Possible China “Mini-Deal”, Retail Imports Surge, Mortgage Rates Hold Steady
In today’s Steady Investor, we look at what is going on in the markets and key takeaways for investors to consider, such as:
- Retail purchases increase in spite of the trade war
- Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September meeting offered two revelations
- The U.S. and China resumed trade talks. Is a “Mini-Deal” next?
What does all this mean for the markets? Read on to get the details.
U.S. – China Trade Talks to Resume: “Mini-Deal” in the Works? We would argue that a trade breakthrough between the United States and China could be a bullish event, supporting another leg of this already long-in-the-tooth bull market. But we also don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up – a grand trade deal between the two largest economies in the world does not seem likely this year. If anything, the two sides seem only to be drifting further apart. Trade talks resumed this week, and many market watchers (us included) are hoping that the two sides might embrace smaller concessions – a “mini-deal” – to at least postpone the tariff rate increases set to go into effect on October 15 and the new tariffs scheduled for December 15. These latest rounds of tariffs are the ones many expect to hit the U.S. consumer the hardest, which could ultimately deal a blow to the main lifeline of the U.S. economic expansion. Expect the equity markets to be hyper-sensitive to announcements/developments that take place in the coming days as negotiations continue.1
Retail Purchases Rise Ahead of Tariffs – as the December 15 tariffs loom, retailers are not taking their chances that a deal will be reached this week. Instead, imports at the U.S.’s major retail container ports are expected to reach their highest level of the year in November, which will eclipse the record reached last year. Interestingly, this data suggests that the trade war is actually increasing imports from China and other foreign countries, rather than decreasing them as the Trump administration has been eager to do. Trade deficits have grown over the last year as a result, with retailers hedging against uncertainty by upping purchases and stockpiling inventory.2
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Mortgage Rates Remain Steady Even as Interest Rates Plummet – the 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yield has fallen sharply, from 2.66% at the beginning of the year to 1.65% as of October 1. Since mortgage rates are closely linked to rates on the 10-year, many homeowners and first-time buyers have been eager to take advantage of the falling rate environment. But many bankers and mortgage lenders have had to temper that excitement, as mortgage rates have not been falling as fast as interest rates this year. Since the end of June, for instance, the 10-year Treasury yield has fallen about 40 basis points (bps), while the average mortgage rate has only fallen 10 bps. According to research from Dow Jones Market Data, the gap between average mortgage rates and the 10-year is the highest it’s been in more than seven years.4
Fed Pushes Ahead with Monetary Support, Even as Economy Appears Stable – minutes from the Federal Reserve’s September meeting offered two revelations: 1) there appeared to be more dissent about the September rate cut than previously indicated; and 2) Chairman Jerome Powell thinks the economy is in pretty good shape. Minutes showed that “several” Fed governors wanted to keep rates on hold instead of cutting by 25 bps, and a “few” officials believed the market was pricing in too many future rate cuts by the Fed. Even as the Federal Reserve cut interest rates, Chairman Jerome Powell said that “households are in good shape,” and that the economy “just feels very sustainable.” He added that “there’s no aspect of the economy that is booming. You’ve got a solid consumer sector where wages are going up at the level of productivity plus inflation, job creation is healthy, there’s no one sector like a housing bubble, there’s nothing like that.” 5 It sounds an awful lot like a ‘goldilocks’ assessment of the U.S. economy, but then again, the Federal Reserve has rarely been right about forecasting recession.
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2 Axios October 10, 2019. https://www.axios.com/us-retail-imports-surge-new-tariffs-28650941-16c5-4853-8b7a-b92208bc610c.html
3 ZIM may amend or rescind the “7 Secrets to Building the Ultimate DIY Retirement Portfolio” guide for any reason and at ZIM’s discretion.
4 The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2019. https://www.wsj.com/articles/mortgage-costs-outpaced-by-drop-in-interest-rates-11570699801
5 Federal Open Market Committee, October 9, 2019. https://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/fomcminutes20190918.htm?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosmarkets&stream=business
6 ZIM may amend or rescind the “7 Secrets to Building the Ultimate DIY Retirement Portfolio” guide for any reason and at ZIM’s discretion.
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