The next phase of the US-China trade war is coming, and it looks like it may be even worse. At the beginning both sides focused on levying higher tariffs on more goods, then Trump took the step of limiting China’s access to semiconductors with his ban on Huawei. Now the next phase may be much more specific and potentially damaging for the US—China is likely to limit the US’ access to rare earths used to make all kinds of technology devices. Access to such rare earth elements is one of the biggest US weaknesses in tech and Beijing has the power to block access because the US imports 80% of its rare earths from China.
FINSUM: It is hard to tell how bad this could be. On the one hand, the total US imports of Chinese rare earths are only $160m, but on the other, if there is not another easy source then it could hamstring the businesses that use them.
The FANGs have gotten a lot of market pressure lately, both in the form of sell-offs, but also from analysts, who say tech companies will be among the worst hit by tariffs. However, one fund, Light Street Capital, which has made great returns betting on new technology companies, thinks Netflix has a lot of room to run. They reason they like Netflix is that the company has intentionally made its product very cheap in order to grow its subscriber base. They think there is a lot of room for Netflix to raise prices without alienating customers. Consumers have gotten used to paying $100 a month for cable, but are currently only paying $9-$12 per month for Netflix.
FINSUM: Netflix has a lot of room to expand margins. Think about the effect to earnings if it raised prices to a still very tolerable $14.99 per month.
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?
One of the trade war’s big victims could be Apple. While much of the trade war panic has been focused on other products, Apple could be the biggest victim to suffer. The the reason why may have more to do with sentiment than with tariffs. While there is much talk of Chinese “national champions”, Apple is undoubtedly an American national champion in China, and with sentiment souring against the US in the face of the trade war, it is likely that Chinese consumers will move towards purchasing domestic smart phones. Apple will be forced to raise prices because of tariffs, which would accelerate the trade. China accounts for about 18% of Apple’s revenue and a higher percentage of its profits.
FINSUM: There could be a big hit to Apple’s top and bottom lines here. China could also take measures to specifically wound Apple the way Washington has done to Huawei. Anything seems to be fair game right now.
The panic over Trump’s blacklisting of Huawei was reaching a fever pitch. The fall out had gotten so bad that it looks like the President decided to take a step back. Trump has now granted a three-month reprieve on the blacklist to give companies time to adjust. The stay is not a cancellation of the decision, just a window for adjustment. Huawei says it “doesn’t mean much”.
FINSUM: This is smarter than a sudden blanket ban as it will give a little adjustment period which may make it a bit easier for companies and markets to digest.
Make no mistake, the US’ new blacklisting of Huawei is going to have a serious effect on American tech companies. Huawei is deeply integrated with many US suppliers of technology components, so the import and export restrictions will be significant. Here is a lit of US companies with major relationships with Huawei: Qualcomm, Broadcom, Xilinx, Synopsys, Marvell Technology, Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Texas Instruments, and Micron technology.
FINSUM: The impact on the top and bottom lines of all these companies will take some time to figure out, but for now we thought it would be useful to know which ones are at risk.