A progressive unwinding of the trans-Atlantic alliance would reinforce the two secular trends to which I keep returning: a weaker U.S. dollar and higher, much higher, bond yields.
The dissolution of the trans-Atlantic alliance will lead to a power vacuum, or "G-zero," a term coined by Ian Bremmer to reflect the collapse of global leadership. A leaderless world will certainly be less predictable: the risk-free rate should increase to compensate for the inherent instability of a multipolar world.
The unraveling of the trans-Atlantic alliance will contribute to the secular rise in Treasury yields and the fall of the U.S. dollar via a reduction of European (mostly German) surpluses. At $595 billion annually, the European trade surplus is by far the world's largest macroeconomic imbalance. The European trade surplus is a byproduct of the trans-Atlantic alliance.
Europe may no longer be in a position to accumulate such large surpluses anyway. Germany's pending retirement bomb will drastically reduce the country's excess savings, and force a domestic reorientation of its economy. This German savings squeeze is occurring just as the two other big global savings gluts (the Chinese surpluses and the petrodollar glut) are being drained at the same time.
The trans-Atlantic alliance trade can be summarized by the relative performance of the European defense sector vs. consumer staples stocks.
European consumer stocks — such as Nestle, Danone, Unilever, l'Oreal and Inbev Anheuser Busch — rely on the global infrastructure provided by the trans-Atlantic alliance: their complex logistic chains require free trade, their voracious appetite for mergers and acquisitions needs open capital accounts and their financial leverage is supported by cheap money.
On the contrary, European defense stocks would be the most obvious beneficiary of the unraveling of the trans-Atlantic alliance. The eurozone spends just 1.4% of its gross domestic product on defense. Raising this figure to the 2% NATO objective would require $78 billion in additional annual spending. For comparison, the market capitalization of the MSCI Europe Defense index is just $257 billion.
Not surprisingly, European defense stocks have risen almost continuously against European consumer staples stocks in the past two years.
Unsurprisingly, Europe's "continental" markets have greatly outperformed the "Atlantic" powerhouses since the U.S. election. Expect more of the same in a post-trans-Atlantic alliance world.