April 13, 2018, by Cecile Gutscher
President Donald Trump now wants trade deals, not war. He asked his aides to explore rejoining an Asia-Pacific trade pact he withdrew from shortly after taking office and said the U.S. and China ultimately may end up levying no new tariffs on each other – just a week after threatening them on some $150 billion of Chinese imports. “I think they’re going to treat us really fairly,” Trump said during a White House meeting. Ministers from Japan, Australia and Malaysia said they welcomed the overture but said there was little appetite to renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Regardless, markets signaled relief, with European stocks up and U.S futures pointing higher.
As things quieted on the Eastern front, Trump turned to domestic issues. He ordered the creation of a task force to review business practices at the United States Postal Service, a move that could affect Amazon.com Inc., one of the president’s bete-noires. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (or a designee) will lead the committee tasked with solving the Postal Service’s money problem (the White House estimates it lost $65 billion loss over the past decade). Trump has accused Amazon of “costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their delivery boy.” Speaking of recriminations, former FBI Director James Comey has a new book out in which he likens the president to a mafia boss.
JPMorgan Chase & Co. kicks off earnings reports from big banks before the market opens Friday, along with Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup Inc. Next week features reports from Bank of America Corp., followed by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley. Investors will get a chance to gauge the impact of higher interest rates and a flattening yield curve on lenders’ bottom lines. For bank chiefs, the quarterly flag-waving exercise will be a chance to weigh in on everything from trade tension to volatility to the aging economic cycle.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index added 0.2 percent as of 5:54 a.m. Eastern Time while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.6 percent higher. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index rose 0.3 percent with commodity producers and industrials leading gains. S&P 500 futures pointed up. Oil and gold were also higher.
After its steepest two-day drop in more than three years at the start of the week, the ruble clawed back after the U.S. Treasury Secretary said he’s still opposed to the so-called nuclear option of sanctioning Russia’s sovereign debt. Markets have been whipsawed this week after the U.S. penalties knocked one of the country’s biggest employers out of the dollar economy and the White House warned Moscow to prepare for missile strikes on Syria. Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas calls for ratcheting up political pressure on Russia over its backing of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.