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The U.S. needs to work out a trade deal with China by the end of the year or the retail sector will be in big trouble, former J.C. Penney CEO Allen Questrom said Thursday.
Questrom, who served as chairman and CEO at the department store chain from September 2000 to December 2004, said he expects President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will come to an agreement soon because "nobody benefits the longer this goes on" and they "don't want to see a disaster."
"We've got two intelligence economies: One China, one United States," he said. "And I think they're going to come to their senses."
The SPDR S&P Retail XRT — an ETF that tracks the industry's biggest companies — is down 1.73% year to date through Thursday's close amid the U.S.-China trade dispute.
The world's two largest economies increased tariffs on one another this month, with the U.S. making the first move by increasing duties on $200 billion worth of Chinese products from 10% to 25%. China announced plans to raise tariff rates on $60 billion in U.S. goods. The tactics amplified a fight that has rattled financial markets and threatened to drag on the global economy.
During post-earnings conference calls this week, Kohl's, J.C. Penney and Home Depot executives were united in their messaging against additional taxes on imports from China. Kohl's cut its earnings estimates, blaming in part a hit from tariffs.
But Questrom said retail stocks Target, Walmart and Costco will be winners in the near term because of their exposure in the grocery business. Meanwhile, department store chains will need to "execute well" and create "excitement" for their consumers in order to bring in revenue and satisfy investors.