Jul 16, 2020

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

Good morning! Was this email forwarded to you? Sign up here. (Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,146 words, 4 minutes.)

🎙"The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press." - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: The trade war quietly escalates

Photo Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Alex Wong/Getty Images and Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Lost amid headlines about the coronavirus pandemic and the seemingly unstoppable stock market rally, has been the monthslong escalation of tensions in the U.S.-China trade war.

  • "The trade war has been quietly intensifying," Stephen Gallagher, chief economist at Société Générale, tells Axios. And it's likely here to stay.

Why it matters: The tariffs continue to impress a sizable tax on U.S. companies and consumers, adding additional costs and red tape for small businesses, farmers, manufacturers and households trying to stay afloat amid the pandemic.

Driving the news: White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said late Wednesday that administration officials are "looking at the national security risk as it relates to TikTok, WeChat and other apps" from China and could announce bans in the coming weeks.

  • That followed remarks from President Trump on Tuesday that he had no plans for "phase two" trade deal negotiations and was "not interested right now in talking to China.”

What's happening: The "phase one" deal was cheered by investors as a positive first step, because it stopped a tit-for-tat tariff escalation that was poised to add a tax to nearly every product traded between the U.S. and China.

  • However, it did nothing about tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese imports already in place that are paid by U.S. companies.

Why you'll hear about this again: With the U.S. ratcheting up the pressure, there is a decreasing likelihood China lives up to its "phase one" agreement.

  • That means a diminished outlook for industries that were counting on the $200 billion in increased purchases of U.S. agriculture, energy and manufacturing after a brutal 2019.

Remember: The primary cost of tariffs isn't the tariffs themselves, but the deadweight loss of consumers buying more expensive, or less efficient, products.

  • The trade war also is a major factor pushing businesses to pull supply chains and production out of China, increasing costs and uprooting longstanding relationships.
  • For big companies, this will weigh on margins; for small companies, it could mean going out of business.

Don't sleep: Deutsche Bank’s global head of tech strategy Apjit Walia warns that the demand disruption, supply chain upheaval and bifurcated tech standards from a "Tech Cold War" between the U.S. and China could cost the sector more than $3.5 trillion over the next five years.

What's next: Even if Trump loses in November, investors don't expect a significant change in the U.S. approach to China given Joe Biden's recent rhetoric and bipartisan legislation condemning China for its treatment of Uighur Muslims and restrictions on public companies.

2. Catch up quick

China's second-quarter GDP expanded 3.2% year over year, beating expectations after recording its worst economic contraction on record in Q1. However, the country's retail sales report disappointed, showing continued struggles in its services sector. (SCMP)

Twitter was hacked and some of the world's most well-known users posted messages for a bitcoin scam. Worse, the hack revealed deeper problems relating to Twitter's structure. (Axios)

U.S. industrial production rose 5.4% in June, beating expectations, led by a 105% month-over-month increase in output of motor vehicles and parts as production at auto plants continued to normalize. (WSJ)

3. The Dow and S&P are bouncing back

The Dow will be looking for its fifth straight day of gains today, as investors have come in off the sidelines to chase the stock market rally.

Between the lines: Shares of companies that would benefit from improvement in the real economy or at least a retreat of coronavirus infection fears jumped on Wednesday thanks in part to news that Moderna's coronavirus vaccine was effective in all 45 patients in its early stage human trial.

What to watch: The Dow rose 228 points, or 0.9%, and the S&P 500 also gained 0.9%, with both indexes outperforming the Nasdaq for the fourth straight session on Wednesday.

  • Gains have been highly imbalanced in favor of tech this year, putting the Nasdaq up nearly 20% year to date while both the S&P and Dow remain below their Jan. 1 levels.
  • Amazon slid more than 2%, while this year's other leaders, including Netflix, Microsoft and Alphabet, also closed in the red on Wednesday.

Yes, but: The strong performance from the Dow, which is seen as more tied to the overall health of the economy, has come as the coronavirus pandemic has worsened.

  • Over the past week, more cities and states have begun forcing businesses like restaurants and bars to shut down or operate at reduced capacity.
  • The outperformance versus the Nasdaq also predates news of Moderna's successful test.
4. Canada poaches tech talent from the U.S.
Data: Center for Security and Emerging Technology; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Axios' Bryan Walsh writes: Canada is convincing an increasing number of noncitizen American residents with tech talent to instead settle north of the border.

Why it matters: The U.S. risks losing its long-standing leadership in the tech sector as restrictive laws and a hostile political climate causes highly skilled immigrants to leave for more welcoming countries.

What's happening: In a new report, CSET research fellow Zachary Arnold analyzed the success of Canada's skilled immigration system in attracting tech and scientific talent from abroad.

  • Canada's Express Entry program prioritizes potential immigrants who score high on work experience and education, as well as other factors. Those who score above a cutoff receive fast track invitations to apply for permanent Canadian residence.
  • Arnold crunched new data and found that the number of U.S. residents receiving Express Entry invites to Canada rose 75% between 2017 and 2019, more than almost any other country.
  • The U.S. rose to third in invites in 2019, after India and Canada itself. (Noncitizen residents in Canada can use the Express Entry program to apply for permanent residency.)

Context: With the White House moving to freeze green cards — including the coveted H-1B visas used in the tech sector — Canada has pushed to attract talent across the border.

  • "If this affects your plans consider coming to Canada," Tobi Lütke, CEO of the Ottawa-based e-commerce company Shopify, tweeted last month.

The bottom line: The U.S. is accustomed to being the destination of choice for the best and the brightest, but if it closes the door to skilled immigrants, its neighbor to the north will be happy to welcome them.

Sign up for Bryan's Axios Future newsletter.

5. The housing delinquency crisis hasn't started yet
Data: CoreLogic; Chart: Axios Visuals

The share of mortgages that went from current to 30 days past due rose to 3.4% in April, the highest reading on record, data firm CoreLogic reported this week.

  • For comparison, the previous peak in the transition rate was 2% in November 2008.

Yes, but: CoreLogic's data doesn't track whether the delinquencies were related to missed payments or forbearance programs.

  • "The CARES Act provided forbearance for borrowers with federally backed mortgage loans who were economically impacted by the pandemic," CoreLogic noted.
  • "Borrowers in a forbearance program who have missed a mortgage payment are included in the CoreLogic delinquency statistics, even if the loan servicer has not reported the loan as delinquent to credit repositories."

Where it stands: The share of mortgage holders in forbearance jumped from less than 1% in the last week of March to around 8% in the last week of April, MBA's data show.

One level deeper: The vast majority of Americans living in apartments paid their rent in July, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council’s Rent Payment Tracker.

  • As of Monday, 87.6% of apartment households had made a full or partial rent payment.
  • That represented a 2.5-percentage point decrease from the same time last year and was 1.4 percentage points below the share that had paid by this time last month.
Dion Rabouin

Thanks for reading!

Quote: "The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press."

Why it matters: On July 16, 1862, one of history's most impressive figures — activist, journalist and crusader Ida B. Wells — was born.

  • Wells became a journalist after getting fired from her job as a teacher when she took over two newspapers in Memphis before her 25th birthday. She continued to run the papers even after her printing press was destroyed by an angry mob.
  • She went on to be a tireless advocate for women's suffrage and against the practice of lynching, helping lead the movement to grant women the right to vote and helping to found the NAACP.