Numbers in Congress Show Obama Far From Approval on Syria
Comment of the Day

September 05 2013

Commentary by David Fuller

Numbers in Congress Show Obama Far From Approval on Syria

Here is the opening of this report from Bloomberg
Republican U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi voted the same way just five times in the past three years. Every time, the House has followed their lead.

That may change when it comes to Syria. Boehner and Pelosi are among about 20 members -- or about 5 percent of the House -- publicly supporting a military strike so far.

On the other side is an unusual alliance of Tea Party Republicans and antiwar Democrats who make up the bulk of at least 68 lawmakers opposed to military action -- 54 Republicans and 14 Democrats, according to a Bloomberg

It would take 217 votes to kill the measure in the House, or to pass it.

In the balance are about 350 House lawmakers who are undecided, leaning one way or the other or haven't yet made their views known -- illustrating the difficult task ahead for PresidentBarack Obama in securing congressional support for a strike.

David Fuller's view The comments in this report reveal some of the lobbying, opportunism, and uncertainty expressed by members of Congress as they return from holiday and consider an unappealing task, presented as a responsibility. Being a superpower has considerable advantages but also burdens which generally come at a price.

The response of markets to this 'crisis' is interesting. So far, Wall Street is holding its nerve, despite high valuations, a soft albeit recovering economy, and a favourable unemployment report today which has likely increased views that QE tapering will commence later this month. Europe's stock markets remain steady within ranges, helped by some evidence that the grinding recession is ending for Central and Northern European economies, plus Mario Draghi's reassurance that the ECB will keep short-term rates low for a lengthy period. ASEAN's leading indices, represented here by The Philippines, have been considerably weaker but were clearly overextended in May. Once they began to fall back, overseas investors in those markets withdrew capital, contributing to the region's weaker currencies. Mining sectors had remained underperformers until two months ago, due to increased supply, slow global GDP growth and China's new efforts to create a consumer economy rather than one that is driven mainly by exports. Howver, they are now relatively cheap.

Looking beyond a probable US strike against Syria's military hardware, the medium-term outlook for equities has remained mixed since the strong and mostly global rally commencing last November became overextended in the second quarter of this year. Moreover, long-dated bond yields have risen sharply since last May, although from extremely low levels. Nevertheless, I do not envisage anything more bearish than a choppy, primarily sideways ranging environment for most stock markets over the next several months. Short-term interest rates are likely to remain low, except in countries which have inflationary problems and / or are having to defend their currencies. There is a near-term risk that crude oil prices (Brent & WTI) push somewhat higher, largely due to hedge long positions in anticipation of a military strike against Syria. However, if so they should soon fall back even faster, especially if the Saudis boost production and the US releases crude from its reserves, as we have seen during other unsettling times in the Middle East.

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