The Rise Of Twitter

The social-networking platform Twitter has revolutionised the way in which individuals interact with one another. Through the dissemination of content via a 140-character microblog (known simply as a “tweet”), users can report news items, advertise their wares or simply poke fun at the hot button issue of the day.

Since its inception in 2006, Twitter has experienced robust growth in usership and popularity. As of January 2017, Twitter is ranked as the fourth-largest social network in the world behind Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. The following metrics regarding the size and scope of Twitter’s client base provide context to its potential influence:

  • 100 million daily users
  • 320 million active monthly users
  • 500 million tweets sent per day
  • 77% of all Twitter accounts originate outside of the U.S.1)Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://techinfographics.com/how-big-is-twitter/

With such an extensive reach, Twitter has become an invaluable communications tool for politicians looking to directly address their constituents on matters of policy and culture.

The 45th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, has used Twitter to address the public on a wide variety of topics, drawing praise from advocates and criticism from opponents. Trump’s frequent use of Twitter in the addressing of individual companies, countries and future U.S. policy towards commerce have certainly made his Twitter feed an influential market moving force.

Open Forex Practice Account With FXCM

Presence Of World Leaders On Twitter

In the arena of international politics, Twitter is frequently used by candidates seeking election to public office in addition to established leaders involved in active governance. Listed below are a few examples of the 66 prominent world leaders who actively engage their colleagues and constituents through Twitter:

  • Nicolas Sarkozy: Former President of France
  • Dmitry Medvedev: Prime Minister of Russia
  • Vladimir Putin: President of the Russian Federation
  • Hugo Chavez Frias: President of Venezuela
  • David Cameron: Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
  • Benjamin Netanyahu: Prime Minister of Israel2)Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://twitter.com/verified/lists/world-leaders/members?lang=en

In the United States, Twitter has exploded in popularity among political figures. It has become a necessary part of public life, with the sitting president and nearly every member of Congress actively participating. Many attribute its ascent within the political arena to be a product of former President Barack Obama’s groundbreaking use during his administration, specifically amid the 2008 and 2012 presidential election cycles.3)Retrieved 21 January 2017 http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/how-obama-won-the-social-media-battle-in-the-2012-presidential-campaign/

The results garnered by Barack Obama’s implementation of Twitter have served as an illustration of the social-media platform’s value to a candidate for public office. Accordingly, the 2016 U.S. presidential candidates invested considerable resources into developing a robust social media platform, and created a vast network of followers on Twitter:

  • Donald Trump: 21.8 million
  • Hillary Clinton: 12.6 million
  • Bernie Sanders: 5.07 million
  • Ted Cruz: 2.03 million4)Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://twitter.com/

As a point of reference, former U.S. President Obama has amassed 83.3 million followers.

Ethical Debate Over Presidential Twitter Use

Twitter’s relatively short timeline as a major source of media has made its influence upon global business and politics a frequently debated topic. With such a large avenue for members of Congress and the President of the United States (POTUS) to instantly release news and opinion, the potential impact of an unexpected tweet upon various global financial markets has become a voraciously debated issue.

The history of the POTUS participating in social media via Twitter is brief. President Trump is only the second sitting president to actively participate on the platform, with the first being his predecessor Barack H. Obama. President George W. Bush did not engage in the early incarnations of Twitter during his second term, while prior presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush did not have the opportunity (both now have active accounts).

Questions pertaining to the ethics of releasing a personal statement that may reflect future economic policy surround live tweeting during market hours. An untimely tweet or offhand comment may have a large impact upon intraday volatilities facing futures, equities or forex markets.

Twitter’s Impact On Financial Market Volatility

As a general rule, financial markets are not receptive to surprises and uncertainty. Twitter has the ability to supply both, periodically spiking short-term volatilities facing a wide variety of openly traded financial instruments.

A prime example of this phenomenon occurred in 2013, through a fictitious news release conducted via Twitter regarding the safety and health of the POTUS. A hacked Associated Press (AP) Twitter feed falsely reported President Obama and other White House staffers had been injured as a result of two separate explosions. Upon release of the tweet, U.S. equities markets plunged. Within minutes, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped 143.5 points, with the S&P 500 temporarily losing an estimated US$136 billion in value.5)Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3090221/The-tweet-cost-139-BILLION-Researchers-analyse-impact-hacked-message-claiming-President-Obama-injured-White-House-explosion.html Although the markets recovered in a somewhat-short order, traders and investors went for a wild ride. Many experienced substantial capital loss due to market conditions created by the artificial stimulus.

While the hacking of official Twitter accounts and falsifying of news stories is an obvious ethical foul, the question remains if it is proper for individuals privy to sensitive financial data to release personal opinions and information via Twitter.

Is it ethical for a sitting president, member of the Federal Reserve or CEO of a publicly traded company to tweet about topics that can move markets? Could this be a case of market manipulation?

President Trump’s Twitter Feed: Impact On Government Contractors

One of the most frequently debated aspects of Donald Trump’s successful run to the White House, and subsequent administration, has been his personal Twitter use. Trump has been a user since 2009, amassing more than 20 million followers and issuing more than 30,000 tweets.6)Retrieved 23 January 2017 https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump

A strong advocate for Twitter, Trump cites its use as a great way to address the citizens of the U.S. directly without the need for “biased” mainstream media outlets. However, critics maintain that the office of the POTUS should refrain from tweets that are personal in nature, incendiary or inflammatory. No matter if one is a Trump supporter or detractor, it is difficult to ignore the impact that his Twitter feed has had upon specific equities valuations.

The post-election month of December 2016 provided several illustrations of the degree of influence Trump’s tweets had on the stock value of government contract holders, specifically those participants in the aerospace and defense industries.

A Trump tweet dated 6 December 2016 addressed his concerns pertaining to Boeing’s government contract to build a future Air Force One. He wrote: “Boeing is building a brand new 747 Air Force One for future presidents, but costs are out of control, more than $4 billion. Cancel order!”7)Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/06/boeing-shares-slide-after-trump-says-air-force-ones-cost-out-of-control.html As a result of the tweet, Boeing stock immediately realised a 1% drawdown in value based on speculation that the company may lose favour with the new administration, voiding current government contracts. The correction proved to be temporary, with Boeing’s stock quickly rebounding to close the session unchanged.8)Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/06/boeing-shares-slide-after-trump-says-air-force-ones-cost-out-of-control.html

On 12 December 2016, Trump tweeted the following statement regarding Boeing competitor Lockheed Martin’s commitment to develop fighter jets for the U.S. Armed Forces: “The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.”9)Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/12/lockheed-martin-shares-drop-after-trump-says-f-35-program-too-expensive.html

This statement immediately sent shockwaves through the aerospace industry, shaking the equity valuations of several key players:

  • Shares of Lockheed Martin initially dropped 4%, an estimated value of US$4 billion. By the end of the trading session on 12 December, losses were cut in half, closing down 2%.
  • Shares of Boeing initially dropped .72%, but traded to a positive .43% by session close.
  • Shares of General Dynamics fell 2.87% before rallying to close down .94% on session close.
  • Prominent defense industry ETFs PowerShares Aerospace & Defense Portfolio and iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense both sustained losses eclipsing 1% for the session.10)Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/12/lockheed-martin-shares-drop-after-trump-says-f-35-program-too-expensive.html

In another tweet, dated 22 December 2016, Trump served to again provide an uneasy trading atmosphere for the shareholders of defense contractors Boeing and Lockheed Martin: “Based on the tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35, I have asked Boeing to price-out a comparable F-18 Super Hornet!” In much the same fashion as the previous statements, a volatile trading atmosphere was created for the two aerospace and defense contractors:

President Trump’s Twitter Feed: Impact On Publicly Traded Companies

The impact of President Trump’s tweets on the entire U.S. equities market is an ongoing topic of discussion throughout the financial community. Traders and investors alike have become increasingly cognisant of the immediate influence a presidential tweet is capable of delivering to the market.

Seemingly no company is safe from the short-term pricing volatility created by a Trump tweet. While defense contractors like Lockheed and Boeing certainly depend on U.S. government contracts for revenue, most publicly traded companies do not. No matter the scope of an entity’s core business, if it is publicly traded, then statements issued by Trump via Twitter can impact valuations.

One study put forth by the Wall Street Journal, known as the “Trump Target Index,” addressed this concern. According to the study, 12 stocks were substantially impacted by Trump’s Twitter releases during the election year of 2016 through the first quarter of 2017. While each stock initially experienced a poignant devaluation, there was a typical pattern of rebound and subsequent recovery of price.12)Retrieved 19 August 2017 http://www.wsj.com/podcasts/negative-trump-tweet-not-a-stock-killer/699BDEC8-C38A-4466-A48C-CD3DE4BA9358.html

Corporate valuations have shown the ability to stabilise over the long-run, but not all companies have responded to the stimulus positively. For instance, Toyota Motor Corporation’s (ADR) stock price has undergone a sustained devaluation. Trump’s pre-inauguration tweet concerning Toyota’s business operations caused a pronounced stir: “Toyota Motor said will build a new plant in Baja, Mexico, to build Corolla cars for U.S. NO WAY! Build plant in U.S. or pay big border tax.”13)Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/817071792711942145?lang=en

The fallout experienced by Toyota has been considerable:

  • Toyota stock saw immediate devaluation, losing 1.2 billion in market cap in the five minutes following the tweet.14)Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://www.mediaite.com/online/toyota-stock-drops-immediately-after-trump-tweet-about-mexican-factory/
  • Over the next six months, Toyota stock lost over 5%, around US$12 billion.15)Retrieved 19 August http://fortune.com/2017/02/24/trump-tweet-stocks/

American retailer Nordstrom (JWN) has also been the focus of Trump’s tweets, though it has fared substantially better than Toyota.

Following the removal of Ivanka Trump’s fashion line from their stores, President Trump issued a statement via Twitter: “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstom. She is a great person–always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!”16)Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/02/08/trump-lashes-out-at-nordstrom-in-a-tweet-for-dropping-his-daughters-apparel-line/?utm_term=.590652b01e26

In contrast to Toyota, the negative effects were fleeting:

Internet commerce giant Amazon (AMZN) has also found itself the subject of the Trump/Twitter phenomenon. In an August 2017 tweet, Trump reinforced his rhetoric towards preserving the manufacturing sector of the U.S. economy through a critique of Amazon’s business practices: “Amazon is doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt-many jobs being lost!”19)Retrieved 20 August 2017 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/16/amazon-shares-drop-after-trump-says-company-causing-great-damage-to-tax-paying-retailers.html The tweet was the latest in a series that questioned Amazon’s adherence to tax laws, political influence and overall impact on U.S. retail.

After this, Amazon experienced the following:

  • Amazon stock fell 1% immediately after the tweet
  • For the session, Amazon rallied to close down 0.5%
  • The initial spike in selling temporarily cost the company US$5.7 billion in market share20)Retrieved 20 August 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4796202/Trump-goes-Amazon-WaPo-editorial-whacks-him.html

Nordstrom, Toyota and Amazon are not the only public companies that have been included in President Trump’s Twitter dialogue. Listed below are a few other financial heavyweights that have been directly mentioned by Trump on Twitter:

  • Intel (INTC)
  • Aetna (AET)
  • Humana (HUM)
  • Pfizer (PFE)
  • Merck (MRK)
  • Anthem (ANTM)

It’s important for market participants to be aware of the potential for increased volatilities facing individual equities related to a Twitter release. While the long-term implications of such sentiments originating with the POTUS may be insignificant, the short-term variations in pricing and market value may enhance risk to those traders with short investment horizons or large positions on margin.

President Trump’s Twitter Feed: Currency Exchange Rate Volatility

The valuation of a country’s currency is dependent upon many factors that relate to its adopted monetary policy, domestic economic health and growth prospects. Accordingly, any statement made by the POTUS regarding a change in the diplomatic and economic relationship between the U.S. and another country may have a widespread impact upon global currency values. In the event that a Twitter release is the conduit by which the statement is made, a rapid and substantial reaction may be experienced by the forex market.

Perhaps the currency valuation most affected by Trump’s twitter activity has been that of the Mexican peso (MXN). Mexico’s economic relationship and business dealings with the United States was a notable theme in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Trump’s public views towards Mexico during the election and since then have signaled a change in U.S. policy towards the areas of immigration and commerce.

On 3 January 2017, Trump addressed the auto industry’s involvement in Mexico via his Twitter feed: “General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”21)Retrieved 24 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/03/trump-blasts-general-motors-make-chevy-cruze-model-in-us-or-pay-big-border-tax.html

The fallout from the statement was multifaceted:

Ultimately, Trump’s tweet signaled a potential change in the business practices that are to be allowed under his administration. As a result, the domestic currency of an economic beneficiary experienced a dramatic reaction in terms of volatility and valuation. Albeit indirectly, Mexico’s economic prospects came into question by forex traders and investors, with the end result being a depreciation of the domestic currency.

Summary

For consumers, Twitter has become one of the most popular methods of acquiring breaking news, sharing opinion and self-promotion in the world. As a tool by which political figures are able to directly reach the masses, Twitter is an invaluable asset.

It remains to be seen if President Trump will continue to issue public statements regarding governmental contract holders and his intent to restructure current trade deals via Twitter. However, it is undeniable that Trump’s tweets have the ability to provide an abundance of short-term volatility to corporate equities and international currencies throughout the marketplaces of the world.

Within the current digital environment, market participants are capable of conducting trading operations at near light speeds. It stands to reason that any information release from an official source such as the POTUS has the potential to create unpredictable market fluctuations. While Trump’s individual tweets may remain unpredictable, being aware of the release and which financial products are most sensitive can greatly limit risk for investors and traders alike.

Any opinions, news, research, analyses, prices, other information, or links to third-party sites are provided as general market commentary and do not constitute investment advice. FXCM will not accept liability for any loss or damage including, without limitation, to any loss of profit which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information.

References   [ + ]

1. Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://techinfographics.com/how-big-is-twitter/
2. Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://twitter.com/verified/lists/world-leaders/members?lang=en
3. Retrieved 21 January 2017 http://mprcenter.org/blog/2013/01/how-obama-won-the-social-media-battle-in-the-2012-presidential-campaign/
4. Retrieved 21 January 2017 https://twitter.com/
5. Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3090221/The-tweet-cost-139-BILLION-Researchers-analyse-impact-hacked-message-claiming-President-Obama-injured-White-House-explosion.html
6. Retrieved 23 January 2017 https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump
7, 8. Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/06/boeing-shares-slide-after-trump-says-air-force-ones-cost-out-of-control.html
9, 10. Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/12/lockheed-martin-shares-drop-after-trump-says-f-35-program-too-expensive.html
11. Retrieved 23 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/22/lockheed-martin-shares-take-another-tumble-after-trump-tweet.html
12. Retrieved 19 August 2017 http://www.wsj.com/podcasts/negative-trump-tweet-not-a-stock-killer/699BDEC8-C38A-4466-A48C-CD3DE4BA9358.html
13. Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://twitter.com/realdonaldtrump/status/817071792711942145?lang=en
14. Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://www.mediaite.com/online/toyota-stock-drops-immediately-after-trump-tweet-about-mexican-factory/
15. Retrieved 19 August http://fortune.com/2017/02/24/trump-tweet-stocks/
16. Retrieved 19 August 2017 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2017/02/08/trump-lashes-out-at-nordstrom-in-a-tweet-for-dropping-his-daughters-apparel-line/?utm_term=.590652b01e26
17, 18. Retrieved 20 August 2017 http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nordstrom-recovers-from-trumps-terrible-tweet-in-just-4-minutes-2017-02-08
19. Retrieved 20 August 2017 https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/16/amazon-shares-drop-after-trump-says-company-causing-great-damage-to-tax-paying-retailers.html
20. Retrieved 20 August 2017 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4796202/Trump-goes-Amazon-WaPo-editorial-whacks-him.html
21. Retrieved 24 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/03/trump-blasts-general-motors-make-chevy-cruze-model-in-us-or-pay-big-border-tax.html
22, 23. Retrieved 24 January 2017 https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/03/donald-trump-general-motors-tax-chevrolet-cruz
24. Retrieved 24 January 2017 http://www.cnbc.com/2017/01/04/mexican-peso-hits-record-low-vs-dollar-as-trump-trade-worries-heat-up.html
25. Retrieved 24 January 2017 http://www.forbes.com/sites/doliaestevez/2017/01/06/analysts-say-donald-trumps-tweets-are-weakening-the-mexican-peso/#2d1864f0198b