On the surface, the US seems to have a major upper hand in its trade war with China. Simply put, they export a lot more to the US than we do to China, which means that they have more to lose than we. However, looking closer at the imposition of the US’ attest tariffs, a significant weak spot emerges. That weak spot is that the US has become overly reliant on some very niche but important Chinese exports. Mot of these are things people have never heard of, like carbonate esters and fluorine salts, both used for electric car batteries. Nonetheless though, they are very important, and 297 such imports were recently exempted from the US tariffs.
FINSUM: Barite (for oil and gas exploration) and Ibuprofen, are other crucial imports. This is one of the pressure points where China could simply cutoff supply and the US would be in a difficult position.
The special counsel investigation that started as an investigation into the Trump administration’s connections to Russia, but has blossomed into an all-encompassing dragnet, has been quite quiet of late. However, the FT reported today that Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has been cooperating with Mueller and his team, particularly on the topic of Russian interference. According to Cohen’s lawyer, his client has provided “critical information” to the special counsel regarding Russia.
FINSUM: It is hard to know how whether the information he passed along was valuable, but it could be a hint that there is another bombshell about to hit headlines.
President Trump has just ordered $200 bn of further tariffs to be applied to Chinese goods. The Chinese have responded strongly, vowing to retaliate to the measures. The Chinese government said “We have been stressing that talks need to happen on the basis of parity, equality and good faith … What the US has done shows no sincerity and good faith at all”. The Chinese says they will impose tariffs on $110 bn of US goods, or about 85% of all US imports to the country.
FINSUM: These tariffs come just before the US and China were set to hold another round of trade talks. We have no idea how those are progressing, but this is really going to anger the Chinese.
One moment it seems like détente, the next, all out economic war. Well, the latter seems to be stealing the stage this week, as the US and China are trading barbs over trade. The Trump administration is set to impose a fresh round of tariffs on $200 bn of Chinese goods. The new tariffs come just as the US and China were planning to have a fresh round of negotiations on trade. However, China make be backing away from such talks, as a senior Chinese official recently said “China is not going to negotiate with a gun pointed to its head”.
FINSUM: There is so much back and forth and “noise” in this trade battle with China that it is very hard to get a fix on what is actually happening.
Right now it does not seem like it has a high likelihood, but given the current direction of antipathy towards Trump, a sweep by Democrats in the midterm elections could happen. If it does (as opposed to the more likely option of Democrats only taking the House), the following sectors should do well, says Barron’s. These include: consumer staples, utilities, and real estate, all rate-sensitive sectors. The reason why is that Democrats are expected to push through a big infrastructure spending plan if they win, which would create deflation and keep rates pinned.
FINSUM: This is quite an insightful take on what might flourish if Democrats do have a breakthrough. It seems unlikely, but then again, it seemed unlikely Trump was going to win going into election night!
It would be an understatement to say that a lot is riding on the midterms. Control of Congress is at stake, and within it, the whole policy agenda of the country. The stakes are even higher because of how politically divided the country is. Many think the Democrats will take the house but lose the Senate, resulting in a split Congress. This puts many investors at ease because it could block some of the right’s more extreme impulses (such as those against free trade). However, there is reason to worry that Republicans might fare far worse. That reason is that Donald Trump is the most unpopular president ever in such a buoyant economy. According to one polling expert, “There’s a huge disconnect … The economy doesn’t seem to be dominating in a way that it often does in elections”.
FINSUM: Our worry for the Republicans is that Trump is making the midterms more about himself than the party, and given the high degree of disapproval, that approach could really end up costing Republicans in the midterms. Consider an all-blue Congress come November a considerable tail risk.