Stream of Consciousness

I was taking my usual Saturday walk thinking about the stock market and the ability for investors to stay focused with issues around the edges starting to unfold. For the week, with a nice positive day on Friday stocks managed to close modestly higher for the week. The week had a slew of interesting earnings, a Federal Reserve meeting, and a favorable unemployment report on Friday morning. Knowing the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting was taking place this weekend I felt sure some sound investment pearls of wisdom would be relayed by all the financial news outlets. Overall, all was pretty good with the stock market as prices had worked higher and hit an all-time high earlier in the week.

On Sunday things were a little different. The weekend newspapers had interesting and potentially meaningful articles about rogue futures traders putting the entire global financial system at risk, another story about the rise once again of synthetic collateralized debt obligations (yes, the same product that was at the center of the financial meltdown in 2009), and a major story about the Uber IPO (largest ride sharing company) pegged to be priced this week in the market that continues to have issues with the founder of the company and may not be the sure thing the underwriters and early investors would like us to believe. Then, sometime in mid-afternoon I looked at my alert messages on my phone and saw that President Trump had tweeted that he was warning China that a major increase in tariff rates was coming this Friday if they don’t come to an agreement on some major trade issues this week. I knew instantly that this is the sort of headline that would disturb the nice vibe we recently enjoyed in the stock market as most commentators felt a U.S./China deal was a done deal. Now, we know that a deal is not a deal until it is in signed and delivered.

Stocks are looking to open down significantly Monday morning as reactions to Trump’s tweet caused China’s stock market to trade down 5% and sent the world into a risk off attitude very quickly. Let’s see if this threat continues to play out with new increased tariffs or if this chess move by Trump is successful and actually brings the Chinese back to Washington agreeing to terms that they were stonewalling the last several weeks.

Things could obviously change but I believe both the U.S. and China need a deal to be negotiated successfully for global trade to pick up again and we can worry about normal stuff like interest rates and economic growth. This week is likely to be one of monitoring Washington headlines so I would not expect much bold action on my part as more important clues are needed that this new threat is not one that gets out of hand.

Have a great weekend and keep the faith,

Roger N. Steed

May 6, 2019

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