Mueller Probe End Favors Financial Markets, Wall Street Says

(Bloomberg) -- Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, with its finding of no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 campaign, is positive for markets, as it lifts a cloud over President Trump, may give his agenda more traction and might boost the odds he’ll strike a better deal with China, analysts say.

Some see an opening for bipartisan moves in Congress, as both sides seek victories ahead of next year’s general election. At the same time, others warn the Democrats will keep attacking the president, ratcheting up the rancor and threatening long-term deals on government spending and the deficit.

U.S. equity futures were trimming their declines in pre-market trading. Big banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Citigroup Inc., which were hard hit last week, were little changed ahead of the open.

Here’s a sample of what some analysts are saying:

Raymond James, Ed Mills

The end of the investigation should “serve as a market positive and further lessens the (already low) odds of President Trump being removed from office via impeachment,” Mills wrote in a note.

“With the investigations now largely behind the administration, we could see a renewed push to implement some of the president’s key domestic policy priorities,” boosting “the stickiness of the administration’s policies for the foreseeable future.” There may be pressure on Democrats “to strike a policy victory...to offset some of the partisanship of additional Congressional investigations.”

Mills also expects “real impacts on trade negotiations with China” from Mueller, as less domestic pressure “could embolden the president to seek a stronger trade deal.” And Trump focusing more on the 2020 election instead of a near-term win from a trade agreement, could “lengthen the runway for the completion of a deal with greater concessions from China.”

KBW, Brian Gardner

The report is “positive for the Trump administration, at least in the short term, and a positive for the markets,” Gardner wrote in a note.

Trump “benefits from having a foil in order to rally his base, and the Mueller investigation served a political purpose for the President in that regard.” It may also be tough for Democrats “to slowly let the issue die so their presidential candidates can turn their attention towards issues that could actually move swing voters.”

The Democrats might actually benefit in the long run, he said “if they can refocus and campaign on issues like health care and forget about the Russia investigation.” Showing voters “they can govern’,’ and pivoting to substantive issues, would help the Democrats’ chances of winning the presidency in 2020, he said.

Compass Point, Isaac Boltansky

“Ultimately, Attorney General William Barr’s letter provides both ends of the political spectrum with new arguments and sounds bites that will further calcify the gridlock in Washington,” Boltansky wrote in a note. He sees Barr’s summary as a “political Rorschach test that provides both Democrats and Republicans with a plethora of contradictory talking points,” but Boltanksy doesn’t believe it “will alter either the political dynamics in Washington or the market’s near-term policy expectations.”

Cowen, Jaret Seiberg

“Democrats will accelerate their probes, including of the president’s ties to banks,” Seiberg warned in a note. “This could get even more partisan and put at risk future legislation, including the debt ceiling or spending bills.” He also noted that the special counsel didn’t clear the president, and sees the report encouraging the Democrats to “expand their planned probes.”

“The problem will be in the House,” Seiberg said, which is likely to turn “even more partisan, which will make enacting legislation more complicated.” He’s watching Tuesday’s House Financial Services Committee’s scheduled votes on several bills, including one on cannabis banking, for whether there will be bipartisan cooperation, or whether “it will devolve into extreme partisanship.” Overhauling the mortgage system, for example, may become “even harder, though the prospects for legislation already were low.”

The real risk, he said, will emerge over the next several months, with “a threat to the debt ceiling and the government spending bills, both of which must advance in September.”

AGF, Greg Valliere

“The financial markets never worried much about the Mueller probe, because the Senate was never going to convict Donald Trump,” Valliere writes in a post.

He sees other concerns, like slowing global economic growth, a messy Brexit and potential snags in U.S-China trade talks as “more important (and more troubling) for the markets.” Other stories that have been overlooked amid “Mueller fever” include Benjamin Netanyahu’s trouble in Israel’s April 9 election; Stephen Moore giving Trump a direct pipeline into the Fed and China cutting an “enormously significant trade deal” with Italy.

“There’s a minority view this morning that Trump will offer an olive branch to Democrats (after a few days of gloating), and that both parties will take Pelosi’s advice and move on — perhaps acting on infrastructure and drug pricing,” he said. “Sounds intriguing — but we’ll believe it when we see it. A ferocious battle looms on the budget and the debt ceiling.”

Bernstein, Lance Wilkes

The end of the probe “is very positive for Republican prospects in 2020,” including in the Senate, Wilkes wrote. He sees that as positive for healthcare services, as it will cut the chances of “dramatic changes to the health care system.” That lessens the risk of Medicare for All, which has been weighing on health insurers like UnitedHealth Group Inc., Centene Corp. and Humana Inc.

If there’s a divided government beyond 2020, Bernstein sees “continued pressure on drug prices and middlemen, ongoing Medicaid expansion at a state level, and the potential for stabilization of public exchange funding and policies.” That would be positive for government managed care organizations, Anthem Inc. and its company specific earnings drivers. Pharmacy benefit managers will see “continued policy pressure” although they should “ultimately transition to a risk model which will diminish margins, but increase earnings sustainability.”

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