The market has been worried about trade for almost half a year now, ever since the rhetoric surrounding it began heating up in June. It has been a major factor in several volatility events in stocks, including in October’s big selloffs. However, a meeting this weekend has the potential to put those worries to rest. Alongside the G20 summit this weekend, Trump and Xi will meet for dinner to discuss the trade tensions between their countries.
FINSUM: Trump and Xi seem like two men that get along well personally, but have an immense amount of competing interests that they need to represent. That said, we have faith that good personal relationships can help bridge such differences. (e.g. see the Cold War)
In what comes as an almost apocalyptic announcement for Apple investors, President Trump indicated yesterday that he may impose a tariff directly on iPhones. When asked about whether he would do so, Trump said “Maybe. Maybe. Depends on what the rate is … I mean, I can make it 10%, and people could stand that very easily”. One analyst summarized the development this way, saying “The Street will not be taking this news lightly as with the litany of bad news Apple (and its investors) have seen over the last month … this tariff threat on iPhones out of left field from Trump and Beltway will surely add to this white-knuckle period for Apple”.
FINSUM: We don’t think this will happen. If Trump tried to raise iPhone prices 10% he would likely have a popular revolt (from both sides of the aisle) on his hands. He certainly doesn’t want that.
The GOP seems to be on its back foot heading into the midterm elections and that has the party nervous. The political bombing attempts and the synagogue horror have both sent Trump’s approval rating sharply lower. Now the party is worried that pre-Trump Republicans in affluent suburbs may not show up to vote, which is making them worry they may lose more ground than forecast. According to polls, this group of affluent long-term Republicans has a lower overall interest in the midterms, which may sap much needed votes against the more motivated Democrats.
FINSUM: This is a problem in itself, but the fact that the midterms have become so much of a referendum on Trump at the same time as his approval rating is falling is not a good sign for the party.
For the most part, President Trump has been seen as quite positive for markets. The big rally in his first year cemented that idea, and for most of this year, stocks were in good shape. However, here is an interesting fact—equity valuations are now lower than when he took office. As the media puts it, “the Trump Bump is turning into the Trump discount”.
FINSUM: Two thoughts occur here. The first is that a big reason why valuations have fallen is because earnings are so good, and a lot of that has to do with the Republican-led tax package, so it is not fair to turn that into a negative. Secondly, most of the market trouble stems from the trade war, so it is more an isolated case of policy than a broad effect. In fact, what could be better than good share appreciation without a rise in valuations? It is exactly what you are looking for as an investor—something that earns well but doesn’t look increasingly overpriced.
President Trump has been complaining about the Fed’s hawkish behavior for several months. However, yesterday he seemed to escalate his discontent into something more specific. He told the media that he “maybe” regretted appointing Powell to lead the Fed. He said he was intentionally signaling the Fed that he wanted lower interest rates, but he acknowledged that the Fed was an independent entity. When pushed about the circumstances under which he would fire Powell, the President declined to comment.
FINSUM: Investors should keep an eye on whether Trump escalates his rhetoric into action. We doubt he will do anything about the Fed in the near term, but the market would certainly have a big reaction.