Ask a Fool: How Will My Stocks Perform if the Trade War Escalates?

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Q: The trade war with China seems to have jumped to the next level over the past few weeks, and there's been no shortage of threats of further action from both sides. What would more tariffs or other retaliatory actions mean for my portfolio?

If the trade war with China escalates any further, you can generally expect stocks to come under pressure.

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However, some businesses will be just fine, and therefore their stocks should hold up better. For example, most stocks in the real estate sector have little or no China exposure, plus it's a defensive sector in general, so I'd expect them to hold up quite well.

But if you invest in companies that sell products in China, source parts from there, or are otherwise dependent on smooth and inexpensive trade with the country, these are the stocks that are most vulnerable. Just to name a couple of examples, nearly half of Texas Instruments' sales come from China, so I'd certainly expect its shares to take a hit in a full-on trade war. Apple depends on China for more than 20% of sales, as well as parts to make its products for sale in the U.S., which is the big reason the stock has been crushed recently.

As a whole, consumer electronics stocks tend to have lots of Chinese exposure. In fact, of the 10 U.S. corporations with the largest revenue exposure to China, nine are in the information technology sector.

You can generally find out how much of any particular company's revenue comes from foreign markets by reading its latest quarterly earnings report, and while it's not a perfect rule, high exposure to China means that those stocks are more vulnerable to escalating trade tensions.

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Matthew Frankel, CFP owns shares of AAPL. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends AAPL. The Motley Fool owns shares of TXN and has the following options: long January 2020 $150 calls on AAPL and short January 2020 $155 calls on AAPL. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.