BFM 89.9 discusses with Tony Nash about why bank stocks are falling — the US markets were dragged down by financial stocks as big banks JP Morgan, Wells Fargo and Citigroup reported their first-quarter earnings.
Find this podcast originally published at the BFM: The Business Station.
BFM: Right now, taking a look at the wider global markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete intelligence. Tony, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. The Fed book was released showing that almost all economic data activity has stopped and the question is how difficult will it be to restart it? Do you expect even more contraction?
TN: Very difficult. I mean, as we’ve talked about before, this is a government-mandated shut down, so it’s going to take a lot of fiscal stimulus to get things restarted. That’s why you’ve seen governments come out with such large stimulus programs. We don’t believe it’s a situation where central banks can wave a magic wand and use monetary policy to get things started. It’s not that kind of problem. This is a problem that has to be addressed with fiscal stimulus and direct spending from governments.
BFM: Is there enough fiscal stimulus so far?
TN: No. We’re two weeks into the second quarter, and when we look at all of the country, where the orders to not work are in place, it’s going to be at least two to three to four, maybe six weeks before some countries are up and running. And because a this is government-mandated order, those governments have to find a way to compensate individuals and companies for those close-down orders. Otherwise, we’d have catastrophic economic contraction. Spending is a key component of the GDP calculation. So if you count “don’t spending” as a substitutional factor to consumption and investment, you can still grow your economy or have it not contract as much as it would. Governments are feverishly trying to find find where they can spend, but I think many governments don’t really have the money. They accumulated so much debt over the last 10 or 20 years, they don’t have the money to be able to stimulate the way they need to.
BFM: Tony, Mexico’s been downgraded by Fitch to just one or just one level of Junk. Do you think this portends a rash of similar downgrades by other agencies?
TN: Oh, sure, absolutely. I think emerging and middle income markets are going to have a tough year. And that’s the case because we have a strong US Dollar and are likely going to have a stronger US Dollar. And on a relative basis, emerging market currencies are going to have a real uphill battle. So those emerging markets that are export-dependent will have a tough time, as well as we see consumption collapse. So I don’t want to sound entirely pessimistic, and it’s actually quite hopeful once we hit, say, July or August. But, Q2 is a very, very difficult situation. And the quicker governments can get their countries moving from an economic perspective, the better off we are.
BFM: So Tony, let’s move back to the US for a bit. The banks, the big banks, have started releasing the Q1 results with JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citi or reporting significantly lower profits and more particularly huge provisions there, some as five times more than usual. What does this tell you about the broader economy? What are they expecting at least?
TN: Well, we’ve been trying to tackle all the bad news now. That’s for Q2. They can say, we accounted for that before and they can report better numbers in Q3. And this is all relative. A lot of companies are going to report horrific numbers for Q2. But, you know, the government is coming in and encourage loan repayment to be delayed and backed up the number of loans as well.
So should these provisions be larger than they are or as large as they are? Maybe that’s a prudent thing to do. But it looks really like there, you know, these provisions should have been in Q2, not necessarily in Q1. So I think they’re being conservative and I think that’s fine. But I think to some extent it’s really you just tacking all the bad news or what they expect to be the bad news into Q1 so that they can look better later in the year.
BFM: Yeah, that’s always what this was about to ask you, actually, Tony. Do you think they’re trying to pack as much bad news in this quarter as possible? Yes. But I think on on the call yesterday with Bank of America’s chief financial officer, he also seemed a bit, well, at sea in terms of really putting a finger on exactly what kind of quantums provisions might lead to the next quarter. Do you think they really know what’s happening around the corner, do you think?
TN: I don’t think they know. And I know that, the US banks are really, say take serious problems with like with PPP, these are small business loans. They’re just overwhelmed with the number of applications for these small business loans. That loan processing is truly inefficient and it’s not all the banks’ fault because it was, the US department pretty pretty quickly. So they’re kind of doing the best they can, but those are not their most efficient operations and we’re having to just adjust to where the attention is.
So I think they don’t know how bad it is. Until we know when some of these stay at home orders will be lifted, nobody really knows. And it’s the same thing in Asia as it is here. You’d see all these kids schooled, and it’s a problem, and so until it’s lifted, we really don’t know the full extent of the economic damage.
BFM: Well, speaking about Asia, even after better than expected March trade figures, People’s Bank of China cut medium term lending rates by 20 basis points. What do you read from what they just did?
TN: Honestly, guys, a 20 basis points isn’t going to do anything. I mean, nobody is going to take a loan out because it’s 20 basis points cheaper. What China needs is a very large fiscal stimulus package to make sure that their factory workers and other certain workers are given, maybe not a full wage, but enough of a wage to continue to get by. Our major worry for China this year is a very sharp contraction of industrial production, meaning manufacturing. We’re looking for contraction in exports starting in February, going through March and April, May, simply because the consumption markets are not there.
There is a global demand problem. So there is a demand problem domestically in China, but there’s also a demand problem in the rest of the world. So how can China, which is an assembly point and a maker of finished goods, how can China have kind of relatively normal export data when the rest of the world isn’t buying. It’s just not possible. So, you know, what we’re worried about is the industrial production contraction in China and we’re worried about deflation in China.
We think deflation will be worse in China than in any other parts of the world because of the dependence on manufacturing. So it’s manufacturing insures on making stuff, their workers aren’t working, and so they don’t have the money to buy stuff. And so that creates a huge gap in demand, which is likely deflationary, which is a big, big worry for us.
BFM: I’m wondering, though, I mean, if it’s not likely to move the needle by too much, why would it cut interest rates?
TN: I think a lot of central banks right now are going through the motions, hoping to kind of ride on the coattails of the big moves at the ECB, BOJ and Fed are doing, right? PBOC is is taking some big moves. So I’m not saying that they’re not doing their part. They’re definitely playing a part. But little moves like this, I think with what we’ve seen is generally a big action is taken. We saw this with the first Fed action and so does in the central bank with the OPEC move over the weekend, right? A big action is taking, and the markets really just going on, they don’t care that a big action has been taken. But what happens is a series of smaller actions are then taken, and markets take notice. So if anything, I think there’s 20 basis point cut is in one action among many that the PBOC is planning so that they can gradually feed that market expectation.
But again, the markets are really bored and not satisfied by a single big move. They’re looking for a series of moves, can be satisfied and to gradually kind of re-course positive expectations into markets. But 20 basis points is not going to do it, especially when you’re looking at a fall in manufacturing or fall in wages, a fall in consumption, and potential deflation. Nobody is going to take out a market rate loan when they have all these other worries to tick down the list.
BFM: All right. Thank you so much for spending some time with us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence.