Money Matters: Uncertainty brings worry for investors

Hairy situation: An issue of serious concern in the short term is the possibility of a Trump victory in the US election. Photo: FILE PHOTO

Hairy situation: An issue of serious concern in the short term is the possibility of a Trump victory in the US election. Photo: FILE PHOTO

October is one of the weakest months of the year in global share markets. The collapses of 1929 and 1987 both happened in October so investors are often a little more nervous than usual at this time. So far October 2016 seems safe enough.

There are things to worry about for investors inclined to do so. One is future interest rate rises. A hike is likely in the US in December. The progress of the US economy warrants it but the Federal Reserve will wait until after the November election.

There seem to be fewer concerns about China now. The economic collapse spruiked by the negative speculators back in January hasn’t happened so now they are claiming Chinese debt levels are rising alarmingly.

The British vote to leave the European Union has increased uncertainty. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s slump in popularity due to welcoming huge numbers of refugees suggests she may lose the next election, and that is a concern for investors. Yet none of these issues are serious enough to cause alarm. The only issue of serious concern in the short term is the possibility of a Donald Trump victory in the US election. The financial markets are assuming and hoping for a Clinton win.

A Trump victory would be unexpected and cause a sharp negative reaction in financial markets. He still has some chance of winning. The level of discontent among less skilled and less well-educated Americans who are threatened by globalisation is very high. Donald Trump is skilfully tapping into this discontent. His policy is to tear up international trade agreements, ban immigration of Mexicans and Muslims and put heavy tariffs on imports from China and Mexico in particular.

This would push up the prices of consumer goods in the US, spark trade wars and cause other countries to put tariffs on US imports. It would retard global economic activity and reverse fifty years of gains from freer international trade.

Trump also wants to cut personal and corporate taxes dramatically and spend huge sums on infrastructure, blowing out the US deficit. Fortunately his chances of winning seem modest. 

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