China to Play Waiting Game as U.S. Trade Pain Worsens: Deutsche

(Bloomberg) -- Time may prove to be on China’s side as the trade war with the U.S. escalates.

Tariffs already imposed on $50 billion worth of Chinese products largely avoided consumer goods or those that are hard to source from other countries, shielding U.S. shoppers from their direct impact. That’ll change if Donald Trump proceeds with threatened levies on another $200 billion, as he is expected to do as soon as this week.

China to Play Waiting Game as U.S. Trade Pain Worsens: Deutsche

“As the scope of tariffs extends to more Chinese exports, the marginal side effects will likely rise for the U.S., and the marginal damage to China will likely decline,” Deutsche Bank AG economists Zhiwei Zhang and Yi Xiong wrote in a note dated Sept. 4. They estimate the $200 billion list has $78 billion worth of consumer goods versus only $3.7 billion in the $50 billion list.

For China’s economy, the analysts lay out two scenarios:

  • If a trade deal cannot be reached (their baseline case), China will likely keep monetary policy loose, raise the fiscal deficit to boost infrastructure investment, and let the yuan depreciate to 7.4 in 2019 (it was trading around 6.83 mid-morning in Hong Kong). This scenario is positive for commodities.
  • If a trade deal is reached, China will likely bring the currency back to around 6.5 to the U.S. dollar, buy more U.S. agricultural and energy goods, open the service sector to foreign firms, and normalize monetary and fiscal policies to a neutral stance. This is a scenario positive for equities and negative for commodities as China wouldn’t need to boost infrastructure investment as much.

“China may follow a ‘wait and see’ strategy in the next few months before the U.S. midterm election is over in November,” the economists wrote. “There is a good reason to follow such a strategy in our view: the trade war will likely become painful for the U.S. soon as well.”

The Deutsche Bank economists expect China’s GDP growth will be 6.5 percent in the second half and slow to 6.3 percent in 2019, assuming there is no trade deal. If a trade agreement is reached in November, when the nation’s presidents are set to meet, the bank sees moderate upside risk to those forecasts.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.