The ECB put out research today making an argument that we hadn’t heard very much—that any trade war would hurt the US most of all. According to the ECB, “if Donald Trump’s administration was to raise tariffs and other barriers on imports by another 10 per cent — and other countries were to retaliate — growth would drop more sharply in the US than in either the euro area or China” (quoted from FT). The ECB found that one year of heightened trade tensions could knock 2% off US GDP.
FINSUM: The analysis of the actual economic impact may be credible, but the ECB is totally missing the point about the China. The risk for them is not just economic, but social and political—because they have an unelected government, officials there are under extreme pressure to keep the people happy with economic growth.
When and if the US-China trade deal finally happens, make sure to sell. At least that is what Bloomberg is arguing. In a classic case of buy the rumor, sell the news, Bloomberg thinks the completion of a deal should be a sell trigger. The trade situation itself is shaping up as a lose-lose for investors. Either it will be a symbolic-only deal that is short on details and does little to actually resolve tension, or Trump may walk away from the table with no deal (like with North Korea). In either situation, it is hard to see the market celebrating.
FINSUM: We tend to agree with this view. The way this is shaping up, it does not seem like there is going to be some grandiose trade accord that solves everyone’s issues.
JP Morgan is joining the bullish bandwagon. While fear that the rally has been too fast permeates across the markets, JP Morgan is stepping in to say that they think the market has plenty of runway higher. The bank thinks stocks have a good tailwind behind them as a trio of positive factors exist: a dovish fed, a stable yield curve, and pending US-China trade deal. The bank thinks that stocks look like they did right after the 2015-2016 correction cycle, a period right before a big bull run.
FINSUM: We are starting to think that shares may have some good runway left. The correction in P/E ratios was a very healthy adjustment to end the year, and the macro situation is looking positive.
In what sounds like a classic case of “buy the rumor, sell the news”, a major Wall Street figure is arguing that as soon as the US and China reach a trade deal, the big rally in risk assets will be over. The former CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Shawn Matthews, argues that “Right now, it’s a risk-on mentality -- you want to be long riskier assets until you get a deal with China … When that happens you certainly want to be looking to scale back”. One of Matthews’ worries is that bond markets are following suit, signaling to him that this is a false rally. “If it was truly a risk-on world and people believed it and it was an extended trade, then you would see the 10-year start to back up. That’s a clear sign there’s some concern about what’s going on out there”, said Matthews.
FINSUM: This is quite an interesting take on the whole situation. We are going to hold off on giving our full view until we have had more time to digest, but we thought this angle was definitely worth sharing.
Is the US headed for a major slowdown? That is the big question, especially as the economic clouds darken around the globe. The rest of the world, from Europe to China, is slowing, but the US continues to hum along nicely. So are we the last ship that is going to sink, or will the US manage to defy the tides and keep growing strongly? Looking to markets, yields around the world have fallen (including a dramatic increase in negative yielding European bonds), showing that investors are growing more bearish about the economic outlook.
FINSUM: With the Fed paused, we do not see an imminent recession by any means. We do, however, feel the US economy and markets lack a strong narrative at the moment, which makes us slightly nervous.