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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

As news about a possible truce between the U.S. and China in the trade war flowed last week the U.S. market was remarkably unshaken.

Why it matters: That's because investors aren't concerned about President Trump taking a hard line on a deal with China — one that would involve major reforms to their economy and the way the Asian nation does business.

  • Investors have determined that Trump is either a great deal maker or a studio gangster. His tough talk about major changes in the end become incremental tweaks.

The big picture: A deal in which 3 major trade issues — expanded market access, reduction of the trade deficit, reform of IP theft — are addressed with credible enforcement procedures in place is "the ideal situation," writes former macro hedge fund manager Tom Essaye in his Sevens Report market analysis, "and it's also the least likely (say 20%)."

Between the lines: Betting that Trump will not to follow-through on the extreme rhetoric of his campaign pledges has worked out well for fund managers over the past two years.

What they said: "Our view was that (Trump’s) economic threats were not credible," Federico Garcia Zamora, who manages the Dreyfus Emerging Markets Debt Local Currency Fund, told me in September 2017. Acting accordingly, he increased his holdings of peso-denominated Mexican bonds and his fund outperformed 90% of its peers.

  • "It was what he had to say to get elected, given his space and the people he was talking to. But it made no economic sense."

That didn't change much last year.

"Our basic view is that it's really just a lot of noise," Brendan Murphy, head of global and multi-sector fixed income for Standish Mellon, a BNY Mellon subsidiary, told me in April 2018.

But, but, but: Not every Trump-is-a-studio-gangster trade worked out well. Investors bought into emerging markets in late 2017 and early 2018 and lost big as both EM debt and equity were crushed.

  • However, most analysts believe that was due more to the Fed's rate hikes and expectations for global quantitative tightening to take effect in 2019 than the trade war.
  • And that trade is quickly reversing.

What's really happening: The U.S. market has been driven by Fed Chair Jerome Powell. Stocks swooned to near a bear market after Powell said the U.S. central bank was poised to keep hiking rates and draining liquidity by paring its $4 trillion balance sheet. It has marched higher since his U-turn in late December and January.

U.S. Treasury yields initially spiked after Trump's election but have come back to earth as inflation expectations were "pretty much diminished because we didn't get a much stronger economy," Joseph Trevisani, senior analyst at FXStreet, said in April.

Go deeper

Updated 22 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: Former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

4 hours ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.