A Trump victory would outweigh Brexit negatives

The great American presidential mud wrestling match has reached its climax. There will soon be a blonde wig, or two, on the green.

Donald Trump: Wall Street is ‘getting ready for a Brexit-style plunge.’

There is no shortage of skin in the game. I win and ‘Crooked Hillary’ could be on her way to jail, says the Donald. 

We should, by early Wednesday, know the name of the winner, but then maybe not. 

This has been the closest contest between Republican and Democrat candidates since 2000 when the result was ultimately determined by the country’s Supreme Court. 

The intervention by FBI director James Comey has appeared to accentuate the expected tightening in the contest. It would really seem that it is once more “too close to call.”

The financial markets are nervous. Given Trump’s stated views on everything from trade to taxation, the stakes could hardly be higher. 

On the electoral front, Pennsylvania — the eastern seaboard State in which the Declaration of Independence was adopted back in 1776 — may turn out to be the Florida of 2016. 

Let’s hope the voting machines are in order, the software is good to go and the chads are well hung.

Donald Trump’s late poll surge has left many in the business establishment feeling like ship passengers during a bad swell. The ‘Politico’ web site reports that Wall Street is “getting ready for a Brexit-style plunge if Trump wins.” 

After the June referendum vote in favour of an EU exit, share prices in London tanked before eventually recovering.

This could happen again if markets get used to the new reality and adapt to a Presidency where actions (hopefully) may not quite match up to fiery rhetoric.

That said, research findings from US academics at Michigan and Dartmouth Universities suggest that the stock market would fare better under a supposedly left-leaning Clinton than under the avowedly pro-business Republican candidate.

When Clinton won the first TV debate, oil prices rose, the Mexican peso jumped, and the price of gold fell. Traders who shorted the peso took a beating that night. 

Some financiers have studied the Clinton emails like hawks for evidence as to her real — as opposed to her stated — policy preferences.

According to Michael Obuchowski of Merlin Asset Management: “I watched all the Wikileaks and they are positive from an investor perspective, especially for bank stocks because it looks like her moves left were more in response to Bernie Sanders rather than her actual beliefs.”

Trump’s talk on trade and tariffs has, undoubtedly, caused many to break out in a sweat.

According to the pro-business Fortune magazine, it is this that “could really damage America”. 

He has talked of imposing tariffs of up to 35% on cars imported to the US from plants in Mexico which were moved there from the US.

According to the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Trump represents a “sharp departure from the status quo on international trade”.

He has proposed stiff tariffs on Chinese-made goods, attacked the Trans Pacific and North American Free Trade Agreements, going so far as to suggest that the US could withdraw from the World Trade Organisation, the body responsible for the regulation of international trade. 

Wayne Gordon of UBS Group predicts a jump in the gold price from just over $1,300 to around $1,400.

Just over 90% of the late gambler money is being placed on a Trump victory, some of it no doubt by those who have frequented his casinos.

But few in big business welcome what could amount to the ripping up of a way of doing business that has been in place since the 1980s. 

In the fiscal arena Trump appears to be pursuing an approach pioneered in part by Ronald Reagan’s favoured economist, Arthur Laffer. It can be summed up as follows: slash taxes and growth will be generated, taking care of the deficits. 

Under Reagan, the economy – eventually – boomed, but the US public deficit soared.

A Trump administration waving a big stick could scare investors initially into buying more dollars, but medium term, a surge in the deficit would be accompanied by a rise in the cost of American debt.

The economist Stephen Kinsella has warned that the US deficit could balloon by as much as ten trillion dollars. 

Expect the Administration to go searching for scapegoats, hence concerns about new tariffs and retaliation from major trading partners. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs set the scene for a new vicious phase of the Great Depression in 1930. 

This time round, the global interconnection of supply networks will complicate matters (though, it could also help by serving to rein in such inter trade conflict).

During the campaign, the currencies of leading US trade partners, such as Canada, have tended to rise when Clinton has been moving up in the polls. That tells its own tale. 

The establishment wants the devil it knows. Recently, Nomura Bank sought to calculate some of the economic effects of a Trump ascendancy on such trade partners. It singled out Ireland as one of the most exposed economies under such a scenario.

Trump has indicated that he would introduce import controls. Nomura has estimated that Irish GDP would drop by 2.4 % following a 20% drop in exports from here to the US. Currently, around one quarter of Irish goods exports go to the US.

His proposal to cut the corporation tax rate from 35% to 15% and to impose a 15% tax in companies outsourcing jobs would make Ireland a far less attractive prospect from an investment perspective. 

The impact of such moves would be felt right across the eurozone, but to a far less extent: the average knock on effect on the zone’s GDP is put at 0.5%.

Of course, this is not accounting for the possible impact from a Washington-led initiative aimed at ensuring that Europe carries the proper burden of its own defence. 

What we could be about to witness is the opening of several Pandora’s boxes at the one time.

The Irish business and political establishment may have to get ready for what amounts to an upending in a strategy that has been in place since 1958. The way in which business activity is fostered in this country could be set for a fundamental alteration.

We are so heavily leveraged, in terms of our US-led foreign direct investment strategy, but our extraordinary success here means that we are uniquely vulnerable in the face of a retrenchment. It could be that Brexit, with all its unfolding hazards, turns out to be simply a little foretaste of what is to come.

It remains to be seen whether our leaders, and our society will be up to the task of leading moves to re-engineer our national business strategy. 

These days, the Enterprise Minister, Mary Mitchell-O’Connor, is still feeling her way in this portfolio and can be best described — for now, at least — as a ‘Minister of Jobs Announcements.’ 

It may be time to consider a reshuffling of the Cabinet decks in the event of a ‘negative event’ next week, with a move into the portfolio of someone with business experience.

Meanwhile, on balance, let’s just hope that Ireland’s old friend Hillary wins out, though don’t assume that such an event will not carry its own heavy baggage. 

If nothing else, there should be plenty of good sport ahead for political junkies, legal experts and for traders with a fondness for financial volatility.

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