The real news this week isn't the tariffs that President Trump jacked up on hundreds of billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports, nor China's counter punch with tariffs of its own in American imports. The news behind the news , aka the real news, is how hyped salesmanship created an environment of high expectations for a happy trade deal announcement this weekend.
I get it, though. You need to keep your side's enthusiasm level high so they remain committed to the cause. Salesmanship isn't inherently a bad thing and I do not mean to imply that it is in any way. Anyone in a leadership position needs to be able to effectively communicate his or her value to stakeholders. To be sure, part of any President's job is to sell his vision for the future to the populace; to keep our eyes on the prize.
I won't bore you with a rehash of "everything" we are all reading and hearing about the trade fight we're having with China. I see the pros and cons in this. But do Americans, investors or not, have the stomach for what's to come from 25% tariffs? From my vantage point, I see virtually zero sign of any Americans suffering from the original Trump trade tariffs imposed on China last July. Except for farmers, a major voting block, who will presumably receive aid from the tariffs. In the aisles of Target, Wat-Mart, and Costco, it's consumerism as usual. The fact of the matter is that what we had up until the wee hours of today, Friday, May 10th, wasn't really a trade "war". If we were in one, you'd feel it with higher prices for virtually everything you could buy. Shortages of things we buy could develop due to major supply chain disruptions. The nightmare scenario for investors would mean Chinese retaliation aimed at Starbucks, Caterpillar, General Motors, McDonald's and other American companies. Investors would be running for the hills. The FED would have to determine whether or not the higher tariff-induced prices is really inflation or something that needs to be combated with lower interest rates. But that scenario hasn't arrived yet because A) we didn't yet know that China basically ripped up any progress we made so far, B) stocks were soaring this year due to overly high expectations that a favorable trade deal to America was close at hand, C) economic stats have been strong; such as GDP and the most recent non-farm payroll figures, and D) stock buybacks continue to run at a record pace.
From a Friday email blast November 30th, 2018:
Will cooler heads prevail? They both have gripes, incentives, and are under pressure to bring home a victory. President Trump has the advantage of the strongest and biggest economy on Earth. President Xi has the advantage of not having to worry about elections. They are both wondering which one of their citizenry has the higher threshold for pain.
Back to the here and now: My answer to this is that if you're worried about an election, you pretty much know your citizenry doesn't have a threshold that's high enough to suffer through economic stress. Plus, it's the citizenry that pays for tariffs, not the citizens of the opposing nation. But like any boxing match, even the winner gets punched in the face a bunch of times. Long term, China shouldn't be able to get away with forced sharing of American technology and government subsidies of manufactured products like steel. Plus, that country is facing an aging population and rising corporate and government debt loads, which is why its most recent stimulus measures are having a more muted affect on its economy than in the past.
The major U.S. averages finished their worst weekly performance today. It's important to keep in mind that up and down weeks are nothing new and the averages are barely off all time highs. The issue now is that investors are confused; between Twitter bombs and statements from Administration members, information could become less trusted. It already is, leaving investors to fill in any blanks with worst case scenarios. That's our current status.
This week, I was a panelist about how fake news affects businesses and commercial real estate - the event was hosted by a commercial real estate organization. A few takeaways:
1. Investor and business owner psychology is a critical component of making business decisions.
2. The worst fake news is the kind that aims squarely at people's built in biases.
3. News articles today are usually limited to under 700 words, which is inadequate in putting out a clear picture of many topics in the news.
4. Experienced journalists have been cut from news organizations in exchange for less experienced journalists in order to reduce labor expenses.
5. TV news segments are typically limited to 2 minutes.
6. Social media has intensified people's short attention spans and is flooded with misleading headlines.
7. A democracy relies on a literate citizenry. Everyone needs to become a better consumer of news, be it financial, political, domestic, or international, by reading different sources and taking the time to read longer form articles.
I made a video about it. Please check it out. This is perfect for a new investor. I'd appreciate it if you would share this email with others and subscribe to my YouTube channel.