With just minutes to go until Trump's 3:30 pm press conference, the big leaks have started hitting the tape, and according to the AP, while the Trump tariffs will take effect in 15 days, more importantly Canada and Mexico will be "exempted indefinitely."
Of course, the market's attention is drawn much closer to the latest flip-flopping by the admin which as recently as a few hours ago had decided against exemptions, only to change its mind again in the last minute.
And while the decision to exempt Mexico and Canada may be strategic, perhaps meant to streamline Nafta negotiations, the reality is that it will thoroughly water down the impact of Trump's tariffs in the first place, because as Harbor Intelligence wrote overnight, if Trump exempts Canada from proposed aluminum tariffs, "it would impair the ability of U.S. smelters to restart capacity and defeat the purpose of the import duties."
As Harbor managing director Jorge Vazquez adds, "excluding the biggest aluminum shipper into the U.S. from the tariffs could also encourage other U.S. allies to ask for exemptions, thereby driving down the cost of delivering metal to the Midwest and making imported metal more affordable for users.
Ultimately, if exemptions are limited to Canada it could mean a windfall of as much as $300 million for Canadian producers given the Midwest premium would still reflect the tariff, Vazquez said adding that "This shows that the entire section 232 is a mistake.”
He is right, after all last month, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the aim of his duty recommendations to the president was to boost domestic aluminum capacity utilization to 80 percent. If Canada is exempt it would achieve none of that stated goal.
Meanwhile, on the steel side, the exemptions will mean that the #1 and #4 suppliers of steel to the US will not only be allowed to sneak through, but grab market share from the remaining nations.
Whatever the thinking behind the last minute change, both the loonie and the peso love it, and have soared near session highs in kneejerk response.
And of course, stocks are kneejerking higher, seemingly not caring that the tariffs will remain for China and thus our biggest trading partner?