Trade Talk Trouble Took a Toll Last Week

May 16, 2019  | By Robare & Jones

Major U.S. stock indices moved lower when trade talks between the United States and China broke down. The Standard & Poor’s (S&P) 500 Index, Nasdaq Composite, and Dow Jones Industrial Index all finished the week down between 2 percent and 3 percent, reported Ben Levisohn of Barron’s.

Despite the weak weekly performance, the S&P 500 remains up 14.9 percent year-to-date.

The deadline to settle U.S.-China trade issues was Friday. When it passed without any resolution, the U.S. increased tariffs on Chinese goods to 25 percent, reported the BBC.

The economic impact of higher tariffs may be relatively small; however, the impact on business confidence and global markets could be significant, reported Capital Economics.

“We think that the direct effects of President Trump’s threatened tariff hikes could reduce Chinese GDP by up to 0.4 percent and that the associated retaliation would have only a marginal direct impact on the United States. The effects on business confidence and financial markets around the world could be more significant, potentially adding to reasons for renewed policy loosening…In theory, if all else were unchanged, the increase in tariffs would amount to a small fiscal tightening in China and the United States. But both governments have avoided this by spending the proceeds on aid for the most affected parties.”

Bond markets reflected uncertainty, too. The yield curve, which has been flirting with inversion for some time, inverted briefly on Thursday, reported Alex Harris of Bloomberg. A persistent inverted yield curve – featuring a lower yield for 10-year Treasuries than for three-month Treasuries – sometimes signals recession.

David Lynch and Heather Long of The Washington Post reported tariffs imposed on other countries have yet to be removed, including those on steel and aluminum imported from Mexico and Canada.

Trade negotiations between the United States and China are expected to continue.