Xi pledged during a speech Tuesday at what is known as the “Asian Davos” that China would open its markets to more trade and investment, would reduce tariffs on automobiles and other imports, and would respect the intellectual property of foreign companies seeking to do business in China. The last issue has been a particular sticking point with U.S. industry and the Trump administration.
Xi’s apparent olive branch comes after several volatile stock market sessions that followed trade threats and counterthreats between President Trump and the Chinese. The eruptions caused already-fragile markets to plummet, erasing stock gains of all three indexes and sending the Dow into correction territory.
On Tuesday, Trump thanked Xi on Twitter for his “kind words on tariffs and automobile barriers” and “his enlightenment” on intellectual property and technology transfers. “We will make great progress together!” the president added.
The Dow and S&P 500 are negative for 2018 despite Tuesday’s strong close.
“Today is a combination of a bounce back from Friday’s downturn, which may have been overdone on trade fears, and Xi’s comments,” said Ed Keon, chief investment strategist at QMA. “Although there wasn’t a tremendous amount of new substance [from Xi], it may have cooled the environment and reduced the risk of a trade war in investors’ minds.”
In a reversal of last week’s bloodbath, the Dow’s biggest gainers on Tuesday included some of the same companies that saw their stocks plummet last week amid fears they would suffer the most from a trade war.
Boeing, Caterpillar, DowDuPont, Goldman Sachs and 3M were all cruising upward. ExxonMobil and Chevron also got a boost from rising oil prices, which broke through $70 a barrel. Technology stocks Microsoft, Intel, Cisco, Apple and IBM gained on hopes that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance on Capitol Hill might ease the threat of federal regulation over the social media giant’s misuse of personal data.
Facebook shares closed up 4.5 percent, their highest jump in two years, while Zuckerberg was still in the midst of his testimony before a U.S. Senate committee on Capitol Hill.
Markets have jumped incessantly on comments over the last week. A CNBC interview with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Friday in which he allowed for the possibility of a trade war sent the Dow down 572 points.
Then on Monday, Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, went on CNBC, where he has been a paid commentator in the past, to announce that he was optimistic about the trade negotiations underway between the United States and various other entities, including China, as well as Canada and Mexico via talks about reworking the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The Dow soared 440 points, aided by Kudlow’s interview, before settling at a 46-point gain on the day.
Keon said he believes the nearly 10-year-old bull market still has room to grow.
“The volatility we’ve seen the last week is perfectly normal market behavior,” Keon said.
“The markets want to go higher,” he said. “The most important fundamental to stock prices in the long run is corporate profits. And we are just starting the first-quarter earnings season, and the results are likely to be terrific.”