Brexit: Mess Gets Messier
With only weeks left until the October 31 deadline, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson moved to suspend Parliament to thwart opposition lawmakers’ chances of blocking a no‑deal Brexit, causing both consumer and business confidence to tumble. Johnson’s gamble was designed to put pressure on the EU but instead pitted himself against Parliament, which moved swiftly to block his proposed no‑deal Brexit. While the probability of a near‑term disorderly exit has significantly decreased, neither side seems to have a plan to resolve the key sticking points with Brussels. In the meantime, the move promises further economic uncertainty with another delay and an election likely this year.
Mind the (Trade) Gap
Risk assets have had a turbulent August amid renewed anxieties surrounding trade, with the U.S. announcing new tariffs and Chinese authorities allowing the yuan to weaken against the dollar while halting U.S. agricultural purchases. However, markets rallied into month‑end as trade rhetoric abated on both sides despite additional tariffs on key consumer goods, such as electronics and footwear, which are due to go into effect on September 1. While a resumption of dialogue provides hope, the gap that has formed between the two sides from retaliatory tariffs has made the possibility of a near‑term substantive deal even more remote. Meanwhile, trade continues to weigh on growth, and the lingering uncertainty is already impacting capital decisions.
Shop Till the Economy Drops
Amid continued manufacturing weakness and a slowing economy, the U.S. consumer appears unfazed as spending (which accounts for more than two‑thirds of U.S. economic activity) grew at its fastest rate since 2014. The consumer has benefited from solid wages, a tight labor market, low interest rates, and low inflation as existing tariffs have been largely absorbed by companies to date. However, with the most recently announced tariffs that are expected to take effect in September and December being largely consumer goods focused, the consumer may no longer be immune to the trade war. If companies pass the tariff impacts on to the consumer and demand suffers, recession odds could sharply tick upward.
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