrected by other officials after it ended.

The result was a market in freefall Thursday, prompting the Federal Reserve to inject $1.5 trillion in liquidity into the economy.

The Wells Fargo Investment Institute critiqued Trump’s proposals, panning the travel ban, which it said would have a significant negative effect on the both the U.S. and European economies. It criticized the proposed deferral of taxes as inadequate, and $50 billion in Small Business Administration loans as an ineffective way of stimulating the economy. Though suspending payroll, unemployment and Medicare taxes could serve as a stimulus and the idea of congressional action was welcome, the institute was disappointed by the lack of detail.

Mitchell Firestone of Precision Trading Labs said hoping the coronavirus will go away is not a strategy for dealing with it.

“This administration has a real problem both with policy and incoherent messaging,” Firestone said. “Almost everything coming out of this administration is met with cynicism and suspicion due to a documented track record of actions and statements tied to political aims vs. the public good.”

“The entire debacle [the address] is demonstrative of the administration’s slow and decidedly ineffectual response to the COVID-19 [the lung disease triggered by the virus] crisis. Moreover, the lack of any comprehensive public health response further emphasizes how the Trump administration is struggling to grasp the gravitas of the situation,” Sarah Bauder, senior market analyst at SophisticatedInvestor.com, said in an email to IBTimes.

“Ultimately, the Oval Office address simply exacerbates the doubt surrounding Trump’s capacity to lead the nation, especially during a crisis scenario.”

“The market is focusing on what Trump didn't say rather than what he said. I believe market participants were anticipating more concrete measures to come out of President Trump's speech,” Robert Johnson, professor of finance at Heider College of Business at Creighton University, said in an email to IBTimes.

“At its core, this is not a financial crisis, but is a public health crisis. Ironically, I believe that markets are more concerned with reassuring public health responses than with responses focusing on economic measures or monetary policy solutions. … The timing of the coronavirus could not be worse from a coordinated government response standpoint. The upcoming election has polarized the country and this coronavirus response [or lack thereof] has been politicized.”

Dejan Ilijevski, investment adviser and president of Sabela Capital Markets, said the address “was another failure of leadership. Market participants are looking for less uncertainty, yet there continues to be nothing coming from this administration that personifies competence, expertise and collaboration.”

Illijevski called the European travel ban a distraction to cover up the administration’s failure to provide adequate screening earlier.

“Until this administration shows competence and leadership, there will remain too much uncertainty for the markets to stabilize,” he said.

Anthony Denier, stock market expert and CEO of Webull, said it was clear from the address "there is really no comprehensive government plan in place, so with the intention of reducing fear, the address very well may have had the opposite effect.

"I think after watching the address last night there were way to many unanswered questions. Will the schools close? Will my office close? Who will watch my kids? How will I pay for essentials? How long will this last? How can I get tested? All very valid and very real concerns for all Americans. We are wading into unknown waters with this invisible threat, and people are scared," he said. ​

“Trump's message failed to address both measures to stop the spread and significant relief for companies ,” said Yohay Elam, currency analyst at FXStreet, adding it would take action from Congress and Republican pressure on the president to show leadership to calm the markets.

The reversal in tone Wednesday’s address represented also unsettled Americans.

“The president went from strongly downplaying the risks of the virus to acknowledging its severity. That alerted anyone who believed this was not a serious situation that, indeed it is,” said Dan Passarelli, president of Market Taker Mentoring. “Secondly, for those who have been following the situation and already realized the severity of the situation [the majority], they were looking for real, hard fast answers. And we didn't see that.”