Tony Nash speaks with the BFM team in Malaysia to explain what’s going on in the US markets and economy after the FOMC announcement. What it means for gold and other assets, if businesses actually spend the excess cash for capital reinvestment, how this adds to wealth inequality in America, and how do tech stocks and traditional stocks compare?
In the US, the FOMC left interest rates unchanged, pledging to continue with their quantitative easing till 2022, indicating that America’s markets will continue soaring on the back of this wall of cheap liquidity.
Tony Nash, the CEO of Complete Intelligence in Texas, discusses the implications of what commentators are calling the Fed’s ‘yield curve control’ policy.
Produced by: Michael Gong
Presented by: Roshan Kanesan, Noelle Lim, Khoo Hsu Chuang
Listen to this podcast in BFM: The Business Station.
BFM: Let’s talk about the markets in the U.S. Markets whipsawed as all attention was on the FOMC meeting. The Dow closed down one percent. The S&P 500 closed down 0.5 percent. But the Nasdaq closed up in the green. 0.7 percent. What about Asia? Asia was rather mixed. The Shanghai Composite ended down 0.4 percent. The Hang Seng was marginally down by 0.03 percent. The Nikkei 225, I think they closed up about 0.2 percent. And FBM was up 0.01 percent. Just barely in the green — 0.01 percent. Now for more on global markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, are you down the line with us?
TN: Yes, sir. Morning.
BFM: Good morning to you. Now, the FOMC left interest rates unchanged of the meeting, pledging to continue with quantitative easing till 2022. What does this tell you about the state of the economy there?
TN: The Fed is really just trying to create stability. We see them, like you said, the next three years, they’ll keep them the same. We think that they’ll just reinforce some of the policies they’ve already put in place. One of the areas we see them focusing on is on yield curve control, although that’s not explicit. We really see that as an area that they’re moving in to encourage capital investment.
We’ve really seen capital investment fall here in the States, especially since the COVID time. Oil and gas companies have trimmed billions of dollars of capital investment, for example. So if they can have low-cost borrowing through a yield curve control, it could help that.
BFM: What are the implications of doing this? Yield curve control that, for example, on gold?
TN: The environment generally with both QE, which is meant to provide liquidity, and yield curve control, which is meant to provide low interest rates, what that does is it really pushes the Dollar down. Although it’s not perfectly inverse, there is generally inverse relationship between the Dollar and gold. So if it’s intended to push the value of the Dollar down, one would expect gold to rise.
BFM: Tony, yield curve control can also be called money printing, which has been happening for the last ten, twelve years from an evidence shil standpoint. Have corporations actually spend some of that excess cash on capital reinvestment or have they done it in terms of paying dividends to themselves and their shareholders or even worse, share buybacks?
TN: Mostly share buybacks. But share buybacks and dividends, one can argue are similar. It’s just a different form of paying back shareholders. So share buybacks have really been made to be evil over the last, say, five, 10 years or something. But it’s really similar to a dividend that it brings value to the investors themselves. So is it a good thing? I don’t necessarily think so, but it is just one form of getting money back to investors.
It’s not necessarily helping capital investment. It hasn’t necessarily helped capital investment. And so, you know, looking at things like yield curve control, what we’ve seen is a lot of QE, but we haven’t seen as much yield curve control. So yield curve control could be one way to provide more incentive for capex.
BFM: Well, that hasn’t happened clearly. And to what extent do you think that that policy has exacerbated the wealth inequality in the country, in the United States, which some say has manifested themselves in some of these demonstrations you see all over the country?
TN: That’s a very complicated question. And we can spend a lot of time on it. So I think whether a yield curve control has done that, I can’t necessarily argue for or against it. Has QE done that? Oh, surely. I mean, QE has definitely contributed to inequality. It’s definitely contributed more to capital concentration itself than overall inequality. Capital is concentrated with the investment class rather than, say, the working class. Although that sounds very Marxist and it didn’t really mean it to sound that way, but it’s really helped to concentrate capital.
BFM: Well, let’s take a look at last night. The U.S. markets were mixed overnight. Is this a reality check that the recovery may not be as soon or as sharp as anticipated by investors?
TN: The kind of the relief rally we’ve seen over the past few weeks has really been one of really just excitement that COVID is ending and really hopeful that things will open, as well as recognition of the Fed’s activity and the Treasury’s activity of getting trillions of dollars into the economy. As investors realize how slow those openings are going to be and the impact that it will have on Q2 earnings, but potentially Q3 earnings. I think we’ll see some of this enthusiasm fall away. So markets are trying to find that level. What is that level? And because there is so much uncertainty, we don’t really know that level. This is why we’ve expected volatility through Q2 and into Q3 until there’s more clarity about the pace of opening, how that will affect different industries, and the severity of, say, a second wave. And to be honest, whether people really care about the second wave.
BFM: Well, NASDAQ has passed ten thousand and valuation is at the highest in the last 15 years. Where do you think tech stocks will go from here?
TN: It really all depends on how companies focus on things like productivity. If we continue to see layoffs and unemployment, companies may decide to invest in technology. We may see some real broad-based investment in productivity like we did twenty five to 20 years ago when companies really started to invest in computing and Internet and all these other productivity shows, it’s quite possible that we see that across large companies.
It’s really questionable. Have we expanded valuations as far as we can or is there further expansion there?
BFM: Just following up on that. We’ve seen the market recover in the U.S., but there’s definitely a divergence between how the tech stocks have performed and how the larger S&P 500 has performed. Do you think there’s a lot more room for tech stock? Do you think these two indexes will actually going to diverge at this point?
TN: We may see a little bit of divergence, but I don’t see that much divergence. I think there is a lot of synchronization within those indexes. We may see a bit like we saw today, but I don’t think that will continue in a massive way.
BFM: So when you mean synchronicity, you mean that they will track each other in a parallel? But there is a gap between something like the NY Fang index and the S&P in general. Is that due to the S&P just being weighted down by other classes of assets there?
TN: Sure, yeah. It’s looking at traditional businesses that have physical assets and a lot of legacy employees and retirement commitments. These sorts of things really weight down old traditional businesses. The Fang’s, for example, they don’t have a huge retirement commitments than, say, a large manufacturer that’s maybe a 100 years old has. As those things play through and this really has to do with the aging of baby boomers, really. Those retirement commitments will age with them and then they’ll phase out eventually.
But a lot of this is around again, those companies are not as efficient as they could be. And until they get to a level of efficiency that they need, we’re gonna see a drag on their earnings. So, of course, with guys like the Fang’s, since they have kind of virtual software related businesses, they will have valuations that are much more generous than traditional, say S&P 500 businesses.
BFM: All right, Tony. Thank you so much for your time this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence.
I think just ending that point is how this divergence between traditional industries and tech industries had been even more highlighted by what we’ve seen.
Yeah, I think that’s really quite concerning because the alternative point of view is that of the Fed’s money printing policy, which has really accelerated exponentially the last three months. There really is no indication from Trump, from Jay Powell, that he has an exit strategy in mind or has any exit strategy at all. Because how do you unwind this much? You basically dopamine the markets without having some kind of pain. It’s very clear, I mean, even though he was quite tempered in his response, this inequality has been really exec-abated for the last 10 years.