Markets in U.S. Are Defying the Tumult Convulsing Rest of World

(Bloomberg) -- The S&P 500 has been edging back toward its January peak, and the U.S. Treasury just auctioned a record amount of 10- and 30-year debt with relative ease. Looking at American markets, there’s little sign of the angst that’s been roiling emerging economies.

At this point, few strategists are warning about the potential for knock-on hits to the U.S. economy or the Federal Reserve’s policy agenda. And some American assets may even benefit from the volatility abroad.

To the likely dismay of President Donald Trump, the dollar is widely seen as a winner should tit-for-tat protectionist measures push investors to seek a haven. That pattern was at work on Thursday as emerging-market currencies extended their slump, led by Turkey’s lira and Russia’s ruble amid threatened American sanctions. In the U.S., Treasuries and the greenback advanced, while the S&P 500 was little changed.

Markets in U.S. Are Defying the Tumult Convulsing Rest of World

“If we looked at the world through just a U.S. lens, it would all seem quite sublime. Geopolitics and geo-tensions are far from it, however,” Marty Mitchell, former head government bond trader at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. and now an independent strategist, said in his daily newsletter Thursday. “It’s just a strange and disconcerting world that we live in, yet the U.S. equity market and the U.S. economy just keep chugging along.”

The S&P 500 was up about 0.1 percent at 1:30 p.m. in New York Thursday, bringing its 2018 increase to about 7 percent. Ten-year Treasuries gained, with yields falling 3 basis points to 2.93 percent. The government’s unprecedented $26 billion sale of the maturity Wednesday drew above-average demand, and Thursday’s $18 billion sale of 30-year bonds, also a record, was solid.

‘No Evidence’

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. economists say there are few signs that the tariffs already implemented or the fear of an escalation in the trade dispute are having a substantial impact on U.S. companies’ hiring plans or overall economic variables that would affect growth.

“We find no evidence of a relative deceleration in job growth over the last three months, compared to the prior year, in more export-dependent industries,” the analysts wrote in a note published Aug. 8.

Tom Orlik at Bloomberg Economics says the tariffs are for now too small to move the dial on aggregate measures of the U.S. economy. Tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese goods, or even $200 billion in Chinese goods, are a fraction of the $17.7 trillion of annual merchandise trade, Orlik says.

So for now, investors may have good reason to be confident in U.S. assets amid the global turmoil. But that doesn’t mean they can ignore the events offshore, such as Turkey, says Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer of Bleakley Financial Group.

Turkey’s lira sank to a record low Thursday and bond yields climbed as the threat of further U.S. sanctions over the detention of an American pastor lingered. Geopolitical concerns dragged down currencies in other major emerging markets from South Africa to Brazil.

“While I expect the goings-on in Turkey to remain contained to Turkey (the recent problem is the U.S. sanctions against it), it is becoming such a financial mess there that we still have to be on watch for any contagion in terms of risk behavior in other emerging markets,” Boockvar wrote in a note Thursday.

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