Powell was out saying “I don’t think a recession is inevitable” but also admitted that rate hikes may be one of many factors that push the economy into recession. All of this while bank credit continues to grow, which we saw flatten in 2020 and decline in 2008. What’s happening? Is a recession inevitable at this point?
We talked about the dollar two weeks ago and the strength is still there. Are we pushing higher so commodities feel a bit cheaper to Americans? Is this temporary – mainly so Americans talk about cheaper gasoline over the July 4th holiday weekend? How far and how long do you expect the dollar to go? Why?
Can crude continue to rally into a recession?
The “R” Word
Crude 💪 or 👎/ Dollar 🚀
What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 23rd episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 1:03 Key themes for the week 1:48 Powell’s recession call 3:48 The catalysts that could whip growth 6:58 Geopolitics in EMs and related to the US 8:35 Is the ECB a risk as well? 11:00 Crude and the Dollar 16:00 Where do you expect the dollar to go? 19:00 The week ahead
Listen on Spotify:
TN: Hi, everybody, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. We’re joined as always, by Tracy, Sam, and Albert. Thanks, guys, for joining us. Before we get started, please, like, please subscribe, please comment. We read all of them and try to respond to all of them. So please go ahead and do that while you’re here. Also, we are running a summer promo for CI Futures. This is our market forecast subscription product. You get three free months, so please go to completeintel.com/2022Promo and learn all about it.
So this week there’s a lot going on, a lot politically in markets, other stuff. We’re talking about three main themes this week. First is the R word. Second is geopolitical fallout of the R word. And third is crude and dollar activity. So I ran a poll earlier this week asking what is the most widely held consensus view that people are seeing right now? And that’s on screen, of course. So first is recession. People are seeing recession as a consensus view all over the place. Next is equities lower, followed by crude higher, followed by a stronger dollar. So we’re going to talk about all these things today.
Sam, let’s talk about that recession call. That recession consensus call. Powell is out this week saying, I don’t think a recession is inevitable after being really hawkish last week and driving people kind of to the edge of this. So what’s actually happening right now? We’re seeing credit continue to grow. And I know I showed you earlier this week. Bank credit continues to grow. Is that meaningful? And what are you looking at to know if we’re going into recession or not?
SR: Yeah, I mean, bank credit, is meh. But at the same time, are we going into a recession? Meh. I don’t really think so. It’s a booming summer. You have hotels full, you have bars and restaurants full. You have airlines unable to keep up with demand. I mean, that sounds like a small subset of the economy, but at the same time, that is a massive portion of the summer economy. It’s massive. So do I think we’re imminently in a recession? No. I actually think that’s one of the big narratives that kind of misses the bigger point, right? Do we make goods? No, we don’t make anything. What we do is we have services. That’s it. So we’re a service based economy. If services are booming, you’re not going into a recession. You’re unlikely to see some sort of huge move in unemployment because a recession technically is down on growth, down on employment.
If you don’t have the down on employment, you don’t have a recession. So maybe you have a slowing of growth. That’s somewhat probable. But a recession, no, not in the cards, at least until the back half this year. In the back half of this year, you have a number of catalysts which could really whip things the other way in terms of both growth.
TN: Okay, so what are some of those catalysts. And when you say back, you’re talking about October? November?
SR: Yes, October. November.
TN: My thinking is if we’re going to see it, we’re going to start seeing it maybe late September, October or something like that. But what are some of those catalysts you’re talking about? A couple of them?
SR: The catalysts then are actually to the gross side, which I think is where I’ll take the opposite side of a lot of people. Those catalysts are called a devolving of the Ukraine conflict. Number one, while that doesn’t take off sanctions in the near term, it does take off the incremental oops.
Then you have the beginning of the reopening of China, which is a big boost to growth in Europe, and secondarily, LatAm and the United States. So you put those pieces together and all of a sudden you’re looking at a back half of the year that has more upside catalysts, potentially. And it’s not like you can reset down China and it’s going to be a negative callus. It’s already in the numbers. It’s not like you can have another war in Ukraine that’s already in the numbers. If you begin to have those two come together, guess what? That’s positive. So I would say the rest of this year is shaping up to be oddly positive.
TN: Yes, but no, I’m kidding. Everyone’s so negative right now. Everyone wants to just find the downside. Russia is going to invade finland or something like that, right?
SR: Yeah. Here’s the play. I would say 3600 is a lot less likely than 43.
TN: I like that.
SR: On the S&P.
TS: I think what we’re going to see is kind of like a balance, right? Where we see services really big this summer, especially in the travel industry, hospitality industry, which we will see taper off this fall, which is not unusual. That always tapers off this fall. But we also see airline prices increasing, so people have booked their summer vacations in Q1. Those people are going to fall off. So I think we’ll see a push. We’ll see a pullback in that industry, but we could see growth in industries that Sam is mentioning.
SR: Just to throw in there, we have to remember that at some point we have to refill supply chains on the drivable stuff, and those supply chains are at bone zero right now. It will require a whole bunch of employment, a whole bunch of production, and will actually have a fairly significant thrust to GDP. Our production has been zero.
TN: That’s great. My poll is wrong, which is awesome. I love that.
SR: I would bet against every single thing that your poll said.
TN: Perfect. I love that. Okay, so if you’re in the US, that holds. But let’s switch, Albert, to kind of say geopolitical risk and some other things. Obviously, Sri Lanka two months ago started falling apart and not started, but really fell apart. We’ve seen Ecuador and other places really start falling apart.
Albert, what are you seeing, geopolitically, and what are you seeing in EMs related to what’s happening in the US?
AM: I don’t really like focusing on EMs at this moment just because they’re not big enough to really cause a problem in the markets. In my opinion. I’m looking squarely at the European Union right now.
It’s suspicious that we come out with US bank tests and then we come out with EU bank tests and then literally a day later, the Germans come out and say, we could have a Lehman moment across the economy just because of these gas shortages that are happening.
TN: By the way, your tweet about the German Lehman moment up.
AM: Yeah. And this goes back to just the topic we were just talking about, recession. You really need some kind of catalyst or something to break. And the only thing that I could even contemplate of breaking and causing a “recession” would be the European Union going through another financial crisis. You have a contagion that probably leaks over to the United States financial markets and the Putin price hikes become a thing again, justifies any kind of QE that the Federal want to do, probably in Q four this year. Geopolitically, the EU is my target right now to look at.
TN: Okay. It’s energy supply chains. Is the ECB a risk as well? Is there a risk that they tighten too fast or too much or anything?
AM: How are they going to have to I mean, the inflation over there is climbing just as fast as the United States and it’s causing problems across the board.
SR: I would double down on that and say that Qatar, right after we had the train go down in Corpus Christi, came out and said, yeah, we’ll send gas to the European Union. Just sign a 20 year deal.
TN: Right. And they did. Right?
SR: European Union is not going to do that. I mean, nobody in Europe is going to do that. It was kind of like, we got your back, but give us a long term agreement and we’ll do it.
The irony of it is that you have a crisis going on in Europe. There was a dragon moment of do whatever right, anything.
TN: Sorry, Tracy. What’s that?
TS: Self imposed crisis? Their energy crisis is literally self imposed.
TN: Yeah. Okay.
AM: There’s no question that is self imposed. The European Union’s leadership has been atrocious. I mean, they’ve had the worst energy policy you could possibly think of that hampers their economic engine for the last two, three decades. I mean, you can just throw a dart at the board and pick whatever policy they’ve come up with. It has been an absolute disaster.
TN: Why is that? Why are they making such stupid well.
AM: They’ve made such a big swing to the left, the leftist voters, and they’re just climate Nazis. They won’t even discuss nuclear.
SR: We’re literally talking.
AM: They won’t even discuss nuclear power, which is absurd. They’re like, what if something goes bad like Fukushima? Oh, yeah. What if a dam breaks? Or what if a coal plant blows up? Or, God forbid, what if 10,000 Germans freeze to death because you don’t have gas stored because you didn’t have any proper management? I mean, they’re really bad at managing what’s going on without the United States holding their hand and directing what to do.
TN: Well said. Fantastic. Okay, so since we focus a little bit on energy there, Tracy, let’s swing to talk about crude and the dollar. So, our friend Josh Young posted something about kind of energy could potentially outperform this sort of stuff and really kind of looking back to the 1970s.
So it really looked like we were heading there until this week, and then we saw things really come down this week, in terms of, say, WTI, natural gas, other things. What’s going on there?
TS: I think it depends on what you’re looking at. If you were looking at frontline crude oil price, that’s one thing where a lot of speculators are involved in. If you’re looking at the spreads, it’s you’re looking at the crack spreads that are still exploding. If you’re looking at calendar spreads that are up again this week, that pretty much tells you that we put a floor under front month crude price, regardless of who is involved in what specs are involved in the industry right now. Because the spreads are really what I consider will tell you really where things are going. Right.
So we kind of have a floor night. Yes, oil had a bad week. We saw a lot of selling on downtime in markets and things of that nature. I don’t think that doesn’t change the overall fundamentals of the market. Right? I mean, we’re still fundamentally structurally undersupplied.
TN: So I’m going to ask a really dumb question here. I’m sorry if I may hear it.
SR: But we know.
TN: So are we seeing a short term sell off? Is it politically driven so that when Americans get together on July 4, they can say, gosh, gas is really down this week, and then you have a three day weekend where people are talking about that and then it rocket ships up after the fourth?
TS: Well, I think it’s a combination of most things. I think this week recession scares, we’re really the big driver for that market because everybody’s thinking we’re going to have a recession.
SR: That and the potential of having an export ban.
TN: Recession, export ban, and July 4th.
TS: An export ban. That said, and I kind of tweeted this out, having an export ban, especially a fuel export ban, would make things obviously worse.
First of all, it’ll raise prices for the EU prices abroad, which after all of this with Ukraine, do we really want to hurt the EU that much? Because we supply them with one to 1.3, 1.5 million barrels per day of diesel, which they are having a huge problem. So really, are we going to abandon the you at this point? Also…
TN: My Texas friends would love to have more diesel to power their ram trucks.
TS: But the thing is that what happens is the fuel flows get so disrupted is that we’re going to have to see refineries cut run significantly in the US. Which is going to ultimately raise prices. We may see deepen prices initially, but you’re going to see higher prices ultimately.
SR: I’ll push back on that because you have a lot of storage, but you didn’t have a lot of storage before. So you don’t have to cut back on runs. You can put into storage at a pretty profitable rate because of forward selling basically all of your inventory right now. I would push back on you have to cut runs at this point.
TS: And I’m going to push back on that. We have to look at the east coast. Right. And so that’s looking at gasoline runs to make a barrel. Diesel requires a lot more oil than it does say to make gasoline. And so if we see a diesel problem, we’re going to have to cut back on this runs. I think it depends on what coast you’re looking at and what area you’re looking at.
TN: All we care about is Texas and Florida. Right.
SR: You have a lot of places to store gasoline. I mean, it’s not like we have an oversupply gasoline at the moment.
TN: It’s true. Our bob’s down this week too, right. So it’s tight.
AM: It’s interesting, Tony, it’s funny. One thing that you said July 4 and one thing that Tracy said, thinly traded is that hilariously every time we need a rally in the market during the thinly traded holiday hours, crude goes down, dollar goes down and the market goes up almost by magic on the thinly traded holiday hours. Something you should watch.
SR: University of Michigan. Come on.
TN: It’s a big driver. University of Michigan. Okay, so let’s move on. You mentioned the dollar, Albert, and so if we look at the dollar, obviously it’s near highs for the decade and that’s great if you’re in the US buying dollar denominated commodities. But elsewhere in the world it’s really hard. Right. So where do you expect the dollar to go? I can’t remember what you’ve said your expected target is. Possibly? 110. Possibly 120. So if it hits 120, Japanese Yen is at what, like 160? 170? something like that?
AM: 163,164? My calculation… This is something Yellen has done in 2012. It’s nothing new. She’s driven the dollar up. She’s out into Europe talking that she’s going to take the dollar up to 110. So this is nothing new. Everyone knows what’s going to happen. Everyone’s watching it. So we’re at 104 something today, just sitting there and hasn’t really done anything. Last day or so. Another 5% up is not a big deal for the dollar.
TN: So you see Yellen driving a stronger dollar. Sam, what do you see?
SR: I would say that I hate taking the other side. I’m going to take the other side.
SR: I’m going to say that Yellen’s ability to control the dollar is de minimis at this point, mostly because the Fed is tapped out. But you already had a 4% terminal rate for Fed funds priced in two weeks ago. Today you’re sitting at basically 3.65%. So you’ve got the peak, in my opinion, priced in for the FOMC hiking cycle and now you’re on the other side of that. So I would say JPY, you’re probably looking at above 10.
TN: Oh, wow, okay, great.
SR: And you’re probably looking at a Euro at 108. 109. And it doesn’t really matter if they go into a recession because they’re… Right. The US is going to back off in incremental steps the long end of the hiking cycle and…
SR: The dollar prices is long end of the hiking cycle and Yellen can do a lot of things. What she can’t do is increase the internal rate.
TN: That’s great.
AM: The thing is, the treasury sets USD policy, so she can certainly drive it up. I don’t know how much ammo she has left because it’s gone up. But we’ll see.
TN: Okay, perfect. That’s great. So we’ve covered almost everything in that survey and almost everything was wrong.
SR: I told you everything was I would take the other side of every single one of those.
TN: Perfect. Okay, let’s talk about the week ahead. We have month end and quarter end coming next week, right? So what does that mean for the week ahead? Everyone else.
TS: Can I go?
TN: Yes, you go Tracy.
TS: I don’t know. What I’m looking at for the week ahead is the last week of the month. Of the month and the quarter. Right. So we have roughly about $100 billion of US equities that need to be purchased over the next five trading sessions. We have a rebalance in the RTY. So we should see a lot of inflows, roughly 5.98 point billion of inflows into the US equity markets just because of the rebalance factor.
We should probably see outflows in the bond market and then that’s walking into a backdrop of negative dealer gamma. So we have the potential of a shot higher in the market.
TN: Sam? Sam?
SR: Yeah. I would say everything Tracy said in terms of the risk seems to be to the upside. I would also say it looks pretty scary when you walk into the end of the month in terms of the way the dollar chart looks right now.
You walk into the end of the month with a dollar chart looking like it’s ready, looking ready to gap down, and you have oil where it’s at. You could have a very interesting quarter end in terms of risk assets. You have a weaker dollar. You have a big buy on SPY, RTX, et cetera, or SPX, not SPY. You begin to put those pieces together and you begin to have a pretty risk on into the quarter that could be very interesting very quickly.
You get any positive headlines out of China in terms of lockdowns, you get any positive headlines out of Ukraine in terms of ceasefires, whatever BS they want to leak. Then all of a sudden you’re more upside. So I would say skewed to the upside through the beginning of July.
TN: Sam, you’re optimistic today. That’s amazing.
SR: I know. And contrarian.
TN: Optimistic and contrarian. I love it. Okay.
AM: Yeah, I mean, I agree mostly with Sam. I think just because the market is so thinly traded, the dollar should be chopping around probably on the downside a little bit, just for the week up until July 4 weekend, so long as the Europeans don’t come out and start saying any more Lehman things, Lehman crash things and all of a sudden dollar shoots up just because of fear factor out of the European side. But I don’t think that’s going to materialize over the next week, probably next couple of weeks.
After that, I think 30 days, we’re starting to look at possibly something that happened in the European Union. But for the week ahead.
TN: Fantastic. So the past three days carries into the next week. Fantastic.
TN: Okay, guys, thank you very much. Thanks for your time. Thanks for all the stuff you passed along, and have a great week ahead. Thank you.
CNA: Welcome back. The world’s largest cryptocurrency Bitcoin continues its downward spiral. For the 8th straight day, it briefly fell below $21,000 and is currently hovering around its December lows. Other digital coins are also sharply lower in that sell-off as investors continue to rotate out of risky assets due to the economic headwinds. Bitcoin started the week with a 15% drop, with Ethereum very even worse. And overall the total crypto market cap shrink to below $1 trillion for the first time since 2021. That’s from a $3 trillion peak in November. Now adding to crypto’s litany of pain, Coinbase has announced it will cut nearly a fifth of its workforce, or about 1000 employees, by the end of the second quarter. CEO Brian Armstrong said the company needs to manage high employee costs in an uncertain market, warning of a looming recession and another crypto winter in the months ahead. He also conceded that the company grew too quickly. Inflation pressures continue to mount in the United States. The annual Producer price index rose ten 8% in May, staying near its record high of 11.5% in March. The data is significant as prices at the wholesale level feed through consumer prices, which are running at their highest level since December 1981.
Now the focus shifts to the Federal Reserve as it kicks off its two-day policy meeting. The Fed is set to hand down its latest decision tomorrow morning. With a 75 basis point move on the table. Investors on Wall Street are now waiting to see what the US central bank will do. Stock seesaw throughout the session. Ahead of that said meeting, it hit a session lows during the final hour of trade, with both the now and the SAP 500 losing ground. The Nasdaq posted a small gain as equities closed. Mixed, we saw the yield on US treasuries continue to surge. The anticipation of an aggressive move from the Fed saw the yields on the US two-year rise and the benchmark ten-year rise higher again. For more on this, we’re joined by Tony Nash, he’s founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence, joining us from Houston, Texas. Thanks for your time today, Tony. Now 75 basis points of the hike are on the table. What does that mean for the US economy, if indeed that is what we get from the Federal Reserve?
TN: Right? It means they’re really trying to pull back inflation. I think they’re trying to kill demand so that the supply side issues in inflation are calmed a bit. Whether they hike 50 or 75 or 100 is less of an issue than the fact that it’s really hard for them to control the supply side inflation that we’re seeing right now with petrol and with oil and with food and other things. So what’s happening right now that’s really problematic is Americans for the past two months, if you look at consumer credit, it’s really risen dramatically over the past two months. And that’s when a lot of the petrol prices have really spiked. So people don’t have the spare capacity in their monthly savings to pay for higher prices for petrol and food and other things. So consumer credit is racking up really quickly.
CNA: Yeah. And does that mean, Tony, that the strength of the consumers in the US will start to inch lower because for a while it was really the consumer spending that was trying to keep the economy going?
TN: Yeah, absolutely. And as that says, consumer credit capacity is limited. You’re right. If interest rates rise, it makes it harder for those people to pay them off. Right. So that credit capacity can’t be paid down. And economic growth, consumer-driven economic growth later in the year is hard to see take off. So this summer, people are paying more in the US for gasoline and flights and really people want to take a vacation no matter what. But I think we’re really going to see some pressure on consumers in, say, September, or October. So if they hike 75 at this meeting, it just means that in two, three, six months, as they accumulate, the future Federate rises in July and September and November, it means that the cost of credit six months out is going to be dramatically higher.
CNA: Before this week, Tony, it was 50 basis points. That was what was expected after the inflation data that we got last week. All of a sudden we’re getting expectations of higher interest rate rises. Does it surprise you that it seems like the US Central Bank keeps getting surprised, but how inflation is ticking higher and it’s not turning the corner as some had expected? And what does this mean for their credibility?
TN: Yeah, it’s a good question. Am I surprised that they’re surprised? I’m shocked that they’re surprised. Right. And I think what it does is it creates, as you say, a credibility issue both for the Fed and for the US administration. So the US administration isn’t putting the right policies in place to help the supply side inflation issues at refineries with crude oil, the food and so on and so forth. But the Fed is late. The Fed should have started hiking months before they did. So many people have said this, but the Fed is late. And now they’re having to catch up super quickly and it’s going to hurt people on hourly wage jobs and in kind of the lower middle class, those are the people who are the most constrained and those are the people who are going to hurt the most.
CNA: Yes, they’re trying to play catch up. But does this force the hand of the US Central Bank to actually push through with a 75 basis point hike when that’s pretty much what most people are expecting?
TN: Yeah, well, a lot of the banks over the past couple of days have started to expect 75. Some are still at 50. I wouldn’t be surprised if they stayed with 50 if we saw that we would see markets rally going into the weekend, which might be a nice sentiment break for people. If they raise 75, then markets are still going to be very difficult and very choppy going into the weekend. So it really all depends on the decision tomorrow. But I think it also makes things more difficult in Asia and other markets. If they continue to hike, then the dollar grinds higher and it makes things like oil and other commodities that much more expensive as those dollar-denominated commodities become more and more expensive, expensive for.
CNA: Everyone around the world and that would just exacerbate the inflation pressures that we are seeing right now. Thanks so much for your insights, Tony. Tony Nash, there founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence.
SM: BFM 89.9. Good morning. You are listening to The Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Khoo Hsu Chuang and Wong Shou Ning at on Thursday the 2020 3 June. In half an hour, we’re going to get an update on the situation in Sri Lanka and what the most viable path out of the economic quagmire that they find themselves in at the moment. But first, as always, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
WSN: Guess what? Every market was down. Every single market that we cover, at least, the down nested were down zero 2%. SMP 500, down zero 1%. Nikki, two to five in Japan was down 0.4%. Hong Seng, Hong Kong, down 2.6%. Shanghai was down 1.2%. Straight times Index in Singapore down 0.8%. And our very own FBM KLCI having a bit of a bad day. It was down 1.8%.
SM: So, mark it’s all in the red this morning. For some thoughts on why, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Thanks, as always, for joining us. Now, the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell came closest to admitting that a recession is inevitable, as engineering a soft landing would be challenging. These are remarks that he made overnight. Does this mean a less hawkish stance by the central bank going forward, do you think?
TN: Well, I think what they’re trying to do is kind of moderate the perception of their hawkish actions that they’ve taken over the past two months. So you have interest rates, rate rises happening, but you also have quantitative tightening starting as well, which means that the Fed is selling assets on their balance sheet. And what quantitative tightening does is it takes currency out of the market, so the money supply is smaller, which makes that currency more valuable, and it puts pressure on, say, equities and other things because money is not as easy. So, yeah, I think they’re trying to help people not see things as hawkish as they are, but they’re still trying to talk down inflation.
KHC: Yes. Tony, so the narrative existingly for recession is further out in 2023, but there’s one or two banks now in the US saying that 2022, the latter half could be the recession. What’s your opinion?
TN: Yeah, I think look, we already had a negative GDP number in Q1, so it’s quite possible that we see another one in, say, Q3 or something like that. What’s interesting to me is total commercial lending is still rising. So we saw total commercial lending, I’m not talking about consumer credit, I’m talking about bank lending. And so we saw in 2008, we saw in 2020, bank lending either declined or flattened here. It’s still on a steep curve. So that tells me that there’s still activity in the economy that people aren’t completely afraid. Yet you do see commercial and industrial loans still growing in the US as well. So I don’t necessarily think there’s a huge amount of say over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to see people use the word depression. And we see this every time there’s a recession. People take it to an extreme. I’m not quite sure we’re there yet. A lot of people act like it’s a no brainer. We’re already in a recession, but we saw that in Q1. It doesn’t feel good. We may see it later in the year as well.
WSN: Okay, so, Tony, we know that the technical definition of a recession is two quarters of negative growth. Assuming that happens, so we have a technical recession. Just curious, how painful will this recession be? How long will it take for recovery? Or is it too early to try and make a guess on this?
TN: No, I think typically recessions are probably two quarters. Even if they’re say a shallow recession, what typically happens is the job losses are the most painful. And so we’ve heard so much over the past a year and a half about talent shortages and this sort of thing, and a lot of jobs unfilled. So what’s happening now is the investors and the banking analysts are transitioning their expectation on company performance. So during Covid, they were like, basically saying, look, just hold it together, don’t go belly up as a business, just keep running. And we’ll have a wide birth of kind of loss and other stuff for you. During COVID, we’re normalizing now. So analysts are pushing very hard for management teams to produce normal metrics for performance, and many of them aren’t doing it. And we saw with some of the retail numbers and some other numbers coming in, so what’s going to hurt the most is layoffs. And that’s going to come even with a shallow recession, we’re going to see layoffs. Will that happen now? We’ve seen that in tech. I wouldn’t expect other layouts to start until probably Q3. So that’s what’s going to hurt and finding jobs, it’s going to hurt coming out of this.
KHC: Yeah. Another metric, Tony, I saw that house prices continue to ratchet higher. I think average home prices in the US is nearly half a million US dollars. Do you see any kind of impact in terms of maybe a correction on that price rent?
TN: Yeah. So when we look at, say, the median home price in the US. It’s $428,000. Okay. So just under the 500 you mentioned. Now in January of this year, if you took out a mortgage in the US. Which the term for mortgage in the US. Is typically 30 years. So if you took out a 30 year mortgage, your monthly payment would have been around $1,700. Okay. In June. Now, that same size mortgage would cost you $2,500 a month. Okay. So we have $700 more a month just over the last six months. That hurts. So I think we’re starting to feel the pinch. There’s still demand for housing, but the affordability of housing has really dried up. It’s really hard for people to get the house that they want or need, and people are either choosing to stay in place or they’re just buying something of lower quality or different location or something.
SM: So, Tony, let’s switch over to what’s happening in Europe. The Eurozone’s first quarter GDP growth rose 0.6% on a quarterly basis and 5.4% on a yearly one. What do you make of these numbers? Do they show that Europe might avoid a recession this year?
TN: Yes, I think that’s going to be really hard. Europe is on really weak ground because they’ve had negative interest rates for quite some time now, and the ECB is talking about coming out of a negative interest rate stance. So when you look at that in Q One, you already had household consumption at a negative growth rate, negative 0.7% quarter on quarter, and you had public expenditures. So government spending down zero, quarter on quarter. So households and governments are spending less than they were the previous quarter. So it looks pretty bad. You even have things like fixed capital formation, which is kind of long term hard investments like roads and buildings and stuff. It rose just over zero. So Europe is really on this thin edge of having a growing economy or not. And so I think with rising interest rates in Europe and energy prices and other inflationary pressures, it’s going to be really hard for Europe to stay out of recession this year.
WSN: Tony, I want to ask about currency, because if you look at the Bloomberg spot in dollar, it’s up 7% on a year to date basis. Of course, in every other country is feeling the pinch. What is your view on the dollar? Is it bad or good for the economy?
TN: It depends on where you are. What the treasury and the Fed are trying to do right now is strengthen the dollar so that these commodities that are nominated in dollars or priced in dollars go down for American consumers. Okay, so you source copper globally, you appreciate the dollar. The price of copper goes down just by function of the currency that it’s nominated in. That’s fine for American consumers and American companies. But if you’re in a developing or in middle market or even just not America, look at Japan, right? Their currency has depreciated dramatically. And for, say, Japanese to buy things that are normally priced in US. Dollars, it’s, I think, 26% more expensive than it was, say, six months ago. Okay, so it hurts if you’re outside of the US. So what has to be done? Well, for countries that are importing things that are based in dollars, so energy and food and other things, they’re going to have to raise their interest rates and tighten fiscally and other things. Otherwise those products just get more and more expensive in local currency terms. So it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a rough time for emerging markets, especially.
KHC: Yeah. Tony switching our attention to Hong Kong, China. There’s a report coming from the city state that John Lee, the new CEO, is working on a strategy to reopen borders with China. Do you think this pretends, maybe a relaxation of the covered rules within China itself?
TN: I hope so, guys. Really, I mean, Asia and the world really needs China to loosen their covert rules. They’re the second largest economy in the world. They’re the major manufacturer for the world. They are the bottleneck for the global economy. So we hear about how Ukraine, the Russia Ukraine war, is impacting inflation. That is nothing compared to what China is doing with bottlenecking manufacturing and trade. So we really need to encourage China to open up. And I did some analysis a few weeks ago. There is, on average, one covet death reported per day in China. Okay? So China is closed for a one over 1.4 billion chance of dying. Okay? So that’s like 70 to the right of the decimal point before the first number appears in a percentage term. So there’s a minuscule chance of dying and they’re closing for that. So it just doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make public health sense for them to close. So we really need to encourage China to open up so that the rest of the world economy heals.
SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking to us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on some of the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks to come, ending there with an appeal to the Chinese government to please open your borders.
WSN: Please. Because I think what’s very disruptive is also this constant opening and then closing and opening and closing, and we can see the impact of that, especially when it comes to supply chain disruptions, like China still the factory to the rest of the world. But very quickly, I think we also have news coming out of us, and this is so much related to inflation because President Joe Biden has basically called on US. Congress to suspend the federal tax for 90 days. Currently, the federal tax stands at $0.18 for a gallon of regular gasoline and $24 per gallon of diesel fuel. So basically trying to calm down. I think also as America goes into summer holidays and driving season starts and I think we’ve seen prices as much as $5, $6 per gallon, which is a shocker to most households. So this is him, I think, making the political overtures that, yes, I’m aware inflation is a problem and let’s try and do something. But I think whether he can get the bipartisan support is always a problem in the US.
KHC: Yeah, we follow the local US papers over the past seven days, actually, he’s been introducing on a day by day basis different, different measures to try and address gas prices, which is of course, a political hot potato in the US.
SM: Very quickly, the UK still sticking on prices? Inflation has hit a 40 year high in the UK of 9.1% on a year on year basis. In May, it’s the highest rate out of the G Seven countries, and it was even higher than the 9% increase recorded in April. So inflation not abating in the UK. 719 in the morning. We’re heading into some messages. And when we come back, how are businesses embracing ESG in their strategies and frameworks? Stay tuned to BFM 89 Nine.
MG: The Lead Lag Report joining us for the hour here is Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence has found a lot of people that I respect following. Tony, I saw a few people saying they were excited to hear what Tony has to say. So hopefully we’ll have a good conversation here.
Tony for those who aren’t familiar with your background talk about who you are how’d you get involved in the data side of markets and forecasting in general. And what you’re doing with Complete Intelligence.
TN: Sure, Michael. First of all, thanks for having me. I have followed you for probably 10 or 15 years.
MG: I am very sorry for that I am very very sorry for that.
TN: But yeah so, I got involved in data way back in the late 90s when I was in Silicon Valley and I built a couple of research firms focused on technology businesses. I then took about probably eight years to become an operator. I did a turnaround in Asia of a telecom firm. I built a firm in Sri Lanka during the Civil War and then I started down the research front again. I was the Global Head of Research for the Economist and I was the Asia Head of Consulting for a company called IHS Markit which is now owned by S&P and then after that I started Complete Intelligence.
So, you know my background is really all about data but it’s also all about understanding the operational context of that data. And I think it’s very hard for people to really understand what data means without understanding how people use it.
MG: Okay. So that’s maybe a good direction to start with that point about context with data because I think part of that context is understanding what domains data is more appropriate for forecasting and others. Right? So, I always made this argument that there are certain domains in particular when it comes to, I would argue investing that have sort of a chaotic system element to them. Right? Where small changes can have ripple effects. So, it’s hard to necessarily to sort of make a direct link between a strong set of variables and the actual outcome because there’s always a degree of randomness. Whereas, something that’s more scientific right that doesn’t have that kind of chaos theory element is it’s clearer.
So, talk about that point about context when it comes to looking at data. And again, the kind of domains where data is more appropriate to really have more conviction in than others.
TN: Yeah. Okay. So, that’s a great place to start. So, the first thing I would say is take every macro variable that you know of and throw it out the window. It’s all garbage data 100 of it. Okay? I would never trade based on macro data.
We’ve tested macro data over the years and it’s just garbage. It doesn’t matter the country. You know we hear people saying that China makes up their data. Well, that may be true you can kind of fill in the blank on almost any country because I don’t know how much you guys understand about macro data. But it is not market clearing data. Okay? Like an equity price or a commodity price.
Macroeconomic data is purely academic made-up data that is a proxy for activity. It’s a second or third derivative of actual activity by the time you see, say, a CPI print which is coming out tomorrow. Right? And it’s late and it’s really all not all that meaningful. So, I wouldn’t really make a trade or put a strategy together based on macro data even historical macro data. Every OECD country revises their data by what four times or something.
So, you see, a print for CPI data tomorrow that’s a preliminary print and that’s revised several times before it’s put on quote-unquote actual. And so, you know, you really can’t make decisions using macroeconomic data beyond a directional decision. Okay? So, if you follow me on Twitter, you see I’m very critical macro data all the time. I’m very sarcastic about it.
I think the more specific you can get… You know if you have to look at say national data or macroeconomic data, I would look at very low-level data the more specific you can get the better. Things like household surveys or you know communist and socialist countries. Chinese data at the very specific level can be very interesting. Okay? Government data the high-level data in every country I consider it garbage data in every country. So, you’re looking at very low-level very specific government or multilateral data, that’s interesting.
The closer you get to market clearing data the better because that’s a real price. Right? A real price history on stuff is better and company data is the best. And of course, company data is revised at times but that really helps you understand what’s happening at the kind of firm level. And what’s happening at the transaction level. So, you know, those are the kind of hierarchies of data that I would look at.
MG: So, okay this is a great. That’s a great point you mentioned that it’s you said very these variables is macro variables they’re proxies for activity. Right? They’re really more proxies for narratives. Right? Because and that’s where I think… You mentioned sarcasm almost 99 of my tweets at this point are sarcasm because when Rome is burning, what else I’m not going to do except joke about it. Right? Because I can’t change anything. Right?
So, and to that point I share a lot of that cynicism around data that people will often reference in the financial media that sounds really interesting, sounds like it’s predictive but when you actually test it to your point, you throw it out because it doesn’t work. Right? There’s no real predictive element to it.
So, we’ll get into some of the predictive stuff that you talk about but I want to hit a little bit on this market clearing phrase you kept on using. Explain what you mean by market clearing.
TN: Data is where there is a buyer and a seller.
MG: To actual prices of some asset class or something like that.
TN: Yep. That’s right.
MG: Okay. So, that makes sense. Okay. Now again I go back to the certain domains that data is more clear in terms of cause and effect and getting a sense of probabilities the challenge with markets. As we know is that the probabilities change second by second because not only does that mean meaningless data change second by second but the market clearing data changes second by second. Right? Going back to that point.
So, with what you do with Complete Intelligence, talk us through a little bit. What are some of the variables that you tend to find have some predictive power? And how do you think about confidence when it comes to any kind of decision made based on those variables?
TN: Sure. Okay. So, before I do that let me get into why I started Complete Intelligence because if none of you have started a firm before don’t do it. It’s really really hard so…
MG: From the people in the back because I got to tell you I’m an entrepreneur, I’m going through. And all you got is people on Twitter kicking you when you’re down when it’s the small sample anyway.
TN: Absolutely. So, I was where I had worked for two very large research firms The Economist and IHS Markit. And I saw that both of them claimed to have very detailed and intricate models. Okay? Of the global economy industries, whatever. Okay? For all of the interior models. And I have never spoken with a global research firm a data firm that is different from this. And if I’m wrong then somebody please correct me. But at the end of that whole model pipeline is somebody who says “no that’s a little bit too high” or “a little bit too low” and they change the number. Okay? To whatever they wanted it to be in the first place. So, and I tell you 100% of research firms out there with forecasts today have a manual process at the end of their quote-unquote model. A 100% of them. Again, if there’s somebody else that doesn’t do that, I am happy to be corrected. Okay? But I had done that for a decade and I felt like a hypocrite when I would talk to clients.
So, I started Complete Intelligence because I wanted to build a 100% machine driven forecasts across economics, across market, across equities, across commodities, across currencies. Okay? And we’ve done that. So, we have a multi-phase, multi-layer machine learning process that takes in billions of data items. We’re running trillions of calculations every week when we reforecast our data. Right? Now the interval of our forecast is monthly interval forecast. So, if people looking at daily prices that’s not what we’re doing now. Okay? We will be launching daily interval forecasts. I would say probably before the end of the year to be conservative but we’re doing monthly interval forecasts now.
Why is everything I’ve said is meaningless unless we measure our error. Okay? So, for every forecast that we do. And if you log into our website, you can see whether it’s the gold price, the S&P 500, USD, JPY, molybdenum or whatever. We track our error for every month, for everything that we do. Okay? So, if you want to understand your risk associated with using our data it’s there right in front of you with the error calculations. Okay? It’s only fair, If I’m gonna say sell you a forecast, you should be able to understand how wrong we’ve been in the past, before you use that as a decision-making input.
MG: Well, maybe just add some framework on that because I think that’s interesting. So, what you call error I call luck. Right? Because luck is both good or bad. I always make that point that with any equation any set of variables you’re going to have that error is the luck component that you can’t control. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that the equation is wrong. Right? It’s just means that for whatever reason that error in that moment in time was higher or lower than you might otherwise want. Okay?
TN: There is no such thing as zero error. And anybody who tells you that they have zero error is obviously they’re an economist and they don’t understand how markets work. So, there is always error in every calculation.
So, the reason we track error is because that serves as a feedback loop into our machine learning process. Okay? And we have feedback loops every week as we and what we’re doing right now is every Friday end of day. We will download global data process over the weekend have a new forecast on Monday morning. Okay? And so all of that error whether it’s near-term error, short-term error or say medium-term error, we feed that all back in to help correct and understand what’s going on within our process. And we have like I said, we have a multi-phase process in our machine learning platform. So, error is simply understanding the risk associated with using with using our platform.
MG: Right, which is basically how apt is a thing that you’re forecasting to that error which is again luck good or bad. I’m trying to put in sort of a qualitative framework also because I think… Yeah, there’s errors in life obviously, too. Right? And so, when they’re good or bad. But you know those elements.
TN: Right. But here’s what I would and I don’t know, I don’t want to dispute this too much but I think there is. So, you use the word luck and that’s fine but I think luck has a bit to do with the human element of a decision. Okay? We’re using math and code there’s zero human interaction with the data and with the process. And so, I wouldn’t necessarily call it luck. I mean, it literally is error like our algorithms got it wrong. So, if you want to call luck that’s absolutely fine but I would say luck is more of a human say an outcome associated with a human decision. More than something that’s machine driven that’s iterating. Again, we’re doing trillions of calculations every week to get our forecasts out there.
MG: Yeah, no that’s fair and maybe for the audience, Tony. Explain what machine learning is now.
MG: I once developed an app called “How Edition”. I was having dinner with the head developer once and he said he just came back from a conference about machine learning and he was just basically well, having drinks with me laughing and joking saying everybody use this term machine learning but it’s really just regression analysis. Right? So, talk about machine learning what is actual machine learning? How important is recent data to changes in the regression? Because I assume that’s part of the sort of dynamic nature of what you do just kind of riff on that for a bit.
TN: Okay. So, when I first started Complete Intelligence, I was really cynical about AI. And I spoke to somebody in Silicon Valley and asked the same question: what is AI? And this person said “Well AI is everything from a basic I say, quadratic equation upward.” I’m not necessarily sure that I agree that something that simple would be considered artificial intelligence. What we’re really doing with machine learning is there are really three basic phases. Okay? You have a preprocess which is looking at your data to understand things like anomalies, missing data, weird behavior, these sorts of things. Okay? So, that’s the first phase that we look at to be honest that’s the hardest one to get right. Okay?
A lot of people want to talk about the forecasting methodologies and the forecasting algorithms. That’s great and that’s the sexy part of ML. But really the conditioning and the pre-process is the is the hardest part and it’s the most necessary part. Okay? When we then go into the forecasting aspect of it, we’re using what’s called an ensemble approach. So, we have a number of algorithms that we use and let’s say they’re 15 algorithms. Okay? That we use we’re looking at a potential combinatorial approach of any individual or combination of those algorithms based on the time horizon that we’re forecasting. Okay?
So, we’re not saying a simple regression is the way to go we’re saying there may be a neural network approach, there may be a neural network approach in combination with some sort of arima approach. We’re saying something like that. Right? And so, we test all of those permutations for every historical period that we’re looking at.
So, I think traditionally when I look back at kind of quote-unquote building models in excel, we would build a formula and that formula was fairly static. Okay? And every time you did say a crude oil forecast you had this static formula that you set your data against and a number came out. We don’t have static formulas at all.
To forecast crude oil every single week we start at obviously understanding what we did in the past but also re-testing and re-weighting every single algorithmic approach that we have and then recombining them based upon the activity that happened on a daily basis in that previous week. And in the history. Okay?
So, that’s phase two the forecasting approach and then phase three is the post process. Right? And so, the post process is understanding the forecast output. Is it a flat line? Right? If it’s a flat line then there’s something wrong. Is it a straight line up? Then that there’s something you know… those are to use some extremes. Right? But you know we have to test the output to understand if it’s reasonable. Right? So, it’s really an automated gut check on the reasonableness of the outcome and then we’ll go back and correct outliers potentially reforecast and then we’ll publish. Okay?
So, there are really three phases to what we do and I would think three phases to most machine learning approaches. And so, when we talk about machine learning that’s really what we’re talking about is that that really generally three-phase process and then the feedback loop that always goes back into that.
MG: Yeah. No that makes sense. Let’s get…
TN: That’s really boring after a while.
MG: No, no, no but I think that’s it’s part of what I want to do with these spaces is try to get people to understand you know beyond sort of just the headline or the thing that is thrown out there. As a term to what does that actually mean in practice you don’t have to know it fully in depth the way the that you do. But I think having that context is important.
TN: I would say on the idea generation side and on the risk management side right now. Okay? Now the other thing that I didn’t cover is obviously we’re doing markets but we also do… we use our platform to automate the budgeting process within enterprises. Okay? So, we work with very large organizations and the budget process within these large organizations can take anywhere from say four to six months. And they take hundreds of people. And so, we take that down to really interacting with one person in that organization and we do it in say less than 24 hours. And we build them a continuous budget every month.
Once accounting close happens we get their new data and then we send them a new say 18-month forward-looking forecast for them. So, their FPA team doesn’t have to dig around and beg people for information and all that stuff. So, some of this is on the firm event could be on the firm evaluation side, as well. Right? How will the firm perform? Nobody’s using us for that but the firms themselves are using that to help them automate their budgeting process. So, some of that could be on this a filtering side and the idea generation side, as well.
So, we do not force our own GL structure onto the clients. We integrate directly with their SAP or Oracle or other ERP database. We take on their GL structure at whatever levels they want. We have found that there is very little deterioration from say, the second or third level GL to say the sixth or seventh level GL, in terms of the accuracy of our forecast. And when we started doing this it really surprised me. We do a say a team level forecast for 10, 12 billion organizations, six layers down within their GL. And we see very little deterioration when we go down six levels than when we do it at say two levels. Which is you know it really to me it speaks to the robustness of our process but would we consider Anaplan a competitor not really, they’re not necessarily doing the kind of a budget automation that we’re doing at least, that I’m aware of. I know that there are guys like Hyperion who do what we’re doing but again their sophistication isn’t necessarily. What we’re doing and they do a great job and Hyperion is a great organization. I think Oracle gave them a new name now but they’re not necessarily using the same machine learning approaches that we’re using. And our clients have told us that they don’t get the same result with using that type of say ERP originated or ERP add-on budgeting process.
Yep. So, I would say we can’t we can do company-specific information for a customer if that’s what they want. Okay? We don’t necessarily have that on our platform today aside from say individual ticker symbols. Okay? But we’re not forecasting say the P&L of Apple or something like that or the balance sheet of Apple. Something we could do in a pretty straightforward manner but we do that on a customer-by-customer basis.
So, what we’re forecasting right now are currency pairs, commodities about 120 commodities and global equity indices. Okay? We are Beta testing individual equity tickers and we probably won’t introduce those fully on the platform until we have our daily interval forecast ready to go to market. But those are still we’re still working some kinks out of those and we’ll have those ready probably within a few months.
MG: Okay. So, let’s talk about commodities here for a bit tonight. Obviously, this is where a lot of people’s attention has gone to. What kind of variables and I know you said you have a whole bunch of variables that are being incorporated here but are there certain variables in particular when it comes to oil and other commodities that have a higher predictive power than others.
TN: There are I think one of the stories that I tell pretty often and this really shocks people is when we look at things like gold. Okay? I’m not trying to deflect from your oral question but just to you know we’ve spoken with the number of sugar traders over the years. Okay? And so, we tell them that say the gold price and the sugar price there may not necessarily be a say short term say correlation there but there is a lot of predictive capability there and we talk them through why. And I think the thing that we get out of the machine learning approach and we cast a wide net. We’re not forcing correlations is that we’ll find some unexpected say drivers. Although drivers implies a causal nature and we’re not trying to imply causality anywhere. Okay?
We’re looking at kind of co-movement in markets over time and understanding how things work in a lead lag basis with some sort of indirect causality as well as say a T0 or current state movement. So, with crude oil you know there are so many supply side factors that are impacting that price right now, that I can’t necessarily point to say another commodity that is having an impact on that. It really is a lot of the supply side and sentimental factors that are impacting those prices right now.
MG: That makes a lot of sense. And I’m curious how did you mention it’s I think the intervals once a month. Right? So, given the speed with which inflation has moved and yields have moved how does a machine learning process adapt to sudden spikes or massive deltas in in variable movement. Right? Because there’s always a degree of randomness going back to error. Right? And you can make an argument that the larger move is the that may actually be more error but I think that’s an interesting discussion.
TN: So, I’ll tell you where we were say two years ago when 2020 hit versus today. Okay? So, in March of 2020, April 2020 everything fell apart. I don’t think there were any models that caught what was going to happen. It was an exogenous event that hit markets and it happened very quickly. So, in June, I was talking with someone who is with one of the largest software companies in the world and they said “Hey has your AI caught up to markets yet because ours is still lost” And you guys would be shocked if I told you who this was because you would expect them to know exactly what’s going to happen before it happened. Okay? I’ll be honest I think it was all of them but the reality is you know Michael you where you were saying that ML is just regression analysis.
I think a lot of the large firms that are doing time series forecasting really are looking at regression and derivatives of regression as kind of their only approaches because it works a lot of the time. Right? So, we had about a two-month delay at that point and part of it was because… So, by June we had caught up to the market. And we had started in February to iterate twice a month, we were doing once a month; I hope you guys can understand with machine learning two factors are we’re always adjusting our algorithms. Okay? We’re always incorporating new algorithms. We’re always you know making sure that we can keep up with markets because you cannot be static in machine learning. Okay? The other thing is we’re always adding capacity why? Because we have to iterate again and again and again to make sure that we understand the changes in markets. Okay?
So, at that time we were only iterating twice a month and so it took us a while to catch up. Guys like this major technology firm and other major technology firms they just couldn’t figure it out. And I suspect that some of them probably manually intervened to ensure that their models caught up with markets. I don’t want to accuse any individual company but that temptation is always there. Especially, for people who don’t report their error. The temptation is always there for people to manually intervene in their forecast process. Okay?
So, now, today if we look for example at how are we catching changes in markets. Okay? So, if I look at the S&P 500 for April for example, our error rate for the S&P 500 for April I think was 0.6 percent. Okay? Now in May it changed it deteriorated a little bit to I think four or six percent, I’m sorry I don’t remember the exact number offhand but it deteriorated. Right? But you know when there are dramatic changes because we’re iterating at least once a week, if not twice a week we’re catching those inflections much much faster. And what we’re having to do, and this is a function of the liquidity adjustments, is where in the past you could have a trend and adjust for that trend and account for that trend. We’re really having to our algorithms are having to select more methodologies with recency bias because we’re seeing kind of micro volatility in markets. And so again…
MG: So, kind of like the difference between a simple moving average versus like an exponential moving average. Right? Where you’re waiting the more recent data sooner.
TN: It could be. Yeah.
TN: Yeah. That’s a very very simple approach but yeah it would be something like that, that’s right. Yeah. What so when we work with enterprise customers that level of engagement is very tight because when we’re getting kind of the full set of financial data from a client obviously, they’re very vested in that process. So, that’s different from say a small portfolio manager subscribing to RCF futures product where we’re doing forecasts and they have their own risk process in place. And they can do whatever they want with it. Right? But again, with our enterprise clients we are measuring our error so they can see the result of our continuous budgeting process. Okay?
So, if we’re doing let’s say, we launch with a customer in May, they close their mate books in June get them over to us redo our forecast and send it over to them and let them know what our error rate was in May. Okay? So, they can decide how we’re doing by department, by team, by product, by whatever based upon the error rates that we’re giving at every line item. Okay? So, they can select and we’re not doing kind of capital projects budgets we’re doing business as usual budgets so they can decide what they want to take and what they don’t want to take. It’s really up to them but we do talk through that with them and then over time they just start to understand how we work and take it on within their own internal process.
MG: So, back a little bit Tony. So, you mentioned you do this machine learning forecasting work when it comes to broad economics, markets and currency; of those three which has the most variability and randomness in other words which tends to have a higher error? Whenever you do any kind of machine learning to try to forecast what comes next?
TN: I would say it depends on the equity market but probably equity markets when there are exogenous shocks. So, our error for April of 2020 again, we don’t hide this from anybody it was not good but it wasn’t good for anybody. Right? And so, but in general it depends on the equity market but some of the emerging equity markets, EM equity markets are pretty volatile.
We do have some commodities like say rhodium for example. Okay? Pretty illiquid market, pretty small base of people who trade it and highly volatile. So, something like rhodium over the years our air rates there have not necessarily been something that we’re telling people to use that as a basis to trade but obviously, it’s a hard problem. Right? And so, we’re iterating that through our ML process and looking at highly volatile commodities is something that we focus on and work to improve those error rates.
MG: Here, I hope you find this to be an interesting conversation because I think it’s a part of the of the way of looking at markets, which not too many people are themselves maybe using but is worth sort of considering. Because I always make a point that nobody can predict the future but we all have to take actions based on that unknowable future. So, to the extent that there might be some data or some conclusions that at least are looking at variables that historically have some degree of predictive power. It doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to necessarily be better off but at least you have something to hang your hat on. Right? I think that’s kind of an aspect to investing here.
Now, I want to go a little bit Tony to what you mentioned earlier you had lived abroad for a while in Europe. And when I was starting to record these spaces to put up on my YouTube channel the first one, I did that on was with Dan Arvis and the topic of that space was around this sort of new world order that seemed to be shaping up. I want you to just talk from a geopolitical perspective how you’re viewing perhaps changing alliances because of Russia, Ukraine. And maybe even dovetail that a little bit into the machine learning side because geopolitics is a variable. Which is probably quite vault in some periods.
TN: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, with the evolving geopolitical order I would say rather than kind of picking countries and saying it’s lining up against x country or lining up with x country or what country. I would say we’ve entered an era of opportunistic geopolitics. Okay? We had the cold war where we had a fairly static order where people were with either red team or blue team. That changed in the 90s of course, where you kind of had the kind of the superpower and that’s been changing over the last say 15 years with say, China allegedly becoming kind of stronger and so on and so forth. So, but we’ve entered a fairly chaotic era with say opportunistic macroeconomic relation or sorry, geopolitical relationships and I think one of the kinds of top relationships that is purely opportunistic today is the China-Russia relationship.
And so, there’s a lot of talk about China and Russia having this amazing new relationship and they’re deep. And they’re gonna go to war together or whatever. We’ve seen over the past say three, four months that’s just not the case. And I’ve been saying this for years just for a kind of people’s background. Actually, advised the Chinese government the NDRC which is the economic planning unit of the central government on a product or on an initiative called the belt and road initiative. Okay? I did that for two years. I was in and out of Beijing. I never took a dime for it. I never took expense reimbursement just to be clear, I’m not a CCP kind of pawn. But my view was, if the Chinese Government is spending a trillion dollars, I want to see if I can impact kind of good spend for that. So, I have seen the inside of the Chinese Government and how it works and I also in the 80s and 90s spoke Russian and studied a lot on the Russian Government and have a good idea about how totalitarian governments work.
So, I think in general if we thought America first was offensive in the last administration then you really don’t want to learn about Chinese politics and you really don’t want to learn about Russian politics because they make America first look like kindergarten. And so, whenever you have ultra-ultra-nationalistic politics, any diplomatic relationship is an opportunistic relationship. And I always ask people who claim to be China experts but say please tell me and name one Chinese ally. Give me one ally of China and you can’t, North Korea, Pakistan. I mean, who is an ally of China there isn’t an ally of China. There is a transactional opportunistic relationship with China but there is not an ally with China.
And so, from a geopolitical perspective if you take that backdrop looking at what’s happening in the world today it makes a whole lot more sense. And a lot of the doomsayers out there saying China is going to fall and it’s going to have this catastrophic impact. And all this other stuff, the opportunism that we see at the nation-state level pervades into the bureaucracy. So, the bureaucracy we hear about Xi Jinping. And Xi Jinping is almost a fictional character. I hate to be that extreme on it but there is the aura of Xi Jinping and there is the reality of Xi Jinping, just a guy, he’s not Mao Zedong. He doesn’t have the power that supposed western Chinese experts claim that he has. He’s just a guy. Okay?
And so, the relationships within the Chinese bureaucracy are purely transactional and they are purely opportunistic. So again, if you take that perspective and you look at what’s happening in geopolitics, hopefully you can see things through a different lens.
MG: Now, I’m glad you’re framing that in those terms because I think it’s very hard for people to really understand some of these dynamics when it’s almost presented like a like the story for a movie. Right? For what could be a conflict to come by the media because and it’s almost overly simplified. Right? When you hear this type of talk. So again, I want to go back into how does that dovetail into actual data. Right? Maybe it doesn’t at all. When you have some of these dynamics and you talk about market clearing data, you’re going to probably see mark movement somewhat respond off of geopolitical changes. Talk about anything that you’ve kind of seen as far as that goes and how should investors consider geopolitical risk or maybe not consider geopolitical risk?
TN: Yeah, I think, well when you see geopolitical adjustments today all that really is… I don’t mean overly simplified but it’s a risk calibration. Right? So, you know Russia invades Ukraine, that’s really a risk calibration. How much risk do we want to accept and then what opportunities are there? Right?
So, when you hear about China, you have to look at what risk is China willing to accept for actions that it takes? Keeping in mind that China has a very complicated domestic political environment with COVID shutdown, lockdowns and all of this stuff. So, having worked with and known some really smart Chinese bureaucrats over the years, these guys are very concerned with the domestic environment. And I don’t although there are idiot you know generals and economists here and there who say really stupid stuff about China should take over TSMC and China should invade Taiwan, these sorts of things. My conversations over the years have been with very pragmatic and professional individuals within the bureaucracy.
So, do I agree with their policies? Not a lot of them but they are well thought out in general. So, I think just because we hear talk from some journalist in Beijing who lives a very sheltered life about some potential thing that may happen. I don’t think we necessarily need to calibrate our risk based on the day-to-day story flow. I think we need to look at like… so there’s a… I’m sure you all know who Leland Miller is in China beige book like?
MG: Yeah, he’s not too long ago.
TN: Yeah. He has a proxy of the Chinese economy and that’s a very interesting way to look at an interesting lens to look through China or through to look at China or whatever. But so, I think that the day-to-day headlines, if you follow those, you’re really just going to get a lot of volatility but if you try to understand what’s actually happening, you’ll get a clearer picture. It’s not necessarily a connection of a collection of names in China and the political musical chairs, it’s really asking questions about how does China serve China first. What will China do to serve China first and are some of these geopolitical radical things that are said do they fit within that context of China serving China first? So, that’s what I try to look at would I be freaked out if China invaded Taiwan? Absolutely. I think everybody would right but is that my main scenario? No, it’s not.
MG: In terms of the data inputs on the machine learning side how granular is the data meaning? Are you looking at where geographically demand might be picking up or is it simply this is what the price is and who cares the source? Because again with hindsight if you knew that the source of China and kind of had a rough sense of the history of Russia-Ukraine maybe that could have been an interesting tell that war was coming.
TN: Yes or No. To be honest it had more to do with the value of the CNY. Okay? And I’ll tell you a little bit about history with the CNY. We were as far as I know, the only ones who called the CNY hitting 6.7 in August of 2019 with a six-month lead time. And so, we have a very good track record with USD-CNY and I would argue that China’s buying early in 2022 had a lot more to do with them from a monetary policy perspective needing to devalue CNY. So, they were hoard buying before they could devalue the CNY and I think that had a lot more to do with their activity than Russia-Ukraine. Okay? And if you notice they’ve made many of their buys by mid-April and once that happened you saw CNY, go to 6.8. Right? It’s recovered a little bit since then but China has needed to devalue the CNY for probably at least nine months. So, it’s long overdue but they’ve been working very hard to keep it strong so that they could get the commodities they needed to last a period of time. Once they had those commodities, they just let the parachute go and they let it do value to 6.8 and actually slightly weaker than 6.8.
MG: The point of the devaluation is interesting. I feel if I had enough space but we were talking about the Yen and what’s happened there. And this observation that usually China will start to devalue when they see the end as itself going through its own devaluation.
How does some of those cross correlations play out with some of the work that on machine learning you’re doing? Because there’s a human element to the decision to devalue a currency. Right? So, the historical data may not be valid I would think because you might have kind of a more humanistic element that causes the data to look very different.
TN: Well, they’re both export lab economies. Right? And we’ve seen a number of other factors dollar strength and we’ve seen changing consumption patterns. And so, yes when Japan devalues you generally see China devalue as well but also, we’ve seen a lot of other activities in on the demand-pull side and on the currency side especially with the US dollar in… I would say over the last two quarters. So, yes, that I would say that the correlation there is probably pretty high but there are literally thousands of factors that contribute to the movement of those of those currencies.
MG: Is there anything recently Tony in the output that machine learning is spitting out that really surprises you? That you know… And again, I understand that there’s a subjective element which is our own views on the world and of course then the pure data. But I got to imagine it’s fascinating sometimes if you’re sitting there and seeing what’s being spit out if it’s surprising. Is there anything that’s been kind of an outlier in in the output versus what you would think would likely happen going forward?
TN: Yeah. You know, what was really surprising to me after we saw just to stick on CNY for a minute because it’s the first thing that comes to mind, when we saw CNY do value to 6.8. I was looking at our forecast for the next six months. And it showed that after we devalued pretty strong it would moderate and reappreciate just a bit. And that was not necessarily what I was hearing say in the chatter. It was kind of “okay, here we go we’re going to go to seven or whatever” but our data was telling us that that wasn’t necessarily going to happen that we were going to hit a certain point in May. And then we were going to moderate through the end of the year. So, you know we do see these bursty trends and then we see you know in some cases those bursty trends continue for say an integer period. But with CNY while I would have on my own expected them. I expected the machines to say they need to keep devaluing because they’ve been shut down and they need to do everything they can to generate CNY fun tickets. The machines were telling me that we would you know we’d see this peak and then we would we would moderate again and it would kind of re-appreciate again.
So, those are the kind of things that we’re seeing that when I talk about this it’s… Oh! the other thing is this: So, in early April we had a we have people come back to us on our forecast regularly who don’t agree with what we’re saying and they complain pretty loudly.
MG: So, what do you say I talk when I hear that because whenever somebody doesn’t agree with the forecast, they are themselves making a fork.
TN: Of course. Yeah. Exactly. Right? Yeah, and so this person was telling us in early April that we’re way wrong that the S&P was going to continue to rally and you know they wanted to cancel their subscription and they hated us and all this other stuff. And we said okay but the month’s not over yet so let’s see what happens this was probably a week and a half in April. And what happened by the end of April things came in line with our forecast and like I said earlier we were like 0.4 and 0.6 percent off for the month. And so that person had they listened to us at the beginning of the month they would have been in a much better position than they obviously ended up being in. Right? And so, these are the kind of things that we see on a… I mean, we’ve got hundreds of stories about this stuff but these are the kind of things that we see on a regular basis. And we mess up guys I’m not saying we’re perfect and but the thing that we when we do mess up, we’re very open about it. Everything that we do is posted on our on our website. Every call we make, every error we have is their wars and all. Okay? And so, we’re not hiding our performance because if you’re using our data to make a trade, we want you to understand the risk associated with using our data. That’s really what it comes down to.
MG: It reminds me of back in 2011 and in some other periods I’ve had similar situations, where I was writing and I was very adamant in saying the conditions favored a summer crash. Right? I was saying that for the summer and the market should be going up and people would say oh where’s your summer crash and I would say this summer hasn’t started. Like it’s amazing how people, I don’t know, what it is, I don’t know if it’s just short-termism or just this kind of culture of constantly reacting as opposed to thinking but it is it is remarkably frustrating.
Going back to your point at the very beginning being entrepreneur don’t do it, that you have to build a business with people and customers who in some cases are just flat out naïve.
TN: That’s all right though. That’s a part of the risk that we accept. Right?
MG: Yeah, the other thing right now that happens with every industry but from the entrepreneur’s standpoint. It’s what you’re doing the likely outcome of your product of your service. You’re trying to communicate that to end clients but then in the single role of the die the guy the end client who comes to you exactly for that simply because they disagree with you know the output, now says I want out.
TN: Oh! Yeah! Well, your where is your summer call from 2011 the analogy today is where is your recession call. Right? So, that’s become the how come you’re not one of us calls right now. So, it’s just one of those proof points and if you don’t agree with that then you’re stupid.
So, I would say you never finish with that there is always a consensus and a something you’re you absolutely, must believe in or you don’t know what you’re talking about.
MG: Yeah, well, thankfully. What you’re talking about so appreciate everybody joining this space Tony the first time you and I were talking. I enjoyed the conversation because I think it said on investing and I encourage you to take a look at Tony’s firm and follow him here on twitter. So, thank everybody. Thank you, Tony and enjoy.
We had a chop last week. And towards the end of the week, we had the CPI print, which put a damper on markets. In this episode, we’ll talk about CPI and peak inflation, which people have been talking about for months, but we haven’t quite hit it yet.
Of course, we’re going to talk about the hot dollar, and we’re going to talk about fuel inflation and things like refining capacity and even a nat gas plant explosion that happened here in Texas last week.
And then finally, what is going on in the week ahead?
CPI & “Peak Inflation” – Core CPE, hand off from goods to services, Fed policy and markets.
Hot dollar – DXY has only been higher in Feb 1985 and Jan 2002. Fed, Dollar, Yellen, etc.
TN: Hi everybody. And welcome to The Week Ahead. My name is Tony Nash. We are with Tracy and Sam today. Albert is in an undisclosed location, so he won’t be joining. But we’ll have a good show anyway. So before we get started, please like and subscribe. And as importantly, please comment. We really appreciate those. We respond to all of them. And it’s great to have the engagement.
This week. We had chop, as Sam talked about. And towards the end of the week, we had the CPI print, which really put a damper on markets. So we’re going to talk about a few things. First, CPI and peak inflation, which people have been talking about for months, but we haven’t quite hit it yet. Of course, we’re going to talk about the hot dollar, and we’re going to talk about fuel inflation and things like refining capacity and even a natgas plant explosion that happened here in Texas last week. And then finally, what is going on in the week ahead?
So first, CPE was all of the focus for the last half of the week. Sam put out an amazing note, a couple of amazing notes this week talking about inflation and what the Fed will do. So we’re looking at a chart right now on core CPI. And Sam, can you walk us through why the core matters and what’s happening there?
SR: Sure. The core matters because it strips out food and energy, and that’s what the Fed likes to look at. Right. That’s what the market looks at for underlying inflation dynamics generally. It’s kind of a quick and easy number. Luckily, it’s accelerated by some marginal amount on a month over month, year over year basis. Cool. Nobody should really care about that, because when you break apart the actual numbers, the entirety of the deceleration and core inflation was in the good side. We know that goods are coming down, particularly on a year over year basis. They want skyrocket and to the right, that’s just not sustainable.
TN: Is that because of the inventories that were accumulated at retailers and other folks.
SR: That’s part of it. Used cars as well. There’s airline fares are in there, too. So that’s going to be somewhat of a problem as we move forward.
The interesting thing to me is when you actually dig into it. Yeah. Core goods accelerated, but core services, which are far stickier and far more difficult for the Fed to kind of get a hold of accelerated.
TN: Right. So let’s put that up now and then. Yeah. So we’ve got your chart up now about the commodities, less food and energy and then services, less energy. So can you help us understand what that means?
SR: Yeah, sure. That’s just call it the core CPI broken into services and goods. Right. So it strips out food and energy from both of them. And then you kind of get a more of a feel of what’s really happening in the underlying economy. And there was always this big debate among economists about when this hand off from goods to services was going to happen and how that was going to affect the economy. And unfortunately for the Fed and for market participants, that hand off is happening.
You can see it in the data and you can see it in the inflation data in particular. It’s happening. The problem is that you don’t have goods coming down fast enough and you have services moving up way too quickly. And those two components are unlikely to give the Fed any sort of comfort in the next six to nine months.
TN: Okay. With services moving up, does that mean that wages, say on the lower end around things like hospitality and restaurants, does it mean that those wages are going up?
SR: Not directly. There’s some implied probability that you’re beginning to see some movement there, but you’ve seen quite a bit of movement at a leisure and hospitality in particular in terms of the wage gains there.
Unfortunately, the wage gains can be pretty large in magnitude, a 5 to 9 percent type acceleration year over year in leisure and hospitality wages. But it doesn’t really move the needle in terms of overall wage gains because those tend to be the lower end of the income scale.
TN: Okay. So I saw some data this week looking at credit capacity, and it looks like US consumers put record amounts on credit cards in April and May. Does that make you nervous? And I’m not talking about the high end of consumers. I’m talking about the middle and lower end of consumers because there’s a lot more of them. Right. Does that make you nervous?
SR: Yes. And it goes to the conversation that Tracy and I are going to have in a little bit here. A lot of it is due to gasoline. Right. You don’t go to a pump and typically pay with cash. I mean, you did that 10, 15, 20 years ago. You typically go to the pump and pay with a credit card.
So when you begin to have prices like this, move this quickly on the pump side of things and grocery side of things, you tend to have a move up in credit card usage that’s translating to debt because you simply don’t have wages keeping up. Yes, wages are ticking higher, but they’re not keeping up. So the lower end of the consumption, called the lower two quartiles, they are struggling with this, and that is going directly on the credit cards.
TN: I’ve talked to a few people this week about how wages in developed economies work. And if we were in an emerging economy, middle income economy, there would be more flexibility on wages because wages rise faster generally in those economies. But in, say, the US, wages really don’t rise fast.
So on some level, it’s a bit hard for people to understand that wages in the US are generally inflexible, especially at the lower and middle ends. And so it is kind of zero sum. Right. So as gas and food prices rise, that takes away consumption from other areas, right?
SR: It does. And the other thing that it leads to is more of a trend towards unionization and other forms of labor activism. And you’re going to continue to see labor activism if wages continue to trail this far behind inflation. That is an underlying trend that I think is going to be somewhat important for understanding how markets react because labor was fairly cheap, give or take for US businesses in particular.
If you begin to have more unionization, if you begin to have more of an activist labor movement, that is going to be a thing to corporate earnings, not just for the next year. That’s going to be a thing for corporate earnings going forward.
TN: Okay. So let’s talk about corporate earnings. As we look at, say, Q2 corporate earnings, it doesn’t look good, right? I mean, generally the expectation is that their margin compression, all this other stuff really starts to sting in Q2 Is that right?
TS: It depends on the industry as well, because what we’re seeing and what I’m hearing as far as obviously oil companies are going to do extremely well so are refiners right now. But we are also seeing the hospitality industry do extremely well as far as travel is concerned, because we’re seeing a lot of pent up demand where people are not spending retail spending, but they’re still spending for trips.
If we look at US air bookings, for example, there are 93% of 2019 levels for Europe. We’re at 95% for South America. We’re at over what we were in 2019 to the Caribbean. And we’re also seeing soaring hotel bookings right now, even with cost pushing higher and ticket prices higher. So I think that Q2 is going to be very good actually, for, say, oil and gas and the hotel industry. But then as we move into Q3, I think we’re going to see a big hangover in that area in the fall.
SR: And to Tracy’s point, hotel bookings are above 2019 levels and the average price of those rooms through the roof. So you multiply those two together to get your average room rate and Occupancy, those are some big numbers that we’re going to see over the summer. To Tracy’s point, there’s going to be a lot of people that blow it out of the water in terms of earnings, and there’s going to be a lot of people that surprise the downside.
If you were a work from home darling, that was expecting work from home and those dynamics to be permanent and you’re in trouble. Right. That’s the target problem. People aren’t buying goods. They’re going places. And the bifurcation there is going to become stark as we move through the second quarter and probably into the third quarter.
TN: Really interesting. Okay. And then I guess the question that is probably overanalyzed, but people are waiting for is what does this mean for the Fed? They’re still on target for 50 in June, 50 in July and 50 in September. Is that your assessment? And maybe 25 in November? I think.
SR: 50 in November, 50 in December.
TN: 50 in November, 50 in December? Wow. So we’re going back to the 90s.
SR: Basically fully priced in the market.
TN: Is there any chance that they will accelerate beyond 50? Like, would they front load any of that just to shock the system?
SR: No, because I don’t think they want to shock the system. The Fed already has a credibility problem. If you move from 50 to 75, you create more of a credibility problem because you forward guided 50-50, and now all of a sudden you’re telling the market you’re doing 75, the market is just going to stop believing and they’re going to push the Fed and they’re just going to push back and it’s going to be a huge problem.
So I don’t think they’re surprised on that front. They may tweak the balance sheet. That’s a little bit of an easier move to make. Right. You can speed up the MBS role. You can pick up a little bit of the front end roll on US Treasuries, you can tighten that way and have it not be as much of a shock to the system.
SR: But have it be pretty interesting on the tightening front.
TN: Okay. But let’s dig into that, though. I’m sorry to spend too much time on our first topic, but if they accelerate the MBS stuff, housing is already kind of at a standstill over a two month period. Two to three month period.
A lot of people have had wealth effects because of the rapidly inflated house prices. So if they accelerate MBS, that perception of housing wealth collapses even more. Right. And so does that have relatively like a multiplier effect on the deceleration of consumption?
SR: It does. But that transmission is pretty slow generally, and you had a significant amount of call it front running against the housing market to take out equity. So I would push back a little bit on a collapse in transactions is going to have a big effect. What you really need to see is pricing actually coming down because it’s about pricing.
TN: Pricing coming down.
SR: Yeah. And pricing. The data is so delayed that it’s almost worthless.
TN: Nominal housing prices.
SR: Yes. But you’re still seeing housing prices hold up pretty well for most of the country. So until you really begin to see a crack there, I don’t think the wealth effect really takes hold from houses.
But you’re probably talking about a September, October type time frame for home prices to be weighing on people’s minds.
TN: Okay. It feels like over the past few months things have changed pretty dramatically. Expectations and these sorts of things. I know you’ve been talking about this for months, but I think the world is just catching up to it. And two months ago everyone said, oh, it’s all priced in. And then we get a day like Friday where obviously it’s not priced.
SR: I’ll stop after this but the interesting part about Friday was it wasn’t just call it the November December meetings getting priced higher for Fed rate hikes. It was March and May of next year that also saw pretty significant volumes and saw the pricing of the Fed movement get pushed pretty hard. So you’re seeing movement across a very long time horizon.
You’re talking twelve months out is kind of what people are pushing on now. So that really creates a different dynamic. But it’s a different dynamic to have eight or ten basis points priced in in September or November. It’s a bigger deal to have quite a bit of tightening priced in for December and March. Those are some out months those begin to really move markets on the margin.
TN: All of this in a midterm year. All of this in the midterm election year.
SR: It’s really painful all around, right? It’s painful all around. But I think the Fed kind of plays second fiddle to Tracy’s point on energy and how that flows through the consumer and the consumer psyche because that is critical at this point.
TN: Okay. So speaking of second fiddle let’s move on to the hot dollar and Fed playing second fiddle to Janet Yellen as Tracy has said before. We’re looking. At DXY that is the third highest it’s been ever it was very high in the mid eighty s it was very high in I think February 2002.
We’ve got that chart up now and now it’s hitting rates that it hasn’t hit for years so we have the Fed doing certain things to tame but we also have things like crude and other commodities that are rising in dollars. Terms. And it looks like the dollar is being pushed up to fend off some of that. So, Tracy, can you talk us a little bit through your view of kind of Yellen and her dollar bias and then impacts that you expect to see.
TS: She said since the beginning she wanted a strong dollar. Right. The problem is that right now this is a disastrous recipe for emerging markets right now with high energy prices and high dollar. And it’s no wonder we’re seeing huge outflows in emerging markets right now as far as investments are concerned. And so really that’s who’s going to feel the pain the most that could throw us to a global recession, for sure.
SR: To that point, Europe is in a lot of trouble, and the Dixie is basically a measurement of euros and yen. That’s right. If you want to talk about a central bank that’s lost credibility, there’s none better than the ECB and Madame Lagarde and that wonderfully stupid speech that she gave this week, it was spectacularly bad.
TN: It’s what happens when you have a lawyer running monetary policy.
SR: They’re raising rates, and we have them, too. Anyway, moving on. So there is an interesting kind of dynamic there where you basically had the ECB for the first time in forever, say we’re going to raise rates like they just told us straight up they were going to do it and they got the wrong reaction across markets.
The currency didn’t go up. The currency didn’t strip. The currency looked pretty ugly that day. And then you’ve got yen sitting at 135 because they’re still doing yield curve control and it doesn’t look like they’re ever going to end it. So you have the Fed going in the exact opposite direction or much quicker than the rest of the world. In the DM world in particular.
That’s a recipe for a stronger dollar. And until you either get the ECB to smarten up or you get YCC brackets moved, yield curve control brackets moved by the bank of Japan, there’s no stopping the Dixie from moving higher. Right. It’s a two currency, two currencies basis.
TN: Remember Abenomics, when they were fighting to get 2% inflation in Japan.
TS: They’re still fighting. That’s why you can’t see inflation, it’s incredible.
TN: Yeah. Tracy, if we continue to see the dollar strengthen, do you think that has much impact on, say, crude prices and fuel prices?
TS: I know that everybody likes to think it’s a one to one correlation. Right. We think stronger dollar commodities. But it’s really not a one to one correlation, especially when you’re talking when you have actual supply demand issues. Right. Like we have a supply deficit across. So a stronger dollar is not going to hurt oil prices when you have real supply demand issues. Whereas if you look at something more like gold, the stronger dollar is not necessarily great for gold right now.
TN: Yeah. So I love it when people like talking about correlations of oil and dollar because many of them don’t realize that actually the positive correlation between oil and dollar is more frequent than many people want to admit, and it’s more persistent than many people want to admit.
So the kind of go to there’s a negative .9% correlation between oil and the dollar. It’s just not true. It’s a fiction.
SR: And the dynamic changed when the US became a major producer of oil.
SR: That completely changed the dynamic. So if you’re not paying attention to the structural breaking system where the US became the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbons, you don’t know what you’re doing.
TN: Right. So who hurts the most? I think we mentioned EMs, but kind of who hurts the most, aside from Sri Lanka, which we already know? Is it like North Africa, those types of places? Is it Southeast Asia? Just off the top of your head, we didn’t rehearse this, so I’m just curious, what do you think hurts the most?
TS: I think you’re going to see a lot of problems in Africa for certain only because a lot of the OPEC producers there are struggling themselves already. Right. All of those people are the ones that are contributing majorly to the quota misses right now. So I think you’re going to see real pain there over Asia, I would say.
TN: Okay, Sam?
SR: Yeah, I would agree with Tracy. North Africa, East Africa, those look very vulnerable, particularly when you combine food costs with gasoline costs and oil. It’s kind of a toxic mix because if you have oil at 125 Brent, there’s an incentive that you want to pump and the people expect you to pump and buy them food. And if you can’t pump and buy food, then you’re basically an illegitimate government in North Africa.
TN: Right. Which is just trembling all around. Okay, let’s move on to energy prices and gasoline and petrol prices. Of course, we just hit this week again, I think three or four times this week we hit record prices for gasoline. And of course, that’s happening all around the world.
I think in the UK it’s £2 a liter or something like that. In the US, it broke $5 a gallon on average. I think 5.01 this morning, Patrick Dejan was saying that. Tracy, can you walk us through? We’ve mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but in a bit more detail about what’s happening with refining capacity in the US and why this is such a big deal?
TS: Right. The last largest Greenfield project that we had was 1977. We’ve had a lot of brownfield projects, meaning adding to capacity to already existing refining facilities. However, right now we sort of peaked in 2018 and 19 as far as refining capacity is. And now we’re starting to come down again because we’re starting to see more closures, we’re seeing more unplanned outages.
These facilities are very old. So the operable capacity has been on the decline for the last few years. And if you look at Europe and Europe, it’s even worse. Right. So, I mean, Europe already has a problem, too, and that’s why they buy most of their diesel from Russia, which is going to affect them, because the diesel that they buy from them is seaborne. Right. All of it, which it falls under sanctions.
TN: And they can’t get insurance for those vessels.
TS: Yeah. And so they’re going to have a lot of problem. just to put a little tangible example, there’s a news here in Houston this week that I think it’s a Lyondell refinery that’s being closed, and that refinery is over 100 years old. Yes, our refineries are old. They’re aging facilities. They need a lot of maintenance. And we just really haven’t built out enough capacity for the amount that is coming offline over the last few years.
TN: So, Tracy, I know this is a little bit of a request, but we’re sending $40 billion to countries around the world to do different things. Would it not make sense to have some sort of government incentive for midstream companies to actually build refineries?
TS: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, infrastructure projects as far as the oil industry is concerned. If you look at the government’s complaining about oil companies are making so much money. However, where were they when they were in the red and racking up the debt? They were nowhere. How many times do we bail out the Airlines and the auto industry? The oil industry never got any help.
TN: Because they’re bad, tracy, oil companies are bad. They’re all my neighbors. But you would think they’re all bad, evil people.
TS: This is causing… Where our refinery operable at capacity? We’re at 94.2% refining right now, which is off the charts. Good. That means good news for your refining stocks if you own any. But we’re pushing it. We’re using it as much as we’re producing. Right.
TN: Let’s say somehow people came to their senses and said, look, we need to incentivize new refineries. How much just off the top of your head? Ten, $20 billion. Is it $100 billion? Just to get things started? How much do you think that would cost? Since we’re throwing money around.
TS: Since we’re throwing money around, I think if you could throw 10 billion, 20 billion at it, you could get some good projects going or tax incentives or something like that for current refineries to be able to build out or upgrade things of that nature. There’s a lot of things the government could do to help boost refining capacity.
TN: Okay. So while we’re throwing money around, would it make sense to reconfigure some of those refineries to refine light sweet Texas crude instead of, say, I don’t know, Venezuelan crude?
SR: Yes, it’s pretty simple. We built the right type of refining for a certain point, but we didn’t build the right type of refining for now. Yes, we would need to upgrade all of them, and it’s going to be a pretty significant issue.
The other really important thing that I think gets overlooked a lot is that even if you begin these projects now. It’s not a solution for several more years. By several more years, three to four at a minimum, kind of where you would expect these to begin to come online.
And the question is, what does the oil market look like at that point? What kind of mix do we have? So you have to make some fairly large assumptions about what your input mix is going to be down the road. So, yeah, I do think that it would be worthwhile to at least upgrade the current refineries, but I think that’s kind of a pipe dream.
TN: Okay. So while we’re throwing $40 billion overseas, we could take half of that and build new refineries and reconfigure refineries with American crude oil. Am I misunderstanding this?
TN: I just want to hammer the point home again. Okay, great. Thank you, guys. We had a really choppy week. We had a lot of kind of bad news come out. What are we looking forward to next week? Is it kind of more the same? Are we still in a really rough place and the Fed meetings this week, some announcements. I don’t think it’s going to surprise anybody, but what else are you looking for this week?
TS: Pretty much the same. I think we’re kind of stuck in this market low for a while now. So I figure you still see chop, you probably see oil sideways to up again. I expect that trend to pretty much continue into the summer until we really start to see some demand destruction, which we’re just not seeing enough yet.
So I think headed into fall, we have a better chance of seeing oil prices come down because again, I think that we’re sort of going to have a travel hangover and everybody’s going to get home and they spend a bunch of money on their credit cards and the economy is not that great. So that’s what I’m looking at. And again, for the week ahead, I think more of the same.
SR: Yeah, you have a million meetings next week of central banks. I think that’s really what the markets are going to key off of. And it really depends who says the most dumb stuff. And it’s going to be a competition because you have Powell and then you have the Bank of Japan. So we’ll see if maybe you get a little bit of a bracket move on yield curve control that would make things a little more spicy across markets. And we’ll see what Powell is capable of messing up when it comes to forward guidance during the press conference.
So I would say it’s more the same, but there’s a likelihood that markets are about as hawkish as they can be going into the meeting and that Powell doesn’t want to push markets more. So there may be a little bit of a rally off Powell just not being an uberhawk, and that might be positive, but I would say you’re in for some serious chop, particularly across the rates markets, currency markets.
And when it comes to equity markets, I think it’s going to be exactly what Tracy and I talked about earlier. It’s going to be the story of travel over retail.
TN: Okay? So next week, let’s talk about who said the stupidest central bank statement. Okay?
TN: You got it.
SR: Does that work?
TN: Very good. Okay. Thanks, guys. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend. And have a great weekend.
US markets remained volatile and on a downward trend as inflation concerns heightened. With that, the US consumer is beginning to feel the pinch of rising food and energy prices. What then does this mean for earnings in the coming quarters and has this been priced in? Our CEO and founder, Tony Nash answers these questions.
WSN: BFM 89 nine is seven o’ six Thursday the 9 June. And of course you’re listening to the morning run. I Wong Shou Ning together with Philip See. Let’s have a quick recap on how good global markets closed yesterday.
PS: US markets closed in the red. The Dow was down .8% SMP 500 down 1.1%, Nasdaq down zero. 7%. Whereas over in Asia it’s been a mixed bag. The Nikki was up 1%, Hong Sang up 2.2%. China composite up zero 7%. I think on the back of China easing a bit on the tech regulatory concerns. However, in Southeast Asia, Singapore is down 0.2%. FBM KLCI also down.
WSN: .1% so for some analysis on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Please help us understand what is happening in US markets because it is another red day today. Why are markets so choppy this Thursday?
TN: I think people are awaiting the CPI print what’s going to happen with the inflation announcement because that number really helps to indicate if the Fed will accelerate their plans of tightening. So if the CPI runs hot, then we’ll see them accelerate potentially. If it comes in as expected, then they’ll stick with the plan that they’ve got.
PS: So the plan is to 50 basis point hikes. If you see it move higher, are you talking about it hitting 75 or like extending it for a third 4th hike?
TN: If it’s higher, we could potentially see it hit 75 maybe in June or July. But certainly we’re looking at another hike in September that’s probable right now and then maybe a 25 basis point in November. So let’s say we saw come in at nine or something like that for a developed economy like the US. These are people who normally look at inflation, 1%, one and a half percent. So 9% inflation is just something that people have not seen for a long time. And so this is really damaging to people. Wages are not very flexible here. And so I’m sure from the Malaysian perspective, you see that it’s damaging people here in the US and it actually is because wages are not as flexible here as they are in other parts of the world. So if we see CPI come in high, then you would see the set accelerate. If it comes in at eight, let’s say less than 9%, they’ll stick with the plan they have. If it comes in lower, say seven-ish they’ll still stick with the plan they have and continue to fight inflation to get it down around 2%, maybe sometime in Q1 in 2023 or something.
WSN: Okay. So let’s stay on the topic of the US economy now. Bloomberg runs a model, runs different models actually, and they say that there’s a 25% chance of recession in the next twelve months, but a 75% chance by 2023. Do you share the same view but.
TN: A 25% chance of a recession is just a hedge. Right? I mean, that’s just saying maybe it’ll happen.
WSN: It’s a chicken call Tony. It’s like being chicken.
TN: So when you look at what a recession, two months or two quarters. Sorry. Of negative growth. Right. Well, we had a negative quarter of growth in the US, and Q one of 22. Will we have a negative quarter of growth this year? Unlikely. Or this quarter? I mean, it’s unlikely because of the reasons for negative growth in Q one are not the same reasons they would be this year or this quarter. Sorry. So going forward, I don’t necessarily think we’ll have a recession, but I think it will feel like a recession to a lot of people because over the last year, year and a half, we’ve had higher overhiring in a lot of industries like technology, overhiring where companies have been afraid they wouldn’t be able to get the talent they need. So they overhire people. They’ve paid people a lot of money. So sectors like tech will likely continue laying people off. They’ve already started, but they’ll likely reassess their wages as well as they realize that they don’t need as many people as they hired. And of course, there will be other effects if tech start laying people off more broadly. So we’ve already seen housing housing in the US.
There is effectively no new mortgage applications going through on that in the US. So the Fed’s target for housing has kind of been achieved really quickly, actually. But it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a recession. So things will feel like there’s a recession. But I’m not sure we’ll necessarily technically be in a recession.
PS: So let’s just build on your feelings, Tony, and translate this macro numbers to earnings. What is your expectation in terms of quarter two earnings? Do you expect them to be substantially weaker and how will that translate into equity markets?
TN: Absolutely, yes. Definitely substantially weaker. I mean, look at what happened to say, Walmart and Target a couple of weeks ago when they announced their earnings, they were way down. Why? Because they had way overbought inventory and they had bought the wrong inventory. Okay. So they’re paying for that now and they’re going to have to discount to get rid of that inventory. Right. I think people in a lot of industries because of supply chain issues, they’ve overbought things. And in the meantime, preferences and markets have moved on. So they’ve overbought things and they’re going to have to get rid of a lot of inventory. I think Target and Walmart got out there very early to be able to have their equity price hit hard early. But other companies will come out in second quarter and they’ll admit the same thing. So we’ll see margins really compressed. And because of that, we’ll start to see people announce more layoffs because again, during COVID, investors were very charitable to executive teams, meaning they were telling the executive, look, just stay open, just survive as a company, do whatever you have to. Right now, we’ve got markets that are normalizing.
Investors are being more scrutinizing as they should. They’re saying, look, markets are normalizing. You have to perform like an executive team should perform. You have to perform like a company should perform. So investors and markets are going to be harder on companies in Q two.
WSN: But Tony, does this then mean that when I look at the S&P 500 index, which is probably the broadest barometer of the US economy, it’s down 13 point 65% on the year to date basis. Can we expect further weakness or has this already been priced in?
TN: I don’t think it’s been priced in necessarily. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see another 13% down, but we always hear that things are priced in. And then when events happen, we find out they’re not priced in. I don’t think it’s priced in. I think there’s more pain to come because people are realizing that they’re basically overpaying for the price of equity. Right. In a company. And so we’re going to see pressure put on valuations, and that’s going to hurt a lot, especially in tech. So we’ve already seen pressure put on valuations in tech. And you saw companies like Facebook who are just throwing off cash still and their valuation is compressed because people have just woken up and said, look, it shouldn’t be valued at that. Right. So we’re going to see that more and more, especially in tech, but also in other sectors.
WSN: So where should we hide, Tony? Will it still be in the commodity space? I mean, oil is up 2 and a half percent this morning.
TN: At where oil is. WCI is trading at 122 right now. Brent is north of that. So it’s possible that we see another 20% rise in crude, but it’s really thin air where it is now. So I think crude price really depends on the supply side. And so can OPEC pump more? Not much. Will things in Russia resolve? Maybe probably in third quarter or something like that. Right. So we really have to look at what are central banks doing? They’re trying to ratchet down demand. Right. And so if they can successfully ratchet down demand, then that will have an impact on true prices.
PS: Tony, I would love to get your view because you’ve seen a different vantage, especially in emerging markets, particularly Southeast Asia. If you saw recently WorldBank has scaled its forecast on global growth and has even highlighted the asphalt is very much vulnerable to stack flat, even recessionary pressures. What’s your view? What’s your advantage in terms of investment in EM markets, especially in Southeast Asia?
TN: Yeah, in Southeast Asia. I mean, look, in Southeast Asia, sadly, Myanmar is going to have the toughest time for the next year or two, right? I mean, we all know the political issues there. I love Myanmar, but it’s going to continue to have the toughest time, I think of the say more developed Southeast Asian countries. I think Thailand is going to continue to have a hard time Partly because of supply chain issues. It’s kind of intermediate point and if supply chains continue to stay strained and tourism continues to be relatively slow in Asia I think Thailand is going to continue to have a tough time. I think places like Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, I think they’re in a better position and I don’t know that you’ll necessarily get excessive gains in those markets But I think there’s more stability and more same maturity and leadership in those markets. So if I were to look to Southeast Asia on, say, a country play, that’s where I would look. I would be really careful to look at things like excessive consumption, these sorts of things. I think for the next year or so we’re going to be looking at real stables.
What do people need to live a really boring life because we’ve had this super exciting roller coaster for the past two years and we need to get back to normal and we need to look at what are people going to consume Just to have a normal day in, day out life.
PS: Boring life then.
WSN: Yeah, boring is good.
TN: I love that. Yeah, we all need a little more of that.
WSN: Thank you so much for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, saying borrowing is good, we need to get back to normality which means that what investors should be focusing on Perhaps consumer staples Versus consumer discretionary and going back to core fundamentals. Looking at valuations, I think you hit.
PS: The nail on the head core fundamentals because I think investors have given companies the past throughout the pandemic most scrutiny now whether the question will be this will show dispersion and earnings variance between those high earners and low performers Will be a big question Mark as there’s more scrutiny about how you perform in this normal, boring time.
This past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. It was a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from the beginning to the end of the week. In this episode, we’re going to focus on geopolitics.
Is India a geopolitical trendsetter?
China, MBS & Biden – BFFs?
What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?
What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 21st episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 1:36 India as a geopolitical trendsetter now? 3:55 US is frustrated with India? What’s going? 7:35 Is India being ridiculously nationalistic? 8:00 China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs? 10:08 How does MBS look at Biden with China opening up? 11:31 Awkward and Desperate: Is the US-Saudi a short-term diplomatic issue? 14:45 Is there any place they can go for energy supply? 16:00 What does Turkey get out of halting the NATA expansion? 20:20 What impacts on some countries by opening the Bosphorus. 21:22 What is DC thinking and do out of the gun discussions? 24:24 What to expect for the week ahead?
Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:
TN: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And as always, we’re joined by Sam, Albert, and Tracy. Before we get started, could you please like and subscribe? It’s very important. But here’s what’s more important today. If you could comment on the episode, we would appreciate it. We check that stuff every week. If you disagree with us, if you think we’re full of it, let us know and let us know why. Okay.
So this week, this past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. Kind of a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from beginning to end of the week. So we’re going to focus on geopolitics this week.
We’re looking at a few things. Is India a geopolitical trendsetter now? That’ll be a really interesting discussion. Second, we have China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs. So let’s see what’s there. What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion? Really, Turkey becoming a real geopolitical linchpin. And then we’ll have a quick chat on what we expect for the week ahead.
So first is India as a geopolitical trendsetter. India recently has halted some commodity exports. They’ve done some deals with Russia for energy, and they’ve been really independent. And India’s typically independent with foreign policy. But I’m curious if we can look at, say, the energy deals first, Tracy, can you help us understand a little bit about that, and what is India doing there?
TS: Well, I mean, absolutely. First of all, India has been complaining about oil price and saying that it’s unsustainable for them for months now, right. As we’ve been over $100. And so when they were typically not really buying anything from Russia.
However, after the Ukraine invasion, then we had that discount. The Euro to Brent discount fell to almost $40 at one point. So India started buying a lot of oil from Russia, obviously, because it’s less expensive. And they said outright energy security is more important to us right now than anything else because they are also having issues with coal. And whatnot really that’s their focus right now.
And so what we think is that likely they’ll probably become a semi permanent customer of them and probably will take in about 500,000 barrels per day going forward. So what is coming off of the European market is actually going to India and China.
TN: A lot of Westerners don’t understand that India and Russia or the former Soviet Union have had a long political ties, longtime political ties, and those long term political ties tend to come up when people need friends. There is a connection between India and Russia that a lot of Westerners don’t understand.
Albert. I guess the US tends to do this very binary. You’re with us or against us. And I would imagine that the White House and State Department, if we actually have a State Department, that they’re a little bit frustrated with India. What’s going through the US’s mind with the India relationship right now?
AM: Well, this is basically goes back to Obama, actually, with his animosity towards Modi. But the Biden, State Department and the DoD just have this naive idea of how things work in the world. India, like you said, the Russian ties with India are long standing because they use them as a counterbalance against the Chinese aggression. Right.
If you look at a map, because I always say this on Twitter, look at a map before you start talking about geopolitics. India’s surrounded by Pakistan, China, all these other proxies to China and Russia. So they can’t afford they can’t afford to sit there and poke the Hornets nest in the region because it’ll just come back at them. I mean, Pakistanika starts things in Kashmir.
The Chinese have been building mountaintop air bases to stress India over the watershed in the Himalayas. There’s so many issues that the Indians have to deal with and balance that with their Western counterparts, animosity with the dealings with Russia. It’s not that complex if you sit there and talk about it for 15 minutes. But for some reason, our State Department just can’t come to grips with that. And it’s actually causing quite the damage of the state relations of United States and India right now.
And you can talk about the Chinese component and how they stress India because they’re a major competitor in the manufacturing sector.
SR: And not to mention that India has always been a very large importer of energy. And it’s a critical part of their development going forward. And they’re a 1.1 billion population. If you begin to have significant problems with energy prices and food prices, that’s a big problem for a democracy in that part of the world.
And not to mention, I think it’s somewhat hypocritical for the US government to be so mad about them buying 500,000 barrels a day when you still have Europe buying oil and gas every single day and being like, well, maybe we’ll be done by the end of the year.
SR: The number of hypocrites that just keep coming out. Is India really our friend? It’s like, well, it’s Germany, it’s France, Italy.
TN: Those are valid questions.
SR: I mean, to me, it’s a little bit insincere for us to continuously be pounding on India for trying to survive as a democracy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
TN: Well, you conveniently overlook the fact that India regularly imports energy from Iran. Korea places like Korea regularly import energy from Iran. The State Department and White House regularly just overlook things conveniently because they want to. Right. But when it comes to Russia, for some reason, it’s a major issue.
So one quick thing I want to talk about with regard to India, and this has happened with some other Asian countries where India stopped exporting sugar and a few other commodities. We saw Indonesia stopped exporting, say, palm oil and a few other things. So this has been kind of painted as some sort of nationalistic action.
My contention has been, look, a nation state has the kind of obligation to look after their own people first. What do you guys think about that? Is India being ridiculously nationalistic by not exporting sugar and a few other things?
AM: Absolutely not. I mean, this is a case of survival, not just for India, but for multiple countries. Egypt recently, Morocco and all the other North African countries are following suit. I mean, they got to feed their own people. You can’t have your own citizens miss meals because pitchforks and torches start coming out.
TN: Yes, I think that’s a perfect way to say it. Okay, let’s move on to kind of a little bit of a crazily, delicately balanced series of relationships with China, MBS in Saudi Arabia, and Joe Biden. There’s been talk of a trip of a Biden trip to Saudi Arabia, which is a little bit awkward given the fact that MBS wouldn’t take his phone call last month. And then we’ve got China as energy importer. There are a number of levers there.
So, Sam, actually, Tracy, can you take us down that path a little bit on the energy side of what happens there and why that is so important?
TS: Well, I mean, I think it’s a thing. Relations have already been strained. Right. So I think it’s too little, too late. And second of all, to go ahead and think that Saudi Arabia or OPEC, for that matter, can lower oil prices in the US or lower gasoline prices in the US is completely misguided. We should be focusing domestically on what we can be doing here instead of banking other countries.
TN: Let me stop you right there and ask the refinery capacity is like the highest it’s been in 20 years or something, right? 92.4% or something.
TS: Yeah, it was 92.7% this week. The prior week was we were at 93.4%. So we’re pretty much at we’re cranking it out. We definitely need more refining capacity going forward. We haven’t had a major refinery built since 1977. Brownfield projects, but not real Greenfield projects.
TN: Okay. Going back to the Biden-Saudi visit, Sam, what are your thoughts on that? And if you can throw a little bit of China analysis, if China is actually opening up. How does MBS look at Biden with the potential of China opening up more aggressively?
SR: I think he looks at it as a little bit desperate. Right. And probably wants quite a bit out of doing anything. And to begin with, Sunny doesn’t have that much fair capacity. There’s not a whole lot they can do very quickly, maybe release some stocks, et cetera, but there’s not a whole lot they can do to get oil on the market quickly. And there’s a lot less that they can do to magically make diesel.
We don’t have the amount of diesel out there that we need. And we are building a refinery, and a refinery takes three to five years to build. So good luck with that. So I think it’s going to smack is a little bit desperate to MBS, and I think there’s going to be a pretty good bargaining spot for him to be in, given that China has largely shut down for a month and a half to two months, maybe reopening, and that’s going to be another tailwind to oil consumption.
And if you all of a sudden have higher oil consumption coming out of China, that’s going to be a problem for oil prices, even from $1.20, $1.15 where we’re sitting right now. That’s a tailwind that I think MBS kind of has a little bit of a grin on his face saying, hey, nothing I can do here.
TN: Right? And tell me a little bit more about the political dynamics there. Does the US and Saudi Arabia, is this kind of a short-term, say, diplomatic issue, or is it something longer term?
AM: Well, you and Sam said two key words, “awkward” and “desperate.” At the moment, Biden going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the King, which was rejected, so they’re actually pushing them off to MBS is such a black eye to the United States foreign policy. Unbelievable. I mean, at this point, you’re going to have Joe Biden go meet with MBS, who Biden’s cabinet brought up Khashoggi not too long ago, which prompted the phone call to be not even taken by the Saudi, leader of a US President. I can’t even remember when last time US President was ignored by the Saudi Arabians. I mean, it’s a disaster in the making that will probably take a good ten to 15 years to rectify.
The Saudis, what are they really going to do? A couple of hundred thousand barrels extra in a pump just to make Joe Biden happy? It’s not going to do anything. I mean, swallowed up by demand almost instantly. But when it comes to the political stuff, you have a realignment between Saudi Arabia, Russia and China happening right under our noses. And it seems to be just completely missed by the State Department of Biden administration.
SR: And to Albert’s point here, and I think it’s an extremely, extremely important point. Saudi doesn’t need the US anymore. Saudi needed the US for a while. We were their biggest customer. We are not their largest customer by a mile, and we’re unlikely to be their largest customer ever again.
So their pivot towards Asia and away from the US makes strategic sense for them. And that, to me, is an understated long term fundamental issue facing the US-Saudi relationship.
AM: That’s exactly right, Sam. And the only other component that actually contradicts that is because of the security situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Saudis need US armaments, they need the relationship with Israel, and they need to re-mend relationships with Turkey. But if Russia at this point, if they’re not poking the Iranians to mess with the Saudis, there’s really no real desperate need by the Saudis for the US defense umbrella at the moment and they can just be free to sell to the Chinese, the Asians and whoever else. And remember that Biden attempted to go to Venezuela to try to get them to pump more, but then realized that while their refinery is broken down and can’t really produce anything at the moment.
SR: So the Arabians went to fix it.
AM: There’s a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of awkward things that’s coming out of the Biden administration right now for geopolitical issues concerning the Saudis.
TN: It’s amateur hour, guys. Lincoln is a joke, often as a joke. I can’t believe it’s embarrassing where we are right now. Tracy, is there any place else they can go for supply right now?
TS: If you look at OPEC, OPEC can’t even produce what their current quote is, right? Because you have too many, too many laggards. So it doesn’t really matter. I mean, they’re 2 million barrels plus below quota last month. So it doesn’t matter if they keep raising or not. They just don’t have the spare capacity. And a lot of the smaller countries are having problems with production.
There’s nowhere else to go. Right. Especially if you’re trying to push Russia out, which is, depending on the month, the second or third largest producer. Right.
TN: Okay. And I think we can all agree that if we just buy electric cars, that would solve everything.
TS: Oh, absolutely. With the announcement that we’re going to have rolling blackouts in the Midwest this summer, I’m sure that rush right out and get EVs should help us.
TN: Right? Exactly. Okay. Let’s move on to Turkey and get really interested in the power dynamics with Turkey right now and their veto power over NATO expansion and some of their control of energy going through the Bosphorus. Turkey has really emerged as a real regional power.
I remember reading about this with George what’s his name’s book the next 100 years, reading that Turkey would be really powerful. This was a 20 year old book. Right. George Freedman. Right. And so it hasn’t happened exactly as he thought. But at the time I thought, “no, Turkey can’t reemerge.” And it’s happening right now. Right.
Albert, can you talk us through what does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?
AM: Well, a few things actually, quite. They really want to stop the Kurdish money system support system coming out of the Scandinavian countries because that’s where a lot of the money and support groups based themselves out of Stockholm and parts of the Baltic area. So they really want to stop that. Right. But that’s not really what they’re after because the Scandinavians put a block on their sales of arms. Right. So the Turks obviously want to sell their drones.
They want to sell some military equipment to the EU and to other players in the region. The Turks, they have a big economic problem. Right. And so they’re using every point of leverage they possibly can use. They’re trying to press the EU to give more loans, trying to stress the refugee situation, trying to stress the energy situation, trying to stress the food situation through the Bosphors. And I’ll let Sam and Tracy touch on that.
But for them right now, if you look at it like I said, with India, look at a map. Turkey right now is arguably the most geostrategic position in the entire world right now with concerns to wheat, gas, oil, refugee status. You can just pick a topic and Turkey is pretty much top five.
TN: Okay. Sam talked us through kind of from a macro perspective. What does that mean? What opportunities does that bring up?
SR: I mean, it brings leverage, right? It brings incredible amount of leverage, particularly as you begin to have Sri Lankan type issues. Go to North Africa. The easiest way for North Africa to solve its problems is for Turkey to solve the problems very quickly by opening the Bosphorus or doing something along those lines. So I think from a macro perspective, it’s really about leverage and what type of leverage they want. Right.
They actually manufacture really good, fairly cheap drones. That’s a pretty easy thing for NATO, the EU, to kind of give them a pound on the back and say, okay, yeah, go. Right. That’s something that they can actually do. And quite frankly, if you’re Sweden and Finland, guess what? You don’t really have a choice.
Turkey is going to be selling drones. Turkey is going to have some leverage on what they get to do, and you’re not going to be able to veto it or you’re going to be sitting there like a sitting duck for the next time that Putin decides he wants a little extra territory.
TN: Right. Okay.
AM: And to expand on that, Tony, the Turks, in sort of cooperation with the Iranians and the Russians, have been moving into Africa using old Ottoman trading post colonies, I mean, through West Africa, North Africa, Horn of Africa, everywhere. And there’s been absolutely no talk about it, no counteraction against it. They’re acting as if they were a major superpower with no one really putting them in their place.
TN: Well, this potentially could turn into I don’t know how much you guys know about Ottoman history 1860s, 18870s, debt load that the Turks had and the refinancing that the British and French came in to do it. And I wonder if that’s where we’ll be in five or ten years. It’s really interesting to see how that Ottoman history played through and see if that happens again with Turkey. I hope it doesn’t, because that ended up leading to World War One. But this could be really interesting.
Tracy, they opened the Bosphorus. What impact does that have on some of these countries, like Egypt and North African countries and say, Lebanon and some of these other countries that are really desperately waiting for some things out of Russia and Ukraine?
TS: Yeah. I mean, obviously that’s going to help. We’re going to get some wheat out. It looks like that is going to happen and that we are starting to see shipments flow that’s obviously going to ease tensions. Hungry people tend to revolt. So something needed to be done, in other words. And so it looks like that’s starting to happen, which is obviously a good thing.
TN: Great. Okay. I want to spring a kind of a surprise topic on you guys just really quickly. It’s a big debate in the US since we’re talking geopolitics. Guns on top of everyone’s mind. Some shootings in the States over the past few weeks.
Albert, I know, you know, DC probably better than all of us. So can you walk us through really quickly? Excuse me, what is DC thinking? What will likely happen in DC out of all of the gun discussions?
AM: Well, because it’s an election year, probably nothing. And I’ll tell you what. In politics, you cannot take a singular issue, isolate it and solve the problem. It doesn’t work like that. So, for instance, and this is something I always stress about. When you look at guns, you have to look at it as what voters intentions are and feelings are with the guns because they’re electing their members. Right.
When you have guns, they’re typically rural Americans that are religious, that have views on abortion and are farmers. Right. What’s under farmlands? Oil. So not only do you have to tackle the religious voter, the anti abortion voter, the rural farm voter, but then also big oil that actually funds all these people. So you can’t take guns alone and say, I’m going to solve it without agitating another 40 million Americans and Senate races are completely dependent on rural voters, not so much urban because that tends to go Democratic anyways. But there is actually swing cities and swing areas on top of the conservative areas that there’s a political calculation and numbers game that has to be played.
So for this year, I don’t see anything happening with guns at all. Maybe something extremely minor, but nothing that would actually be effective.
TN: For people who are non Americans, what do people outside of America not understand about the gun discussion in the US?
AM: It’s a cultural thing. The United States prides itself on being a system of checks and balances. Right. And for guns, Americans tend to think we are not going to let our government intrude and overtake us. That’s our checks and balances to dictatorships. Right. Authoritarian systems.
As other issues come up from the left and come up from the right, just everyone’s going to get more pulverized on this. There’s never going to be 100% solution. The Europeans are definitely not going to understand why Americans love their guns. But it’s just…
TN: Europeans, Australians, Asians, they don’t actually some in Asia get it.
AM: Some in Asia get it. The Swiss hilariously get it. They’re mandatory. They have Pentagon, everyone’s. And it’s unfair for the rest of the world to compare a small country of like, say, 10 million people statistically to the United States that has 350,000,000 plus people out there, the giant system.
AM: We’re doing our best and nothing is a perfect system and we’re getting towards it. But it’ll take decades.
TN: Yes. Okay, good. I just wanted to cover that off since it’s been such a big topic lately. Okay, guys, the week ahead. We had a kind of a lackluster week this week. Tracy, what do you see happening in the week ahead? Crude actually had a fantastic week. What do you see going on next week in, say, energy and commodities?
TS: I’m still bullish energy and commodities. From a technical standpoint, we broke out of a technical pattern. Right. I don’t see anything changing, in other words, in the physical landscape, I mean, markets are tight. We have a structural deficit. The whole complex is in bacridation. So I expect energy prices to stay high. Really? I don’t think Biden’s meeting is going to do anything.
TN: Right. Okay. Very good. Shannon, what are you looking for?
SR: More chop. A lot more chop. I think the jobs report on Friday, there was a quote that it was goldilocks-ish it was not goldilocks-ish if you’re the Fed. The Fed saw a lot of jobs created. It’s a participation tick up and it’s average hourly earnings still sitting at 5.5% for everyone on a year over year basis. Those are three things that they don’t really want to see sitting that high.
SR: It’s that simple. They would be much happier with 100,000 jobs created or lower. I think they want a couple of negative prints. An average hourly earnings that’s closer to 2% year over year. That means that the wage price spiral isn’t happening. And they really want an awful lot of call it pain in the inflation space. So you’re not really seeing anything to knock the Fed off of its current path. And if anything, you probably gave it a little bit of a tailwind to some more hawkish rhetoric.
Brainard being a Hawk? That should scare everyone. Because when Brainard comes out as a Hawk, that’s a signal.
TN: That’s weird.
SR: That’s a signal that they’re going and they’re going hard.
TN: Yeah, that’s upside down world weird. And then was it May said out yesterday saying they could do another fifty in September?
SR: Yeah. After the print on Friday, guess what, this is the best part about the Brainard statement is she said in order to have a better balance in the labor market, they need to see job openings decline.
This is critical, though. Job openings are reported a month lagged to everything else. Right. So in September, they’re going to be looking at maybe August.
TN: Let me ask you this. Elon Musk was out this week saying, hey, if you’re not going to come back to the office, we’re going to consider that you resigned. Are we going to see more CEOs do that? And could that potentially have an impact on the jobs numbers?
SR: Not really. One, Musk, then he said we’re over staffed by 10% across salaried workers. So the statement for Musk was probably more to get some natural attrition. So we didn’t have to actually lay off people because it’s a lot cheaper when people quit than it is when people get laid off. And Musk needs a couple of headlines because his Twitter deal was a really dumb idea.
TN: Yeah. And also I kind of preempted Musk by two years. I told my staff in June of 2020, but if you don’t show up, you could resign. So I was early on that boat. So Albert, what do you expect in the week ahead.
AM: Everyone saw Yellen come out and say I missed the inflation and how bad it’s going to be. That’s her getting ahead of the CPI print. It’s going to be a bad one. I think it actually could get close to 9% which would be not good for the markets.
On top of that Opex Fed minute coming up, I think we’re going to be like Sam said, I think there’s going to be some chop. They’re doing their best to keep this thing above 4200. So I think we’re going to be looking at probably push 4250 which is a bull bear line this week until CPI print comes in and then Armageddon.
TN: That’s what you said last week.
AM: That’s a 4200 on that Monday on futures.
AM: They tried but they sold it. Everyone’s just selling.
TN: Okay. So we have another chance this week.
TN: Great guys. Thank you very much. This has been a great discussion. Thanks so much and I really appreciate this. Have a great week ahead.