Wall Street sounds off on Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey

Some believe it will curtail momentum the president had established on health care bill and tax reform

May 10, 2017 @ 12:56 pm

By Bloomberg News

+ Zoom
(Bloomberg)

In the wake of President Donald J. Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, Wall Street is weighing whether the political fallout will kill any momentum the White House had for its economic agenda.

The abrupt decision has investors raising questions about whether the president's pro-growth, tax-cutting reforms will stall as the focus shifts to why Mr. Comey was dismissed amid probes into possible Russian ties to Trump's campaign.

Here's a roundup of what different banks are saying:

Compass Point Research & Trading

Policy analyst Isaac Boltansky told Bloomberg in an email that while this won't stop Trump's agenda, it's likely to slow it.

"This as a standalone decision is unlikely to sink the president's agenda, but it surely slows it as this now becomes the focus on Capitol Hill. Congressional Republicans still want tax reform and they will work toward that goal, but this decision distracts from legislating and further muddies the agenda. There are legal implications that will take time to fully contour, but from a purely political perspective I think Congressional Republicans have to be befuddled that the White House has refocused attention on this issue right after they finally secured some modicum of momentum in the wake of AHCA passing."

Cowen & Co.

Chris Krueger, a senior policy analyst, says that "everything just got more challenging on Capitol Hill."

"Hard to see any political and policy upside in firing [Mr.] Comey and the political and policy downside is limit-down ... given the policy chop in fourth quarter, the 'soft' health care deadline of late July is even more critical to meet, though the Comey dismissal is going to consume most of the oxygen in Washington for foreseeable future and makes that deadline all the more challenging. Any momentum from the House health care passage last week just went up in smoke."

Equity Group Investments Inc.

Billionaire investor Sam Zell said in a Bloomberg Television interview that he wondered why Mr. Trump took so long to act.

"I think that if you stepped out of the 24-hour news cycle world I'm not sure he's been put off the rails, I'm not sure this gets him off of his agenda. Mr. Comey voluntarily or otherwise got himself involved in a whole bunch of stuff. So he was a wounded animal to begin with, so the only question I'd ask is what took Trump so long?"

Height Securities

Analyst Peter Cohn said this would unlikely lead to any further problems for the agenda.

"President Trump's Nixonian move to abruptly fire FBI Director James Comey last night was yet more evidence of this commander-in-chief's volatility and unpredictability. While unnerving for world leaders as well as investors, at the end of the day the firing is unlikely to lead to previously unforeseen problems in enacting health care and tax reform, which are already purely partisan exercises. And no sane Democrat is going to oppose more pothole-filling infrastructure spending in their states/districts, particularly as we move closer to the 2018 midterm elections."

Credit Suisse Group AG

Analyst Honglin Jiang agreed there are a lot of questions about the move.

"The move raised questions about [Mr.] Trump's motivations, as the FBI is currently investigating allegations of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential elections. From a markets and FX perspective, the firing could distract and impact the ability of the administration to pass its legislative agenda. With meaningful measures on tax reform still priced in, those hopes could face disappointment."

FTN Financial Capital Markets

Strategist Jim Vogel said the surprise move could actually look worse for those overseas.

"Sacking FBI Director Comey took the U.S. by surprise yesterday afternoon, and optics might be worse for overseas investors. Buying in U.S. Treasuries followed immediately after the London open to erase Tuesday's sell-off. Equity futures are not shaken or stirred by the news, however, leaving large domestic accounts to sort through the fallout. Both stocks and credit spreads are susceptible to profit taking."

BMO Capital Markets Corp.

Ian Lyngen, head of U.S. rates strategy, said the Treasury market saw an immediate impact.

"Dusting off The Donald's patent-pending 'You're Fired!' proclamation, the world's premier federal law enforcement agency was reminded of the reach of the executive branch. The Treasury market benefited from the political uncertainty triggered by Trump's abrupt firing of FBI chief James Comey. The price action occurred on elevated volumes with activity at 155% of the recent norms overnight as the 5-year sector led the rally."

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