Donald Trump is having an eventful month, even by his frenetic standards. Financial markets have been swept up in the turmoil as the US flirts with a trade war with China and imposes new sanctions on Russian elites. Even Amazon has been caught in Trump’s Twitter crossfire. Let’s recap.
Russian assets plunged, and aluminum soared, after the US administration targeted so-called oligarchs, their companies, and related Russian officials in a new batch of sanctions. The US Treasury cited the Russian government’s “malign activity around the globe,” and warned on April 6 that “elites who profit from this corrupt system will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.”
Rusal, one of the world’s largest aluminum producers, was among the hardest hit, although stocks of Russian companies that aren’t subject to sanctions, like steelmaker Severstal, gold producer Polymetal, and Norilsk Nickel, were also caught in the downdraft.
The US stock market has stabilized after being whipsawed by the burgeoning trade war between America and China. The spat began in March when Trump pushed ahead with tariffs on steel and aluminum, and intensified last week with tit-for-tat escalations by Beijing and Washington. So far these are mostly just threats, and White House officials have sought to play down tensions.
China, meanwhile, is running out of imported US goods to put new tariffs on, but it buys plenty of the country’s debt in the form of Treasury bonds. So far, that option—punishing the US by selling (or buying less of) its debt, which would roil interest rates around the globe—appears too terrible to be seriously considered.
A series of Trump tweets (paywall) have set Amazon’s stock back amid reports that the president is “obsessed” with the e-commerce giant. Jeff Bezos’s company was targeted over taxes and its use of the US postal service, although the president may have been more upset by the Washington Post’s coverage of him. Trump called the news company, which Bezos owns with his personal funds, a lobbying arm and claimed its sources were invented.
So far, Bezos has ignored the taunting, and Amazon’s share price is gradually rebounding.