The 25% tariff against imports from China won’t be inflationary. Consumers in the U.S. will simply buy less goods because they have a limited budget. Thus if they chose to buy imported goods from China, that suddenly cost 25% more because of the tariff, they will simply buy less of other items.
The higher cost will inspire domestic competition and more likely inspire additional competition from other EM countries that have lower wage costs than China. Based on the fact that China devalued by 50% in 1994 a 25% devaluation by China, in response to the tariffs, will occur.
This would trigger a retaliatory devaluation by Japan which has used devaluation to compete and stimulate its economy. This would trigger a global deflationary wave of devaluation with more wealthy people from EM countries exporting their assets into the safety of Developed country bonds, especially the U.S. Treasury bonds. The EU is under severe pressure as they have hit the wall in terms of too much negative interest rates and can’t use those policies any longer and yet they would need to match the devaluation, even if they can’t.
There are plenty of Emerging Markets companies eager to replace China’s lost exports; already many companies are moving out of China to lower cost democratic countries that have a diligent, skilled English language workforce, like India, Ethiopia, etc.
Regarding inflation, of far greater importance than the tariffs is the fact that the EM world is set up as a massive low wage export generating machine where EM banks loan money to EM manufacturing business that lose money because they are set up to create local jobs that pay a tenth of U.S. wages. This deflationary force is far more powerful than a little wimpy tariff tax of 0.6%. The tariff will cost American about $375 per person in taxes, or about the cost of a bottle of beer a day. if we stop drinking beer that fixes the family budget, but no amount of cessation of drinking in China can fix their huge problems such as loss of sales to the U.S. or the huge real estate debt bubble they have. The tariffs of $500Billion of goods are a tax on 2.5% of the U.S. economy. Surely we can handle a 25% increase in 2.5% of the economy, which is an increase of 0.6% of total expenditures. This is slightly smaller than the tax cut of December, 2017, so the tariff tax acts to balance the budget, dampen inflation, and will make the dollar go up, thus creating hardship for EM countries who will be forced to sell more goods at cheaper prices as they will we caught in a trap of repaying dollar denominated debt while their currencies go down against the dollar.
Worry about the world falling into recession, stock crashes, debt defaults, and deflation. Don’t worry about domestic inflation.
If China sells its $1trillion of Treasuries the Federal Reserve can instantly buy them and slowly sell them off to avoid disrupting the market. Meanwhile China will be stuck with an uninsured non-interest bearing checking account holding dollars. If they sell the dollars this will make the dollar go down at a time when they want the dollar to go up so that the Yuan will go down; thus they are unlikely to do this; further they have borrowed $3Trillion in dollars so they are net short $2Trillion in dollars which will cost then an extra $500Billion to pay off if they devalue the Yuan by 25%.
The possibility of global deflation implies more flight capital coming to the U.S. and thus our rates will go to zero, saving U.S. borrowers hundreds of billions in interest expense, far more than the tariff cost.
Economist Dr. Lacy Hunt said today “in the next 5,10,15 years the US will be relatively stronger when compared to China, Japan, Europe because of marginal productivity per capita. Money supply growth has decelerated sharply; in the lowest quartile historically”.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the news media ran stories that that the Soviet economy would triumph over the U.S. In the 1980’s it was Japan’s turn to appear to pose the same risk, yet by 1990 they fell into a horrible debt deflation trap and have still not fixed their problems so 29 years later. In 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed and never recovered. Thus China’s risk to the U.S. will likely have the same result.
Since Price Earnings and Price to Sales ratios are too high in the U.S. then one should avoid stocks until they are available at good, low, 50% off prices. For now, one should own investment grade bonds and wait for the stock crash.