Trade War Escalates as China and Trump Exchange Blows

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Trade War Escalates as China and Trump Exchange Blows

So much for a quiet Friday in August.

The drama started early today when China slapped tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods. S&P 500 futures (@ES) fell 25 points.

About 2-1/2 hours later President Donald Trump hinted in a tweet that he viewed Chinese leader Xi Jinping as an “enemy.” The market didn’t do much — until the White House followed up with this stunner:

“Our great American companies are hereby ordered to immediately start looking for an alternative to China,” Trump tweeted, adding the U.S. would be “far better off without them.”

Other points in the series of tweets included:

  • Criticism of Chinese intellectual-property practices.
  • Mention of responding to China’s tariffs “this afternoon.”
  • Criticism of Chinese Fentanyl sales to the U.S., including mention of Amazon.com (AMZN), FedEx (FDX) and United Parcel Service (UPS) as middlemen.
S&P 500 futures (@ES) 5-minute chart showing key events today.
S&P 500 futures (@ES) 5-minute chart showing key events today.

The market noticed that one, hammering @ES 50 points in a matter of minutes. Energy, semiconductors and retailers bore the brunt of the selling. All three sectors are especially vulnerable to a worsening trade war.

Gold, gold miners and bonds were the main beneficiaries.

Today’s escalation of the trade war completely overshadowed Federal Reserve Chairman Jackson Powell. His speech at Jackson Hole was supposed to be the main event, followed by a quiet drift into the weekend. It’s just one more reason to always be ready for the unexpected.

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