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For a president who has otherwise been extremely friendly to business and stocks, new research by CNBC shows Mr. Trump's trade policies have cost markets trillions of dollars and created head-spinning volatility.
There have been 35 moves of 1 percent or more in the Dow Jones industrial average so far this year. CNBC found fully a third of these moves, or 12 days, were substantially linked to news about trade. On seven of the 12 days, negative trade developments sent the Dow lower by an average of 1.7 percent and cost investors a cumulative $700 billion in market capitalization. On the same days that the Dow dropped 1 percent on trade news, the fell a cumulative $2.2 trillion.
But with five of those 12 days, on news that trade tensions were easing, stocks bounced back, restoring $560 billion in value for the Dow and $1.7 trillion of S&P market cap.
How does it all total out? Looking at just these days of 1 percent moves or more, CNBC found the trade news is negative on net for stocks, suggesting trade is one big reason stocks are flat this year even amid strong GDP and job growth and the president's profit- and business-friendly corporate tax cuts.
"Markets are going to have to count a couple of steps ahead when it comes to trade disputes with the EU and trade disputes with China,'' said Michael Zezas, head of public policy at Morgan Stanley, in a CNBC interview today. "And when you start adding up those effects, while they might be small and individual based, they very quickly offset the fiscal stimulus you got from tax cuts and spending increases."
The research shows the companies taking the biggest hits from negative trade news are household-name stocks deeply involved in world trade: Caterpillar, Boeing, 3M and DowDupont. But even big financials like Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan are hurt from when news of new tariffs come over the tape.
Among the biggest daily drops, on March 22, Trump announced $60 billion in tariffs on China. Markets plunged 2.9 percent, wiping out $165 billion of market cap. Four days later, the Dow surged 2.8 percent after a Wall Street Journal story said that the U.S. and China were quietly negotiating to improve trade. That improvement does not appear to have occurred as Trump last week threatened an additional $200 billion in tariffs against China.
CNBC could not find a move of 1 percent or higher to the upside linked to any news that tariffs would be increased. That's a pretty clear sign that equity investors are failing so far to see the economic upside for markets from higher tariffs or a trade war.