Overnight, China reported as larger than expected December trade surplus ($57.06 billion against an expected $51.53 billion) but a December year over year 7.6% drop in imports that argued for a slowdown in China’s domestic economy. Economists had expected a 5% increase in imports. Exports fell 4.4% year over year against expectations for a 3% gain.
In related news, China’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission announced that the non-performing loan ratio at Chinese commercial banks increased to 1.89% in the fourth quarter from 1.87% in the third quarter. That’s not a huge increase, obviously, but the trend is headed in the wrong direction.
U.S. stocks were down only slightly as of 12:20 p.m. The markets aren’t reacting more strongly to the negative numbers from China since they seem to agree with White House logic that says the more China’s domestic economy slows, the more likely the country is to sign on to an end in the U.S.-China trade war ahead of the March 1 expiration of the current tariff truce.
As of 12:20 pm. in New York the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down 0.37% to 2586.77, still in the trading range between 2575 and 2600 that will resolve into either a breakout above 2600 or a breakdown below 2550. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was off 0.12%. The NASDAQ Composite fell 0.67% and the small cap Russell 2000 was down 0.86%. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM) was lower by 0.47%.
The U.S. dollar fell slightly with the Dollar Spot Index (DXY) down 0.14%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury was unchanged at 2.70%, but the middle of the yield curve remained mildly inverted with the yield for the 2-year at 2.53% just slightly above the 2.52% yield for the 5-year Treasury.
As you would expect on a day when China’s trade figures aroused some worry about slowing global growth, U.S. crude benchmark West Texas Intermediate was down 0.81% to $51.17 a barrel. International crude benchmark Brent was off 1.07% to $59.83 a barrel, one against breaking the $60 a barrel level.