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Trump’s attacks on companies like Google don’t work

Rick Newman
Senior Columnist

Google has some excellent company on President Trump’s enemies list.

Trump has attacked Google because he doesn’t like the search results that pop up when he types in “Trump news.” “They have it RIGGED, for me & others,” Trump tweeted on August 28. “Almost all stories & news is BAD.”

Nobody disputes that a lot of Trump news coverage is negative. But Trump is wrong about Google (GOOGL) manipulating news to make it unflattering to him. Still, Trump seemed to threaten punishment against Google and other social-media sites, telling reporters later on August 28, “they better be careful …. They are really treading on very, very troubled territory.”

Trump has threatened a number of other companies, of course—and for the most part, nothing much has come of it. Yahoo Finance analyzed the stock performance of 19 public companies Trump has threatened since being elected president, and found virtually no meaningful evidence of any damage at all.

For 11 of the 19 companies, the stock price underperformed, compared with the S&P 500 stock index, following Trump’s first attack. The other 8 outperformed. But on average, the stock price of the 19 companies targeted by Trump rose by 5 percentage points more than the S&P 500 following the Trump attack. That number is skewed upward by gargantuan gains at two of the 19 companies Trump has gone after–Amazon (AMZN) and Boeing (BA).

Here are the numbers for each of the 19 companies:

Graphic: David Foster

Though Trump’s attacks can temporarily depress a company’s stock price, they seem to have no discernable long-term effect on most companies he targets. Of the biggest losers in the list above, most are underperforming the market for well-known reasons having nothing to do with Trump.

The worst performer, CBS (CBS), is mired in a long battle over control of its board, along with new charges of sexual abuse by its CEO, Leslie Moonves. General Motors (GM) and Toyota (TM) have underperformed because investors worry that car sales have peaked and will soon decline. Facebook’s stock has dropped recently because the company said new efforts to combat abusive users will impair profitability. And media companies Comcast (CMCSA) (owner of frequent Trump targets NBC News and MSNBC) and Disney (DIS) (ABC News and ESPN) face investor skepticism as their network and cable divisions lose customers to streaming.

Trump may have hurt AT&T

One company Trump may have hurt is AT&T (T), which recently purchased Time-Warner in a deal Trump’s Justice Dept. tried to scuttle. The Justice Dept. has appealed its loss in that case, even though most antitrust experts say the government’s case is weak and it will probably lose again. Time-Warner (and now AT&T) owns CNN, which Trump may loathe more than any other news organization. So he may hurt CNN by raising legal costs at its parent company. Even so, AT&T has missed earnings targets, giving investors other reasons to punish the stock.

If any company proves the hollowness of Trump’s threats, it’s Amazon (AMZN). Trump seems to have attacked Amazon because its CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, a frequent Trump critic. Trump has threatened Amazon through its contracts with the US Postal Service, a quasi-government agency. No matter. Amazon has been on a tear, with investors bidding the stock up thanks to strong earnings and optimism about future prospects.

A few companies on the list are Trump frenemies who earned the president’s wrath but then found a way to make nice. Boeing and Lockheed Martin (LMT) renegotiated contracts on military hardware after Trump complained they were charging the government too much, giving Trump a victory to claim. And Carrier (UTX) famously rescinded its plan to move several hundred manufacturing jobs from Indiana to Mexico, earning a thumbs-up from Trump and an end to his ominous threats. If you can’t outlast a Trump attack, there are other ways to escape his fury.

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman

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