Markets Higher as Earnings Season Gets Underway

  • Earnings season eyed as trade war fears remain;

  • Sterling slips as Trump warns of risks to US/UK trade deal;

  • Chinese trade surplus increases as Trump plans more tariffs.

We’re seeing some risk appetite return on Friday even as concerns about trade remain front and centre and shows no signs of improving.

European equity markets are trading in the green on Friday, taking the lead from the US session on Thursday where tech stocks drove a rally that saw the NASDAQ hit a record high. With earnings season getting underway, investors will be looking for reasons to be more optimistic having spent months reading about the risks that a trade war poses to the economy.

JP Morgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo will kick things off today and over the coming weeks, investors will be paying close attention not just to the results but also references to trade tariffs and the impact they are expected to have on future results, particularly those that have already been targeted in counter-measures taken or proposed against the US.

Trump has very much been in the spotlight this week, attending the NATO summit in Brussels before heading over to the UK to meet Prime Minister Theresa May. As ever, Trump was not afraid to express his views on the UK and Brexit ahead of the visit, warning that a trade deal with the US would not be possible under the model that May is seeking with the European Union, while also expressing his belief that Boris Johnson would make a good PM. This appears to have weighed on the pound in trade on Friday given the complications it could cause May and her team.

None of this will go down well with May – who has previously pushed strongly for this visit despite much protest - and comes at a terrible time for her but as Trump well knows, she is in a very weak position right now and is unlikely to fight back and, more importantly, he wants a Brexit that best suits the US. Whether Trump’s comments give more voice to dissenters among Brexiteers is yet to be seen but it certainly doesn’t help the PM as a trade deal with the US has long been touted as one of the benefits of leaving the EU.

Chinese trade data released overnight may be used as a source for Trump’s next attack on the world’s second largest economy, with exports having soared once again – rising 11.3% - increasing the surplus the country has with the US to $41.61 billion in June. While the main reason for such a spike is likely to be exporters front loading sales ahead of the tariffs being implemented, it’s likely that a stronger US economy and weaker yuan is also playing a role.

I expect this will be used as another example of the bad trade policies that Trump has repeatedly references but been unable to so far influence. Trump is attempting to force them back to the table with threats of another $200 billion in tariffs, something that has so far only been met with retaliation from China and others.

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