March 5, 2018 Market Outlook

U.S. Lawmaker Favors Tariff Exemptions for NAFTA Allies

The chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady said on Sunday that all fairly traded steel and aluminum, especially from Canada and Mexico should be excluded from President Donald Trump’s proposed tariffs.

Brady’s committee has jurisdiction over U.S. trade policy and his comments were timed on the eve of the latest round of NAFTA talks among the United States, Canada and Mexico.

The influential U.S. lawmaker added that there had been progress in reworking the 24-year-old trade deal. Trump’s proposed tariffs shook the financial markets last week. However, if the tariffs are imposed, many fear the prospect of a trade war.

Canada and Mexico have sounded off a possible retaliation while the European Union said it would apply 25% tariffs on nearly $3.5 billion of imports from the U.S. if Trump’s plan is carried out.

Metals Tariffs Top Agenda as NAFTA Talks Conclude

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo will meet on Monday during the latest round of NAFTA talks.

However, the Canadian and Mexican ministers are likely to question the U.S. envoy on whether their countries would be exempted from the proposed blanket tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

U.S. President Donald Trump announced last Thursday that a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% tariff on aluminum importations will be implemented. Observers are unsure how the three countries can move forward with the NAFTA talks when the U.S. is about to implement a protectionist measure.

Oil Industry Giants to Meet in Houston

Houston will host the oil industry’s biggest names this week at CERAWeek. The annual get-together in the Americas comes at a time when U.S. shale production is booming,  demand is rising and crude prices are favoring both big U.S. producers and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

The OPEC decided last year to restrain production output. The decision has drained the global glut and it became the major topic during the oil ministers’ gathering in 2017. The fears of a slugfest between U.S. shale and OPEC have subsided now that oil prices LCOc1 are up about 15%.

With rising prices, the total U.S. output has reached an all-time record above 10 million barrels per day. U.S. shale producers are pumping up more. The United States could dislodge Russia as the world’s largest oil producer this year.

Meanwhile, there are no signs that OPEC will move to produce more. The output level from their members is at a 10-month low. The leaders of the oil cartel favor curtailing production until 2019.

China Sees Slowdown in Growth

The National People’s Congress in China gets underway on Monday. At the opening of this annual gathering of Chinese lawmakers, Beijing unveiled the government’s economic target in line with economists’ estimates.

The government announced a lower economic target of 6.5% which is below the 6.9% expansion the world’s second largest economy achieved last year. The growth will slow down because China is ramping up efforts to cut risk in its financial system and close down inefficient factories that contribute immensely to pollution.

Apple to Launch Cheaper MacBook Air Models

According to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo from KGI Securities, Apple Inc. (AAPL) could launch a cheaper MacBook Air by the second quarter of 2018. Kuo believes the giant firm would introduce a new 13-inch version of Apple’s thin laptop with a lower price tag to boost sales.

The tech analyst forecasts total shipments of MacBook models to grow by 10% to15% year-on-year in 2018 versus a 0% to 5% year-on-year decline for the Notebook industry. The volume could be 15.5 to16 million units more than in 2017.

Apple Inc.’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is coming in June so the launching of the updated MacBook could probably coincide with the event. Currently, the price tag of the 13-inch MacBook Air model starts at $999.

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