Sunday, March 4, 2018

Tariff Tantrum, or Trade War Apocalypse?

Preface: Explaining our market timing models
We maintain several market timing models, each with differing time horizons. The "Ultimate Market Timing Model" is a long-term market timing model based on the research outlined in our post, Building the ultimate market timing model. This model tends to generate only a handful of signals each decade.

The Trend Model is an asset allocation model which applies trend following principles based on the inputs of global stock and commodity price. This model has a shorter time horizon and tends to turn over about 4-6 times a year. In essence, it seeks to answer the question, "Is the trend in the global economy expansion (bullish) or contraction (bearish)?"

My inner trader uses the trading component of the Trend Model to look for changes in the direction of the main Trend Model signal. A bullish Trend Model signal that gets less bullish is a trading "sell" signal. Conversely, a bearish Trend Model signal that gets less bearish is a trading "buy" signal. The history of actual out-of-sample (not backtested) signals of the trading model are shown by the arrows in the chart below. The turnover rate of the trading model is high, and it has varied between 150% to 200% per month.

Subscribers receive real-time alerts of model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts are updated weekly here.

The latest signals of each model are as follows:
  • Ultimate market timing model: Buy equities*
  • Trend Model signal: Neutral*
  • Trading model: Bullish*
* The performance chart and model readings have been delayed by a week out of respect to our paying subscribers.

Update schedule: I generally update model readings on my site on weekends and tweet mid-week observations at @humblestudent. Subscribers receive real-time alerts of trading model changes, and a hypothetical trading record of the those email alerts is shown here.

Trade chaos, or buying opportunity?
Trump's tariff announcements in steel and aluminum last week were certainly a shock to the market, though they were not totally unexpected. I had written about this in early January when the market was melting up and suggested that 2018 would be the year of "full Trump" and a dramatic change in policy tone after the tax cut victory (see Could a Trump trade war spark a bear market?)

Trump went on to double down on his steel and aluminum tariff announcements with a "trade wars are good, and easy to win" tweet.

In the wake of the announcements, the charts of the market reactions to past major trade actions began circulating on the internet. Here is what happened when George W. Bush imposed tariffs on steel in 2002.

This chart shows the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariffs during the 1930`s.

Is this fear mongering? It depends on your perspective. Trade wars had a major dampening effect on global growth, but the American economy were either in recession (2002) or in a Depression (1930's) during these two episodes.

Is this a Tariff Tantrum that should be bought, or a Trade War Apocalypse that should be sold?

The full post can be found at our site here.

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