×

Stocks at record highs don't care about Trump's antics, but these important markets do

  • The stock market, trading near record highs, looks past Trump controversies and antics
  • The dollar responded to the concerns about Trump's passing of classified information to Russia
  • The bond market has been pricing out potential positives to the economy from Trump policy proposals for several months now

The stock market, trading near record highs, hasn't paid much attention to the various dramas and controversies surrounding President Donald Trump, but the currency and bond markets do.

The dollar on Tuesday weakened in part because of concerns about Trump's reported passing of confidential information to Russian officials visiting the White House last week. The dollar was also under pressure amid worries about weakness in U.S. economic data, particularly consumer inflation.

"Obviously, there's some of this Washington concern," said Jens Nordvig, CEO of Exante Data . "We had lower inflation numbers. People are starting to doubt whether the Fed is going to go in June and September. Beyond all of this there's a trend change in the euro."

But the negative reaction is not so much because the market worries Trump has tarnished Brand USA. It is more that he may have created a distraction big enough to sidetrack the White House and Congress from moving ahead on health care, tax reform and fiscal stimulus.

President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room on May 16, 2017.
Getty Images
President Donald Trump in the Roosevelt Room on May 16, 2017.

The bond market, after selling off after the November election on the prospect of a Trump bump to the economy, has been pricing in less of a positive from Trump for months now. The stock market has seen a cooling of some specific trades tied to Trump policy, but the overall market never winces when Trump takes action.

For instance, the stock market largely ignored Trump's firing last week of FBI Director James Comey, who was heading up the investigation of possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia. Stocks Tuesday were trading slightly lower, after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq set new highs Monday.

But the market was ignoring unfolding developments, like the report of how Israel provided the information that Trump passed to Russia, as well as Trump's tweet that he has the right to provide any information pertaining to terrorism and airline safety to Russia. But the controversy weighed on the dollar and sent buyers into Treasurys.

"I don't know if it affected directly the market but definitely anything that distracts the U.S. administration from tax reform is not good news for the dollar," said Thanos Vamvakidis, head of G-10 foreign exchange strategy at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. "...this would increase uncertainty indirectly through a number of indirect channels. It might have reinforced the sell off that was caused by the mixed [economic] data."

Vamvakidis said the market has learned to filter out Trump's tweets and focus on only those that could impact policy.

"We started the year with the market following Trump's tweets and responding to them. More recently, they ignored them but they do focus on anything that could increase the uncertainty and particularly the chances for tax reform...all the things that could impact implications for policy," he said.

As for the bond market, yields were lower Tuesday in part amid concern over Trump's passing of information to Russia.

"He's been a factor for a while now" in the the Treasury market, said Aaron Kohli, director of fixed income strategy at BMO. "We don't think the Trump trade is fully priced out of the market but it's coming closer and closer."

The yield on the 10-year ran up to about 2.62 percent in December, and was at 2.32 percent Tuesday. Prices move inversely to yield.

"Rates are higher than where they were coming into the election. It's partly a consequence of the fact that the global market has stabilized," Kohli said. But they are well below their post-election high because the market is more skeptical about Trump's pro-growth tax and spending policies turning into legislation.

While the markets have been watching Trump's actions, there was a heightened level of chatter around the classified information incident.

Vamvakidis said the only other time he felt the dollar market was as concerned about something Trump had said or done was when he accused President Barack Obama of tapping his phones.

"Anything that could hurt the U.S. or it's effectiveness" is dollar negative, he said.

Vamvakidis said the market is not very optimistic on tax reform, but it would be a major negative if there is no legislation. He said he expects to see tax reform by the end of the year.

"This is a key reform for President Trump and the Republican Congress, and it will cost them politically if they fail to do tax reform," he said.

He said the proposal to allow corporations to repatriate overseas cash would be a positive for the dollar.

"It's quite likely it will not be done in the summer, but it will be done sometime in the fall," he said.

Watch: Trader sees more record highs ahead for stocks