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Submitted by Michael Every of Rabobank

The NATO summit saw the expected shenanigans with: Turkey’s President Erdogan stating it will oppose defense of the Baltic region if NATO doesn’t support it in its fight against the Kurds; France’s Macron refusing to do so; and US President Trump and Macron having a public spat, and then uniting in a clash over Turkey and the Kurds and its Russian S-400 missile system, with the word “sanctions” being mentioned by the US president again. Trump also suggested that countries who don’t pay up the 2% of GDP for defence might be dealt with via the trade channel, further politicizing trade as an issue, if it wasn’t already. Markets didn’t pay any attention.

That was because they were too busy being rocked when President Trump stated he is in no rush and “in some ways I think it’s better to wait until after the election” to make a trade deal with China. Not September, as we were told by those ‘in the know’ at certain financial media; not October, as were again told; not November, as we were still told; and not December, and perhaps not early 2020 – but after the US presidential election….which might as well be forever for markets. Especially as Trump will not have any electoral concerns at that point so might just dump the whole idea and go ‘all-in’. Indeed, Commerce Secretary Ross also made clear if “substantial progress” isn’t seen soon then the final 15% tariff tranche is indeed going to happen on 15 December.

The market reaction was clear: US 10-year yields plunged from 1.84% intraday to 1.72%, presumably because of all the inflation now coming from the tariffs, and 2-year yields from 1.62% to 1.55%; the S&P dipped; and CNH went from under 7.04 to over 7.08 and is at 7.0726 at time of writing. Perhaps it will go lower again when people read headlines on Bloomberg like “China Stockpiles Foreign Tech as ‘Silicon Curtain’ Descends”.

If not, it certainly should do given the US House of Representatives just passed legislation 407-1 to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and to prevent the sale of technology to China that can be used in such repression. The Senate measure has already passed, but the House has added provisions that require the president within 120 days to list all officials deemed responsible and to impose visa restrictions and Global Magnitsky Act sanctions; the bill also ties US policy to China to Xinjiang via an annual State Department report to Congress on the issue. As with the recent HKHRDA legislation, it is expected there will now be rapid work to consolidate the two similar bills into one and to pass it to Trump before year-end – again with a veto-proof majority behind it. Indeed, a president who already signed the HKHRDA, and who is about to be impeached by the House on strictly bipartisan lines based on the Democrats just-released report, is not really going to be in a position to veto a bill backed by his own party. China has already vowed a response: banning US-based NGOs and US military visits to Xinjiang? And not getting as much coverage, but very significant, Taiwan is inviting US military experts to the island to advise on how it can bolster its defences: that’s on top of the recent agreement of US arms sales to it.

In which case, for those in markets trying to close out their books for the year-end and to get into the Xmas party spirit–and to pretend that the geopolitical issues I have been warning about as potential landmines for so long will never actually matter–it’s time for a Christmas Carol.

The following needs to be sung to the tune of ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’, and is best accompanied by a *large* brandy and a larger dose of tongue-in-cheek:

“Larry Kudlow, Larry Kudlow, Please don’t let this bull market go – tell us

A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town!

He’s making a list; He’s checking it twice; Of all the things about China that’re suddenly nice – so

A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town!

He sees when stocks are slipping; He knows when bears awake

He knows the Dow Jones must look good; For Trump’s electoral sake

So you better not short; You better not try; Larry Kudlow, please tell them all why – ‘cos

A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town! A trade deal is comin’ to town!

A great, great trade deal is comin’ to toooooooooooooownnnnn!”

And there will be nowhere singing this more loudly than Australia given that Q3 GDP came in at just 0.4% q/q, a tick weaker than expected vs. an upwardly-revised 0.6% in Q2, and meaning only 1.7% y/y, around half of where the RBA sees the low-productivity/high-net immigration Aussie economy as deserving to grow. The Reserve Bank Governor of course left rates unchanged yesterday at 0.75%, and once again displayed his magic touch in saying that some downside risks to the global economy had lessened recently. Maestro!

What else to wrap with? Kamala Harris is out of the presidential race unless she gets offered VP by someone else; and Trump has stated he wouldn’t want the NHS even if it was offered to him on a silver platter; and Corbyn obviously doesn’t believe him, especially on drug pricing. On which note, the US has just proposed stripping 10-year protections for biologic drugs from generic rivals from the USMCA to speed its passage in Congress, which seems the complete opposite of what Labour is saying the US would do to the UK in a US-UK trade deal.

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