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There’s always room for surprises. But with little more than a week to go, stocks are set to keep advancing through year-end, capping off a stellar 2019.
Good news from Beijing: China said Monday that it would reduce import tariffs on hundreds of goods next week as it tries to boost trade, shore up its slowing economy and soften the impact of a devastating swine fever epidemic.
On the relief list: Frozen pork, semiconductor parts and more than 800 other items ranging from consumer goods to high-tech products. Stephen Innes, chief Asia market strategist at AxiTrader, called the announcement an “encouraging olive branch” as China and the United States move toward the signing of a “phase one” trade deal.
Good news on the trade front gives investors confidence that US stocks can keep edging higher in the few trading days left this year. The S&P 500 has climbed 28.5% year to date.
Part of that optimism is seasonal, as investors get a breather from economic data and earnings releases.
The numbers: Historically, US stocks climb in the final five trading days of the year, as well as the first two trading days of the new year, per Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM. LPL Financial notes that the S&P 500 has gained an average of 0.6% in the last week of the year since 1950.
But it also reflects Wall Street’s recent mood, which has been buoyed by a detente in the US-China trade war and the fact that the risk of a messy Brexit has receded to the end of 2020.
That doesn’t mean investors have nothing to worry about heading into the new year. “Market focus is … likely to shift to assessing whether tentative signs of bottoming-out in global trade and manufacturing around the globe are for real,” Societe Generale economist Klaus Baader told clients Monday.
The bank thinks the answer is yes, but the recovery “is likely to be short-lived before more troubling signs emerge from the US economy.”
Credit Suisse’s spying scandal deepens
The Swiss investment bank said Monday that ex-chief operating officer Pierre-Olivier Bouée ordered a spying operation on Credit Suisse’s former head of human resources for several days in February, and later covered up the scheme.
Strike two: It’s the second time Bouée has been implicated in a spying scandal at the bank. He stepped down this fall after an investigation found that he asked the bank’s head of security to spy on Iqbal Khan, Credit Suisse’s head of wealth management, after he was poached by crosstown rival UBS.
The saga is a black eye for Credit Suisse, which needs top talent to succeed in a tough environment for European investment banks. The company said it has put in place “more rigorous internal policies,” but conceded that the two spying incidents “have damaged the reputation of our bank.”
Not over yet: Credit Suisse said that it found no indication that CEO Tidjane Thiam and other members of the executive board or board of directors knew anything about the latest spying case until the media reported on it.
But the case isn’t closed. The Swiss market regulator has appointed an independent auditor to step up its investigation into the bank’s corporate governance in light of the snooping.
Emerging markets get ready for a 2020 rebound
With trade headwinds easing, investors are preparing for emerging markets to rebound in 2020. The question is, how substantial a bounce back can we expect?
Capital Economics predicts that GDP growth will strengthen in India, Brazil and Turkey, with China as the main exception. But the research firm thinks that “the pace of recovery will generally be weaker than most anticipate.”
The scene: Fiscal stimulus and the ongoing boost from lower interest rates should help these markets, but may not be enough to offset ongoing anxiety on trade and a resilient dollar in the later part of the year.
Some countries, such as Vietnam, may surprise to the upside, Capital Economics notes. That’s because there’s good reason for multinational companies to keep avoiding China as they rework their supply chains.
New US home sales for November arrive at 10 a.m. ET.
Coming tomorrow: US durable goods orders for November post at 8:30 a.m. ET. Note that US markets close early for Christmas Eve. They’ll shut entirely on Wednesday.