The Last Hope of Globalization
NEW YORK – March 15, 2019
Stock markets globally have to some extent recovered from a sell-off last December and could move higher if a "positive surprise" comes out of the trade deal between China and the U.S., according to financial services company CLSA.
"I think there's room for a further rally if there's a positive surprise on the deal. What's a positive surprise? It's that they drop the existing tariffs," Christopher Wood, global equity strategist at CLSA, told CNBC's Sri Jegarajah on Thursday.
Wood was referring to the additional tariffs that China and the U.S. imposed on each other's products last year when tensions between the two economic giants were escalating. Washington slapped new levies on $250 billion worth of Chinese imports, while Beijing did the same on $110 billion in American goods.
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed in December to not implement further tariffs while representatives from both sides work to negotiate a deal.
The truce expired, but Trump declined the planned increase in tariffs already imposed, and negotiations continue.
The two countries reached an agreement that dropping the additional tariffs imposed last year would lead investors "to think that maybe globalization hasn't ended," which would boost sentiment and spur a rally in markets, according to Wood. But that rally would be short-lived if investors began to worry that the U.S. Federal Reserve could raise interest rates again, he said.
The strategist said he's not expecting the Fed to raise interest rates at all this year.
"I think in the context that we have a successful trade deal, the tariffs are dropped, and the U.S. (economic) data remain basically okay, there is a potential — short term — for monetary tightening expectations to come back ... and halt the rally," said Wood.
"If I'm completely wrong and there's no trade deal, tariffs go back up then we go back in the markets to where we were on Christmas Eve and then we're talking about Fed easing," he added.
Recall that the US market experienced a record fall since the Great Depression in December:
If the hope that “globalization hasn’t ended” depends precisely on the conclusion of a settlement agreement on a trade war, then there is bad news: It’s time for the hope to die. There will be no compromise.
But executives of investment funds cannot afford to admit it publicly, because if globalization has indeed died, then the shares of transnational companies will fall, and it is necessary to invest just in those companies that will flourish in an era of total protectionism.