The possibility of a U.S. withdrawal from Nafta shouldn't be that scary, according to economists at Goldman Sachs.
It's a prospect that has dominated headlines and stewed investors since President Donald Trump was inaugurated. But Goldman economists said they believe that the odds of an actual withdrawal from Nafta in 2018 are smaller than the odds of an announced intention to withdraw.
"The U.S. administration may be incentivized to wait until the Mexico presidential election in July before taking action," Goldman wrote. "In addition, the Nafta agreement requires at least six months' notice before withdrawal."
Trade negotiators met in Montreal for the sixth of seven planned Nafta talks. According to Goldman, the "combination of trade risks" has caused the Trade Policy Uncertainty Index to surge in recent months to its highest level since April, but still remaining well below post-Election Day highs.
But even if it did happen, it doesn't seem a Nafta exit would really cause that much trouble domestically.
Plus, it's been a reality Wall Street has experienced for months now. "Stocks with high Mexico exposure have lagged S&P 500 by 500 basis points since November alongside rising trade uncertainty. U.S. firms with high U.S. sales outperformed," economists wrote.
Among the select stocks Goldman highlighted that could face elevated risk are those with 5% or more of reported sales to or assets in Mexico. Ingredion Inc. (INGR) , Owens-Illinois Inc. (OI) , Kansas City Southern (KSU) , Crown Holdings Inc. (CCK) , PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) , BorgWarner Inc. (BWA) , Lear Corp. (LEA) , Sensata Technologies Holding NV (ST) , Skyworks Solutions Inc. (SWKS) and Jabil Inc. (JBL) are the 10 stocks most heavily correlated to moves between the dollar and the Mexican peso.
Goldman found that autos face the largest risk from a Nafta withdrawal, as they represent the largest portion of trade with Mexico "by a wide margin and face high tariffs outside of trade agreements." Electrical equipment, plastics and agriculture also face comparably elevated risk.
"Notably, many of the industries most at risk have fared very well post-election as a result of the economic acceleration and the president's stated focus on domestic manufacturing," Goldman noted. "For example, since Election Day 2016, S&P 500 Auto Component companies have returned 52% and Electronic Equipment firms have returned 51%, compared with 36% for the S&P 500 in aggregate."
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