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Markets at the mercy of politics

One would have thought that the toughest obstacle for Donald Trump would have been limited to the presidential election win. Yet, two months into his tenure, Trump has failed to gather the needed support in congress to implement his proposed health care reforms on the previously set bill implemented by Barack Obama.

As one of the main proposals in his electoral campaign, it comes as no surprise that investor sentiment has subsequently retreated. Financial markets over the past months, most notably since the presidential outcome have priced in proposed Trump reforms from lower corporate taxes to infrastructural fiscal spending.

The healthcare proposal vote last Friday, to revoke what became known as Obamacare since 2012, was a big test to Trump’s presidency. The failure to implement the reform, following a vote in congress, led investors to anticipate similar scenarios for the other proposed Trump policies that in turn have to go through congress.

Markets have in fact retreated since Friday’s vote with the US dollar depreciating against a number of currencies and equities selling off, following the optimism over recent months of the pro-business Trump agenda.

Gold, sovereign bonds and the yen saw the most inflows as a result to begin the week.

Commodities have yet to stabilise, as industrial raw materials sold off following the healthcare reform rejection in favour of precious metals. Furthermore, the OPEC scale back in oil production has been insufficient to boost oil prices as concerns on US production and increased supply has retreated oil prices over the past month to below the $50 a barrel mark today.

Market movements so far in 2017 are at the mercy of political events. In Europe, the Euro has somewhat held its ground, given the latest polls surrounding the upcoming French elections.

Marine Le Pen’s anti-European Union National Front Party is heavily expected to lose the second round electoral vote to independent candidate Emanuel Macron. Markets have, in turn, responded positively to the news, as Macron’s rise in the polls has led investors to further price in his pro-business electoral proposals.

If elected, Macron has proposed corporate tax cuts, more flexible employment contracts, lower public spending and consequently 120,000 public sector job cuts. Furthermore, the candidate also wants to abide by Eurozone commitments in reducing France’s long-term budget deficit to below three per cent of GDP. 

Whilst optimism currently strives around the French elections, investors nervously await the tone negotiations will undertake, once Brexit is officially triggered by Theresa May today.

A Brexit with no deal between the two parties is a possible chaotic scenario for Britain as tariffs, border controls and consequent business migration would most likely affect the nation.

Following Brexit and the election of Trump, caution should most definitely continue to set the tone. Whilst Macron in France seems to be cruising to victory, I wouldn’t write Marine Le Pen off just yet. Election polls over the past year have done more than enough to disappoint and question their credibility.

For all we know, Marine Le Pen does become president and similar to the market retreat following Trump’s healthcare vote rejection, this time, European markets would be jolted into panic sell-offs, wiping out most of the optimism and upside currently being enjoyed.

And let’s not forget German elections later on this year…

Disclaimer: This article was issued by Mathieu Ganado, Junior Investment Manager at Calamatta Cuschieri. For more information visit, www.cc.com.mt .The information, views and opinions provided in this article are being provided solely for educational and informational purposes and should not be construed as investment advice, advice concerning particular investments or investment decisions, or tax or legal advice. Calamatta Cuschieri Investment Services Ltd has not verified and consequently neither warrants the accuracy nor the veracity of any information, views or opinions appearing on this website.

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