Why Investors Shouldn't Get Overly Excited About a Trump Fiscal Boom

Financial markets have overstated the likely impact of Trump's fiscal agenda, if calculations from JPMorgan Chase & Co are anything to go by.
Photographer: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The president-elect has fueled a spirited rally in the dollar and developed-market stocks since his election victory, while government bond yields have staged a large selloff amid expectations that the Republican's policy platform — tax cuts, deregulation, and infrastructure spending — will turbo-charge U.S. growth and inflation.

Not so fast, says JPMorgan Chase & Co. Financial markets might have overstated the size and likely impact of Donald Trump's proposed fiscal agenda.

Michael Feroli, U.S. economist at the bank, reckons Trump's agenda will likely yield little impact on U.S. employment and inflation in the next two years, while tax cuts will boost growth by a modest 0.4 percentage points by the end of 2018. 

The analyst's calculations temper market projections that the Republican's legislative firepower to push through business-friendly policies will reshape the U.S. economic landscape.

In a research report published on Friday, Feroli writes:

The majority of the stimulus is expected to come through tax cuts and, relative to our prior forecast, should boost annualized GDP growth by about 0.25 percentage-point in the second half of 2017 and 2018, leaving the level of GDP about 0.4 percentage points higher at the end of 2018. This, in turn, should produce an unemployment rate 0.2 percentage-point lower at the end of 2018 and a core PCE [inflation] about unchanged, after rounding.

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JPMorgan Chase & Co

 

Feroli pencils in tax cuts of around $200 billion per year, evenly split between personal and corporate taxes, and projects these cuts will have a modest impact on aggregate demand in the short-run, beginning in the third quarter of 2017.

Specifically, the analyst sees a multiplier of 0.6 for personal taxes and 0.4 for corporate taxes — meaning for every $1 in tax breaks received by individuals and by businesses, that will likely boost aggregate demand to the tune of 60 cents and 40 cents in a given fiscal year, respectively. 

Feroli's projections echo forecasts from the Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy at the Brooking Institution that sees 60 percent of tax-cut-driven spending taking place in the first year of the new tax regime, and 40 percent in the subsequent year.

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JPMorgan Chase & Co

Markets might also be overestimating the likelihood of a spending splurge. Infrastructure spending is likely to be modest and rolled out slowly, and, as such, tax cuts will do most of the heavy lifting in boosting U.S. output in the next two years.

A repatriation of corporate cash held oversees would likely yield a $150 billion cash bounty that could subsequently finance a modest $30 billion annual infrastructure spending plan, the JPMorgan analyst calculates, citing the prospect that deficit considerations will moderate Trump's ambition to prime the fiscal pump any further.

At first blush, Feroli's projections raise doubts about whether shifts in global asset-allocation strategies in response to a presumptive Trump administration — with investors punting on everything from inflation hedges to rising Fed policy rates to a 'great' rotation away from bonds to stocks — has been overdone.

But JPMorgan's calculations hinge on a slew of unknown knowns — spending behaviors on the back of lower taxes, the Fed's monetary offset, and whether animal spirits will be unleashed thanks to weaker financial and environmental regulations — that provide ammunition for economic bulls and bears alike.

But despite a prospective volley of economic tailwinds, the JPMorgan analyst isn't forecasting growth above 2 percent — a far cry from Trump's rallying cry during the presidential campaign for 4 percent output.

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