This podcast was originally published in https://www.rthk.hk/radio/radio3/programme/money_talk/episode/810164.
Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to a 40-year high. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in March, the fastest annual gain since December 1981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest jump since September 2005 and a sharp acceleration from February’s 0.8% increase.
Russian President Vladimir Putin says peace talks with Ukraine have reached a “dead-end” and he accused Ukraine of deviating from agreements reached in Turkey. He said Russia’s “military operation” will continue, blaming Ukraine for “inconsistency in key issues” from talks and “fake claims” about war crimes.
The World Trade Organisation said that global trade could be cut almost in half and is expected to grow by 2.4% – 3% in 2022, lower than its previous estimate of 4.7% in October due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The WTO said the war could lower global GDP growth by 0.7-1.3 percentage points to somewhere between 3.1% and 3.7%.
Sri Lanka said yesterday it will temporarily default on its foreign debts amid its worst economic crisis in over 70 years. The country was due to pay a US$1bn international sovereign bond in July, part of a total of US$7bn of debt payments due this year. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at US$1.93bn at the end of March.
Shanghai saw a drop in new Covid cases on Tuesday after ten straight days of record highs. The financial hub reported 23,342 new local cases for the day, compared with just over 26,000 the day before. However, it was being reported on Tuesday that authorities were backing away from lifting restrictions in several thousand low-risk areas. Residents can move around within their compounds but are still barred from venturing out onto the streets if their surroundings belong to higher-risk areas. Officials ordered another round of mass testing, at least the seventh in 10 days, in the highest lockdown zones.
On today’s Money Talk we’re joined by Dickie Wong from Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova of UBP and Tony Nash, Founder & CEO & Chief Economist at Complete Intelligence.
PL: This is Radio Three Money Talk. Good morning. It’s eight in Hong Kong. Welcome to Money Talk on Radio Three. From me, Peter Lewis. Here are the top business and finance headlines for Wednesday, 13 April. Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to a 40 year high. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in March, the fastest annual gain since December 1981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest jump since September 2005 and a sharp acceleration from February’s zero 8% increase. Russian President Vladimir Putin says peace talks with Ukraine have reached a dead end, and he accused Ukraine of deviating from agreements reached in talks in Turkey. He said Russia’s military operation will continue, blaming Ukraine for inconsistency in key issues and fake claims about war crimes. The World Trade Organization said that global trade could be cut almost in half and is expected to grow by 2.4% to 3% in 2022, lower than its previous estimate of 4.7% in October due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Wto said the war could lower global GDP growth by zero 7% to 1.3 percentage points. Sri Lanka said yesterday will temporarily default on its foreign debts amid its worst economic crisis in over 70 years.
The country was due to pay a $1 billion international sovereign bond in July, part of a total of $7 billion of debt payments due this year. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at just under 2 billion at the end of March, and Shanghai saw a drop in new covert cases on Thursday after ten straight days of record highs. The financial Hub reported 23,342 new local cases for the day, compared with just over 26,000 the day before. However, it was being reported yesterday that authorities are backing away from lifting restrictions in several thousand low risk areas. On today’s Money Talk, we’re joined by Dicky Wong from Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova of UBP, and Tony Nash, founder and CEO at Complete Intelligence. The moderation in core CPI initially prompted a rally in stocks on Wall Street and sent US Treasuries higher. But stocks then gave up their gains as the session wore on, with the S Amp P 500 and Nasdaq falling for a third day. The S Amp P 500, which was up 1.3% at the high of the day, closed a third of a percent lower at 4397. The Dow relinquished a gain of over 360 points to close 88 points lower at 34,220, and as the composite index, which was up 2%, declined zero 3%, ending at 13,372.
In Europe, the regional Stock 600 index fell a third of a percent. Deutsche bank and Commerce Bank led losses for the index, with both falling more than 8% after an undisclosed shareholder unloaded roughly 5% stakes in both German banks. London’s footsy 100 dropped null. .6% and it was a volatile day for mainland China and Hong Kong stocks, which opened higher before plunging late morning and then staging a drastic rebound in the afternoon session with reports that the China National team was actively supporting the market. The rebound came amid calls from China’s market regulator that firms buy back shares and ask major shareholders to support stock prices amid a sluggish stock market. The Hangsting index had slipped half a percent by lunchtime to a four week low before rebounding to close 111 points, or half a percent higher at 21,319. Tech index was up two and a half percent in the morning session before dropping zero 8% at lunchtime and then rebounding to close 1.4% higher. The Shanghai Composite recovered from losses of 0.8% to close one and a half percent higher at 3213. $0.10 advanced 3.6% added 4.2% after China approved new online gaming titles for the first time since July.
In the commodities markets, brewing crude oil rose almost 6% to $104.87 a bowel. Gold is up close to 1% at $1,966 an ounce. The yield on the benchmark ten year treasury notes fell five basis points to two point 73% after hitting two point 83% early in the session. And in the currency markets, the US dollar is stronger this morning. The Euro is trading at $1.08 and a quarter cents. The Bucks at 125.5 Japanese yen Sterling is worth one point $0.30 and Hk$10.19, and the Chinese yuan is at six point 38, versus the dollar in offshore markets. Bitcoin this morning is about 1% firmer at $40,100. Around Asian stock markets this morning. In Australia, the SX 200 up about zero. 1%. Stocks in Japan have now opened the nicate 225, about three quarters of a percent higher. The Cosby in South Korea is half a percent higher, but futures markets pointing to a loss of about 70 points for the Hang Sein at the open this morning. Fine. Let’s welcome our guests. We have with us Dicky Wong, head of research at Kingston Security this morning, Dickie
DW: Good morning, Peter. How are you?
PL: I’m well, thank you. And also with us, Carlos Cassanova, senior Asia economist at UBP. Morning to you, Carlos.
CC: Good morning, Peter.
PL: And over in Texas, in the USA, we have Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence. Thanks for joining us again, Tony.
TN: Thank you, Peter.
PL: Let’s start in the US with those inflation numbers. Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to 40 year high. Consumer prices rose eight and a half percent last month. That’s the fastest annual gain since December 1 981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest gain since September 2005. Excluding food and energy, core CPI increased 6.5% on an annualized basis in line with expectations, core inflation rose zero. 3% for the month energy prices, they were up 32% year on year food prices, they jumped 8.8%. And shelter costs, which make up about a third of the CPI, rose by 5%. Tony, you’re over there in the US, so let’s start with you. It’s hard to find very much good news in this data. But who do workers blame for this?
TN: I think a lot of Americans really do see inflation rising as Joe Biden has been in office. It’s accelerated during his tenure. So whether it’s his fault or not, he’s sitting in the seat while it’s happening. There is a lot of resource from the White House going into saying that this is Putin’s inflation responsibility, claiming that inflation didn’t really accelerate until the war started. But again, if we look back to the rapid acceleration of inflation, it really started, I guess you could say maybe October. But we’ve been at this for a year or so. I think Americans working level, Americans, whether they’re working class, blue collarly workers, they’re obviously the hardest hit by this. And for workers at those levels, it’s really looking at the political issues, not something that’s happening on the other side of the world.
PL: So what can Joe Biden do to try and bring inflation under control? What are people expecting to do?
TN: Well, I think one of the really easy things that he could do, which I’m in Texas. So this is a very biased view, but since Joe Biden has come to office, he’s put a lot of restriction on the drilling and transport of oil and gas. And so there could be a lot of alleviation of energy prices if the White House would remove the regulations that they put in place on the drilling and transport of oil and gas. The White House also killed a pipeline of Canadian crew or a pipeline from Canada that would transport heavy crude to American refineries, which is what’s needed for petrol or gasoline here. And Americans actually don’t necessarily use the light sweet crude that’s refined or drilled, say in Texas. They use the heavy sour crew that say from Canada and from Venezuela. So the pipeline from Canada would have been very helpful to keep prices stable in the US, energy prices stable in the US, but that was killed literally on the first day of the Biden administration.
PL: Vicki, what is the impact for markets and particularly out here, US markets? They rallied initially because they took some optimism for the fact that the core CPI had declined slightly from last month, but they lost those gains. How do you think markets are going to respond to this?
DW: Well, in terms of inflation, I guess it’s an overall problem not only in US but basically everywhere else, also in China. And you may say, like Russia invasion of Ukraine intensified the situation of inflation in US, but inflation is already there. It’s already a problem in US. So in terms of the market expectation, I would expect first of all will probably have another rate cut for even 50 basis points in May and continue to high interest rate until the year end. At the year end, maybe the sets and target rates will be like two point 75 even at this really high level compared to one year ago. So in terms of the year car still going on, keep going up there’s no question ask but already probably the market already digest this kind of situation like you asked me have to continue to high interest rate. But in terms of in mainland China is another thing. Even though China official CPI rose by 1.5% in March, still below US CPI or everywhere else in Europe. So expecting that PVoC may have some kind of room to have an outer round of rate card or triple archives.
But in terms of the situation now in mainland China it’s pretty dilemma because if they really want to have another round of fresh cut of interest rate or even triple R may intensify the situation now because the ten year value of the US Treasury is slightly higher than the same period treasury in mainland China. Now it may be some kind of money outflow from mainland.
PL: Is the window of opportunity for the PPO to go and cut rates? Is it closing the worst this inflation data gets? It doesn’t leave them much opportunity, does it?
DW: Exactly. So I don’t really expect a rate cut in the near term but maybe I expect Arrr cut instead of a rate cut because rate cut create a high pressure of capital outflow. We have already seen in March no matter in the bond market, also in the Asia market from the stock connect. So people actually getting money out from mainland China. So this is also another reason why recently the Asian market underperformed even the US market because the capital outflow. So it’s not a good timing for China but then you still have to think about it, what they can do because capital outflow and intensified the situation in Russia and Ukraine. So also create another round serious pressure. The CPI future growth is mainland June.
PL: Let me bring Carlos in. Carlos, this is not an easy situation for central banks to deal with, is it’s? Because this is not demand led, this is a supply shock, correct?
CC: I think what we saw in the market this week was some investors pricing in the probability that inflation was peaking within the next few months. We think it’s a little bit early to say we are expecting around eight to 9% inflation in the US in the coming months and of course then a gradual descent, but it will nonetheless remain significantly higher than expected in 2022. And as Tony was mentioning, this will be front and center with Biden facing elections in the fall. So I do think that central banks around the world are going to be very focused in trying to address the demand side factors or drivers of inflation even as they have very little control over the supply side factors. And on that note, just keep in mind that we have this conflict in Ukraine that’s leading to supply chain disruptions. But we are already seeing disruptions to global shipments through the Port of Shanghai following from the lockdown there. So it is likely that these supply factors will continue to exert pressures in the coming months. So in my opinion, I think central banks will unfortunately remain in this very hawkish trajectory even though they don’t have 100% control.
PL: And what does the PPOC do? That’s probably the one major central bank in the world that would like to ease monetary policy to cope with the slowdown there on the mainland. It’s in a difficult position as well, isn’t it?
CC: Ppoc is in a very difficult position because we’ve seen authorities voice their concerns about the lack of easing quite a few times since the middle of March, and yet PPOC has an east the risk of outflows is real. We saw that China’s premium over the US in terms of its ten year yield is completely gone. So any form of eating will exacerbate potential capital risks. But you have inflation creeping up potentially above the 3% target set by the beginning of the year. So the conditions could turn less accommodative very quickly. So PPO has a narrow window of opportunity in my opinion to deliver stimulus and a triple our card won’t be enough given what is happening in Shanghai, given that we have -40% sales in the housing sector and that accounts for a third of the economy is not going to be enough to get us from where we are now to 5.5% growth by the end of the year. So unfortunately, they should be doing a rate cut even if that exacerbates capital outflows and even if the impact of a rate cut might be more muted as most people remain in some form of lockdown.
So it’s less easy to go out and spend money. I think that is something that PVC has been discussing, but it doesn’t matter. They need all hands on deck in order to reach the fact growth target by the end of the year and really running out of time given that inflation is rising.
PL: Tony, you mentioned energy prices, but of course, food prices are also jumping as well. They were up 8.8% over the period. We’re seeing global trade slow quite dramatically now. And the UN saying that the war in Ukraine is causing a huge leap in food prices. The UN food prices index is at a record high. It was up 13% in March are on consumers feeling that as well. Over in the United States, this rise in food prices?
TN: Yeah, for sure. Americans are feeling the rise in food prices. I think, however, the most acute food price rises will be in places like Lebanon and Egypt and other places that are more directly affected by the Ukraine and Russia war. Here in the US, we do have pressure on wheat and corn prices, corn prices or maize prices. There’s upward pressure on those prices partly because the White House just said they want to add corn to fuel here to in their minds, reduce fuel prices. So there’s pressure on corn both to feed people and for fuel now and of course, with proteins, those prices are up as well double digits. So Americans are feeling it really all around, but not as acutely as some of the people in Europe and the Middle East will as the pressures from, say, Ukrainian and Russian exports hit those markets.
PL: We’ve already had an energy shock in many parts of the world. Do you think we’re heading for a food crisis that we’re going to see shortages, we’re going to see prices soaring, and maybe, as unfortunately always happens in this case, it affects the poorest parts of the world the most?
TN: Yes, it does. And sadly, I think that is the case because places like Ukraine and Russia do provide so much mostly Ukraine provide so much weed and maize and cooking oil to some of these markets. So, yes, I definitely think that that is.
PL: Our Americans questioning President Biden’s support for Ukraine. When you start to see the costs of this mounting. They’ve banned American. They banned Russian oil and gas imports. That’s helping fuel price rises. They’re seeing the price rises in food. Are they starting to question whether or not the US is on the right track supporting Ukraine?
TN: I don’t know. I know that a number of Americans have questioned it from the start, not that they don’t support Ukraine, but Americans are worried about being directly involved, meaning sending troops to Ukraine. I think Americans generally are comfortable sending weapons and supporting with that aid, but not necessarily with the troops.
PL: Okay, Dickie, let’s talk about the lockdowns up on the mainland. There was a slight decrease in COVID cases yesterday, but we’ve had ten days now of record cases in Shanghai. Guangdong, Guangzhou has gone into a partial lockdown as well. Now, what sort of impact is this having on the economy?
DW: Well, that’s so obvious. The big lockdown in Shanghai may give some kind of pressure to not only the first quarter GDP, but indeed the 5.5% annual gain of the GDP. It’s probably not that easy to achieve. So I do see some kind of civil linings because China’s government recently added some of the approval of the online and cellphone gaming. And also when we talk about the first quarter lending also hits record to 1.3 trillion before PVC take any action in the first quarter because last year PPOC cut LPR rate triple R, but not this quarter. So I would expect definitely I do agree that PPOC has to take some kind of action like seriously to treat the problem, especially the lockdown in Shanghai. And 5.5% is not something easy. So they have to no matter fiscal policy, monetary policy, and et cetera regulations has to be used, especially some of the tech companies.
PL: Let me ask you also because I want to ask you about the markets as well. We’re seeing a lot of calls now from Premier Leakage, the State Council to take steps to support the economy and also from the regulators now to support the market the China Securities Regulatory Commission wants shareholders to buy back stock. It wants Social Security funds, pension funds, trusts, insurance companies to increase their investment in the markets. What are your thoughts on this? Isn’t this the regulator going way over their skis here? It’s not the job of the regulator, is it to tell companies to buy back more shares and to put public money into the stock market? Surely this is way, way beyond what the regulator should be doing.
DW: Well but in terms of the mainland market, the HR market, this is probably the regulator will regularly do I know they do it but it’s wrong isn’t it wrong that the regulator should do that?
PL: It’s sort of almost an outrageous abuse, isn’t it? The regulator should be there to make sure the market operates fairly and efficiently to crack down on abuses but not do this?
DW: You may say so but the regulator to mainland because you can see intensifying the tension between China and US never gone and also like recently no recently just yesterday the holding foreign companies accountable action called Hscaa a fresh round of addiction of a lot of Chinese companies like more than twelve companies this is the fourth round already it gives some kind of pressure to the ADR market yesterday in US and definitely some of the ADR may open slightly lower today although the pressure may not be as high as the previous one or the first round of the addiction of the Hscaa but because of the tension of these two countries China may have to do their own thing so in terms of like Green Valley always comment about the stock market and try to interfere with the stock market I will not say good or bad but at least it would be some kind of support to the local Hong Kong stock market so I believe we find support at 21,000 because investors may expect or they will expect like PPOC will take action very soon so it may help to stabilize the overall sentiment in Hong Kong as well as in Asia Carlos.
PL: We’Ve heard Premier Leakage now has issued his third warning about economic growth in under a week what can they do?
CC: Well, we do expect to see weaker growth in March, April and May so those will be the three weakest months I think that in addition to doing more monetary policy and fiscal policy support the big question Mark is will they announce some easing of restrictions or at least provide some degree of regulatory clarity for global investors? On the housing and also tech front there’s a whole debate around this. Recent regulations surrounding dual circulation in China points to some additional regulatory headwinds for some of these companies but I think that the issue is not so much regulation it’s more the lack of visibility so they are likely going to at least provide that in the coming weeks. And of course, if this contraction is bigger than expected in the first half, and I did use the word contraction because I do think that GDP has a chance of actually declining in Q two, then the measure of last resort in order to achieve that growth target would be to effectively inflate the housing sector again in Q four. But we should be back to square one. So I think they will try as much as possible to use more Australian and other channels to try to prop up the economy so that growth doesn’t follow the cliff.
But they are running out of time and we do hope that they will announce something big in April.
PL: Okay, Tony, final word to you. I know all sorts of things go on on the mainland that perhaps wouldn’t go on elsewhere, but when you see the regulator trying to arm twist companies into buying back their own stock and get public funds to get the market back up, what do you make of that, Peter?
TN: It reminds me of June of 2015, if you remember, when markets on the mainland really fell pretty hard. There is pressure domestically in China for people to buy shares for a patriotic reason. Even within the Chinese bureaucracy. There was pressure for Chinese bureaucrats to buy shares. So I think they’re just doing it out loud now and they’re doing it for the companies themselves. But to me, when I first saw this news, it really was an Echo of June of 2015 when markets fell and there was real pressure on Chinese retail investors to buy the dips and to support the market. And a lot of them lost. I knew people there who lost 2030, 40% of their wealth because they were buying patriotically.
PL: Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s a fair warning. Thanks very much. That’s Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence. Dickie Wong, head of research at Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova, senior Asia economist at UBP. You’re listening to Money Talk on RTHK Radio Three. Let’s take a final look at the markets for today. In Australia, the SX 200 up zero 2%, the Nico two five in Japan rallying as well, up zero 8%. The Cosby is up. A third of the cent in South Korea does look like, though the hangsting is going to fall slightly, about 50 points or so at the Open later on this morning. Thank you very much for listening this morning. Please join me again for the final time this week in a holiday shortened week at 08:00 tomorrow. Stay tuned for covered updates after the news with Jim Gold and Anna Fenton. The weather forecast, mainly cloudy, few showers going to be hot with sunny intervals during the day. Maximum temperature of 29 degrees, mainly fine and hot during the day tomorrow. And on Friday, the temperature right now 25 degrees, 82%. Relative humidity 32 here’s Andy Shawski with the half hour news.
AS: Thank you, Peter. The head of the Government’s policy innovation and coordination office says the authorities have expanded it’s $10,000 subsidy for people who have recently lost their jobs Due to covet. Officials say they have received 470,000 applications for the subsidy. In February. They expected only 300,000 Would apply. Doris Hoe said that’s because more people have lost their jobs.
DH: This is partly because more people were out of employment in March When the unemployment situation was in February and partly because we expanded our scheme subsequently to cover employees working in closed app premises such as affinity centers and beauty salons and who were forced out of work about their employers.
AS: Medical Association President Choi keen says the government initiative giving private doctors access to oralcobid drugs will definitely be effective in preventing severe cobalt infections. Authorities on Monday said that private doctors could request antivirals through a dedicated electronic platform. Doctor choice said this is a sensible arrangement.
DH: The patients usually see the GP first before they go to the emergency Department before they get very ill, so it’s the first stage that the antivirus are infected. So if they are seen at the first stage and given the medication, they will not proceed to a very ill stage so it is effective and useful.
AS: Police in New York are searching for a man who shot ten people at a Brooklyn subway station during the morning rush hour. Six others were also hurt, Mostly through smoke inhalation. None of the injuries are life threatening. The New York city police Commissioner, Ketchen Sewell, gave details of the incident just before 824 this morning.
KS: As a Manhattan bound and train waited to enter the 36th street station, an individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask. He then took a canister out of his bag and opened it. The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire, Striking multiple people on the subway and in the platform. He is being reported as a male black, approximately 5ft five inches tall with a heavy build.
AS: The city of Guangzhou has reported 13 new COVID cases. Health officials in the city say the new infections were linked to previous cases, but they warned that transmissions might have been taking place for some time before the new cases were found. And the next few days will be critical. To contain the outbreak, local authorities have been conducting mass testing to screen out patients primary and secondary schools of suspended face to face class.