President Donald Trump has reportedly told his top trade officials to move forward on imposing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. A major escalation of the China trade war could come any day, but there’s no word yet on whether the Trump tariffs will be 10% or closer to 25%.
The news, which hit just after reports that Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort struck a deal cooperating with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, turned a modest morning rally upside down on the stock market today. The Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 index and Nasdaq composite were all off slightly in early afternoon trading.
The Trump administration will reportedly make some adjustments to its initial list of $200 billion in Chinese imports. A wide range of businesses have filed public comments saying the tariffs would hurt them. Apple stock traded down 1.3% after the report, extending early losses. Apple (AAPL) said on Sept. 7 that the coming round of Trump tariffs would hit products such as the Apple Watch and Air Pods. Trump responded via tweet that Apple should move its production to the U.S. to avoid tariffs, though that would entail additional costs.
The stock market didn’t initially react to word of the Manafort plea deal, falling only after the Trump tariff trade news hit the wires. That suggests a belief on Wall Street that the Mueller probe won’t hurt stocks as long as no one in the first family is directly implicated.
News that Trump has given the go-ahead for escalating the China trade war follows a Tuesday report that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been trying to arrange an 11th-hour negotiating blitz before additional Trump tariffs took effect.
The scale of the new Trump tariffs could lead to a range of economic outcomes, UBS economists believe. They’ve predicted GDP growth could fall to 1.6% in the fourth quarter with 10% tariffs, but bounce back to 3% in the first quarter. Tariffs of 25% could slow growth to less than 1% in Q4 and lead to a more persistent slowdown.
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