The CEO of Compete Intelligence, Tony Nash, was interviewed on BFM to discuss the current state of the US markets.
The S&P fell 1.6%, the worst decline in a month, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq snapped a seven-day rally, reversing gains of more than 1%. Nash suggests that this may be due to bad economic data, specifically PPI and retail sales falling, but also notes that consumer is still strong. Nash explains that the US economy is built on services, so people may be trying to confirm their downward bias in things, and when bad news is reported, a sell-off day occurs. Nash also mentions that if PPI falls, that should mean inflation is slowing, which should mean the Fed would ease a little and slow down on rate rises.
He also mentions that markets may be spooked by all the announcements regarding job cuts, such as Microsoft announcing they plan to cut 10,000 jobs and Bank of America telling their executives to pause hiring. Nash suggests that these job cuts are small in terms of the gap that we see in the US workforce, which is still missing millions of jobs in terms of the openings versus the available people.
Nash also mentions the yen tumbled yesterday after the BOJ went against market expectations by keeping its yield curve tolerance ban unchanged. He suggests that the BOJ is managing the yield curve to suppress borrowing costs and wants to keep it below 0.5%. Nash also mentions that Japan’s central bank is getting pressure from other central banks to keep their rates low, this means that if Japan lets their rates rise, then that would have a knock-on effect around the world and cause a repricing of government debt all around the world.
Nash concludes by saying that he expects a weaker yen, but doesn’t think we would necessarily hit those lows.
This is a podcast from BFM 89.9, The Business Station. BFM 89.9. It’s 7:06, Thursday, the 19 January, and you’re listening to the Morning Run with Chong Tjen San and I’m Wong Shou Ning. And earlier on, we did ask our listeners how traffic is like and Roberto said traffic today really smooth and super low compared to just yesterday. He loves Chinese New Year in KL. And so do we. I just love Chinese New York because I like the feasting and I like the ang bao collecting.
I get the hint.
Yes, we’re all looking at you, Tjen San. But in 30 minutes, we will be speaking to Angela Hahn of Bloomberg Intelligence on the impact of China’s reopening to Markhouse gaming and hospitality sector. But in the meantime, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
After a good run, all key US. Markets ended down yesterday. The Dow was down 1.8%, S&P 500 down 1.6%. The Nasdaq was down 1.2%. In terms of Asian markets, the Nikkei was up by 2.5%, Hang Seng up by 0.5%. The Shanghai Composite Index, it was unchanged, the Straits Times Index, it was up by 0.3%, and the FBMKLCI it was down by 0.3%.
Why are we always again and again there’s a trend here for sure. But to tell us where international markets are heading, we have on the line with us Tony Nash, CEO of Compete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Help us understand what’s happening in US markets. Because the S&P fell 1.6% is the worst decline in a month. Tech heavy Nasdaq snapped a seven-day rally, reversing gains of more than 1%. Is this just really due to bad economic data?
Yeah, we saw PPI and retail sales fall today. The weird part is consumer is still strong. The US economy is really built on services, so I think people are trying to confirm their downward bias in things. And whenever we see bad news, we see a sell off day. So I’m not necessarily sure I would read that much into it, aside from just there was really nothing else going on. So people saw some bad PPI news and they were negative. So if we see downward PPI, that should mean inflation is slowing, which should mean the Fed would ease a little. Not ease, but would slow down on rate rises a bit. So that should have been positive news for markets. So it’s just kind of a weird read of some of that data.
Do you think markets are also spooked by all these announcements with regards to job cuts? Because Microsoft says they plan to cut 10,000 jobs. Amazon of course, made announcements last week, and even Bank of America is it telling their executives to pause hiring. Not great for the mood on Wall Street?
Well, maybe, but I think those job cuts are actually kind of small in terms of the gap that we see. So the US is still missing millions of jobs in terms of the openings versus the available people so I think there’s something like 7 million jobs open. We also had a million people post COVID not come back to work. So we have a gap in the workforce, just a status quo workforce of a million people, but we have something like 7 million open positions. So when Microsoft lays off 10,000 people or Goldman lays off 4000 people, sure, it’s tragic. It’s definitely tragic for those individuals. But in terms of the overall health of the economy, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference.
And Tony, the yen tumbled yesterday after the BOJ went against market expectations by keeping its yield curve tolerance ban unchanged. What possible reasons would the central bank have for keeping this status quo?
Yes, so the BOJ is managing the yield curve to suppress borrowing costs and they want to keep it below kind of 0.5%. There have been some hedge funds and some big investors who’ve been betting that they would tighten it. And the BOJ is just bigger. I mean, when they came back and they said, we’re going to hold the line at 0.5, they spent about $100 billion so far this month to defend that and they have plenty of resources to hold that. So the release issue is this is if Japan lets their interest rates rise, then Japanese, say, banks and pension funds and other investors would consider selling debt from other parts in the world and buying Japanese debt. Okay, so if Japan lets their rates rise, then that would have a knock on effect around the world and that would cause a repricing of government debt all around the world. So it’s not just the BOJ wanting to keep this for Japanese domestic reasons. They’re getting pressure from other central banks to keep their rates low.
Okay, Tony, but what does this then all mean for the yen? I mean, at its worst point, the yen was trading 150 against the US dollar. Today it’s 128. That’s a very wide range in just a few months. So what are your expectations?
It is yeah, certainly I would look for a weaker yen. I don’t know that we would necessarily hit those lows. But the BOJ has made their stance clear. The BOJ has a new head coming in in a few months. I would say they’re unlikely to dramatically change policy with a new head because they don’t want to make people nervous. So I think they’re going to aggressively defend the status quo. So I don’t necessarily think you see a yen appreciating dramatically from here. I think the bias is really toward the downside.
Okay, staying on the topic of currencies then, what’s your view on US dollar? We’re just looking at the Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index this morning. It’s already down 1.5% on a year to date basis. The era of King dollar, is it over?
Well, I think not necessarily. If you’re looking at the DXY, it’s really heavy on the euro. And so we’ve seen Europe do better than many people thought through the winter because we haven’t had a cold winter there and energy prices haven’t bitten as hard as many people thought they would. So I think Europe is doing better and the Euro is doing better than many people thought. And everything in Currencies is relative. China is opening, although it’s gradually. China is opening. And so that’s good for CNY. Again, in a relative basis, I think there is downward pressure on the dollar, but I don’t necessarily think we’re over on that. I don’t think we’re heading straight down to, say, 95. I think we’re going to see some back and forth over the next couple of months as we figure out what the forward trajectory of the dollar is. And a lot of that really has to do with what direction will the Fed take in terms of their rate hikes and their quantitative tightening. And it has to do with treasury activity from the US. Treasury. How will they spend, what will they do, how will they fund the US government?
Tony, some analysts are saying that without a recovery in the Chinese economy, a global recession is all but assured. But what are your thoughts on this?
I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. I think China will do okay this year, and I think regardless, Europe will likely dip into recession this year, although fairly moderate. In the US, you see a very strong employment environment. And so employment is one of the key considerations for recession. So I don’t believe the US. Will dip into recession really on the back of employment news more than anything else. And so once we see some of these layoffs with larger companies and we get through this as, say, equity valuations stabilize, I think we’ll start to see a renormalization in the US economy as the Fed kind of takes the foot off the brake of the US economy. Of course, the Fed will continue to raise rates, but they’ll do it at a much slower pace, and that will make people much more comfortable in doing things like investing capital and so on and so forth, that will help the US to grow.
All right, thank you very much for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his outlook for the world economies and also markets in the coming weeks. I think very much the question everyone has on their mind is Fed rates. What is the terminal rate? Will they basically raise rates too much and then cause the US. Tip into a recession? But I see increasingly our guests, our commentators sounding a little bit less pessimistic, hinting that perhaps we’re going to have a soft landing rather than a hard landing.
Yeah, I think it’s really on the back of the really still strong employment in the US. I mean, he did mention there’s still 7 million jobs available in the US. And there are one million people post COVID that didn’t come back to work. And I think that really is his key point, that the US may not slip into recession, but it looks like EU will and China, it looks like they are really on track to a better recovery this year. I’ve seen some economists say that GDP growth could be like five to 6% as well.
I see that consensus figure that range is around there for China’s GDP for 2023. Now, turning our attention to corporate that released results they reported, which is Alcoa excuse me, which is aluminium company. They reported fourth quarter results earlier today, which saw losses narrow to $374,000,000. Loss per share as a result was $2.12. The loss included a 270 million charge related to tax expense. Revenue did decline 20% to $2.66 billion.
And Alcoa attributed the decline in revenue to lower prices for both Alumina and aluminium. Additionally, Alcoa will see some executive leadership changes effective February 1, including CFO William Oplinger reassignment to chief operations officer, in addition to his executive vice president role.
Okay, the street doesn’t really like this stock when you look at Bloomberg. Five buys, only seven holes, no sells. Consensus target price for the stock, $52.18. During regular market hours, the stock was already down one dollars. And now I think we need to talk about one of the world’s biggest companies, Apple. They are expanding their smart home lineup, taking on Amazon and Google. Are you surprised by this move?
Jensen not surprised at all. I think Apple is really the leader in terms of innovation, and we’ve seen it over the years, so no surprises there. So I think they’re launching some new devices. There’s a smart display tablet, there’s a HomePod. There’s a TV box and a MacBook and Mac mini using their cutting edge new processor, which is the M Two chip.
Are you going to buy any of these gadgets? You don’t even use an Apple phone. You haven’t joined a cult. You’re about the only one on the morning run. You and Philip sees that hanging on.
The iPad at home, but they’re quite old.
Okay, but will this make a dent to Apple’s earnings? Perhaps. I think they are trying to diversify their product range, because the iPhone, I think, hasn’t done as well as expected. If you look at Apple or Cost, still a darling on Wall Street. 36 buys, eight holes, two sells. Consensus target price for this to $169.24. At regular market hours, it was down seventy three cents to one hundred and thirty five dollars and twenty one cents. I, for one, will be curious as to what these products will be or how they’ll fare. Up next, of course, we’ll cover the top stories in the newspapers and portal. Stay tuned for that. BFM 89.9 you have been listening to a podcast from BFM 89.9, the business station. For more stories of the same kind, download the BFM app.
In this episode, we’re joined by Isaac Stone Fish, who is the CEO of Strategy Risks. He’s the author of a book called America Second, and he lived in China for seven years.
We talk about how are foreign companies dealing with the political changes in China? Or what should they be paying attention to? We’ve seen changes in Xi’s team that, to be honest, weren’t all that unexpected, but seems unexpected anyway. It’s certainly a hard turn to the CCP’s commie roots. This tweet really underscores how desperate Xi is to set an old school tone.
Markets have seemed a little spooked this week, so we saw orders from Beijing to prop up the CNY and Chinese equities, which didn’t work all that well. But with all the political and market backdrop, what does all of this mean for US and other foreign businesses? Are foreign employees at risk? Do we expect direct investment to slow down?
On the risk side, we look at tech earnings, which are super bad. Hiring is a huge issue and tech firms seem to have been hiring based on their valuation not based on their revenues. When will we see headcount reduction announcements? One of Meta’s investors was saying they should cut 20%. Albert shares his views on this.
And we’re also looking at crude oil inventories and refined product inventories. They’re way below averages. We saw another draw on global inventories this week. As OPEC supply is contracting ~1.2m bpd. Russian crude sanctions start soon. And US exported 5.12m bpd last week, making it the 3rd largest crude exporter. We know global inventories are low, but when will it start to bite? Tracy shares to us what’s going in.
1. China risk for Western companies 2. Tech earnings & China 3. Crude inventories & Asia stockpiling
This is the 39th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 1:00 Key themes for this Week Ahead 2:52 What the news about China means to Western businesses 6:38 What has changed around the concept of Communist Party membership over the last ten or 15 years? 8:20 Anybody who’s overseeing a business in China has to understand modern Chinese history 9:31 Risks for foreign staff in China 12:34 Congress does not want US companies to do business with China 14:14 Danger of a rush to the exits in twelve months 17:58 Tech earnings are super bad – how bad will layoffs be? 21:10 Is it possible to cut 20% of Meta’s workforce? 22:44 China and US competition in India and other countries 24:52 Crude inventories – when will this start to bite? 28:31 Japan is stockpiling crude – is it because of geopolitical concerns? 29:47 China stimulus – will they do it in February? 31:55 What happens to the crude demand of Covid Zero ends? 34:27 Will oil prices raise by 30% before 2022 ends?
Tony Nash: Hi, everybody, and welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. Today we’re joined by Isaac Stone Fish. Isaac is the CEO of Strategy Risks. He’s the author of a book called America Second, and he lived in China for seven years as the New York Times in New York Times bureau. So we’re really lucky to have Isaac with us. We have Albert Marko, of course. And Tracy Shuchart. We’re very fortunate to have them again today with us.
So, Isaac, welcome and we’re really happy to have you.
Our theme today that we’re going to talk through first is how are foreign companies dealing with the political changes in China? Or what should they be paying attention to?
On the risk side, we’re looking at tech earnings and the impact that tech earnings will have on other earnings and headcount reductions and other things over the next few months. And we’re also looking at crude oil inventories and refined product inventories. They’re way below averages.
And we want to hear from Tracy as to what’s going on.
Please take a look at our product, CI Futures. It’s a forecast subscription product. It’s $99 a month. We cover a few thousand assets over a twelve month horizon. Economics, currencies, commodities, equity indices. So please take a look at that. The URL is on the screen. Thanks a lot for that.
So, Isaac, welcome. Would you give us a quick overview of what Strategy Risks does?
Issac Stone Fish: Strategy Risks works with corporations and investors to help them manage and reduce their China risk. And with increased tensions between the United States and China, and growing awareness of the liabilities in both China and the United States of working with the People’s Liberation Army or the United Front or the Ministry of State Security or the Chinese Communist Party more broadly, it’s been a good couple of months for us.
And so excited to be joining you and chatting with you on these issues.
TN: You must be working 24 hours a day. I have no idea how you stay, how you get any rest right now with all the stuff that’s going on in China.
ISF: Under drugs right here.
TN: Isaac, I’m curious, with all of the political changes announced this week, of course, that’s been way analyzed, a lot of different perspectives on things. I would warn people as they read through that analysis, just be careful of kind of some anti China bias, but we have to kind of read things for what they are too.
We saw changes in Xi’s team that, to be honest, weren’t all that unexpected. People have talked about this for months, but the fact that he actually carried through with it, I think made people feel like it was a little bit unexpected.
But it’s certainly a hard turn to the CCP’s communist roots. I’m showing a Tweet right now looking at Xi taking his team to pilgrimage where the long march ended during the Communist revolution. And so he’s just the optics around the hard turn to the party’s communist roots are front and center.
So Isaac, markets were spooked this week. Of course, we saw orders from Beijing to prop up CNY and prop up Chinese equities. Obviously didn’t work very well. But with that backdrop, what does all this mean for US and other foreign businesses? I know it means a million things, but if you had some top level takeaways, what are the things that you’re seeing that it means for, say, US and other foreign businesses in China?
ISF: Have a really good understanding of leftist ideology. If you decide that you want to stay, which oftentimes we discourage, and if you decide that you don’t want to reduce your exposure, which we always discourage. Have a really good understanding of how Communism works, and read the tea leaves. Spend a lot of time on analysis. Understand that every Chinese company or every company in China that has at least three party members has to have a party cell. And for a long time people overlook that law.
But companies like Alibaba have tens of thousands of party members. So understanding that you’re partnering with the Chinese Communist Party and things that you used to be able to get away with, you can’t anymore. I think the other high level take away is with increased media, consumer and congressional scrutiny on China.
What happens in China doesn’t stay in China. So the work that you do with a major Chinese charity which does say party building exercises in Chinese orphanages, aka Brainwashing Chinese Children on Party ideology, we can get that information here. Congressional staffers can read that, journalists can pick that up, and you’re going to have to start dealing with the liability of that from a PR perspective. The final highlevel takeaway, the more Xi marches to the left, the more draconian things get. And the more saber rattling we see with Taiwan, the more likely it is that the US and China go to war over Taiwan.
Right now, I would say that’s still not the base case. War is very avoidable. It probably won’t happen. But it’s a very concrete risk and investors and I would argue especially boards of major corporations, need to be discussing this risk. And perhaps the best thing to do with the risk is to say, okay, we know this, we’re not going to change.
But I think if there is a war, companies are going to have to face some pretty serious shareholder lawsuits because it’s a viewable risk and you didn’t do anything about it.
TN: Right. So let me ask you, take two questions. First is, in 2010 or ’11, I spoke at the Central Party School in Beijing, and the person who drove. I was giving an economic update. I was working with the Economist at the time, and it was so surreal for me. The person who drove me to that event was a venture capitalist. And so I think the view that many people have of Communist Party members is, oh, you know, they’re these soft guys, they’re capitalists like us too, you know, that sort of thing. What has changed around the concept of Communist Party membership over the last ten or 15 years?
ISF: Think of the perception. So when Rupert Murdoch in early 2000s was going into business in China, he would downplay the importance of the Communist Party and say things like, oh, they’re just like us, there’s really no difference. And some people just join the party for opportunistic reasons, and some people do it because they believe, but they’re fairly soft spoken and gentle. And then there’s the very hard security element of the party.
And I think people are realizing that for every venture capitalist, there’s also the PLA secret agent or the MSS agent or the public security agent in that these people are increasingly important in the Chinese system.
And the other piece of it is that it used to be seen from a Western context, both PR and regulatory, relatively benign to be working with party members in the Communist Party. But after the genocide in Xinjiang, after Xi’s increasing authoritarianism, people are not getting the pass that they had before when you and I were out there.
TN: Right. And so I think it’s really critical. Anybody who’s overseeing a business in China has to understand modern Chinese history. You have to start from the great famine, really. I mean, start from the revolution, but really the great famine through the Cultural Revolution, through the 70s, through Deng Xiaoping, through… That era is really critical to understand what’s happening today. Right. Because that’s when Xi Jinping grew up and that’s when his ideologies were formed. Is that safe to say?
ISF: Good is safe to say. I think the other thing that we have to understand is we do have to be incredibly humble about our ability to understand what’s going on at the top of the party. We have very little idea. People are going to keep speculating about that crazy video with former Chairman Hujing Tao. We probably won’t know what happened there for decades, I would guess.
And I think when we talk about war with Taiwan, we talk about what’s going to happen between the US and China, we have a lot of insight into how Biden thinks and almost none into how Xi Jinping thinks. We just need to bake that into our predictions.
TN: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I cautioned on that earlier this week about the Hoojin Tao exit. It could be health, you don’t know. Right? It could be intrigue. You don’t know. So none of us know.
So let me also ask you, when you talk about you had a tweet about potential China-Taiwan war earlier this week, and you talked about Chinese staff for American companies or Western companies, sorry, and you talked about Western staff in China. So can we talk about some of those risks, like the real people risks for multinational companies who hire Chinese employees. And none of this is intended to be Xenophobic.
This is intended to be purely practical in understanding really what the risks are. And also with those foreign staff in China. Can you help us understand some of those risks?
Tracy Shuchart: Yeah, I was going to ask something along that line, if I can just tag on my question to that one. We saw a bunch of people who are Americans pulling their staff from Chinese chip companies right, lately. So I was wondering if you saw that, see that trend continuing and bleeding into other sectors besides just the tech sector.
ISF: I very much do, and I think there’s two ways to think about this. One is the economic and regulatory so increasing difficulty doing business in China, desire for localization of staff, Biden regulations that restrict the ability of Americans to work at certain Chinese chip companies. And then you have the potential for war.
And the idea is that if the US and China go to war, American staff in China and also Chinese staff for certain American companies could be seen as enemy combatants. And we saw this with Afghanistan, we saw this with Ukraine. There’s orders of magnitude, more staff for Western companies in China than in these places. I mean, it’s not even comparable, the numbers.
And I think from an ethical perspective, I get really worried that people don’t talk about war because then war could just be on us. And the United States has a terrible history of interning Japanese during World War II and harassing Germans during World War I. I think with the dynamic with Chinese people here, we need to have a concrete conversation about it so that we can defend the rights of Chinese and Chinese Americans in America if we go to war.
And from a corporate perspective and from a risk perspective, companies need to have exit plans for their staff in China because they’re going to be dealing with major, major ethical and insurance risk issues if this happens. And they can’t just take the foreign staff out to Hong Kong anymore. Because that’s not like a free zone anymore. And you hear stories of people being smuggled out now, and I think we’re going to hear a lot more of those, and that’s going to be more and more common.
TN: So, Isaac, what are we missing when you see the discussion about China right now and with American businesses, what are we missing? What’s not being discussed that you’re like, Gosh, I can’t believe people don’t see this.
ISF: Congress does not want American companies to do business in China. And with the UFLPA, the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act, we talked to a lot of corporates about that, and they don’t seem to understand how to comply with the law. And that’s the point. It’s a law that’s meant to deter behavior as opposed to shape behavior.
So it’s okay, we can’t invest in Xinjiang, but this company that we work with, has a branch of Xinjiang. Well, don’t work with that company. And I think the American political calculus of this too.
People don’t really get Pelosi’s trip, I think didn’t really bake into corporate behavior in the way that it should have because people think this is a Republican issue. They hear Marco Rubio, they hear Ted Cruz, they hear some of the awful remarks that Trump made, and they don’t realize that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer sound almost exactly like Rubio and Cruz on these issues. They think it’s a Republican issue. It’s not a Republican issue. There are holdouts on the progressive left, there are holdouts on the libertarian right. But the US is pretty united about this from a government perspective.
It’s just not from a business perspective. And that’s fine. You can have that discordance. But businesses need to understand main street and Congress feel very differently about these issues than they do.
TN: Yeah. So one last question on this. Unless Albert, Tracy, you guys were going to come in, but do you think we’ll see publicly traded American companies disposing of their China units with say a Hong Kong IPO?
I mean, I know this is an old idea, but better than nationalization, at least they can get some value of it. And I think of like a GM or something like that, right? It’s a huge business for them. So they could potentially either have that nationalized or they could make it public on the Hong Kong stock exchange or something.
So do you think we’ll see more of this? Young Brands is the one that everyone knows about from ten years ago or whatever, but do you think we’ll see more of this? And if people don’t do it now, is there a danger of a rush to the exits in say twelve months?
ISF: I think that’s an excellent point. Ping on, which is a major shareholder of HSBC, suggested HSBC break up into two different banks, one headquartered in Hong Kong to focus on China market and one of the rest of the world.
And companies like Boeing, which has an airplane business that I think it’s something like 14% to 18%, goes to China, specifically the Chinese Communist Party and then has a very important government contracting business which is increasingly at odds with its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and need to start considering these issues.
I think you’re right also on the timing, these things take a lot of time and companies are very private with them for obvious reasons. So if they’re considering them now and we’re going to see announcements on it and it doesn’t require that much scrutiny from Cyphius or the Beijing’s regulatory Agency or other Beijing other Chinese agencies, I can see these things happening.
I think if companies are starting to think about it now, it’s probably too late. I think years process. But in the same way that nobody wants to talk about war, nobody wants to talk about spinning off their China assets.
TN: Right. But you either do it now or it gets nationalized. Or you do it for $0.10 on the dollar in a year or two years.
ISF: I think you’re exactly right. And Tony, we should write something on this, and I think this is a good time to talk about this issue.
Albert Marko: Okay. There are other issues. Capital flight out of China, even if you decide to list in Hong Kong, is like, where’s the money going to come from? It’s not going to come from the west. Even the Chinese are starting to take their money out into Singapore and Macau and anywhere else they can get it out of at the moment.
But I agree with Isaac on 90% of what he’s saying. I don’t think that war, Taiwan is even a remote possibility in the next ten years, to be honest with you. The pilot bureau, Xi is inspired politburo. It looks scary. There’s no question about that. And the Western companies need to take a look at that because it reminds me of the Nazis from the 1930s.
Now, I’m not talking about what the Nazi crimes were, but just the mobilization of the country and the nationalization of corporations and then starting to boost the economy internally. It’s most likely going to start happening, and they will nationalize companies that they see are instrumental for their vision going forward.
TN: Yes. I mean, honestly, I don’t know why anybody related to SAIC Shanghai automotive. Why would that not become the property of SAIC? If they’re really taking this nationalist bent, that’s a real risk, right? I think so. Any of these guys really need to pay attention and really start to evaluate what is their path going forward? What is their path for Chinese staff? What is their path for foreign staff there? What is their path for IP that’s shared between those units? These are real head scratcher questions.
Okay, Isaac, thank you so much for that. This is so insightful. I’d love to spend 2 hours with you on this, but we’ve got to talk about tech earnings.
So, Albert, tech earnings are super bad, right? Super bad.
AM: Super bad is an understatement.
TN: Yeah. Horrific. It’s a tech wreck, all that stuff. So we can talk about what missed and kind of we all know what’s missed. That’s been analyzed over the last 24 hours or say a few days or whatever. But I guess what I’m most interested in tech is staffing.
So the vacancies in the US. Workforce has been a big issue for the Fed. Okay. And I’m showing right now on the screen that the Meta’s stock price from $350 all the way down to I think it was $97 yesterday, just over one year. It’s incredible, right?
So a lot of these tech firms have been over hiring. They’ve been putting out job wrecks for things that they where they just want to target one person and they don’t really want to target the job and all this stuff. They’ve almost been hiring based on their valuation rather than their revenues. So in terms of those productivity metrics, do you think we’ll start to see headcount reduction in tech? Or they’ve been saying, hey, we’re just going to slow down our hiring.
So do you think they’re going to stick to only slowing down their hiring? Or do you think we’re going to see this kind of tech halt and kind of shrink the tech workforce?
AM: Oh, absolutely. You got to shrink the tech workforce. But that’s not going to come till after midterms. I mean, nobody wants to be in the line of sight of Biden’s firing squad over firing 10 thousand people just before midterms happen. But afterwards you will. Probably after Christmas, you’ll actually start seeing quite the number of job layoffs in the tech industry.
TN: Every time I’ve worked with a tech related firm, the pink slips come literally the week before Christmas.
AM: Yeah, you know what I mean? I don’t think that people understand how bad these tech earnings are. Right. We can note Facebook and Amazon and whatnot, but they had tailwinds of inflation of an extra 10% because CPI, they say 8%. It’s really like 20%. So they had an extra 10% baked into their earnings that people don’t really catch. Right? And even with that, they’re down 30, 40%.
Amazon lost 25% in two days. Amazon. These are just astronomical. Which is a solid company. I love Amazon. I don’t have any… Company. Yeah, it is a solid company. And I like Amazon, I like the tech, I like the delivery service. And everything they do is correct. But I mean, realistically, they were, them and along with another dozen tech names were so over inflated for the last two years because the market just kept pumping up to just the high heavens that this was just I mean, it was an easy call that tech had to come down.
And on top of that, tech is based on zero rates. We’re not going to see zero rates for years.
TN: Right, that’s fair. Okay, so, you know, one of the hedge funds, I can’t remember who, was pushing Meta or Facebook now, I guess, again, to cut 20% of their workforce. Do you think something like that is possible?
AM: And it sounds like a lot, but given what’s happened with their valuations, do you think a 20% cut is possible? Do you think more or less is possible? And 20% is a lot. Usually when you have over 12%, you start looking at a company as going into bankruptcy. That’s one of the signs that you look at. So 20% is way too much. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe seven to 10% staggered over the next few years.
TN: Okay, that’s fair. But I mean, they hire a huge number of people. What that would do to wages in tech would be immediate, right? $300,000, 22-year-old dev, that would be gone.
AM: Well, yeah, that cuts into the state’s budgets also because they take those tax revenue and whatnot. The other thing that we should talk about is China’s mix with the tech industry. I mean, now that the US congress, like Isaac was saying, is actively trying to prevent companies to go over there, I don’t know where tech earnings are going to come from. I just don’t see it. They’re taking away massive market share. They’re taking away supply chains and semiconductors and everything. I don’t see any silver lining in tech for the next two, three years.
I think they need to run size their organizations and really focus. Plus there’s more competition in the ad market, so you’re not going to see ad rates necessarily rise from here for some time.
So, yeah, I think there’s a lot of headwinds. I actually have to get Isaac’s opinion on this one is no one is talking about the tech industry in China competition with American companies in countries like India. Right? Because you have Chin Data and a couple of other countries that are massive and makes generate a ton of cash out of there.
And nobody’s talking about the competition level in India between the two. And I don’t know if you’ve heard anything, Isaac, but like, that’s something that I wanted to start looking into.
ISF: I think that’s an excellent point, is it doesn’t get nearly enough attention. And the market for the rest of the world for most of these companies is larger than the market for the US and China combined. There are a lot of contested spaces, especially in countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia.
And I think the lens through which we should see it is the political battle between the US and China because both countries are really pushing all of these third countries to be more sympathetic towards their way of view because so many of these tech companies can be hobbled by regulations. We see that with Huawei. We see that a lot in India where there’s a lot of distrust for Chinese tech companies, a lot of restrictions on the ability of Chinese tech companies to operate.
And so it’s protectionist, but it’s good political warfare for both sides to be making these arguments in countries around the world. And it is good business for these companies to be spending heavily on government affairs in all of these companies, in all of these countries and figuring out how they position their relationship with the government, whether it be the Chinese government or the US.
AM: Yeah, and that’s something I actually criticized the Biden administration that they’ve been so hard on India about using Russian tech and Russian oil. It’s like, come on, you guys got to be a little bit pragmatic here. You know what I mean? They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with China and Pakistan.
ISF: I think that’s a great I mean, they buy huge amount of weapons from Russia, and they buy those in large part to defend against China.
TN: Yeah, very good. Okay, great. Thanks for that, Albert.
Now, Tracy, let’s move on to crude inventories. I’ve got a Tweet up where you talk about there was another draw this week.
And we saw a draw on global inventories. As we have inventory drawdowns, we have OPEC supply contracting by what, about 1.2 million barrels per day, something like that. Russian crude sanctions starting. We also have with the SPR, it was interesting to see the US became the third largest exporter of crude, I think last week or something, with over 5 million barrels per day because of the SPR draw.
So we know global industries are low, but when does that start to bite? I feel like the easy answer is well, after the SPR stops, right? What more to the story is there?
TS: I mean, I think it really depends on where you are. I mean, we’re already seeing the SPR. Those draws are kind of dwindling down, right? We’ve gone from about seven, 8 million barrels per week to 3.5 million. Even though that’s still a lot. That’s been part of the reason why we’re exporting, because we kind of, first, we were drawing down sour crude because that’s really what US refiners need. But at some point, that’s almost gone, so we had to start releasing sweet crude, and we can’t do anything with those barrels. And so they are making their way to China, they are making their way overseas.
And that’s why our exports have increased over the last few months there. In particular, we’re kind of seeing an uneven balance where we’re seeing global inventories are drawing, still drawing, right? US inventories are drawing, by all intents and purposes. I mean, we had, what, a 2.8 million build, but we also had a 3.5 million SPR release and an adjustment factor of 15.8 million barrels. Technically, we are drawing. And really, if you include the SPR, we had a draw of 5.9 million barrels total crude plus products this week.
But we are seeing what’s interesting is we are seeing Japan. Their stocks are actually going up because they’re stockpiling mad right now. So they’re buying everything from everybody. It’s stockpiling, and they were giving subsidies for companies to buy that in their SPR. So Japan kind of had a different kind of way of looking at things and the rest worlds just dumping. But they’re literally stockpiling.
China did stockpile for a while, but really their SPR is down, obviously, from the 2020 highs. They’re not stockpiling as much. But with China, I know that there are many problems going on there, but if they increase those import quotas for the Teapots, then we’re going to start seeing them by a lot.
TN: By Teapots, you mean the small refinery?
TS: Is just correct, because they’re talking about possibly raising those import quotas. But we won’t really find that out until December, and that’ll be for into 2023.
TN: Okay, so just a question on both, well, in Japan, first of all. With the yen at these dramatic lows, they’re stockpiling and it’s hugely expensive for them. It’s not just kind of incidental decision, this is a really intentional decision for them to stockpile. So are they partly, do you know, are they partly stockpiling
on geopolitical concerns?
TS: Yes, absolutely. I believe so. And all around, because we really saw them that sort of started to kick off in March after Ukraine invasions. Same with LNG, right? They’ve always been huge importers of LNG, the world’s largest, but they’re importing even more because they’re kind of seeing what’s happening in Europe right now and they don’t want that to happen to them.
AM: I think it’s a little bit more than that. Also, I think that they see that we’re probably even got cues from the US that Japan is going to be a manufacturing hub to try to pick up the slack from China. So I think they’re preparing for that in 2023, 2024. And on top of that, the price of oil right now, that’s still discounting China not stimulating because once China stimulates, the demand is just going to skyrocket.
TN: Okay, all three of you guys want to ask about that China stimulus. So you guys all know China Beige Book, and they’ve been saying everyone’s really foolish for thinking China is going to stimulate, and they’ve been saying that for something like six months. Right? And I hear a lot of people say, oh, they’ll stimulate after the Party Congress. I said that too, and we still haven’t seen that. Do we think that we’re going to see stimulus in China, say, before Chinese New Year, which is what, February?
ISF: I would say absolutely not. I think the real stimulus for the Chinese economy, too, will be less a government led infusion of capital and more a relaxation of COVID concerns.
And I think that’s going to be a lot more likely after Spring Festival than after the March Congress because, A, you have the appointment of the premiere, you have some important events there, but you also don’t have to worry about mass contagion with hundreds of millions of people wanting to travel.
So I think the base case for the opening of the economy and then potentially economic inflation is after the Congress, after Spring Festival. And who knows, it’s very hard to predict, but that would be my best guess for that.
TN: I think that’s really solid. What do you think about that?
AM: Yeah, I think COVID Zero policies are going to be still in place until March. There’s no question about that. I think stimulus happens around the same time that they think that inflation is under control. I think that’s pretty much their driver at the moment, because if they stimulate price of copper and oil and everything in the country is going to go to the moon and they know this. So I think it really depends on inflation. What the US can do to tame it.
TN: So when do you think they’ll think that inflation is under control?
AM: I think close around March after the US. And also the end of quantitative tightening and whatnot. So it’ll probably be a coordinated effort.
TN: Okay, so Tracy, if they just let go of the lockdowns, what does that do to crude demand?
TS: Well, definitely we obviously start to see that rise because they’re locking down millions of people at a time, you know what I’m saying? An entire city, and not for a couple of days. We’ve seen some cities lock down as long as two months.
So I think as soon as they start relaxing that we’re definitely going to see demand come flooding into the market.
And again, China hasn’t really been stockpiling this whole time during this, which they have a little bit from their lows, if you look at their SPR, but not a lot. Not as much as everybody thinks they are. Everybody thinks they are because oil prices are lower and they like lower oil prices. But really, comparatively speaking to how they purchased in the past, the SPR hasn’t been as much as most people think.
AM: Okay, do you think that they could be? First of all, I don’t trust the data of China. I don’t have anything.
TS: Well, what we can see from satellite systems, right? We have no idea what their underground storage looks like or anything of that nature. But what we can tell and what we can track, what’s actually going into the country.
AM: Do you think that they can hide that in tankers on the sea for a while?
TS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they’ve been known to do that before. Absolutely. They’ve used Myanmar,
AM: Singapore also, I believe.
TS: Well, Singapore is a little bit harder to hide just because it’s so huge and so many people are tracking vessels there. So they kind of like to kind of stay away from there when they’re kind of trying to hide stuff.
But definitely, I mean, they’ve, you know, hidden purchases from Venezuela through Singapore, through other ports in that area. From what you can see from the best guess. From the best guess, what you can see, what you can tell what satellite services have picked up, like Kepler or whatever.
TN: OK, let me kind of close up with this question. So I just filled up with gas in the US last night and I posted this price in Texas is $2.95. So I’m sure you’re all jealous. I said, will this be 30% higher by the end of the year? Because post election, SPR releases stop, other things? Do you expect gasoline to rise, say, as much as 30% before the end of the year since SPR release and other things are stopping? Or do you think we’re kind of in this zone that we’re going to be in for a little while?
TS: Well, I think that generally this is kind of lower demand season anyway, right? I mean, usually typically we don’t see prices really start to rise again until about mid December, just seasonally speaking, right before the holidays. Christmas in particular, and everybody goes on vacation, et cetera, et cetera.
But I think, I don’t know. 30% might be a lot for this year, but definitely for next year we’re going to have some problems because they took that last 10-15 million barrels and they pushed that out for December, so we’ll still have some releases then.
So I think they did that it was actually 14 million barrels that are left and so they did push those out until December. So they’re kind of going to triple it out in order to kind of control prices.
TN: Okay, so the selection bias for people telling me that I was right is wrong.
TS: I think it’ll probably depend on where you are in the country, you know, depending on the state. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re in the Northeast, you’re going to have a huge problem, right, because they have the same issues going on that Europe. They don’t have any pipelines, they don’t have any storage, and they don’t have any refining capacity.
So this winter, especially with the diesel shortage, you’ll probably see the highest gasoline prices, obviously in California and then the Northeast will be the next higher.
TN: And I just want to say to everybody, I’m not promoting the gasoline price as a reason to move to Texas. I mean, it’s all scorpions and rattlesnakes and really terrible bagels here, so please don’t move here. It’s just an incidental benefit of living in a place that’s a pretty rough place to survive.
So anyway, guys, thank you so much. Isaac, really invaluable. I don’t think we’re going to gotten this perspective from anybody else on earth, so I really appreciate the time that you spent with us.
Albert. Tracy. Thank you, guys. I always appreciate your point of view. So thanks very much. Have a great weekend. Thank you.
Shanghai on Tuesday reported a surge in local asymptomatic cases as the entire city of 25 million people remains in lockdown. The city reported 268 local symptomatic cases and 13,086 local asymptomatic cases, including 6,788 from Pudong. That’s a 48% increase from the previous day. China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan ordered local officials to curtail the outbreak “as soon as possible,” on a visit to the city. Media outlet, Caixin, has reported that close contacts of infected people will be moved to neighbouring provinces. This could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of Shanghai residents.
The US, EU and G7 group of nations are set to impose broad new sanctions on Russia, after President Macron accused Russia of war crimes and President Joe Biden called for a war crimes trial. The US will ban all new investment in Russia. The EU proposal, which will need backing from the 27 member states, will include a ban on Russian coal. Germany said it would temporarily take control of a German unit of Russian state-owned Gazprom, which operates some of Germany’s largest natural gas storage facilities. in a bid to secure gas deliveries.
The US Treasury said Tuesday that it will not permit any dollar debt payments to be made from Russian government accounts at US financial institutions. The move is designed to heap further pressure on Moscow and force it into a choice between using dollar reserves held in its own country to pay bond investors, spending new revenue, or going into default.
Federal Reserve governor, Lael Brainard, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become the next vice-chair, said yesterday that the Fed will begin a “rapid” reduction of its US$9tn balance sheet as soon as its next policy meeting in May and is prepared to take “stronger” action when it comes to raising interest rates in order to bring down inflation. She added, the Fed was prepared to take “stronger action” when it came to tightening monetary policy, suggesting support for delivering half-point rate rises at forthcoming meetings.
On today’s Money Talk we’re joined by Iris Pang at ING Wholesale Banking, Jack Siu from Credit Suisse and on the phone from the USA, Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence.
PL: Good morning. I hope you have a great day off yesterday. This is Peter Lewis back with your business and finance news on Money Talk on Radio Three. The Times 8:03 in Hong Kong on Wednesday, the 6 April. Shanghai on Tuesday reported a surge in local Asymptomatic cases as nearly the entire city of 25 million people remains in lockdown. The city reported 268 local symptomatic cases and 13,086 local Asymptomatic cases, including 6788 from Poo Dong. That’s a 48% increase from the previous day. The US, EU and G seven group of nations are set to impose broad new sanctions on Russia after President Macron accused Russia of war crimes and President Joe Biden called for a war crimes trial. The US will ban all new investment in Russia. The EU proposal, which will need backing from the 27 member States, will include a ban on Russian coal. Germany said it would temporarily take control of the German unit of Russian stateowned Gas Prom, which operates some of Germany’s largest natural gas storage facilities, in a bid to secure gas deliveries. The US Treasury said Tuesday that it will not permit any dollar debt payments to be made from Russian government accounts at US financial institutions.
PL: The move is designed to heap further pressure on Moscow and force it into a choice between using dollar reserves held in its own country to pay bond investors spending new revenue or going into default. Federal Reserve Governor Lyle Brainard, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become the next vice chair, said yesterday that the Fed will begin a rapid reduction of its $9 trillion balance sheet at its next policy meeting in May, and it’s preparing to take stronger action when it comes to raising interest rates in order to bring down inflation, suggesting support for delivering half point rate rises at forthcoming meetings. On today’s Money Talk, we’re joined by Iris Pang at Ing Wholesale Banking, Jack Siu from Credit Suisse, and on the phone from the USA Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence. On Wall Street. Overnight, US stocks have fallen following Fed Governor Lao Brain odds comments suggesting support for 50 basis point rate increases and a rapid reduction in the Fed’s balance sheet. The SP 500 fell 1.3%, to 4525. The Nasdaq Composites lost 2.3% to 14,204. The Dow slipped 281 points to 34,641. Shares of Twitter rose 2% overnight following a 27% jump on Monday after it was revealed that Elon Musk had bought a nine 2% stake in the company.
PL: Earlier today, Twitter announced that the company will appoint Musk to the company’s board of directors, and shortly afterwards, Elon Musk tweeted that he looked forward to making significant improvements to Twitter in the coming months. In Europe, the stock 600 index rose zero. 2%. London’s Footy 100 climbed three quarters of a percent Hong Kong and mainland China markets were closed yesterday for the Chingling festival. In the commodities markets, oil prices fell slightly, with Bunk crew settling down 1.8% at $106.64 a barrel. Futures linked to Europe’s wholesale coal prices rose more than 10% $290 a ton after European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would impose an embargo on Russian coal. Gold is down half a percent at $1,922 an ounce, and following Leo Brain odds remarks, the sell off in US Treasury has accelerated. The yield on the ten year bond surged 16 basis points to an almost three year high of two point 55%, the biggest daily move in two years. And the yields on policy sensitive two year notes also rose, jumping ten basis points to two point 53%. In the currency markets, the US dollar index is up half a percent.
PL: The Euro is trading at 1.9 cents, the Bucks at 123.5. Japanese yen Sterling is worth one point 33 quarter cents, and Hk$10.24 the Chinese yuan is at six point 38 versus the dollar in offshore markets this morning. And Bitcoin is trading 1.3% weaker at $45,500 round. Asian stock markets this morning. It’s all looking to the downside. The SX 200 in Australia is off a third of a percent. Stocks have just opened in Japan, where the Nico 225 is down 1.3%. Similar story in South Korea. Stocks there of zero. 7% at the open futures markets, pointing to a decline of about 70 points for the Hang Segue later on this morning. At the Open, the time is eight or eight and a half. Let’s welcome our guests. We have on the phone Iris Pang, chief greater China economist at Ing Wholesale Banking. Morning to your Iris.
IP: Morning, Peter.
PL: And also with us is Jack Sue, chief investment office of a Greater China at Credit Scores. Morning, Jack.
JS: Good morning, Peter.
PL: And on the phone from the USA, we have Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence. Welcome back, Tony.
TN: Thank you. Good morning, Peter.
PL: Let’s start in Shanghai. A surge in local cases there. The city has reported 268 symptomatic cases over 13,000 local Asymptomatic cases. That’s up almost 50% from the previous day. And the city remains in lockdown for mass testing. It was supposed to have come out of testing yesterday. A media outlet, Kaishin, has reported that close contacts of infected people will now be moved to neighboring provinces. Iris, this sounds it’s getting serious, isn’t it? It’s lasting a lot longer than we thought. This lockdown, the cases seem to be getting worse. What are the consequences of this going to be on China’s economy?
IP: It is actually quite long from my perspective, and because they also come to close contact. So the number of people affected is a large group. So these people cannot work, because if the close contact is moved to another province, they cannot work. And I believe that they will be isolated. So it depends on now how many days they will be isolated. I believe that it will be at least 40 days. So almost the whole month of April is wiped out and Shanghai is a big city. So it’s wiped out around two percentage points of GDP.
PL: Two percentage points for this quarter.
IP: Yeah, for this quarter.
PL: So that means that China is not going to meet its growth target of 5.5% for this year because Shanghai is what, 4% of the country’s GDP.
IP: Yeah. Anyway, my focus originally before this cold outbreak is actually 4.8% lower than the target of 5.5% and now it is 4.3% even lower.
PL: Jack, what are your thoughts on this and also in particular its impact on Chinese markets?
JS: Well, we have a less pessimistic forecast at quite a twist. We think in the second quarter GDP for China, the Shanghai situation will knock off about 1.2% to the quarterly GDP. But in a full annual GDP hit, we calculated about 9.3% hit to the full cars. But the thing is the situation is leading to the authority to come up with more stimulus and setback is regulatory crackdown. And so similar measures are coming to offset the situation right now. So if the tariff situation lasts for the next few weeks, we do see some downside risk. So we are hopeful that in two to three months time we will be returning back to Nova. This is exactly what we expect to happen in Hong Kong, which is about two months ahead of the mainland. In terms of the culprit situation.
PL: We haven’t seen much signs of stimulus so far from the authorities. They seem to be fairly restrained. Do you think it’s coming?
JS: Well, we have seen that workership policy for housing market has continued relaxed. We have seen that the listing rules for us listed companies have relaxed. We have seen that the claim, the message from the central party that they will reduce the crackdown pressure on tech companies. There’s a lot for the investors that digest. We think we are hopeful that it’s impact that lifting the crackdown itself will add a 0.3% GDP. This is an indirect impact. It’s hard to calculate, but we are quite hopeful. We are above consensus and GDP forecast. We’re still sticking to our 5.9% above consensus forecast for this year.
PL: Okay, Tony, let me ask you for sort of an international perspective on this because obviously Shanghai is China’s largest Port. There’s a lot of factories there that are crucial to global supply chains. Is this being noticed and talked about in the US and how do you see it from there?
TN: Oh, sure it is. Yeah. Today a friend told me that the wedding all bonded area at Shanghai Port was closed, I think until April 11 because they found one Kobe case. And I think the view from here is very surprised because I live in Texas. We have been open since June of 2020 effectively. And we’ve had a lot of covered cases and business and life has pretty much gone on. People come to the office when they’ve tested positive for COVID. I know Texas is a little bit extreme, but from this side the concern is the impact on supply chains. So obviously we have inflation with commodities, but the constrained supply of goods of manufactured goods, the secondary impacts of inflation that we would see in manufactured goods simply because of commodities, inflation will be accentuated because of the bottlenecks for manufacturing. So what I have been telling recommending people in the west is that Western governments have to have a discussion with China to accept that Kobe is endemic, that has to be accepted for the health of the global economy.
PL: They don’t seem to want to discuss that, do they? I mean, they are sticking adamantly with this, what they call dynamic zero plan, right.
TN: But it’s Peter, countries cannot live this way and societies cannot stay locked down this way. And the global economy will have that double accelerator of inflation if manufacturing bottlenecks continue. I mean, we already have a double accelerated, but it will accelerate even more. So you talked about the Fed activity. The Fed potentially in intermediate rise and the 50 basis point rise in May and June is becoming more likely. And you can’t necessarily offset supply side shocks with monetary policy. All they can really do is demand destruction. And so with Brennard talking about both interest rate rises and reducing the balance sheet, the Fed is really focused on demand destruction and they’re going to have to accelerate that if China remains closed. So I believe that behind closed doors Western governments are having discussions with China saying, look, you have to accept this as endemic because most of the rest of the world already have.
PL: Iris, do you agree with that? Do you think this zero covert policy that’s being maintained on the mainland is not going to be sustainable? And if it does, it’s not only going to damage China’s economy but it’s going to damage the global economy?
IP: I think it is not a question for us. It’s a question for the Chinese government. Back in the two sessions in early March, there was a signal that the government seems to decide to move away from dynamic clearing because they didn’t mention it in the two sessions and the government work report. But then the outbreak in Hong Kong makes them really worried. And therefore, for example, in Sunshine before Shanghai, the government moved very swiftly to have the mass test and then broken the infection link. But Shanghai is a bigger city than Shenzhen and can’t escape from this. So I think it is the willingness of the central government to move away from the idealistic dynamic clearing. It seems that they are not because of several things that is different between China and the Western side of the world. The first thing and the most important thing is the capacity of hospital. China’s capacity of hospital per capita is actually very low. So in such cases life is more important than economic growth.
PL: Jack, this is all coming at a difficult time because just as we’re seeing the slowdown on the mainland, we’re also getting talk of even more aggressive interest rate rises from the Fed. Markets are pricing in now nine rate rises, nine quarter point rate rises this year, which means there’s going to have to be some half point rate increases. We had loud bridge last night talking about an aggressive reduction in the balance sheet. Is this going to start to affect stocks? It already is clearly on the bond markets. But do you think this is going to start to affect stocks?
JS: Well, number one, on the previous topic, I think China is fully aware of the situation that it cannot live in a serial corpus strategy forever. What we are waiting for is the availability of treatment such as Paxlon which is a proof drug for onshore China. When the supply of drugs become widely available to mainland hospital or healthcare system which would likely at the beginning of the year end or beginning of next year, we will have a gradual shift to lift with Colbert in 2023. This is our forecast number one. Number two, in terms of rate hikes, the third is expected to hide rates by 50 basis point in our view in an early May meeting and followed by another 125 basis point by year end and then another 100 basis points by next year subject to the development of Russia’s Ukraine situation and whether there is a rate hike related hit to the economy that would lead to less consumption in the United States. These are very concerning factors to consider because if I think about my mortgages in Hong Kong which is linked to the Fed rate, if mortgage rate increased by another 150 basis points in Hong Kong, if say you have a mortgage of HK$5 million, $87,000 this year, the money that’s been giving out to the population is only $10,000.
I mean the consumption impact is definitely a concern in terms of how it’s going to hit economy. But in terms of investment, right. We have to focus on areas that is not really driven by consumers. Like in China we have infrastructure led policy where we do see earnings rising in later sectors. In the new energy sector we do see earnings rising because of the global transaction in the green energy. And in terms of global investment we do see in the short term US Equities can go higher. I think beyond that we have to be very selective in this sector strategy because the banks are going to be beneficiaries of rising interest rates and high inflation. The energy companies, we think oil price will remain above 100 this year and therefore they will still be profitable and we have to be invested in SME sectors where because they are able to reprice because inflation pressure is coming. At the same time as business we open in the west, they are able to charge slightly higher price on the back of high inflation, and they can do that. And those companies will be more profitable than the last couple of years.
So we have to be selective when investing in this new environment we’re in.
PL: Okay, Tony, let me ask you about Laurel Bernard’s comments overnight. She’s talking about an aggressive reduction in the balance sheet. She seems to be suggesting that she supports now 50 basis point rate hikes. We’ve obviously seen a big reaction over the last couple of weeks in the bond markets to this idea that the Fed is going to get more aggressive, not really so much in stocks. Maybe today more concern. But do you think at some point investors are going to have to take more notice of just how aggressive the Fed is talking at the moment?
TN: Oh, absolutely. And I think Brennan’s speech today was an important milestone because Lornad is seen as an Uber Dove in the Fed. She is seen as not wanting to get bullish at all. So when she comes out with a speech like she did today, talking about rate rises in QT, at the rate that she was discussing today, people have to sit up and notice because she is probably at the extreme end of dovish of the Fed group. So I think people are finally starting to realize that this is serious in January. If somebody would have said that we’d see 50 basis point rises in May and June, you would have been lapsed out of a room and QT on top of that. But things have changed really quickly on the inflation front, and the treasury is pushing very hard to have some action taken on inflation because it’s an election year in the US and they don’t want to see double digit inflation going into elections in November.
PL: Okay. Iris, we seem to be facing a trifecta of shocks at the moment. Don’t we have the Fed talking a lot more aggressively? We have the Ukraine war, which is creating a global supply problem, and the slowdown in China as well. This is all coming together at a bad time.
IP: Yeah, you’re right. But for China itself, the economy, I think the most important thing for this time is whether to control covet successfully within a short time frame. So I expect it only affects April. Hopefully it doesn’t expect it doesn’t expect May because the long holiday in May. And I am also looking for stimulus, but not those mentioned by Jack. I’m looking for stimulus in infrastructure projects, so that could be really fast kick off of the growth.
PL: Again, Jack, switching topics, I want to ask you about US listed Chinese stocks. Chinese authorities look like they’re preparing to give US regulators full access to the audit reports in the hope that that will keep them mainly listed in the US. The Csrcs confirmed that it’s going to change confidentiality laws that prevents its overseas listed companies from providing sensitive financial information to foreign regulators. How big a game changer is this and is this supportive for Chinese markets?
JS: I think this is very supportive and quite positive to the Chinese equity market in general, because removing the listing risk for more than two thirds of the company listed in the United States suggests that the selling pressure in these equities will substantially reduce because the listing risk no longer exists for most of them. Secondly, the market would begin to price out the listing or regulation risk premium from both the US and the China side. In other words, the discount we’ve been seeing in these stocks in the last one year or so will continue to reduce. And now we are left with whether earnings can continue to rebound in the current environment because despite this risk premium being removed, what we’re seeing is the valuation of these companies have been increasing, but the earnings of these companies have not been increasing and not being revised higher. So what we are looking for now is there’s probably more room, more upside for valuation of these companies to rise further. But investors have to be aware if in the next couple of quarters earnings do not start stabilizing or rebounding, then there may be an opportunity to take some profits after the rebound.
JS: For now, we think there’s more upside. We think the Hang Seng Tech index, which is the main Beneficiary listing in Hong Kong, are likely a better investment than the Hangstang index itself.
PL: Tony, I’m wondering out here, as you’ve heard there from Jack, people are taking quite a positive view of this that’s going to be quite supportive of stocks. But I’m wondering if investors here maybe getting ahead of themselves because we still don’t know yet what the view of US regulators is on this. I know it’s hard to look into their minds, but do you think there’s enough here to satisfy them?
TN: Yeah, I think you’re right to be cautious, Peter. I think it is getting a little bit ahead of itself now, but also the large US portfolio managers that I’ve talked to have said that they’ve been told that they must be very cautious with investments in China. So if that is happening among the large portfolio managers in the US, then this change could be helpful. But I don’t necessarily see it clearing the way for a massive kind of acceleration evaluations of Chinese companies. I think the best thing that can happen for Chinese companies, for example, in tech is a big stimulus that’s going to funnel money into tech that would help evaluation. So investors say in the west could see that those profits, as Jack talked about, are actually coming in to match some of the revenue rises. But while the regulatory aspects will help.
PL: I don’t necessarily see that they will provide a major thrust of investment from American portfolio managers and also the companies themselves under these rules have to decide what is sensitive information and what can’t be handed over to US regulators. So there’s still pressure on them.
TN: That’s right. And it’s political, right? What? Sensitive information is very political.
PL: Yes. How do you see this?
IP: I have no comments on this.
PL: Okay. Let me ask you. Tell me why you’re here. As a final thought, let me ask you about Twitter. We’ve seen this 30% share price jump in two days now after Elon Musk said he owns 2% of the company, has just been appointed to the board. Interestingly. When he ticked his box on the regulatory filing, he indicated he was a passive investor in Twitter. Do you believe that? What’s in his mind? Why does he want to do this?
IP: Yes, please, go ahead.
TN: I’m sorry, Iris.
IP: All right. Thank you. I think it is very difficult to find evidence of anything that has happened. Right. Unless we have the CCTV to check again. So it is very interesting that a CEO is saying something like that and it also means that if it is true, then it is more careless. If it is wrong, then what’s behind it? He could be maybe have some other intention that we don’t know. So I would rather stay away from it.
PL: Totally fine. And work for you on this. What do you think is his mind here? Is he really a passive investor?
TN: Well, I think he’ll be very active in terms of his board position. And I think there are a group of technology entrepreneurs, Mark Andreessen, Elon Musk, other people who are becoming more aggressive in trying to pull tech away from a political alignment. Tech in the US is seen as being very leftward aligned. And I think some of these guys who have a more middle ground view are trying to pull tech back to the middle. Twitter has been very left aligned, blocking Donald Trump and a lot of people on the right. And I think these guys understand that if they want to have viable products for half of America, they have to move back toward the middle. And I think this is the first action of what could be many over the next couple of years to try to pull these companies back toward the political metal.
PL: Okay. Well, thank you very much for your comments. You heard that Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence, Iris Pang, chief Greater China economist at RNG Wholesale Banking and Jackson, chief investment officer for Greater China at Credit Suisse. You’re listening to Money Talk on RTHK Radio Three. A final look at the markets for this morning. In Australia, the SX 200 down a third of the K two five in Japan is off about one and a quarter percent. The Cosby is also down in South Korea around about two thirds of a percent. And it looks like the Hang Seng is going to lose about 70 points at the Open coming up after the news on Radio Three Covet updates with Jim Gordon. Anna Fenton, the weather forecast for today five hot and dry during the day, maximum temperature of about 28 degrees, and the outlook is for it to be mainly fine and dry in the next few days. Hot during the day. Temperature right now is 21 degrees and it’s 80% relative humidity coming up to 832. Here’s Andrew Shawski with the half hour news.
AS: Thank you, Peter. Professor John Burns from the University of Hong Kong says the chief executive’s decision to not seek a second term was well expected.
JB: Kerry Lam has had a very hard time, a very difficult five years. She started off with great promise, but by 2019 we had the chaos in Hong Kong, which the government is partially responsible for and has yet to accepted responsibility for that. I think the central government was not happy with that. And then we have the management of COVID.
AS: A spokesman for the restaurant trade says he’s concerned that it won’t benefit from the latest round of consumption vouchers, which will be released tomorrow as social distancing curbs on eateries are still in place. Last year, eateries took a third of the share of vouchers, said the President of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, Simon Wong. But this year, with restaurants only allowed to see two people per table and with dine in not allowed after 06:00 p.m., Mr. Wong expected that figure to fall.
TN: And this time I assume that because of this social distance we can only get about 15% of the share and we still have to wait until the second round of lifting of the social distancing measures.
AS: The Ukrainian President, Vlogalensky, has told the UN Security Council Moscow must be held accountable for the atrocities committed by the Russian Army during its occupation. Mr. Zelensky showed a short graphic video which included pictures of victims and mass graves and called for Russia to be excluded from the Security Council. The BBC’s not atopic, reports.
BBC: President Zelensky’s address to the Council was devastating. He said the most terrible crime since the Second World War had been committed in Ukraine. Civilians in Bucha were killed in their homes, crushed by tanks, women raped and killed in front of their children. He accused Russia of deliberately killing as many civilians as possible to leave the country destroyed. And in Runes, which Moscow denies, he urged reforms for a more effective UN for the next generation.
AS: More than 10 million people have now fled their homes in Ukraine because of the Russian military campaign, and further accounts of devastation and allegations of possible war crimes are emerging from areas of Ukraine from which Russian troops have withdrawn. Police in the town of Bora dyanca, to the northwest of capital KIV, said there could be hundreds of people trapped in the rubble beneath bombed out blocks of flats. Local people claim that Russia troops fired at those who attempted to dig out the victims the news from RTHK.
China expert Chris Balding joins us this week for #QuickHit to discuss “What China is thinking right now?” What is the state of the Chinese economy? Are they really doing well in Covid? How about the deleveraging process, is that even real? And what’s happening to CNY? Also talked about are the politics around China especially how it relates to Afghanistan.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on August 24, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this Sentiment has soured: How will governments and companies respond? (Part 1) 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: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us for another QuickHit. My name is Tony Nash with Complete Intelligence. Today we’re talking with Christopher Balding about what is China thinking now.
Chris, thanks for joining us. Can you let us know a few things about yourself? Give us a little background?
CB: Sure. I was a professor at Peking University in China for nine years and then two years in Vietnam at the Fulbright University Vietnam. And today I am a super genius in the United States.
TN: Yes, you are. Thanks for taking the time, Chris. You’re one of the very few people I know who’ve actually had on the ground experience in China with a Chinese government organization.
So I think it’s really important to go to people like you, who had experience like you to understand what kind of China or the Chinese government is thinking now. Of course, it’s not monolithic. There are a lot of different opinions, but it’s good to have that insider’s view.
So I want to start off as we look at where we are in COVID, we’re a year and a half into it, depending on the school of thought, maybe it did or didn’t start in China, but we hear that Chinese economy is doing great and they’ve come out of COVID really well, all these other things. I’m really curious your view on the state of the Chinese economy right now. And what are Chinese economic planners thinking right now as they kind of potentially go into year two of Covid.
CB: So I think there is a couple of highlights out of the Chinese economy. First of all is that they’ve resorted to the pretty similar playbook that they go back to every year, which is pump credit, pump construction and infrastructure type spending.
In the early part of this year, we saw a significant amounts of credit growth. That’s softened as we’ve moved into summertime. That’s primarily due to because there’s a very clear summer and fall building season that allows builders in China to do things because the weather becomes inclement in significant parts of the year. And then if you add in the Corona backlog, that kind of is essentially almost trying to put two years of expected growth into one year.
We actually saw a lot of that. And that front loaded a lot of the credit and demand for things like commodities. This is why you’ve seen such demand for things like coal and steel, which were quite high. We’ve seen that soften as firms built their inventory and really ramped up during the summer building season as the demand for credit has softened and some of the building has actually been undertaken. You’ve seen a softening of that which has caused you’ve already seen talk of maybe there’s going to be unleashing or the economy is a little bit softer than the planners would like. So there’s talk of unleashing some additional credit growth trying to stimulate different parts of the economy. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens.
Generally speaking, the rule is, if there’s a debate about whether or not they’re going to unleash credit growth, I would definitely take the over.
TN: By about three times. Right. So one of the interesting things you mentioned is that you said that they expended credit in the early part of this year. But what I read from investment banks and what I’ve read from other people who look at China is that China just underwent this big deleveraging process. Is that real? I’m just not sure, because I see on one side that there’s this talk about deleveraging, but my gut tells me it may not necessarily be happening. Is it happening, or is it something that’s just happening on paper or what’s your view?
CB: It’s tough to understand the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics and PBOC’s math as to how they arrived at that, because if you’re just running more generalized numbers, it’s very clear that debt at all levels has continued to outpace GDP. So it’s very difficult to understand how they’re estimating a leveraging. And it’s important to note that we did not see, let’s say, the rapid, rapid expansion of economic growth that you saw, for instance, in the United States.
And what I mean by that is, whereas any United States, maybe growth went from two or three to 5% relative, almost doubling, you know. You probably saw Chinese growth go for maybe like 5% last year to seven or 8% with the Corona boost where you have that base effect. And so you didn’t see it go to, like, 10, 12, 15% that you might have seen if it had really in relative terms, they doubled from the previous year.
And so it’s very difficult to understand how they arrive at those deleveraging numbers. And as we all know, China is famous for fudging their numbers. So it’s very difficult to understand how they’re arriving at those numbers.
TN: Right. No, I agree. I haven’t believed it when I’ve heard it, but I kind of nod along as if it’s real. But I think, you know, the Chinese economic data a lot more intimately than I do, but I just don’t see where it’s happening, where it’s actually materializing instead of just being debt transfers.
Okay. So earlier you said that Chinese economy is slowing. Now, from my perspective, that’s worrisome partly because you’re going into a big export season, and we’ve got some ports that are stopped up. We’ve also got an election next year with Xi Jinping being reelected, whether that’s in square quotes or not, but Xi Jinping being reelected next year.
In terms of the resources put towards stimulus this time around, do you expect that to be more intensive than normal?
CB: Typically, what you see. And you saw this the first time Xi was elected, you saw this second time Xi was elected. What you typically see is a pretty significant boost to fiscal outlays. And so I think if history is any guide, I think you’re probably going to see going in the fall and the first of year, it’s very, very likely you’re going to see some type of significant boost to fiscal outlays. And this pattern goes back many, many years well before Xi that when there are these elections. And I’m not sure if it’s a scare quotes or air quotes, but both seem to…
CB: So I think it is very, very likely that you’re likely to see that. And one of the things I think that a lot of people have missed out on is yes, there were absolutely corporate, let’s say, bailouts or corporate funds for Corona. But one of the things is that in the United States, there were the large amounts of transfers directly to households. China has not enjoyed those transfers directly to households.
And so actually, consumer spending in China is actually pretty soft. And those are buying inflated data standards. And so I think that is something that is very important to note when we’re talking about the health of the Chinese consumer.
TN: Yep. That’s great. Okay. So I also want to talk about the supply chain issues. And I was just reading a story today about how Pudong Airport has been shut down. Cargo on Pudong Airport is going to be much slower for a period of time because of anothe Covid outbreak. This sort of thing. Do you see ongoing port capacity issues related to COVID? Is that something that you’re kind of concerned about?
CB: I think that is something that you’re going to be seeing for definitely the foreseeable future. And I should say it’s not just China. You’re seeing a lot of this in other parts of the world that I know, specifically Vietnam, the Middle East. I’ve heard of similar things in Europe where they are just straining at capacity. Sometimes it’s due to COVID shut down. Sometimes it’s due to other issues. But absolutely, these are issues that I think are not going away anytime soon.
And it is, I mean one of the debates in the United States right now is transitory or structural inflation. And I think, not to be capping out on the issue, but I do think it is kind of a mix of both. And I think the supply chain issues don’t be surprised if we’re looking at very likely two years before all these issues are really worked through, because when people went to, let’s say, just in time or contract manufacturing, what that did is that gave you less wiggle room. So you did not just have a massive warehouse of supply that you inventory, and then you could draw down as necessary where it would give you three months to make a mistake. Now people were essentially saying, I got one week of inventory, and if that one week gets shot, I’m in deep trouble.
So the chips are, there’s chips, there’s car, there’s Corona shutdowns, there’s capacity issues at some ports. And so it’s going to take a couple of years, probably to work through all these issues to return to what we think of as some degree of normalcy.
TN: Right. What’s interesting to me about that is the previous administration of the US tried to bring manufacturing businesses back to the US.
Now, with COVID because of the global supply chain issues and the intermittent supply issues, there’s more of a move to bring things back, at least to North America. I know lots going into Mexico right now. Some’s going into the US to minimize the disruption of things, especially in electronic supply chain.
So it seems like regardless of the kind of official policy, whether it’s trade policy or just say public health policy, it looks like more of this regionalization is happening. Does that make sense to you?
CB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, look, nobody is going to announce that they’re leaving China for many reasons. But nobody’s going to announce that they’re leaving China. But you do absolutely see a spread of manufacturing capabilities.
Whether that is because they want to have multiple manufacturing bases, they want to be more diversified, whether it’s because of IT issues, whether it’s because of Corona risks, tariffs, all of these issues, there is absolutely increasing diversification of manufacturing capabilities, whether it’s Mexico, India, Malaysia, all of these different places. You’ve even seen Africa doing relatively well in certain areas. So it has absolutely happened.
TN: Okay. One last question on the economy then we’ll move to kind of politics and China’s place in the world. What’s the thought behind the elevated CNY? We’re trading much higher than we have for a long time, and it stayed there, right? It’s pegged right around 6.4 something, and it’s been there since Q1, I think. Why the persistent strength in CNY?
CB: Well, I mean, I think first of all, they have been running during Corona pretty significant surpluses. The United States has exports to China and other parts of the world have declined, not insignificantly or remained flat as we’re importing a lot more. That’s number one.
I think also the dollar has gone into a specific range. And the way that I think of the CNY is it’s basically just a reverse USB tracker, which I think explains most of what we’re seeing. I think what they’re trying to do and the reason that China has been buying some dollars, not in major amounts, but I think they kind of have, like, ICBC and CCB, those types of banks acting as dollar cushions for lack of a better term, is that they don’t want it to appreciate too much for a number of reasons, because they know they’ve become more expensive and that would just make it that much more expensive. So in a way, I think they’re trying to manage that, manage that flow. But I think it’s still generally within a range where it’s like you can say they’re within spitting distance of what their index say they should be. Okay, that’s fair.
TN: Okay. Now let’s move on to politics. Let’s move on to kind of China’s big, long term, multi hundred year plan to rule the world, which I think is not real.
So let’s talk about Afghanistan. This just happened over the last couple of weeks, and there’s a few that China is going to be the master winner of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan. I think there are multiple perspectives on that, but the consensus view seems to be that the US really did had to job on the withdrawal. And the ultimate winner of this is China. Can you kind of walk me through some of your views on that? What are some of the possibilities there with China and Afghanistan?
CB: Sure. So I think it is very fair to say that the United States has pretty badly bungled the withdrawal. You know, why, you know, we should have waited until we’d already evacuated all the army to say we’re going to start evacuating US citizens and Afghani translators and people like that.
One of the things I do think is absolutely happening. And this is not just China. And you’ve heard this from country after country. Taiwan, Germany, UK on down is they are saying we need to go back to the drawing board and re evaluate everything we think we know.
Okay. And somebody that I was talking to, I think, expressed it very well is the United States still has credibility because we can move large amounts of assets, whether it’s military, governmental, other private sector, we can bring significant assets and influence to the table. What, this has really changed in a lot of people’s minds is confidence.
TN: Yes. That’s fair.
CB: That has changed a lot of people’s mind. So you have a lot of people going back to the drawing board. One of the things I’m going to be a little bit hesitant to do is start pronouncing winners, losers, and this is what XYZ country is going to do in ABC country is going to do. And the reason I say that is it’s very, very plausible to construct a scenario where the Taliban and the CCP become BFFs. Okay?
CB: I mean, if China is shipping large amounts of fentanyl out of northeast China, it’s not a crazy scenario to say they partner with the Taliban to start shipping large amounts of opium into the United States at the same time.
CB: Not a crazy scenario. It’s also not a crazy scenario for the Taliban to start bombing China within a year or two. Okay. You could very easily construct those types of scenarios that lead to that. Okay. So it’s very, very difficult to construct those types of scenarios with any what I would consider a degree of certainty. Okay?
TN: Sure. So what about the, the China-Pakistan relationship? $46 billion of investment, supposedly, supposedly a tight relationship there. That’s arguable. Do you think that pays dividends in Afghanistan, or is that kind of something that’s a little bit, I wouldn’t say irrelevant, but a little bit less directly connected.
CB: So I think Pakistan is actually very pretty directly involved in all of this. But again, it’s very difficult to say with a high degree of certainty what’s happening there because Pakistan has very direct connections into both the Taliban, Al Qaeda. Some would even say that they were a Pakistani security service creation. At the same time, it’s well known that there are blood feuds between groups within each of those organizations.
So it’s very difficult to get to say exactly who the winner, loser there. With regards to China and Pakistan, one of the things that you’ve seen very clearly is that pretty much the Pakistani government and the Pakistani elites are effectively compromised by China. They will say nothing about wingers and other issues.
At the same time, everything, I think indicative on the ground and of the mass population is that there is maybe not extreme, but I would say broad discontent with the Pakistani relationship with China for many reasons.
TN: From who and Pakistan? Is it from the armed forces? Is it from other parts of the government, from regular folks who isn’t happy with that relationship?
CB: I think a lot of folks broadly. The business community. I think there’s a growing sense that they are effectively a Chinese colony. One Pakistani I know who described it as such. So I think there is very broad discontent. And as we all know, Pakistan has quite the lengthy history of governmental instability.
So similar to what you’ve seen in other countries in the region, it’s very easy to paint a picture, a scenario where the current government remains compromised and under the thumb of the CCP for years to come. I think it’s also plausible that a new government or some type of political instability happens in Pakistan. And all of a sudden, there’s an about face on how to manage relationships with China.
Generally speaking, though, I think there is going to be very tight coordination between Beijing, Islamabad and Kabul because those… Pakistan, I mean, almost anything that happens in Afghanistan is going to be maybe not controlled by Pakistan. I think that overstate it. But there’s going to be large amounts of information flows and influence back and forth happens over what happens in Afghanistan.
TN: Yeah. Okay. That’s all really interesting. I think we could spend a long time talking about China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Russia, kind of where all those countries come together, Central Asia. But I want to end on this.
We’ve seen, a lot really changed with US standing in the world over the past couple of weeks over Afghanistan. We’ve seen a lot change in the US China relationship over the past year with the new administration. And so let’s talk for a minute about the overall US China relationship. What’s your thought there? Are they getting along? Is there a constructive dialogue? How do issues like Taiwan fit within that discussion? Can you just help me think about some of your thoughts there?
CB: So I was talking to someone, and I think they put succinctly the way that I would characterize the Biden administration’s record on China. You can’t criticize them for what they’ve done on China because they really haven’t done anything at all. Okay. Other than adding a couple of names to the Sanctiosn books, there really has not anything taken place.
They promised that they were going to get out their China strategy plan in June. Then there were rumblings that might happen in July, where now at almost rapidly approaching September 1. And now there’s not even talk of when it might be released. So really, nothing has been happened except for the Alaska meeting, which apparently went over like a lead balloon.
Everything right now just seems to be a stalemate. And the Biden administration is worrying, and that China is still moving forward, and the Biden administration is basically doing nothing.
The most telling point to me about the by administration approach, and I think this is something I think you should fault in. In fairness, Trump for is look, we can talk about values and do the right thing and all this kind of good stuff. But the United States, at some point has to actually put resources into this effort.
And the Trump administration, other than political capital with allies or other countries, never put any real hard resources or assets into these issues. And the point I would make is the Biden administration has made a point of spending literally trillions of dollars. And to the best of my knowledge, there has been almost zero spending passed that has really anything to do with China. Okay.
We cannot continue to talk to countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, South Korea, Japan. You cannot talk about the threat China poses and never spend any money on the issue.
CB: Okay. And look, this doesn’t have to mean we go out and increase military spending by 20%. This could simply mean we’re going to go into Vietnam and say, we want to have a development program and, you know, help solve issues. This can mean capitalizing the Development Finance Corporation to help countries like India and Malaysia and say, look, there is a real opportunity that does not involve the Belt and Road, where there’s going to be green standards or these non-corrupt standards and things like this to make sure that this money is really helping your country. You know, and it was probably something that was negotiated could be all the way back to the Obama administration.
There was some type of military center opened in, I believe, Jakarta with the Indonesian government that was supposed to have other governments. It’s a small center. Even those types of things. There’s simply not the resources being dedicated. And I think that’s indicative of where this ranks within the Biden administration priorities.
TN: I’ll be honest, Chris, it sounds like a mess. It sounds pretty bleak to me.
So great. I really appreciate this. I think if anybody knows has an idea of what China is thinking, I think you’re the guy. And I really, really appreciate your time.
Everyone watching. Please please subscribe to our YouTube channel. The more we have, the more we can bring to you as a part of our videos. And, Chris, thank you so much. And thanks to everyone. We’ll see you on the next interview. Thanks.
Companies are saying that the Q3 revenues will be down a bit. What’s really happening and how long will this last? Chief Economist for Avalon Advisors, Sam Rines, and a returning guest answers that with our first-time guest Marko Papic, the chief strategist for Clocktower Group.
In addition, both the Michigan Consumer Sentiment and the NY Manufacturing survey down as well. Watch what the experts are seeing and what they think might happen early in 2022.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on August 19, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this Sentiment has soured: How will governments and companies respond? (Part 1) 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: So I guess we’ve started to see some negative news come in with the Michigan Consumer Sentiment with the New York Manufacturing Survey and other things. Most recently, we had some of the housing sentiment information come in. And I’ve heard companies talk about their revenues for Q3 will be down a bit. And so I wanted to talk to you guys to say, are we at a turning point? What’s really happening and how long do you expect it to last? Marko, why don’t you let us know what your observation is, kind of what you’re seeing?
MP: Well, I think that, you know, the bull market has been telling us that we were going to have an intra cyclical blip, hiccup, interregnum, however you want to call it since really March. And there’s, like, really three reasons for this. One, the expectations of fiscal policy peaked in March. Since then, the market has been pricing it less and less expansion of fiscal deficits. Two Chinese have been engaged in deleveraging, really, since the end of Q4 last year, and that started showing up in the data also on March, April, May.
And then the final issue is that the big topic right now is something we’ve been focused on for a while, too, which is this handover from goods to services, which is really problematic for the economy. We had the surge of spending on goods, and now we all expected a YOLO summer where everybody got to YOLO. It really happened.
I mean, it kind of did. Things were okay but, that handoff from good services was always gonna be complicated, anyways. And so I’m going to stop there because then I can tell you where I stand and going forward. But I think that’s what’s happening now and what I would be worried about. And I really want to know what Sam thinks about this is that the bull market been telling you this since March. There’s some assets that were kind of front load. The one asset that hasn’t really is S&P 500, as kind of ignored these issues.
TN: Right. Sam, what are you seeing and what do you think?
SR: Yeah, I’ll jump in on the third point that Marko made, which is that handoff from services or from goods to services. That did not go as smoothly as was planned or as thought by many. And I don’t think it’s going to get a whole lot better here. You have two things kind of smacking you in the face at the moment. That is University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment and the expectations. Neither of those came in fantastically. Today isn’t great. Tomorrow isn’t expected to be great.
Part of that is probably the Delta variant, depending on what part of the country you’re in, that is really beginning to become an issue. Not necessarily, I mean, it’s nowhere near as big of an issue as COVID was for death and mortality in call it 2020. But it’s a significant hit to the consumer’s mindset. Right?
And I think that’s the part, what really matters is how people are thinking about it. And if people are thinking about it in a fear mode, that is going to constrain their switch from goods to services and the switch from goods to services over time is necessary for the economy to begin growing again at a place that is both sustainable and is somewhat elevated. But at this point, it’s really difficult to see exactly where that catalyst is going to come come from, how it’s going to actually materialize in a way that we can get somewhat excited about and begin to actually become a driver of employment. We do need that hand off to services to drive employment numbers higher.
And what we really need is a combination of employment numbers going higher, GDP being sustainably elevated to get bond rates higher. So I think Marko’s point on what the treasury market is telling us should not be discounted in any way whatsoever.
The treasury market is telling us we’re not exactly going to a 4% growth rate with elevated inflation.
SR: It’s telling us we’re going to something between Japan and Germany at this point.
TN: Yeah. That’s what I’m a bit worried about. And with the consumer sentiment especially, I’m a bit worried about sticky sentiment where we have this Delta variant or other expectations, and they remain on the downside, even if there are good things happening.
Do you guys share those worries, or do you think maybe the Michigan survey was a blip?
SR: Oh, I’ll just jump in for 1 minute. I don’t think it was a blip at all. I think what people should be very concerned about at this point is what the next reading is. That reading did not include the collapse of Afghanistan. It did not include any sort of significant geopolitical risk that is going to be significant for a number of Americans.
Again, it’s kind of like Covid. It might not affect the economy much. It’s going to affect the psyche of America significantly as we move forward. And if consumer sentiment were to pick up in the face of what we’ve seen over the last few days, I would be pretty shocked.
TN: It would be remarkable. Marko, what do you think about that?
MP: So I’m going to take the other side of this because I have a bet on with Sam, and the bet is, by the end of the year, I’m betting the 10-year is going to be closer to 2%. He’s betting it’s going to be closer to 1%. So he’s been winning for a long time, but we settled the bet January 1, 2022.
Here’s why I think I would take the other side of a lot of the things, like when we think about where we’re headed. So first, I think there’s three things I’m looking at. There’s really four things. But the fourth is the Fed. And I’m going to like Sam talk about that because he knows a lot more than I do. The first three things I’m looking at is, as I said, there are reasons that the bond market has rallied. And I think a lot of these reasons were baked in the cake for the past six months, or at least since March.
The first and foremost is China. And China is no longer deleveraged. The July 30th Politburo meeting clearly had a policy shift, but I would argue that that been the case since April 30. They’ve been telling us they are going to step off the break. And, quite frankly, I don’t need them to search infrastructure spending a lot. I don’t need them to do a lot of LGFB. I just need them to stop the leverage. And so they’re doing that.
And the reason they’re doing that is fundamentally the same reason they crack down on tech. And it has to do with the fact that Xi Jinping has to win an election next year. Yeah. And an election. It’s not a clear cut deal. He’s going to extend his term for another five years. CCP, The Chinese Communist Party is a multi sort of variant entity, and he has to sell his peers in the communist party that the economy is going to be stable.
And so we expect there to be a significant policy shift in China. So one of the sort of bond bullish economic bearish variables is shifting. The second is fiscal policy. Remember I mentioned that in March, investors basically started, like the expectations of further deficit increases, basically whittle down. This was also expected.
The summer period was also going to be one during which the negotiations over the next fiscal package were going to get very difficult. I would use the analog of 2017. Throughout the summer of 2017, everybody lost faith in tax cuts by the Trump administration. And that’s because fundamentally, investors are very poor at forecasting fiscal policy. And I think it has to do with the fact that we’re overly focused on monetary policy. We’re very comfortable with the way that monetary policy uses forward guidance.
I mean, think about it. Central bankers bend over backwards to tell us what you’re going to do in 2023. Fiscal policy is a product of game theory, its product of backstabbing, its product of using the media to increase the cost of collaboration, of cooperation. And so I think that by the end of the year, we will get more physical spending. I think the net deficit contribution will be about $2 trillion, the net contribution to deficit, which is on the high end. If you look at Wall Street, most people think 500 billion to a trillion, I would take double of that.
And then the final issue is the Delta. Delta is going to be like any other wave that we’ve had is going to dissipate in a couple of weeks. And also on top of that, the data is very, very robust. If you’re vaccinated, you’re good. Now, I agree with everything Sam has said. Delta has been relevant. It has, you know, made it difficult to transition from goods to services, but it will dissipate. Vaccines work. People with just behavior. So.
TN: Let me go back to the first thing you mentioned, Marko, is you mentioned China will have a new policy environment. What does that look like to you?
MP: There’s going to be more monetary policy support, for sure. So they’ve already, the PBOC has basically already told us they’re going to do an interest rate cut and another RRR cut by the end of the year. Also, they are going to make it easier for infrastructure spending to happen. Only about 20-30% of all bonds, local government bonds have been issued relative to where we should be in the year. I don’t think we’re going to get to 100%. But they could very well double what they issued thus far in eight months over the next four months.
So does this mean that you should necessarily be like long copper? No, I don’t think so. They’re not going to stimulate like crazy. The analogy I’m using is that the Chinese policy makers have been pressing on a break, really, since the recovery of Covid in second half of 2020. They’ve been pressing on the breaks for a number of reasons, political, leverage reasons, blah, blah, blah. They’re not going to ease off of that break. That’s an important condition for global economy to stabilize.
Thus far, China has actually been a head wind to global growth. They’ve been benefiting from exports, you know, because we’ve been basically buying too many goods. They know the handoff from goods to services is going to happen. Goods consumption is going to go down. That’s going to hurt their exports. On top of that, they have this political catalyst where Xi Jinping wants to ease into next year with economy stable.
Plus, they’ve just cracked down on their tech sector. They’re doing regulatory policy. They have problems in the infrastructure and real estate sectors. And so we expect that they will stimulate the economy. Think about it that way. Much more actively than they have thus far.
TN: Great. Okay. That’s good news. It’s very good news. Sam?
SR: Yeah. So the only push back that I would give to Marko and it’s not really pushback, given his assessment, because I agree with 99% of what he’s saying. But the one place that I think is being overlooked is, one thing is the fiscal policy with 2 trillion is great, but that’s probably spread over five to ten years, and therefore it’s cool. But it’s not that big of a deal when it comes to the treasury market or to the economic growth rate on a one-year basis. It’s not going to move the needle as much as the middle of COVID.
TN: Let me ask. Sorry to interrupt you. But when you say that’s going to take five to ten years, when we think about things like the PPP program isn’t even fully utilized. A lot of this fiscal that’s been approved over the last year isn’t fully utilized. So when these things pass and you say it’s going to take five to ten years, there’s the sentiment of the bill passing. But then there’s the reality of the spend. Right. And so you just take a random infrastructure multiplier of 1.6 and apply it.
There’s an expectation that that three and a half trillion or whatever number happens, two trillion, whatever will materialize in the next year. But it’s not. It’s a partial of it over the next, say, at least half a decade. Is that fair to say?
SR: Correct? Yeah. Which is great. It’s better than nothing in terms of a catalyst to the economy. The key for me is it’s not being borrowed all at once. It’s not being spent all at once. Right.
If it was a $2 trillion infrastructure package to be spent in 2022, I would lose my bet to Marko in a heartbeat. It would be a huge lose for me, and I would just pay up. But I would caution to a certain degree, it’s $200 billion a year isn’t that big of a deal to the US economy, right. That’s a very de minimis. Sounds like a big number, but it’s rather de minimis to the overall scale of what the US economy is.
And you incorporate that on top of a Federal Reserve that’s likely to begin pulling back, or at least intimate heavily that they’re going to begin pulling back incremental stimulus or incremental stimulus by the end of 2021 and 2022. And all of a sudden you have a pretty hawkish kind of outlook for the US economy as we enter that 2022 phase. And it’s difficult for me, at least, to see the longer term, short term rates, I think, could move higher, particularly that call it one to three year frame. But the ten to 30-year frame, for me is very difficult to see those rates moving higher. With that type of hawkish policy in coming to fruition, it’s kind of a push and pull to me. So I’m not obviously, I don’t disagree with the view that China is going to stimulate and begin to actually accelerate growth there. I just don’t know how much that’s actually going to push back on America and begin to push rates higher here.
I think we’ve had max dovishness. And strictly Max dovishness is when you see max rates and when you begin to have incremental hawkishness on the monetary policy side and fiscal side. And 2 trillion would be slightly hawkish versus 2020 and early 2021. When you begin to have that pivot, that it’s hard for me to see longer term interest rates moving materially higher for longer than call it a month or two.
TN: Okay, so a couple of things that you said, it sounds like both you agree that China is going to do more stimulus. I think they’re late. I think they should have started five or six months ago, but better now than never. Right. So it sounds to me like you believe that there will be the beginning of a taper, maybe a small beginning of a taper late this year. Is that fair to say.
This video is originally uploaded on Youtube at https://youtu.be/0D0IxTnufoo.
Jason Burack of Wall St for Main St interviewed returning guest, founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence, Tony Nash.
Tony’s company helps many companies solve their global supply chain problems and he has also lived and worked in Asia for 15 years in the past and advised the Chinese government on their economy and trade in the past. Tony’s company also uses AI predictive analytics software to predict stock market and commodity price movements.
During this 40+ minute interview, Jason asks Tony about China’s economy, the global chain, the threat of much worse stagflation and volatility in markets like stocks. Tony thinks that the main problem is still deflation and a lack of demand now regardless of the amount of currency, stimulus and bailouts governments do.
JB: Hi everyone. This is Jason Burack of Wall St for Main St. Welcome back to another Wall Street from Main Street podcast interview today’s special guest is a returning guest he is founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence, Tony Nash thank you for joining me.
TN: Thanks Jason.
JB: now Tony, I know you’ve lived in Asia for 15 years you’ve done a lot of work with the Chinese government consulting them on their economy. You’ve worked with a lot of companies all over Asia — Singapore, China, Hong Kong — helping them with their supply chains. So let’s talk about the Chinese economy and if you think it’s recovered post coronavirus.
You put out a survey about a month or so ago talking about unemployment rates in China with factory order…
TN: 50 million because at the time I think China had said that there were five million unemployed as a result of coronavirus and I put out survey saying “is it 0-5 million, 5-25 or something and then over 50.” And the vast majority of people responded over 50 million people. Not vast majority, but majority of people responded over 50 million.
I’ve since seen data that estimates unemployment in China alone as a result of coronavirus at 120 million or more. I think it’s safe to say nobody actually knows the real number. But it’s probably big. And it’s probably tens of millions rather than single millions. I think it’s a safe bet to say it’s probably north of 50 million. A number of economists watching China are still assuming that the government number holds.
JB: I’ve been reading articles quoting some factory owners and some factory owners in China. I don’t know if this is all the factory owners. But at least a few of them that have been quoting articles have been saying that their orders are down 70 percent. So exports are down a lot so there are not purchase orders for a lot of different companies right now is that what you’re also hearing?
TN: Sure there was just a piece out today saying that a survey in China has exports for May down 7 to 8 percent year-on-year. Imports are down almost 10 percent year-on-year. That survey data Is possibly under under waiting what the fall is. I don’t doubt that exports are down double digits and there has been some lag. As you remember from the kind of early mid Corona period, there were these supply chain issues of just getting stuff out. So initially, there was this wave of pent up export requirements just to get stuff out of China. But now things are starting to settle in because you have those demand in May, especially with the US and Europe closed, you have real demand depression. I think the main numbers may be overstated a bit and I think the exports may be down even more. Of course, it’s highly unlikely we’ll see that in the official data but it’s terrible.
I think things may be recovering a bit. I don’t think that China is in for a V-shaped recovery like we’ve seen, but I do think that they’ll come back maybe not to as much as they had thought they would but I don’t think it’s going to be a long-term depression.
My concern with China is in industrial production declines and the employment declines that come as a result of that and then the wage pressure that comes as a result of that.
JB: what is the percentage of GDP for exports right now because there’s a lot of people that are I would call them China trolls that tell me that it’s a lot lower amount but the numbers I’ve seen for exports as a percentage of GDP are still very high for the Chinese economy.
TN: It’s not as high as I once as I once knew. It’s definitely, I believe as a percent of GDP it’s it’s smaller than it was like five years ago. You do have that growing services economy component you do have growing domestic demand so but I don’t think it’s it’s definitely not as high as it was. Sorry I don’t have the number to hand but it’s really not what it once was>
JB: It seems that China has like astagflation problem right now in food prices and rent they’ve had to import an enormous amount of pork last year. All of 2018, they were having the African swine flu problem so the report shortages in China food prices were rising long before the coronavirus, and there’s a lot of videos online of shop owners protesting either rent not being reduced or rent prices going up by their building owner. So would you say that that’s why the Chinese government and the People’s Bank of China has been very hesitant about how much stimulus and QE to inject into their economy right now because they are worried that if they put too much in it will accelerate like a stagflation problem in their rural economy?
TN: I think that’s a concern. I think there’s also just concerns about the fiscal resources if the Chinese government has. Of course, they can print as many fun tickets as they want as long as it’s in CNY. But I think that is a concern.
I’m quite frankly more concerned about about deflationary pressures in China and just just on the face of it naked deflationary pressures through obviously the rest of Q2 and into Q3 and then how they potentially get out of it. I think China really hasn’t had an issue or had a problem with contriving inflation when needed. But if we do have the industrial production issues and the wage issues that I’ve been concerned about, I do think that deflation is more the overall and more serious concern there.
JB: That’s interesting because you’ve been predicting that the Chinese yuan against their exchange rate against the dollar it gets devalue down 7.2, right?
TN: That’s right.
JB: How would that jive then with deflation if they’re trying to devalue their currency?
TN: I think you’ve got both of those trends moving in the same direction. Unfortunately with energy prices down into the 30s, of course you have into the 40s. Yesterday or today, you have Brent move into the 40s. Sorry WTI. With the resources depressed, again, this is on a year-on-year basis.
But I think there’s serious downward pressure and will be continuing a series downward pressure on resources and commodities so the secondary impacts will also show a bit of producer price deflation. And then you have just the function of overproduction in China and having to sell those inventories. You don’t necessarily have the take off from the US. Partly I mean, this is a two or so year-old trade war, but because of our discussion, but because of the trade war, and then you have the issues in Europe with demand as a result of COVID, so I think you’re looking at more supply in China of manufactured goods.
They’re looking at commodity prices that I don’t believe we’ll come back dramatically. It’s it’s an ongoing issue. At the same time, you have the what I believe ongoing concerns for industrial production as a result of this and then there are the jobs and wages issues. If you have wages declining, then people just can’t pay for those goods so that’s disinflationary. Again I’m worrying about this where I think a lot of other people aren’t worrying about this. But it is something that I’m actually quite concerned about in China.
JB: It looks like the government can create even more distortions with what they try to do with intervention and central planning with the currency. We’re recording this interview right now in June 5th, the currency is that the Chinese Yuan is at 7.081 to the Dollar.
I’ve been reading articles that a lot of Chinese manufacturers are producing but there’s not really demand. So they’re stockpiling a lot of stuff. I’ve been reading a lot of articles lately too about a lot of oil companies in China importing more oil. I think they built another or the atleast announced another Strategic Petroleum Reserve. How many is that what five or six now? They are buying more oil. I don’t know if they’re using the oil because my friend tracks Chinese auto traffic data and he says it’s nowhere near the pre-coronavirus 2019 levels and there’s almost no traffic whatsoever on the weekends in the major cities. Only at rush hour is there actually like anywhere close to normal traffic levels and the other data throughout the day and night and on the weekends is nowhere is way way off.
TN: It’s not surprising at all. What it reminds me of is the kind of quotas for stockpiling for Soviet production and the kind of deflationary impact that had in many ways on certain goods in the former Soviet Union. In China, over production and stockpiling, I mean we’ve known about this and things like steel for years. But as it comes to finished goods, that’s hugely problematic given the volume that I suspect overproduction is happening and given the disappearance of demand in overseas markets and obviously domestic markets. Areas like automotive auto parts electronic goods these sorts of things that just people are not going to be renewing. Of course that’s not an absolute statement. It’s an incremental statement, but these things really hurt the manufacturing complex in China. We’ve all taken a pause generally from consumption in Q2 globally. In China it’s been a bit more stark.
JB: I think the factory orders are not coming in like you said in the stockpiling is just increasing the amount of credit that I think the Chinese government is injecting I’ve seen from China beige but they put an article out on their Twitter it was like 400 billion in a month pace. But I think a lot of that’s just going to keeping the factories running right now so they don’t go bankrupt.
TN: Yeah and that’s not surprising. I mean they don’t want people to be unemployed because they don’t want to see civil unrest. We’ll see more and more social controls in China so that there isn’t civil unrest because people are just bored out of their minds.
JB: Speaking of social unrest you know all the rules changes and stuff going on with Hong Kong. We’ll talk about U.S. and China trade relations in a couple minutes, but do you think that China one of the main reasons they’re going into Hong Kong is economically? Do you think that the Chinese government is eyeing that $400 billion that the Hong Kong Monetary Authority has to protect their dollar pay?
TN: Of course they are. I think the US was really smart to take away Hong Kong status very, very quickly because the incentive was that Hong Kong would continue to be this buffer zone and that China would continue to be able to benefit from that buffer zone and it’s fine if it’s a buffer zone and it really is a free market because in its heyday, and this is not that long ago like months ago, Hong Kong was the freest market in the world. But as you have the mainland authorities take over things like the judiciary, then Hong Kong no longer become the freest market in the world. So I think that was the reason or there are a lot of reasons but that was one of the reasons for them to grow assertive. China is looking for reasons to distract from the economy, which i think is extremely dangerous, but I think Hong Kong is one way for them to distract from their domestic economic issues.
JB: I completely agree. I think there was multiple reasons for what they did with Hong Kong and then what Trump does they gonna blame it on Trump.
TN: Right of course and that’s fine and that’s easy. Anything to distract, whether it’s incursions in India or whether its South China Sea or its Hong Kong or whatever it is. The Chinese ambassador to the UK making stupid statements about the Tiananmen, well kind of circumventing that. They’re doing anything they can to distract from their own domestic economy.
JB: I think yesterday was the anniversary of Tiananmen.
TN: that’s right
JB: For our listeners are not familiar, I think one of the tricks that what not the a lot of Chinese companies were getting around to not pay the tariffs last year was they were exporting their goods from mainland China to Hong Kong and then they were taking advantage of that. So they were re-exporting out of Hong Kong to avoid the tariffs that the US had put on. I think that was quite common practice, right?
TN: Sure yeah. Any sort of third country trans-shipment, but Hong Kong was as viable as any other, and because it had this relationship with the US, it was a very easy solution. But I think that’s becoming more and more difficult. Regardless of the goods, I think it’s becoming more and more difficult. Even things like exporting components or knocked down goods for assembly and their locations even that stuff is becoming more and more difficult.
JB: So now I want to transition to the US and China trade relations. We still occasionally get a tweet out from Trump or one of his representatives in the Trump administration or White House about how the US-China trade deal is progressing. But really, there’s been very little positive actions on China’s end about the trade deal. I think they made one purchase of soybeans. The trade announcement was in October 2019. So we have October, November, December, January, February, March, April and May. Finally, the Chinese government buys some soybeans in May. It was a fairly decently large order. But look at all the months that they didn’t really buy anything, it didn’t comply with phase one. So do you think the phase one trade agreement is dead?
TN: I don’t think it’s necessarily dead, but I think China is very good at negotiating agreements and very bad at going through on them. This is why the Americans were very focused on the enforcement mechanism within the phase one agreement. So I think the real question is, will the US follow through with enforcement? If the US doesn’t follow through with enforcement, then it’s just a piece of paper. It doesn’t really matter that much. But if the enforcement mechanisms come through, then I think it’s possible. Again, I’m skeptical. I was pleasantly shocked and surprised when the agreement was made in Q4. At the time, I was like most people skeptical about the ability to have that enforced because what are you gonna do? You can’t force people to buy stuff from you. That’s the real problem. Now with Hong Kong coming into the picture and with the US has action on Hong Kong coming into the picture, I think it’s going to be harder and harder for those for those the agreement terms to be exercised.
JB: My contracts in China, when the phase 1 deal was announced, they were really happy for the Chinese government. They were celebrating because no more tariff hikes. That was the main goal for the Chinese government for phase 1 announcement the trade deal was to make sure there was no more tariff hikes.
TN: Right. Evidently some of the state-owned buyers have started to look at soybeans and other products more recently. I’m just not sure that that’s real. I mean, this is some stuff that we’ve been hearing some transactions in the market. But stopping the tariff hikes is the first thing but actually getting them to buy is the more interesting part on the US side of course.
JB: But did Beijing just almost now for the last month or so there’s been press release announcements back and forth, back and forth between the US and China like Trump is now blocking the retirement savings I think of a lot of military and government employees from being invested in China, China then threatened to remove Chinese companies listing from US exchanges. Those are just a couple examples but back and forth back and forth back and forth. This is going. It doesn’t seem like this is Trump’s crazy way of negotiating from the art of the deal but this just doesn’t seem like it’s productive towards a trade agreement.
TN: I think it’s more of a recognition that these things haven’t been happening anyway. We may very well see more purchasing later in the year but I think this stuff is that there has to be well, there is tension between the US and China. China has become more aggressive in South China Sea in Hong Kong and other places, India. I think part of this is maybe not necessarily a direct hit on what may seem to be a problem it may be related to actions that China has been taking toward relationships that the US is becoming closer to. I don’t necessarily see trade as a single issue. I see trade as a multi-layered issue.
JB: Interesting. How important do you think what’s happening with Huawei and how the Huawei CFO, her extradition process in Canada is continuing, how important do you think that is?
TN: It’s very, because Huawei is kind of a crown jewel in China and I think as the UK starts looking to other technology as Huawei technology becomes an issue for Germany and they start looking at other sources, I think that removes China’s centrality to the deployment of these types of networks. Of course, that’s obvious. But the services, the information and other things that you can sell off of owning that network equipment is huge. So it’s not just a one-time sale. It is a long relationship. Now that doesn’t just have impacts on Huawei. It has impacts on places like China export-import bank or CDB. It’s not just the equipment, it’s the financing of the equipment. These centrally planned economies or heavily centrally influenced economies, it’s a game of musical chairs. Once you stop the music, it has knock-on effects for many, many other players. I think the Huawei issue with Canada and the US is that on its own is an embarrassing issue. But stopping the purchase of Huawei equipment in Europe and the US and other places has long-term commercial effects with Huawei, but also the whole value chain including places like Export Import Bank and other places that are supporting those purchases or supporting the financing of those activities, whether it’s Exim Bank or another bank doesn’t matter, but it’s the overseas financial services impacts in China is also stopped or slowing dramatically.
JB: Do you think then if the Huawei CFO, if the charges aren’t dropped, if this doesn’t stop with what’s going on with Huawei, that that’s a deal-breaker for the US and China trade relations? Are they going to be able to figure out a workaround?
TN: There are a number of layers here. First of all, it shows that the law is not the law in China, that you can be of a certain class and rank and the law doesn’t really apply to you, if in fact she broke the law, right? If she broke the law and China is still upset then, it’s a very clear indicator to Chinese citizens that the law doesn’t apply to people of Ming stature. That’s a problem for China. While they fight for her return, I think a very bad development for them would be that she has found guilty yet China still wants her let free and they let her go. That’s a real perception problem in China for Chinese citizens. But do I think it will impact the US-China trade war? I think every issue is connected when you’re talking to China. So now from the US side, the way Trump thinks is he bundles issues, and so the way American administration’s typically think is they think in an unbundled way. So the State Department typically cannot walk and chew gum at the same time. We’ve seen that for decades State Department will be happy about finishing one agreement when another agreement that should be linked isn’t and they can never get it done or something like that. What Trump and what his administration actually does very well from my perspective is they bundle things extremely well and so I don’t think the Trump administration itself sees that trade agreement as discrete and different from the main issue or from Taiwan or South China Sea or Hong Kong or any of these issues. I thing the administration sees everything is bundled which is not dissimilar from the way the Chinese diplomats and central government see things. They see everything is bundled.
JB: I see Huawei is one of the most important things for China because they have such long-term plans for it like you said like it’s their main cornerstone company, it’s their main technology company and then once Huawei has control over the 5g networks and all the other infrastructure there for communications, then the other Chinese companies the financing companies and all the others start to follow suit after that.
TN: Yeah. I think that’s fair.
JB: Let’s talk then about the global supply chain. It seems in January and February, the global supply chain started to break. Do you think that it’s being fixed now?
TN: Do I think it’s fixed? I don’t. Our US supply chains fixed. I don’t think they’re fixed. Is the Chinese supply chain infrastructure moving again? Yes. I think what’s happening is a number of important US importers and US manufacturers and even global manufacturers are trying to find places to reduce their risk and exposure to China. And not because they want to abandon China. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think we see people who are say super nationalist or whatever who want to act like these guys are interested in leaving China completely. I don’t believe that’s the case at all. I think global manufacturers are looking for incremental manufacturing capacity to reduce their risk if there is a second wave of Corona, if there is political unrest in China, if there is some sort of retribution or something. I think they want incremental manufacturing for that. And for that, they’ll look to places like Mexico, parts of the US parts, or Europe or somewhere else, other place in Latin America. I don’t necessarily see a wholesale substitutional effect for supply chains out of China at least for the first two to three years. I think over time, there may be more substitutionality. But right now, I think it’s more of an incremental discussion.
JB: Do you think India is gonna benefit from this because we’ve seen headlines where India is talking about subsidizing, trying to get more Apple supply chain out of China? I think they’ve gotten one company to move from China to India but they’re going after a lot more than that. They see this as an opportunity and the sentiment online, Tony, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this before where lots of people here in the West in the US and Europe are talking about boycotting Chinese products. Now that’s easier said than done because a lot of stuff that’s partially made in China is finished assembling here in the US and then it’s stamped made in the US but it’s all the components that go into it are not fully made in the US.
TN: Do I might think India will benefit from this? I love India. I really wish India would benefit from this. But I think there’s so much corruption in India. I think it’s very, very difficult. I think it’d be a very difficult thing for any manufacturer to make a significant commitment to India. While I would love for India to benefit from this, and while I would love for manufacturers to move to India, I think the reality is from a bureaucratic, from a corruption, from a just sheer logistically difficult position, again, you know I spent a lot of time in India in the same way I spent a lot of time in China. I just don’t see that happening. I wish it would, but I just don’t see it happening.
JB: That’s sad.
JB: it’s sad, they have an opportunity to do it too.
TN: They do, but I think the institutional issues are so great that it’s gonna take them years and years to root that out. Look, having services functions moved to India? No problem at all. This is why the BPO sector started booming in India 20 years ago. But actually having physical Manufacturing, and physical logistics, I think it’s probably still a very difficult proposition.
JB: In some of your answers, you said that the large corporations don’t want to leave China said they don’t really care if some of their intellectual property or research and development or forced technology transfer or a forced Chinese silent partner they were okay with that?
TN: No, I’m not saying they don’t want to leave China. But they already have a large amount of investment there and so moving wholesale from China over the next two to three years presents a big risk for them. So I think, what they’ll do is initially move incremental production away from China. Let’s say it’s a new model or a new product line or a regionalised product line. Let’s say they do something just for North America or something, I think they’ll move that stuff first because those are new supply chains that they would be building out. New manufacturers or expanded with existing manufacturers and then they look at either new physical transport or expanded physical transport. All these things are things that they have to be careful of not just the risk in China, but the risk within the new supply chains that they’re developing in other places.
So I don’t think any major US manufacturer will rush out of China unless they’re absolutely forced to. I think they’ll develop parallel supply chains and incremental supply chains first. Test them out for a couple years and then gradually, some of that may be rapid some of that may be slow, but gradually move stuff out.
Before the financial crisis in 2008-09, many manufacturers, particularly Japanese manufacturers, but many manufacturers were looking at something that they called their “China plus one” or “China plus 2“ or “China plus 3 strategy”, where they were looking at manufacturing goods in China but having other locations as backups. Now when the financial crisis came about, all these manufacturing firms wanted to just get rid of risk and they saw these other supply chains as risk so they doubled down on China and they continue to build out in China for all the new equipment and hiring and everything else in China as well. So they saw it as de-risking or at least not growing risk, but actually by concentrating their activities it actually became riskier. Now with a place like Japan, we saw with the 2012 riots and protests and other things that the Chinese did against Japan, this was over the Senkaku Islands, we saw a lot of Japanese manufacturers move their manufacturing out of China. Initially it was slow, and then it became much faster. I think people looking to exit China will look at that as a template. It wasn’t that long ago. It was 2012, 13, 14 when this stuff started and then it moved. So I think they look at that as a template rather than China try to invent something wholesale.
JB: I think it could take years for more factories to leave China. Could take a significant amounts of the supply chain to move. There’s billions of dollars of investment. Some of these factories now are not cheap to build. It’s a lot of technology involved, a lot of investment. And given the global economy right now, and how the consumer has not come back, some of these investments may be delayed.
TN: Yeah, I don’t think I’ll take as long as a decade. But I do think it’ll take years. But having said that, I don’t think many of these manufacturers will completely want to remove their operations from China either. It’s a big market and the Chinese spend money just like anyone else. So they’ll have their China operations for China and maybe they’ll build for other parts of Asia or they’ll build especially parts or something like that. But I don’t think many of them will have global manufacturing based in China. I think we’re going to see re-regionalization of supply chains and we may have talked about this before, but the move away from say the NAFTA and Euro area around 2000, it was a zero sum where most of the stuff went to China over the next 10 years, 15 years, particularly in the first five years. But then it kind of bled over the next five to eight years and then it became completely concentrated in China and then with the centrality of China, kind of the regionalization complete now we’re starting to see the re-regionalization even if it is a higher manufacturing price because the risk associated with closing again with an event like COVID is so high that people just need to have supply chains closure at home.
JB: Yeah. You told me to call it localization and not de-globalization like Peters Ayhan has been calling it regionalization.
TN: Regionalization, yeah. I think the globalization is a bit of a, it’s charged first of all but I also think it’s not really accurate. I think we’re still globalized. We still have globalization. But I think we’re Re-regionalizing. Things were pretty regionalized in the 90s and then they de-regionalized, they globalized with China as the epicenter but I think we’re going through a phase of re-regionalization and I think we’ll dip into globalization as needed, we’ll dip into regionalization as needed because people can run pretty sophisticated supply chains now and so whereas 20 years ago it was harder to do that.
JB: Yeah, I totally agree. I’ve been reading articles and also my last interview with you where you talked about it, our listeners can go back I think in December 2019, where you’re talking about your company Complete Intelligence and the supply chain management software, the improvements it’s had just in the last couple decades. So in the past, when there wasn’t good supply chain management software, it might take a purchasing manager or manager, even a senior manager at the company, might take them days or weeks with phone calls and tracing to trace orders and exact amounts of the supply chain. Now they can do it on their on their iPad.
TN: Sure, yeah. Just the track and trace stuff, the location of stuff, that’s old technology and it’s very easy. I think what’s harder for people is to understand the true cost and cost scenarios for manufacturing a good. What is the cost at the element level or the component level of that phone that you’re building or that electronic equipment or that food item or whatever. What we’re able to do and I think things are moving is much more precision around taking those costs, breaking them out, understanding where they’re going over the next one to say 24 months so that you can really plan where the best location is, what the right price is, all this stuff. The geopolitics and the trade policy around trade, I don’t think that stuff will ever leave us. The precision with which you can plan around cost and price and other things, I think those things are allowing manufacturers to adjust really, really quickly and really have a bottom line impact within say 90 days something like that.
JB: I think a lot of these governments are talking about trade so much because they all are seeing that they want to bring back manufacturing for jobs.
TN: That’s right. Whether it’s Europe or the US or South East Asia. You look at a place like Malaysia. A lot of Malaysian manufacturing was transitioned to China between say 2000 and 2012, 2015. And now global manufacturing companies or for the past couple years they’ve been looking at places like Malaysia and Thailand again because it’s simply not China and so it’s not just localizing manufacturing in North America it’s looking at other regions and arbitrage in the regulations and the tariffs instead of arbitrage say the electricity price, which is one of the reasons people after Mexico, or regulatory in taxes, which is part of the reason people of the US. So, this isn’t just say a Western or European US issue. It’s regionalization in the truest sense.
JB: So these governments and central banks, it’s not just the US and the Federal Reserve. The European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, the People’s Bank of China is doing some but nowhere near the amounts because I think they are really worried about the stagflation component, but they are flooding in general the global economy and asset markets with currency. Some people are getting what twelve hundred dollar checks. There’s SBA loans. Is this going to put a lot higher costs in the global supply chain? Are you seeing higher cost yet?
TN: I don’t necessarily foresee that, but I do think we’ll see incremental costs. So what you’re talking about is so much money is out there that chasing those goods will become more expensive. I think you’ll see that maybe in futures markets or in financial trading markets. But I think in terms of demand-led consumption, actually people buying tangible things, I think we’re in an environment where prices are hard for us to rise. Granted you see oil trading like I said earlier WTI broke I think $40 today, which is great. It’s healthy. But when that actually transitions into physical demand and how that transitions into other areas, I’m not really sure. Meaning, that $40 or how much price pressure is that going to have on downstream goods? Because $40 is much less than it has traded even though we had negative 37 and 20 and 28 and 32 for a long time, those prices are still pretty far depressed from where they have been historically. So I don’t see that. Typically when we have this type of stimulus that cash makes its way into things like real estate and equities and that sort of stuff. Will there be inflation there? Probably. But will we see it in supply chains? Probably not as much as one would think initially.
JB: So you don’t see a stagflation scenario where people in the US are going to be given more $1,200 or more checks per month and then because the global supply chain is not functioning at pre coronavirus levels, that there’s going to be less goods and services to purchase, so there’s going to be more currency creating less goods and services which would be stagflation airing that in my opinion?
TN: Certainly that’s possible. Not necessarily my central view. I think once you see these, the benefits and this $600 a week extra for unemployment, I think once you see that end at the end of June, I think we’ll see people really try to get back to work as quickly as possible. I think we will see some wage deflation among kind of white-collar workers especially in places and things like oil and gas. I’m based in Houston, Texas so I think you’ll see that stuff as those jobs become more competitive. But I don’t necessarily see a fully stagflation airy environment in the US.
JB: I think one of the main points though is the distortions that all these government interventions and the central bank intervention is creating because look at the stock market now that the stock market the Dow is over 27-thousand and I we haven’t seen any examples really of a recovery in the US economy yet.
TN: Again, markets are trying to find their levels and what I’ve been explaining to our clients is we will likely see quite a lot of volatility between now and say August, where we’ll see markets rise and we’ll see markets fall.
In hindsight, if we look let’s say on a monthly average basis, they may look like pretty boring markets. But in reality, we’ll see things rise and fall quite a bit until those markets, whether it’s say a copper price or whether it’s sp500 ETF. They’ll bounce around quite a lot. So again nobody really knows this is this is the problem it’s price discovery. When we talked with say procurement people, our supply chain people, even revenue planning people within companies, they’re all kind of making their best guesses. But they don’t really know and I think whether it’s somebody allocating a portfolio or whether somebody buying for a product, the planning, the precision of planning, the tools that people you are using really are not that precise and they really don’t incorporate a number of scenarios. We do have a lot of planning teams and let’s say portfolio strategy teams who are really kind of guessing and that’s why we see and we believe we will see the volatility in markets because it’s easy to look at the Dow or the S&P and say, “wow that’s too high” and then next week it swings 5% lower and then the week after it swings up 3% and so we see these things go up and down until we find that price where market participants agree that it should be in general region. I think we’re gonna be having that debate in markets for the next two to three months.
JB: I expect a lot more volatility even though the VIX is down below 25 that was below its support levels at 28. It was in a new trading range a higher trading range now it’s below that. But the Fed has talked about Powell and the Fed have talked about wanting to reduce volatility. Temporarily, they have reduced stock market volatility. But I’m looking for data out of the real world economy especially in the US economy where there’s improvement and I haven’t really seen improvement yet, now they are gonna we’re hopefully gonna restart the economy, but who knows if we’re gonna get a second wave of the coronavirus soon.
TN: Well if you look at driving right now, it’s at like 80 percent of pre corona. And this is part of what’s giving strength to crude oil markets. People are getting back on the roads. Not really getting back into planes that much yet. But they are getting back on the roads and I’m optimistic about that. When we start to see some of these basic signs of life at say 80% level, I think that’s positive. I do understand why markets were up today given the unemployment data and things like the road data that sort of stuff. Are they at the right level? I don’t know that anybody really knows but I think there is growing optimism that things may be coming back. The rate at which they’ll come back? Again, I think markets are going to debate that for at least a couple more months and then we’ll see real tangible, sustainable activities say late July August and people get an idea of where things will land for the rest of the year.
JB: Do you think the US economy is gonna have to make some really radical changes as in a lot of the bricks and mortar retailers, a lot of a lot of these casuals sit down in restaurants, they’re going to go away and the transition to e-commerce and online sales is gonna, it was already happening before the coronavirus, but now it’s gonna be a rapid acceleration than in the coming years?
TN: I think in general, I would say no. But I do think that a lot of your marginal businesses in strip malls or your marginal franchises or whatever that we’re just barely making it, I think it’s like this is a good time to cut those losses. I think things like real estate obviously you’ll see some changes there. But you know I think most people just want to go back to normal whatever that is. If we look at say pre 9/11, everyone said the world was going to change. It ended up being kind of a TSA check and so I think yes it’s easy. It’s been pretty easy over the past couple months to kind of extrapolate today into the future and today is forever. Normal is not normal anymore. But I think most people just want to get back to normal. Of course there’s going to be changes, but we’ve seen from some from some of the say protest activity over the past week, people will get out and they’ll go in public for whatever their right reasons are. Do I think the dining experience is going to change dramatically? I don’t. Do I think the shopping experience is going to change dramatically? I think it’ll change a little bit, but I don’t think it’s going to be some new normal of every single thing being done online and everything being delivered to house. Of course, people want that especially that’ll take off or continue likely in urban areas in a big way. But I think at the end of the day most people just want to get out of the house right now. They’ve been there for so long that they’re just trying to trying to get out and do something else aside from eat another meal in their house.
JB: The food delivery companies, they’re way overcharging on fees. I’m paying for a couple of my deliveries I think I ordered like a pizza and a couple other things and it was fifty bucks. It’s way more than than the normal cost.
TN: It’s very inflexible demand, very inelastic so if they can charge it, they will and I don’t blame them. I wish I was in that position.
JB: They still can’t make money if you look at their earnings report. Jim Chanos like put out a he posted an interesting article on his Twitter about like there’s an the Pizza arbitrage. Did you see that article?
JB: Yeah. So him and his buddy who’s a restauranteur, they figured out that GrubHub was under-pricing pizzas so they bought ten pizzas at the GrubHub subsidized price and then they were able to basically make $100 per order risk-free, 80 to 100 dollars cash for is free. There’s an article that I could send you. It’s pretty funny.
TN: They could sell it to other people.
JB: They could resell it, but it was basically, they were there was an arbitrage trade because of like doordash and GrubHub were intentionally under-pricing the menu items and so people would order from them and their call centers so they could sell to Wall Street that there was growth that there was revenue growth for deliveries so the stock would still go up.
TN: Wow fantastic, what a game, huh?
JB: well I’m not the CEO of a publicly traded company like that but yeah it’s a bad and said there’s a lot of added incentives right now in society.
JB: Well, Tony, I really enjoyed our discussion today. We live in very interesting time. One last question here about the dollar. So you think the dollar shortage is real and that the dollar is gonna start rolling soon?
TN: “Soon” is relative. So do I think the dollar shortage is real? Yes. Do I think the dollar is going to rally soon? I think it’s inevitable, but I think it really all depends on several things. But I do believe that emerging markets will continue to try to devalue their currencies because their exports especially China, I think that the dollar is in demand because there is so much debt globally, and they have to have dollars to pay down their their US dollar denominated debt. I do believe that Brent Johnson, his view his milkshake theory, I think is very solid and I think there’s a level of patience behind that theory and I don’t see the fundamentals changing that much. I think it’s a pretty elegant in the way he’s put that together.
JB: It’s a sound theory, but I think the US government the US Treasury President Trump who’s tweeted a lot about the dollar in the last two years, there’s a lot of ways that Congress and Trump and the Treasury can spend, can hand out checks, can do a plaza court agreement, if things get bad enough, they can do what FDR did in 1934. And if the dollar does get to those levels that Brent Johnson is predicting at 120 and the dollar index I mean that would collapse everything.
TN: Maybe. I don’t know that it would collapse everything. But I think it would certainly put strains on emerging markets. I don’t know that it would collapse everything, but I think it would certainly harm and I think emerging markets would have to live within limits that they haven’t had to for probably 30 years. So, and this is the basis of the end of the Asian century is they borrowed against the next 30 years to pay for the last 15, right. It’s just not sustainable since they don’t have a global currency and I think if you get a dollar north of say 105 close to 110, I think Asia just starts having serious serious problems.
JB: Yeah, I agree. And emerging markets have an interesting business model since China joined the WTO. So they set up to export to China either luxury goods or commodities and then they started borrowing in dollars especially around what after 2009, when the dollar index in what 2011 to some of the all-time lows there with Ben Bernanke just doing the QE programs. They basically started shorting the dollar at the worst possible time when the dollar was already relatively low and they were doing a lot of exports to China but then borrowing in dollar so it was a dangerous game that the emerging markets had set up.
TN: Very dangerous. I think being in those markets, betting against the dollar is a really hard proposition especially right now because the relative strength of the US, the US is in pretty good position compared to a number of these markets. It’s in a good position compared to say Europe. I’m not just talking like this month, I mean we’re all hurting this month. I think over the medium and long term from demographics to resources to other things, the US is in a is in a pretty good position it’s not in an excellent position I don’t think anybody globally is but I think it’s in a pretty good position.
JB: I want to thank you so much for your time today, Tony. If my listeners want to follow you more on Twitter or take a look at your company Complete Intelligence and the work you do, how did they do so?
TN: Sure, our company website is at completeintel.com on Twitter the company URL is or the company tag is @complete_intel. My personal twitter is @TonyNashNerd.
JB: Putting out a lot of good surveys and a lot of good stories, too, about the global trade in China as well.