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Geopolitical Tensions Rattle Financial Markets

North Korean Foreign Minister: “President Evil Declared War” Tensions with Pyongyang escalated further today after North Korean Foreign Minister, Ri Yong Ho, told reporters that President Donald Trump’s most recent communications were viewed as a declaration of war by the US and provided the nation with “every right to make countermeasures, including the right to shoot down United States strategic bombers even when they are not inside the airspace border of our country.”  These comments come two days after the US flew its warplanes over the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea in a display of military strength.  When discussing the potential outcome if North Korea were to take military action against US warplanes, the North Korean statement concluded with “The question of who will be around much longer will be answered then.”
 
The comments from the North Korean Minister prompted a flight to safety in financial markets today.  All three major US stock indices traded lower for a second consecutive session and finished down 0.2%-0.9% for the session, with tech shares posting the largest losses.  Treasurys rallied after a quiet open to the session and yields/swap rates are finishing down 1-4 bps, bringing the 10-year note yield back to 2.22%.  In commodities, WTI crude rose 3% to more than $52/barrel – its highest level in five months.  Gold futures also climbed, up 1% on the day to $1,310/ounce.

 

 

Taxes, Healthcare and the NFL

This will be a pivotal week for the GOP as it looks to reveal its latest tax reform plan and submit a last gasp repeal/replacement for Obamacare.  Highlights of the new tax framework include reducing the corporate (35% to 20%) and top individual (39.6% to 35%) tax rates, increasing the standard deduction and eliminating the state and local tax deduction.  President Trump is expected to meet with Republican leaders this week with the plan to establish a finalized structure to be voted on.  In their latest attempt to repeal the ACA, Senate Republicans circulated a new version of the healthcare bill on Sunday with the intention to gain the favor of a sufficient number of the moderate Republican holdouts.  Any new bill must be passed by September 30th in order to take advantage of the simple majority legislation process, yet rhetoric from President Trump did not seem optimistic when questioned on the topic, as he stated that “eventually we will win on that,” before confirming his dedication to tax reform. 

 

Separately, President Trump has managed to yet again take the public’s focus off of policy implementation, this time by provoking NFL owners during a political rally in Alabama on Friday and tweets over the weekend.  Trump suggested that any player who kneels during the playing of the national anthem should be suspended/fired by the team’s owners and called for fans to boycott the league.  Opposition to Trump’s stance has been widespread throughout major US sports, with influential players, coaches and owners such as Lebron James, Steph Curry, Tom Brady, and Rex Ryan, speaking out against the message communicated by the POTUS.

 

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