Twenty-one years ago this week, I wrote about the impeachment of President Bill Clinton in an article that carried the headline “So far, Dow not fazed by Clinton crisis.” 

The purpose was to see how the stock market reacted to the impeachment of President Richard Nixon and to forecast what might happen during Clinton’s impeachment. 

The U.S. House of Representatives voted to begin proceedings against Clinton in October 1998. Ten weeks later, on Dec. 19, the Republican-controlled House voted to send two articles of impeachment to the U.S. Senate for a trial.  

One charge accused Democrat Clinton of lying to a grand jury about having sex with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; the other was for obstructing justice by trying to block the House investigation. Both were approved on near-party line votes. 

When I wrote the 1998 article, Clinton’s trial in the Senate was still six weeks in the future.

The only precedent for how the stock market might react was the Nixon impeachment two decades earlier. That effort ended when the president resigned before the full House could vote on three impeachment charges recommended by the House Judiciary Committee. 

The Dow lost more than a quarter of its value during the nine months between the day known as the “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon fired special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the day Nixon resigned, Aug. 9, 1974. 

While that might seem like a pretty good indicator of what could happen during the Clinton impeachment, it wasn’t. 

The 1973-74 market declines were blamed on the Arab oil crisis, which saw the world market price for oil increase 400% during the months immediately following Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre.” 

Experts then and now place the blame for stock market losses of 1973-74 squarely on the oil crisis.

During the Clinton impeachment, economic pundits were concerned about how the market would react, but they worried more about the length of the impeachment process than the substance of it.

Sung Won Sohn, chief economist of Wells Fargo, said, “The worst we could have is four months of debate and trial in the Senate … because of the uncertainty it would present” and the fact that markets hate uncertainty. 

Economic policies, not political fireworks, determine stock prices, said another analyst, adding that even if Clinton was removed from office, there would be little or no change in economic policy.

A third analyst warned that foreign investors, who owned increasingly bigger pieces of the U.S. financial markets, would be more likely to view the removal of a president with alarm than would U.S. investors.

As it turned out, the Dow actually increased 16% in 1998 during the period when the House was debating and voting on impeachment charges against Clinton. The Dow increased another 3% during the nearly two months before the Senate voted to acquit Clinton on Feb. 12. 

The positive market performance during the Clinton impeachment was attributed to the dot-com boom, which was rapidly boosting the value of tech stocks at the time. 

The lesson that investors took away from both the Nixon and the Clinton impeachments was that underlying market fundamentals are more likely to influence stock prices than are political events. 

Today, the nation’s most compelling market stories are Trump’s trade wars, and that is a two-edged sword. 

The New York Times recently suggested two possibilities. 

One was that impeachment might distract Trump from making new escalations of a trade war.

The other was that impeachment might cause him to act more provocatively in an effort “to redirect public attention.”

One thing is certain: Things will be different this time, if for no other reason than everything is different with Trump.