Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Trade War Has Wiped Out $21 Billion for Materials Investors

(Bloomberg) -- How bad is the trade war for materials investors? How about nearly $21 billion lost in two days.

The S&P 500 Materials Index fell about 3.2 percent against Friday’s close after President Trump threatened to raise tariffs on billions of dollars of imports from China. The total value lost for the index totaled about $21 billion, according to Bloomberg data. The chemical and metal stocks took the worst hit within the sector due to their exposure to China. The S&P Chemicals Index lost about $19 billion in market value in two days, while the metals index slid about $770 million.

Some of the losses are the result of companies reiterating annual guidance on the assumption that the U.S. and China would strike a trade deal in the second half of the year. DowDuPont Inc. CEO Edward Breen said during an earnings conference call this week that “China has started to stimulate, which should help increase their consumer spending and spur the recovery expected in the second half in addition to an expected tariff resolution.”

Eastman Chemical Co. CFO Curtis Espeland made similar comments during the company’s earnings conference call, expecting demand to improve in the second half, assuming a resolution to the trade dispute with China.

Trade War Has Wiped Out $21 Billion for Materials Investors

DowDuPont and Eastman Chemical are among chemicals peers with most exposure to China, RBC analyst Arun Viswanathan said, along with Celanese Corp., PPG Industries, Axalta Coating Systems Ltd., Olin Corp., Westlake Chemical Corp., Chemours Co. and Venator Materials Plc.

Dow Inc., Sherwin-Williams Co. and RPM International Inc. are better positioned in terms of lower China exposure, he added.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo expressed a similar sentiment. He thinks W.R. Grace & Co. would be a safe haven play within specialty chemical companies, even if the U.S. and China fail to agree to a deal. He estimates that within his specialty chemical sectors coverage, Cabot Corp. and PolyOne Corp. have the largest exposure to a potential slowdown in China.

For the metals and mining sector, investors seem to have gone back to gold, a historical safe haven. Gold has been among the outperformers in the metal group in the past two days, holding on to slim gains Tuesday while some base metals tumbled.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.