Trade Worries: Not Gone. Not Forgotten.

The trade story is not done. It’s just in intermission.

Dow futures were down approximately 55 points in pre-opening trading. After the past three days of stronger openings and subsequent sell-offs, today’s opening could be a bad sign for stocks.

The Dow is down 578 points this week, despite the fact economic data has been OK this week and last Friday’s jobs report was terrific. What seemed to plague the stock market Wednesday was a surge in trade worries. Although the market was cheered by Trump’s apparent softening of tariffs last week, there is still plenty to worry about.


Here is a summary of those worry points:

  1. Peter Navarro is clearly in charge of trade, and he will not be satisfied with the small steps taken. This is simply his first shot.
  2. There’s a story making the rounds that the White House is preparing to unleash a second round of tariffs next week, but this time they will be directed solely at China.
  3. China has not said a lot about the United States’ moves, but that silence will not last if we hit it a second time. Analysts have lists of ways that China could retaliate, and it could get very ugly very fast.

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  4. After having a day to think it over, traders also started to worry about Trump’s pick for Secretary of State. Mike Pompeo’s focus might not be trade, but he has been a vociferous critic of China and that’s putting it mildly.
  5. Traders did like Trump naming Larry Kudlow to replace Gary Cohn as chief economic adviser, but that did not get too much mileage. Kudlow is a free trade guy, but in the past couple of weeks of has warmed up to the idea of targeting China. All we can hope is that Kudlow can contain some of Trump’s and Navarro’s worst impulses on trade.

Read more about the bond market and economic reports.

Dwight Johnston is the chief economist of the California and Nevada Credit Union Leagues and president of Dwight Johnston Economics. He is the author of a popular commentary site and is a frequent speaker at credit union board planning sessions and industry conferences.


March 15, 2018

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