Updated from 9:53 a.m. with comments from Wilbur Ross
Donald Trump's team of top economic minds, like Wilbur Ross and Anthony Scaramucci, may be saying they don't want a trade war with China but the market isn't buying the lip service.
The Shanghai Composite Index has dived about 5.1% to 3,113 since hitting a peak on Nov. 29, as investors grew fearful of the stance of the incoming Trump administration when it comes to trade with the key manufacturing country. During this span, the Shanghai Composite Index has underperformed the rallying S&P 500. The underperformance of Chinese stocks is especially concerning in light of the government's recent liquidity injections and otherwise decent economic trends.
The People's Bank of China pumped in about 410 billion yuan ($60 billion) through open-market operations on Wednesday. It marked the biggest daily injection since 2004, according to Bloomberg data. Over the past week, China has put in about 845 billion yuan ($123 billion) in an effort to stem potential capital outflows. Meanwhile, China's fourth-quarter GDP is seen rising 6.7% when results are issued this Friday. Although that annual pace would be the slowest since 1990, it still would mark the fourth straight quarter of 6.7% growth and be among the fastest in the world.
There goes China's stock market ...
Nevertheless, China's stock market appears to be taking its cue right now from President Xi, who has dropped tough talk lately on relations with the U.S. under President Trump.
"Protectionism is like locking yourself in a dark room, which would seem to escape wind and rain, but also block out the sunshine," Xi told the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. "No one is a winner in a trade war," Xi added. The Chinese are also likely keeping Trump's prior comments and fresh ones by potential cabinet members top of mind, too.
"Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into their country (the U.S. doesn't tax them) or to build a massive military complex in the middle of the South China Sea? I don't think so!," Trump said on Twitter in early December.
Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency (making it hard for our companies to compete), heavily tax our products going into..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 4, 2016
At his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Ross said he will seek to "level the playing field" with China, contending that the country talks more about free trade than they practice it. Ross added that he is pro "sensible trade."
Either way, now may be a good time to reassess one's exposure to China. For instance, can Starbucks (SBUX) continue to rock in China amid such elevated rhetoric -- and possible real actions -- between the two economic powerhouses? These are the basic questions an investor needs to ask as China has been a growth miracle for many U.S.-based companies -- in many cases shares trade on valuations that expect that growth miracle (such as at Starbucks) to continue with relative ease.
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