The stock market had its worst day since September yesterday. As is usual, global stocks are following the U.S. down this morning, and the usual safe havens—Treasury bonds, the yen, gold—are enjoying a rare moment int he sun.
Should you be worried?
On one level, certainly not. No market that goes up in a straight line is to be trusted, and the monthly survey of fund managers by Bank of America Merrill Lynch that came out yesterday showed a higher proportion believing that stocks were overvalued since at least 2001. Analysts have been warning for weeks that the market had been getting ahead of itself. It was just a question of what would be needed to make people listen. And the answer to that is the worrying part.
According to most reports, the trigger was a realization that divisions within the Republican party may stop the proposed American Health Care Act from passing. Mark Meadows, chairman of the House Freedom Caucus of conservative Republicans, claimed yesterday 40 Republicans opposed the bill, more than the GOP’s 21-seat majority. If the bill should fail, it would put in doubt the ability of the administration to enact tax reform and all the other growth-friendly policy initiatives that the stock market has enthusiastically anticipated since November.
At the heart of the problem is the fact that Donald Trump’s election promise of reaching out to the forgotten parts of U.S. society is in some key elements—like the provision of health care for the old and poor at the state’s expense—at odds with the GOP’s small-state philosophy. It’s a well-documented divide and the fact that it comes as a surprise to the stock market is arguably not the best advertisement for the investment industry.
The President reportedly leaned on Meadows’ followers yesterday to accept that the political tide is against them. It seems that he’ll need to show his command of the Art of the Deal with his own party before he gets to try it on Chinese protectionists and Europe’s peaceniks.