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Dow Wobbles as US Senate Hong Kong Bill Pressures Trump-Xi Relations

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:17 PM
Francois Aure
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:17 PM
  • US stocks are under pressure, with the US Senate poised to pass a bill supporting Hong Kong that may destroy Trump’s hopes of a phase one trade deal.
  • The Dow made no progress as a huge sell-off in Cisco undid a decent rally in Boeing stock.
  • Weakening Chinese data suggest Xi needs a trade deal, but analysts are skeptical it is imminent.

The Dow Jones wobbled on Thursday as anticipation of a Chinese crackdown in Hong Kong prompted the US Senate to press ahead with a unanimous bipartisan effort to pass a law in support of the anti-government protestors .

Given the precarious nature of trade talks, this is terrible news for both Donald Trump and the Dow, as it reduces the probability of a trade deal passing anytime soon.

Dow Jones Roiled by US-China Trade Deadlock

Dow Jones, Stock Market, China, Donald Trump, Hong Kong
The Dow Jones fell on Thursday as Hong Kong continued to damage hopes of a trade deal between the US and China. | Source: Yahoo Finance 

All three of the major US indices remained virtually unchanged , as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq, and S&P 500 all bounced between gains and losses.

Shortly before the closing bell, the Dow had dipped 16.81 points or 0.06% to 27,766.78.

The Nasdaq slid 0.06%, but the S&P 500 ticked 0.01% higher to round out a mixed day on Wall Street.

The cautious move from risk assets was confirmed by a decline in Treasury yields, and money flowed into bonds and gold.

Hong Kong Bill Throws Another Wrench into Trade Talks

Investors appear to be growing tired of waiting for a trade agreement, with multiple reports emphasizing deadlock and a partial trade agreement looking more and more elusive .

Even a basic farm goods purchase increase seems impossible to secure, and the probability of a comprehensive agreement is unquestionably dropping.

Nevertheless, the Dow Jones has been resilient to trade war uncertainty, focusing on robust earnings and trusting that Trump is going to secure some kind of deal ahead of the 2020 election.

However, with Senator Marcio Rubio leading a bipartisan charge to pass a pro-protestor Hong Kong bill  in Congress, a firebomb has been thrown into the already tense situation between President Trump and President Xi.

Dow Jones, Marco Rubio, Hong Kong, Stock Market
Source: Twitter 

An adverse reaction from the Dow would be unsurprising, given that many investors expect no further escalations in the trade war , a forecast that may have been too rosy.

Chinese Economic Data Could Be Bad News for the US Stock Market

Economic data out of China have been closely scrutinized over the last few months, with plenty of evidence that Trump’s trade war is starting to bite domestically.

A miserable industrial production figure Wednesday night  demonstrated this more clearly than ever. It remains to be seen how resilient US stock indices like the Dow can be if a significant engine of global growth like the Chinese economy continues to slow.

xi jinping, china
China might take a hard line in public, but the data suggest they need a deal just as much as the US. | Source: Host Broadcaster via AP

Reacting to last night’s economic data, ABN AMRO senior economist Arjen van Dijkhuizen confirmed the view that China and the US both have compelling reasons for making a trade deal, but that doesn’t mean one is going to happen any time soon .

The latest macro data suggest that not only the US but also China has a clear incentive to at least put an end to the tariff tit-for-tat, with new US tariffs due on 15 December without a short-term deal. Uncertainties remain, however, for instance, on how many rollbacks on existing tariffs could be agreed on and under what conditions (such as an enforcement mechanism).

Dijkhuizen concluded,

Given that both parties remain wide apart on some fundamental issues, a comprehensive deal still looks out of sight for now, and strategic tensions between the two will likely linger.

Dow 30 Stocks: Boeing Saves the Day After Cisco Plunges

It could have been a miserable day in the Dow 30 , as the market punished Cisco for posting a worse than anticipated earnings release. As a result of the selling, CSCO lost 7.6% and is now up just 3% on the year, lagging the Dow Jones by 15%. The stock is now in danger of becoming the fourth member of the index to slip into the red, alongside 3M, Pfizer, and Walgreens.

Cushioning the index from a heavy blow, Boeing stock rallied over 1.5%, even though the Southwest pilots union suggested they feared that the company might be rushing the 737 Max jet back into service too fast .

Disney gave back some of Wednesday’s sizable gains after a banner first day for Disney+, likely due to some profit-taking after the hotly-anticipated release.

Despite the relatively mild slip in the Dow, it is worth noting that two-thirds of the 30 DJIA stocks were in the red, including Apple, which posted a 0.6% loss after a rare bearish downgrade from a prominent Wall Street analyst. 

Click here for a live Dow Jones Industrial Average chart.