Trump now says he sold stocks to avoid conflicts of interest

Ivanka's business ties in Japan raise more conflicts for Donald Trump
Ivanka's business ties in Japan raise more conflicts for Donald Trump

President-elect Donald Trump, who has warned for more than a year that stocks are overpriced, now says he sold his own stock because he was worried about a conflict of interest.

Calling in to NBC's "Today" show after he was named Time magazine's Person of the Year, Trump said he got out of the market in June "because I felt I was very much going to be winning." He said he therefore "would have a tremendous ... conflict of interest owning all of these different companies."

"I don't think for me to be owning stocks when I'm making deals for this country that maybe will affect one company positively and one company negatively -- I just felt it was a conflict," he said.

Trump is on record repeatedly saying he believes stocks are in a bubble and in danger of crashing.

In October 2015, he told the newspaper The Hill: "We're in a bubble right now." In August, when he first disclosed he had gotten out of the stock market, he told Fox Business that "very scary scenarios" were ahead for investors. And in the first presidential debate in September, he said stocks were in a "big, fat, ugly bubble."

But Wednesday on "Today," he said: "I've never been a big person for the stock market." He said he bought some stocks over the years "when they were low."

It's difficult to verify that he sold at all. Trump's last financial disclosure came in May, a month before he says he sold. Trump is not required to submit another disclosure to the Office of Government Ethics until May 2018.

Trump's statement about selling all his individual stock holdings does not address whether he has pulled out of his investments in various hedge funds, which were a far larger share of his portfolio, according to his financial disclosure filing. Hedge fund investments would mean that he indirectly owns stocks.

Related: Experts say Trump's plan to leave business isn't enough

Government ethics experts have repeatedly raised concerns about conflicts of interest posed by Trump's business interests once he becomes president.

He has promised to hold a news conference next week to detail arrangements separate himself from his business. He has suggested he will hand control of the business to three of his adult children, which some experts have said will not address the problem.

If Trump did sell, he missed a big rally. Stocks have climbed steadily since Trump was elected. The Dow Jones industrial average hit another record high on Tuesday.

Trump said on "Today" that it's proof businesses are confident about his coming administration. Rather than talking about a bubble, he said he sees more upside for stocks.

"In the history of this country, there's never been an up this big after an election," he said. "Frankly, I think we're going to go up, we have tremendous room, tremendous margin in our country."

--CNNMoney's Heather Long contributed to this story.

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