President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman became a convicted felon and his longtime lawyer implicated him in a crime at almost the same moment yesterday. The conviction of Paul Manafort on eight counts of tax and bank fraud charges gives a boost to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Michael D. Cohen said that he violated campaign-finance laws ahead of the 2016 election, at the direction of then-candidate Trump. The scandals surrounding the president will be seized on by Democrats ahead of the mid-term elections in November where they are seeking to gain control of the House.
The minutes of Federal Open Market Committee’s meeting three weeks ago will be published at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, with investors seeking hints about the likely path of interest rates for the rest of year. Two hikes are already in the bag while futures contracts point to two more before year-end, so any hint of a shift in outlook will be important. The president’s recent criticism of the Fed has investors looking at the implications of a slowdown in the pace of policy tightening, and concluding it would be bad for American assets. Fed Chair Jerome Powell speaks at the Jackson Hole conference on Friday.
Elon Musk’s Aug. 7 tweet about taking Tesla Inc. private is causing something of a headache at the Securities and Exchange Commission. The agency, which normally likes to work in the background until it decides whether or not laws have been broken, is in the spotlight as it investigates, with its reputation at stake if Musk avoids sanction. The future of Tesla shareholders is uncertain as Morgan Stanley became the second firm yesterday to suspend coverage of the stock, without explaining why.
Global equities seem not to care about the problems facing Trump. Overnight, the MSCI Asia Pacific Index rose 0.4 percent, while Japan’s Topix index closed 0.8 percent higher as technology shares rebounded from yesterday’s selloff. In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was unchanged at 5:50 a.m. in light trading. S&P 500 futures pointed to a drop at the open after yesterday’s intraday record high, the 10-year Treasury yield was at 2.824 percent, and gold was higher.
The U.S. and Mexico are moving closer to a consensus on a framework for a new North American Free Trade Agreement, according to several people with the matter, though some key hurdles remain to be cleared. While there may be some progress, Trump remains defiant on trade with both the EU and China, repeating a threat to put a 25 percent tariff on European car imports and slamming duties Beijing imposes on U.S. autos.