There are lot of moving parts driving market sentiment at present. US economic news has helped to buoy markets this week after US Q3 GDP was revised higher in its second estimate, to 2.1% q/q while October durable goods orders came in stronger than expected. However, the news that President Trump signed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act after almost unanimous passage in Congress, has fueled some cautious. Investors now await any retaliation from China and whether the Bill will get in the way of a Phase 1 trade deal.
On the trade front both the US and Chinese governments have said that there are closing in on a Phase 1 deal but as yet there has been no confirmation, with less and less time to agree a deal before the end of the year and more importantly before the next phase of tariffs kicks in on December 15. One sticking point between the two sides appears to be what extent will the US administration roll back tariffs, with China likely wanting not only the tariffs scheduled to be implemented in mid-December to be rolled back but also the ones implemented in August.
Such a roll back in tariffs would be take place in exchange for increased Chinese purchases of US goods and perhaps stricter intellectual property regulations, but more structural issues such as state subsidies, technology transfers etc may be put back to later deals. In the meantime markets do not appear overly concerned, with risk assets and equities in particular continuing to rally and volatility continuing to decline. If there is no deal announced in the weeks ahead, markets could face a set back, but if agreement on a deal is to be merely pushed back into Q1 2020, the damage will be limited.
After its sharp fall over October the US dollar has gradually clawed back ground over recent weeks, helped by US asset market outperformance and consequently strong inflows into US assets. As we move towards the end of the year it appears that the USD will maintain its top spot, much to the chagrin of the US administration and their preference for a weaker USD.