It looks like the EU is going to pullout all the stops to try to avoid a trade war with the US. EU commissioner head Juncker is going to meet in Washington this week with President Trump to offer some new avenues for discussion as a way to avoid a broad tariff package. Trump is threatening a $50 bn tariff package on the EU, which he says has taken advantage of the US in trade. Europe is particularly worried for their car exports to the US, which are very vulnerable to Trump’s potential tariffs.
FINSUM: We have a hard time imagining Juncker is going to say anything to dissuade Trump, but maybe the EU has something sweet to offer.
Anyone hoping the current trade war might have stalled will be sorely mistaken today. While Trump says he plans to to impose an additional $200 bn of tariffs on China in September, he has just said he is ready to go to a full $500 bn of tariffs on Chinese imports. When asked if he thought his plans would cause the stock markets to drop, Trump responded “Well, if it does, it does. Look, I'm not doing this for politics. I'm doing this to do this right thing for our country”.
FINSUM: We think the US does currently get a raw deal in a lot of foreign trade, especially with China. However, the manner in which this “negotiation” is proceeding does seem to be unnecessarily disruptive.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance has just formally opened an investigation into Trump’s charity activities. The state accuses the Donald J. Trump Foundation of violating state tax laws regarding campaign financing, self-dealing, and illegally coordinating with the presidential campaign. The state seeks to dissolve the foundation in addition to other measures. The investigation may turn criminal, in which case it could widen in scope to include much of Trump’s personal financial affairs, including his tax returns.
FINSUM: Hard to know how broad this could extend, but it seems like it will certainly intersect with Mueller’s investigation. It could prove a big headache for the president.
President Trump faced nothing short of public and political outrage in the US yesterday, after he essentially sided with Russia’s view of the 2016 election meddling scandal. When asked about Russia’ alleged meddling in the election, Trump insinuated that he believed Putin’s side of the story more than that of US intelligence agencies (though he did not say this outright). That sparked widespread condemnation from political foes and allies alike.
FINSUM: Whatever you think of Trump’s comments, most might agree that these are some of his most provocative and risky comments yet. The reason being that appearing to “side” with Russia might undermine some of his own nationalist voter base.
Something very odd has been going on in markets for the last few weeks—investors are completely tuning out politics. The political situation both domestically and internationally has grown steadily worse in recent weeks. The US has a growing trade war with China, Brexit is a complete mess, Trump is meddling with allies etc., yet markets continue to move higher. Even emerging markets have rallied.
FINSUM: On top of politics, recession fears are also growing. Accordingly, it is slightly concerning markets are rising. Markets have learned to not take Trump’s comments too seriously, but that lack of sensitivity might be serving investors poorly right now. The Wall Street Journal says it best: “Markets are notoriously bad at pricing changes in the political weather until they are forced to”.
We have not covered the Trump probe saga in a while, and with good reason—there has been little news. However, that may be about to change. ABC News has run an interview which seems to suggest that Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, may be about to turn on the president as he prioritizes his own family. “I will not be a punching bag as part of anyone’s defence strategy … My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will ... I put family and country first”. He says he is not the villain in this story and does not want to be depicted that way.
FINSUM: Maybe he is about to turn on Trump, but no one knows what cards he may or may not be holding.