Who’s winning the trade conflict: the Market’s verdict

US and defensive equities are outperforming amid rising trade jitters

Witold Bahrke, Senior Macro Strategist at Nordea Asset Management


The trade conflict between US and China has dominated the market narrative lately. So far, market reaction and the desynchronised slowing of the world economy are clearly pointing at the US as the relative winner of this conflict.

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  • It is difficult to argue that rising protectionism creates winners in absolute But in relative terms, the picture is different. Based on market action, the US is the clear winner of the recent trade conflict with China – not surprisingly: China has benefitted much more from exports to the US than the US has benefitted from exports to China. And while US growth is supported by tax cuts in the near term, Chinese growth is dragged down by slowing credit creation, contributing to a desynchronised slowing of the world economy.
  • Consequently, the US is the best performing equity region year to date, while China and emerging markets are on the other end of the scale, wiping out last year’s impressive outperformance within a few weeks. And as trade jitters intensified in June, defensive equities had their best month since 2016 (US data).
  • Where do we go from here? Assuming that trade policy is an important part of the US President’s strategy to a) perform well in November’s mid-term elections and b) prevent the US from being overtaken by China as the world’s economic leader, he has plenty of reasons to believe that the current strategy will pay off. China, on the other hand, has weaker cards at hand. First, note that Trump’s approval rating climbed as the trade conflict heated up in the first half of the year. Secondly, Dr. Copper’s steep fall signals growth weakness in China, the world’s largest consumer of the commodity. The bottom line: Based on the current state of play, there seems to be little incentive for the US to change its trade policy; whereas China, with its vulnerable economy, can only react.
  • US equities, as well as more defensive equities in general, should therefore continue to do well in the second half of 2018, making this year’s market picture look much different than 2017.

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About Nordea Asset Management

Nordea Asset Management (NAM, AuM 213.4 bn EUR*), is part of the Nordea Group, the largest financial services group in Northern Europe (AuM 307 bn EUR*). NAM offers European and global investors’ exposure to a broad set of investment funds. We serve a wide range of clients and distributors which include banks, asset managers, independent financial advisors and insurance companies.

Nordea Asset Management has a presence in Cologne, Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Helsinki, London, Luxembourg, Madrid, Milan, New York, Oslo, Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore, Stockholm, Vienna and Zurich. Nordea’s local presence goes hand in hand with the objective of being accessible and offering the best service to clients.

Nordea’s success is based on a sustainable and unique multi-boutique approach that combines the expertise of specialised internal boutiques with exclusive external competences allowing us to deliver alpha in a stable way for the benefit of our clients. NAM solutions cover all asset classes from fixed income and equity to multi asset solutions, and manage local and European as well as US, global and emerging market products.

 *Source: Nordea Investment Funds, S.A., 30.06.2018

Nordea Asset Management is the functional name of the asset management business conducted by the legal entities Nordea Investment Funds S.A. and Nordea Investment Management AB (“the Legal Entities”) and their branches, subsidiaries and representative offices. This document is intended to provide the reader with information on Nordea’s specific capabilities. This document (or any views or opinions expressed in this document) does not amount to an investment advice nor does it constitute a recommendation to invest in any financial product, investment structure or instrument, to enter into or unwind any transaction or to participate in any particular trading strategy. This document is not an offer to buy or sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell any security or instruments or to participate to any such trading strategy. Any such offering may be made only by an Offering Memorandum, or any similar contractual arrangement. Consequently, the information contained herein will be superseded in its entirety by such Offering Memorandum or contractual arrangement in its final form. Any investment decision should therefore only be based on the final legal documentation, without limitation and if applicable, Offering Memorandum, contractual arrangement, any relevant prospectus and the latest key investor information document (where applicable) relating to the investment. The appropriateness of an investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s full circumstances and objectives. Nordea Investment Management recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies as well as encourages investors to seek the advice of independent financial advisors when deemed relevant by the investor. Any products, securities, instruments or strategies discussed in this document may not be suitable for all investors. This document contains information which has been taken from a number of sources. While the information herein is considered to be correct, no representation or warranty can be given on the ultimate accuracy or completeness of such information and investors may use further sources to form a well-informed investment decision. Prospective investors or counterparties should discuss with their professional tax, legal, accounting and other adviser(s) with regards to the potential effect of any investment that they may enter into, including the possible risks and benefits of such investment. Prospective investors or counterparties should also fully understand the potential investment and ascertain that they have made an independent assessment of the appropriateness of such potential investment, based solely on their own intentions and ambitions. Investments in derivative and foreign exchange related transactions may be subject to significant fluctuations which may affect the value of an investment. Investments in Emerging Markets involve a higher element of risk. The value of the investment can greatly fluctuate and cannot be ensured. Investments in equity and debt instruments issued by banks could bear the risk of being subject to the bail-in mechanism (meaning that equity and debt instruments could be written down in order to ensure that most unsecured creditors of an institution bear appropriate losses) as foreseen in EU Directive 2014/59/EU. Nordea Asset Management has decided to bear the cost for research, i.e. such cost is covered by existing fee arrangements (Management-/Administration-Fee). Published and created by the Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management. The Legal Entities are licensed and supervised by the Financial Supervisory Authority in Sweden, Finland and Luxembourg respectively. The Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and representative offices are licensed as well as regulated by their local financial supervisory authority in their respective country of domiciliation. Source (unless otherwise stated): Nordea Investment Funds, S.A. Unless otherwise stated, all views expressed are those of the Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management and any of the Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and representative offices. This document may not be reproduced or circulated without prior permission. Reference to companies or other investments mentioned within this document should not be construed as a recommendation to the investor to buy or sell the same, but is included for the purpose of illustration. The level of tax benefits and liabilities will depend on individual circumstances and may be subject to change in the future. © The Legal Entities adherent to Nordea Asset Management and any of the Legal Entities’ branches, subsidiaries and/or representative offices.

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