Global markets and the dollar were under pressure on Tuesday morning after Gary Cohn, director of the National Economic Council and one of U.S. President Trump’s top advisors, announced his resignation. Cohn was a vocal supporter of free trade and his resignation could signal President Trump’s move towards protectionism which would spark the global trade war investors and global leaders fear. Though Cohn did not publicize the reasons for his decision, his announcement came immediately after Trump announced his intention to stick with his strict 25 percent tariff on steel and aluminum imports, a move Cohn opposed. Trump has long maintained that the tariffs would help reduce America’s hefty trade deficit, though skeptics argue that counter-tariffs would cause different and equally difficult problems for America’s economy.
Cohn’s announcement on Tuesday has immediate impacts on the market, with the dollar falling as much as 0.6 percent against the yen to near 16-month lows, erasing Tuesday’s gains that were prompted, it seems, by premature optimism that a trade war would be averted. As of 1:42 p.m. HK/SIN the greenback had recovered slightly but was still down 0.53 percent to 105.54. The dollar was mixed against its primary trading partners, falling against the euro to $1.242 but gaining against the Canadian dollar and the Australian dollar. The Canadian dollar has been particularly hard hit on trade war fears as it is the largest supplier of both steel and aluminum to the U.S. The dollar index remained up 0.08 percent to 89.50 .DXY.
Global stock indexes also struggled on news on Cohn’s resignation. The Nikkei 225 fell another 0.78 percent after gaining more than 2 percent on Tuesday. The Hang Seng Index was down 0.50 percent and Australia’s ASX 200 was down 1.01 percent in the early afternoon in Asia. Commodities were also trading lower on fears that the potential trade wars could hamper global growth. Only gold futures were trading higher as it served as a safe haven asset, up a modest 0.02 percent to $1,335.50 per ounce. Silver, platinum and copper were all trading lower as were U.S. WTI futures and Brent crude futures, both of which were down just under 0.90 percent.