The trade war is quiet. Smart money sees a chance to take risks
Happy Wednesday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business’ Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.
After months of repeated escalation, the United States and China look no closer to hammering out a meaningful trade deal. But for now, at least, tensions look to be easing, not escalating. For investors, that provides an opening.
On Wednesday, Beijing said it had waived import tariffs on more than a dozen US goods — the first such exemptions since the trade fight began. They’ll kick in on September 17, as US and Chinese officials prepare to resume face-to-face talks in Washington.
Investor insight: The announcement could encourage those who have recently unwound positions in safe haven assets such as the yen, which has weakened back to July levels after hitting 2019 highs in August.
Gold prices have also dipped in the past week, and US Treasury yields have been rising as investors sell bonds. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note is up to 1.72%, from 1.46% earlier this month.
But a rally in riskier assets on positive, or even neutral, trade news may prove short-lived. We’ve seen this pattern before.
Remember: The next round of US tariff hikes is scheduled for October 1, when duties on $250 billion in Chinese goods that are already being taxed will rise to 30% from 25%.
And business sentiment isn’t likely to improve so quickly. Only 13% of business owners indicate that they would increase hiring if the current round of trade tensions drags on for another six months, according to a recent survey conducted by UBS. Nearly 70% believe the trade conflict has had a negative impact on both the US and global economies, even if 55% approve of the Trump administration’s approach.
Meanwhile, both economies are taking a hit, even if US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin denies this.
Economists in the United States are watching closely to see if a contraction in manufacturing will spill over to the services sector and consumer spending, which have so far been resilient. China faces pressure to increase stimulus efforts after August exports fell, and an important measure of corporate profitability had its worst decline in three years.
Europe’s new tech giant is … Tencent?
At long last, Europe has a new tech behemoth. Well, sort of.
Naspers, the South African media company that hit the jackpot with an early investment in Tencent, has spun out its 31% stake in the Chinese internet group via the listing of a new company in Amsterdam.
Called Prosus, the company became the largest consumer tech company in Europe when it listed on Wednesday. It’s now the second largest tech company in the region, after Germany’s SAP.
Investors are loving it. Prosus shares soared more than 25% in early trading, per my CNN Business colleague Hanna Ziady in London.
Background: The Tencent stake has been a huge boon for Naspers, which paid just $32 million for it back in 2001. The investment is now worth $130 billion.
But it’s also caused headaches for the South African firm. Before the spin-out, Naspers accounted for 25% of the combined value of the 40 biggest companies on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange. That’s forced investors to sell Naspers shares so they’re not overly exposed to a single stock. The move to Amsterdam should help — and investors in Europe won’t mind either.
Apple’s streaming service is cheap
Apple’s big shocker at its blockbuster media event on Tuesday wasn’t related to its new iPhone 11 (which I have to agree induces trypophobia).
Instead, it was the price tag for Apple TV+. At just $4.99 per month, Apple will dramatically undercut its streaming rivals. Netflix and Disney shares both fell 2%. The service will launch November 1.
Wedbush analyst Dan Ives called the price announcement a “show stopper” and a “major shot across the bow.” Apple’s strategy in the streaming wars to come is clear: gain market share now, and worry about the rest later. It’s a big bet. But at $4.99 a month — well below the expected $7.99 to $9.99 price point — it may just pay off.
OPEC will release its monthly report, coming just after Saudi Arabia appointed a new oil minister.
- The US Producer Price Index for August arrives at 8:30 a.m. ET.
- That’s followed by a report on US crude oil inventories at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: With storm clouds gathering over the global economy, the European Central Bank is expected to announce a sizable monetary stimulus package.