Tonight, the President gives his State of the Union (SOTU) address, his first as President of the United States, and the pre-speech pundit commentary is out in full strength.
To keep this short-and-sweet the real "reactionary" tell in terms of the US capital markets will come from the Treasury market, not necessarily the equity market. The Treasury market is very sensitive to GDP growth and changes in inflationary expectations. Without being political to any degree, but merely stating what I think is or was a long-held observation, the big complaint about President Obama's economic policies, particularly Dodd-Frank and the plethora of regulation, was that it kept the US economy running or operating at a below-average growth rate for GDP for many years.
The Trump Administration and the new Congress have a lot of initiatives in their plate, and many of these initiatives are poised to stimulate growth. Here are my thoughts on the President Trump and Congress initiatives relative to the US economy today:
1.) The Border Tax: The BTA was panned last week by Gary Cohn, the chief economic advisor to the President. My problem with this is, if you listen to the President, the BTA accomplishes everything the President campaigned on, in one so-called easy initiative. The BTA makes US manufacturers agnostic as to where they manufacture and the BTA potentially provides a major stimulus to the US jobs, if US companies start manufacturing here again. The simple fact is manufacturing employment in the US today is about 5% of total, but manufacturing as a percent of GDP (from the last data I saw assuming it was legit) was roughly "mid-teens" thanks to productivity growth.
However, the job growth wage impact with a labor market already operating at a 4.6-4.7% unemployment rate could be shocking for Treasuries. Stimulating what looks to be an already overheated job market at full-employment could have nasty implications for interest rates and the Treasury market. Gary Cohn says "not so fast" on BTA, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady say "yes," Mitch McConnell says "maybe not." I'd really like to hear how the President comes out on BTA.
2.) Infrastructure: Personally, never put much emphasis in these programs. As Tony Crescenzi of PIMCO noted in a CNBC interview a month ago, the spending has to have some real economic benefit over the long run. Certainly, improved roads help the truck industry and any freight tonnage moved by trucks, but measuring benefits is often illusory and thus the local municipalities can game the economic impact.
3.) Corporate tax rates: Cash repatriation, personal tax rate reduction and corporate tax rate reform, all will be done under the umbrella or in conjunction with the BTA as "comprehensive tax reform," thus this is legislation with a lot of moving parts. I'd like to hear tonight how the President stands on all these issues and what he would like to see Congress come forth with, in terms of legislation to sign.
Personally I'd love to see my ordinary income rates reduced, even if it means some deductions are eliminated. Back in the early to mid-1980s, President Reagan first initially reduced individual tax rates and then signed off on comprehensive tax reform in 1986, 6 years after he was first elected. It has been 30 years since tax legislation of this magnitude has been contemplated.
4.) Affordable Care Act: Reform (or repeal and replace): another bill tied to tax legislation.
Analysis / conclusion: It was somewhat surprising to see Fed Funds rate increase probability rise to 50% in the last few days. The FOMC is trying to be pre-emptive, with a mid-March rate increase after 8 years of sub-par growth. However, we get another jobs report on Friday, March 10th, before the next FOMC meeting.
The S&P 500 is on track for a good year. Even if some of the above proposed policies get watered down, the S&P 500 should see +8 - +10% earnings growth in 2017. The Treasury market will be the key reaction tell as to whether the President and Congress are on-point or whether the policies are more hype than substance.
Jeff Miller published a SOTU preview yesterday with a different perspective.
Thanks for reading.