It didn't take long. We are already reading reports of trade hopes "fizzling" as if nothing good came out of Argentina after all.
That's because of the split in the White House between ideology versus trade. Hardline versus practical. Money versus power. These are all the various ingredients in the toxic stew that is behind the "talks really failed" narrative that has taken over the discourse 24 hours after the huge up opening in the stock market.
On the one hand, the President seems convinced that things are better between the two countries and that a deal can be had.
On the other hand, he puts Robert Lighthizer in charge of the talks, not, say Secretary Mnuchin, which means that power and ideas and honesty are the battle lines -- not soy and energy and semiconductors. Lighthizer isn't trying to get the Chinese to buy more of our goods. He wants the Chinese to stop stealing so much of our secrets and he wants to stop their attempts at creating an equal to us, militarily as well as economically, attempts that he thinks we subsidize with our trade.
When you think of the timeline since the talks ended, you recognize that the brightest moment was when Trump said positive things about the talks and we learned about the postponement of the bump of tariffs from 10% to 25%.
It's been all down hill since then.
Everything else has been put through a negative prism. A classic example is the genuine confusion over when the 90-day extension started. Was it from January 1, as the traders contended, or was it from December 1, as the ideologues quickly corrected?
Did the President inform the Chinese that they would be dealing with Lighthizer, an old foe? I think that they left without that understanding -- and had they known it, we would not have received as positive a "give" as machinery, agricultural and energy present as signs of goodwill.
And who subsequently came up with the crazy Qualcomm (QCOM) thing?
Not clear. But that was a give of a stupid color. That deal was dead and everyone knew it. The release of the news was embarrassing because it made Trump look like he didn't know the deal was dead. How could you not? A $2 billion walkaway agreement is a pretty stark thing.
Is it any wonder that the opening was the high of the day? For the rest of the session, the rosy hue just got less and less rosy -- with the coup de grace coming after the bell when huge Apple (AAPL) supplier Cirrus Logic (CRUS) preannounced and another round of downgrades loomed.
When you think at it like this, when you realize that the hardliners, not the traders, looked like they won, it's amazing we weren't down big!
So, the bulls pulled in their horns.
The bears growled.
And they let it be known that even if the President said he wanted a trade deal, all he was really doing was buying time for companies to move their supply chains out of China.
To which I say, before you believe all the hardliner triumph stories, remember the President could have moved the tariffs from 10% to 25% -- and he didn't. Don't let that be lost on you.
It was, after all, the real result of the conference... wasn't it?