Russia collusion story: A big “nothing burger” or a case for gold?
According to CLSA, global trade is robust, with emerging markets, and particularly China, driving most of the acceleration this year. In the first three months of 2017, global trade grew 4 % compared to the same period last year, its fastest pace since 2011.
“Indeed the early months of 2017 have seen China become easily the biggest single country driver of Asian trade growth,” writes Eric Fishwick, head of economic research at CLSA.
A lot of this growth can be attributed to Beijing’s monumental One Belt, One Road infrastructure project, which I’ve highlighted many times before. But according to Alexious Lee, CLSA’s head of China industrial research, a “more nationalist America” in the first six months of the year has likely given China more leverage to assume “a larger global, and especially regional, leadership role.”
This comports with what I said back in January, in a Frank Talk titled “China Sets the Stage to Replace the U.S. as Global Trade Leader.” With President Donald Trump having already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and promising to renegotiate or tear up other trade agreements—he recently tweeted that the U.S. has “made some of the worst Trade Deals in world history”—China has emerged, amazingly, as a champion of free trade, a position of power it will likely continue to capitalize on.
The country’s overseas construction orders have continued to expand, with agreements signed since 2013 valued at more than $600 billion.
Emerging Europe Expected to Remain Strong
Another recent report, this one from Capital Economics, shows that the investment case for emerging Europe remains strong in 2017. Russia is expected to strengthen over the next 12 months, while Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are likely to remain attractive.
“Russia’s economy has pulled out of recession and growth in the coming quarters will be stronger than most anticipate,” the research firm writes, adding that its central bank’s loosening of monetary policy should support the recovery even further.
To be sure, the region faces strong headwinds, including a rapidly aging population and the loss of an estimated 20 million skilled workers to foreign markets over the past 25 years, according to a July 11 presentation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But I believe that as conditions in central emerging Europe countries continue to improve, many of those workers will be returning home. Life in the region is not the same as it was 10 or 20 years ago when good jobs might have been scarce. Firms are now growing at a healthy rate and hiring more workers. As you can see below, unemployment rates in Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have been falling steadily since at least 2012 and are now lower than the broader European Union.
This strength is reflected in emerging Europe’s capital markets. For the 12-month period as of July 12, Hungary’s Budapest Stock Exchange is up 38 %. Poland’s WIG20 is up more than 43 %. Meanwhile, the STOXX Europe 600 Index—which includes some of the largest Western European companies—has made gains of only 17 % over the same period.
Markets Still Believe in Trump
As we all know, the mainstream media’s criticism and ire aren’t reserved for China alone. Ninety-nine percent of the media right now is against President Trump, for a number of reasons—some of them deserved, some of them not.
Markets, however, seem not to care what the media or polls have to say. The Dow Jones Industrial Average continues to hit new all-time highs. Even though it’s stalled a few times, the “Trump rally” appears to be in full-speed-ahead mode, more than eight months after the election.