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The Week Ahead – 21 Mar 2022

This week, we saw a Fed rate rise, crude came back from the stratosphere, and Chinese equities came to life.

As we said last week:

– Sam said “watch the 5 and 7 year” bonds, where we saw serious action.

– Sam also said “grip it and rip it” with equity markets.

– Tracy said that dramatic spikes in crude markets were priced out of the market for now

– Albert called for a volatile week thru the Fed meeting, although we didn’t see the lows he’d expected.

Sam walked us through the Fed decision and what’s happening in the bond markets. He also explained a bit more about his “grip it and rip it” comment and where the leaves us.

LME is talking about banning Russian copper on the exchange. What does that mean for global copper markets, as explained by Tracy? We’re also coming off the nickel scandal at the LME. Are there bigger problems with at the LME – mixing politics with markets?

We saw China equity markets perk up this week. KWEB, the China tech ETF, is up over 40% since Monday. What happened, what is Albert watching and what’s coming for Chinese equity markets?

Listen on Spotify:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/1yFipmQCs7XNHEXwj20bZf?si=5310245ccd1545d1

This is the 11th episode of The Week Ahead in collaboration of Complete Intelligence with Intelligence Quarterly, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.

Follow The Week Ahead experts on Twitter:

Tony: https://twitter.com/TonyNashNerd
Sam: https://twitter.com/SamuelRines
Albert: https://twitter.com/amlivemon
Tracy: https://twitter.com/chigrl

Transcript

TN: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And I’m joined by Albert Marko, Sam Rines, and Tracy Shuchart. Before we get started, I’d like to ask you to like and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

So this week it’s been a really interesting week. We saw Fed rate rise. We saw commodities, especially crude, come back from the stratosphere and we saw Chinese equities come back to life. So it’s been kind of a really weird week.

Last Friday, Sam said to watch the five- and seven-year bonds where we saw some serious action. He also said rip it and grip it with reference to equity markets. So let’s dig into that a little bit today.

Tracy said the dramatic spikes in crude markets were probably priced out in the week before, which we saw bear out this week. And Albert called for an active week before the Fed. We didn’t see the low he expected, but I think very much in line with the volatility he expected this week.

So, Sam, to get started, can you walk us through the Fed’s decision and what’s happening in bond markets?

SR: Yeah. So I think the Fed’s decision is pretty simple to understand on a number of levels. It’s inflation, inflation, inflation and everything else is secondary. When asked multiple times what would knock them off of the call it the inflation war, they made it very clear there was very little that would knock them off that path. So you had a lot of action on seven-year, five-year and a little bit on 10? Not as much as I would have expected, really. But the basic reaction was the Feds going the Fed’s going very hard, very fast, probably would have done 50 if it weren’t for Ukraine and may do 50 at a coming meeting or two if the war in Ukraine doesn’t begin to really spiral into an employment issue in the US. It does not matter about a growth issue, matters about employment issue. So I think that’s really critical.

The two-year looks really well priced to me in light of that situation, quantitative tightening, whatever. That will happen in May. We know that.

TN: We’re convinced it’s happening in May.

SR: We’re convinced it’s happening in May. Yeah. The rhetoric from the Fed is pretty clear that they’re going to go early and they’re going to go fast on quantitative tightening. None of that is great for the longer end of the curve, starting at five s and ending at 30s.

If you want to kind of think about it in terms of ideal perspective, in terms of pricing, it’s probably pretty good. 5s, 7s, 10s, 30s have all priced a pretty interesting growth to inflation narrative that if you begin to have the growth narrative breakdown, if you begin to have the long term inflation embedded narrative breakdown, because the very fast, very good Fed, that’s going to change, and that’s going to push those yields down, prices up pretty dramatically, pretty quickly.

TN: Fantastic. So when you talk about QT in May, I think I bounced back and forth over the past, say month or two months where people are talking about QT, then they’re talking about the possibility of QE, then we’re talking about QT.

So the QT aspect of it, if that happens, which when you say I fully expect it to happen, the main point there is to take money out of circulation, is that right? What is the main point of QT?

SR: What is the main point of QT? Main point of QT is signaling.

TN: Okay.

SR: In my opinion. QE is a pretty big signal to go ahead and buy everything. QT is a pretty good signal that the Fed is serious, right. It’s a seriousness issue. It’s not as dramatic, I think, as it might be interpreted by the financial media in terms of an actual translation to financial conditions or to equity markets, et cetera.

It does tend to knock down multiples, and it probably adds another 25 to 50 basis points worth of tightening this year. But I wouldn’t say it’s a shredding of cash. It’s a shredding of reserves. So reserves never made it in to the market in terms of real usable high power cash. That’s a big difference.

TN: Okay. So when we look at the environment right now versus what you’re expecting for QT in May, are we in kind of an interim opportunistic equity market right now? Are people just kind of trading until the inevitable comes? What’s happening, especially in US equity markets?

SR: What’s happening in US equity markets? That’s a tougher question to answer than you might think. A lot of short covering. That’s the first thing. Second thing is most of the risk seem to be priced as we exited last week. Right.

If you’re going to price the world for World War Three or some sort of big tail risk, that was the time to do it. And you simply didn’t have any of that come to fruition. You had a hawkish Fed, but you didn’t have a Fed that seemed to want to break something really quickly. And it’s pretty obvious that they’re willing to break something at this point, but they didn’t want to break it with a 50 basis point hike or call it three or 3 or 50 basis point hikes. That is one of the reasons why equity markets get a little bit of relief here.

The other side is that the ten year yield dropped. The ten-year yield dropping took some pressure off the Nasdaq for rate increases or interest rate increases that side of things. So Nasdaq outperformed S&P, that’s a pretty important signal. There was some risk on this week.

TN: Great. Okay, Albert, what’s your rate on US equity markets in light of what Sam is talking about with Fed action?

AM: Sam’s right. They want to break something, but they don’t want to be seen as breaking something. I mean, I was dead wrong on the sub 4,000. I completely forgot that Opex was this week. They were not going to pay out $4 trillion and put up just the people. It was just that they probably spent 100 to 150 billion this week to pump this market up and keep it stable up in the stratosphere up here.

I guarantee they spent about at least $100 billion doing that this week. And they just annihilated people. They kept equities up. They are signaling that they’re going to hit inflation hard and fast, just like Sam said. They have to because things are just getting silly at this point.

TN: Okay. And Tracy, in light of what Sam is talking about with QT and more hikes later in the year, do you expect that to have a material impact on commodities over the short to medium term, or do you think they’re still on this strong trajectory that you’ve expected?

TS: Yeah. I think that unfortunately, the Fed cannot subside this with rate hikes because we have, again, real supply demand issues. And so I think the commodities markets, the trajectory is going to continue higher. It doesn’t matter, especially when we’re looking at now we have this Ukraine Russia war, and now we also have 50 million people locked down in China again. And they just closed one of their major ports and manufacturing hubs this week. So supply chains that were sort of beginning to mend, right, after 2020 just got thrown into an entire tail spin once again.

TN: I have a friend in the manufacturing sector who because of the Shenzhen Port close and city close, he got several force majeure letters this week. So that stuff is cascading through industry. We’re not necessarily seeing it in markets yet, but it’s really cascading through industry really quickly. And I think we’re going to start to see that appear in financial statements of companies in the coming months.

AM: That’s important, Tony, because my contention has always been that they’re allowing inflation to run wild because it reduces the amount of rate hikes they actually have to do come May, they might be done with their last rate hikes at that point and start QT just simply on the basis that the supply chains and the economy is struggling.

TN: Right. One thing I want to go back to, Tracy, when you say bullish market and this is my understanding of your statements, but you’re bullish on commodities, you’re not talking about crude going to $140 again next week. This is a medium term play. Is that fair to say?

TS: It’s a medium to longer term play, which I’ve kind of always stated, granted, we had the Russian Ukraine factor come in that push prices to 130 WTI, which was a lot faster than I anticipated. I really liked the fact that we pulled back from that, got some of that geopolitical risk air out of the market, but we’re still on the same trajectory of $150 a barrel over the course of the next year or two.

TN: Right. Okay. Now, while we’re on Russia Ukraine, the LME came out with some news about copper this week and we’re showing that on the screen right now talking about the LME potentially banning Russian copper on the exchange. Can you talk us through that? And what does that mean for global copper markets?

TS: All right, so this is, the LME Commission basically suggested that they ban Russian oil. This has to be presented to the internet. Copper. You said Russian oil.

TN: You meant copper, right?

TS: Copper, yes. Sorry. This has to be presented to the international community for this to actually go through. The problem here is Russia is the 7th largest producer of copper. They account for about 4% of global production. It’s a role on the LME exchange is more significant because they are the third largest exporter of refined copper metal and this is deliverable to the exchange. So this really would send LME markets into chaos. Literally.

TN: Okay, so let’s kind of somehow link that to the LME nickel issues that we saw last week. Okay? Could this, as an exchange, could actions like this impact the credibility of the LME or what does this mean kind of political actions and by “political actions”, I mean there was intervention on behalf of a Chinese entity for the nickel market last week.

There’s potential intervention as a result of geopolitical issues with Russia in the coming weeks. So will we see exchanges get more political and will that impact impact their credibility as an exchange?

TS: Well, that’s the problem, yes. And I do think that it will impact their credibility. The nickel market is essentially broken at the LME rights now, right. They reopened again on Tuesday. They set daily limits at 5%, limit down. They were limited down right away. They raised it to 8% on Thursday, limit down right away, 12% on Friday, limit down right away.

And basically, that’s not because of the fundamentals of the market. That’s because people are running for the hill. They just want out of that contract. Right. And so that is definitely going to be a problem for the LME market going forward.

TN: Are there dangers and we don’t necessarily need to name other markets, but are there dangers of other we’ll say developed market exchanges to kind of make these types? Could we see CBOT or CME or some of these guys start to play these games, too?

TS: I think that’s a difficult question to answer. I do not think that you will see CME do that unless you have some other foreign markets do that first.

TN: Unless a big Chinese state owned entity lose a lot of money.

TS: If we see SHFE do something like that, then I think the United States will. But I do not think you’ll see the CME market actually.

TN: Okay. Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure that some people understand that these exchanges are actually businesses and they have to make business decisions. Right. And some of these business decisions, they’re not completely neutral market participants. Right. In some cases, they get involved in these trades.

TS: They’re there to make money. Right.

TN: They are there to make money. But when politics inserts itself into markets, these exchanges that people think are kind of arms length to the trades, it starts some people wondering about the price. Are they actually getting the right price? Is there really a true market there?

TS: Well, exactly. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing at the LME right now. At the command, so far, we have not seen that at CME yet. But that is to be determined.

TN: Right. Albert, Sam, what do you guys have to say on this?

AM: From my perspective, I can’t really add much to what Tracy said. She’s right on the ball. When it comes to systemic issues, politics gets in the way and protects it. That’s just the way it works. And unfortunately, just seeing what you’re seeing today, which is undermining, it undermines the trust in the entire market overall.

TN: Yeah. It just seems like a problem that’s really hard to get over. Right. Like how long will it be broken and when it’s back, will it snap back? I just don’t know. Sam, do you have any thoughts on this?

SR: My only thought is very similar to Albert’s, in terms of I don’t think anybody’s going to actually trust the LME anytime soon. If you’re going to make a significant trade in a metal, I highly doubt you’re going to want to do it through the LME without having some sort of backup to that position.

TN: Okay, great. Let’s move on to Chinese equities. Albert, we saw China equity markets forgot this week, KWEB, for example, which is a China tech ETF, is up over 40% since Monday. So what happened and what are you watching?

AM: Again, the systemic issues that China is facing in the market, I mean, Hong Kong was about 5% away from just absolutely imploding. They had a new problem where it wasn’t just the foreign money that was leaving the system, but actually the mainland mainland Chinese investors were taking money out, which was something new. And it was to the point where the peg might have even broken. So they had to shore it up by liquidity injections. And the Xi had come out and made those comments citing Hong Kong twice. But I was on Twitter and I was saying, this just can’t happen.

China is completely about to fail market wise. So let’s start picking things, pick the best ETF, pick the best companies out of China. And I mentioned KWEB with you guys, GDS, Chindata, you can throw a dart and pick your Chinese name last week and it went up 40% to 80% at some point.

Same thing. Now I’m kind of trimming my position back, but Chinese housing is at that point right now, where the housing sector accounts for 75% of China’s wealth. They can’t just simply let it deteriorate into nothing where the banks are taking it over. That can’t happen. I mean, Xi would be out in his ass. Sorry about the commentary, but Xi would be out within months if that happens. So I’m going to pick top three Chinese housing names and go for it.

TN: It’s a brave call. It’s a really brave call.

AM: All right.

TN: Do you think there’s room to run with some of these Chinese tech companies or even the broader China market, or do you think the opportunity is really limited to real estate?

AM: Well, no, they can run. The problem that we have now is the Biden administration is starting to target China, assisting Russia and whatnot. So then now you have the geopolitical risks come into the equation and you see these things surge 40% one day, you can easily see a 20% retracement the next day or even more. So that’s why I’m just trimming you take your 60% and be happy with it.

TN: Right. So we talked about Chinese fiscal stimulus, Chinese monetary stimulus. We talked about devaluation. Do the events of the last week move up the time clock for the economic planners in China to get this stuff out the door?

AM: Absolutely. I think they have to even in conjunction with the US, because the US has no fiscal coming so the Chinese have to step up to simulate the economy. Otherwise the entire globe is going into a depression. It’s as simple as that.

TN: Yeah. It’s really. I remember over the past ten years, all the talk about coordinated economic stimulus and all this other stuff since 2008, 2009. And right now we’ve got the Fed pulling back and we’ve got China aggressively moving forward. It’s just a little bit strange. Sam, I guess from a macro perspective, can that work?

SR: It can work depending on how much stimulus is actually put into the system and how it is put into the system. The how is very important in terms of how impactful it will be. Not just domestically for China. But also how impactful it will be beyond their borders.

And what you’d be really concerned about from a macro perspective is how far beyond the borders does that stimulus actually get? That’s where I get interested in it, because if it does begin to move beyond the borders, it’s very positive for Europe. That’s very positive for some US companies. But you have to have a stimulus that isn’t just a transfer to businesses.

You have to have it actually hit the Chinese consumer and hit the Chinese consumer quickly.

TN: Okay. So we’re not just talking about a couple of RRR cuts, which is what they do all the time. It’s kind of the go to. This is the reserve requirement, right?

SR: Yeah. I don’t care if they do RRR cut.

TN: I don’t think many people do, although I think they kind of have to phone that in to show that they’re doing something. I would think it’s more aggressive on the fiscal side, on the TSF, the total social finance side, where they just need to churn the cash out to SMEs, SOEs, big multinational companies, that sort of thing to almost get them to the point where they’re exporting deflation again, of manufactured goods. Does that make sense as an approach, Sam?

SR: I mean, it makes a lot of sense as an approach, but at the same time, you’re locking down due to your COVID zero process or policy. So that process would be really interesting and intriguing. But it’s a question of whether or not it would be effective given the health policy on the other side. So, yes, it would be great, but it would be probably great in three to six months.

TN: Okay, so guys, this is a great point. The COVID zero policy, it feels like much of the rest of the world has come out of this. Right. And China has gone back into lockdowns. Do you think there’s a point at which other markets have an uncomfortable call with China and go, guys, you got to open up because you’re killing the rest of us.

SR: I think they had it. I think they had it. If you look at the way they’re handling the current lockdown, they’re busting people to factories.

There’s a closed loop factory policy. While you have a COVID zero policy and “these places are locked down,” they are busing people to the factories. So I think there’s been a little bit of a let’s move on here.

TN: Okay.

AM: And also want to point out is these lockdowns came suspiciously close to the talks with the US, both with Biden and our glorious blink or Sullivan, the genius Sullivan that we have. But I think it might have been a little bit of a negotiation tactics like if you decide to play hardball with us over Russia, we can just shut down and ding our economy. So I think there was a little bit of that also sprinkle in there, right. A little bit of real politics.

TN: Yeah. Okay, guys. So as we come out of this weird week, what do you expect for the week ahead? Tracy, what are you looking at for the week ahead?

TS: So I think in the commodity markets, we’re still at that point where we’re kind of coming down after that initial knee jerk reaction to Russia, Ukraine. So I expect a little bit of consolidation across markets. Depending. It’s kind of what we’re seeing. So I think the market still be volatile, but like less volatile. I think we’re kind of like at that ripple point where the ripples really big and then we kind of get smaller and smaller.

TN: I think you’re Right. I think the consolidation makes sense. Albert, what are you looking For? It seems to me on the geopolitical side, we’re almost going through almost a geopolitical consolidation a little bit. We’ve had so much drama over the past few weeks, but I almost feel like it’s coming down a bit.

AM: It has been coming down and that’s one of the reasons they’re able to sit there and pump the market so high. I think it was overbought, to be honest with you. I think this market even considering going back to 4500, you’re just going to have every fund out there shorting the heck out of it. So I would see them try to test 4470, 4480, 4490, maybe 4500, but after that, it’s probably downside from there.

TN: Okay. Great. Sam, what are you looking at?

SR: I’m looking at the five-year I think it’s a pretty interesting place to be and I think it’s going to be highly volatile. But that’s the one to watch with inflation and growth expectations beginning to be a little wobbly.

TN: Great. Guys, thanks so much. I really appreciate it. Have a great week ahead.

AM, SR, TS: Thanks.

Categories
QuickHit Visual (Videos)

QuickHit: Oil companies will either shut-in or cut back, layoffs not done yet

We continue discussing oil companies this week with Tracy Shuchart, who is a portfolio manager and considered as one of the leading experts on crude trading. Tony Nash asked who is trading oil these days, why the oil went negative, and when can we see a bit of recovery for the industry? Most importantly, will layoffs continue, and at what pace?

 

The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.

 

Show Notes

 

TN: Hi everyone. This is Tony with Complete Intelligence. We’re here doing a QuickHit, which is one of our quick discussions. Today, we are talking with Tracy Shuchart, who is a portfolio manager with a private equity fund and she is one of the foremost experts on crude trading. We’ve had a number of conversations with her already, and we’re really lucky to get a little bit of her time today.

 

Tracy, just a few days ago, I was talking with Vandana Hari, who was formerly a Research Scholar at Platts and knows everything about energy. She was telling me that there are three to four months of crude oil supply, and that’s the imbalance that we have in markets right now. That’s why we see WTI at less than 20 and these really difficult price hurdles for people to get over. Can you tell us who’s trading crude oil right now? Is it mom and pops? Is it professionals? What does that look like? And also, what will have to happen for those prices to rise, generally?

 

 

TS: Right. Right now, the USO had to get on the prep-month contracts.  

 

TN: Sorry, just to clarify for people who aren’t trading ETF’s. USO is a broadly traded energy ETF, and they’ve had a lot of problems with the structure of the futures that they trade. So they’ve had to push back the futures that they trade from the front month, which is the nearest month that’s traded to further back in a channel in hopes that the value of crude oil in the further of months trades higher than the current one. So they’ve done a lot of reconfiguration over the last few weeks. So sorry. I just wanted to explain that.

 

 

TS: That’s okay. They’re out of the front month. Bank of China just had a big problem when oil prices went negative. They had a lot of money in the front months. They’re out.

 

Most retail brokers are not allowing regular retail to be traded in the front couple months actually. All that you have trading front months are the big funds, anybody who’s been hedging and then maybe a bank or two. But it’s definitely not retail that’s in there, and there are a lot of big players now that are not in there.

 

When we get towards expiration, the problem is that most of the funds are pretty short and most of the hedgers are pretty short, and the banks are on the opposite side of that trade. But when we come to expiration, what I’m worried

about again is we’re going to have a no-bid scenario. We’re going to have that vacuum once again. You’re not going to have any natural buyers there.

 

 

TN: Okay. So the WTI traded in the US goes negative, but the WTI traded in London on the ICE doesn’t go negative.

 

 

TS: They just decided not to let that contract go negative. The difference between the contracts is the CME Group contract is physically deliverable, right? And ICE contract is a cash-settled contract. So they’re not going negative, but CME allowed this contract to go negative.

 

And they actually put out a notice about five days before that they were going to start letting some contracts go negative. This wasn’t a total surprise, as soon as I saw that, I thought it was going to go negative.

 

 

TN: Both you and I have told stories about how we had friends who wanted to trade. Like I had a couple of friends who wanted to triple long Crude ETF a week and a half before it went negative, and I said, “please, please don’t do that.” So grateful that neither of them did that because it could have been terrible.

 

So how do we clear this? We’ve got three-four months of oil just sitting around?

 

 

TS: If you talk to most of the big trading houses in Switzerland like Vitol, Trafigura, etc., basically their base case scenario, and they’re physical traders, their BEST scenario is it’ll be September before we get some sort of hints of a balance left.

 

So what is going to happen? There are either two things. We’re going to fill up storage, and then producers literally won’t have to shut it. There’s nowhere to put it, so they literally have to do what I call forced shut-ins. If you don’t want to shut-in, the market is going to force you to do that. That scenario is going to happen. Or we’re going to get a scenario where people decide to voluntarily cut back. Just look at the backend like CLR, Continental Resources just did that. They shut in about 30 percent of their production on the back end, and I think there’s about thirty-five to forty percent now that’s shut-in. And there are some other basins where that’s happening as well, in the Permian, etc.

 

 

TN: So that’s mostly people in the field they’ll probably let go. Will we see people at headquarters? Those CEOs or only those workers in the field?

 

 

TS: I think you’re going to see a broad range of layoffs. It’s already happening. You’ve already seen companies lay off a bunch of people… Halliburton’s laid off. Everybody’s laying off people. And they’re not just laying off field workers as they’re shutting rigs down, they’re cutting back on their office help, too.

 

And with the shutdown, it’s even more worrisome because maybe they figure out that, “we definitely don’t need this many people,” and all these people working remotely.

 

I don’t think that the layoffs are done yet. We’ve only had a couple of months of low oil prices. If this continues for another 3-4 months, we’re definitely in trouble.

 

 

TN: So is this time different? I mean if we were to stop today, and let’s say things come back to 30 bucks tomorrow, which they won’t. But if it stopped today, would the oil and gas industry look at this go, “Thank God we dodged that bullet, again?” Do they just go back to normal like nothing happened? Or if it were to stop today, would they say “Gosh, we really need to kind of reform who we are. Focus on productivity and become a modern business?” How long does it take for them to really make those realizations?

 

 

TS: I think what’s going to have to happen, which may not happen, is the money runs out, right?

 

So first, you had to ride the shale boom. All these banks throwing money on it. After 2016, things were easing up. So private equity guys got in there, and they threw a bunch of money at it. Basically, these guys are going to keep doing what they’re doing as long as they have a source of equity and a source of capital thrown at them all the time. As soon as that dries up, then they’ll be forced to delete and go out of business. We’re already seeing that happen. We’ve had over 200 bankruptcies just in the last four years alone, and this year we’re starting high. So they’re either going to go out of business — Chapter 7s, not 11s. And the thing is that with the big guys, like Chevron and Exxon that just entered into the Permian, they’re just waiting to chomp on some stranded assets.

 

So again, what it’s going to take is the money’s got to dry up or they go out of business. That’s the only way I really see them changing.

 

 

TN: Yeah and we’re just at the beginning, which is really hard to take because it’s tough. So Tracy I’d love to talk for a long, long time, you know that. But we’ve got to keep these short, so thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate your insights. We’ll come back to you again in another couple of weeks just to see where things are. I’m hoping things change. But I’m not certain that they will. So, we’ll be back in a couple of weeks and just see how things are.

 

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