March 7, 2018, by Lorcan Roche Kelly
Gary Cohn is resigning as President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, with his announcement coming just hours after he refused to publicly back the president’s tariff plan, according to people familiar with the matter. Trump said he would soon decide on a replacement for Cohn. “Many people wanting the job – will choose wisely!” he tweeted. For Wall Street, the resignation means financial institutions have fewer friends inside the administration, increasing the perceived risk that the White House will push ahead with more protectionist policies.
The European Union is voicing mounting concerns over Trump’s tariff plans, as Germany signals alarm over the resignation of pro-trade Cohn. European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said that the EU still hopes the “initiative from the U.S. side will not be followed through,” in an interview with Bloomberg Television. It seems that pleas are falling on deaf ears for now, with the White House looking at imposing more tariffs on China as well as clamping down on investments from the country. Beijing has already promised to “take necessary measures” if its interests are harmed, while the EU is preparing to unveil a plan for punitive retaliatory measures later today. Currency traders, meanwhile, are bracing for a full-blown trade war.
With the ‘will he, won’t he’ pendulum swinging firmly back in favor of Trump imposing tariffs in the wake of Cohn’s exit, markets across the world are falling. Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index slid 0.6 percent, while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.7 percent lower weighed down by exporters. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.3 percent lower at 5:35 a.m. Eastern Time as investors favored consumer staple stocks. S&P 500 futures were 0.8 percent lower, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.861 percent and gold was unchanged.
U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond will insist that a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU must include an agreement on financial services, saying it is in both sides’ mutual interest. The problem for Hammond is that European officials will probably reject his position before he even has a chance to give his scheduled speech, with EC President Donald Tusk expected to make clear a deal on finance is off the table when he sets out the bloc’s position shortly before Hammond’s address. Documents seen by Bloomberg show EU guidelines for a post-Brexit deal will only allow limited access to the single market for British financial firms.
The main event today is north of the border where the Bank of Canada is expected to hold the benchmark rate unchanged at 1.25 percent when it announces its monetary policy decision at 10:00 a.m. With commerce in the news so much at the moment, there is likely to be plenty of interest in U.S. trade balance numbers for January due at 8:30 a.m., with a deficit of $55 billion expected. The oil market is looking for a 3 million barrel increase in U.S. crude inventories when the data are released at 10:30 a.m.