This podcast is originally published on https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/fed-rate-hikes-earnings-downgrade-outlook-for-2023
The released Fed minutes show that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes. Markets reacted positively but this is false optimism as the terminal Fed Funds Rate may eventually be higher. The 3Q reporting in the US is also coming to a close and 75% of corporates experienced downgrade in earnings. Have the cut in earnings by analysts been adequate or will there be further downside, with 2023 outlook still uncertain? For answers, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence.
BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run at Thursday. It’s Thursday, the 24 November November Friday, junior, as we like to call it. Here. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning and Chong Tjen San. As always, let’s kickstart the morning with a look at how global markets closed overnight.
All key US markets showed gains as most members of the Fed said the pace of rate hikes will slow down. So the Dow was up 0.3%. The S&P500 was up 0.6%, and Nasdaq was up 1%. In Asian markets, the Nikkei and Hang Seng was up by 0.6%. The China Composite was up by 0.3%. The Straits Times Index was down by 0.1%, and our very own FBMKLCI was up by 0.2%.
Joining us on the line now for more on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Hi, Tony. Good morning. Now, let’s start with just some reactions on the Fed minutes that were released. It showed that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes, but that the terminal rate might need to be higher. What do you think? Are we seeing a relief rally? And is that sustainable in the short term?
Yeah, I think the ultimate destination is probably the same, but the pace of getting there is slower than many people thought a couple of weeks ago. So I think what it means is we’ll see more, say, 50 and 25 basis point hikes. That’s the expectation. It’s still possible we’ll see a 75 if Powell really pushes hard for December, but we’re still going to see a 5, 5.5 terminal rate, depending on really how things end up for CPI and PPI next month. But it’s just the pace and markets are more comfortable with a gradual adjustment to higher rates than the continued kind of shock treatment.
And Tony, the US reporting period is coming to a close. How would you assess the quality of corporate earnings release so far? How well have they tracked market expectations?
They’re OK, they’re pretty weak, actually. Compared to 2021, we had, I think, 25% earnings growth in ’21 about this time last year. They’re just over 3%. So it’s not even near where it was last year.
Something like 75% of companies are seeing estimates for their downgrade. So people expecting inflation to endure longer than they thought. If you remember a year ago, people were saying inflation was transitory, so they’re saying inflation will endure longer and rate hikes will continue.
So with credit tighter, businesses and consumers are not expected to spend as much.
So going forward, there is a fear that wallets will be more closed than they are now and earnings will continue to be tight.
Which just confuses me, Tony, because if the Fed stops their rate hikes at least decelerates the pace of it. And at the same time, corporate earnings aren’t going to be as robust as ever. Then why is the S&P500 above 4000 and the Dow Jones at 34,194 points? I mean, they’re just in fact, the Dow is only down 6% on a year to date basis and the S&P down 15%. Shouldn’t markets be actually more bearish than they are now?
Well, I think there are a couple of things happening there. I think first, there really is consumers have continued to spend and businesses have continued to spend in the US. Although we’ve seen economic growth slow dramatically, we’ve had spending continue to push forward. So if the Fed slows its tightening cycle, and keep in mind, they haven’t really started quantitative tightening, meaning getting things out of their balance sheet. They’re only, I think, $200 billion off of their high.
But if the Fed continues to tighten at an accelerated pace, then markets are worried. But again, if they slow it down, the feeling is that spending will move in stride. It won’t necessarily be too shaken up.
Also, on inflation, don’t forget inflation didn’t really start on an accelerated basis until November of ’21. So we had inflation, but fairly muted inflation then. And so what we get after November, well after this month, is what’s called a base effect.
So we’ll likely continue to see inflation rise, but not necessarily at the pace that it’s been over the past, say six to nine months. So does that mean inflation is peak? No, not at all. But it means the pace of the rise of inflation is likely going to slow on base effects.
So if that happens, we’ll have a lot of people declare victory over inflation, but I think that there is an expectation that that rate will slow as well.
Can you look at the prospects of retailers like Best Buy? We see Abercrombie and Fitch. These names are defying inflationary trends and higher rates to post better results than expected. So why has this sector been the exception to the norm?
Yes, the quick answer is most of those guys have been pushing price. So they’ve been passing along their higher labor and goods costs onto consumers.
Now they’ve been pushing price while sacrificing volume. So they’ve been pushing 8 to 10 to 15% price hikes in many cases. But they’ve had fewer transactions between one and say 6% fewer transactions.
Regardless, they’re earnings have risen. So they’re not as worried about fewer transactions. They’re focused on keeping their margins up.
And so when you look at retailers like Walmart, which has mixed, say, general goods and food, they’ve done very well. They had a very difficult Q2, but they did very well this past quarter.
Home Depot, which is a DIY store, has done very well because they pushed price Cracker Barrel has done very well.
Cracker Barrel. These are not these are not retailers that are at the high end of the market either. These are mid and even, say lower end companies, but they’re pushing price on the middle and lower end of the market.
Higher end of the market? They’re doing great. So it’s tough to be a consumer in this market because price definitely continues to be pushed and we expect price to continue to be pushed through probably Q2 of next year.
And Tony, with potentially slower pace of interest rate hikes, how do you expect the technology sector to do? Is there more pain to come for the likes of Amazon and Meta?
For sure. Amazon, Meta and technology companies generally do very well in very low interest rate environment, where the money is effectively free or negative real interest rates.
As you have to pay for that money, it becomes tougher for those companies to do well because their core investment is in technology. And we had things like Mark Zuckerberg at Meta really went off the rails with some of his spending and investment.
It’s not to say that the Metaverse investment is not ever going to happen, but much of that stuff really went way overboard. Same thing with, say, Amazon with some of their infrastructure investments and delivery investments.
So we do expect HP today, I think announce 6,000 jobs to be lost over the next, I don’t know, twelve months or something. So we do expect much more pain in tech. We expect that to continue until at least the end of Q1, if not a little bit further.
And Tony, let’s talk about oil because WTI for futures delivery in January, $77 a barrel. And we know that there’s an upcoming OPEC meeting in December. What are your expectations in terms of oil price then?
Yeah, it’s tricky, right? Because oil prices are kind of in that zone where a lot of people are comfortable. And so the question is, is this acceptable to OPEC members? So Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq and Kuwait have already come out and said they’re going to stick to the current plan, the current cuts that were already announced last month.
But we have things like the Russian price caps coming into play. And you know, our view is the price caps are pretty meaningless actually, because Europeans are pretty good at circumventing the kind of emotional embargoes they put in place.
I’m sorry to put it that way, but they put these laws in place and then they circumvent them pretty well. A lot of this is theater. So that’s not the price caps are not going to have as much of an impact as many people thought. So it’s possible if we get into next week and crude prices start coming back pretty strongly, or sorry, if we get into next week and crude prices are as weak as they are now, we may see a 500,000 barrel per day cut. I think that’s a possibility, but it’s likely they’ll stay on what’s already been announced.
Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us. And since it’s Thanksgiving eve. Happy Thanksgiving to you. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks ahead.
All eyes, of course, on that all-important inflation number and how that will affect how the Fed raises hikes moving forward.
I think the key takeaway for me was he mentioned that 75% of corporates in the US had downgrades, which I feel it’s a good thing as it brings expectations lower and more in line with future expectations and it also gives perhaps some room to surprise on the upside.
Yeah, well, markets seem to be at crossroads, but a little bit cheered by the fact that the Fed isn’t going to raise rates as aggressively as they have in the past. But I want to keep my eye on corporate earnings. I think that if you see continuous downgrades by the analyst community, you see the messaging coming out of US corporates that things aren’t looking as rosy as they are, then it’s just going to be hard for the Dow, S&P500 to actually break through their current resistance levels. So I think it’s something we have to keep an eye on.