Is it all talk?
Experts are split on what appeared to be an escalation in U.S.-China tensions over trade this week, culminating in Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's visit to the United States on Thursday ahead of a scheduled uptick in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods this Friday.
David Rosenberg, chief economist at Canadian wealth management firm Gluskin Sheff, was one of the more bearish voices:
"China will pay and consumers and businesses in the U.S. will pay. It'll be mutually shared pain. I think that if we go this route and you do the bean count in terms of the U.S. putting on the tariffs [and] China retaliating, you could probably shave about a half a percentage point off U.S. GDP growth. It's probably more like one-and-a-half points in China. And you trace this through what it means for earnings, it's at least a 3% hit on earnings, and then you've got to factor in the multiple. That's always the elephant in the room. And my sense is that, if we end up getting the situation where there's a trade war, in my opinion, it's at least a 10% hit on the stock market, and, well, we're about a third of the way through just in the past couple of days on that score."
Krishna Memani, Oppenheimer Funds' chief investment officer, didn't believe this meant the end of U.S.-China trade talks:
"The fact that we have a tariff today doesn't preclude the likelihood of reaching some sort of a settlement in the not-too-distant future. Come back to the motivations. The motivations to arrive at a settlement are very acute on all fronts, including Trump, despite his brave talk, and including China, despite their brave talk."
Gabelli Funds Chairman Mario Gabelli said it was about time these issues were addressed in a serious way:
"Normally, you have a deficit of about $400 billion in trade with China. You have unfairness. It's time that somebody arm-wrestled the issue. So, we grew up in a period like the 1930s, where Smoot-Hawley created extremely hostile economic conditions. ... So we'd like to get a resolution of this, but we'd like to do it in a better and a fairer way. So, we can live with that. The companies we follow, the higher costs, they've figured out how to pass [them] through."
Leon Cooperman, chairman of Omega Family Office, agreed with Gabelli, but said the alternative could be dire for markets:
"If they put on the tariffs they're talking about, you're adding a couple of tenths of a percent to inflation, you take away maybe half a percent from GDP, and you can probably clip the S&P 500 earnings by 5 bucks. So it's a negative. And 5 bucks times 17 is 100 points on the S&P. You've corrected 100 points already. It's not a positive, there's no question about it, but I think Mario referenced it: it's something that we have to do and hopefully we can resolve it in a favorable way."
Destination Wealth Management founder and CEO Michael Yoshikami ran with the bulls:
"The market bouncing back, it's not unreasonable. I think the market actually going down is more unreasonable, and I think this is an opportunity for investors when market participants overreact based on a view that a deal's not going to get done. Because ... I think that a deal is going to get done."