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Trump’s Threats To Shut Out Cuba Are Bad For Business

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After 50 years of power and another decade pulling strings in Cuba, Fidel Castro is finally dead. His younger brother Raul Castro, who has been in power since Fidel handed him control in 2008, has made some incremental progress as President. Now, with Fidel out of the picture, President-Elect Donald Trump is demanding the younger Castro make immediate changes or else. Would Trump really shut the door on relations with Cuba? Does the U.S. economy actually benefit from that relationship?

Are Trump’s Threats Serious, Or Are They Just For Bravado?

Barack Obama made a historic effort to build a relationship between the U.S. and Cuba when he visited the country in March of 2016. Since then, the U.S. has eased its embargo on Cuba, while Cuba has in turn opened its borders to Americans – and American businesses. Following Castro’s death, Donald Trump tweeted if “Cuba is unwilling to make a better deal for the Cuban people, the Cuban/American people and the US as a whole, I will terminate deal”. Is that an empty threat, or is Trump really looking out for the American people here?

Since Raul Castro took over as President of Cuba, he’s instituted changes. And while those changes have not been as sweeping or broad as many Cubans wished for, many were still significant. For example, with Cuba being a socialist state, private individuals were never allowed to own businesses. Today, that’s no longer the case, as citizens can now apply for permits to own their own businesses. While it may not be a free market, it’s still a big leap for the island. Raul Castro also loosened travel restrictions and foreign investment, and most importantly, set term limits on presidential terms – starting with himself being required to step down in 2018. With one year left on his term, the younger Castro has a real opportunity to push for change now that Fidel is no longer around to limit his ability to govern. Perhaps Trump’s tweet is meant to incentivize Castro, but in reality, Trump would have a hard time undoing Obama’s efforts.

American businesses already have a vested interest in Cuba. And since Trump constantly talks about increasing jobs for Americans, shutting down relations with Cuba hurts that claim. Cuba would instantly become a major trade partner for the U.S. out of sheer proximity. Exports to Cuba would become a huge market. On top of that, Cuba makes a very attractive tourism destination. While that may help Cuba quite a bit, American companies would also benefit. Whether it’s flights or cruises, Americans would utilize American transportation companies. In fact, JetBlue, an American airline, just flew its first commercial flight to Cuba. Airbnb already has more than two thousand listings in Cuba. Hotels, rental car agencies, eateries, and so many other companies will flock to Cuba, creating jobs for Cubans and Americans, alike.

Watch this video from CNN to know more about Trump’s thoughts on Cuba:

Trump may threaten Cuba via Twitter, but American businesses benefit too much for the President-Elect to shut things down. In reality, Raul Castro will embrace the opportunity to create a meaningful, lasting legacy for himself among the Cuban people. Look for the thaw created by Obama and Raul Castro to go into a full melt and for Cuba and the U.S. to enjoy a warm, lasting relationship benefiting both countries.

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Trump Threatens Oil Tariffs, Prices “Probably Going to Crater”

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Trump Threatens Oil Tariffs, Prices “Probably Going to Crater”

President Trump said he was willing to impose a tax on foreign oil if Saudi Arabia and Russia can’t reach a production agreement that has caused the price of oil to plummet and upend the global energy market.

“If they don’t get along, I would do tariffs, very substantial tariffs,” Trump said Sunday, referring to Saudi Arabia and Russia. The comments came during the daily White House coronavirus briefing.

“We would essentially be saying ‘we don’t want any foreign oil,’” the president said.

Ultimately, President Trump said he didn’t think he would have to follow through on this threat.

“I would use tariffs if I had to. I don’t think I am going to have to. Because Russia doesn’t benefit by having this and Saudi Arabia doesn’t benefit by having this. Oil and gas are their major sources of income. So it’s obviously very bad for them” he added.

Trump’s threats come as oil prices are set to plunge again. These prices offset the gains from last week’s massive rally that saw prices rise 32%.

West Texas Intermediate crude was 7% lower Sunday night. It traded more than $2 per barrel lower than it closed last week.

Oil Prices in the International Scene

The fear of a “no-deal” between Saudi Arabia and Russia has reignited, despite President Trump’s insistence last week that the two sides are close to an agreement to cut production.

OPEC and other oil-producing counties decided to postpone today’s meeting to Thursday. This came after the two countries engaged in more parley over who’s to blame for the price war. On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin once again put the blame for the crash in prices on Saudi Arabia. The latter, in turn, immediately refuted the claim.

“The Russian Minister of Energy was the first to declare to the media that all the participating countries are absolved of their [output] commitments starting from the first of April, leading to the decision that the countries have taken to raise their production,” said Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman in a statement.

With tensions still at the boiling point, the meeting appears to be an all-or-nothing situation, and many fear the worst.

A Negative Outlook

Oil prices are “probably going to crater,” as per John Kilduff of Again Capital. He also mentioned that a lot of optimism was priced into oil on Thursday and Friday. “With this new Saudi, Russia spat, it doesn’t look like it’s going to come together,” he added.

Eurasia Group’s Ayham Kamel agrees. “The details of the emerging framework are complex, even if the overall picture seems clear on the surface: All in or no deal,” he said. “Politically and economically, Putin and Prince Mohammad need US participation in some shape or form,” he continued.

Even Iraq’s oil minister said OPEC and its allies need support from producers that are not part of OPEC+. Kameel also made mention of the United States, Canada and Norway.

Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisafulli believes non-OPEC countries will be willing to follow any plan that cuts production. “It still looks like something will happen on the supply front,” Crisafulli said. “Saudi Arabia and Russia continue to publicly feud, but nearly every producer on the planet is pleading for action and even countries like Canada and Norway, which usually don’t participate in global supply actions, now seem willing to contribute,” he went on to say. “It’s unlikely 10M barrels come offline, but some sort of a curb seems very probable by the end of this week,” he added.

However, some fear that even with massive production cuts, the drop in demand will continue to drag down oil prices.

“The energy sector is facing its most challenging fundamental period since the Great Energy Depression of 1981-1995,” said Kurt Hallead, Royal Bank of Canada’s co-head of global energy research. “On the oil front, demand is set to decline by amounts never before seen driven by the COVID-19 global economic shock.”

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Investors Are Bullish Right Now, and That’s a Bad Sign for the Market

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Investors Are Bullish Right Now, And That’s a Bad Sign for the Market

A recent survey by Royal Bank of Canada showed that 58% of institutional investors are “bullish” or “very bullish” on the market right now. This could spell bad news for those hoping the worst of the drawdown is behind us.

The survey, conducted between March 25 and 31, shows that even after last month’s tumultuous ride, investors are more bullish today than they were back in December when everything was sailing along smoothly.

Even more concerning, 57% of investors say stock valuations are “attractive” or “very attractive” today. This is a new record for RBC’s survey.

“I’m concerned that we have not seen the lows yet,” said Lori Calvasina, RBC’s head of U.S. equity strategy.

“This surprisingly high level of bullishness supports our own view that we haven’t yet seen investor capitulation, echoing what we’ve seen in other data sets. We view capitulation as a necessary, though not sufficient condition for stock market bottoms in major drawdowns” she added in a note to clients last week.

These bullish investors believe that the Federal Reserve will continue supporting the economy with its zero-interest-rate policy and the $700 billion quantitative easing plan. They also believe that the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be “manageable.”

The 58% “bullish” or “very bullish” reading is the highest the RBC U.S. Equity Investor Survey has had since it debuted in early 2018.

Perhaps the most surprising data from the survey shows that despite the record-level of bullish optimism, a significant number of respondents believe there’s still plenty of pain to be doled out by the market.

Possible Outlooks

Only 19% of those surveyed believe the market hit bottom in the first quarter. Meanwhile, 57% believe that we are going to see the market head lower and reach a new bottom this quarter. Additionally, 15% don’t anticipate stock bottoming until Q3 2020. The 9% of those surveyed believe we won’t see the bottom until Q4 2020 or later.

And despite all the chatter in the news about a quick economic recovery once new cases of coronavirus plateau, the RBC survey shows that investors aren’t quite as optimistic as some may hope.

Only 19% of respondents believe we will get a “V”-shaped recovery. 41% believe that we will see a ‘W’-shaped recovery and 35% see the country going through a slower “U”-shaped recovery.

Some banks on Wall Street are expecting massive GDP contracting as high as 30% during the second quarter. Those responding to the survey, however, weren’t quite so bearish.

Most believe that the country’s GDP won’t contract by more than 20% in any quarter. They also think that if we do get a recession, it will end in the fourth quarter.

It could be more bad news for the market if those numbers end up worse than predicted.

“If evidence that the most negative GDP quarter will be worse than 20% and that the contraction will last beyond 3Q emerges, it is likely to destabilize the market,” the RBC strategists wrote. “If evidence emerges that the impact will be less severe, it can help the stock market stabilize and move higher” they added.

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Bank of America Warns: ‘Deepest Recession on Record’ Headed Our Way

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stock market graph representing negative economic outlook

Bank of America released its latest economic outlook, and it’s absolutely frightening.

The bank predicts that the US economy stands at the beginning of three straight quarterly declines. It expects Q1 to shrink by 7%, followed by a 30% decline in Q2 and a 1% drop in Q3.

The bank says Q4 will see the return of a growing economy. They, however, said that this will only come after overcoming unimaginable pain. “We forecast the cumulative decline in GDP to be 10.4% and this will be the deepest recession on record, nearly five times more severe than the post-war average,” the bank’s analysts wrote. The report goes on to say that although they expect consumer spending to perk up in Q3, the effects of the coronavirus outbreak will linger as consumers “face job cuts and a significant negative wealth shock.”

Unfortunately for many of us hoping for a quick recovery, Bank of America isn’t alone in their pessimism.

Lowering Expectations

The Congressional Budget Office also lowered its expectations for economic growth through the end of the year. Revised figures now show second-quarter GDP declining 7% with a 10% unemployment rate compared to our current 3.5% unemployment rate.

“CBO expects that the economy will contract sharply during the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the continued disruption of commerce stemming from the spread of the novel coronavirus,” CBO Director Phil Swagel said in a post on the agency’s site.

Fitch Ratings also has a troubling economic outlook for the rest of the year. In its latest research report, the company states “A deep global recession in 2020 is now Fitch Ratings’ baseline forecast according to its latest update of its Global Economic Outlook (GEO) forecasts.”

In just 10 days since its last report, the company has revised its global GDP estimates for the year. It went from a modest 1.3% growth to a 1.9% decline. “The speed with which the coronavirus pandemic is evolving has necessitated another round of huge cuts to our [gross domestic product] forecasts,” the company added.

Here in the US, Fitch says the shutting down of the economy to slow the spread of the coronavirus will result in an “unprecedented peacetime” GDP decline of 7% to 8% in Q2. Alternatively, it may also result in a 28% to 30% decline on an annualized basis.

Negative Economic Outlook

Investors should also prepare for another drop in the market, says a hedge-fund manager. He correctly predicted the impact the coronavirus would have on the stock market and the economy in the US.

“If you go back and look at history, there are nine times that the market has sold off about 30% or so since the 1920s,” said Dan Niles, who runs the Satori Fund. “You get one of these every 10 years or so and if you look at every one of them, you always get these bear market rallies.”

Niles says that he sees another major drop headed our way. He says that valuations are still well above historical norms, even after the recent pullback.

“Just to get to average, you would have to have the market go down 30%,” he said. “It is very easy to figure out the market probably goes down 30% before we’re even near fair valuation.”

And he says don’t expect a quick recovery, either.

“I sort of laugh when I hear people talking about a V-shaped recovery because we are going to have at least 10% unemployment, my guess is closer to 20% before all of this is said and done.”

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