The U.S. equity markets are off session highs but pushing higher on Monday. Major news on trade came late on Sunday when President Trump provided an update on trade via a serious of tweets. According to the President, “substantial progress” has been on a trade deal with China, and he officially announced an extension to the date of when U.S. tariffs would be increased (previously, tariffs were set to rise to 25% at 12:01 a.m March 2nd).
If both sides continue to make progress on such key issues, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, the President and his team will plan a summit meeting held at Mar-a-Lago with Chinese President Xi “to conclude an agreement.” A trade deal with China would be meaningful for any company that does a solid amount of business in the region (like a Honeywell (HON) ), and perhaps more so the stocks tied to global economic growth (like a DowDuPont (DWDP) ).
Now usually when positive news is made on trade, we typically see a correlated move in the energy markets as expectations of global economic growth are lifted. That’s not happening on Monday and WTI Crude prices are retreating about 3% to the $55 handle. The correlation between the two was always a bit of a Catch-22 anyway — at some point, rising oil prices becomes a headwind to economic growth due to higher input costs, which reduce the corporate earnings of those who consume the commodity. But the main reason behind the divergence on Monday was a tweet by the President that requested OPEC increase its efforts to curb prices.
“Oil prices getting too high,” the President tweeted. “OPEC, relax and take it easy. World cannot take a price hike – fragile!”
Recall that OPEC+ wants prices higher as it helps balance their budgets. After the fourth quarter of 2018 pullback that caused Brent crude to fall from $85 in October to the low $50s in December, members have collectively cut output at the start of the year.
Although oil prices are being negatively affected by the tweet today, the impact on the equity prices of our energy stocks has been minimal. At the time this was written, all three of our energy stocks (Anadarko Petroleum (APC) , BP plc (BP) , and Schlumberger (SLB) ) were trading in the green and shrugging off the commodity’s weakness. Now, of course, we could see oil prices rally a step higher if the tariff extension materializes into a broader trade agreement, but the President’s rhetoric on prices as well as increased output from the Permian Basin could temper the move. In any event, the recent earnings results from all three of our names positively demonstrated strong cash flow generation during the less than favorable fourth quarter 2018 environment, and the improved market conditions of the first quarter of 2019 should be beneficial going forward.