Week in Review: Trump Trade Hits Turbulence

For the week ending 24 March 2017

  • Potential health care loss could hinder Trump agenda
  • United Kingdom to trigger Article 50 on March 29
  • Banks soak up last of ECB’s cheap loans
  • Eurozone showing signs of accelerating growth
  • BOJ chief says stimulus here to stay

Global equities slipped this week amid concerns that the Trump administration’s promised pro-growth policy agenda may become bogged down as GOP lawmakers struggle to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. US 10-year Treasury note yields fell 10 basis points from a week ago to 2.41%. West Texas Intermediate crude slumped to $47.80 from $49.25 last Friday and global Brent fell to $50.60 from $52.00 as US production continued to build. Volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX), rose to 12.4 from 11.2.

GLOBAL MACRO NEWS

Markets fear health care failure could crimp Trump’s clout
After delaying a scheduled vote on the American Health Care Act on Thursday, lawmakers have set a vote for late Friday despite apparently still not having enough votes to assure passage. If passed, the bill would be sent on to the Senate for its consideration. Observers grew concerned this week that if the Trump administration fails to advance one of its signature agenda items straight out of the gate that it may also struggle to pass market-friendly items like tax reform and infrastructure investment later in the Congressional session. A protracted fight on health care, at a minimum, would push those pieces back on the legislative calendar, delaying their economic impact. The failure to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act would likely diminish the new administration’s political capital.

May sets date for beginning Brexit process
British prime minister Theresa May this week set 29 March as the day that the United Kingdom will notify the European Union of its intent to leave the EU, beginning the two-year period set out in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for negotiating the terms under which the UK will exit. The negotiations are expected to be thorny because the EU is loath to give the UK a “good” deal for fear of prompting additional EU members to quit.

European banks take up more cheap loans than expected
Eurozone banks took up more super-cheap loans than expected from the European Central Bank’s Targeted Longer-Term Refinancing Operation (TLTRO) this week. A total of €223.5 billion of the zero percent four-year loans were placed, far in excess of the €125 billion economists had expected. In a sign of policy normalization, the ECB announced last month that this would be its last TLTRO operation.

European economy extends uptick
Flash purchasing managers’ indices jumped to their highest level in nearly six years today as the eurozone composite PMI rose to a robust 56.7. Economists extrapolate from that data that gross domestic product growth is growing at a rate in excess of an annualized 2%. The euro strengthened on the data, as well as on hopes that a centrist candidate will derail populist Marine Le Pen in the upcoming French presidential elections.

BOJ to stick to stimulus
Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda said today that there is no reason to withdraw monetary stimulus now, or to raise the bank's bond yield target, since inflation remains well below the BOJ’s 2% goal. Recent upticks in Japanese growth and inflation have raised questions as to whether the central bank could alter its super-easy monetary policy. For now, those questions can be been laid to rest.

Brazil buffeted by meat scandal
Exports of Brazilian meat have plummeted in the wake of a food safety scandal. The meat products are now banned in China, Japan, Mexico and the European Union, while the United States has redoubled food safety inspections, according to the US Department of Agriculture. In an operation dubbed “Weak Flesh,” dozens of Brazilian food inspectors have been arrested for ignoring expired or adulterated processed foods in recent weeks.

Tighter Chinese liquidity eyed
Tightening liquidity conditions in China’s banking system are raising concerns that economic growth could be negatively impacted as the year progresses. Recently, China has been taking steps to rein in its shadow banking system amid fears that the property market could overheat. Chinese iron ore futures tumbled 19%, the largest weekly decline on record, as the People’s Bank of China introduced fresh borrowing curbs on home lending.

THE WEEK AHEAD

  • The United Kingdom and Europe set clocks ahead one hour for daylight savings time on Sunday, 26 March,
  • The UK is expected to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday, 29 March
  • The United States reports revised Q4 gross domestic product figures on Thursday, 30 March
  • Japan reports inflation data and unemployment figures on Friday, 31 March
  • China releases purchasing managers’ indices on Friday, 31 March
  • The UK releases revised Q4 GDP figures on Friday, 31 March
  • The eurozone reports consumer inflation data on Friday, 31 March

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Sources: MFS research; The Wall Street Journal; The Wall Street Journal Online; Bloomberg News; Financial Times; Forbes.com; CNNMoney.com; NBCNews.com.

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