Articles tagged with: trade war

Trade War Hysterics

Since hitting new all-time highs three weeks ago, the S&P 500 has fallen about 2.2% as trade negotiations with China hit a snag.  Two weeks ago, the US announced new tariffs on Chinese imports.  Then, China announced new tariffs on some US goods. Many fear a widening trade war.

Don’t get us wrong.  We want free trade, and we understand the dangers of trade wars and tariffs (which are just taxes on consumers).  At the same time, we think trade deficits themselves are not a reason for trade wars.  We all run personal trade deficits with the local grocery store and benefit from that.  Even if the entire world went to zero tariffs, the US would almost certainly still run trade deficits, even with China.

But today, the trade deficit with China is partly due to the fact that China has higher tariffs on imports than the US does – working to eliminate these lopsided tariffs is worthwhile.

In 1980, China was an impoverished nation.  Then it began adopting tools of capitalism – property rights, markets, free prices and wages.  Chinese businesses started to import the West’s technology, and growth accelerated.

Initially, China didn’t have to worry about intellectual property.  When you replace oxen with a tractor, all you have to do is buy the tractor, not reinvent the internal combustion engine.  But China has now picked, and benefited from, the lowest hanging fruit.  So, China decided to steal the R&D of firms located abroad.  Some estimates of this collective theft run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.

That’s why normal free market and free trade principles don’t neatly apply to China.

Remember President Reagan’s old story supporting free trade?  “We’re in the same boat with our trading partners,” Reagan said.  “If one partner shoots a hole in the boat, does it make sense for the other one to shoot another hole in the boat?”  The obvious answer is that it doesn’t, and so our own protectionism would hurt us.

But China hasn’t just shot a hole in the boat, they’ve become pirates.  If Tony Soprano and his cronies robbed your house, would free market principles require you to trade with them to buy those items back?  Of course not!

It’s true tariff increases will not help the US economy.  But $100 billion of tariffs spread over $14 trillion of consumer spending is not a recession inducing drag.  It’s true some business, like soybean farmers, are hurt.  But the status quo means accepting hundreds of billions in theft from companies that are at the leading edge of future growth.

Either way, if tariffs nick our economy, China’s gets hammered.  Last year we exported $180 billion in goods and services to China, which is 0.9% of our GDP.  Meanwhile, China exported $559 billion to the US, which is 4.6% of their economy.  We have enormous economic leverage that they simply can’t match.

An extended US-China trade battle means US companies will shift supply chains out of China and toward places like Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, or “Made in the USA.”  If that happens, the Chinese economy is hurt for decades.

Anyone can invent a scenario where some sort of Smoot-Hawley-like global trade war happens.  Realistically, though, that appears very unlikely.  We’re not the only advanced country China’s piracy has victimized, and China may realize it’s more isolated than it thought.  In the end, China wants to trade with the West, not North Korea, Russia, and Venezuela.  China needs the West.  And all these trade war hysterics just aren’t warranted.

Brian S. Wesbury – Chief Economist, First Trust

Robert Stein, CFA – Deputy Chief Economist, First Trust

Consensus forecasts come from Bloomberg. This report was prepared by First Trust Advisors L.P. and reflects the current opinion of the authors.  It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable.  Opions and forward looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice.  This information does not constitute a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security.

This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at phone: 641-782-5577or email:  mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website:  www.cfgiowa.com

Securities and Registered Investment Advisory Services offered through Silver Oak Securities, Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC. Silver Oak Securities, Inc. and Cornerstone Financial Group are separate entities.

 

Why the U.S. Might Be Less Affected by a Trade War

The nature of our economy could help it withstand the disruption.

A trade war does seem to be getting underway. Investors around the world see headwinds arising from newly enacted and planned tariffs, headwinds that could potentially exert a drag on global growth (and stock markets). How badly could these trade disputes hurt the American economy? Perhaps not as dramatically as some journalists and analysts warn.1,2

Our business sector may be impacted most. Undeniably, tariffs on imported goods raise costs for manufacturers. Costlier imports may reduce business confidence, and less confidence implies less capital investment. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, which regularly surveys firms to learn their plans for the next six months, learned in July that businesses anticipate investing less and hiring fewer employees during the second half of the year. The survey’s index for future activity fell in July for the fourth month in a row. (Perhaps the outlook is not quite as negative as the Philadelphia Fed reports: a recent National Federation of Independent Business survey indicates that most companies have relatively stable spending plans for the near term.)1,2

Fortunately, the U.S. economy is domestically driven. Consumer spending is its anchor: household purchases make up about two-thirds of it. Our economy is fairly “closed” compared to the economies of some of our key trading partners and rivals. Last year, trade accounted for just 27% of our gross domestic product. In contrast, it represented 37% of gross domestic product for China, 64% of growth for Canada, 78% of GDP for Mexico, and 87% of GDP for Germany.3,4

Our stock markets have held up well so far. The trade spat between the U.S. and China cast some gloom over Wall Street during the second-quarter earnings season, yet the S&P 500 neared an all-time peak in early August.5

All this tariff talk has helped the dollar. Between February 7 and August 7, the U.S. Dollar Index rose 5.4%. A stronger greenback does potentially hurt U.S. exports and corporate earnings, and in the past, the impact has been felt notably in the energy, materials, and tech sectors.6,7

As always, the future comes with question marks. No one can predict just how severe the impact from tariffs on our economy and other economies will be or how the narrative will play out. That said, it appears the U.S. may have a bit more economic insulation in the face of a trade war than other nations might have.

Mike Moffitt may be reached at ph# 641-782-5577 or email: mikem@cfgiowa.com

Website: www.cfgiowa.com

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Michael Moffitt is a Registered Representative with and Securities are offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investments advice offered through Advantage Investment Management (AIM), a registered investment advisor. Cornerstone Financial Group and AIM are separate entities from LPL Financial. 

Citations.

1 – reuters.com/article/us-usa-economy/us-weekly-jobless-claims-hit-more-than-48-and-a-half-year-low-idUSKBN1K91R5 [7/19/18]

2 – nytimes.com/2018/07/24/upshot/trade-war-damage-to-us-economy-how-to-tell.html [7/24/18]

3 – money.cnn.com/2018/07/25/news/economy/state-of-the-economy-gdp/index.html [7/25/18]

4 – alliancebernstein.com/library/can-the-us-economy-weather-the-trade-wars.htm [7/17/18]

5 – cnbc.com/2018/08/06/the-sp-500-and-other-indexes-are-again-on-the-verge-of-historic-highs.html [8/6/18]

6 – barchart.com/stocks/quotes/$DXY/performance [8/7/18]

7 – investopedia.com/ask/answers/06/strongweakdollar.asp [3/16/18]