The bent out of shape of things to come
If regular readers have not picked up on our view on US-China relations, it is that although just enough good will can be scraped together to kick the can down the road for 90 days, ultimately there is no US-China trade deal that can be done: those tariffs are going up from 10% to 25%. Fundamentally, this isn’t about trade from either side. It’s about geopolitical power. The US knows it. China knows it. Some market analysts know it, though far fewer will dare to say it publicly. But the markets as a whole certainly don’t want to know it – yet. That might be changing though.
We have just seen White House Economic Advisor –and likely one of those guys who does still think this is all about trade– Larry Kudlow say that there is “still a pretty sizable distance” between the US and China as we tick towards the midnight 1 March deadline. Cue market wobbles. The Wall Street Journal today has a story that US firms are phoning President Trump directly to lobby for a deal to get done. Presumably that is not a sign that things are going well. You don’t lobby when the ship of state is moving in the direction you like. And in the same article it is detailed that China seems to be confident that tariffs will come down by 2 March regardless of them not making any concessions. Pride cometh before the fall, as they say. Also perhaps a sign of concern, rather than imminent victory, a pro-trade lobbying group is saying that 934,000 jobs will be lost if the US does proceed with 25% tariffs.
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