Why the 'Trump trade' is not all about him, one year on

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Despite the US President's claims, there is much more to the so-called "Trump trade" than The Donald himself.

It has been one year since Donald Trump's election to the presidency coincided with a period of striking gains for sharemarkets around the world.

The shock election win was followed over the subsequent 12 months by a 21 per cent rise in the S&P 500, a 24 per cent increase in the Euro Stoxx 50, and a 17 per cent rise in the S&P/ASX 200 index.

The S&P 500 achieved its best 12-month percentage gain after the election of any new president since 1988, when it rose 23 per cent following the election of George Bush snr, Capital Economics' economists noted.

Before that, John F. Kennedy's election to office in 1960 saw the market rally 29 per cent.

President Trump said earlier this week that the US sharemarket's record highs reflected "great confidence" in his administration.

His government is seeking to introduce growth-friendly policies to the US, such as infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

Tech lifting equities

The US economy has powered higher over the past year despite the lacklustre policy movements, with key measures of economic strength reflecting optimism over the economy, although there is still somewhat of a gap between the "softer", sentiment-style indicators and the hard data.

"Attributing positive market movements to political leadership is a difficult task. However, it is fair to assume that expectations of successful tax reform in the US have helped improve investor confidence," said Origin Asset Management partner John Birkhold.

"Nevertheless, equity market leadership during 2017 has been primarily driven by technology companies and developing markets, where President Trump's policies are somewhat peripheral," he said.

Capital Economics noted that some of the US gains over the past year are the result of a weaker US dollar, which in turn reflected a cautious Federal Reserve.

The central bank's stance has underpinned the Treasury market, they said. "At 2.3 per cent, the 10-year yield is where it was in mid-November last year, after a post-election bounce," they said, which has helped quell concerns that rising bond yields will threaten sharemarket valuations.

Global lift

Another factor behind the rally for US stocks has been an improving global economy.

Every OECD country had seen growth, said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG. That situation was generating reasonable top-line growth for companies and sparking "genuine animal spirits" in investors, he added.

Mr Weston pointed out the sectors that had done well over the past year weren't those directly correlated with Mr Trump's centrepiece policies.

Mining and energy firms had seen strong interest, he said, which was "more a reflection of the global growth scenario".

Somewhat counter-intuitive, the fact that Mr Trump hadn't managed to get any of his policies through into law yet was a big positive for sharemarkets this year, given that global growth was already firm, Mr Weston said.

"If he had achieved the tax plan, then the Federal Reserve would be tightening more aggressively and the markets would not have liked that," he said.

"What we like is that tax reform will be a 2018 story. There's a good chance we will need that stimulus next year."

Australia 'out of whack'

Still, that may not particularly help the Australian economy, which could continue to struggle to join in with global growth. The Australian sharemarket has lagged global peers as well.

"We are very out of whack with the global cycle," JP Morgan Australia and New Zealand chief economist Sally Auld said. "It's an unusual place for us to be."

Normally a small, open economy like ours tends to lift alongside global economic activity. This time appears different.

"We're at a very different point in the cycle," Ms Auld said. Unlike our peers in the developed world, Australia suffered no recession in 2008 or in 2001: "We've had 26 years of uninterrupted growth, and that leaves us very long in the tooth in terms of the duration of the expansion."

Ms Auld said this was most obvious in household balance sheets, which were carrying record levels of debt, as Australians have reacted to 10 years of falling rates.

"A lot of the growth over the past 10 or 15 years has been driven by perpetual housing cycles, both in price and construction, and also by consumption driven by increasing leverage," Ms Auld said.

"The RBA has effectively called time on that story, and said 'enough'. That game is now over."

Meanwhile, the strong link between rising commodity prices and domestic demand in the economy has weakened, undermining the boost from that channel.

The recent uplift in commodities "has been great for resource company profits, but it's done little for capex spend and demand for labour," Ms Auld said.

This story Why the 'Trump trade' is not all about him, one year on first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.