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Why Trump lost his battle against the trade deficit – POLITICO




As President Donald Trump enters the final month of his reelection campaign, it’s increasingly clear that he has failed at one of the signature goals of his presidency: reducing the U.S. trade deficit.

And critics of his trade policy argue Trump’s “magical thinking” created little chance for success.

New figures out Tuesday show the U.S. trade gap is on track to exceed $600 billion this year. That would be the highest since 2008, just before the global financial crisis.

The monthly deficit in U.S. goods trade with all other countries set a record high in August at more than $83 billion.

Trump has blamed the trade deficit on bad trade deals negotiated by his predecessors and unfair trade practices by other countries, but most economists disagree with that explanation.

“We have almost an $800 billion a year trade deficit with other nations,” Trump said in November 2017, after returning from his first trip to Asia as president. “Unacceptable. We are going to start whittling that down and as fast as possible.”

In those 2017 comments, Trump seemed to be referring to just the goods trade deficit while ignoring the surplus the U.S. enjoys in services trade. The combined goods and services deficit in 2017 was $514 billion, reflecting a nearly $800 billion goods deficit as well as a $286 billion services surplus. This year, the goods trade deficit is likely to exceed $850 billion.

The trade deficit measures the difference between what the U.S. imports and exports. The powerful U.S. economy sucks up goods from around the world, resulting in an annual trade deficit that has grown dramatically from a mere $6 billion in 1975.

A variety of factors contributed to Trump’s failure to eliminate the trade gap, which White House trade adviser Peter Navarro predicted in 2016 could be erased in one or two years.

Overall trade remains depressed compared to year-ago levels because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But the massive U.S. government stimulus payments to businesses and consumers have helped U.S. imports recover faster than U.S. exports. That explains why the monthly goods deficit has increased from the average level of $73.3 billion in 2019.

However, even without the pandemic, Trump’s practice of piling tariffs on China and selected other products like steel and aluminum was never going to turn around the deficit, most economists agree.

“Short-term fixes like tariffs don’t work,” said Mary Lovely, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and professor of economics at Syracuse University. “It’s magical thinking.”

The large U.S. trade deficit is fundamentally driven by larger economic factors — like the fact Americans spend more than they save and have to borrow from abroad to finance the difference, Lovely said.

Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in 2017 contributed to that problem by running up the U.S. budget deficit. This year, Congress has approved more than $3 trillion in additional spending to help the U.S. economy recover from the coronavirus pandemic, tripling the budget deficit to $3.3 trillion and pulling the trade deficit along, she said.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, in a statement on Tuesday, defended the administration’s trade actions and attributed this year’s rise in the deficit to the strength of the U.S. recovery from the pandemic and investors buying gold as a hedge against the crisis.

“In spite of the pandemic, our goods deficit is down 2.4 percent year-to-date,” Lighthizer said. “The goods deficit would have decreased by at least 6 percent but for a large spike in gold imports reflecting risk-hedging strategies during the pandemic, not underlying economics.”

He said a 19-percent fall so far this year in the U.S. services surplus due largely to reduced tourism, travel and transport also helped widen the overall deficit. “As other countries recover and reopen, we expect both imports and exports to improve substantially,” Lighthizer said.

Still, although Trump failed to reduce the overall trade deficit, his tariffs helped change the composition of the deficit, which is important, said Michael Stumo, chief executive of the Coalition for a Prosperous America, a Trump-friendly trade group.

Looking at trade in 2019, the last full year of data, the overall U.S. trade deficit fell by less than 1 percent from the previous year to $577 billion. However, the bilateral trade deficit with China fell by a much more impressive 17 percent to $345 billion as importers turned to other countries such as Mexico, Vietnam, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan and members of the EU.

Imports also supplied a slightly smaller share of U.S. demand for manufactured goods in 2019 as measured by CPA’s “reshoring index” which fell to 30.6 percent, from 31.2 percent in 2018.

That may seem like a tiny change, but the U.S. consumed about $7.1 trillion worth of manufactured goods in 2019. So even a small increase in the U.S. share of that market can help create thousands of new jobs, Stumo said.

But for Trump to fundamentally reduce the trade deficit, he needed to address misaligned currency rates because the strong dollar makes it hard for U.S. exporters to compete against other suppliers, Stumo said.

On that front, he ran into opposition from Wall Street money houses, who fear any aggressive moves to deal with currency because it hurts their bottom line, he said.

“A huge, excessively high part of our economy is finance and they’ll fight it,” Stumo said. “We’d like finance to be strong, but just not that big a part of our economy. We need a little bit more goods production.”

Trump’s “phase one” trade deal with China does contain a chapter which, for the first time in any trade agreement, contains enforceable rules against currency manipulation. While some trade experts worry that could open the door for renewed U.S. trade actions against China, others see the pact as more of a fig leaf.

“We would say one of the big failures of the Trump administration with respect to trade policy is the failure to address currency misalignment in any kind of meaningful way,” said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank aligned with union groups. “Putting a couple of sentences into the deal, but without a clear road map as to how it’s going to be instrumentalized, doesn’t really do very much.”

Lee also faults Trump for failing to pass a huge new infrastructure bill to create more jobs in the United States, as he promised during his 2016 campaign, and for approving a set of tax reforms “that took us in exactly the wrong direction by incentivizing and accelerating offshoring.”

Trump’s revised NAFTA agreement with Mexico and Canada does include strong protections for workers rights, which helped the pact win overwhelming approval in the Democratic-controlled House. But the fact that labor concerns were not addressed in the China agreement “just shows that the Trump administration is not driven by any principles in this area, but simply by political expediency,” Lee said.

The administration hails China’s agreement as part of the phase one trade deal to purchase $200 billion more of U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021, compared with the record it set in 2017.

But the data released on Tuesday shows that China is well behind on that goal. During the first eight months of this year, it had imported just $69.5 billion worth of U.S. farm and manufactured goods, compared to $80.2 billion in the same period in 2017.

U.S. farmers were hit so hard by Trump’s tariff war with China that his administration doled out more than $20 billion in emergency aid payments to help cushion the blow.

U.S. farm exports to China had reached as high as $25 billion annually a few years before Trump was elected. But they plummeted to $6.8 billion in fiscal 2019 after Beijing retaliated against Trump’s tariffs by raising its own duties on U.S. farm exports.

Now, even with the purchase commitments contained in the phase one trade deal, USDA forecasts farm exports to China in the current fiscal year that began on Oct. 1 at just $18.5 billion. That’s below the $21.8 billion during Trump’s first year in office.

The U.S. agricultural trade surplus, long a point of pride for farmers, has also dwindled under Trump. It is projected this fiscal year at just $4.5 billion, down from $21.1 billion in fiscal 2017.

Even some longtime China hawks fault Trump’s handling of trade.

The president’s decision to take Beijing on by himself, instead of working with allies such as the European Union and Japan, meant that the phase one trade deal failed to address many of the most serious concerns about China’s trade practices, said Mike Wessel, who has served on the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review, a watchdog panel created by Congress, since it began in the early 2000s.

“We certainly have to advance U.S. interests, but it’d be a lot better and more productive if we did it together,” Wessel said.

Trump also failed to implement domestic policies that would encourage production of manufactured goods in the United States, instead of other countries, Wessel argued.

“China has an integrated structure to achieve the goals laid out in its ‘Made in China 2025’ plan. It’s a holistic whole of government approach. We don’t have anything comparable,” Wessel said.

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Ant Group raises $34.4 billion in the biggest IPO of all time – CNBC Television



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  1. Ant Group raises $34.4 billion in the biggest IPO of all time  CNBC Television
  2. Ant Group set to surpass Aramco as biggest-ever IPO
  3. Chinese fintech could shatter records with US$35B share offer  CTV News
  4. Jack Ma Wealth Surges Above Walmart Heirs’ With Record Ant IPO  BNN
  5. Behold the Mighty Ant  The Wall Street Journal
  6. View Full coverage on Google News

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Ant Group set to surpass Aramco as biggest-ever IPO –



Jack Ma’s fintech giant Ant Group is set to raise $34.5bn through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong – a listing that will rank as the largest ever.

Jack Ma’s Ant Group Co is set to raise about $34.5 billion through initial public offerings in Shanghai and Hong Kong, a blockbuster listing that will rank as the biggest IPO ever and make it one of the most valuable finance firms on the planet.

The fintech giant will have a market value of $315 billion even before exercising its greenshoe option, based on filings Monday. That’s about the same valuation as JPMorgan Chase & Co. and four times larger than Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

The IPO is attracting interest from some of the world’s biggest money managers, and sparking a frenzy among individual investors in China clamoring for a piece of the sale. In the preliminary price consultation of its Shanghai IPO, institutional investors subscribed for over 76 billion shares, or over 284 times of the initial offline offering tranche, according to Ant’s Shanghai offering announcement.

“This was the first time such a big listing, the largest in human history, was priced outside New York City,” billionaire founder Ma told the Bund Summit in Shanghai Saturday. “We wouldn’t have dared to think about it five years, or even three years ago.”

Such demand puts the much-anticipated IPO on track to surpass Saudi Aramco’s $29 billion sale last year. Ant priced its Shanghai stock at 68.8 yuan ($10.27) apiece and its Hong Kong shares at HK$80 ($10.32) each. The company may raise another $5.17 billion if it exercises its greenshoe options.

This is “a homecoming for capital markets in Shanghai and Hong Kong,” said existing investor John Ho, founder of Janchor Partners. Ho, who invested $400 million in Ant two years ago, added that he’s trying to secure a bigger allocation of the Hong Kong shares and that being able to invest in Ant “is priceless.”

T. Rowe Price Group Inc., UBS Asset Management and FMR LLC, the parent of Fidelity Investments, are among the money managers angling for a piece of the deal, a person familiar with the matter has said. Hong Kong stockbrokers are so confident Ant IPO will go smoothly that they’re offering to let mom-and-pop investors buy the stock with as much as 20 times leverage.

“The investment thesis of Ant is a systemic valuation transfer from mainstream Chinese financial institutions such as banks to a platform that’s data-driven, with a huge network effect, and enjoying almost zero marginal costs of cross-selling,” said Nick Xiao, CEO of Hywin International, the Hong Kong arm of Hywin Wealth which is helping rich individuals buy shares of Ant. “Every bank and securities house and fund manager will have to plug into it, while every consumer, corporate or individual, cannot live without it.”

The fintech giant that runs the Alipay platform is charging ahead with its landmark offering just days ahead of the U.S. election. The Hong Kong listing day will be on Nov. 5., only two days after the U.S. vote, an event that could spark market volatility if the vote is disputed or counting delayed.

Ant has picked China International Capital Corp. and CSC Financial Co. to lead its Shanghai leg of the IPO. CICC, Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan. and Morgan Stanley are heading the Hong Kong offering. Existing Ant shareholders won’t be able to sell shares for six months, according to the filings.

The company will issue no more than 1.67 billion shares in China, equivalent to 5.5% of the total outstanding before the greenshoe, according to its prospectus on the Shanghai stock exchange. It will issue the same amount for the Hong Kong offering, or about 3.3 billion shares in total.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., which was co-founded by Ma and currently owns about a third of Ant, has agreed to subscribe for 730 million of the Shanghai shares, which will be listed in Shanghai under the ticker “688688,” according to the prospectus. Alibaba will hold about 32% of Ant shares after the IPO.

(Updates with quotes and details throughout.)
© 2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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Stock markets sell off on renewed uncertainty over COVID-19 and U.S. election –



Stock markets around the world sold off on Monday as surging coronavirus infections prompted a new wave of fear and uncertainty, barely a week before a U.S. election that could reshape global geopolitics.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished the day at 27,685, down 689 points or 2.3 per cent. At the lowest point, the benchmark group of 30 large U.S. companies was off by more than 900 points.

The broader S&P 500 and technology-focused Nasdaq fared slightly better, but both closed down by almost two per cent.

The reason for the selling was a new wave of fear washing over markets as COVID-19 infections are rising to record levels in many places.

Spain’s government declared a national state of emergency on Sunday that includes an overnight curfew, while Italy ordered restaurants and bars to close each day by 6 p.m. and shut down gyms, pools and movie theatres.

Numerous Latin American nations also set their own daily case records over the weekend.

After two record days of more than 80,000 new cases over the weekend, the seven-day average of new cases in the U.S. is now at 68,767, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

“And nobody is quite sure about what the response is going to be,” said Colin Ciezinsky, chief market strategist with SIA Wealth Management. “Are we going to see widespread lockdowns or more targeted rollbacks? Markets are like a deer caught in headlights.”

TSX down, too

Canadian stocks got swept up in the gloom, although on the whole they held up comparatively better.

The TSX’s main index lost 257 points, down 1.6 per cent on the day. 

Travel-related companies were hit hardest, with shares in Air Canada losing more than $1 to close at $15.91. Those same shares were valued at more than $50 apiece in January, but that was before COVID-19 wiped out demand for air travel.

Energy companies were battered too, as the price of oil lost more than three per cent with a barrel of the North American benchmark known as WTI closing at $38.52 US.

Oil’s sell off was mainly due to COVID-19, said Judith Dwarkin, chief economist at Enverus. “COVID’s second wave or third wave has enveloped Europe and prompted a new raft of travel restrictions,” she said. “It’s not surprising there’s heightened volatility in the market.”

Surging coronavirus infections have prompted a new wave of uncertainty on stock markets. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Shares in three of the biggest oil companies in Canada — Cenovus, CNR Limited, and Suncor — all fell. Cenovus plunged by eight per cent to $4.47 despite news the company was planning to take over smaller rival Husky in a $23 billion deal.

U.S. election impact

Renewed coronavirus fears were the main thing roiling markets, but the U.S. election was also a contributing factor, Ciezinsky said.

“People are starting to take money off the table,” he said. “They aren’t sure what the result might be or if it is disputed [so] this is about fear and uncertainty. People don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Hopes are also fading that Democrats and Republicans will come together on another stimulus package, but Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, said some sort of deal is likely once the uncertainty of the election can be settled.

“It’s going to be a little bit volatile in the next week depending on the results, but we’re not expecting weeks of uncertainty,” she said.

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