Weekly Review: Investors Focus on Government Shutdown and Trade Negotiations

This week, the government shutdown in the United States continued for the third week. It has now become the longest shutdown ever and there doesn’t seem to be a way forward. The shutdown is mostly because of the United States president who has said he will not sign any funding package without his border wall. The wall was his biggest campaign promise. Congress on the other hand has said it will not pass any bill that has a wall in it. This combination means that the shutdown could continue for a longer period. This week, in negotiations with congressional leaders, the president walked out after they asked him to reopen the government without the wall. Ultimately, the wall will likely be funded if the president agrees to a so-called comprehensive immigration reforms.

Crude oil was a big winner this week as the rally started this year continued. The rally happened as traders grew increasingly confident that a deal between US and China will help increase demand. It also happened as Saudi Arabia pledged to continue reducing the amount of oil production. This was in line with the meeting that happened in Austria in December. Saudi has said that it is comfortable with the prices at above $80 a barrel. With Brent trading at almost $60, there is a likelihood that the price has more upside to go.

Trade talks between the United States and China advanced. This is after senior trade negotiators from the United States travelled to Beijing for the talks. While details for the talks are scant, investors are optimistic that a deal will be made. In the US, media reported that Trump was desperate for a deal, which will help push the price of stocks higher. China too wants a deal so that it can maintain its growth. As a result, world markets gained sharply.

The Federal Reserve was also in spotlight this week as it released the minutes of the past meeting. The minutes showed that while officials were confident about the economy, they remained ready to adjust the policy depending on the economic data. As you recall, the Fed has been under a lot of pressure from the Trump administration against raising rates.

In Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro was sworn in for his second six-year term yesterday. The swearing-in ceremony, was shunned by most leaders, who view his presidency as a sham. The country, which has the biggest oil reserves in the world has faced international condemnation and sanctions after the previous election.

In the United States, while stocks had a great week, the sentiment was brought down yesterday after Macy’s lowered its guidance. This was a major blow to investors, who were banking on a revival of the retail industry. The industry has faced multiple challenges as e-commerce has grown. Amazon has been a major beneficiary in all this especially with its Amazon Prime product. Retail is an important industry in the US because of the number of people it employs directly and indirectly.

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