On Wednesday, the U.S. Federal Reserve announced it was cutting interest rates for the first time since 2008. The controversial maneuver was intended to support the U.S. economy.
Supporters of the move are concerned about a generally anemic U.S. economy that has been damaged by trade wars and slowing global growth, and have little concern about inflation threats.
Detractors say rate cuts should be reserved for times of trouble, and that the Fed is wasting one of its only weapons at a time the U.S. economy is doing fine.
Markets hoped for confirmation of more interest rate cuts in the future, but Fed Chair Jerome Powell did not bolster their confidence.
As a result, stock markets and gold both dropped hard. Both asset classes typically benefit from stimulus, as lower interest rates help boost the economy while also stimulating inflation.
By the end of the week, gold had recovered to new highs, trading near $1,450 per ounce, while stocks continued to collapse as focus shifted from interest rates to trade wars.
Tariffs tank markets
President Trump tweeted out a new round of tariffs against China on Thursday, implementing a new 10% tax on $300 billion of Chinese goods. He cited China’s complicity in the ongoing U.S. opioid epidemic as well as a lack of new Chinese purchases of U.S. agricultural goods, as they previously had promised to do, as rationale for the new round of tariffs.
The goods being taxed in this round of tariffs are largely consumer goods, covering items Americans predominantly buy from China like shoes, clothing, cell phones, and toys. The new tax will likely mean higher prices for Americans for these items.
As a result, markets took another nosedive Thursday and Friday, with stocks and crude oil falling to six-week lows on expectations for a slowing U.S. economy if Americans must cut back to pay higher prices for Chinese goods.
Meanwhile, agricultural markets saw the bottom fall out, with cattle and hogs falling hard, and corn, wheat, and soybean prices all collapsing to 10-week lows.
Farmers had hoped for China to finally start buying more U.S. grain and meat once the trade war was settled, but a resolution feels farther away now more than ever.
As of midday Friday, December corn was worth $4.06 per bushel, November soybeans traded for $8.68, and December Kansas City wheat fetched $4.36. December cattle and hogs were worth $1.12 and $0.65 per pound, respectively.