These stocks could surge the most if and when US and China reach a trade deal

President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping meet business leaders at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017.
Damir Sagolj | Reuters

For investors who have been jockeying for the right way to play the U.S.-China trade deal, here’s your game plan if the light at the end of the tunnel gets here.

A resolution on trade between the world’s two biggest economies could be a big catalyst for a relief rally in the stock market. BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink told CNBC on Wednesday there would be “a surge in investment sentiment” if both sides call off tariffs on each others goods.

Washington and Beijing reached a 90-day truce last month to halt any new levies as they seek to work up a long-term deal through negotiations. There has been mixed feedback on the trade talks — Sen. Chuck Grassley said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer saw no progress on key issues, while President Trump tweeted about “big progress” with China recently. In the latest development, China’s Vice-Premier Liu He has accepted invitation to Washington this month for trade talks.

Fears of a full-on trade war with China have been on top of investors mind for months. The volatile stock market suffered its worst year since the financial crisis in 2018 with the S&P 500 tanking a whopping 14 percent in the fourth quarter. U.S. companies have also sounded alarms on the trade war’s impact on their business.

“Any deal would likely see a relief rally as we believe markets have meaningfully priced in risks of trade tensions escalating,” said Ben Laidler, HSBC’s global equity strategist in a note on Tuesday. He also pointed out that tariff-sensitive stocks have underperformed significantly and their valuations are getting cheap.

To find the best names to buy on a trade-deal pop, HSBC ran a screen looking for stocks with three main attributes:

  • Listed U.S. stocks with revenue exposure to China of more than 20 percent.
  • Underperformance during this three-month market pullback on trade deal concerns.
  • Cheap valuation on a forward price-earnings basis.

The names that came up were focused in tech including Skyworks SolutionsBroadcomMicron Technology and Marvell Technology Group.

To be sure, this is lining up to be a risky binary trade. These names (and the whole market) could be hit hard if there is not a trade deal.

If the negotiations go nowhere and a 25 percent tariff is imposed on all Chinese goods, HSBC estimated a 4.5 percentage point would be subtracted from 2019 earnings growth, more than halving the growth rate from current levels, Laidler said in the note.

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