So let’s say you are in the bullish camp and think the US-China trade spat will be resolved soon. What is the best way to profit from that development? All stocks will likely rise, and bond yields will probably rise too. But where will the best gains be? How about small caps. The argument here may seem counterintuitive, but shows an evolution in thinking on the part of investors. At the start of the trade war, many thought small caps would do well as they are less exposed to international trade. However, thinking has changed and investors are now much more focused on which sectors are most exposed. This has led small caps to have a rough year compared to large caps, mostly because there are so many financial stocks in the small cap sector. That said, a resolution of the trade war would suspend downward pressure on rates and allow the sectors which have beaten up to flourish, offering disproportionate gains for small caps.
FINSUM: This is a fairly sophisticated argument based on the proportion of beaten up stocks that are in the small cap asset class. However, it does make a lot of sense.
The US and China might be starting to realize that they really need each other. Each side is feeling the pain, and that is making a deal feel closer. China has seen a 47% rise in pork prices in the last year—a key form of disturbance to its population, and seems to want to resume importing US pork. Trump has just delayed a new round of tariffs as a measure of good faith before Washington and Beijing return to the negotiating table.
FINSUM: It is quite hard to ascertain the degree to which the US and China actually want to close a trade deal. China has grown so large and self-sufficient that it is big enough to get by on its own, which seems to lower its incentive to compromise. The US is in the same position.
Something discouraging is happening to the US real estate market. Home prices and sales are continuing to be weak despite a huge drop in mortgage rates. Lower mortgage rates should have given a boost to new home sales and construction, but the opposite has occurred. Home price gains and sales have slipped considerably and permits for new construction have fallen 6.6% in 15 months.
FINSUM: The question, as ever, is whether the weakness in housing is presaging an economy-wide recession, or is just an isolated situation. We favor the latter.
While investors might not feel it right now, tariffs do have some upsides. The most direct one—revenue for the US Treasury. US Treasury income is surging because of the recent tariff hikes on Chinese goods. The rolling 12-month sum of customs duties collected by the Treasury (through the end of June) was $63 bn, almost double the sum of the same period last year. If Trump enacts another round of planned hikes on September 1st, the US will likely collect $100 bn in tariffs this year.
FINSUM: This is a good number, especially at a time of major government over-spending. However, it must be remembered that the large majority of this bounty will be eaten up by aid paid to US farmers as part of tariff relief efforts.
Trump’s tariffs are having a major impact on the US’ trading relationships. The data has been showing such, but now there is a very significant data point: China is no longer the US’ largest trading partner. Mexico has now assumed that position. The decline in trade with China comes alongside an escalating trade war that has seen tariff hikes and restrictions on both sides.
FINSUM: We are now officially of the position that this trade war with China will not be resolved any time soon, so this decline in trading seems to be the end of an era.