Complete Intelligence


Has US Inflation Peaked?

US inflation in March has stampeded to a 41-year high, though there are signs of moderation, leading market commentators to wonder if the peak has been reached. Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence, discusses.

US inflation in March has stampeded to a 41-year high, though there are signs of moderation, leading market commentators to wonder if the peak has been reached. Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence, discusses. 

This podcast first appeared and originally published at on April 14, 2022.

Show Notes

SM: BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You are listening to the Morning Run. It’s 705:00 A.m. On Thursday the 14 April. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Khoo Hsu Chuang.

I looked at you Khoo Hsu Chuang. I was going to say Khoo Hsu Chuang, but suddenly what came up with Wong Shou Ning.

KHC: I must be pretty and have long hair.

SM: You so super punch and Lee. We are the Morning Run, of course.

First, as we always do. Let’s recap how global markets closed overnight.

TCL: Lovely shade of green in US, doll up 1%. Snp 500 at 1.1%. Nested up 2%. Asian markets, Nikay up 1.9%. Hong Kong up 3%. Shanghai Composite down. However, zero. 8%. Sti up zero. 4%. Fbm KLCI up marginally at zero. 5%.

SM: All right. For analysis on what’s moving markets.

We speak to Tony Nash. CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Thanks for joining us. Can I get a quick reaction from you on the lovely shade of green that US markets are at the moment? They rebounded after a three day decline. Is this a dead cat bounce or are markets expecting good corporate results season?

TN: I don’t think they’re expecting a good corporate results season. I think investors are looking at aggressive Chinese stimulus coming in the next few weeks, and I think there is some expectation that inflation may have peaked. There are several people in the US saying that last month was the peak of inflation. That remains to be seen. But I think on those two notes, people are finding optimism in markets.

TCL: Yeah, because the March data came out last night, although they hit a 41 year high. Tony, as you say, cost API, moderated, used car prices moderated. What is your sense of inflation and how are you advising investors?

TN: Well, used cars were still up 35% year on year, so it did moderate, but those are eye watering numbers. So I think the pace of inflation may slow, the rate of rise in inflation may slow, but I don’t necessarily think it’s possible. But I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see year on year figures slow down dramatically, say over the next month or two. So while we may or may not have seen the peak, I feel like it will be within the next couple of months. Now, all of this depends on the supply issues as well. So if China continues to close ports, if oil and gas issues continue, say with the Russian Ukraine war, other things, most of this inflation is supply driven. It’s not demand driven. So if we don’t see things on the supply ease up, then we’re not going to see much ease in inflation figures. So why are used cars up 35%? Well, we don’t have new chips coming out of factories in China, so we can’t have new cars. So there’s more pressure on the used car market. I’m sure you’re seeing the same emulation.

TCL: Yeah. So, Tony, just a couple more of your points of view on this? Some people are saying that the demand is moderating as well, and that’s because of high prices. And as they say, the solution to high prices is high prices. What’s your sense of that?

TN: Well, there’s that. But also and we’ve been talking about for months with our clients, the Fed is focused on demand destruction as a way to cure supply side inflation. So the 50 basis point hike in May is all but certain to happen, and the 50 basis point hike in June is very likely to happen. So the Fed is trying as hard as it can to kill demand so that the supply side constraints are not as acute as they have been.

TCL: Tony, I’m going to shift your attention to yield a little bit. So typically, the ten year Chinese Treasury about 23% higher than US Treasury, but both have converged this week. So how is this affecting investors decision making, and this is nothing of a concern?

TN: Yeah, it should be a real concern for the PPOC, because what that means is that investment that could go to China will go elsewhere. US is considered a safer market. So if Chinese bonds aren’t getting the yield that they had been and there has been a premium there for quite some time, they really have to worry about an exodus of investment from China. So the PPLC is in a very difficult place right now because they’re looking at their bond yields decline, but they’re also looking at hefty inflation. And they need a heavy stimulus for both the slowdown of their economy and for the big national meeting they have coming up in the fourth quarter. So they’re in a very difficult position. I don’t envy them. What will likely happen with the PPOC is they will stimulate heavily, but the national accounts will likely absorb a fair bit of the commodity price inflation. So that primary inflation. I wouldn’t say all of it, but a decent portion of it will be absorbed by national accounts so that the CPI doesn’t get hit in a big way.

SM: And, Tony, overnight we saw JPMorgan report results which were below street expectations with the loss of $524,000,000 tied to Russia. They also set aside a $902,000,000 net reserve, which is the first since 2020. Do you expect other banks that are reporting over the next few days to also report similar disappointing numbers?

TN: Oh, yeah. I mean, look, JPMorgan’s income is down 46%, right? So there is always whether they had exposure to Russia or not, they will blame Russia for their poor results in Q One. And so Jamie Dimon said that they didn’t have much direct exposure to Russia, which is a way of saying that this Russia excuse is not really the reason why they’re reporting these poor numbers. Okay. So I think going forward, they’ll have written this down in Q One. They are, as you said, putting $900 million toward potential bad loans. If you remember at this point in, say, 2007, people were assuming that the maximum exposure to bad loans was a fraction of what it ultimately ended up being. So JPMorgan is putting 900 million, but it could be a multiple of that given interest rate rises and the rate of, say, mortgage rate rises in the US. So the pressure right now is on renters. The average American has $1,000 in savings, so renters will really start feeling the pinch. And with that, you could see defaults on consumer credit and in other areas.

TCL: Yes. Tony, you sort of quite cautionary on the upcoming earning season. Can you expand on that, please?

TN: Yeah. The free money is over, right? I mean, the free money from 2000 and 22,021 is over. It’s been spent. And so we have an environment of rising costs, both wages and let’s say commodities and goods. So all three of those are rising. You have companies and individuals without stimulus and banks and other firms have to make a profit. So Q One was really the first quarter where a lot of the stimulus payments from 21 were done. And I think it’ll get worse in Q Two. We really have to see what happens in markets and with the global economy. But I don’t think earnings really look good for Q One or Q Two. I think the earnings estimate according to I can’t remember who did this, but they estimated earnings to be down 12% across the board. So it’s not looking good in general.

TCL: Yeah. So who are the winners and losers in the first quarter? Tony, what’s your sense?

TN: Well, you look at, say, low to middle end retailers like Walmart. Walmart has been on a tear over the past few weeks. So I think people are looking at recession type of stocks. When people downgrade, what do they spend money on? So those are the types of stocks that people are looking at. I think also, as I said earlier, there are a lot of expectations of spending in China. So a lot of Americans are looking at Chinese equity names and some Chinese funds in expectation of central government spending in China. Aside from that valuations are incredibly stretched, really stretched. And so I think it’s going to be hard for people to find deals in this market.

SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us.

That was Tony Nash. CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on some of the trends that he sees moving markets, putting a rather cautionary note on earning season. He doesn’t think that we’re going to see those stellar results that we saw in the last quarter. It’s going to be more muted going forward given the environment that we’re in of higher interest rates.

TCL: The key takeaway $1,000 is what the average American household has in savings. That is not a lot. And those households are going to be hit because the party is over. The free money is gone through the first quarter. You see these results being manifested then you’ve got the Ukraine issue. 50 basis points in may, 50 basis points in June just to try and at least try and normalize rate. Expect to rent around about 1%. Normal is about 2%. I don’t think the fed might get there then. After that, if they over correct and demand disruption happens is the fed wants does the fed then start to cut again? Jaypower is in a tough place right now.

SM: Indeed he is. Now let’s take a look at some of the results. Yes, we have JPMorgan results in front of us tied to what we were speaking to Tony about earlier. Jpmorgan chase said that its first quarter profit fell sharply from a year earlier driven by increased costs for bad loans and market upheaval caused by the Ukraine war. Adjusted earnings was at two point 76 a share versus the two point $0.69 expected by street analysts while revenue was at around $32 billion versus $30.8 billion estimated.

TCL: And JPMorgan said it took a $900 million charge for building credit reserve for anticipated loan losses which Tony also mentioned briefly just now because they’re thinking that with the inflation situation going on it could have a lot more bad loans but Tony also mentioned it could be way more than this. We don’t know what’s the real number yet, right?

SM: I’m curious to see whether this will be replicated across other banks as well. Something to watch as earnings season unfold. Stay tuned to BFM 89.9%.