Trump consolidates power, May looks to punish Russia, and China still growing strong, for now. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today.
With the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump continued his policy of surrounding himself with loyalists who share his world view, while dismissing dissenting voices. The president’s moves seem to be an extension of his declaration on the day he accepted the Republican nomination when he said “I alone can fix” the problems the U.S. faces. Whether voters approve of the president’s moves remains an open question, with results of yesterday’s Pennsylvania special election still too close to call, in a district Trump won by 20 points in 2016.
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will set out her government’s response against Russia, following the nerve agent attack on a former spy and his daughter, in parliament today. She could expel diplomats, remove the broadcast license for the country’s English-language television arm, and prevent U.K. officials from attending this year’s soccer World Cup in Russia. Measures that go further would need international support. Away from the diplomatic mess, May is also facing further pressure on Brexit as a revised draft text of the treaty on the U.K. exit does nothing to water down proposals the prime minister has already rejected.
China’s economy has had a better-than-expected start to the year, with factory output and investment in fixed assets exceeding economists’ expectations in the first two months of this year and retail sales remaining robust. The outlook may not be so rosy, with domestic headwinds from deleveraging and the country’s tech sector said to be the latest target for new U.S. tariffs. In political circles, it is not tariffs that are the biggest worry, but rather the U.S. position on Taiwan, with China prepared to take a tough stance on any American deals with the disputed territory.
Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index declined 0.4 percent while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.5 percent lower as the region’s stocks tracked U.S. losses. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was 0.3 percent higher at 5:50 a.m. Eastern Time with miners and consumer discretionary stocks leading the gains. S&P 500 futures pointed to a gain at the open, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.841 percent and gold was lower.
At 8:30 a.m., U.S. retail sales numbers for February are released, with expectations for 0.3 percent growth in both headline and ex-auto and gas data. At the same time, PPI for February is published, with a 0.1 percent increase expected. In Europe, there are several members of ECB’s governing council speaking at a conference in Frankfurt today, with Mario Draghi’s speech earlier promising the bank would remain predictable and measured.