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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Who will win in Trump vs red-shirts?

I can see clearly that there are various pull and push forces at work in our economy.
Some of these forces are linked to political ones, about which the economists attached to the banks or universities do not want to talk about publicly. But they will be happy to do so privately, or in the coffee shops with their good friends.
Other forces are more obvious, but it is still useful to emphasise on them in case they are easily forgotten.
Let me flag some of these, which will be of special concern to investors in the market.
Firstly, there is of course the Trump effect.
Readers will recall that I had predicted - contrary to many analysts - that the US stock market would head higher post-Trump's victory. Well, for now, my prediction has proven to be correct.
One of the world's foremost business newspapers, the Financial Times, in a lead article on Nov 26 noted that when Wall Street traders departed for Thanksgiving, they could celebrate a rare achievement.
Last Monday and Tuesday, the four most widely cited indices of US stocks - the S&P 500, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the Nasdaq Composite and the Russell 2000 - hit all-time highs simultaneously.
The last time a “grand slam” happened was on New Year’s Eve 1999, at the height of the tech bubble.
The article noted the breakthrough for stocks in the US, which had moved sideways for two years since the Federal Reserve stopped its quantitative easing programme, seemed to confirm a regime change.
Prompted by Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential election, the narrative has changed to preparing for an era of tax cuts, deregulation and fiscal stimulus, after eight years of markets being guided by the Fed’s historically low interest rates.
The Trump effect in Malaysia
I had also predicted in my article that “Trump is better for business than Hillary Clinton” and that the Malaysian stock market and other Asian markets will also strengthen as a result of the US economic recovery.
Specifically I had written: “History has shown that when the Dow goes up, almost all the stock markets in the world, including KLCI, go up.”
Well, the second part of my prediction has still to happen.
On Nov 10 when my article was published, the KLCI stood at 1,652.74. At the close on Nov 25, it stood at 1,627.26 - a drop of 25 points.
Of course, it is much too early to tell what will happen next, but my prediction that our market will move in tandem with the US market - that is upwards during the next 12-18 months, still stands.
There are two big dark clouds hanging over the market.
One is the big black hole left by 1MDB, which most analysts know about but are too afraid to talk or write about openly for fear of being branded as anti-national or being taken under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) and put into solitary confinement.
I will not go into the size of the 1MDB financial hole but will leave it to our accounting experts to do the mathematics. My main concern is not so much the actual financial loss incurred by the government.
Although this will likely go down in history as one of the biggest con jobs done on a nation’s financial guardians and gatekeepers, frankly the actual financial loss is really not that big and it is one which the nation's Treasury can well afford.
What we cannot afford is the loss of confidence among foreign and local investors, which cannot be easily quantified.
Should this lack of confidence continue, then my predicted Malaysian market upturn will be undermined.
The second dark cloud
There is a second dark cloud - and this is the red-shirts phenomenon. We have now seen the red-shirts political 'mat rempits' come to centre stage in our political life.
I am not only referring to red-shirts leader Jamal Md Yunos but also to his supporters and leaders who are now engaging in the use of force, threats of violence and other provocative actions in ParliamentKomtar and elsewhere, and aimed at whoever they see as opposed to their vision of party, racial and religious dominance.
Everyone who has access to a smartphone will have seen the behaviour of these street and parliamentary hooligans and how they are destroying the peace and harmony of the country.
Well - perhaps not everyone.
It seems like the country's leaders, including the prime minister, the entire Barisan Nasional cabinet, the inspector-general of police, the attorney-general and others responsible for law and order in this country have not seen these videos.

Or, if they have viewed them, they can't be bothered or don't give a damn.
Let me be very blunt. The business community and investors in the country - foreign and local - do not read Utusan Malaysia or any of the Malay papers. They do not listen to Radio Malaysia or view TV3.
They give a damn about how their money and the market is affected by these thugs and hooligans.
They can make up their own mind on which way our national politics is going.
And if the red-shirt phenomenon gets worse, we can expect some of them to take out their business and money.

KOON YEW YIN, a retired chartered engineer, is a philanthropist. -Mkini

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