In what sounds like a classic case of “buy the rumor, sell the news”, a major Wall Street figure is arguing that as soon as the US and China reach a trade deal, the big rally in risk assets will be over. The former CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, Shawn Matthews, argues that “Right now, it’s a risk-on mentality -- you want to be long riskier assets until you get a deal with China … When that happens you certainly want to be looking to scale back”. One of Matthews’ worries is that bond markets are following suit, signaling to him that this is a false rally. “If it was truly a risk-on world and people believed it and it was an extended trade, then you would see the 10-year start to back up. That’s a clear sign there’s some concern about what’s going on out there”, said Matthews.
FINSUM: This is quite an interesting take on the whole situation. We are going to hold off on giving our full view until we have had more time to digest, but we thought this angle was definitely worth sharing.
Those of you who read our opinions on how the trade war with the US is affecting China will know that one of main concerns is about the relationship between the government and the people in China. This week, Xi has echoed that warning. The Chinese leader stressed the need to maintain political stability in the face of economic challenges. The warning, which came at an unusual meeting of Chinese leaders, shows the ruling party’s anxieties over the social implications of the slowing economy.
FINSUM: Chinese leadership is in a tight jam. On the one hand they have the US squeezing them with tariffs, and on the other, they have the need to maintain the economy’s strong growth to keep people happy. Remember that leaders are unelected, so their grip on control is very tied to keeping everyone satisfied.
Happy new year—the Dow opened down 350 points this morning on fears over a Chinese slowdown. New data is out of the country which shows that Beijing’s manufacturing sector is contracting, a sign that tariffs may be flowing through to the economy. That makes markets hope more than ever for a trade agreement between the US and Beijing, which would likely alleviate the economic strain. The S&P 500 has fallen 20.2% on an intraday basis, an official bear market.
FINSUM: The implications of a big Chinese slowdown are serious. Firstly, how does the country react politically to what they likely view (or will project) as a US-imposed slowdown? Secondly, how much does the slowdown drag down the global economy?
Some investors may be breathing a sigh of relief this week alongside the huge rally. The massive gain of 5% earlier this week was the biggest single day gain since 2009. However, taking a broader view, such major gains have usually mean the market is in deep trouble. To give some context, every comparable rally in stocks since 1900 occurred during the bear market of 2008-2009. Overall, it was the 9th time the market reversed an intraday move of at least 1 percent this quarter. That is the most since the US downgrade in 2011.
FINSUM: In itself, we think the rally means precisely nothing for markets. Investors’ emotions are whipsawing all over the place and the market is yet to find solid footing behind any positive narrative.
Just a handful of days ago, the US-China trade situation looked to be improving. Trump and Xi reportedly had a breakthrough meeting and China even went as far as to deliberately make a positive public statement in an effort to prop up US markets. However, things have worsened rapidly. First, the US arrested the CFO of Chinese giant Huawei, which angered Beijing, and now the US is close to issuing a travel warning after China detained a Canadian diplomat. The detention is part of an effort to compel Canada not to extradite the Huawei CFO to the US.
FINSUM: We went from public display of détente to a very tense diplomatic situation. The outlook for the trade war, which will be a reflection of all the other issues, looks bleak at the moment.