Trade tremors: How tariffs, tough talk has unsettled markets

FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2016, file photo, specialist Anthony Rinaldi is silhouetted on a screen at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Fears of a trade war have given a boost to some of the biggest companies in the market as well as the smallest, but they’ve squeezed almost everything in the middle. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE- In this April 6, 2018, file photo, a screen above the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange shows the closing number for the Dow Jones industrial average. Fears of a trade war have given a boost to some of the biggest companies in the market as well as the smallest, but they’ve squeezed almost everything in the middle. On April 6, President Donald Trump ordered the U.S. trade representative to consider tariffs on another $100 billion in imports. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE- In this Monday, April 23, 2018, file photo the logo for Caterpillar appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Fears of a trade war have given a boost to some of the biggest companies in the market as well as the smallest, but they’ve squeezed almost everything in the middle. Machinery makers like Caterpillar and Deere have taken losses as investors expect they will have to pay more for aluminum and steel parts, and that tariffs on their finished products will hurt sales overseas. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

NEW YORK — Fears of a trade war have given a boost to some of the smallest companies on the market as well as some of the biggest technology companies, but they've squeezed almost everything in the middle.

For more than three months, investors have focused on U.S. negotiations with trading partners including China, Europe, Canada and Mexico. In general, stocks have dropped when investors feared that increasing trade sanctions would disrupt the global economy and cut into corporate profits, and then rallied when Wall Street felt that negotiations would resolve the disputes with little to no economic harm.

That's contributed to a volatile stock market this year, after the unusual calm of 2017. Big swings have come day to day, and even hour to hour, as investors try to get a sense of what will happen with trade. When the market hasn't been whipsawed by the trade drama, it's found comfort in strong corporate earnings and U.S. economic growth. As a result, the benchmark S&P 500 index is down less than 1 percent since late February.

Some companies have been hit hard. Machinery makers like Caterpillar and Deere have taken losses as investors expect they will have to pay more for aluminum and steel parts, and that tariffs on their finished products will hurt sales overseas. Companies that make pork, consumer goods and liquor have also come under pressure because they might be targeted by retaliatory tariffs.

Meanwhile the smallest stocks have done very well. Many investors have concluded that small, U.S.-focused companies are less vulnerable to tariffs than the multinationals in the Dow and the S&P 500, and that the U.S. might have stronger economic growth than other countries in the months to come. Smaller companies tend to do far more business at home than multinationals do.

Other stocks are also coming out ahead. Technology companies have made huge gains recently, helped by strong earnings and analysts' view that businesses will continue to spend more money on technology in the years to come. While technology companies make a lot of their sales outside the U.S., investors feel tariffs are less of a threat for tech companies than they are for machinery makers.

Trade issues will be front and center as leaders from the Group of Seven countries meet in Quebec Friday and Saturday, but investors aren't expecting any big breakthroughs. Experts think the disputes and market swings could continue for a long time.

___

A headline in a graphic accompanying this story has been corrected to say the chart shows the portion of revenue from the United States, not profit.

Other News

Fidel Castro thanks Cuba, criticizes Obama, on 90th birthday

Aug 14, 2016

Fidel Castro thanked Cubans for their well-wishes on his 90th birthday and criticized President Barack Obama in a lengthy letter published in state media

Japan's economy slows to snail's pace as exports falter

Aug 15, 2016

Japan's economy slows in the April-June quarter, as weaker exports and business investment weigh on the faltering recovery of the world's third-largest economy

Miner BHP Billiton suffers $6.4 billion loss for 2015-16

Aug 16, 2016

The world's biggest miner, BHP Billiton, on Tuesday reported a $6.4 billion loss _ the Anglo-Australian company's worst ever full-year result

The Budget Report seeks to provide comprehensive coverage and analysis on the current economic, financial issues around the world. First hand finance and economic news all day, every day.

Contact us: sales@thebudgetreport.com