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Here's why global stocks aren't sinking despite the US tariff hike

Key Points
  • The U.S. increased tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday.
  • Markets across the globe initially fell on the back of the news, but were quick to bounce back and trade higher.
  • Investors continue to hold on to the hope that both the U.S. and China will strike a deal in order to avoid a full-blown trade war.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump during a meeting outside the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.
Artyom Ivanov | TASS | Getty Images

A global stock market sell-off started to ease on Friday despite the U.S. fulfilling a promise to ramp up tariffs on Chinese goods.

The U.S. hiked tariffs from 10% to 25% on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday. In response, Beijing said it "deeply regrets" the tariff hike and would take countermeasures — though no specifics were provided.

Markets across the globe initially fell overnight but were quick to bounce back and trade higher. In Asia, mainland Chinese stocks jumped with the Shanghai composite rising more than 3%. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 traded nearly 1% higher in early deals with the German DAX up by the same amount. Stateside, Dow futures initially slipped and pointed to nearly triple-digit losses at the open, but soon recovered.

Uncertainty over trade talks will linger, but some analysts believe investors are still optimistic that the world's two-largest economies will avoid a full-blown trade war.

'Cling to hope'

"Investors seemingly continue to try to cling to hope that policymakers on both sides opt to deescalate," Deutsche Bank's research strategist Jim Reid said in a note Friday.

Reid noted that President Donald Trump told reporters Thursday that a "deal is still possible," and that he had received a "beautiful letter" from Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Global stock markets have seen heavy selling this week as the tension between Washington and Beijing escalated. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen more than 650 points this week, while the S&P 500 has lost about 2.5%. Global equities have seen outflows of $20.5 billion in the past week, according to new research by Bank of America Merrill Lynch said on Friday.

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Already priced in?

The recovery could also be due to markets already pricing in the tariff hike. The announcement on the increase initially came from Trump on Sunday, giving investors plenty of time to position assets in their portfolios. In addition to that, a number of analysts have also pointed out that the increase in tariffs from 10% to 25% will only really take effect in a few weeks and hence markets are anticipating a deal will come before that.

Goldman Sachs told clients in a note that there is still some wiggle room in the negotiations, which are still set to continue on Friday.

"We note that details in the notice implementing the tariff hike indicate that exports that have already left Chinese ports before May 10 will not be subject to the increase," said Goldman economist Jan Hatzius.

"This creates an unofficial window, potentially lasting a couple of weeks, in which negotiations can continue and generates a 'soft' deadline to reach a deal ... This also leaves an opportunity for the two sides to reach an agreement in the next couple of weeks, though challenges remain," he added.

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'Amicable conclusion'

Russ Mould, an investment director at London-based stockbroker AJ Bell, said the market moves could be down to investors now having real facts with the formal tariff hike, which would dispel any speculation earlier in the week.

He also explained that a China retaliation will hurt U.S. businesses and consumers and have a negative impact on the economy. He added that the finger of blame would then point to Trump for being "too aggressive," noting that he cannot afford to let this happen ahead of elections next year.

"Investors could be betting that China's retaliation could force Trump to back down and come to an amicable conclusion," Mould said in his note.