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Regardless of how the rest of the year turns out, I personally will always remember 2017 for the fact that I had to try and figure out the market implications of political events that I never thought I would have to worry about.
Case in point, Tuesday’s firing of FBI Director James Comey moved markets yesterday, and I wanted to cover what that means going forward (it’s a mild and potentially negative, but not a bearish game changer). Now, to be clear, the market is agnostic to the politics of this drama and as such so am I. Whether you or I think the firing was a coverup or justified, it matters not from a market standpoint, so as I always do with political coverage, I will strictly stick to market implications.
The reason Comey’s firing is a mild negative on markets is because it further undermines President Trump and the Republicans’ ability to pass their pro-growth agenda.
Case in point, just yesterday, we saw part of the fallout from the Comey firing as the Republicans were unable to pass a reversal of an Obama rule against methane gas capture on oil and natural gas wells (Republicans say the environmental regulation increases the cost to drill natural gas and oil wells).
Three Republicans; Graham, Collins and McCain, voted with the Democrats, and the repeal measure failed 49-51. Graham and Collins were always “no” votes on the rule, but McCain was expected to vote “yes”—so much so that Vice President Pence was in the Senate to cast the tie breaker. McCain didn’t say so explicitly, but his “no” vote is widely seen as a protest vote against Trump.
Bottom line, the controversy now surrounding Trump’s move to fire Comey is a political hot stove, and some Republicans are already distancing themselves from the President as they are already thinking about re-election. Point being, the path to passing meaningful tax reform or other pro-growth policies just got more difficult.
Now, the good news is that this isn’t a bearish game changer for markets in part because expectations for tax cuts in 2017 are already pretty low.
Still, there is risk here, because the market does still assume some corporate tax cuts/foreign profit repatriation in 2018. If Trump/Republicans lose enough political capital to put a corporate tax cut in 2018 in doubt, then that will be at least a modest negative on stocks.
More specifically, after June 2018 (at the latest), everything in Washington will stop as focus shifts to the mid-term elections. So, if the market begins to think there will be no corporate tax cuts and no foreign profit repatriation, then that will begin to weigh on stocks later in 2017/early in 2018.
Bottom line, unfortunately politics remains an important influence on markets in 2017. On balance, expectations have been tempered from a policy standpoint, but the “gap” between likely policy reality and policy expectations remains wide… and it got wider this week with the Comey controversy.
Cut through the noise and understand what’s truly driving markets, as this new political and economic reality evolves. 7sReport.com.