Markets S&P 500 stocks trade

Irony: Trump, Fearing Stock Selloff, Anxious To Strike Quick Trade Deal With China

Poetic justice.

Donald Trump is reportedly anxious to reach a comprehensive and lasting trade deal with Beijing amid ongoing turmoil in US equity markets.

That’s according to the ubiquitous “people familiar with internal White House” discussions cited by Bloomberg in a piece out late Tuesday.

There’s more than a little irony in the fact that equity market volatility is forcing Trump to push for a quick deal. After all, the President repeatedly claimed the 2018 selloff in Chinese equities would ultimately force Beijing to relent.

Critics of that contention variously argued that China could afford to play the long game for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that Xi Jinping doesn’t have the same political calculus as Trump. “After consolidating power at the 13th National Congress, Xi does not need to worry about midterms or his own re-election”, BofAML’s Ethan Harris wrote in August. “Hence he likely does not worry about the stock market as much as a US president.”

Read more

Who’s Really ‘Winning’ The Trade War? The Truth Behind The Rhetoric

Further, China has myriad policy levers, both fiscal and monetary, they can pull to cushion the blow from the trade war. While smart people can (and do) argue about the relative merits of pulling those levers and also about the extent to which those levers are actually effective once pulled, political constraints do not apply the same way they do in the U.S.

Finally, it has been abundantly clear for quite a while that once the effects of Trump’s fiscal stimulus wore off, the U.S. economy and U.S. equities would be exposed to the deleterious effects of the trade frictions. The chickens are now coming home to roost, with Apple’s guidance cut being perhaps the most poignant example.

Read more

Apple’s Guidance Cut Is Proof That Trump’s Trade War Is Coming Home

When you throw in Fed tightening, you end up with a scenario that finds Trump seemingly far more desperate for a deal than Xi. Recall the following excerpt from a note penned late last month by Wells Fargo’s Chris Harvey:

Tenured equity investors have seen this story before and it typically ends with the Fed cutting not raising Fed Funds. In 2019, growth was already expected to decelerate and now we have the potential for the capital markets to amplify the anticipated slowdown. In the near term, we see little to mitigate the cycle’s acceleration. Adding insult to injury, the capital markets turmoil potentially gives the Chinese some trade leverage.

Trump probably assumed the “truce” struck at the G20 in early December would have been enough to placate markets, but he was wrong. His attempts to strong-arm the Fed backfired, as public criticism arguably (and paradoxically) forced Jerome Powell to hike while also exaggerating the importance of that hike in the minds of investors. At the same time, the government shutdown rattled confidence further.

Read more

Donald Trump, ‘Legendary’ Businessman, Made Christmas Eve Panic Call To Mystery Investor As Stocks Crashed

Now, according to the Bloomberg article linked here at the outset, “Trump’s willingness to cut a deal with Beijing is driven in large part by his desire for markets to rally”. As you’re no doubt aware, Trump views stocks as a benchmark for his performance and as such, he’s aghast that stocks fell into a bear market on his watch.

Bloomberg goes on to note that the push for a quick deal is being spearheaded by Steve Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow while (surprise, surprise) Lighthizer (and likely Navarro) are still arguing for a hardline stance.

While the trade hawks prevailed on a number of occasions in 2018 (with perhaps the most famous example being the quick death of the May 19 pseudo-deal that Mnuchin struck with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He), that was when U.S. stocks were rallying. Now that Wall Street is catching down to the rest of the world’s reality, Lighthizer and Navarro might find it more difficult to prevail upon Trump to hold the line.

Obviously, Chinese stocks are still beset with concerns and not just about trade. But as you can see from the following chart, the performance gap between the S&P and the SHCOMP narrowed materially from the wides by late December, underscoring the extent to which the trade war came home for the holidays.



Now then – let’s all take a moment to laugh (really loudly) at the following classic clip from a Trump rally held back on August 4.






7 comments on “Irony: Trump, Fearing Stock Selloff, Anxious To Strike Quick Trade Deal With China

  1. Anonymous

    I thought our ‘stable genius’ said “Trade Wars are easy to win.” China wins in any quick deal, but the Donald will just declare “he won.” and move on to the next crisis of his own making. If he ‘owned ‘ the earlier stock market highs, he’ll also own the coming ‘swoon’ (but he’ll likely blame Powell or the Dems).

  2. Trump only cares about one thing: himself. He’s fighting for everything he’s been able to grift over the decades and will do what he has to hold on to it. Even with a “deal,” I’m not sure this ends well for the rest of us.

  3. H, glad you wrote this piece. It gets to the core of what’s wrong with the leadership in this country in a very logical and methodical manner. It’s ultimately tied to pride, arrogance and greed. When we sacrifice values and the motives behind our policy for greed we end up with nothing of any substance….

  4. Every time I turn around the great negotiator is negotiating from a position of weakness.

  5. Whatever you think of his politics, Lighthizer is intelligent and understands all the trade issues. You don’t get to be head of the Skadden Arps trade practice by being incompetent. Lighthizer might be the most intelligent person in the entire Trump administration (although he doesn’t have much competition). He is trying to make comprehensive changes, even addressing structural problems with the WTO. Rest assured that Trump has no idea or understanding of the issues, and cannot be educated. Mnuchin and Kudlow aren’t far behind. I’m sure Lighthizer is scared to death every time Trump gets involved in the negotiations, because Trump wants to be the decision maker, but is clueless about the issues and might commit to anything. And Lighthizer must also know that Trump’s patience can wear thin. When I heard about the 3 month truce, I thought it was a sign that Lighthizer was in trouble. The number of issues Lighthizer is addressing cannot be wrapped up in 3 months. Lighthizer must be using Navarro to try to keep Trump engaged. I’m impressed that Lightizer has been able to hold the line this long. I thought Trump would be inclined to declare a phony victory before the midterms. But how much longer can this go on? Trump can change in an instant, and has no understanding of the consequences of his actions or what is at stake in the negotiations. One day, someone will get to Trump, and Trump will throw a tantrum and discard all of Lighthizer’s work. Trump will declare victory and withdraw.

    • Harvey Cotton

      Trump often declares victory and withdraws, but somehow the ‘Derp’ State always maintains the present troop levels.

    • I agree, Lighthizer is a tough, ethical negotiator. He did an admirable job on NAFTA 2.0 (or USMCA, as Trump calls it) despite Trump thwarting an earlier ‘almost-agreement’ with new, last minute ‘Trumpian’ demands, which set negotiations back months and outside the ‘window’ where both the GOP-controlled Congress and Senate could have approved it and put it into an uncertain new Congress where the Democrats have announced their intentions to start ‘tinkering’ with it or not even bring it to a vote in 2019. SAD!

Speak On It

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Skip to toolbar