World markets can absorb some trade turbulence as Trump digs in


FILE PHOTO: Container ship sometimes appears with the Yangshan Deep Water Port, a part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, in Shanghai, China September 24, 2016. REUTERS/Aly Song/File Photo

LONDON/GENEVA (Reuters) – Booming global trade and economic growth have cushioned world markets against the political turbulence of Donald Trump’s first year within the White House, but that resilience are going to be tested if the U.S. president wants protectionism to define 2018.

With stocks on a single of the longest bull runs of all time, they are really particularly vulnerable to upsets, while the global economy’s strength means they could probably absorb greater trade conflict – provided governments maintain it to remain all within limits.

Emboldened after finally pushing his signature tax cut reforms through Congress, Trump seems likely to train his sights on trade – another pillar of his election pledge to “Make America Great Again” – by fixing its deficit and punishing countries deemed to become profiting at U.S. expense.

His administration is beating the trade drum ever louder. This month it has announced steep U.S. tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has warned China over ip practices and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has endorsed a weaker dollar to help American exports.

Discussing trade wars for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ross said: “U.S. troops are visiting for the ramparts.”

That warning provoked a little short-lived wobble in world stocks, with investors not wanting to bail out from industry still clocking record highs at the accelerating pace even with adding $9 trillion in value last year.

Much of the particular bullishness is as a result of a sustained rebound in swap the recent past, with volumes growing more quickly than world gross domestic product.

Despite Trump’s protectionist rhetoric of history year and actions which include pulling the us out of your TPP trade pact for Pacific rim countries, indicators show no let up.

Global trade is expanding at annualized rates in excess of Four percent, the best performance since 2011, according to the Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis. Freight volumes are surging in the fastest pace this decade.

(To view a graphic on freight volumes, click http://tmsnrt.rs/2DB9aLY)

Merchandise trade is probably going to have expanded 3.6 % in 2017 in volume terms, rebounding in the post-crisis low of a single.Three percent rise in 2016, the planet Trade Organization reckons. Overall, the IMF forecasts global GDP will expand 3.9 % this season.

But investors fear a shift from rhetoric to action can always hurt markets whether or not the robust growth behaves as a shock absorber.

“Protectionism means lower growth and inflation. That’s the worst possible combination you might have when markets are at record highs,” said Luca Paolini, chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management.

However, the whole world economy’s strength and double-digit company earnings allow markets to “absorb a lot”, Paolini said.

He cited short-lived reactions to Britain’s impending exit in the Eu, political upsets elsewhere within the continent such as Catalonia’s failed referendum on independence from Spain and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program as instances of how much flak this market could take.

Protectionism is neither new nor a U.S. monopoly. Since 2008, the 60 top world economies now utilize over 7,000 protectionist trade measures in net terms, international law firm Gowling WLG reported last November. But yet these have not to scupper the bull market in equities.

Among the upcoming flashpoints are talks with Mexico and Canada on Trump’s demand that this Western Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) be renegotiated.

His State of your Union speech later on Tuesday might also detail steps against China’s tech sector. A U.S. Treasury variety of trade partners’ currency practices, plus decisions on steel and aluminum import restrictions, are due in April.

“(A trade shock) is an activity you should always remember, given how stretched finance industry is but there must be a credible decision, not simply a threat,” Paolini said.

(To view an image on U.S. trade deficits, click http://reut.rs/2ErkMTf)

WHAT’S THE DAMAGE?

Most expect forthcoming curbs, plus the fallout, to become limited. Trade wars have had little direct affect on equity markets in past times, JPMorgan analysts wrote, citing a dispute between Washington and Tokyo in 1993-95 over Japanese car exports to the Us by way of example.

Trump could exponentially increase the number of trade penalties “without harming risky markets above intra-week”, the course notes said, adding that were there made no portfolio changes to account for additional trade risks.

Even Completely tariffs on steel and aluminum would dent Chinese exports merely by 0.3 percentage points, while semi-conductor and telecommunications import curbs may lower exports by 0.8 percentage points, Morgan Stanley said.

Given multinational firms’ attachment to complex cross-border supply chains, Wall Street would undoubtedly suffer but other markets could be hurt more.

The United States, counting on trade for 28 percent of that economic output, has less to lose than Mexico, by using a trade-to-GDP ratio of 78 percent or Germany with 84 percent. China’s ratio is 34 percent, World Bank data shows.

As a consequence, any U.S. pullout from NAFTA would cut 2019 GDP by half a percent in the states, while reducing Mexico’s by almost 1 %, Oxford Economics predicts, adding that Mexico’s economy may just be 2 percent smaller by 2022.

However, it truly is Asia that is liable for three-quarters in the U.S. goods trade deficit – led by China, Columbia and Japan -and more than a third of global exports. The annual deficit with China at $370 billion would be the biggest, implying until this the place Trump and Ross have set their sights.

Some analysts consider that america would also lose if trade partners retaliated by cutting purchases of yankee goods or halting supplies of components to U.S. firms, perhaps like the China’s decision truly to ban exports of rare earth metals to Japanese electronics makers.

Another threat depends on determining a weaker dollar, should that spur inflation by pushing increase the expense of imports in the country. This will likely prompt faster and bigger rises in home interest rates which feed by means of equity markets. But Trump might be wary of disrupting the equity boom that he or she has cited as proof of his administration’s successful policies.

“At today’s (stock price) valuations, a trade war will be material,” said Andrew Milligan, head of worldwide strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments. “I’m sure he’s received a lot of advice that a trade war would damage the Dow.”

(To see a graphic on global trade and GDP growth, click http://reut.rs/2DFt88j)

(Reporting by Sujata Rao and Tom Miles; additional reporting by Claire Milhench, Karin Strohecker and Ritvik Carvalho; editing by David Stamp)

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