The stock market was hammered by trade tariff threats again this week, a frequent occurrence during this administration. Based on last week’s public comments, some Republican representatives are now becoming more worried. Without any concrete policy changes actually occurring, no one can be sure whether the threats are real, or just part of the negotiation strategy.
The Dow Industrials managed to close higher on Friday, avoiding the longest daily losing streak since 1978. Then, the Dow closed lower for eight days in a row, and a losing day on Friday would have been nine days in a row. Again, this kind of streak has not happened since February 1978.
Even though the first tariffs are scheduled to take effect July 6, there is uncertainty over which tariffs will actually be enforced. Therefore, it is difficult to determine what impact they will have on the economy and the stock market. As the rhetoric continues between the US, China, Canada, and the Eurozone markets, more economists are expressing their views on what these tariffs might mean.
Many of the world’s central bankers met last week in Portugal, and they also expressed their concerns. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi cited that past trade disputes had been overwhelmingly negative for the economy, and said that there was “no ground to be optimistic” about the current trade tensions. Some market’s segments are already reacting, as shares of Mercedes Benz and Fiat both dropped over 4% on concerns over what the tariffs could do to profits of the automakers.
Right now, the economy is still acting strong, consumers are optimistic, and technically the stock market is in a positive trend. Market action, however, is cyclical, so eventually these positive trends will turn negative. What signs should investors look for to warn them of a change in these trends? There are three trends that I feel investors can monitor for an early warning of an imminent recession and a bear market.
The first sign to look for is deterioration in the consumer sentiment, as the consumer plays an important role in the health of the economy. I never recommend basing decisions on individual data or even several data points, Rather, one should monitor the overall trend.
What to do? The market acted a bit tired last week and trade threats are likely to pick up again next week, which could trigger some more profit taking. The strong readings from the weekly studies indicate that this should be a buying opportunity for those without long positions in equities.