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The US-China trade war is 'difficult to handicap' at this point

Wall Street’s closely watching President Donald Trump’s strategy on trade as tension between the U.S. and China reignites. The tit-for-tat tariff approach has rattled the markets in recent weeks, throwing into question the potential economic impact of a full-blown trade war. Mark Hackett, Nationwide’s chief of investment research, told Yahoo Finance’s “The Ticker” on Tuesday that it’s “difficult to handicap at this point” because the rhetoric is vastly different than it was just a few weeks ago.

“It’s a bit early to start putting concrete numbers on the outcome of a trade deal,” Hackett said. “We’re only a couple days on the $200 billion and we haven’t even seen the details on the remainder. If we get those tariffs in place and they remain in place through the 2020 election, clearly there’s going to be an impact on economic growth. We think we’re still in the formative stages.”

Barclays was out with a note to clients Tuesday estimating that if the Trump administration follows through with its threats and places tariffs on most, if not all, imports from China, and China responds, the direct net economic loss to the U.S. could be 0.2%-0.3% of GDP over the long run.

President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday May 14, 2019, before boarding Marine One for a short trip to Andrews Air Force Base, Md., to travel to Louisiana. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Trump tried to reassure skeptical investors on Tuesday and put a positive spin on the trade dispute, calling the trade war a “little squabble” and denying talks between the two sides had collapsed. His words were enough to boost the markets. After starting the week with a steep selloff, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 207 points on Tuesday, recording its best day since April 12.

But don’t let one day of gains get you too excited. In terms of how to play the recent volatility, Hackett implied it’s best to stay patient and wait to see how the trade dispute plays out. “It’s a bit early to declare victory on this… I still think the market is trying to find its footing,” he said.

Seana Smith is the anchor for The Ticker.

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