I think we witnessed the birth of a Trump Put on the stock market in today’s Rose Garden press event that investors and traders can pin beside their terminals along with the Powell Put from the Federal Reserve.
Ahead of what had been billed as an announcement from President Trump about China, U.S. stocks had retreated with the Standard & Poor’s 500 off 0.66% as of 1:48 pm New York time, just ahead of President Trump’s advertised 2 p.m. starting time.
The President’s statement began as strongly negative on China. China instigated a “global pandemic” by allowing the coronavirus to spread, Trump said. “Countless lives have been taken” and “economic hardship” has been imposed,” he continued. “China raided our factories, off-shored our jobs.”
Th United States will pull out of the World Health Organization, because it is totally dominated by China. And the United States will bar a so-far undisclosed list of Chinese nationals from entering the country. And because Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous from China, “we will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment.” And the President has instructed a working group to study Chinese companies listed on the U.S. with a goal to protect U.S. investors.
Most of this had already been announced or expected.
What was conspicuously absent–what the financial markets had feared–was anything about ending the trade agreement negotiated with China or about re-imposing higher tariffs or about resuming a trade war with China.
Absent new news on that front stocks rallied after the President finished speaking and ended the event without taking any questions. At 3:10 p.m. New York time the S&P 500 had moved into positive territory with a gain of 0.37%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, down 1.03% as of 1:48 p.m., was up 0.19%. The NASDAQ Composite was ahead 0.91%. The the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) was higher by 1.77%. Only the Russell 200 small cap index, which had been down 1.34% as of 1:48 p.m. moved lowed to a loss of 1.68% as of 3:10. (That makes sense to me since the small companies in the Russell largely sell into the U.S. domestic market and don’t move up or down with trade announcements.)
I’d offer this observation here. The very aggressive language from the President this morning was coupled with very limited action. Trump did not do anything to rattle the stock market. The consensus among political pundits is that the President thinks that a rallying stock market is important to his re-election. And after today it looks to me like investors and traders can depend on the President not to rock the boat and to indeed support stock prices to the degree he can. Financial markets now have two Puts supporting prices, one from the Federal Reserve and the other from the White House. The market believes that both Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell and President Trump will “intervene” if stocks look likely to fall and won’t do anything to endanger the current rally.