The VIX or the “fear gauge” has been trading sideways but what does it indicate about equity market expectation? And US home sales in April fell to their lowest in 9 years, brought down by rising mortgage rates but how adversely will this impact the property and construction sector? Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence tells us more.
SM: Bfm 89 Nine. Good morning. You are listening to the morning run at on Thursday the 26th May. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Khoo Hsu Chuang and Tan Chen Li. First, let’s recap how global markets closed overnight in the US.
KHC: Doll up zero 6%. Smp 500 up 1%. Nasdaq up 1.5%. Asian markets. Nikay down .3% Hong Kong’s up 3%. Shanghai Composite up 1.2%. Sti down .5% FBN KLCI up zero 3%.
SM: So for some thoughts on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Let’s get some reactions on US markets overnight. They interpreted the latest Fed meetings pretty favorably. It seems the US stocks all inched upwards. What did they find reassuring about the Fed’s policy direction?
TN: I think they were just looking for some direction that things weren’t going to be worse than the guidance that they received previously because commodity prices haven’t stopped rising necessarily. And so I think people were afraid that the Fed might accelerate their plan to stop inflation and just a little bit of a nudge that they probably weren’t going to do that and they were going to remain flexible, probably help things out after hours. You had Nvidia report, which was really disappointing. And so the Nasdaq futures are down pretty far right now. So although we had a good trading today, things are looking a little bit pessimistic for tomorrow based on some earnings.
TCL: Yeah. So the Fed translators have a TLDR conclusion on the Fed minutes yesterday. We have it at three more basis, 50 basis points hikes, and then an indefinite pause. Tony, what do you think about that translation?
TN: So I think what they’re saying is where investors are seeing say for the next six months that things will be pretty stable. They can Bake in the 250 basis point rises, and from there it’s pretty easy to calculate how much tolerance you have. The other factor to think through is how much the Fed will tighten for the next six months. And that’s already baked in how much they’re tightening their balance sheet. And I think that’s $23 billion a month, or 32. I can’t remember the number exactly, but it’s a stable number, and that’s really unlikely to accelerate.
TCL: Tony, does it set the stage for a second half risk rally?
TN: Yeah, it possibly could because it’s campaign season and nobody really wants to be tightening going into a campaign. So it’s possible. There’s a lot of talk about recession, and if there is a recession, we’re already in the middle of it. So there’s no sense kind of worrying about it because it’s already here. If that’s the case, we already had a first quarter contraction in US GDP. If we have a second quarter, we’re already halfway through that anyway, almost so or two thirds of the way through that. So it doesn’t really matter that much. And I think people are starting to look at that in a different light.
KHC: The CTO volatility index or the fear gauge has been moving sideways between 25 and 35 over the last month. What would that trading pattern indicate about equity market expectations?
TN: Yes. So the VIX really is it measures volatility of SMP 500 options over the next 30 days. And so it tells me that there is, I would say heightened sensitivity or elevated volatility expected. But I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s extreme. So it doesn’t appear that people are looking for some sort of extreme, say May or April 2020 type of event. So people are worried about further falls in equities for their pullbacks in equities. But I don’t necessarily based on what we’re seeing in the VIX, not necessarily seeing people expect things to fall off a cliff.
SM: And I think looking at how the rise in interest rates, what kind of impact has been having so far, we may be seeing that in US home sales because in April it fell to their lowest in nine years. But what other headwinds do you see facing the US housing market and how do you think it’s going to impact property and the construction sector moving forward?
TN: Yes. People in the US talked about supply like there’s a short supply on the market or not enough supply. In May, we actually went up to nine months of housing supply on the market. What that means is the number of, say, homes that are on the market, given the current pace of buying, would last for nine months. Of course, there is short supply in some markets, but in general, there seems to be across the US at least ample supply. So people are going to pull in their expectations for price given that interest rates have risen. But if they continue to rise, they’ll want to rush their purchases forward, which is possibly what we’ll see, especially over the next 30 days or so, because people always want to save a little bit more on the interest rate. So I don’t see a lot unless we start seeing mass layoff events or something like that. I’m not sure how much of this you see Malaysia, but we did see a lot of all cash buyers for houses in the US. And what’s been happening there is people will take out a loan, a cash loan against their equity portfolio.
TN: We will definitely see that stop because equities are not as relevant as they were 60, 90 days ago. There have been some calls on those loans and so some of those transactions have had to stop. So I think that’s what’s led part of what’s led to a little bit more supply on the market and may slow down some of the purchase transactions.
TCL: Yeah. Tony is still on properties. I think I read somewhere that the median home price in America across the whole country is somewhere around either 349,000, $391,000 per house, which is the highest it’s ever been in a number of years. Do you see that house inflation continuing to creep upwards, or do you think it’s kind of like peaks off and it’s going to taper off?
TN: I think we do have a lot of new houses under construction, so I don’t necessarily think we’ll see that continue to rise at the rate that we’ve seen. If we do, we’ll continue for a period, maybe six to twelve months or something. But I don’t necessarily see house prices continue to rise, especially with interest rates rising. If we had kept interest rates where they were, then sure, we’d continue to see house prices rise at that rate, but because they’re pulling that lever, I think they’re going to let it sit, of course, as Palo said, for a period of time. But if house prices continue to rise in an uncontrolled way, I think they’ll come back in and intervene with interest rates.
KHC: And with India now restricting sugar exports and Malaysia doing the same with chicken, where is the trend towards food protectionism headed, and are we looking at a global food crisis?
TN: Yeah, I think your last question first. Yeah, I think we are definitely looking at a global food crisis. Well, maybe not global a regional food crisis in certain regions. Of course, there have been protests in Iran, supposedly over food prices. We’ve seen issues in Sri Lanka, of course, places like Egypt, different countries. There are problems. But I think some of this is related to Ukraine’s inability to export Ukraine and Russia’s inability to export some of their goods. And yeah, some of it’s protectionist with sugar in India and other things. But I think the countries that are holding back exports are more focused on providing for their citizens, and I think they’re trying to visually make sure that their citizens see that as a priority. So the citizens aren’t protesting and upset. And if we look at what’s happening in Pakistan right now, so citizens aren’t protesting and upset. So the political leadership is actually seen to be doing something to hold some food back for their clients or their citizens as a hedge against inflation. So I think part of it is political. I know it’s a little bit protectionist, but I think it’s more just being very careful about being prudent for their citizens.
SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking to us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, weighing in on some of the trends that he sees moving markets, commenting on, I suppose his outlook for the housing sector in the US, which has taken a different trajectory from Malaysia, which are housing hasn’t really gone anywhere for the past two, three years, six years, actually.
TCL: Yeah. In fact, since 2014. But I just checked some of the data from America, the Fred statistics from the St. Louis Fed prices. The median house price in America is $430,000. Of course, median is the middle number between the top and bottom, $430,000 per house in America. That’s average let’s reach out what 1.8 million ring? That’s a lot of money.
SM: That’s inflation for you 717. In the morning we’re heading into some messages. And after that all you should know about green bonds in the region. Stay tuned to BFM 89.9.
SM: BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run. It’s 7:05 A.M. On Thursday, the 31 March, looking rather cloudy outside our Studios this morning. If you’re heading on your way to work, make sure to drive safe. First, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
KHC: US markets down was down. .2% S&P 500 down .6% Nasdaq down 1.2%. Asian markets, Nikkei down zero 8%. Hong Kong’s up 1.4%. Shanghai Composite up 2%. STI up 3%. Fbm KLCI close flat.
SM: So fairly red on the board today. And for some thoughts on where international markets are headed, we have on the line with us, Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Always good to have you. Now markets are speculating that the brief inversion of the two over ten year US Treasury yields this week is a sign of an oncoming recession. So do you agree with this? And if not, what might explain these brief periods of inverting or inversion?
TN: It could be a sign. Shazana, I think we have to see a more consistent and meaningful inversion to say that we’re definitely headed into a recession. So what this means is that what a yield curve inversion means is that people have to pay more for shorter duration money. So right now, if you look at, say, the five year treasury, the yield is 2.4% and the ten year is around two point 35%. So it’s cheaper to borrow longer term money, which is really weird. It could have a lot of reasons. Maybe companies need money more. They’re short on cash and they’re more willing to pay for it. So that would be a sign of a recession. So if we see a more consistent yield driven version, we see the two and the five years continue to be higher rates, then we need to be more concerned. For now, there’s a lot of speculation, but we just don’t necessarily see the certainty of it yet.
TCL: Tony, markets are wondering whether the Fed is going to push ahead with this rate policy on tightening because this volatility both in share markets and bond markets is a bit muddling for the analysts and the fund managers to make sense of. What’s your point of view?
TN: Yeah, I think at least for the last few months the Fed has been fairly consistent. But of course, we’ve had exogenous type of events, the war between Russia and Ukraine being the biggest, and that has had an impact on raw materials costs. So food in the case of Ukraine with wheat and sunflower oil and all this other stuff and energy with Russia. So it doesn’t matter what a central bank does necessarily. They can’t push down the price of oil through monetary policy. What they can do is demand destruction. And this is why we think that they’re going to lead with some fairly sizable 50 basis point rises, say in May for sure, and possibly in June. I don’t know if you saw that today. JPmorgan was out with a note saying that there will be 50 basis point rises in both May and June, which would be a pretty sharp rise in interest rates. The good news is we see a sharp rise initially, but then they’ll only do that for a short period of time to cut off demand pretty quickly and hopefully cut down on some of the demand for petrol and oil and some of these other materials.
TCL: Okay. So your sense is that the Fed and JPowell will stay the cost and increase rates, but what’s happening in Japan is quite the opposite. They’re actually showing quite discernible decoupling because they’re staying with zero interest rates. I think the ten year yield on the JGBs is about zero point 25%. What does that spell? Because the Japanese yen is now down at a six minute seven year low. Obviously, there’s a big sense of what’s going on here. What’s your point of view?
TN: J I think yesterday announced that they would have unlimited purchases of Japanese government bonds. So what they’re doing through that is it’s an open door for them to insert currency. It’s kind of a backdoor to growing their money supply, which leads to evaluation of the yen. And so Japan is in a place right now where they want to grow their export sector. They do that through yen evaluation. The competition between, say, Japan, China, Korea is there. China’s exports keep growing despite a strong Chinese Yuan Japan. There are other central banks. It’s partly that reason, meaning the ECB tightening and the Fed tightening, but it’s also competitiveness of Japan of their exports. So there are a number of reasons at play there.
KHC: So you were saying that earlier that maybe we will see 50 basis points increase in May or June. How do you think the share prices of US banks and financial institutions typically would do in this kind of environment, and would they be ultimate winners?
TN: They could be, I guess the only dilemma there would be the impact on mortgage. So if the Fed raises rates really quickly and it has an impact on mortgage demand and mortgage defaults, then that could be a real problem for banks. But short of that, I think they’re probably in a decent place to do fairly well. Of course, that’s company specific and all that sort of thing. But I think financial services in general should do fairly well on a relative basis.
TCL: Yeah. Tony, if it goes ahead as follows. Right. And Japan does not increase rates like the US is, it just extends its debt to GDP ratio. I think Japan is now 255% to GDP. I think the US is well above 100%. That’s quite disconcerting. What happens? How does it all end? Because it’s quite clear that Japan cannot raise rates because it just cannot fall into recession.
TN: Well, the problem with Japan raising rates is their population. And you all know this story, but they can’t necessarily raise productivity without automation. So they have to automate to be able to raise their productivity, to be able to raise their rate of growth. So that’s the foundational problem Japan have now with the BOJ buying with their JGB purchases, they’re actually buying the debt that the Japanese Treasury creates. Okay. So it’s this circular environment where the Japanese Treasury is creating debt to fund their government, and the BOJ is buying that debt basically out of thin air. They’re retiring. Okay. So Japan is in a really strange situation where it’s creating debt and then it’s buying it and retiring it. And this is a little bit of modern monetary theory, which is a long, long discussion. But Japan is in a very strange place right now.
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 are moving markets at the moment. And in the conversation there with a look at Japan and just the curious situation that it finds itself in amid all these economic and geopolitical pressures happening in the world.
TCL: Yeah, it’s really weird, right? The Japanese are so much in debt and they can’t get out of it. They’re creating these debts and they’re buying back this debt. It’s quite insane. But America does the same thing with their bond buying program until this year. Right. And that they haven’t even significantly cut that program. It’s really weird because what happens then for the US dollar? What happens to the Japanese yen down the line when your paper currency is near as meaningless? Right. It’s not banked by anything. It’s just being printed every day Willy nilly. It’s really weird.
SM: So all eyes are, of course, on the Fed, I guess, the most powerful central bank in the world, and how much it’s going to raise rates when it’s actually going to start or stop its QE in since quantitative easing, opposite of that. Somebody tell me what it means. Qt. There we go. And when they start reducing, that’s something that everyone’s watching very closely. Let’s take a look at some of the international headlines that have caught our eye. We see something coming out of Shanghai. Volkswagen said yesterday that it would partly shut down production at its factory in Shanghai because the lack of key components indicating further how a resurgence of the Omikan variant has disrupted the Chinese economy and global supply chains. The Shanghai factory operated in a joint venture with SAIC of China, and it’s one of Volkswagen’s largest facilities. It shut down for two days in mid March, but reopened now. It looks like it’s going to have to shut down again.
KHC: Yes. And the company also gave indication they didn’t give actually any indication on when normal production will resume. But China is booked Vegas largest market in the essential source of sales and profit. So the country is in the midst of the worst outbreak since 2020. And so that should prompt the government to impose lockdowns and restrictions. And even car maker like Tesla is also having a large factory in Shanghai also have to suspend production because of this strict covet policies. And so voice mechanics, they’re actually having a lot of shortages and slowdowns in other markets as well.
SM: So it’s really the twin it’s the twin issues, right? It’s the pandemic on one hand and then it’s also the geopolitical events in Ukraine that’s really affecting it’s, leading to a shortage of auto parts. So all this comes together and it’s not great for car makers in Shanghai at the moment. Turning our attention to another headline, if we look over at Russia, Russia is going to lift the short selling ban on local equities later today. And this is actually removing one of the measures that helped limit the declines in the stock market. After a long, record long shutdown, the bank of Russia also said equities trading hours will be expanded from a shortened four hour session to the regular schedule of 950 to 650 P. M. Moscow time. So I guess they’re trying to get back to normal but how we see that impact the stock market is still, I think, an open question. Yeah.
KHC: And since the stock market has since that stock actually gained 1.7% and the daily move also has been limited. Prior to the resumption of trading, the Russian government actually took measures including preventing foreigners from exiting local equities and banning short selling and to avoid the repeat of 33% slump scene in the first day of the Ukraine invasion last month.
TCL: Yeah, this whole Russia Ukraine invasion is set off a domino effect of domino effect quite catastrophic. Or repercussions manufacturing in capital markets in currencies. How does it all end?
SM: We don’t know. We don’t know the end to that story. And how long 717 in the morning. Stay tuned to BFM 89.9%.
We have the PPI numbers from the US and China recently and we talked about its impact on the inflation, CPI numbers, and whether it’s peaking or not? We also looked at the containership traffic and supply chain changes from China as compared to other locations. And with improvement in global mobility, what does that mean for the oil and energy market? We also discussed volatility and what to expect this week?
This is the seventh episode of The Week Ahead in collaboration of Complete Intelligence with Intelligence Quarterly, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
For those who prefer to listen to this episode, here’s the podcast version for you.
TN: Hi everybody, and welcome to The Week Ahead. Today I’m joined by Tracy Shuchart, Nick Glinsman and Sam Rines. Albert couldn’t join us today, but he will be back. He’s still friends with us. So before we get started, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to our YouTube channel and like this video. That obviously helps us with visibility. It helps you to get alerts when new videos are out. So if you don’t mind, please take care of that now.
So this week we had a lot going on. So we had a very strong PPI print come out. We had Chinese PPI come out. So the US print came out at 9.6% year on year. Chinese PPI came out around actually the same level, 9.1% down from 13%. We had US retail sales search at 3.8%. It was 2.1% was expected, avenues were down on the week, crude was sideways, precious metals were up a bit and the ten year is back below 2%. So what did we say last week?
Well, Sam, last week said that Monday’s Fed meeting was a non-event. Nice job, Sam. Nick said that the Fed wouldn’t fight Volatility. Nice job, Nick. And Tracy two weeks ago, since that was the last time she was with us, said the crude would trade sideways but be pretty volatile, which it has been. So nice job, guys. You nailed that stuff. Right on.
So let’s start with PPIs. So it looks like producer prices are maybe turning over. I don’t know if it’s too early to call that, okay. But based on the Chinese data and the US data, it looks like those PPIs may be turning over a little bit. So what do we think about that? Are we going to see PPIs moderate? First. And what’s the impact on overall inflation, secondary impacts, ultimately CPI and all that stuff? So Sam, do you want to get us started?
SR: Sure, I’ll give a little off. I think China tends to lead in terms of PPI, right. So when you begin to see their PPI go from 13 to nine, give or take a few tenths, that’s a big deal. The second derivative is extremely important when it comes to input costs. We all knew it was supply chain. We all know it’s supply chain. And we all know that the supply chain is not fixed yet. So the pace of that decline is unlikely to continue at 4% month over month or whatever it might be, but it is going to continue to dissipate, at least on the margin, at least call it moderately. That’s important.
That does feed in CPI at some point. And I think one of the interesting points that we talked about last week was housing. And when you begin to see some of these numbers come down on PPI, you begin to get lower input costs to new starts, et cetera. That has a pretty interesting feature effect.
NG: What did you think about the San Francisco Fed paper on the owner’s equivalent rent? Which I thought was reasonably hawkish in terms of having a half percent impact on core CPI.
SR: Oh, if you’re asking me, I thought it could be hawkish to a degree, but at the same time, it was also in my mind a single that was almost a core thing to them. So something that they’re going to cut out.
NG: It does lag, Zillow and apartment list.
SR: Yeah, it always will. Just on a mechanical basis. It’s impossible for the Fed to get a calculation that’s going to keep up with Zillow or any of the other indices. I thought it was almost one of those. It could be really hawkish if they were to incorporate that into their framework. What I would say is it’s more likely that they’ll go in the European direction, which is just cut it out completely in general from their inflation metrics, which is dovish.
TN: Let’s move on this a little bit. Sam, it seems to me that you’re indicating that PPI at least is peaking. Is that fair to say?
SR: It feels that way? Yeah, it feels that way. Okay. It feels that way. It certainly looks that way in China. I could take a month or two to feedback into the US, but I would say it’s peaking.
TN: Okay. Now, Nick, I think you take the other point of view where this is sustainable. I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but is that fair to say?
NG: Well, actually, I think last week I was mentioning that the inflation outlook is going to level off. I mean, I agree with Sam on China PPI leaving us PPI. I was just fascinated by that particular owner’s equivalent rent housing, part of the CPI composition. And actually in Europe they’re looking to introduce it, which was a paper this week, which again would be quite a surprise.
I just look at not just PPI in China as a leader. I think I’ve seen people say it’s sort of three to six months lead time before it impacts the CPI. So we could have to wait a little bit longer to see it come through. But I just think there are other things in the pipeline and we had this discussion today that suggests to me that financial conditions are of their own making beginning to compress, and if the Fed start to do stuff will compress further and that will have a negative impact on liquidity, whether you define that by balance sheet or as we defined it, we had a conversation day reserves, bank reserves, and I think that’s where I see this peak.
don’t know whether we finished, but I think we’re going to Plateau, if not start to turn around. However, it’s where we finish, where the authorities want us to finish 2% above 2%. I’m sure they want some inflation to hit the debt loads, but the question is where do we finish it? And can you fine tune that accurately? Yeah, that’s not an easy thing to do.
TN: So staying on the China PPI issue, I think if we look at, say, container rates from China and even Port backups from China, if we look at the chart that we’re showing now, the dark blue line is container traffic at major ports from China. So it looks like from Ningboy that the container traffic has subsided quite a bit over the past month. And one would think that that would take some pressure off of supply chains. So if you look potentially at PPI peaking and if you look at the kind of order to receive rates of some of these multinational companies, it’s running in about nine months from, say, China, Southeast Asia to the US hit here in six to nine months, or will it hit later?
Are you guys seeing those dynamics in your studies and with your clients? Do you think that the freight delays and the freight out of China is declining? Tracy, what do you see?
TS: Yeah, I mean, I think the data is a little bit skewed because of the Chinese lunar New Year. But that said, if we do see some pressure let off of China, that will eventually show up here, I’ve always said it’s going to be 2023 before we kind of see some supply chain issues ease. Because what I’m looking at in the industries that I particularly look at, which is materials and energy, I mean, that’s still hitting those. In fact, it’s just starting to hit the industry as far as pipes are concerned, in parts of that nature.
So if we do see that subside, it will eventually end up here in the US and North America. But again, it’s going to be on kind of a lag time.
TN: Right. So China started stimulating or easing, say, last month with a small rate cut.
TS: That’s what I was going to ask you about. Tony, you and I have talked about CMY for years now, right. In the past. And so I wonder what your thoughts were with China beginning to simulate how important is that to how important is that that they tackle the appreciating CNY? There are a number of issues.
TN: I think the appreciating CNY is an issue. I think the stimulus is an issue for a number of reasons. So the CNY is important. What they’ve done over the last two years is appreciated the CNY to accumulate commodities as commodity prices rose. They appreciated the CN so they could accumulate copper, so they could accumulate crude oil and food and other things. There was a lot of worry about food security through Cobain in China. And so they accumulated that stuff and they have a lot in storage.
So with all the political events happening this year with the party Congress in November and other things, it’s really important for them to start to stimulate and also to make things easier on exporters. And that’s why it’s important to devalue the currency. It’s a controlled currency. So it is, in fact, a devaluation that they’ll do.
So they have to do value to get those exporters on sites and to start accumulating, say, more dollars than other currencies. And so with that devaluing and the easing will also come fiscal spending as we’ve talked about in Q two and into Q three before that party meeting. So it’s a really important time for China to make their currency cheaper and to get money out into the channel. And the money transmission mechanism in China is a lot more direct than it is in the US. It’s a lot more direct.
So the PPOC says get money out and the banks get money out. It just happens the old school the way it used to in the US. Does that make sense to you all?
TS: Yeah, absolutely.
NG: Nobody does.
TN: Okay. Anything else on China and the impacts of, say, China easing while the ECB and Fed are tightening? Any concerns there.
TS: Does that mean that we see a rotation somewhat into Chinese equities?
TN: I think that’s possible, right. Although there is some currency risk there. I think the growth, the pent up demand and the growth there may be an opportunity. It really depends on Horizons and it’s something we have to watch. But I think it may be an opportunity for some sort of rotation to China. Again, not in the main, but at the edges of a portfolio.
NG: People have been waiting for that for a couple of months and it’s still not happening. So Tensor is now under investigation by the USDR. Evergreen has just been delisted from Hong Kong and I think there was another set of technology restrictions imposed by the CCP. So every time you think this could be the right time bank.
TN: But Chinese technology is for China and it’s not for the US. Necessarily. Most Chinese companies are really focused on the domestic and the regional market, not necessarily on the US.
NG: Understood. The Chinese tech has been a big expression of interest by the West Coast, and that’s where we got to watch.
TN: Okay. And Tracy, you tweeted about global mobility earlier this week, and so we’re showing that tweet now. So I’m curious, what’s your thought on mobility and the impact that will have on global oil demand?
TS: I think that we’re going to see I think as we’re seeing these countries that are slowly lifting demands, especially like Switzerland, that just lifted all their mandates, including if you’re flying to Switzerland, you don’t need a test anymore. You don’t need a backstash. I think that this will be a global trend. Right? It won’t be. Even as we head into summer, which is high season demand for the Northern Hemisphere. Demand is almost at depending on who you ask, it’s almost at 2019 levels, if not above. And so they’re looking at May to August demand increasing by 5 million barrels per day at over 103,000,000 barrels per day. I mean, that’s a lot of increase in demand. And we’re just not seeing supply come online anywhere.
So I definitely think although we’re kind of seeing some consolidation and if we see Russian, Ukraine pensions kind of pull back a little bit or dissipate, then we could see a bigger pull back into say, the mid 80s. But I think we’re still headed for over 100 into the summer just because of literally supply demand fundamentals.
TN: Interesting. Okay. So while we’re on energy, we have a viewer question from Twitter from Clifford Topham. He says following BlackRock’s about turn on fossil fuels in response to Texas potential threat of removing BlackRock from managing state pensions. Is this the start of a change in attitude by Wall Street? So is it the beginning of the end of ESG?
TS: Well, I think Wall Street is about greed. Right? We all watch the movie. That’s where the money is. So what I think is going to happen is we’ll still see these smaller banks and the smaller insurance companies, etc. That we have seen this week kind of pull back and not get involved in the OMG industry. I still think that we’re going to see these major investment firms and these major banks still hang on to that, if not increase their exposure.
TN: Okay. Sam, are you with your clients on the ESG side? Is there any movement there?
SR: There’s not a lot of movement there in terms of real money. Right. So you can have a bunch of small insurance companies. You can have small pension funds. You can even have a few small colleges. In the grand scheme of things, who cares? You’re still getting all the votes going in the wrong direction for oil and gas companies. You still have Exxon being told that it needs to vest of oil and gas, which is nuts because it’s literally an oil company.
Now, to be honest, we’re not seeing a significant reversal of ESG. We’re seeing maybe call it a billion 3 billion that type of potential money going into the space. And that’s if you look at their portfolios and say do a 2% overweight to the SMP 500 and go 7.5%, that simply isn’t that much money.
TN: Okay, very good. Let’s move on to Volatility. Nick, you talked about Volatility last week, and I wanted to dig into that a little bit. We’ve seen Volatility. We’ve seen the VIX approach 30 this week. And so I’m curious, based on your hypothesis last week, do you see that sustaining? Do you see the VIX increasing and like over a time frame?
NG: I think the Volatility broadens out to other markets. For example, we’ve had VIX can be between 32 and 34. It’s known that people come in and suppress the VIX. The Fed have been active in sellers. That’s well known, and they cover it when it gets to the end. And in fact, in the zero rate world, it’s been in the Fed’s top Randy to suppress Volatility.
And thus, hence you have the Ford guidance with this diminishing Ford guidance. And Mesa mentioned it this week as well, that as they start to hike rates potentially, do QT tighten up everything? The use of Ford guidance has been diminished to it would be a hindrance. The whole point of tightening is not to give the full scope of what’s coming. But the important thing is for all subsidiary markets, Volatility in the treasury market has exploded. I remember everything is priced off of the risk free asset.
NG: So you’ve seen the move index fly higher. And the reason why that’s so important is bid offer spreads on the treasury market are actually widened. So that means there’s a liquidity issue. And if you remember back in 2020, you had the repo crisis, which was a liquidity issue. If that continues, then the bit of a spread and thus liquidity in credit markets, which should be beginning to suffer and CDX rates were spiking higher stay that will suffer, that will then feed through to equity markets. You will have less liquidity, hence higher Volatility.
So it’s a very risky path and it will be a very volatile path from now on.
TN: Okay. And so when you say from now on, you mean over the next, say, through the end of the year, or is this something that happens, as we say, approach QT in second quarter.
NG: This should carry on happening.
NG: I mentioned to you earlier I still don’t trust this Fed. I think it could end up being stop start the economy at the beginning. I think this is going to carry on for quite a while.
TN: Okay. You started to interject, but did you want to add something on that?
SR: Yeah. No, I was going to take the other side of that. Saying that the Fed communicating less is, in my opinion, a Vic suppressor at this point, because if you don’t have Bullard coming out and saying stupid things that nobody should have ever taken seriously. You don’t inject half of the volatility that you currently have in the market right now. You don’t have the possibility of an intermediating hike. You don’t have the 50 basis points. You don’t have the QT coming potentially in March.
So in a way, I think taking away the forward guidance and beginning to actually have some sort of a coherent path with an economy that hasn’t actually broken yet. 30 next time seller. I saw that all day. And if something happens in Ukraine, sell it again and you get I think that’s probably the best risk adjusted return this year is selling Vixen spikes.
TN: Interesting. Very good. Okay, guys, what are we looking for the week ahead? Tracy, what’s on your mind for the week ahead?
TS: Well, again, I think that oil markets are probably going to move sideways until we get some sort of resolution. As far as the Ukraine Russia deal, I think the equity markets are still skittish about that.
Again, I think we’ll see a lot of volatility there. I think precious metals will continue to do well sideways to up, perhaps. Right. Because that market is kind of crazy, but it does well on uncertainty. And I think that if you’re looking at based on industrial metals, that will continue to see those rise because we’re having political problems, say, for instance, with copper in Chile and Peru because of the new leftist government there.
TN: How much of global supply is Chile and Peru?
TN: 40%. Okay. So that’s a little bit. Yeah, exactly. Okay. Very good. Sam, did you have something?
SR: Oh, no, I just was English.
TN: Nick, what are you looking for next week?
NG: A continuation of what we’ve had this week. And I think at some point it’s going to be up and down on Ukraine. Who knows, right. I do think the rhetoric from the Fed will continue. I think what’s interesting to me is I take the most retail of retail ETS to see whether retailers sold anything on the way down. And that would be Ark haven’t sold anything. There is a whole lot of pain out there.
And I just think we’re volatile with the downside bias. Yes. You’re going to have a spike up on good news. We had that this morning and it all gave back. Yeah. It didn’t keep it. So I think there’s something more than just Ukraine behind everything. And I think this volatility and my point on I don’t disagree with Sam on the bigs, but I think what’s going on in the fixed income markets will come as a surprise and will flow through and just make trading difficult.
TN: Okay. Let me ask you also, we’ll take this from you and then we’ll move it to Sam as well. When we see the ten year rise above two again.
NG: If things calm down, it goes straight back above two. Yeah, absolutely.
TN: Okay. Sam, what do you think about rates about the ten year?
SR: So what I would say is it would completely flip on my comment that it’s all curve flatteners from last week and say, hey, it’s curve steepener now. Any good news on Ukraine? Anything? You saw it when a few tanks moved or supposedly moved get a big move in oil. You got a big move in the curve. You got the FOMC minutes, et cetera, et cetera. Everything from here in terms of a dissipation looks like Kurt Stephen to me with two stuck somewhere between 140 and 150.
SR: And twos heading north or in towns heading north. So really like the steeper now?
TN: Okay. So it sounds like you all are saying we’re kind of in a wait and see for most markets. Is that fair to say.
NG: Wait and watch? Wait and watch?
TN: Yes, wait and watch. Okay, great. No big decisions over the next week, is that what you’re saying?
NG: Keep your risk tight and small.
TS: I mean, everybody’s going to be watching Ukraine and Russia and everybody’s going to be watching the March meeting for the fed. Until then, I think you could see a lot of volatility in the markets, whether it be in equities us Treasuries or commodity markets.
TN: Very good, guys. I always appreciate this. Thanks so much for your time. Have a great weekend. Thanks.
BBC Business Matters is joined by our founder Tony Nash for this episode to talk about US’s $3.5 trillion spending plans. Will it get approved before the G20 meeting in Glasgow? Also discussed are the energy crisis with very high gas prices and Russia’s use of energy as a political weapon against Europe. Has Houston changed because of the pandemic and discussion on climate change?
There are intensive discussions on Capitol Hill to try and break the deadlock over his proposed $3.5 trillion spending plans. Those plans have lead to deep divisions in his own Democratic Party. So how close to a deal are we? We get analysis from Natalie Andrews, Congress Reporter for the Wall Street Journal. And is Russia using energy as a political weapon? The question is frequently asked in Europe and it’s now being asked in Moldova, a former Soviet Republic that’s been trying to move away from Russia’s orbit and develop closer ties to the EU. It follows the decision by the Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom to reduce supplies to Moldova and to threaten to suspend them completely. Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg has been to Moldova to find out what’s behind the latest gas crisis. Also in the programme, we look at why has the iconic French fashion house Jean Paul Gaultier – known for cone-shaped corsets worn by Madonna for example – decided to allow people to rent some of its most iconic pieces? And Fergus Nicoll investigates what efforts are some cities making to combat climate change. And we’re joined throughout the programme by Tony Nash Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas and Jeanette Rodrigues, South Asia Managing Editor of Bloomberg in Dubai.
RT: Tony Nash, founder of the Complete Intelligence, is based in Houston in Texas. And I would imagine, Tony, that you’ve been watching a bit of baseball over the last few days.
TN: Just a little bit Rahul. Thank you.
RT: And if it’s been good for you so far.
TN: Well, up until last night, it was pretty good. It’s the World Series Baseball Championship. The Houston Astros are in the final two teams playing for the Championship.
RT: And the reason they didn’t go so well because I don’t think they won their first game that we may have talked to Tony a little bit more about that in the program.
Tony, can I come to you here first? Because we heard from the Moldova and government Minister. They’re saying, “Look, I can’t predict where gas prices are going to be in two months time.” As much as of the Northern Hemisphere goes into winter. Gone. Has the guest for us. Where do you think gas prices are going to be higher or lower than where they are now? Because they are very high, aren’t they?
TN: Gas prices continue to rise for at least the next two months, if not into, say, February. So we have tight gas supplies now. We have growing demand now. We have people, a lot of whom are in their house all day, so they have to heat their house where they would normally be in an office, those sorts of things. So it’s an issue that we haven’t really had to face for quite some time. At the same time, we’re seeing inflation in other areas hitting people’s pocketbooks. So I think it’s sensitive in a way that many, many people could not have seen.
RT: President Biden is leaving for the G20 summit in Rome. Then, of course, he’s coming to Glasgow. The COP26. Will you have a deal? Do you think, Tony before he departs American shores?
TN: I don’t think so. There’s a problem with paying for it. And it’s really strange to hear someone say that Democrats are saying they’ll literally vote for anything that goes to the floor, which tells me they’re pretty desperate for something. They’ve tried things like what they’re calling a billionaire tax, which is actually a tax on income of even things that are in your retirement account portfolio.
RT: But is that not a bad idea maybe to try and generate some money? A lot of our listeners will be thinking it’s quite surprising that America doesn’t have paid family leave already?
TN: Well, companies do offer people time off and paid time off when they have a child or something like that, or when there’s a sick family member or something like that. So it’s not something that doesn’t happen here in America. I think somehow it’s being portrayed that Americans don’t do that. It’s not 8 to 12 weeks or something like it is in Europe. But there is time off for that sort of thing. So we’re just in a different place in our social development and we prioritize different things thanEurope. So I think the US is not Europe. The US will never be Europe, or it’ll be a long, long time before it’s Europe. And American taxpayers aren’t willing to pay for that. So they have to find a way to pay for it. And the problem is they can’t find a way to pay for the programs that they want in the bill.
RT: So what’s the soultion going to be here because there will have to be that always is.
TN: A smaller bill. That’s it. I mean, it’s going to be a smaller bill. It’s going to be a trillion, maybe slightly more, something like that, which… I just want to repeat that and say it slowly, a trillion dollars. Okay. So let that sink in. This is not small money. Okay. And it’s a very political tactic to aim very high and then act like you’re disappointed when it comes in at a third of that. But it’s still a TRILLION dollars. Okay. That’s less than the entire bailout of the global financial crisis in the US economy, which was 860 billion or something like that. So it’s less than that entire bailout. So it’s huge money.
RT: It is a lot of money. Let’s look at where you are, Tony, because you’re in Texas, a region synonymous, really, with oil and with gas. As we see these prices increasing so dramatically, do you think that people within those industries, then look at it and think maybe they have a longer shelf life then some people thought they were going to do with that movement to renewables?
TN: Oh, yeah, I think they do. I don’t think hydrocarbons are going away, partly because every plastic that you use is made from hydrocarbons. When Greenpeace protested a vessel, they used a plastic boat to protest. Plastics aren’t going away. I think that the bigger issue that you raised is energy as a political weapon. And I think Russia using energy as a political weapon toward Maldova, toward Europe, toward China, toward other places, I think is a reality that we face when you face tight supplies.
RT: Do you think Europe was naive here in some respects, because if you look at it now, with so much of Europe and Europe dependent on Russian gas supplies, this was always going to be a possibility, if not a probability.
TN: Absolutely. Yes. So, look, I live in Texas. We sell oil and gas to the world. If we had a captive market, we would be tempted to charge higher prices. But we sell to markets all over the world in a competitive system. Europe locked itself into the agreement with Russia, and we could have a long discussion about this. But Europe locked itself in, and so they’re captive. And that’s a huge problem for Europe. And that’s one that Angela Merkel’s and others got Europe into. And conveniently, they’re not going to be around to get them out because they’re out of office. So it’s a really convenient agreement that they came to just in time for them to go out of office.
RT: Let’s go to Houston, Texas. And, Tony, are you seeing Houston change very much, whether that’s a consequence of the pandemic, whether that’s because of a debate about the climate?
TN: So we have obviously a lot of very large oil and gas firms here. And there is a lot of investment in alternative energy sources by those players. So you could argue that it’s just an ESG play for the equity markets. But I think there is sincerity within the companies to be the sources of energy, not necessarily just to be the source of oil and gas.
RT: What if they put in? Do you have no car zones in Houston? How would that go down with the public there?
TN: Houston is a pretty spread out town. So there are some streets that are no car streets, but it’s not large areas, and it’s in very small kind of old-ish parts of town. But other towns? Yeah, absolutely. Up in Dallas, other places, Austin, definitely. There are no car zones in those towns as well. Houston is just a very spread out town. And so it’s very hard to do here.
RT: Tony, let’s come to you first. Let’s ask you, what are you wearing at the moment, Tony, are you wearing a smoking tuxedo jacket? I hope you’re wearing something.
TN: I am head to toe couture. I mean, everything I wear every day is couture. I’m kidding. I’m just in a light blue shirt and jeans. Just came straight from work. But when I think about this business, your guest described negotiate Close as rich and sexy. That describes me perfectly. So of course, I’m going to be a customer.
RT: Okay, let’s get a bit more personal if you are married, if you don’t mind me asking, of course. What did you wear on your wedding day?
TN: Well, this was in the 90s. I wore a Hugo Boss tuxedo. My wife wore a custom dress. So we were married in Sausalito, California. It was a wonderful day.
RT: I’m sure it was. And I suppose you could afford to do that. But if you couldn’t have afforded that, would you now, if you’re going to get married again? Clearly, hopefully not. But would you consider renting something expensive that you couldn’t be able to afford?
TN: Yeah. Why not? Sure if I wanted to. I would absolutely do it.
RT: Tony, next time you’re on Business Matters, we expect you to be in your wedding suit and we expect pictures to be posted as well. Do you think it does? I know what you’re talking about, Jean Paul Gaultier. Do you think it does diminish the brand if they’re renting some of those close out? Does it lose a little bit?
TN: I think right now with kind of the borrowing culture that we have the renting culture, I really don’t think it loses anything. I think people want the experience of doing something nice, wearing something nice, eating something nice and I don’t think it diminishes at all. I think when I was in my 20s, owning it was necessary. Now I think people are happy to rent.
RT: That’s is a very good point. Thank you, Tony. Thank you, Jeanette. If you want to listen to something nice tune into Business Matters, we’ll be back. Same time. Same place tomorrow. Bye.
Biden just announced that all Federal employees are required to be vaccinated. What does this mean to the US and especially the private sector? Tony Nash joins the BBC Business Matters for a discussion on this. Also discussed are the BRICS and how they are catching up to the world’s major economies and will the environment be a big priority in the next US election?
US President, Joe Biden, has announced that all federal workers have to be vaccinated against Covid-19. He’s also instructing the Department of Labor to draft a rule mandating that all businesses with 100 or more employees require their workers to get vaccinated or face weekly testing. And as the BRICS leaders meet, is the loose alliance of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa working? We hear from Professor Miles Kahler, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington DC. Facebook has been accused of breaking UK equality law in the way it handles job adverts. The campaign group Global Witness said the social network failed to prevent discriminatory targeting of ads, and its algorithm was biased in choosing who would see them, as Naomi Hirst from the organisation explains. Also in the programme, we find out why the issue of climate change has become such a dominant theme in the upcoming German federal elections. And the American car giant, Ford will stop production in India; we get analysis from Nikhil Chawla, a business journalist and proud Ford owner based in Delhi. We’re joined throughout the programme by Jyoti Malhotra, National & Strategic Affairs Editor at The Print; she’s with us from New Delhi. And Tony Nash, co-founder and Chief Economist at Complete Intelligence, is with us from Houston, Texas. (Photo of President Joe Biden by Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images).
FW: It’s good to hear you, Tony. Back last summer, when the vaccine was a fantasy, we didn’t know how far they were getting and how fast they were working. I remember an astute commentator on this show saying it answers the question, should the federal government get involved in forcing people to have it, if and when it becomes available said, “no way, no way, because it’ll polarize opinion. Leave it to business.” Is the President going too far with this?
TN: I do think he is. I think forcing this through the private sector as an enforcement vehicle is polarizing, will say that much. I think this will drive a political wedge, like very few other things, and I think it’s somewhat intentional. I’ll say I don’t necessarily believe that public health is the guideline. I’m looking right now at COVID figures for Texas, and the fatality rate is something like 40% lower than it was during the cycle we had in Q1 in February.
So I think people are looking at the data we’re accustomed to COVID, and we’re accustomed to these data, and I think he sounded quite a lot like he was lecturing and talking down to people. And the folks that have not been vaccinated wouldn’t really appreciate that. So it’s politically polarizing. There will be more States rights issues that come out of this than I think he had intended.
FW: Okay, that’s an interesting thing that we’ll be watching. Is it not the case or there are those who may disbelieve the figures, the assertion being that 97% or so of those in hospital with COVID have not been vaccinated, and that would suggest that the president’s got the message exactly right. These 80 million, whatever their reasons, they are the most vulnerable.
TN: So, I haven’t seen those data divided at the state level, and those data differ dramatically from what we see out of Israel, which is one of the only governments that’s got very transparent data on who is vaccinated, at what stage they’re vaccinated and so on. So the data from Israel tell us very differently than 97%. So whether I’m vaccinated or not isn’t necessarily a part of this discussion. I think what really matters is we have to look at data, and the American system is one where if you look at American health care, if you look at American public health, for the most part in our history, individuals have been able to decide on the course of their own treatment and what has happened with American government that’s happened under Trump. This is happening under Biden. This has happened at some state levels where governments are telling people how they have to manage health care, and it’s not left up to them. So, again, this is translated by a number of Americans, not as a public health policy. iIt’s translated as an individual and States rights policy. So we’ve already had a number of governors, Oklahoma, Georgia, Missouri, other places, Florida and Texas will come out soon, basically saying this will not be enforced in my state and this is a state rights issue.
FW: Very interesting. Let’s go a very quick one if you would have both of you about the corporate side. Seems to me we discussed this a bit on the show, Tony, that in America, a company has immense power to tell its employees and fire them. We talked to one instance about CNN firing three employees who haven’t had the jab. Is that something that the President can count on?
TN: Can you count on companies to do that? Yeah. I think you’ll have plenty of companies who will not do it. So it will likely come the Federal through OSHA, which is a health and safety Department in the US government, and they’ll issue mandates. The question is around enforcement mechanisms. I think the main problem with this is the forcing it on smaller companies. The expectation is that it would be on bigger companies, but it’s companies down to 100 staff. And you’ve got a lot of very independent, very willful heads of smaller companies who will outright refuse to do this. I think larger kind of corporate America folks, no problem. They’ll get it done
FW. From a US perspective. Tony, thanks, Joy. From a US perspective, is this a kind disaster for Ford, or is he just a really hard nose business decision that has been made by Jim Farley and 2 billion for Ford? It’s affordable. Yeah.
TN: I think it’s just a business decision. I think Americans obviously want to expand overseas, but in markets where the difficult people understand. So I just think it’s seen as a business decision.
FW: And that moved to China. That Jose said that is the business decision.
TN: It is. Yeah. And for got some catching up to do with General Motors there as well. So I think that’s the bigger priority.
FW: Tony, react to that if you would, because there’s a suggestion and I might be taking this too far from what Jody was saying. But when we had the professor talking about these constant ideas of reforming the multilateral system and redefining a multipolar world, it sounds what Jet is suggesting is actually this is all a bit hypocritical because it’s going to be mono, polo or unipolar. It’s just going to be China, that’s all.
TN: Well, I think that’s possible. But I also think that if we look at the three most active participants in BRICS, Russia, India, China, they’re strategic competitors. Yes, they’re rising fast, but their strategic competitors and they’re neighbors. So I think BRICS is a really interesting organization, kind of to ensure that they don’t become competitors or aggressive competitors too quickly to be able to cooperate in finance, cooperate and kind of cross border things. Other social programs, investment, that sort of thing. I think I remember when BRICS was announced, and I think it was kind of a neat thing to have, but there wasn’t an understanding of how important these economies would actually be. Now that they’re there, of course, as Jose mentioned, Brazil in South Africa just haven’t kept up in terms of relevance and importance. But the Russia, India, China part of BRICS really has, it really has. And I think it’s necessary to keep the kind of temperature low between those countries. I think there’s a lot of friction between the or potential friction between those countries.
FW: So just to pick up on that. From a DC perspective, does the State Department watch a BRIC summit and think the three primarily, China, Russia, India, these are countries need to be following closely in what they do in their internal relationship because we have to watch them all for different reasons.
TN: Will the State Department watch the brick summit. I think they would. I am not sure what they would do with it, because I think the US has opportunities to apply diplomatic carrots and sticks in different ways outside of multilateral, because it’s one of the leading economies and one of the leading powers. It has opportunities outside of multilateral environments to do that. So what we have with BRICS is some countries that were, I guess, economically considered kind of small countries 15 years ago when it was formed. Now they’re actually big countries, and so they needed the multilateral environment in those days to get things done.
Now, they don’t necessarily need the multilateral environment as much. They can do more on their own. I would argue that any one of those top three BRICS countries potentially has more diplomatic ability than many countries in Europe. Whereas 1520 years ago, you couldn’t say that. So it’s really the countries themselves are a lot more powerful than they were. So I think it could potentially be an important organization to keep them somewhat aligned.
FW: Equipped Tony to you. Cop 26, just coming up in November. I guess that’s a full year ahead of the next midterms in the US. Would the environment play at all in the campaign?
TN: I think it will. I think it will be marginal. I think things like COVID and some social issues and the business cycle, to be honest, will be bigger issues than the environment. But of course, it’ll hit certain cities and certain demographics, but I don’t think it will be a major issue.
FW: Well, thank you both. It’s great having you with us. We’re off for now. Bye bye.
Our guest is Clint Laurent from Global Demographics, an amazing demographer, businessman and observer of global trends long before they really take hold. He shares surprising observations that he believes will happen in the next 5 to 10 years.
Clint started Global Demographics in 1996 and cover 117 countries throughout the world and China. They do that right down to county level of 2,248 counties. Clint believes that demographics are better than financial data from the point of view of forecasting because they tend to be stable trends.
Global Demographics is able to come up with reliable forecasts at least 15 years out. After 15 years, reliability goes down and they are typically never more plus or minus 5% error in our long-term forecast. Their clients are mainly consumer goods companies, infrastructure backbones and things like that.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on June 17, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit Clint Demographics QuickHit episode are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any contents provided by our guest are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: Over the last year or so, we’ve seen the pandemic. We’re now having this bullwhip effect with inflation and other things. But I guess this capping off in the last 20 years where we’ve seen China as the global growth market and the marginal consumer for almost everything. And it’s really forced me to think what’s next. You and I published a piece about a year and a half ago around China’s population topping out around 2023, 2024. And so I’m really curious, what do you see happening in the next 5 to 10 years that will really come as a surprise to people? What are some of your observations over the next decade?
CL: The world is actually as bizarrely almost on a bit of a cusp at the moment. The pandemic is almost irrelevant to what was going to happen. I mean, I know the pandemic caused a lot of economic disturbance, obviously affected some people’s lives quite significantly. But really, there was a lot of change that was about to start to happen anyhow, irrespective of whether or not the pandemic came along.
From a demographic point of view, the pandemic is not really very relevant. I’m currently based in the UK and the people who have unfortunately died from it, most of them would have died in the next two years anyhow because they had severe underlying health situations. And so, its effect on death rates has actually been very, very marginal.
Secondly, most deaths being over the age of 60, that means it doesn’t affect the labor force, it doesn’t affect the propensity to have children. So really, it will be a horrible little blip in the history of mankind. And hopefully we move on from it and the vaccines keep working. And so a little bit of hope there. But that aside, it was going to be a big change.
And if I can explain the change in the following ways.
Up to now, the world has perhaps been a little bit lucky in the sense to be, first of all, had what I call the Older-Affluent countries, and that’s Western Europe, North America and what I call affluent Asia — Japan, Taiwan, Australia. All of those countries, which are actually only 14% of the world’s population, account for a very significant proportion of the global consumption. As you know, it grew quite rapidly, which was really quite good. And that is really the first big change is going to come into effect.
What’s already started to happen is people. The only growth in these countries is people over the age of 40. Every age group below that is in absolute decline. So even if they’re going up in affluence, the young affluent market is no longer a growth market. It’s more or less stable. Even if you add in increased incomes, which still occur, but at a slower rate. So you’re now looking at a 40+ age group, and in some countries, obviously, Japan is one, it’s 60+ that are the age group that’s growing.
So all of those societies, to some extent, are in a lot of trouble. They’re flattening out. They’ve moved from a pyramid population to a square, and that’s actually very good.
A lot of people say you should have a pyramid population with young people coming through and looking after the old. That’s actually the poverty trap. Because if young people come through, the dependance, first of all, will keep driving the society down. With a square, then the same number of people need education each year, the same number of people need health care each year. The capacity is there and it’s an improvement of quality rather than an increase of quantity.
TN: So you’re saying with these wealthy developed nations, Japan is an extreme example, consumption isn’t really the worry. It’s the growth that’s falling off. So the consumption is stable. It’s just not growing.
CL: Exactly. There’s one other big change to appreciate is what people say because they’re getting old, they’re going to run out of labor force. And here’s a statistic for you: In Japan, 25% of males, 70 to 74 are still in full-time employment. And you’re saying, “yeah, well, that’s Japan. It’s different everywhere else in the world.” You know, it’s exactly the same statistic in the United States.
The aged worker is a new phenomenon. In fact, the age worker is the fastest growing demographic. So these countries actually are not running out of workers. And the assumption that we all go decrepit and work after age 64 is just wrong. I am over 65, as you can probably guess. I don’t have a single friend who’s not in full-time employment at this point in time, enjoying it. It raises lots of issues.
So the labor force keeps going in these countries as well. So they don’t even need migrant workers to sustain these countries. So they are nice, comfortable niche. Growing steadily, not phenomenally. You’re talking about 1%, less than 1% growth in total consumer spending. Households are getting a little more affluent. Number of households is flattened out, which would have implications for the housing market. But it’s not going down, so it’s actually not too bad.
TN: So you say GDP is pretty stable, but what’s happening to GDP per capita in those countries? Does it continue to grow?
CL: It does, but just at a much slower rate. You’re talking 1% or even less than 1%, but it’s positive. And do remember, 1% of a hundred thousand US dollars is more money than the total income of households at the other end of the spectrum. Much of their spending power is quite significant. But a really important point to keep in your mind right now is that consumption expenditure will start to level out. It won’t hit that high growth rate anymore. It drops back to about 1% or even slightly lower.
Then the other big change you’ve got is what I call the next group of countries, which is older but not so affluent. And that obviously includes China. Now, let’s just put China to one side for the moment and look at the other countries in that group. You’re talking about Russia and the Eastern European countries. All of which have huge potential because like the previous group that I just talked about, they score really well on education.
And countries that score well on education, with the right capital investment, can lift the productivity. The countries that have weak education, it doesn’t matter how much capital you throw into them, they don’t lift their productivity. And there’s plenty of statistics to prove that. So these countries actually have a resource. I mean, Latvia, Romania. It doesn’t really matter. And that actually got the one thing that’s really hard to do. Good education.
Why is it hard to do? India has been really bad on education up to now. It finally has universal education. Every kid, 5 to 12 is now supposed to be in school. But it takes another 10 years before some of those kids come out of school and get into work. And it takes another 10 years before the workforce has become sufficiently skilled that the capital investment comes and lifts the productivity.
So these Eastern European countries and Russia are actually interesting from the QuickHit point of view. They start getting the fixed capital investment right, got the education right. They could actually be the next growth area. Only warning to you is they also are relatively old. So it’s a growth area of 40 pluses and 60 pluses. That is going to happen because they’re under earning at the moment. They can lift their incomes, obviously, buy bit of car, bit of clothing, all of those sort of things. But it’s a growth area of an older population, not a young population.
TN: And it’s something that nobody’s watching, Clint. Like, I don’t think anybody is really looking for that even as a possibility. A lot of people have written Russia off, see it as a petro state or whatever, and central and Eastern Europe is kind of just kind of a no man’s land in many cases. So some manufacturing there. There’s some services there in terms of globalization. But I don’t think there’s a lot of expectation to see rapid growth there and high productivity there. So I think that’s a really interesting question mark that most people aren’t even thinking about.
CL: That’s right. And if you go into these countries physically, you start to see some of the big brands starting to look at them. And you come across someone from XYZ Corporation there. We just have a little look. So some people are starting to see that it’s there. It’s just as you say, it’s not visible yet.
Let’s switch to China briefly. China slightly different and also very similar. First of all, remember 1989, China introduced the one child policy. That came under a huge amount of criticism. But ignoring how you feel about that, is one very simple thing it achieved. It levelled off the number of young kids needed to be educated. And subsequently started, it was 1979, they introduced. Such that by 1984, when they introduced compulsory education for all six to 12 year olds, they were talking of a relatively stable number of kids. So they could focus on the quality of education. And so every kid’s been going to school in such when you go to the year 2000, you’ve got this population still living in the rural areas. But who could read, write and do sums and all of those sort of things. Could get on their bike, go into town and get a job in a factory or an office or whatever.
And the differential between an urban worker and rural worker in China is 3.6. And that’s actually how China drove its growth and its productivity per worker and its influence. What it did is, it said, take all these people who are nice people, but not well-educated, not earning very much money, educate them, put them into job, let them earn lots of money, and have a good lifestyle. And that drove up the productivity and the whole success story of China.
TN: So urbanization and wage arbitrage, productivity gain for China. But is that running out in the next ten years or does that continue over that period?
CL: We’ve got it going through actually. It’s 20 million a year at the moment, which is a phenomenal number. That’s Australia, every year. It’s 20 million at the moment. We have it dropping down to about 11 million by 2040 because it’s still a lot of people moving there.
Now, this is the other big trick. Because some people have been saying, China’s population’s leveling out. And, you know, we thought it was 2023, where even the Chinese government agrees with us. Now, it’s 2023, and it’s leveling out. The working age population is starting to shrink. Oh, dear. That can have a decline in the workforce. No. They’re having a decline in the rural workforce. The rural workforce have in the next 20 years.
The urban workforce keeps growing for the next 10 years to 2030. The number of people working in urban jobs, which are highly productive, keeps going up. So for the next 10 years, China’s GDP growth still chugs along reasonably well. After 2030, the growth rate drops away and we have it down to about 1.3% by 2045, because it just isn’t the extra workers to keep growing the total GDP. So that’s the story there.
But again, coming back to the consumption side, China in the last 10 years in the urban area had this huge group of people, 220 million of them urban, aged 40 to 64 years of age, educated, earning quite good money by turning a stand and spending money on holidays and trips and things like that. And between 2010 and 2020, that went up to 100 million people. Think about it, a 100 million extra people with disposable income. It was no surprise that the retail side of China took off and tourism and all of that. It was those people. They’ve got a house. They’ve got a fridge, they’ve got a refrigerator. Let’s have some fun. That’s really what’s happening right now.
Now, the bad news is that now it flattens out. Every age group under 40 in China is already declining and will continue to decline in size. So don’t go after the kid market in China except on the wealthy and those sort of areas for education. The 40 to 64 age, what I call the working age optimist, it grows for a little bit, and then it flattens out. And it’s named the 65 plus, which in China is not like the other countries. The 65 plus at the moment doesn’t have great health, doesn’t have a great life expectancy. You get some extension of the workforce, but not a lot.
So China’s consumption is healthy as well. It’ll chugging along quite nicely. And to digress slightly, but I think we need to recover quickly here. The one child policy, it’s moved to three now. That’s totally and absolutely irrelevant.
TN: Yeah, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to do much. They’re too rich to want to have more kids, right?
CL: Exactly. And actually, it’s the birth rate that’s not the important point. It’s the number of women of childbearing age. And that goes down by a third. It drops 330 million now to about 220 million in 20 years time. And the birth rate can’t give up fast enough to compensate there. So births in 2019 are 14 million. It dropped to 10 million last year because of the pandemic, waiting to come back up a bit about to 14. It’ll be down to 11 million by 2030. And they can’t change that even with the three child policy. That won’t change.
TN: It’s not the three child policy, it’s the fact that there are not enough women to have babies. And those women are wealthy enough that they don’t want to have three kids.
CL: That’s really basically it. Just look at Singapore. They tried everything to get the birth rate up.
TN: I was there. They were paying people to have babies and it still didn’t work.
CL: Even send them on cruises. I mean, I volunteered.
And then you have, so that’s the second group. And the key point by the first group is nice and stable now, chugging along nicely, but no longer super growth in consumption. Nice growth in consumption is how I call it.
The third group, what we call the family stage. And that’s obviously dominated by India, Brazil, Indonesia all there. The bulk of populations is in that 25 through to 39, having children, at work, that sort of stage. So the working age population is still growing a bit, but not a lot. Education’s improving. It varies quite a lot across this group. India is at the weaker end. Indonesia is probably one of the better ends.
So, you’ve got a bit of a dichotomy there. But they’re generally in a position to be able to attract capital and generally in a position to be lifting their total consumption, but not dramatically. We’re still talking of relatively low incomes under 10 thousand USD for the average family per annum. So the growth is there.
TN: So Indonesia, India, Brazil and so on, the capital formation, capital investment is the real weakness there. And it seems to me that’s a function of, largely, education. Is that fair to say?
CL: That’s exactly what it is. As they get the education right and they’re working on it, most of these countries have been quite responsible in that area. And as they get that right, so the investment comes in, so the consumer gets more affluent and becomes a virtuous circle.
TN: And what time scale are we talking about for that consumption to come in a really notable way to take the place of the under 40 Chinese consumption or the under 40 Western Europe or American consumption?