Advisers' confidence in Trump soars after president's address to Congress

After an erratic five weeks in office, Mr. Trump's speech makes him 'more presidential'

Mar 1, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

By Mark Schoeff Jr.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017.
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U.S. President Donald Trump gestures during a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2017. (Bloomberg)

President Donald Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday made him look "more presidential" and boosted financial advisers' confidence in his performance, according to interviews with advisers and an InvestmentNews reader survey.

After an erratic first five weeks in office marked by controversies over refugee policy, his campaign's contacts with Russian officials and his combative relationship with the media, Mr. Trump spoke of the "renewal of the American spirit" and the need to "work past the differences of party."

His tone struck a chord with advisers.

The InvestmentNews online survey of 624 advisers shows that 62% rated Mr. Trump's speech as "excellent," while about 69% said that they had "more" or "significantly more" confidence in Mr. Trump after his one-hour remarks.

"He was a different person than I'm used to seeing," said Leon LaBrecque, chief executive of LJPR Financial Advisors. "He was a lot quieter. He was a lot more presidential. There seemed to be a willingness to work together and get down to the business at hand. That was very positive."

Mark Silberfarb, managing principal of the Global Financial Institute, an advisory and investment strategy consulting firm, also gave Mr. Trump's speech a rave review.

"This was the best speech he's ever given," Mr. Silberfarb said. "Maybe that's because he didn't go off the charts. He was extremely presidential."

How would you rate President Trump's speech last night?
After the speech, how has your confidence in President Trump changed?
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Source: InvestmentNews survey

InvestmentNewssurveys during the election showed that a majority of advisers supported Mr. Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton. Their support remains strong, with the latest poll showing that about 68% "approve" or "strongly approve" of the job he's doing as president.

His general themes — cutting taxes, undoing the health care reform law and increasing infrastructure spending — generally resonated with advisers.

"It was a market friendly speech," said Kerrie Debbs, a partner at Main Street Financial Solutions. "It spoke to the safety of [Americans'] financial future."

But Mr. Trump provided little detail on policy, leaving advisers unsure of where tax reform and other issues are headed.

"Significant movement on corporate tax reform is likely this year," said Suzanne Shier, chief tax strategist and wealth planner at Northern Trust. "We don't have any clear guidance on how S Corps, limited liability corporations and partnerships will be dealt with."

Mr. Trump only mentioned "massive tax relief for the middle class" on the other side of the ledger.

"My gut [reaction] is corporate [tax cuts] look probable. Individual [cuts] look watered down," Mr. LaBrecque said. "The estate tax repeal is not going to happen for awhile."

In his speech, Mr. Trump said that the "military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve." When discussing infrastructure spending, he said his administration would emphasize "buy American and hire American." That gave Therese Nicklas, owner of The Wealth Coach for Women Inc., a talking point for clients.

"Companies that make products that the military probably will use may be a good place to invest," Ms. Nicklas said. "And American companies I think will come out swinging."

The stock market made a strong gain again on Wednesday, and Mr. Silberfarb gave the credit to Mr. Trump's speech.

"I think there's causality there," he said. "He's reducing restraints and taxes to make it easier to do business."

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