Two aspects of the Trump trade came to the fore yesterday as investors seek to profit from the policies of this mercurial President.
First of all, U.S. equity markets rose, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average
What effect new sanctions on Iran may have on global oil supplies is unclear, though Credit Suisse analyst William Featherston said it may amount to about 200,000 barrels a day. Goldman Sachs analysts, including Damien Courvalin and Jeffrey Currie, said a 250,000 barrel-a-day reduction over six months could wind up boosting oil prices by about $3.50 a barrel if other OPEC countries don't make up the shortfall.
Presto, West Texas Intermediate crude rose 3% to $71.18, the highest since December 2014, boosting shares of oil companies including Occidental (OXY) , which gained 4.8%, Marathon (MRO) , up 3.8%, and Apache (APA) , which gained 2.5%. Spot gasoline also rose 2.7% to $2.17 a gallon, boding ill for the summer driving season in the U.S. and potentially eroding any gains middle-class Americans received from the Trump tax cuts.
Bank of America (BAC) and JPMorgan & Chase (JPM) led banks higher after the yield on the government's ten-year debt rose above 3%. Bank of America rose 2.6% and JPMorgan gained 2.2%, but the news isn't all good: yields rise when prices fall, and the evidence is that investors are demanding more incentive to lend money against the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. It's an indication that financial confidence in the U.S. is falling.
JPMorgan & Chase is a holding in Action Alerts PLUS.
Which brings us to another aspect of the Trump trade. A reader last week commented that he's delighted by the performance of his 401(k) since Trump was elected, and that if the U.S. were a stock, its management led by the current chief executive officer would have him buying all day long. And many readers will agree with him. Still, it's possible to think that if the U.S. were a stock reporting its results under GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles for you wonks out there), the line for goodwill would likely be lower this year.
Even though Trump has instituted policies of lower taxes, reduced or reversed legislation and scant enforcement, he's also assembled (and disassembled) a management team that would likely be regarded as a disaster at any well-run publicly traded U.S. company, and would probably prompt board intervention.
Trump appointees and allies including Scott Pruitt, Ryan Zinke, Tom Price, Michael Flynn, Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Rob Porter, Ronnie Jackson, Anthony Scaramucci, Omarosa Manigault, Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer - the list goes on - have all strutted their time across the national scandal stage, and it's becoming clear that they take behavioral direction from the boss. And now we have the president's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, in the headline mix.
Trump has run into criticism for not honoring a tradition in American politics that a president should be transparent about his finances so as not to give the impression he's promoting policies that would serve to enrich him. As a result, Americans don't know whether the tax cut would benefit Trump, because he won't release his taxes. They see the President retaining ownership of a hotel in Washington that markets to foreign dignitaries, and a country club in Florida at which members can gain access to the President for an admission fee of only $200,000.
A couple weeks ago the President's budget director and head of the CFPB, Mick Mulvaney, told to a group of bankers that when he was a congressman, he'd talk to lobbyists who had paid him, wouldn't talk to those who didn't, and allowed that he would speak to constituents without a fee. The inference was that pay-for-play is an accepted tactic in the Trump regime.
That inference was bolstered by news that Cohen has been getting paid by companies that have business before the government on the grounds that Cohen could provide advice on how to deal with the President.
Novartis, the giant Swiss pharmaceutical company, said it paid Cohen $1.2 million for health-care policy consulting work that he proved "unable" to do, CNBC reported. The company said it honored the one-year, $100,000-a-month contract even though Cohen didn't do what he was expected to do, because it could only be terminated "for cause." Is there a cause more relevant than not doing what the contract provided he should do?
It's not clear whether Novartis is asking for its money back. Now it turns out that the company has been questioned by special counsel Robert Mueller.
AT&T (T) , whose bid for Time Warner (TWC) is being scrutinized by the Trump Justice Department, paid Cohen , the personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, up to $600,000 as part of a consulting contract to get insight into Trump's thinking, a source told CNBC on Wednesday.
The payment to Cohen was for "an understanding of the inner workings of Trump, his thought process, how he likes to operate, how he likes to make decisions, how he processes information," the source told CNBC.
Gosh, they might have had a look at the President's Twitter feed and paid more attention to Fox & Friends. But it does recall the supposedly old Turkish proverb: "the fish stinks first at the head", meaning, that if the servant is disorderly, it is because the master is too.
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