Aug 2, 2019 - Economy & Business

For retailers, Trump's tariff announcement is personal

President Trump at a 2020 rally

Photo: Andrew Spear/Getty Images

Retail company shares were among the hardest stocks hit on Thursday after Trump's tariff announcement.

Why it matters: While previous tariffs mainly targeted components of consumer goods, the new tariffs will apply largely to things people buy directly. That will raise the cost of everyday purchases and force retailers to either increase prices or eat the cost of the tariffs, putting pressure on their margins.

By the numbers:

  • Best Buy shares fell nearly 11%, Gap and Kohl's dropped by almost 8% and Nordstrom stock ended the day nearly 7% lower.
  • "The S&P Retail index fell 3.4% versus the 0.9% decline for the general S&P 500," wrote Maria Halkias of the Dallas Morning News.

What they're saying: "The list of products these tariffs will hit are almost entirely consumer oriented," said the Retail Industry Leaders Association in a statement. "This new 10% tariff on Chinese imports is a direct hit on consumer products and family budgets, plain and simple."

  • "The tariffs imposed over the past year haven’t worked, and there’s no evidence another tax increase on American businesses and consumers will yield new results," the National Retail Federation said in a statement.

What's next? A report from Citi released in May estimated additional tariffs on the list of $300 billion worth of Chinese goods would be much worse for consumers than previous tariffs.

  • Goods included will represent 67% of total imports of consumer goods from China — as well as 66% of vehicles, 19% of industrial supplies and 38% of capital goods.

What to watch: Economists tell Axios that Trump's tariff announcement looks more like an attempt to sway the Fed into interest rate cuts than anything else.

  • Based on his previous tariff threats against Mexico that were quickly backtracked, there's worry the president is using Twitter more to manipulate those he sees as adversaries than to alert policy.
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