Our CEO, Tony Nash, talks about inflation’s and Omicron’s role in US shares sinking, as fears spread over their non-transitory nature. And how will Asia react to the ‘non-transitory’ nature of inflation and the new Covid variant? Is Gold a good asset to use to hedge against inflation?
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/be-warned-high-prices-are-here-to-stay on December 02, 2021.
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PS: Markets in the US were down across the board. The Dow is down 1.3%. S&P 500 down 1.2% Nasdaq down 1.8%. Now over across in Asia, everyone was up. Nikkei was up .4% Hang Seng up .8% Shanghai Composite also up .4% and STI Singapore up 1.9%. And as I was saying early on, FBM KLCI was down 1.1%.
TN: Yeah. Thanks for having me, guys. I think the biggest consideration really is Powell’s comments on inflation, saying it’s kind of no longer transitory. So people should expect inflation to stay. What that means generally is we’ve hit a new pricing level is his expectation. So meaning prices are not in his mind, in many cases, going to go back to the levels that we saw before this inflationary stairstep. And what we’ve seen, particularly in the US, is consumers have accepted this and consumers accepted it, thinking that it was a temporary rise in prices.
But what he delivered today is some bad news that it’s likely a permanent prize in the level of prices. And the kind of short term cost rises that people thought they were going to endure are more permanent.
KSC: Yeah. So, Tony, try and give us a bit of a perspective here, because obviously the last twelve years and the last accelerated two years of monetary easing have induced this inflation. How does it all end? And does it stop the weak economic growth we’ve been seeing in the US the last few months.
TN: Yeah. So US economic growth, we don’t see a rapid acceleration of US economic growth. And so we have the US, China, Japan, and the EU, all at very subdued growth rates. And that’s bad. Those are the four largest economies with elevated price rises. Earnings are growing in some areas. I’m sorry, wages are growing in some areas, but they’re not necessarily growing across the economy. And part of that, particularly in the US, is a shortage of staff. So people have opted out of the workforce. We’ve lost, like 6 million workers in the US since Covid.
And so there are fewer workers. And so we have wages rising in certain areas. But it’s not necessarily across the board. So people are really going to have to start taking a look at their disposable income to understand what of these ongoing price rises that they can continue to accept. And I think we’re at a point where, since it’s no longer viewed as temporary, people and companies are going to have to start making trade offs. This is really the bad news is when people have to, when it’s no longer temporary, companies and people have to start making trade offs of what to do with their resources.
And that’s where the real problem is. So it’s not ongoing expansionary spending. And even I think it was Biden who said today we don’t expect a stimulus package for the current variant. Again, people are having to look at trade offs, and this is the real problem. When companies have to look at trade offs, they’re looking at their operating costs, they’re looking at their capital expenditure, they’re looking at their investments, they’re looking at other things. So down to Earth type of environment where we’re starting to enter Realville, we’re starting to exit the kind of fantasy environment we’ve been in the monetary induced sugar coma that we’ve been in for the past year and a half.
PS: So that’s a very interesting point, because I’ve always felt like in 2021, we saw this huge divergence in recovery right between the developed world led by the US and emerging markets, which are still really struggling to contain the virus and such. So when we talk about Asia, how do you think markets will react to this tightening of monetary policy by the Fed?
TN: Yeah. We think that Southeast Asia generally will stay pretty muted. We don’t expect early breakout at least over the next quarter or two. We don’t expect really breakout moves in Southeast Asia. We expect China to have a fair bit of volatility, but we do expect China to be generally positive over the next quarter to quarter horizon. We do expect Japan to continue to rise pretty well in India as well. Japan largely on the back of monetary policy automation, other things. So Asia is not one market, of course.
So we do expect different parts of Asia to react differently. Korea will be a mix between China and Japan like it always is. So we’ll see some volatility there reflecting China, but we’ll see some, I guess, acceleration and equities like we would see in Japan to make some both.
KSC: Well, Tony, in truth, inflation has been with us for some weeks now. But what hasn’t been with us for some weeks has been on the Omicron that’s the other big roadblock posing an obstacle to markets. How does Asia behave? How does Asia react, especially since we’re going to be opening in a few hours time?
TN: Yeah, I think Asia generally. You guys know I lived in Asia for most of my life, and Asia generally takes these things in stride with more vaccines available with the typical kind of weathering, the storm kind of approach that people have, particularly in Southeast Asia. I think people will generally take it in stride. This is really the first pandemic. Let’s say in the west that people have had for probably 50 years where they’ve really been kind of freaked out and worried in Asia, we’ve seen these types of pandemics for 2030 years.
It’s a bit different. People are more conservative, people are more used to these types of volatile, say, public health and market and other type of environments in Asia. So of course, we’ll see things shake up, but we won’t necessarily see the dire kind of messages that we’ve seen, say in the west. I don’t think we will. We’ve seen dire messages come out of, say, Germany and Italy and Austria, particularly over the past week with full lockdowns with 100% vaccine mandates, with really dire messaging. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see super negative messaging in Asia like we’ve seen there.
PS: We won’t freak out as much as what you’re saying then essentially.
TN: No. Come on, man. It’s Asia, right? People are used to volatility in Asia and the developed markets. Developed markets are highly calibrated. Right? 0.2% change. Either way is people see as dramatic in Asia a small they’re not as calibrated. So people are accustomed to more ups and downs, and people just generally take it in stride.
PS: And I said that generally it’s quite calming. Is gold with inflation basically consigned away from this trend trade term? What’s your view in terms of gold? That’s a hit against inflation then? Because if I look at the data, the method is down 6% year to date.
TN: Right. And a lot of the inflationary rise has already happened. A lot of the stuff happens in stairstep fashion, and a lot of the mitigation efforts are already under way. So while we’ll continue to see inflation and we’ll continue to stay at an inflated level, I don’t necessarily. Or we’re not seeing dramatic price rises going forward. Okay. You’ll see it in pockets where there are, say, supply issues or something like that. But gold is more effective when everything is well, gold is a barometer for finding value.
I’ll say that much. It’s a tangible metal and people see it as worth something. And so what used to happen is gold and say the dollar as the dollar do value the gold would appreciate. But now we have crypto and people treat crypto kind of in the same way they used to treat gold. The gold market is really trying to find itself. So I think we’re going to have to see some fallout in crypto if it is to happen. We’ll have to see some fallout in crypto before we start to see gold being the safe haven again or being the preeminent safe haven.
So until Bitcoin and the other crypto assets really deteriorate in value and people go flocking back to gold, which I think will happen eventually. I don’t think it’ll happen overnight, but until we see a lack of faith in crypto, I don’t think we’ll necessarily see dramatic price pressure on gold.
KSC: Tony, you talked about Asia, right? And now China is moving to banners via structure, which is the loophole that allows its companies to list in New York and other foreign exchanges. What does this mean in terms of China’s overall strategy to go its own way to quote Fleetwood Mac?
TN: Sure. Yeah. So I think, of course, it hurts Western banks, and it hurts the Western banks that are in Asia because they don’t necessarily have those fees to take things public in the west. But I think the bigger problem is this those companies going public don’t have US dollar denominated resources to access, and so they have to get CNY or Hong Kong dollar or Japanese yen or other Sing dollar other denominated assets. Okay. But the US dollar is 87% of global transactions. So it helps those companies to have US dollar reserves, especially as they’re newly public.
Because why do you go public? Because you want to buy another company, you want to use that cash for a big investment or something, you want to expand in a big way. So if you don’t have the US dollar assets that come from going public, say, in New York or somewhere in the US or whatever, it’s really hard to have a big source of cash to do a massive international expansion or undertake a big international project or do a big international buy that’s I guess the biggest downside I would see from the decline of that type of structure in China.
KSC: All right, Tony, thank you so much for your time, Tony Nash there chief executive of Complete Intelligence. And just to hang on this last point, Phil, if you don’t list in the US, you don’t get US dollars necessarily. But that doesn’t matter if you are China, and you believe that the real market is domestically or within ASEAN, where you’ve got to combine, I don’t know, 2.1 trillion people or 2.1 billion people. That’s quite a fair few heads. Yes.
PS: Correct. I think it’s a question of whether you see a convergence between where you list versus where you operate.
PS: And I think in the past we thought, okay, you could tap financial markets globally to serve your local markets. But I think China is kind of proving the point. No. I think it’ll be closer together.
KSC: Yeah. And what he was talking about in response to your question on gold, Phil, how gold hasn’t responded to all this uncertainty, which has been traditionally the case. And Bitcoin is somewhere hovering around in the mid 50s, which is a bit weird because you would expect some kind of flight to what was seen as safe havens, right.
PS: Ironic is considered Bitcoin a flight to safe havens.
KSC: Well, because it’s finite in nature. So it’s a bit like gold, right. It seems interesting, because in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a move among corporates like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and now Jack Dorsey, formerly of Twitter, who has left his job at Twitter. Still, at the same time was CEO of Square fintech platform financial platform. He’s moving to turn Square into a company called Block, and it’s a bit like it would make Mr. Miyagi proud because martial arts moves from square to block, but he’s going all in.
PS: But this is a very interesting thing because he’s going all in on crypto. And I think you’re referring to Blockchain blockchain reference to Blockchain, which is the distributed platform for data used by Crypto.
But it’s interesting, right? This whole name shift.
I think Jack Dorsey, I think, is trying to evolve away from just being a pure payments provider to offering solutions that are anchored on blockchain as a solution.