This podcast first appeared and was originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/us-federal-reserve-interest-rates-hike on July 7, 2022.
Despite weaker economic data, will the Federal Reserve continue their hawkish stance? Do the FOMC minutes offer any hints of their stance? Our CEO and founder, Tony Nash tells us whilst telling us the impact of rising rates on the banking and property sector.
WSN: BFM 89.9. You’re listening to the morning run is seven o’ 7, Thursday, the 7th of July there and keeping you company till 10:00 a.m. Is Shazana Mokda in an undisclosed location far, far away. And I’m Wong shining in the studio now in half an hour, we’re speaking to Manpreet Gill on fixed income and commodity the investment strategy for 2022. But let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
SM: So if you take a look over in the US, markets actually closed up despite Fed meeting minutes coming out signaling a more hawkish stance. The Dow was up 0.2%, the SP 500 and the Nasdaq was also up 0.4%. Looking over in Asia though, it’s mostly red. No, it’s all red really. The Naked and Hansi were both down 1.2%, the STI was down marginally by 0.01%, and the Shanghai Composite and FBM KLCI were both down 1.4%.
WSN: So for more on where international markets are hitting, we have on the line with us Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Now so far the economic data coming out of the US shows a slight deceleration of the economy. So do you think that the Fed will then hold back on their hawkish pace of rate hikes despite June’s FYMC minutes indicating that they intend to keep raising rates?
TN: I think they’re definitely going to keep raising rates, I think until we see a marked slowdown in particularly commodity price inflation, but also other things like wage inflation. I think they’re going to keep accelerating. So it’s unlikely they’ll continue with a 75 basis point hike, but they will almost certainly have a 50 basis point hike and continue for the next couple of meetings at least.
WSN: I have another question though, Tony, in that when do you think interest rates will peak or when is the peak of the tightening cycle? Will it be early 2023 or you’re looking maybe later in 2023.
TN: Well, some people are saying that it’s possible they continue to hike until the end of the year, and then in 23 they have some rate cuts similar to what happened in the early 90s. That’s possible. I think it all depends on where the economy is at the time. But I think for now they’re just worried about inflation and the downsides of inflation and they’re looking at asset prices and where asset prices are, and it’s really troubling for them given yeah, the economy has definitely slowed down, but we still have wages rising, we still have very high commodity prices, and we also have an appreciating dollar at the same time. So anything imported should be cheaper on a relative basis, but those prices keep going up as well. So Fed continues to be worried, although they’re getting pressure from the outside because it is an election year and the party in power does not want there to be a recession going into the election. And so they’re getting huge pressure from the treasury and from other people to moderate their stance so that there is not a recession going into the election.
SM: Well, what do you think then, Tony? We know that economists at Goldman Sachs have put the risk of a recessionary slump in the US. In the next year at 30%. So they’re still looking at next year. Some consumers feel it’s already here, I guess. Where are you standing in this debate?
TN: Yeah, I think we have unemployment still falling in the US. So you don’t usually have a recession at a time when unemployment is still falling. We also have high inflation. So on a real GDP basis, you may have a negative real GDP number. Well, you have a positive nominal GDP number. And I know that’s a little bit confusing, but what that basically means is that the rate of inflation pulls the economic growth into a negative number simply because of inflation. So we’re in a place where it’s kind of hard to identify a recession because of the real and nominal difference. But when we still have jobs growing, when we still have investments and other things happening, it’s really hard for us to hand on heart say that we are in or entering a recession.
WSN: Okay, let’s get into the weeds then, with regards to the recent set rate hikes and how that might play out in certain sectors. And I want to look at the US. Banks. So how do you think they perform this quarter? Are you a bull or bear?
TN: Well, it’s a tough time for banks. They had mixed results in Q2, and I think higher interest rates obviously help their net interest margin. But borrowing cools off, and it’s things like mortgages. Other things have cooled off dramatically over the last same month or so. Banks will likely have a very tough Q3, and then when things stabilize, they’ll be better. But I think Q3 is going to be rough for them. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily bearish on banks, but I would say I’m neutral on banks.
WSN: What about the property sector, Tony? I mean, we’ve heard, of course, a few months ago that whatever you put up in the market, it gets snapped up within the day. But is that trend continuing? Are you a bull or bear for property?
TN: You know what? It depends on where you are in the US. Where I am in Texas, things are really strong. But a lot of other places in the US. Things have slowed down dramatically, and mortgage applications nationally have come to a standstill as interest rates have risen. So I think a couple of weeks ago we may have talked about how a house that was purchased in January, the median price house purchased in January, if it were purchased today, it would cost $800 a month extra. And so the interest rates just had a dramatic impact on house prices. So mortgages have really slowed down.
SM: And can we turn to oil, Tony, because oil prices have dropped below $100 per barrel for West Texas. Does this level accurately reflect supply and demand for crude? And does this then invalidate the bullish forecast of $150 and above that analysts were predicting not too long ago?
TN: Yeah, I think we’re in a really strange place for oil right now. And if you look at the later months of crude oil futures that are being traded, they’re actually trading higher than the current month. So there’s something happening in the current month, like maybe somebody’s books blown up or something. But there’s something happening in the July future that rolls off in a couple of weeks. And I expect that we’ll see higher crude prices going into August and the rest of Q three, early Q four. So it’s going to be pretty choppy for the next few months in energy and commodities generally.
WSN: One last question for me, and it’s more long term economic question, and that’s about Biden’s infrastructure bill that was passed in November last year, but it’s gone really silent. Do you know what’s happening on that front?
TN: Nobody does. There’s been very little news about it. What’s happened partly is inflation has taken a bite out of it and it’s really caused a lot of projects to stall. So the problem with federal appropriations is the longer the money sits, the less money that gets spent, which is good for taxpayers. Right, but I think inflation is really forcing local and state governments to pause on their investment plans because they do have budget, but they don’t have enough budget to get the projects done that they want. So can they appropriate can the US. Congress appropriate more for the next fiscal year? It’s possible. It depends on who’s in power. So if the Republicans come into power in November, then they may not raise the appropriations level and we’ll be stuck with the level that we have, which it’s $500 billion, a massive amount of money. I don’t want anybody to mislead anybody, but the Democrats will likely want to raise that level if they remain in power after the November election. But to date, not a lot has happened. There has not been a lot of movements. We haven’t seen a lot of major announcements of new projects, these sorts of things.
And if it was successful, we would see a lot of major announcements of new projects.
WSN: All right, thank you for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his views on global markets, in particular the US. And whether the Fed will continue to raise rates until 2023. He says maybe, and then maybe they might even cut rates like they did in $2,000.
SM: That’s right. I guess one thing to note is the question is whether we’re going to see a recession sooner rather than later. Yeah, and Tony did point out the fact that labor unemployment is still at really low levels. Unemployment is decreasing so that’s really at odds with a recession and that’s what everyone is looking to see. I think if we start to see unemployment go up, that heralds that a recession is either here or coming.
WSN: I suppose we are living in really weird economic times. None of the normal correlations that we see are making any sense. I think that’s a lot to do with the fact that during COVID-19, governments basically just took the let’s do whatever it takes attitude. There was so much money pumping into the system by every major central bank and the recession was extremely V shaped, sharp recovery. But then that also caused supply chain disruptions and we had the war in Ukraine. It was like the perfect storm of Black Swan events which has resulted in this current situation that we are in now. Very quickly, we’re looking at the Fed minutes that just came out now. Indications are that they are signaling another rate increase of between 50 to 75 basis points lightly in the July meeting. And this is the interesting part, they are willing to accept the price of a slower economy in order to tame inflation.
SM: And this is sort of a change from their soft landing rhetoric, right? So earlier they were trying to say oh, it’s not inevitable that there will be a recession, we can still avoid it, we want to get that sweet spot. But I think now they’re trying to navigate those expectations to go like hey, I think we need to kind of expect pain. There is going to be pain, but it’s better to have this short pay now rather than long term pain later. So I think the Fed is really trying it’s got itself in a pickle essentially in terms of trying to prime expectations of the public.
WSN: I think that’s on the back of the fact that they spend the whole of 2021 telling everyone that inflation is transitory, hey, no problem. And it didn’t turn out to be transitory, so there’s a need to rebuild back that credibility. But up next we’ll be speaking to Carmelo for little on malicious overnight policy rate. Stay tuned for that.