U.S. stocks rallied Tuesday, reversing opening losses, after the U.S. Trade Representatives office announced that new tariffs on Chinese imports, set to be imposed Sept. 1, will be delayed or in some cases scrapped altogether.
The news overshadowed concerns over slowing economic global growth and the potential for Beijing to crack down on protests in Hong Kong, one of Asia’s most important financial and trade hubs.
How are the major benchmarks performing?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.61% rose 339 points, or 1.3%, at 26,232, while the S&P 500 index SPX, +1.65% added 35 points, or 1.6%, to 2,919. The Nasdaq Composite index COMP, +1.96% rose 117 points, or 1.5%, to 7,978.
On Monday, the Dow slumped 389.73 points, or 1.5%, to end at 25,897.71, while the S&P 500 declined 35.56 points, or 1.2%, to finish at 2,883.09. The Nasdaq Composite closed at 7,863.41, a fall of 95.73 points or 1.2%.
What’s driving the market?
The United States Trade Representative announced shortly after the start of trade that there will be major revisions to the planned 10% tariff on $300 billion in annual imports from China which had been announced by President Trump August 1.
“Certain products are being removed from the tariff list based on health, safety, national security and other factors and will not face additional tariffs of 10 percent,” according to the statement. “Further, as part of USTR’s public comment and review process, it was determined that the tariff should be delayed to December 15 for certain articles.”
Products subject to the delay include “cell phones, laptop computers, video game consoles, certain toys, computer monitors, and certain items of footwear and clothing,” according to the statement.
It remains unclear whether there are any new products which will face a 10% tariff starting Sept 1, though the USTR said further details will be published “as soon as possible.”
A USTR spokesman also told MarketWatch that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin held discussions with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He, and officials would speak again within two weeks.
“At least for one day it’s Christmas in August,” Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors told MarketWatch. “Markets are responding to the fact that talking is better than not talking and that’s positive for sentiment,” he added.
“The magnitude of the reaction indicates that sentiment was exaggerated to the downside, and we had reached oversold conditions or overbought conditions depending on the asset class,” Arone said.
Geopolitical risk remains a factor for investors though with protesters thronging Hong Kong International Airport for a second day in a row Tuesday, a day after they forced the transport hub to shut down entirely. The number of protesters has fallen from an estimated 2 million who marched on June 16th to 350,000 during the general strike which disrupted transport last week, but the protests have grown more violent.
Hong Kong accounts for only about 3% of China’s GDP currently, down from 20% before the U.K. handover to China in 1997, but Hong Kong hosts the world’s fourth largest stock exchange and cross border banking has doubled in the past decade with much of it for Chinese companies borrowing in U.S. dollars. About 60% of the $2 trillion of foreign direct investment into China flows through Hong Kong.
Opinion: A Tiananmen ‘solution’ in Hong Kong would destroy its economy
Argentina is again a concern for investors also after a plunge by the Argentine peso USDARS, +2.4367% following a poor showing by pro-business President Mauricio Macri in a primary election on Sunday.
“Developments in the financial hub of Hong Kong are adding to an already tense geopolitical picture amid ongoing U.S.-Sino trade tensions,” said Fiona Cincotta, senior market analyst at City Index in a note. “Investors are once again pulling out of riskier assets such as equities,” while flows into haven assets are on the rise.”
Read: How Hong Kong clashes could wallop the U.S. stock market
See: Argentina fund swoons as Macri suffers primary defeat
Concerns about Hong Kong are adding to doubts on the global economic outlook, which were also reinforced by downbeat data from the eurozone’s largest economy. The ZEW indicator of German economic sentiment fell to -44.1 in August, down from -24.5 in July and marking the lowest reading since December 2011. Economists polled by FactSet had looked for a -28 reading.
“Today’s very poor ZEW readings highlight the continuing uncertainty hanging over the bloc with sentiment indicators so far suggesting that a pickup in growth in H2 2019 is not on the cards,” said Nicola Nobile, lead eurozone economist at Oxford Economics, in a note.
On the U.S. data front, the cost of living over the past 12 months climbed to 1.8% from 1.6%, but it’s still well below last year’s peak of 2.9%. The survey of consumer prices tends to run hotter than the Fed’s preferred inflation barometer known as the price index for personal consumption expenditures. The PCE is up just 1.4% over the past year, well below the Fed’s 2% inflation target.
How are other markets trading?
European stocks also staged a turnaround following the trade news, with the Stoxx Europe SXXP, +0.54% rising 0.5% after falling as much as 1% earlier Tuesday.
Safe-have assets also reversed course early Tuesday, with the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note TMUBMUSD10Y, +2.17%, erasing declines to be up 3.3 basis points at 1.671%, while gold futures GCZ19, -0.32% fell about 0.2% to $1,501 per ounce.
The price of crude oil CLU19, +4.35% rose 3.7% to about $57.
Asian markets declined as investors kept an eye on developments in Hong Kong, with the Hang Seng Index HSI, -2.10% falling 2.1%, bringing its August decline to 9%. China’s CSI 300 000300, -0.90% lost 0.9% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 NIK, -1.11% shed 1.1% overnight.
Which stocks are in focus?
Shares of Advance Auto Parts Inc. AAP, -2.36% fell 1.4% early Tuesday, after reporting second-quarter earnings and sales that fell short of expectations and trimmed its full-year outlook, while announcing a new $400 million stock buyback program.
U.S.-listed shares of J.D.com JD, +11.38% rose 10.2% Tuesday, after the China-based e-commerce company reported second-quarter earnings that beat expectations.
Shares of Genworth Financial Inc. GNW, +13.25% rallied 13% Tuesday, after the insurer announced an agreement to sell a majority stake in Genworth MI Canada to Brookfield Business Partners LP for about C$2.4 billion ($1.8 billion).
Shares of CIT Group CIT, -2.41% were expected to be in focus after it announced its CIT Bank N.A. subsidiary was in a deal to buy Mutual of Omaha’s savings bank subsidiary, Mutual of Omaha Bank, for $1 billion in cash and stock. The stock fell 3.2% Tuesday.