For most of this year and last, the idea of a nasty full-blown trade war was like a boogey man that stalked investors, but still seemed a slightly distant threat. That is no longer the case, as an ugly trade war has rapidly developed into the status quo. Accordingly, many top analysts, such as at JP Morgan and Nomura, are saying that high US tariffs on China are here to stay. Market volatility is likely to continue as new news continues to stream out.
FINSUM: There is a lot to worry about in this trade war, but one of our immediate, but less discussed, concerns is about the intersection of tariffs, the Fed, and inflation. The tariffs are likely to raise US inflation by boosting prices for goods, which could keep the Fed from hiking, trapping us in a difficult environment.
The retail sector had a terrible 2017, the “retailpocalypse”, only to recover and have a strong bounce back in the first half of last year. Now things are looking bleak once again. Top retailers like Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters have already fallen 25%+ in the last year. Each business has its own issues, but the general trend in the sector has been bearishness. Some may think with valuations very low it is a good time to buy in. Think again. Retailers are having to invest heavily to update their models and offerings in the face of digital disruption to the industry. Further, tariffs from the trade war will wound the sector.
FINSUM: The bruising period retail has been going through is not over and it does not seem like a wise time to invest.
Investors probably won’t see it coming, but big losses are likely on the way for FANG stocks. The bank says that the group of companies is about to be “smacked down” by regulators. Savita Subramanian, Head of US equity strategy at BAML, says that the risk for investors is heavily skewed to the downside. “These companies are about to be smacked down from a regulatory perspective … Look at the fact that Mark Zuckerberg was testifying before Congress a year ago. That’s exactly what all the financial CEOs were doing 10 years ago”. Subramanian likens the coming losses to what happened to financial stocks in 2008-2009.
FINSUM: We doubt any forthcoming losses will be Financial Crisis-like but the regulatory risk is surely a big one. Will new regulations be related to anti-trust or data protection? Or both?
The trade war is very scary for everybody. From politicians to executives to investors (in both nations), everyone is afraid of the implications of the trade war. However, there are some good reasons not to be. Firstly, while there are fears of a market tailspin, the reality is that the dovish Fed should provide a safety net. Secondly, many worry the trade war could bring the economy to a standstill, but remember that only 2.4% of US economic output is at risk of Chinese tariffs. Finally, many fear China could dump its $1.1 tn of Treasuries. The truth is that doing so is very unlikely, and even if they do, it is a small portion of the $22 tn market.
FINSUM: The general theme to take away here is that China is not as big a part of the US economy and markets as many seem to assume it is. That said, the secondary effects of a trade war, such as the psychological impact on business and the effect on the rest of the world, could be considerable.
Bonds and stocks are at odds right now. Yields have dropped considerably as the bond market is predicting pain to come. Stocks have sold off, but are still around all-time highs. If you look at how money markets are currently priced they imply a whopping 20% decline in stocks. There is not a much macro data to support the money markets’ pricing, but it is certainly a sign to pay attention to. “The rates market has probably overreacted relative to other asset classes in the last two weeks. However, the macro backdrop is fundamentally more uncertain today”, says Deutsche Bank, continuing “The renewed trade tensions create downside risks which were deemed to be negligible 2 months ago”.
FINSUM: Stocks are going to react to economic data and the trade war, so the current forecasts for stock prices are only as good as one’s ability to prognosticate those factors.