Is a trade war coming?

By Jani Ziedins | End of Day Analysis

Mar 06

End of Day Update:

Tuesday was a relatively benign session for the S&P500 with prices bouncing between modest losses and gains. But that no longer matters because shortly after the close, Trump’s top economic advisor dropped a bombshell by resigning in protest over the proposed tariffs.

This is a major blow to business groups because Gary Cohn was the leading proponent for business interests inside the Trump administration. Unfortunately he lost the tug-of-war with the pro-nationalist advisors. Potentially this marks a big shift in Trump’s policy priorities going forward.

The market is most definitely concerned about this development and futures are down more than 1%. Previously prices had been recovering from last week’s selloff on hope Trump would moderate his stance on universally applied tariffs. But now it looks increasingly likely we are headed for a trade war with our North American and European allies. I warned readers last week this could get ugly and unfortunately it looks like that is the way this is headed.

I most definitely disagree with Trump, there are no winners in a trade war. The proposed steel and aluminum tariffs will raise prices on goods Americans buy. Higher prices means less money left over for other things. And that is just the start. Europe already outlined retaliatory tariffs they will apply to American made products. As a whole, the EU’s economy and population is larger than the United States, so that will definitely have an impact on domestic exporters. Even the Aluminum Association that represents 144 producers wrote a letter to Trump saying they don’t support these tariffs because they think it will harm their customers.

Different reports I’ve seen said these tariffs will add about 1,000 jobs in the steel and aluminum industry, but costs us tens of thousands of jobs in other industries because of the higher steel and aluminum costs as well as the consequences of foreign retaliatory tariffs. The math just doesn’t add up and is why almost all business leaders and most Republicans in Congress are strongly opposed to Trump’s plan. The only logical conclusion is Cohn resigned because he felt like his views were not being listened to and that most likely means Trump is siding with the pro-nationalists on this issue, not the business community and fellow Republicans.

Inevitably this won’t be as bad as people fear because lobbyists will put loopholes large enough to drive a truck through, but we should expect a lot more volatility over the near-term as the trade war rhetoric ramps up. We will likely see further weakness over the next week. I don’t think this is a reason to dump long-term positions unless the retaliations get ridiculous, but swing-traders should wait for better prices before buying the dip.

Bitcoin prices continue to hover above $10k despite a wave of negative headlines over recent days. There was more talk of Korea and other countries banning Bitcoin. A month or two ago this would have sent prices tumbling. Instead we are only down $1k from recent highs. That tells us sentiment is improving as prices rebound from the $6k lows. The path of least resistance remains higher over the near-term, but it will take weeks for us to break $12k, $13k, and flirt with $14k. In the meantime, expect lots of back-and-forth.


About the Author

Jani Ziedins (pronounced Ya-nee) is a full-time investor and financial analyst that has successfully traded stocks and options for nearly three decades. He has an undergraduate engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines and two graduate business degrees from the University of Colorado Denver. His prior professional experience includes engineering at Fortune 500 companies, small business consulting, and managing investment real estate. He is now fortunate enough to trade full-time from home, affording him the luxury of spending extra time with his wife and two children.