So many times we have been at a crossroads where the sky seems to be falling and what happens? At the last minute the sky decides to stay where it is, the atmosphere gets better we end up rallying like crazy instead of cascading down to a bearish hades where all ends badly.
On a day where investors could not make up their minds about the sky plummeting versus staying where it belongs, I wonder whether we don't have some resolution on trade that makes everyone a little happier and allows us to be able to buy stocks into the negativity and invest at prices that offer some real bargains for our 401ks, our IRAs and our Mad Money portfolios.
Let's go front and center. The proximate worry right now, the thing that's got everyone paralyzed in fear is that the president might put on a 25% tariff on steel and a 10% one on aluminum.
Put aside that the Chinese have almost wiped out all of our aluminum. We were the world's number one producer in 2000. Now we make about 1% of the world's aluminum and China makes 55%. Forget that we have the possibility of a resurgent steel industry, with all of its attendant jobs, if the Chinese could just be taught not to flood the world with steel to put their people to work at any cost.
What would happen if there were just a small compromise, one that would, say, exempt Canada and Mexico from the rules, to keep NAFTA going until we figured out how best to deal with the imbalances China causes? What would happen if it turned out that the sky then stayed up and we were able to take a deep breath and say to ourselves, okay, it's not exactly what Wall Street wanted but it's enough to show that our allies to the north and south remain allies and the trade war is more focused directly on China. I think when it comes to China we have had enough free trade already, and any more would produce "still further business depression and increased commercial paralyzation." Okay that's a quote from President McKinley, but it makes a ton of sense when it comes to the Chinese. "Don't laugh," that's a quote from President McKinley who wanted Chinese markets open on an equal basis with our own! Okay, so I had to go back more than a century to find the last time we had a decent trade policy with the PRC. But it's better than nothing.
Yep, a tariff that excludes Canada and Mexico I believe would create a wave of jubilation that would cause us to return to our regularly scheduled programming of strong growth with tame inflation.
And what gets focused on if we do get that reprieve?
First, I believe we would return to buying the defense stocks, the ones that have been hurt because investors feel they will be most impacted by across-the-board tariffs.
I think we will go back to buying the companies that use these metals as an everyday occurrence, and here I am thinking of companies like Constellation Brands (STZ) which has been under pressure since tariff talked became the rage. I think that stock could return to all-time highs, especially because it owns a big chunk of a Canadian cannabis company that's about to list in America. At last a pure play that everyone wants in the red-hot cannabis market.
I could see some of the most beleaguered international stocks of late, the Boeings (BA) and the Caterpillars (CAT) have a relief rally and United Rentals (URI) , a huge buyer of capital equipment, taking out its all-time high.
We'd see the stocks of companies that make trucks, so integral to NAFTA, just roar. I like Paccar (PCAR) and I love Cummins (CMI) , two that make so much sense but have been under severe pressure because of worries that Mexico would be hit with the tariff signifying the end of NAFTA. Sure Cummins has a big Chinese business but so far the Chinese have been paper-tigerish while the stock of Cummins acts like it's going to lose the North American market.
But you know what would do the best, what would have an absolute rip-snorting rally if we excused Canada and Mexico from the duties?
The answer is always right in front of your face: whatever is working best right now before we got the reprieve.
That means Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN) which are on insane runs as they extend their worldwide dominance. That means Alphabet (GOOGL) , which does no business in China anyway, can continue to scream higher as it has been for the last few days.
And, most important? It means that companies levered to data analytics can continue their remarkable renaissance.
I've been on this theme for ages. You know I think that the cloud-based companies, the Adobes (ADBE) , the Workdays (WDAY) and the Red Hats (RHT) and the ServiceNows (NOW) and Splunks (SPLK) are just not to be denied their higher ground. Last week at this time I was astounded when Salesforce.com (CRM) reported a quarter that I wouldn't have expected to occur until next year, or even 18 months from now. Salesforce is all about taking data and making sense of it through every means possible to garner more sales for its customers. The quarter was spectacular in every way.
We also got an amazing quarter from data analytics companies PEgasytems (PEGA) , a much smaller company than Salesforce.com but one that's been able to empower its customers to do more for their clients with fewer people in a more efficient and helpful way. Pega's on the show tonight to tell us how it had that blow-out quarter and why.
Then last week you could begin to see the spillover to the hardware side of things. We had started to hear rumblings the week before that Micron (MU) was going to do well because of a revival of the personal computer market. That was confirmed when the company's execs told Morgan Stanley that business was better than expected.
Now though it is time to focus on the company, on the next derivative, the companies that make the equipment that's required to create the semiconductors that are used in the smart home, in smart industry, in mobile, in autonomous cars, health care and robots.
Here I am talking about companies like Lam Research (LRCX) , which along with Applied Materials (AMAT) , make the equipment needed to forge the semiconductors that are so desperately needed to generate the data, store the data and most important analyze the data. We have Lam Research on tonight to talk about how it is at the fulcrum of the increasing semiconductor relevance in society, and at the heart of innovation-driven demand for technology.
Yep, that's where the money's going to go if we get some sort of NAFTA compromise that exempts Canada and Mexico and focuses more clearly on the pernicious impact of Chinese targeting of two industries that can easily be wiped out if the Chinese continue to overproduce as they have.
So, here's the bottom line: you go to the stocks of companies that have been under pressure because of fears of a worldwide tariff that could still be avoided, and you go to what's working now: data analytics, a theme that's become overpowering since the market bottom in February and seems to be getting stronger by the day.