If one thing has been clear over the last couple of years, it is that US-China relations are getting worse. It started earlier in Trump’s term and has escalated in a tit-for-tat battle over the last couple years. Some refer to it as a great “uncoupling” while others say it is a new cold war. Whatever you call it, there are a handful of sectors that will do well as the situation unfolds. One such sector is automation and robotics companies. These companies are likely to do very well as US businesses are forced to re-shore manufacturing from China and seek out automation to make the return more economical.
FINSUM: A major decoupling will be a very ugly event. US companies do $500 bn of sales in China each year. The automation play makes sense. Check out the Robotics ETF (ROBO).
Markets were up big today on news out of China. The day started with Chinese stocks surging on news from the government—Chinese state media told its people that they should load up on stocks. This sent hopes for a recovery soaring around the global and markets rose strongly. Beyond the state’s endorsement, the Chinese economy does seem to be dong well. “In recent weeks the data has looked very positive from China. Its economy is back in motion, and that should lift global equities a bit”, summarized Principal Global Investors chief strategist, Seema Shah.
FINSUM: The state media announcement seems a bit hollow, but since real economic data in China appears to be improving, the overall direction looks positive.
It is often hard to get a handle on how the Chinese economy is doing. The country’s government controls information very tightly, which makes the whole nation a black box. However, with coronavirus fears in full flourish there is some additional insight available, and it is worrying. Factories across the country have been shut as part of an effort to contain the disease, and even tech workers are working remotely. All over the country, from Beijing to Shanghai, to industrial provinces, workers are not reporting to factories (following government advice to stay home). Even today, as some parts of the country were supposed to return to work, many are not.
FINSUM: The Chinese economy seems to have completely stopped. It is hard to imagine there will not be a significant recession this quarter in China, which could reverberate all over the world.
The new SARS/Coronavirus that has broken out in China has been serious enough that it has actually spooked markets. 17 people have already died and 600 more have the pathogen, which is as yet poorly understood. Now the city where it was first found, Wuhan, has been quarantined. However, the quarantine has been greatly undermined by the fact that it was instituted after the country’s biggest annual migration—the Lunar New Year, when Chinese go home to visit family. One the big worries is that the virus seems to have “superspreading” characteristics, or the kind of virus that spreads much more rapidly from person to person than normal.
FINSUM: This is a pretty scary bug, and the US already had its first confirmed case (a man in Seattle that had come directly from Wuhan).
China’s newest GDP data has just come in and it is shockingly weak. Third quarter GDP growth was the lowest in has been since the early 1990s and appears to show the sting of US tariffs. Growth was just 6%, a major sign of the weakening state of the global economy. That is the same level of growth as in the late 1980s, though China’s economy is now far larger. Those paying attention will know that China’s economy grew at around 7-8% per year since the Crisis.
FINSUM: So this is an admitted 6%. Beijing keeps very tight control of its economic data, so it is not inconceivable that the real number is actually lower.
The US is considering some new rules that could cause a stock market calamity in China. The government is considering putting new restrictions on US capital flowing to the Chinese mainland. The move is considered the third and worst-case-scenario stage for Chinese markets in the current trade war. In particular, the big risk is that MSCI de-lists Chinese stocks from its broader indexes, meaning all that capital would need to be pulled out. That amount is currently around $50 to $60 bn.
FINSUM: This is not hugely massive, but it is certainly enough to hurt markets on a technical front, but perhaps even more from a perception angle.