A woman walks by a huge screen showing U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, in Tokyo, Friday, March 9, 2018. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
Confusion over the tariffs , a surprise invitation from North Korea, the departure of White House adviser Gary Cohn and a monster jobs report Friday had traders moving from Risk On to Risk Off and back again last week.
It’s pretty clear that the administration has started to roll back some of the more ominous parts of the steel and aluminum tariffs. At the start, both Canada and Mexico will not be included at least until we have a better picture on how NAFTA negotiations will proceed. Clearly China is the problem with state sponsored overcapacity weighing on the industry worldwide.
The biggest surprise of the week has to be North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s reach out to the president via a South Korean emissary. Is it just to be seen with a sitting U.S. president or have the sanctions brought them to the edge and denuclearization is a better path? Unknown and maybe even the former. However, to some political elites this seems unthinkable and a major risk for the U.S.
I say the following. We tried the same tactics through two Democratic and one Republican administration. How did that work out? In case you haven’t noticed North Korea is a nuclear power and at least for the moment it appears that they stand down with missile tests and sanctions remain. In addition, the United States and South Korea continue joint military exercises. IMHO we don’t have a lot to lose and the world has a great deal to gain.
Cohn’s decision to leave the White House although not a surprise sent markets reeling with overnight futures off as much as 2% earlier in the week. Never the less investors stepped up to the plate with most markets recovering much of the loss after a rough open.
Friday’s jobs report ended the week on a high note with nearly every sector in the green capping a strong week for stocks. The blowout 300,000 number well above expectations was only part of the story. Lost in the news was a rising labor participation rate hitting the highest levels since September last year.
We’re a long way from victory but maybe this important statistic has bottomed. Even with the number moving higher the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1% with some economists starting to talk about a 3 handle.
The one disappointment was wages coming in at 2.6%,off slightly from expectations. While I would like to see it move higher, traders quickly took the package as Goldilocks sending stocks higher all day even pushing the Nasdaq to an all-time high.
Ten-year yields, the culprit in last month’s correction, closed at the high of the week but still haven’t broken above the highs last month or the all-important 3% as many economists have predicted.
Now all eyes shift to the FOMC decision on March 21. If investors can get any sense of comfort that the Federal Reserve will move in a measured fashion on a path toward normalization, then I’m confident we haven’t seen the highs for the year.