Appetite for risk bolstered Tuesday morning, as Chinese President Xi Jinping offered plans to further open up the second largest economy. Xi’s public speech at the Boao Forum came days after the U.S. and China exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs threats, which kept investors on edge for several weeks. He promised to lower import tariffs for autos, as well as on some other products, open up the financial and insurance sectors, and most importantly, to increase protection to intellectual property.
Xi’s speech calmed markets by responding to all of Donald Trump’s concerns, without even mentioning him. Now it’s time for China to provide specific figures and a timeline on how these reforms will be implemented. I think what was achieved today is likely to reduce trade tensions and buy some extra time. Whether the U.S. will wave back with an olive branch to China remains to be seen, but certainly, the probability of a full-blown trade war is now much lower than a week ago.
Asian equities were all in the green this morning with the Hang Seng Index and Nikkei 225 climbing more than 1%. Futures are also indicating a positive start to Europe and U.S. – the S&P 500 futures are up 1.3% at the time of writing.
However, the new geopolitical risks over the increased conflict in Syria cannot be ignored. This came after the U.S. imposed a wide range of financial sanctions on Russian assets, causing stocks to suffer their worst performance in four years and the ruble falling as much as 4.1%. Russia warned the U.S. that any military reprisal to Saturdays’ chemical attack in Syria could have “grave repercussions”. Will U.S. and Russia go into a confrontation in Syria? This likely depends on Trump’s decision over the next 24 hours, but the risks are high.
Although oil prices may have risen on hopes that trade tensions will ease, investors may start pricing in a much higher risk premium. So far, it seems the conflict in Syria has no impact on the supply from the Middle East, but if the battle spills outside the Syrian border, I expect another $10 risk premium to be added to the current price.
The economic calendar is light today, so expect currency traders to continue taking the cue from equity markets.
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