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Fed “moderation”, windfall OAG taxes in UK, and building an exchange: The Week Ahead – 5 Dec 2022

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On Wednesday, Jay Powell talked and said “The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting.” The JOLTs data that came from Wednesday showed a slowing in job openings and the employment data from Friday was still strong but moderated a bit. With China announcing some changes to lockdowns, how worried should we be about commodity prices, given the “moderating” Fed? Albert Marko leads the discussion on this.

We also saw the UK announce windfall oil & gas taxes last week. We’ve seen a slew of announcements to halt investment. This is something that Tracy called out well before the windfall tax was announced. What will the impact be and how did the UK government think this would go over? Tracy explains this in more detail.

Given the LME nickel issues, FTX, etc., credibility is a concern at times. Why do these systems fail? What should people who trade know about exchanges that nobody tells them? Josh shares his expertise on what it’s like to build an exchange.

Key themes:
1. Fed “moderating the pace…”
2. Windfall oil and gas taxes in the UK
3. What’s it like to build an exchange?

This is the 44th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.

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Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Week ahead. My name is Tony Nash. Today we are joined by Josh Crumb. Josh is the CEO of Abaxx Technologies, a former Goldman Sachs, and just a really smart guy who I’ve watched on Twitter for probably eight years. We’re also joined by Tracy Shuchart, of course, and Albert Marko. So thank you guys so much for joining. I really appreciate your time this week.

We’ve got a few key themes to go through. The first is the Fed talking about, “moderating the pace.” We’ll get into that a little bit. Albert will lead on that. Then we’ll get into windfall taxes, windfall oil and gas taxes in the UK. And finally, we’ll look at exchanges. Josh’s started an exchange. I’m interested in that, but I’m also interested in that within the context of, say, the LME and other things that have happened.

So, again, really looking forward to this discussion, guys.

Albert, this week on Wednesday, Chair Powell spoke and he talked about moderating, the pace of rate rises. He said the time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting. Of course, it’s a conditional statement, right?

But with China announcing some of the changes and lockdowns with things like the jobs number out today, I’m really curious about your thoughts on that moderation. So if we look at the Jolts numbers, the job openings numbers from Wednesday we showed that really come off the highs, which is good. It’s moving in the direction the Fed wants.

If we look at the employment data out today, again, it shows a little bit of moderation, but it’s still relatively strong.

So what does all of this mean in the context of what Chair Powell was talking about Wednesday?


Well, I mean, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury have been really precise in the wording of using soft landing over and over and over again. And let’s make no, let’s not have some kind of like, a fantasy where they don’t see the data a week ahead of time. And all the words and all the phrases and whatever they leak out to the media, like the Wall Street Journal are tailored to try to get a soft landing.

Powell knew what these job numbers were. So for him to come out uber hawkish, which he has to do because the economy is still red hot at the moment, if he came out uber hawkish Wednesday and knowing what these job numbers are and knowing what the CPI is possibly going to be next week, we’d be sitting there at 3800 or 3700. And they don’t want a catastrophic crash, specifically before Christmas. And also the mutual funds and ETFs and rebalancing of this past week.

So from my perspective, they’re going to keep the soft landing ideology. The only thing that could throw in a wrench to this whole thing is retail sales. And if I think the retail sales start becoming hotter than they really want to see then obviously 75 basis points and maybe even 100 is on the docket for the next two months.


For the next two months? So 50 December, 50 Jan?


That’s the game plan at the moment, 50-50. If CPI or retail sales start getting a little bit out of hand, they might have to do 75 and 50 or 75 and 25. But again, this is all like all these leaks to the media about softening or slowing down the pace. It’s just another way for them to “do the pivot talk” and try to rally the markets again. So that’s all it is.


Okay, Josh, what are you seeing? What’s your point of view on this?


Yeah, so I’m probably not in the market day to day the same as the rest of you from a trading perspective. We’re obviously looking very closely at commodity markets and the interplay between particularly what’s going on in Europe and how that affects energy markets, which I know Tracy and yourself have spoken a lot about.

Yeah, look, I think the last OPEC meeting, I think the Saudis in particular caught a lot of flack for the supply cuts. But now, looking in hindsight, I think they were exactly right. And so I think there really is a softness, particularly that part of the crude markets and of course, in a very different situation downstream in refining. I think that it would be consistent with a softening economy. But I agree with Albert that the Fed, I think, can’t really afford to change their stance, even though even today’s employment report was a very, very sort of lagging indicator, late-cycle indicator.

So I feel, personally, particularly just coming back from Europe, that we’re really already in recession and I think that’s going to be more obvious next year. But I don’t think they can really change their tune for the reasons that Albert laid out.


Tracy, we had a revision to Q3 GDP this week, and I was looking at those numbers, and exports were a big contributor to that. And crude was a huge portion of those exports in a revision of Q3 to GDP, it was revised up slightly, I think, to 2.9% or something. Now, a large portion of those exports are SPR, and that SPR release is contributing to, say, lower oil prices and lower gasoline prices here in the US, right?

So SPR release theoretically stops this month in December, right? So it tells me that we’re not going to be able to have crude exports that are that large of a contributor to GDP expansion. First. It also tells me that we’ll likely see crude and gasoline prices rise on the back of that if OPEC holds their output or even slightly tightens it. Is that fair to say?


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that everybody’s pretty much looking at they’re going to hold a stance. I mean, they’ve already said this over and over again over the last month. After that Wall Street Journal article came out and said they were thinking about increasing production for the bank. You had all of them come back and say, “no, we’ve had, this is what we have in play to the end of 2023. We can change this, obviously, with an emergency meeting, et cetera, et cetera.” But I think at this meeting, I think they’re probably going to be on a wait and see, or, again, like you said, slight and tightening. Maybe $500.


I stole that idea from you, by the way.


Maybe $500,000. It really depends on what they’re looking forward to, is what they have to contend with right now is the oil embargo in Russia on December 5, and then the product embargo comes in on February 2023. For the EU, also, everything is a lot. It’s predicated on China coming back because that’s another 700 to 800,000 barrels per day in demand that could possibly come back. But I think we all agree, as we’ve talked about many times before, that’s probably not until after Chinese New Year, which would be, you know, March, April.

But those are all the things, along with the slowdown, with all the yield curve inversions, not only here, but also in Europe, everybody’s expecting this huge recession coming on. And so that also has a lot to do with sort of sentiment in the crude market. And we’ve seen this in open interest because what we’ve seen in looking at COT (Commitment of Traders), CFTC data, is that we’ve had a lot of longs liquidating, but we haven’t really seen shorts initiating. It’s really just trying to get out of this market. And so that’s what the current futures market is kind of struggling with right now.


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Okay, so you mentioned the China issue, and earlier this week we did a special kind of show on what will likely happen in China. Albert was a part of that. We had two journalists as a part of that, long-standing China journalist as a part of that. So we’ll put a link to that in this show. But if China opens at an accelerated pace, Albert, we all expect that to impact inflation, right? And we all expect that to impact crude prices.


Not any prices across the board, actually, you’re going to be in especially industrial metal.


Exactly. So how much of Powell’s kind of “moderation” is predicated upon China staying closed through, say, Feb-March?


Oh, it’s all of it right now. All of its predicated on it. I mean, right now they’re under the impression that China won’t open until April. But I push back on that, and I think at this point, they might even announce an opening in February. Once they announce it, the market looks ahead for three to six months. So things will start taking off at that point.

I do have a question for Tracy, though, for the Russian price cap, right? I know you know the answer, Tracy, but a lot of followers of mine have always asked me about this in DMs is like, why does it make the price of oil go up? Because from my understanding, is because it limits the supply globally. And then as demand comes back, the supply sector actually shrinks. And I wonder what your opinion was on that.


Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think what you’re going to see with the price cap is that people are going to in Russia already said we’re not going to sell to people that adhere to the oil price cap. Now, again, if it ends up being $60, that’s not really under what they’re selling it for currently at the current discount to Brent. So that’s not that big of a deal. If it’s lower than that, then obviously, yes, that will make a big deal. But they also said that if we have an oil price cap, then we’re going to stop producing, right? Not entirely, but they’ll curb back production, which will in turn make oil prices higher globally, even if that price cap in place. And so that’s kind of their hit back.

But that said, again, I don’t think as much oil is going to be taken off the market with a price cap, particularly at $60. And Russia has already figured out a way around secondary sanctions, obviously, in June as far as shipping, insurance, and certification is concerned. And you have to think, realistically speaking, you’re going to have a lot of shippers, especially Greek shippers, that this is their major business that is going to say, yes, we’re shipping this oil at the “price cap.”

Right. So you just have to keep in mind the games that are played in the industry. But, yeah, some oil will definitely be taken off the market. And Russia also could decide to pull back on production in order to hurt the west to make oil prices rise in the west.


Europeans love to violate their own sanctions anyway, right? They’ll just buy through India or something, right? And they’ll know full well that it’s coming forward.


They’re buying Russian LNG. It’s not piped in right now. Right, but they’re still buying LNG. They’re having it shifting, and they’re paying massively.


Let’s turn off the pipeline and raise prices on ourselves. Okay.


They learned from Bible in the keystone, right?


Maybe I’ll add one more perspective here. You have to remember that oil is Russia’s economic lever and gas is their political lever. And so I actually believe that Russia is actually trying to maximize, we haven’t lost a lot of Russian barrels since the beginning in March, but I think they’re actually trying to maximize revenues right now because not that I want this to happen, but I could see much more extreme gas measures coming from Russia through perhaps some of the gas that’s still coming through the Ukraine as soon as January. You know they want to maximize those political levers, and they’ve already been sort of playing every game they can to contractually even break contracts and minimize gas even since end of last year. So, again, oil is the… They’re always going to want to maximize their oil exports for revenue and maximize their political power with gas.


Yeah, they do that often, especially in North Africa, where they try to limit the gas that comes in there using Wagner and whatever little pressure they can to stop it. They’ve done that so many times.


Great. Okay, let’s move on from this and let’s move on to the windfall oil and gas taxes in the UK, Tracy. We saw the UK announced this last week or two weeks ago.


November 17, they announced the increase. Yeah.


Okay, so we’ve seen a slew of announcements, and I’ve got on screen one of your Tweet threads about Shell pulling out their energy investment and Ecuador doing the same and Total doing the same.

So can you talk us through kind of your current thinking on this and what the impact will be? And how on earth did the UK think this would go over well?


Well, I mean, that is a very good question. How did they think this would possibly go? I mean, we know that if you’re going to place the windfall tax, they raised it from 25% to 35%, which is very large. And that’s in addition to the taxes that companies are already paying, which in that particular country is some of the highest in the world. Right. And so this is just an added on. So, of course, you have Shell and Ecuador now rethinking what they’re going to do with huge projects going on there. And Total literally just said, we’re cutting investment by 25% entirely in that country.

And so what happens is what’s interesting is that this whole thing occurred after COP27. And what we saw is kind of a change in the language at COP27, where countries were more interested in energy security rather than green energy. Of course, that was part of the discussion, but we did see sort of a language change and people start worrying about countries start worrying about energy security, which makes sense after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and everything that has happened.

So for the UK to kind of do this on the back of that without realizing the implications of what’s going to happen. What’s going to happen is that they’re going to see less investment. Obviously, we already have majors coming out saying we’re just not going to invest here. Right. And that’s going to raise prices in particular for electricity in that country. We’re not just talking about oil and gas, but everything attached to oil and gas, you know, the secondary and tertiary things that are attached to oil prices and gas prices within that country. And so that, you know, that’s going to keep inflation high in their country and, you know, and it’s a very dangerous territory if you’re talking about energy security. Right.

Because UK is an island and they have assets right there. So everything else that they cannot produce there, they have to import. And that’s not cheap either. So you have to think about that. And this all comes at a time where Capex is already dangerously low since 2014 in this particular industry. So it seems like it’s self inflicted harm not only on the citizens that are going to have to pay for this via inflation higher, right. But also their energy security is compromised. Yeah.


I love the irony of a French company telling the British that they’re taxed are too high.


Yeah, it’s actually amazing because, like, the Swiss today has stalled all electric vehicles from being registered or imported to secure their grid from blackouts.




Yeah, that was just maybe like an hour or two ago.


And they said that they’re prepared to have like a four tier energy system and basically if you have on your third tier, they’re cutting you off of like you can’t charge a car in third tier.


Like Tracy was saying, nobody thinks about the second and third order of things, like the electrical grid going out and industrial sector having to buy diesel generators so the power doesn’t fluctuate and ruin their machinery. Nobody thinks about these things, they only think about the marketing material out of Tesla.




Probably maybe add one more lens to look at this through. And that’s the geopolitical and political lens. I think we’ve had enough three decades of sort of Laissez-faire economics that any politician knows the effects of announcement like that. So I don’t think this was a naive approach, particularly as Tracy mentioned, that this was coming on the back of COP.

I think this was something to sort of give to a sort of a populist base around inflation and we’re going to go after big energy. But at the end of the day, I totally agree with Tracy that everything’s pivoted to energy security and almost wartime footing. And so I think we’re not used to looking at policy announcements or sort of economic policy announcements in that lens the last 30 years. But increasingly we’re going to have to look at all of this through almost a wartime footing way of thinking. So what are they likely doing there? In my view, again, I think they’re kind of giving a, you know, buying some goodwill on the populist front and maybe environmental front while at the same time realizing that they’re going to start having to maneuver all they can to secure hydrocarbon supply. So that’s the way I might read something like that.


Yeah, I could have said it better myself. Josh I mean, the thing I try to stress to people when you’re looking at foreign affairs and foreign politics is you need to see what’s happening domestically in the country first because that’s what writes the script for what their international needs are.


And it’s interesting that you both say that populism drove this, it seems in the UK, although it’s impacting the electricity prices, we see populist movements in China, we see it in Pakistan, here in the US. I think a lot of people thought populism died when Trump lost in 2020 and it’s just not true. There is just so much of a populist drive globally. People are tired of the current structures and they want more. So it’s interesting to see and it will be interesting to see the fallout. Tracy do you see other companies moving in that direction of a windfall tax?


We did see India, they enacted a windfall tax as well. They’re kind of pulling back on that right now. We have Germany talking about a windfall tax, but at the same time they’re giving subsidies out like candy. But then again, that country is like an enigma right, as far as energy policy is concerned. But I think that’s… What’s interesting about the UK is now they’re also talking about a windfall tax on green energy.


Oh, good. Interesting.


So they are talking about that too, and they’re talking about almost a 90% tax because of all the subsidies they’ve been receiving that will be end up. So we’ll see if that comes to fruition or not. But that would really I mean…


They going to have to give them loopholes because everyone is going to look at what’s going on in Germany and then spending tens of billions of dollars to bail out the energy company that supplies all their consumers. It’s just silliness. They’re just playing through the populous voice at the moment.


The US talked about a windfall tax too, over the last year, but it has just not found footing yet.


Don’t do it.


I don’t think it’ll pass. I didn’t even think it’ll pass with if you had even with like a Democrat-controlled Senate, I still don’t think that’s going to pass because you have too many of those senators in Hydrocarbon that represent Hydrocarbons states.


Okay, great. Let’s move on to the last segment, which is really looking at exchanges. And Josh, your company has built an exchange, continues to build an exchange. We’ve seen some real issues around exchanges. Well, for a long time, but really most recently with say, the LME and the Nickel issue. And we’ve seen FTX kind of called an exchange and we’ve seen FTX fall apart. I’m really curious first of all, can you help us define what is an exchange and then why do these problems emerge?


It’s a great question and thanks for that. So I think maybe I’ll step back and just mention kind of how Abaxx have been thinking about because we went out and set off to build a regulated exchange and the first physical commodity focused clearinghouse in Asia about four years ago. And for us, we looked at an upcoming commodity cycle. I had a view that we really bottomed in the energy cycle around 2015, 2016, but we still had to wear off a lot of excess inventories. And probably ten years ago, the market was spending almost $2 trillion a year in energy infrastructure. That number has fallen down to something like one and a half trillion a year. So even though population is increasing and wealth is increasing, we’re actually spending less and less on our infrastructure. So it was only a matter of time until we kind of wore off any excess capacity from the last commodity cycle. So for me, I looked back at you go through these cycles, but the market inevitably is always changing.


So if you think back to, you think back to sort of 2007, 2008, and that part of the commodity cycle. We were still mostly focused on WTI. Brent wasn’t even a huge price marker. It was really only 2010, 2011, 2012, when you started increasingly see the markets changing. So our view is that this commodity cycle, for all of the reasons and the green energy transition, the focus on net zero, we thought a whole new set of commodity benchmarks was going to be needed because different commodities were going to be featured more prominently this cycle. So that’s why we set out to build the exchange. And I will answer your question. I just wanted to kind of walk through this history.

The other thing that I think happened over the last two decades is with the digitization of the trading space. Again, remember, it wasn’t that long ago that commodity trading was floor trading and people yelling and pushing each other in a pit, right? And so you always have to look at the evolution of markets that kind of evolved with the evolution of communication technology and software and really what’s happened since everything went electronic is we had a massive consolidation of the exchanges and the exchange groups across the world. There used to be like the Nymex itself, which is obviously the core of the Chicago Mercantile Exchanges energy business that had something like five contracts for like 100 years and now there’s thousands of contracts.

Right? So there’s always this evolution of markets. There was this consolidation in markets, but in our view, the exchanges themselves got away from specializing in the industry or the product they serve. And so we think it’s a little bit of a mistake of history that the two biggest energy markets in the world were acquired markets. They see me buying the Nymex and Ice buying the IPE, which was the Brent markets. And so in our view, we actually don’t think the physical market builders really exist in the big exchange groups anymore.

So we saw this sort of classic opportunity. This economy of scale or whatever to actually hyper focus on physical commodities and the physical commodity benchmarks that are going to be needed for the next commodity cycle. 

So getting back to your question. So what is an exchange? Again, this problem of the digitization of everything, we end up creating a lot of conflicts between what is a broker, what is an exchange, what is a clearing house, you know, different entities playing on both sides of the trade. And of course, I have my Goldman Sachs background, so that was always the big debate about Goldman in the 2000s. They’re on every part of the trade.

And really we used to be in this market infrastructure where you really separated all the conflicts in exchange itself for a long, long time as a nonprofit organization, almost like a utility. And you bought seats again to push each other in the pit. That’s where the private entities were, were in the exchange memberships.

So now what we have today is we have broker dealers like Coinbase calling themselves an exchange, even though they’re applying for an FCM license, a Futures Commission license, which again, it shows that they’re a broker, they’re not an exchange. So I think there’s a lot of confusion on what an exchange is. And what you really want to do is separate those conflicts of interest.

An exchange should never have a house position. Exchange is really just the place that matches trades. And a broker dealer is the one that’s someone that nets two clients and then puts that trade onto an exchange. So there’s been a lot of regulation, particularly after DoddFrank and after a lot of the problems in the financial system in 2008, to try to separate these conflicts out. But unfortunately, with crypto and other things, we’ve been starting to consolidate everything again into a conflicted model. So we’re trying to get away from that and focus very much on physical commodities and an unconflicted model.


Is it possible to separate those things out? I know it’s conceptually possible. But since we’ve gone beyond that separation, I know that’s what you’re trying to do as a company, but how hard is it to convince people that these aren’t the same things? Because obviously there’s conflicts if they’re combined. Right. There’s margin, I guess, in those conflicts, right?


Exactly. So we wrote a risk net article on this because FTX actually came to the CFTC proposing that they bring their highly centralized conflicted model into the CFTC. And to their credit, the CFTC and the Futures Industry Association, I think they recognized this problematic approach, that they wanted the exchange in the clearinghouse to be separated from the Futures Commission merchants. And at the end of the day, you know, the FCM’s, which is really the prime broker that connects to the clearing house, they do more than just handle administrative work and collect margin. 

At the end of the day, they’re the ones really looking and really knowing their customers’ overall position. So if you look at something like the LME problem, what it really was is you had this big OTC position in one of the brokers that was sort of Texas hedged or had a bad hedge into what was actually so it was a Ferro nickel. It looks like it was a Ferro nickel and sort of integrated stainless steel producer that was hedging against the deliverable contract in an LME nickel that they actually couldn’t deliver into. And there’s actually nothing new about that.

That’s actually how the Nymex really came to be the top energy market. You had the Idaho Potato King, hedging into a main potato that he couldn’t deliver into and cause an epic short squeeze. So this stuff is not, there’s nothing new in these markets. And the main thing is we want to maximize decentralization. We want to maximize the amount of FCMs involved in managing that delivery risk and knowing what their clients’ positions are, and the exchange having enough knowledge to know where the risk sits as well.

So it’s that check and balance. If you leave all of the risk to one entity or to one regulator, it becomes very problematic. That’s why we have the separation of all these pieces of market infrastructure, so that everybody is looking at the risk from their perspective, so that overall we can try to minimize the risk in a more resilient system.


Okay, Josh, I’m just curious, what should people know about exchanges that nobody tells them? I know that’s a really broad question, but it seems extraordinarily simple. But there’s got to be something that people should know that nobody ever tells them about what an exchange is.


Yeah, I think that an exchange should never have… We like to say that the exchange should be the scoreboard, not the referee. The exchange should really only be transparently, showing a price, showing that data, executing the price, but it should never have a position and it never should be telling the market what to do. The exchange is the scoreboard, not the referee.


That’s a great statement. Albert, what questions do you have?


As soon as he said that I was in absolute agreement. Everyone that knows me knows that I abhor crypto. Right. And what they’ve done. That’s an understatement, I know. But I’ve always said, if you want to do something with blockchain digitalization, you have contracts, whether it be real estate, whether it be commodities, something like that, to create transparency and trust in the system. 

Exactly what Josh is talking about, because I’ve seen and personally heard of manipulation in the oil futures and commodities market that is just outrageous. Absolutely outrageous. And it’s not fair to people like me that trade futures where for some reason I can’t buy a contract because the prices, like the price discrepancies, are just outrageous at the moment. And everyone knows the brokers are intermixed with the exchanges and so on and so forth. But something like this, where it’s digitalized and you’re just a scoreboard, is a great idea.


Yeah. And I think the other big problem is we look at every price for different assets and think all prices are fair. And if there’s anything the last two years has taught us, that efficient market hypothesis is not right. And so, you know, we look at these prices like they’re all the same. You see a WTI price, you see a nickel price, you see the price of Google, you see the price of a ten year, you see the price of a real estate bond. At the end of the day, it’s the market structure, and you can’t fundamentally change the liquidity or lack of liquidity in a market. Right? And so one of the other problems that we saw, again, this is why we exist, is we think that the commodity markets have gotten hyper financialised and digitized, where people have gotten away from what is the actual underlying price.

So LNG is where we’re focused. We think LNG is the most and this has been our view for five years before, most people didn’t know what LNG was before it was front page news, is that LNG was the most important commodity for probably two decades. And at the end of the day, what is the price of LNG? There is not a clean, transparent price of LNG. LNG is not the Dutch title transfer facility. LNG is not the five people that report on a voluntary basis to the JKM. Right. There really isn’t a price for LNG. And more importantly, right now, there’s not a buyer and seller of last resort market. You can’t go in and buy futures and go to delivery in LNG. That doesn’t exist.

And next year, I think it’s going to be absolutely critical because there’s going to be an all out bidding war for probably the next 30 months between Asia and Europe for that marginal cargo of LNG. We haven’t seen anything yet this year. Next year, and the summer of 2024 is when it gets really bad.

And we need a market that actually, as one of my former colleagues used to say it needs to be a knife fight in a phone booth. Right. You need absolute market discovery. And that physical price has to converge with that futures price. That’s the only fair price. It’s the only fair benchmark. And that’s what we’re doing is doing the hard, hard work to figure out what is a physical long form contract look like to go into delivery of these hard commodities like LNG.


And I just want to add on that because everybody’s talking about how European storage is full right now. This year was never going to be a problem. It’s next year there’s going to be a problem. Because you have to realize that they were 50% full. Russia got them 50% full on piped natural gas really cheap. Now that’s gone, right? And so they were paying higher spot prices just to get LNG shipped in. Right. Those cargoes are going to be, next year is where you’re going to see a real problem because a lot of other countries already have long term contracts. And as Qatar said, we have to service the people that we have long term contracts with first. You’re secondary sorry, Europe. Right?


In Europe, I think, also loses something like 8 million tons per annum capacity up from longterm contracts next year as well that roll off. So there’s actually more spot market bidding. And then on top of that, China is likely to be back in the market. And China last year became the largest LNG importer and they really weren’t even in the market this year. But the one thing that they did do is they’ve been buying all the long term contracts. So even though they’re not buying the spot cargoes this year, they’ve been the biggest player in buying new long term contracts so that they have the optionality. Look, at the end of the day, you know, heating is always going to demand, particularly residential heating in the winter is always going to demand the highest premium because there’s just no elasticity there. You can cut industrial demand. You can probably substitute and power substitution. But if I’m China, I really want the optionality of having that long term agreement. And if prices are high in Europe, I’ll just divert the cargo into Europe or I’ll divert for political reasons diverted to Pakistan or India.

So they’re buying all the optionality, whereas Europe is not buying the long-term offtake. And in fact, they’re buying very short term infrastructure because they’re very focused on, oh, it’s going to be a stranded asset under 2030. So we needed to convert it into hydrogen or something else, right. So there’s a lot they’re really handcuffing themselves, which is going to be again, we need better market infrastructure so the market can sort this stuff out.


It’s great. Guys, you never disappoint. Thank you so much for this. This has been fantastic. Josh, thanks for coming on. I know you’re a super busy guy. I really appreciate it. And thanks, Tracy and Albert really appreciate this. Have a great weekend. Have a great week ahead. Thank you very much.


Global recession risk rises as IMF lowers growth forecast

This podcast was originally published at

The IMF says the risk of a global recession has increased as it lowers its growth forecast for the coming year. Its managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said the gloomy outlook was fuelled by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing impact of the Covid pandemic.

Hong Kong has relaxed several of its coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks. Now it’s giving away 500,000 airline tickets worth $250 million in a bid to boost visitor numbers. Will it succeed?

The Rooney Rule was adopted by NFL teams in the US in 2003, with the aim of creating equal opportunities for Black coaches. But there’s criticism that it hasn’t achieved what it set out to do. Gus Garcia Roberts from the Washington Post has been investigating and shares his findings with us.

Sam Fenwick is joined by Tony Nash, chief economist at Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas and Zyma Islam from the Daily Star in Dhaka, Bangladesh to discuss these stories and the other big money and work issues of the day.



Hello. You’re listening to the BBC World Service. I’m Sam Fenick, and this is Business Matters. Welcome to the program. Today we’re going to be talking about the risk of a global recession. It’s apparently creeping close. It’s the stark warning from the International Monetary Fund. We’ll be talking about what it might mean for businesses and consumers around the world. Why the price of oil affects more products than just the petrol in your car.


So natural rubber has gone up, oil prices have gone up, and therefore the tire industry margins, margins have come down.


And have you ever quit your job? Is it liberating? We’re going to be talking about that. We’ll be joined throughout the program with two from my two guests on opposite sides of the world. And pleased to say that Tony Nash joins us. He’s in Houston, Texas in the USA. He is the CEO at Complete Intelligence. Hi, Tony.


Hi, thanks for having me.


And Zyma Islam is a journalist at the Daily Star newspaper in Dakar in Bangladesh. Hi, Zyma.


Good morning, Sam.


Hi. Good morning. It’s Friday morning with you. It’s Friday morning with us, but it’s still Thursday with Tony.


Yes, it is.


And have either of you ever quit a job?




Have you?




Was it liberating? Worrying?


Well, I had a better opportunity in both cases, so I guess it was liberating.


Zyma, have you?


Oh, I’m terrified by the very thought, even when I’ve had better opportunities.


Yeah, I’m with you. Maybe it’s a female thing. Well, we’ll be talking about that a bit later in the program. But first, shall we look at the global economic outlook? Because the International Monetary Fund warned on Thursday that the risk of a global recession is rising because of Russia’s attack on Ukraine and shocks caused by the COVID pandemic.


Tony, I think we should start with you on this because you are an economist. Some of the quotes that I was reading in the speech, which she gave greater uncertainty, higher economic volatility, geopolitical confrontations, more frequent and devastating natural disasters. It doesn’t sound great, does it? It makes for quite grim reading.


Yes. And if it’s going to be more volatile than the last two years, look out. I think part of this is obviously post pandemic. Part of this is the backside of a lot of the stimulus that we saw over the last two years. Part of it, of course, is because of the war. Part of it is because of the other side of supply chains. There’s so much that’s happened over the past couple of years and there’s always the other side of it. Right. And I think that’s what we’re seeing right now is the other side of all of this drama that we’ve all lived through over the past two years.


The IMF is going to downgrade the economic forecast for next year, 2023. Explain what that means.


Well, in civil terms, it just means things will grow slower or they’ll do the opposite of growing and they’ll contract. So that’s really what they mean by contracting economic growth.


And energy prices are a big problem here, aren’t they? You mentioned them. The war in Ukraine is really causing a problem with gas into Europe, but also oil prices.


Sure it is. Yeah. I mean, Russia has been selling that to Asia primarily, but it has disrupted, obviously, the flow of oil to Europe, and that’s just dislocated global prices. Of course. In the US, the president opened up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which put millions and millions of barrels on the market and alleviate prices somewhat. That will end in November. And so we should see some at least in the crude market, we should see energy prices rise toward the end of the year once that slack is cleared from the market.


We’ve discussed some of those inflationary pressures come from the rising cost of crude oil. Crude oil derivatives make up nearly half of the cost of producing vehicle tires. About seven gallons of the black stuff is used to produce a single tire. Apollo Tires is India’s largest manufacturer of tires. Their annual revenue is $2.6 million. But over the past couple of years, their prices have gone up by about 30 or 40%. The vice chairman and managing director of Apollo is Near Edge Canoe, and he told me that he’s had to put his prices of his tires up.


Tony, I just wanted to come briefly to you just off the back of that. Mr. Kamwa there was talking about how they try and reduce costs. But it takes a lot of infrastructure to get those costs down, isn’t it? A lot of capital expenditure. And then it’ll be a while before these businesses start to see the reduction in cost because of the investment that they’ve made.


Well, it could. I mean, some of it could just be changing processes. I think when things like the input costs like crude oil or natural rubber are cheap, there’s very little incentive to refine your processes. Right? And so I think those first steps, him talking about going to the factories and getting, say, the same output with less input in the factories, that sort of thing, those are obviously the first steps. And I think every business, if they’re honest, can probably ease out productivity gains. I don’t know. I wouldn’t estimate what percentage they could, but those are obviously first. But part of it could potentially be, as you say, investing in equipment, investing in automation, other things which could produce a lot more. But I think what I found really interesting about what he was talking about was you’re seeing the primary impacts of inflation, which is crude oil and rubber. The secondary impacts of inflation is the tire price, and that the tertiary what we call the tertiary impacts of inflation are the freight costs that he talked about. So in that interview, we saw three different phases of inflation impacting the economy. It was really interesting.


Great. Well, thank you very much. Well, we are going to now move to another update on Twitter. Billionaire Elon Musk, he says he aims to complete his purchase of Twitter by the end of the month, but the company will not take yes for an answer.


And Tony, I mean, so many countries have no travel restrictions for COVID at all now. That you tend not to go to places where there are restrictions, because why would you?


I’ll be honest, I really miss Hong Kong. I used to go there once a month when I was at The Economist. Our original headquarters was there and I was there a lot. But even with small restrictions, it’s just an inconvenience. And so there would have to be a serious incentive to go and put up with really any restrictions.


I was looking at the various different restrictions that have been kind of removed over the past few weeks. So, Japan, so from next Tuesday, the 11 October, there will be no border controls in Japan similar to the US. But the thing with Japan is that China was the largest source of tourism revenue before the Pandemic, and of course, people can’t leave the other parts of China.


Welcome back to Business Matters on the BBC World Service. We are live in Salford in the UK. I’m Sam Fenix. Thank you for your company. We’ve got Tony Nash with us. He’s in Austin, Texas. He’s an economist. And Zyma Islam is a journalist from Dakar and she joins us from Bangladesh. We’re going to start the second half of the program by talking about whether it’s a good idea to quit your job. It’s often seen as a negative thing to do, but it doesn’t have to be. One in five of us are expected to quit our jobs this year, according to PwC’s Global Workforce Survey.


So, Tony, you said earlier in the program that you have quit a job. Tell us about what happened.


So I got a job at one point with a company that I thought was fantastic. After a couple years there, I realized that kind of everyone who had worked there for more than five years had really just kind of settled and they stopped being excellent and the best at what they could do. So I told myself at the time that I would stay there for five years and then I would find another job. And I did. And I moved on to a job with quite a lot more money and less work to do, which was really nice.


Did you listen to your body like we heard in that clip?


I guess so. In a kind of a silly way, I guess so. I just knew that I wasn’t comfortable being mediocre, but I didn’t want to leave the job right away, so I had to stay there for a period of time, do my time, and then find something where I could do great work? 


It doesn’t always look good on a CV, does it? To have lots of different jobs in very short space of time.


I don’t necessarily think that’s the case anymore. Look, my company is a tech company and in tech you stay at least in the US, you stay for a year and you move on. That’s pretty common with, say, developers in tech. So I think it depends on the industry. But I don’t think moving around jobs, say, every few years is necessarily seen as negative as it once was.


But you felt in that job you did have to stay there for a certain amount of time.


I did, and I wanted to stay there for a period of time because I wanted to make sure that my initial feeling wasn’t wrong. And I also wanted to make sure that I could get the most out of the job. You know, good experiences, great people, all that sort of thing. And I did. I enjoyed the next few years, but I also realized that it was time to go. And that’s something kind of early career, mid career, I think people need to do is when they come into a job, understand why they’re at that job, and then understand when it’s time to move on. And it’s not necessarily emotional, it’s just part of a growing process.


That’s the truth, isn’t it? Tony perhaps in the US, people are more likely to move around because there’s more job security, there are more jobs.


Possibly. I think especially in the US. Through the pandemic, there is so much work from home and so many people would switch jobs because it was just arbitrage. They could do the same work for more money and stay in their home. So I think that was a big factor in a lot of the job leaving in the US over the last couple of years. As things slow down, it’ll be really interesting as we enter recession or as things continue to slow down, it will be really interesting to see what happens with job leavers and job switching in the US to see if that slows down and what the expectations around jobs really are.


Well, I’m going to speak Tony.


It’ll happen. My company automates finance jobs, so highly educated professional workers in developed countries. So automation is going to happen to a lot of jobs where they’re not innovated. That’s just a fact. And so the entrepreneurs and the planning officials in Bangladesh should better get busy because automation of garment jobs is coming pretty quickly. And so.


Absolutely, but there’s going to be a gender component to that, Tony. So when you start training garment workers for these more highly technical jobs, what happens is that women, they get cut out of the picture because they’re not as skilled graduating.


I spent most of my professional life in Asia. My son is South Asian. I understand the cultural issues around many of the workforce debates that happen in Asia. Deeply. I understand them deeply. And so that is a cultural issue that can only be solved by Bangladeshis in Bangladesh. It can only be solved by Bangladeshis in Baghdadesh. And so that’s not something that anybody else can solve. And I hope that there are people in Bangladesh who have the courage, your President is a woman. So I hope that people have the courage to solve that in Bangladesh.


We’ll actually need to get our woman to start going to university. Because what happens here is that after high school, they drop out, they get married. When it comes to high school, we do have like an equal there’s, like a 50 50 balance when it comes to graduates. But the minute you go off to the treasury sector, you see fewer female graduates. So with fewer female graduates, they’ll be less eligible for the automated jobs. It’s easier for them to get these brick and mortar jobs involving, say, sitting in a supply chain line of some sort.


I’ll tell you what will happen with the automation around the garment sector. That won’t happen in Bangladesh. Because of supply chain issues, those automated garment factories will be put in Europe, or they’ll be put in the US or somewhere else closer to where they’ll be consumed. So, to be very honest, those jobs will disappear in Bangladesh if those higher level skills aren’t taught, and now is the time for that innovation to happen.


Do you see that happening? Any of that innovation, that education that Tony mentions?


No, not at all. Absolutely not at all. I simply see women getting replaced in the menial workforce.


Well, Tony, we are actually on the eve of a big jobs data day, aren’t we? It’s a big day tomorrow in the US on Friday. Indications show that the jobs market might be slowing.


Yes, and we’re in a position in the US where kind of bad news is good news, I think, because the Fed is hoping that the rate of job growth slows so that they can ease up on interest rate rises. So Americans are kind of hoping that it’s a down number so that there’s less expectation or lowered expectations that the Fed will raise rates. So bad news is good news with that particular print.


Well, that’s a good thing for our listeners to look out for. Bad news is good news. When did you ever hear that? Thank you both very, very much for joining us. Tony Nash, economist with Complete Intelligence in Austin, Texas, USA. And Zyma Islam, a journalist with the Daily Star in Bangladesh. My name is Sam Fennick. You’ve been listening to Business Matters on the BBC World Service. Thank you to the producer, Hannah Mullane, and the team in the studio here in Salford. Join me again tomorrow at the same time, midnight GMT.


Fed Chair Jay Powell Utters Dreaded ‘R’ Word

With Fed Chair Jerome Powell admitting that a recession is inevitable in the US, the narrative now turns to its timing and magnitude. Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence, helps clear the air.

This podcast first appeared and was originally published at on June 23, 2022.

Show Notes

SM: BFM 89.9. Good morning. You are listening to The Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Khoo Hsu Chuang and Wong Shou Ning at on Thursday the 2020 3 June. In half an hour, we’re going to get an update on the situation in Sri Lanka and what the most viable path out of the economic quagmire that they find themselves in at the moment. But first, as always, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.

WSN: Guess what? Every market was down. Every single market that we cover, at least, the down nested were down zero 2%. SMP 500, down zero 1%. Nikki, two to five in Japan was down 0.4%. Hong Seng, Hong Kong, down 2.6%. Shanghai was down 1.2%. Straight times Index in Singapore down 0.8%. And our very own FBM KLCI having a bit of a bad day. It was down 1.8%.

SM: So, mark it’s all in the red this morning. For some thoughts on why, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Thanks, as always, for joining us. Now, the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell came closest to admitting that a recession is inevitable, as engineering a soft landing would be challenging. These are remarks that he made overnight. Does this mean a less hawkish stance by the central bank going forward, do you think?

TN: Well, I think what they’re trying to do is kind of moderate the perception of their hawkish actions that they’ve taken over the past two months. So you have interest rates, rate rises happening, but you also have quantitative tightening starting as well, which means that the Fed is selling assets on their balance sheet. And what quantitative tightening does is it takes currency out of the market, so the money supply is smaller, which makes that currency more valuable, and it puts pressure on, say, equities and other things because money is not as easy. So, yeah, I think they’re trying to help people not see things as hawkish as they are, but they’re still trying to talk down inflation.

KHC: Yes. Tony, so the narrative existingly for recession is further out in 2023, but there’s one or two banks now in the US saying that 2022, the latter half could be the recession. What’s your opinion?

TN: Yeah, I think look, we already had a negative GDP number in Q1, so it’s quite possible that we see another one in, say, Q3 or something like that. What’s interesting to me is total commercial lending is still rising. So we saw total commercial lending, I’m not talking about consumer credit, I’m talking about bank lending. And so we saw in 2008, we saw in 2020, bank lending either declined or flattened here. It’s still on a steep curve. So that tells me that there’s still activity in the economy that people aren’t completely afraid. Yet you do see commercial and industrial loans still growing in the US as well. So I don’t necessarily think there’s a huge amount of say over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to see people use the word depression. And we see this every time there’s a recession. People take it to an extreme. I’m not quite sure we’re there yet. A lot of people act like it’s a no brainer. We’re already in a recession, but we saw that in Q1. It doesn’t feel good. We may see it later in the year as well.

WSN: Okay, so, Tony, we know that the technical definition of a recession is two quarters of negative growth. Assuming that happens, so we have a technical recession. Just curious, how painful will this recession be? How long will it take for recovery? Or is it too early to try and make a guess on this?

TN: No, I think typically recessions are probably two quarters. Even if they’re say a shallow recession, what typically happens is the job losses are the most painful. And so we’ve heard so much over the past a year and a half about talent shortages and this sort of thing, and a lot of jobs unfilled. So what’s happening now is the investors and the banking analysts are transitioning their expectation on company performance. So during Covid, they were like, basically saying, look, just hold it together, don’t go belly up as a business, just keep running. And we’ll have a wide birth of kind of loss and other stuff for you. During COVID, we’re normalizing now. So analysts are pushing very hard for management teams to produce normal metrics for performance, and many of them aren’t doing it. And we saw with some of the retail numbers and some other numbers coming in, so what’s going to hurt the most is layoffs. And that’s going to come even with a shallow recession, we’re going to see layoffs. Will that happen now? We’ve seen that in tech. I wouldn’t expect other layouts to start until probably Q3. So that’s what’s going to hurt and finding jobs, it’s going to hurt coming out of this.

KHC: Yeah. Another metric, Tony, I saw that house prices continue to ratchet higher. I think average home prices in the US is nearly half a million US dollars. Do you see any kind of impact in terms of maybe a correction on that price rent?

TN: Yeah. So when we look at, say, the median home price in the US. It’s $428,000. Okay. So just under the 500 you mentioned. Now in January of this year, if you took out a mortgage in the US. Which the term for mortgage in the US. Is typically 30 years. So if you took out a 30 year mortgage, your monthly payment would have been around $1,700. Okay. In June. Now, that same size mortgage would cost you $2,500 a month. Okay. So we have $700 more a month just over the last six months. That hurts. So I think we’re starting to feel the pinch. There’s still demand for housing, but the affordability of housing has really dried up. It’s really hard for people to get the house that they want or need, and people are either choosing to stay in place or they’re just buying something of lower quality or different location or something.

SM: So, Tony, let’s switch over to what’s happening in Europe. The Eurozone’s first quarter GDP growth rose 0.6% on a quarterly basis and 5.4% on a yearly one. What do you make of these numbers? Do they show that Europe might avoid a recession this year?

TN: Yes, I think that’s going to be really hard. Europe is on really weak ground because they’ve had negative interest rates for quite some time now, and the ECB is talking about coming out of a negative interest rate stance. So when you look at that in Q One, you already had household consumption at a negative growth rate, negative 0.7% quarter on quarter, and you had public expenditures. So government spending down zero, quarter on quarter. So households and governments are spending less than they were the previous quarter. So it looks pretty bad. You even have things like fixed capital formation, which is kind of long term hard investments like roads and buildings and stuff. It rose just over zero. So Europe is really on this thin edge of having a growing economy or not. And so I think with rising interest rates in Europe and energy prices and other inflationary pressures, it’s going to be really hard for Europe to stay out of recession this year.

WSN: Tony, I want to ask about currency, because if you look at the Bloomberg spot in dollar, it’s up 7% on a year to date basis. Of course, in every other country is feeling the pinch. What is your view on the dollar? Is it bad or good for the economy?

TN: It depends on where you are. What the treasury and the Fed are trying to do right now is strengthen the dollar so that these commodities that are nominated in dollars or priced in dollars go down for American consumers. Okay, so you source copper globally, you appreciate the dollar. The price of copper goes down just by function of the currency that it’s nominated in. That’s fine for American consumers and American companies. But if you’re in a developing or in middle market or even just not America, look at Japan, right? Their currency has depreciated dramatically. And for, say, Japanese to buy things that are normally priced in US. Dollars, it’s, I think, 26% more expensive than it was, say, six months ago. Okay, so it hurts if you’re outside of the US. So what has to be done? Well, for countries that are importing things that are based in dollars, so energy and food and other things, they’re going to have to raise their interest rates and tighten fiscally and other things. Otherwise those products just get more and more expensive in local currency terms. So it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a rough time for emerging markets, especially.

KHC: Yeah. Tony switching our attention to Hong Kong, China. There’s a report coming from the city state that John Lee, the new CEO, is working on a strategy to reopen borders with China. Do you think this pretends, maybe a relaxation of the covered rules within China itself?

TN: I hope so, guys. Really, I mean, Asia and the world really needs China to loosen their covert rules. They’re the second largest economy in the world. They’re the major manufacturer for the world. They are the bottleneck for the global economy. So we hear about how Ukraine, the Russia Ukraine war, is impacting inflation. That is nothing compared to what China is doing with bottlenecking manufacturing and trade. So we really need to encourage China to open up. And I did some analysis a few weeks ago. There is, on average, one covet death reported per day in China. Okay? So China is closed for a one over 1.4 billion chance of dying. Okay? So that’s like 70 to the right of the decimal point before the first number appears in a percentage term. So there’s a minuscule chance of dying and they’re closing for that. So it just doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make public health sense for them to close. So we really need to encourage China to open up so that the rest of the world economy heals.

SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking to us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on some of the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks to come, ending there with an appeal to the Chinese government to please open your borders.

WSN: Please. Because I think what’s very disruptive is also this constant opening and then closing and opening and closing, and we can see the impact of that, especially when it comes to supply chain disruptions, like China still the factory to the rest of the world. But very quickly, I think we also have news coming out of us, and this is so much related to inflation because President Joe Biden has basically called on US. Congress to suspend the federal tax for 90 days. Currently, the federal tax stands at $0.18 for a gallon of regular gasoline and $24 per gallon of diesel fuel. So basically trying to calm down. I think also as America goes into summer holidays and driving season starts and I think we’ve seen prices as much as $5, $6 per gallon, which is a shocker to most households. So this is him, I think, making the political overtures that, yes, I’m aware inflation is a problem and let’s try and do something. But I think whether he can get the bipartisan support is always a problem in the US.

KHC: Yeah, we follow the local US papers over the past seven days, actually, he’s been introducing on a day by day basis different, different measures to try and address gas prices, which is of course, a political hot potato in the US.

SM: Very quickly, the UK still sticking on prices? Inflation has hit a 40 year high in the UK of 9.1% on a year on year basis. In May, it’s the highest rate out of the G Seven countries, and it was even higher than the 9% increase recorded in April. So inflation not abating in the UK. 719 in the morning. We’re heading into some messages. And when we come back, how are businesses embracing ESG in their strategies and frameworks? Stay tuned to BFM 89 Nine.


Amidst Volatility, Boring is Good

This podcast first appeared and originally published at on June 9, 2022.

US markets remained volatile and on a downward trend as inflation concerns heightened. With that, the US consumer is beginning to feel the pinch of rising food and energy prices. What then does this mean for earnings in the coming quarters and has this been priced in? Our CEO and founder, Tony Nash answers these questions.

Show Notes

WSN: BFM 89 nine is seven o’ six Thursday the 9 June. And of course you’re listening to the morning run. I Wong Shou Ning together with Philip See. Let’s have a quick recap on how good global markets closed yesterday.

PS: US markets closed in the red. The Dow was down .8% SMP 500 down 1.1%, Nasdaq down zero. 7%. Whereas over in Asia it’s been a mixed bag. The Nikki was up 1%, Hong Sang up 2.2%. China composite up zero 7%. I think on the back of China easing a bit on the tech regulatory concerns. However, in Southeast Asia, Singapore is down 0.2%. FBM KLCI also down.

WSN: .1% so for some analysis on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Please help us understand what is happening in US markets because it is another red day today. Why are markets so choppy this Thursday?

TN: I think people are awaiting the CPI print what’s going to happen with the inflation announcement because that number really helps to indicate if the Fed will accelerate their plans of tightening. So if the CPI runs hot, then we’ll see them accelerate potentially. If it comes in as expected, then they’ll stick with the plan that they’ve got.

PS: So the plan is to 50 basis point hikes. If you see it move higher, are you talking about it hitting 75 or like extending it for a third 4th hike?

TN: If it’s higher, we could potentially see it hit 75 maybe in June or July. But certainly we’re looking at another hike in September that’s probable right now and then maybe a 25 basis point in November. So let’s say we saw come in at nine or something like that for a developed economy like the US. These are people who normally look at inflation, 1%, one and a half percent. So 9% inflation is just something that people have not seen for a long time. And so this is really damaging to people. Wages are not very flexible here. And so I’m sure from the Malaysian perspective, you see that it’s damaging people here in the US and it actually is because wages are not as flexible here as they are in other parts of the world. So if we see CPI come in high, then you would see the set accelerate. If it comes in at eight, let’s say less than 9%, they’ll stick with the plan they have. If it comes in lower, say seven-ish they’ll still stick with the plan they have and continue to fight inflation to get it down around 2%, maybe sometime in Q1 in 2023 or something.

WSN: Okay. So let’s stay on the topic of the US economy now. Bloomberg runs a model, runs different models actually, and they say that there’s a 25% chance of recession in the next twelve months, but a 75% chance by 2023. Do you share the same view but.

TN: A 25% chance of a recession is just a hedge. Right? I mean, that’s just saying maybe it’ll happen.

WSN: It’s a chicken call Tony. It’s like being chicken.

TN: So when you look at what a recession, two months or two quarters. Sorry. Of negative growth. Right. Well, we had a negative quarter of growth in the US, and Q one of 22. Will we have a negative quarter of growth this year? Unlikely. Or this quarter? I mean, it’s unlikely because of the reasons for negative growth in Q one are not the same reasons they would be this year or this quarter. Sorry. So going forward, I don’t necessarily think we’ll have a recession, but I think it will feel like a recession to a lot of people because over the last year, year and a half, we’ve had higher overhiring in a lot of industries like technology, overhiring where companies have been afraid they wouldn’t be able to get the talent they need. So they overhire people. They’ve paid people a lot of money. So sectors like tech will likely continue laying people off. They’ve already started, but they’ll likely reassess their wages as well as they realize that they don’t need as many people as they hired. And of course, there will be other effects if tech start laying people off more broadly. So we’ve already seen housing housing in the US.

There is effectively no new mortgage applications going through on that in the US. So the Fed’s target for housing has kind of been achieved really quickly, actually. But it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a recession. So things will feel like there’s a recession. But I’m not sure we’ll necessarily technically be in a recession.

PS: So let’s just build on your feelings, Tony, and translate this macro numbers to earnings. What is your expectation in terms of quarter two earnings? Do you expect them to be substantially weaker and how will that translate into equity markets?

TN: Absolutely, yes. Definitely substantially weaker. I mean, look at what happened to say, Walmart and Target a couple of weeks ago when they announced their earnings, they were way down. Why? Because they had way overbought inventory and they had bought the wrong inventory. Okay. So they’re paying for that now and they’re going to have to discount to get rid of that inventory. Right. I think people in a lot of industries because of supply chain issues, they’ve overbought things. And in the meantime, preferences and markets have moved on. So they’ve overbought things and they’re going to have to get rid of a lot of inventory. I think Target and Walmart got out there very early to be able to have their equity price hit hard early. But other companies will come out in second quarter and they’ll admit the same thing. So we’ll see margins really compressed. And because of that, we’ll start to see people announce more layoffs because again, during COVID, investors were very charitable to executive teams, meaning they were telling the executive, look, just stay open, just survive as a company, do whatever you have to. Right now, we’ve got markets that are normalizing.

Investors are being more scrutinizing as they should. They’re saying, look, markets are normalizing. You have to perform like an executive team should perform. You have to perform like a company should perform. So investors and markets are going to be harder on companies in Q two.

WSN: But Tony, does this then mean that when I look at the S&P 500 index, which is probably the broadest barometer of the US economy, it’s down 13 point 65% on the year to date basis. Can we expect further weakness or has this already been priced in?

TN: I don’t think it’s been priced in necessarily. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see another 13% down, but we always hear that things are priced in. And then when events happen, we find out they’re not priced in. I don’t think it’s priced in. I think there’s more pain to come because people are realizing that they’re basically overpaying for the price of equity. Right. In a company. And so we’re going to see pressure put on valuations, and that’s going to hurt a lot, especially in tech. So we’ve already seen pressure put on valuations in tech. And you saw companies like Facebook who are just throwing off cash still and their valuation is compressed because people have just woken up and said, look, it shouldn’t be valued at that. Right. So we’re going to see that more and more, especially in tech, but also in other sectors.

WSN: So where should we hide, Tony? Will it still be in the commodity space? I mean, oil is up 2 and a half percent this morning.

TN: At where oil is. WCI is trading at 122 right now. Brent is north of that. So it’s possible that we see another 20% rise in crude, but it’s really thin air where it is now. So I think crude price really depends on the supply side. And so can OPEC pump more? Not much. Will things in Russia resolve? Maybe probably in third quarter or something like that. Right. So we really have to look at what are central banks doing? They’re trying to ratchet down demand. Right. And so if they can successfully ratchet down demand, then that will have an impact on true prices.

PS: Tony, I would love to get your view because you’ve seen a different vantage, especially in emerging markets, particularly Southeast Asia. If you saw recently WorldBank has scaled its forecast on global growth and has even highlighted the asphalt is very much vulnerable to stack flat, even recessionary pressures. What’s your view? What’s your advantage in terms of investment in EM markets, especially in Southeast Asia?

TN: Yeah, in Southeast Asia. I mean, look, in Southeast Asia, sadly, Myanmar is going to have the toughest time for the next year or two, right? I mean, we all know the political issues there. I love Myanmar, but it’s going to continue to have the toughest time, I think of the say more developed Southeast Asian countries. I think Thailand is going to continue to have a hard time Partly because of supply chain issues. It’s kind of intermediate point and if supply chains continue to stay strained and tourism continues to be relatively slow in Asia I think Thailand is going to continue to have a tough time. I think places like Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, I think they’re in a better position and I don’t know that you’ll necessarily get excessive gains in those markets But I think there’s more stability and more same maturity and leadership in those markets. So if I were to look to Southeast Asia on, say, a country play, that’s where I would look. I would be really careful to look at things like excessive consumption, these sorts of things. I think for the next year or so we’re going to be looking at real stables.

What do people need to live a really boring life because we’ve had this super exciting roller coaster for the past two years and we need to get back to normal and we need to look at what are people going to consume Just to have a normal day in, day out life.

PS: Boring life then.

WSN: Yeah, boring is good.

TN: I love that. Yeah, we all need a little more of that.

WSN: Thank you so much for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, saying borrowing is good, we need to get back to normality which means that what investors should be focusing on Perhaps consumer staples Versus consumer discretionary and going back to core fundamentals. Looking at valuations, I think you hit.

PS: The nail on the head core fundamentals because I think investors have given companies the past throughout the pandemic most scrutiny now whether the question will be this will show dispersion and earnings variance between those high earners and low performers Will be a big question Mark as there’s more scrutiny about how you perform in this normal, boring time.

WSN: Stay tuned. That BFM 89.9.

Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 30 May 2022: Does this relief rally have legs?

We’ve had a big week in markets. The S&P is up 5 percent. We’re looking at whether this rally has legs, where’s the volatility, and if the recession is canceled? Also, we have a shorter trading week next week due to Memorial Day on Monday in the US. What’s to expect in 4 days?

Key themes:

  1. Does this relief rally have legs?
  2. Where’s the volatility?
  3. Is the recession canceled?
  4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 20th episode of The Week Ahead, 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:


Time Stamps

0:00 Start
1:10 Does this rally have legs?
1:58 When will the tail end?
2:40 Crypto has no participation in the rally
3:31 Why tech is still weak?
3:52 Why tech is so subdued?
5:00 What to expect in the options market in the next 4 weeks?
6:42 Durable goods chart from Sam’s newsletter.
8:52 Layoffs in tech, will it continue?
11:30 Will investors and analysts become tougher on companies as we normalize?
13:55 Will we have a recalibration of valuation expectation if there is no recession?
14:34 What to watch out in the 4-day trading week?

Listen on Spotify:


TN: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Week Ahead. This is Tony Nash and I’m joined by Sam Rines and Albert Marko today. We’ve had a big week in markets. The S&P is up 5 percent.

So we’re going to look at a few topics today. First, does the relief rally have legs? We’re also going to take a look at volatility and the recession. Is the recession canceled? What’s happening there? We’ve heard a lot of talk about that. And finally, we’re going to look at the week ahead. So what do we expect for the short week ahead in the US? We have a holiday here in the US on Monday. So what do we expect for Tuesday to Friday in US trading?

So let’s go to you with this relief rally. What’s your thought on this? Does this relief rally have legs?

AM: In short? No, not really. The Fed uses many tools to produce rallies. A lot of it is coming. This week was short covering. Previously, what you’ve seen, especially when during a holiday season, holiday hours, whereas like when I was trading, a lot of liquidity out there is they actually serve the market. They did this over Thanksgiving. They did this over Christmas. If you go back and look at the charts, those 4800 prints were done over holiday trading hours. It’s easy for them to do it. Does it have legs? Probably not.

TN: So legs. Does the tail of this last few days next week, or is Friday the last kind of really interesting day we see for a while?

AM: Well, they have a tendency to figure out what the Bull bear line is, and I think it’s at 4250. Don’t be surprised if Tuesday we’re in the 4200 pushing that line. That’s when the put options are absolutely just completely obliterated after today, for sure, by Tuesday. And then people start getting bulled up. Once they get bulled up, they just pulled the rug.

TN: Sam, what do you think?

SR: Well, I think it’s really interesting that you saw this rally and you had basically no participation in crypto. Crypto tends to be tip of the spear type risk. If you really want to put some significant risk on in a portfolio, you go ahead and buy crypto. That’s just what you do.

So I think that’s a fairly telling sign that, yes, there is a rally underway. And if you look at it, oil is ripping right now, particularly some of the smaller producers. So you are getting some of the underlying stuff moving, but you’re really not having that tip of the spear, real risk type move that you would really want to see for some sort of sustained long-term risk-on type rally.

TN: And we saw guys in Nvidia really take a hit this week. Granted, it’s coming back a little bit, but tech is still weak. And so we’re not seeing some of those risk names really come back.

AM: Yeah. What’s interesting and this goes into the next topic is how are they rallying the market if tech’s not running.

TN: Right. So let’s talk about that. Why is volatility so subdued? I’m not really sure. So we’ve got a chart for the VIX up on the screen. So can you talk us through it’s the lowest point it’s been since Covid. So what’s going on there?

AM: Yeah. So the question is how could it be at a three-year low with such bad news out in the market? Raising rates, Fed sitting there talking Armageddon when it comes to the markets, bad news, bad earnings, everything is going wrong. How possibly could this thing be at the three or low?

Well, they keep it there on purpose to sit there and subdue the VIX. Well, now the VIX is at what, 28? I believe it is right now. But really, they could probably take this to 22 and use that to rally the market rather than tech. But, man, I’ll tell you what, you got to be very careful because the VIX at 22, and if they start rallying the market at that point, 4250 is could be the tip of the iceberg. You know what I mean?

TN: Oh, yeah. I guess my question, Albert, is the VIX measures S&P options for the next 30 days. Right. And so what it’s telling me is that the options over the next four weeks aren’t expecting a dramatic downward move. So are they just playing in that options market to make sure that it looks pretty orderly or what exactly is happening?

AM: Oh, yeah. They’re creating a story. They’re creating a narrative and tell you, hey, it’s time for you guys to get bulled up. Okay. Their objective is to erase excess money out the system and to give us a soft landing. They have said this much to Sam’s point, which he’ll talk about is they said we’re going to raise rates and we’re going to let off when we have to let off. They’re giving you all these signals to get bulled up.

TN: Yeah. I just want to make it clear because I think there’s a misconception out there about the VIX. I think a lot of people believe that the VIX reflects volatility in the market today. And that’s not at all it. I just want to make clear as we talk about it, that we’re looking at the options market over the next 30 days and how the Fed potentially is playing in that options market to make things look like a soft landing. Right?

AM: Yeah. They’ve erased trillions of dollars in the past OPEXes, and they’re just lining everybody up for another one. I mean, I think at one time it was 9 trillion. Another instance was 11 trillion. Just obliterated options.

TN: There’s a lot of opportunity in this. Right. I mean, if you see what’s coming, it can be really interesting.

AM: Well, this is a pattern thing. People do what they know. They’re creatures of habit. Fed is no different.

TN: That’s right. Very good. So on that note, Sam, you had an interesting newsletter out this week looking at kind of the recession. And one of the interesting charts which you have now is looking at durable goods, all durable goods and durable goods, excluding transportation.

Can you talk us through that a little bit and help us understand what that means for kind of the recession that we hear talked about so much over the past few weeks?

SR: Yeah, certainly. It’s pretty straightforward. Right. If you look at a combination of same-store sales across for retailers across all of them and not just a few big ones that made headlines, things were fine. Then you look at durable goods.

Durable goods skyrocketed coming out of COVID. And guess what? They’re continuing to make new COVID highs. Yeah. They just put it on a month-over-month basis. But it’s pretty aggressive to say that while they’re still growing and still ex-autos above anything that you can get back into the 80s. That’s a pretty big figure there.

It’s very hard to say, hey, we’re in the middle of or entering a recession when you have jobless claims sitting at 210, 215 thousand a week and you have durable goods sitting that high, the Red book same-store sales are in the low teens. That is an absolutely stunning figure for any time outside of call it COVID. Right. I mean, normally you’re very pleased with a 5% figure.

So it’s very difficult to get to the whole recession narrative unless you’re looking for something to really break here in a major way. We’ve already seen a housing break. I mean, we called that out a long time ago, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have people defaulting on their homes, which they’re not, and you don’t have a significant number of layoffs in the construction industry, which we haven’t seen, you can have a slowdown in home building and home builders and home buying and not really have it be systemically important to the US economy.

TN: Right. And we’ve had some layouts in Tech, which you talked about a couple of weeks ago, but a lot of those are bodies that people kind of panic bought. Right. They overbought headcount and now they’re shedding that headcount that they overbought.

I don’t know if that’s isolated to Tech or if that’s just happened across a service industry generally, but it seems like we’re starting to see a narrative that there’s a lot of layouts happening and a lot more coming. Do you see much of that, or are you seeing much of that outside of Tech?

SR: No, not really. It’s a San Francisco problem, not a San Diego problem. That’s the way I like to frame it is. Yeah. You overhired a lot of people in tech.

TN: And paid a huge amount of money for them.

SR: And paid a premium. And when you paid a premium and figured out that COVID wasn’t forever and the COVID demand wasn’t forever, if you want to realign your cost structure with your revenue outlook, you’ve got to take some head count down. But to be honest, you’re really not seeing it be something that’s systemic to say the entirety of the labor market by any stretch. West Texas isn’t laying people off on the oil drilling front. They still need.

TN: I’ve two friends who’ve just been hired to go out on rigs in the past two months. I mean, that is still building up.

SR: It’s still building up. And there’s nowhere near enough labor to do it. And you don’t have enough labor and leisure, right?

TN: Yeah.

SR: I really do think that we’re going to see the summer of vacations at any price. And if you look at leisure and hospitality, they are well understaffed. And that’s going to continue to be a problem. This is San Francisco problem, not a San Diego problem.

TN: Okay. So let me ask you guys, and I’ve been running through this, bouncing this off a couple of people over the past couple of weeks. But through the COVID period, banking analysts and investors have been pretty lenient on management teams. Hey, just make it through. Just keep running your business. Yes. We can tolerate a lot of kind of variability. They’re very forgiving on things.

Now that we’re normalizing, and I heard someone say this week something like only 7% of the workforce is actually working from home. I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but I heard somebody say that maybe it was 17, but I think it was seven.

But now that we’re kind of normalizing, will those investors and analysts become tougher on companies on those management teams? Because it seems like they’ve been very loose, giving them huge birth to do whatever they want just to keep the business together over COVID? Are those expectations tightening down?

AM: I would have to say absolutely. I mean, in the past two years, you’re talking about just companies treading water, navigating the turbulent water of the market. Now you need actual leadership to figure out what’s going on with the supply chains, how to get workers working at a productive rate, getting supply and so on and so forth.

It’s crunch time now because although we can talk about a recession not happening, and I think that’s accurate. Look at the retail numbers that just keep coming out. We even said don’t short retail do that. The piper has got to be paid and management has to step up right now. 100%.

SR: Yeah. And step down. I think that’s a completely relevant one. And a lot of it is concentrated in VC.

TN: Right.

SR: A lot of it is things that you don’t get the AK on. These are private companies that raised at ridiculous multiples during COVID. Those are going to continue to see some downroads here.

TN: Right. But not just in private companies. Do you think that because of the change expectations post COVID, do you think we’ll see some management turnover in some large companies?

SR: Yeah. You’ve already seen Jack Dorsey out, right? You’ve seen that kind of called the Elon effect on that front? Yes. You’re going to see a lot of them.

In particular, I would say you’re probably going to see give it six to nine months when the body is washed up on shore from the downturn in DC, there’s going to be a lot of people that went over their toes there and they’re going to be axed.

AM: Yeah. Not just that, Sam. Not just that being pressured but also there’s going to be a lot of companies out there looking for merges and acquisitions that are going to force these.

TN: So if we don’t have a recession, we’ll still have a recalibration of, say, valuation expectations. Is that fair to say?

AM: I would say so. I mean, talking about recession, it’s a numbers thing. It’s a perception of what numbers is being displayed by the Fed and the Treasury. I mean, they can just fabricate those for however long they have to. So you won’t technically be in recession, but wage inflation, inflation is going out of control.

TN: You kind of rolled your eyes when I said that, but what were you thinking?

SR: I don’t know.

TN: That’s a good answer. What do you expect for next week? We’ve got four trading days next week. What’s going through your mind and what are you thinking about as you go into the holiday weekend?

AM: Bull bear line, 4250. I expect them to at least try to come close to that. But there’s going to be a lot of sellers out there trying to get whatever they can figuring out that OPEX and the Fed minutes are coming out next month with more rate hikes.

TN: Okay, 4250 on the S&P. Sam, what are you thinking?

SR: I’ll be watching the dollar really closely. If you continue to see a lot less pressure underneath the dollar here, oil is going to moon. So I’m watching oil very closely, mostly due to the dollar and some downward pressure on longer term rates. As we continue to see the narrative of the fed go fast then backtrack call it 1994 with 2001 characteristics.

TN: Interesting. It’ll be great to see. It’d be really interesting to see it, guys. Have a great holiday weekend. Thanks very much and have a great week ahead. Thank you.

AM: Thanks.

SR: Thank you, Tony.

Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 14 Feb 2022

In this week’s episode, we look at the CPI numbers from last week, the inflation cycle, and will the Fed stop QE on their Monday meeting? What do you have to expect on the metals market in the longer term? Will the demonstrations around the world push the US to bring out fiscal stimulus again — and can they? What does this mean to the Democrats on November US Election? And lastly, what you should know to thrive and survive this coming week?

This is the sixth 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.

For those who prefer to listen to this episode, here’s the podcast version for you.

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TN: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And we’re joined by Nick Glinsman, Albert Marko. And today we’re joined by Sam Rines for the first time. Tracy Shuchart could not make it this week. She’ll be back next week.

So before we get started, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to our YouTube channel. It obviously helps us with visibility and it gives you a reminder when a new episode is out. So if you don’t mind, please take care of that.

Now, a lot has happened this week. We saw CPI slightly higher than expected, which is what we talked about on the show last week. Consumer sentiment out on Friday, slightly lower than expected. And there were a few things that we said last week that will remind you of the ten-year cross, too. Nick pretty much nailed that. Crude went sideways. Tracy said that we would see a slight pull back in sideways move in crude. The S&P have a slight down bias, which is what we talked about. And the Dow had a slight upward bias, which is what we talked about. So good week all around. Thank you guys for being so on the spot for that.

Let’s start with CPI. And Sam, since you’re the new guy, it’s surprised high. So what really jumped out for you and what do you expect to see with CPI prints going forward?

SR: Basically, the entire print jumped out to me. I don’t think there was a single thing that was actually positive on the inflation front. There was no positive news that we could extrapolate from there. Whether you’re looking at the actual headline number, the core number, three month annualized accelerating, et cetera, it was a pure CPI hot. It was just hot. Cupcakes and cakes were the worst news in there. Both of those up. I think it was like 2.2%. 2.3% on a month over month basis. The only thing that was a little bit lower, that kind of offset, that was ice cream. So dessert got more expensive for most of us.

I think generally the way to look at CPI right now is we were supposed to have this really interesting hand off from goods to services. And what we really had was no hand off from goods and services begin to start running. You had people begin to go outside of their homes, but they’re also working at home. So you need more stuff. If you have an office and you work from home, you need two computers, you need two microphones, you need two cameras.

That’s really what we’re beginning to see is the confluence of the end of COVID restrictions, but not really the end of COVID all at the same time. That’s a big problem.

TN: So the durable good cycle is we’re late in that cycle, right. So it’s not as if we’re redoing our homes anymore. Most of that stuff is gone. It’s more consumption, right?

SR: Yeah, it is consumption to a certain degree. But also you haven’t really seen a slowdown in people buying homes. When people buy homes, when people build homes, they need to put stuff inside of them. They need couches.

TN: That’s fair.

SR: So I would say we’re probably not at the end-end of the durable good cycle, we might be in the fifth or 6th inning. Okay. But millennials still on homes, right? Millennials figured out that when you can’t go to a really cool restaurant in New York City, it’s not really worth living in 1000 square foot apartment or smaller with a kid. Right. They’ve decided that they really want to go make a household somewhere, buy a house.

So I think we’re more call it mid innings of durable good cycle. And on the services front, we’re just beginning to see the re emergence there. You’re just beginning to see housing costs, housing and rent, et cetera.

TN: Okay, so this inflation cycle is something that Nick and Albert have been talking about for over a year. You started talking about this in August of ’20 or something like that?

AM: Yeah, something like that. I mean, it was evident that the supply chain stresses is going to cause inflation. When the demand starts to tick up and there’s no inventory, of course, it was inevitable at that point.

TN: So when does it end? Obviously, this isn’t kind of the transitory inflation we’ve been told, and that’s been said many times. But do you see this continuing through, let’s say all things equal. There’s no rises from the Fed, nothing else. How long does this go before it works itself out? Nick?

NG: I’m sorry, Albert, do you want to?

AM: No. From my perspective, wage inflation is a problem. So until that gets sorted out, inflation is going to be sticky.

NG: Yeah. With Atlanta Fed wage price level, it was 5% I think it was, came out for the first time in 20 years. Actually, I’m going to be slightly contrarian. I think we’re at that peak. Whether we can go up, we can still go up a bit more, but I think there’s a peak. The trouble that people have got to get their minds around is if we’re peaking, it could take several months. Where do we come down to? And my suspicion is we come down to a level that’s still significantly above the 2% Fed targets.

The other thing that I think is really important, you’ve got the conventional wisdom. Feds behind the curve, Feds behind the curve. And now all these forecasts from the street have sort of come like this. Goldman have now joined Bank of America on seven.

The key thing to understand in a zero rates environment, they introduced forward guidance, and that was their technique to try to suppress volatility in the market. Well, now that things have shifted around so rapidly and we’re moving to a rate hiking cycle, they’re actually not going to be suppressing volatility. By definition, they can’t you hear this in Europe as well? Data dependency. We’re dependent on the data. Well, they’re dependent on the data in Europe because their forecast is so terrible. Haven’t been much better in the US either. Right.

So you’re going to have much more volatility. So what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, which if you traded, if you ran money through 2008, it’s sort of nothing. But what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, get used to it. And I suspect going back to what we mention last week and I even put it on a tweet. Newton’s law of gravity is going to start to impose itself on those stocks without the high dividends, those stocks that don’t have the earnings, those stocks that are over owned.

I know we’ve got witching out next week or OpEx not clear whether the market is long or short delta. Just not clear to me because actually a couple of days ago, Goldman came out with a chart that showed that short interest on the S&P is really low. So if that’s the case, and I maintain that we’ve got a lot of trap longs still there, this volatility is going to get worse.

I mean, you’re getting volatility in the treasury market. And remember, the treasury market, by definition, is zero rates, low rates environment, is long convexity. So the price moves to a couple of basis points are way bigger than they were back in the days when you had a decent coupon, back in those good old days where retirees would earn some money on their bank deposits.

TN: Yeah.

NG: So they’re not suppressing volatility anymore. Volatility cannot be suppressed, even if they sell VIX. We’re talking about broad systemic volatility. Is it a risk? Could be. But that’s gone. Those days have gone. Forward guidance. They’re not even going to forward guide. Powell’s last press conference. I’m going to be humble. I can’t give you whether it’s a 50 or a 25. He never said anything. No. When he was asked aggressive questions. So it’s sort of interesting.

TN: That is very interesting. I think not worried about volatility is a very interesting point, even if they just dial it down a little bit. It’s a very interesting point to me.

So let’s move in that direction, Nick. There was a lot of Fed speculation this week, obviously more intensive than even last week. Inter-meeting hike, 50 basis point hike, 25 basis point hike, all this other stuff. So what are you thinking about that and QT? I also want to get kind of your and Albert’s view and Sam, of course, on this thing going around on Thursday about an emergency meeting on Monday. So let’s talk about all of that stuff with Fed and central banks.

NG: I just don’t think this Fed has it in them to do something shocking. So the first order of business, if they were to do anything intermeeting, is stop QE. That’s absolutely absurd that that’s still going on. Right. So you stop the QE.

Remember, this is a Fed that’s built on… Most of these members are built on the gradualist approach of the Fed. They’ve been suppressing volatility. They don’t want to shock anybody. So I think there is a valid discussion to have between 25 basis points and 50. It’s a discussion they need to have and they need time to think about it.

Interesting Bollard came out as hawkish, given he used to be a Dove and we’d forecasted actually everything he said. We got a little experience of deja vu, but I’m suspicious of this intermeeting situation. The only thing I can think of really would be stopping QE. That’s where their first… If you watch the Main Street media, that was their first part of call with the “experts”, and they’re still doing QE, which is why they’re still doing QE. I think they need a proper… Right now, given it’s a new hike, first hike in the whole process, they need to have a proper meeting.

TN: So you think there’s a greater than zero possibility that they’ll stop QE on Monday? I’m not saying you’re saying it will, but you’re saying it’s greater than zero.

NG: That would make sense to me, but it would be a bit dramatic given all the huff and puff that’s been in the since last night about this secret meeting, which is also right. I would be surprised if they do an intermeeting.

I’m still trying to figure out whether they’re biased towards 25 and 50. Remember, the market is giving them 50, but when is the last time the Fed taken what the market is giving it?

TN: Albert, what do you think about Monday, the speculation about the meeting on Monday?

AM: Well, yeah, everyone’s talking about this meeting that popped up all of a sudden, and some people are starting to dismiss it’s procedural and whatnot. But realistically, they got together over the weekend to discuss what’s really happening. The last time they did something like that was pre-COVID in 2020.

Right now, the Fed and actually the Biden administration together are looking at problems with the Russian invasion of Ukraine looming, trucker rally, actually in the United States and France and Australia that are looming. I mean, any more supply chain shocks is systemic problems of the economy. And I think they have to address it one way or another.

Whether it’s a 50 basis point hike in Monday or March or something, you’re going to have to do something against inflation.

TN: So you think it’s possible that they can take some action on Monday? You don’t think this is just a procedural meeting?

AM: I don’t think it’s a procedural meeting whatsoever. I think something’s wrong with the system and they’re working to address it.

TN: So if you had to say they’re going to stop QE or they’re going to announce a rise, which is more likely on Monday.

AM: I think they’re going to announce a rise. Well, to think about it, they’ll probably stop QE before they actually do a rate hike. I think the rate hike will definitely come in March.

NG: That’s the sequence.

TN: Okay.

SR: And just to add something there, I think it’s really important to remember that effective Fed funds right now is eight basis points, right? Eight to nine basis points. It bounces around a little bit but we hike in ranges now, right? So we’re going to hike from zero to 25 to 25 to 50 or 50 to 75 and they don’t have to put it at the midpoint right? So going to ranges, so to speak, is not the only way to look hawkish.

If you raise one range of 25 to 50 and set it at 40, 45 towards the top end of the range, you can do one “rate hike”, but be pretty hawkish within that range, you can show your intention pretty quickly there which would match pretty closely to what the market expectations are when you kind of extrapolate down to actual basis points what the market is giving the Fed. So I think it’s really important to pay attention to not just where the range ends up, but where they decide Fed funds goes within that range.

TN: It could be incremental. They could be a Chinese central banks type of like 37 basis points or it’s 38 basis points or something?

SR: Exactly. Exactly. And I think that’s going to be the kind of “the shock” and all that they can use. They can have call it a very hawkish one hike. They don’t need to do two hikes to be overly hawkish.

TN: So what do you think, Sam, on Monday? Do you think it’s a procedural or do you think it’s possible that there could be some sort of policy change?

SR: I think it’s procedural.

TN: Okay. Interesting. It would be interesting to come back in a week and see what’s happened with that. I like the differences there. Sorry. What’s that?

NG: You get the coin out and heads at something.

TN: Right? Exactly.

NG: One thing it can be, it can be a hike without stopping the QE.

SR: Yes.

TN: Right. Okay. That’s a good point. So speaking of inflation, before we get onto the truckers and other stuff, Nick, you guys put out a piece last week about the metals market. And I’m really curious. It looks like there’s a view that there’s longer term rises in metals, industrial metals especially. Can you give us a little bit of color on that and help us what to expect in metal markets?

NG: Sure. It was a longer term view. It’s not really a short term trading view. The view is, I have the thesis that some of the greatest trades attached to some of the biggest traders in time have arisen because of policy mistake. Whether the policy is benefiting or whether the policy was just maligned. And right now we’re in this net zero push, which is the new neurosis and there’s no transition plan.

So the first thing, if we were to look to commodities right now, where is it? The most obvious place that it’s hit? European energy. Right. The German is getting rid of nuclear. It’s just a complete nano mess. But it’s actually in the metals market where over the next couple of years it’s going to be really keenly felt.

There’s been a lack of capex like energy. There’s been a lack of capex in metals. They learned what lessons? We don’t know. Lessons from 2011 when prices were very elevated. And with that lack of capex and they’re paying high dividends, they’re rewarding shareholders, means the supply cannot be flexible enough, elastic enough on the upside to meet all this huge demand.

So we put the blocks together. China. China, give or take, is still there as a big user and consumer of the metal. Now you add on the rest of the world, plus China, additional China on net zero products. EV cars, right. All the wind farms, solar panels. All this stuff needs metal. Some of it needs fossil fuels as well.

And I got triggered a couple of weeks ago. There was a report in France that said in the next two years, the available supply of copper, not new finds, or not new mines. The available supply right now would have been used up. Yes or no. But the point is that’s the direction. Nickel, even more so. And then you think about nickel and the geopolitics of Russia having a huge nickel company. What we’re about to go through, potentially with sanctions?

All this geopolitics grinds against the need for these metals in terms of net zero. So basically you’ve got those two forces against each other which squeezes everything up in terms of price. And from the point of view, we have no transition plan. So if there was none of that, we needed a transition plan anyway.

So our view, you can go through the metals. Aluminium has been making new multi year highs this week.

TN: Right.

NG: Aluminum being the cheaper copper.

TN: Okay. Yeah. And I think as a medium, longer term plan, as a strategic placement, I think that’s very interesting.

Let’s move on to other components of uncertainties with what seems to me is a resurgence of populism with these trucker strikes and other kind of demonstrations.

Obviously, the Canadian trucker strike has stolen the headlines this week, but there are things happening across Europe, and they have been for a year. Australia has been happening for six months, something like that. Demonstrations. You see sporadic demonstrations in the US with talk about truckers striking at the Super Bowl or something like that. So what do you guys think about that? Is that a real risk, and is that a risk that will flow into markets?

AM: I think it absolutely is a risk. If you’re talking about adding more stress to the supply chain, of course it’s going to be a systemic risk. I won’t even put it past some foreign actors propelling it through social media campaigns to stress the United States, France and Australia.

TN: Okay.

AM: I certainly would if I was Russia or China. I would definitely do that.

TN: Okay. So what does that do if there is this kind of wave of populism that is pushing back against kind of COVID restrictions? Do you think that puts more stress on, say, the US government to get fiscal spending out there to kind of placate people?

AM: There’s no way we’re getting fiscal. The reasons that the Fed has been doing all the shenanigans behind the scenes is because there’s no fiscal that’s happening.

TN: Okay.

AM: Rumors are that they’re even buying oil futures.

TN: Okay. So it makes things complicated, right? I mean, if you can’t send fiscal out to the people, then it makes kind of populism even more complicated.

AM: Of course.

TN: And more acute. Right. So what does that say for November in the US? Does that mean that it’s going to be tougher than we had thought on Democrats?

AM: Oh, absolutely. I mean, they sent out a memo to all the Democratic governors with all the warning flags. If you don’t lift off these COVID restrictions, we’re going to get massacred in November. So all of a sudden you saw this week like a dozen Democratic governors lift all the mask mandates.

TN: Okay. But do you agree if they had room for fiscal, it would solve some of these populist issues?

AM: That’s a tough question, Tony. I mean, possibly, but then the talk of new stimulus checks comes out and then the inflation probably gets worse. What are we doing?

TN: It’s a complex problem, which is why I’m asking the question.

NG: Didn’t Germans should make it pretty clear though, this week? They said I’ve been… Last year with the last fiscal. I said inflation. Inflation, inflation.

TN: Yes.

NG: Clear as you can be. But he’s a swing vote in the Senate. He just said we’re not getting inflation.

TN: Inflation tramps fiscal is what you’re all saying, is inflation tramps fiscal regardless of what happens with populist.

AM: Sorry, Sam. Let’s make a quick real quickly. Inflation is a nuclear football for politicians.

TN: Well, especially at 7.6%. Right. So fuel inflation of 40% year on year. I mean, this is crazy.

Okay, let’s move into what we expect for next week. What are you guys looking for next week?

SR: The flattening on the 210s curve will continue until the Fed breaks something and has to go the other way.

TN: Okay.

SR: I think that to me is the easy trade out there right now. It’s 210 flatten and done.

NG: Put a health warning on that.

SR: Yeah.

NG: If the Fed wimp out, I even think 25 basis points and non hawkish statement. If they whimp out, that long end is going to get hit because the idea of a flattening curve.

Remember, the sequencing is wrong here. That curve flattens after they’ve well into hiking cycles because of the potential for a recession. 13 out of the last 14 hiking cycles have led to a recession. That’s why I curved bear flat. Okay. It’s already doing it.

But the point is it’s because they think it will be enough. If the Fed given the narrative now, don’t go ahead with this. And I’m still anxious about the Fed, even though Powell warned back when the QE three was being launched, you’re going to create a whole lot of problems. Ironically, he got all the problems.

I’m just still nervous about this Fed because.

TN: I think everybody is Nick. I think that’s why we’re seeing the volatility because no one’s getting a clear signal. And we saw some Fed governors out on Friday saying that 50 basis points is too much and putting 25 basis points into question.

So I’m not sure if there’s a consensus.

NG: Actually, there’s a great trade to be had. Great trade in some of the markets. You buy a struggle, you buy volatility effectively. Make it, usually pay up for premium, but you make it completely not dependent on direction.

TN: Is what you’re saying for the next several weeks.

NG: Because they’re not going to suppress volatility anymore. It’s reversed. So everything they do now is by definition going to be creating more volatility. We’ve been zero rates, forward guidance. Let’s just cruise.

And the balance sheet is pushing stocks up. The other thing you need to watch, by the way, is the level of reserves.

TN: Right.

NG: Because I actually think if back in 19 there was that Reserve issue with the repo. I think that slightly could be problematic if something like that happens again.

TN: Okay, great. Good to know. So let’s go one by one. And what do you guys see say in equity markets next week? Is your bias for equity markets? Do you have a downside bias in equity markets? Sorry, Albert, go ahead.

AM: So I was just going to say next week, I think it’s going to be all about the Federal Reserve’s narrative building. It’s going to be a choppy session in equities all week. They’re preparing you, they’re sending out boulerd with ridiculous 100 point basis comments, and they’re just preparing you for a 50 basepoint rate hike.

TN: Right.

AM: So that’s what I think is going to happen. So we’ll just be choppy on next week.

TN: Okay. Sam?

SR: I like SPX more than I like the Dow, and I like the queues less than I like the Dow.

TN: Amid the volatility, you believe in tech?

SR: No. Okay. I don’t like any of them. Okay. And I prefer the S&P to the Dow. And I prefer the Dow to the queues.

TN: Okay.

SR: Yes, exactly. And I don’t like any of them. But if you had a gun to my head and made me buy something, it would be SPX and shorting queues against it.

TN: So there’s a slight downside bias in markets next week, equity markets? Okay, Nick, same?

NG: Yes. I think, as I said, I like what I wrote. News is law of gravity. As these rates come up, it starts to put gravity on the equity market and gravity will bring it down.

TN: Okay.

NG: One provisor, though. If we get some, along the path that we’re going, we get some serious shake outs. I do think what could be interesting is some of these commodity related starts, because actually commodities do quite well during a hiking cycle. Okay. That again, fits with our thesis anyway.

AM: Of course, gold has been on a tear for the last four trading days.

NG: Confusing everybody, right?

AM: Yeah, of course.

TN: Sam, do you agree with that commodity during the hiking cycle?

SR: I think oil is great during a hiking cycle. If you look back over hiking cycles, oil tends to do pretty well. I actually like the long oil short gold trade.

TN: Okay. So you bring us into a good point. Oil was my last stopping point. So, Albert, Nick, do you guys sit in the same place with oil? You think in the short term, say next week oil is looking good, or you think it continues to trade sideways?

AM: I think it goes up. I know. Rumors are Fed buying oil futures. I think it’s going to go up to 110. Not next week, but over the next week.

TN: Even with the inflationary pressure? Even with, which is unbelievable for me to say that. Even with the dollar rising. It’s unbelievable for me to say this.

NG: Albert just made a great point. These commodities are all at new levels and really the dollar hasn’t collapsed yet.

TN: Okay?

NG: Can you imagine what would happen if the dollar sells off some of these commodities?

TN: Yeah, we’re going to have to wrap it up there. So thanks very much, guys. This has been great and have a great week ahead.


QuickHit: What happens to markets if China invades Taiwan? (Part 2)

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In this second part, Mike Green explains what will happen to Europe if China invades Taiwan. Will the region be a mere audience? Will it be affected or not, and if so, how? How about the Euro — will it rise or fall with the invasion? Also, what will happen to China’s labor in that case, and will Chinese companies continue to go public in the West?

You can watch Part 1 of the discussion here.

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This QuickHit episode was recorded on December 2, 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this What happens to markets if China invades Taiwan? Part 2 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.


Show Notes

TN: So we have a lot of risk in, say, Northeast Asian markets. We have a lot of risk to the electronics supply chain. I know that this may seem like a secondary consideration. Maybe it’s not.

What about Europe? Does Europe just kind of stand by and watch this happen, or are they any less, say, risky than any place else? Are they insulated? Somehow?

I want to thank everyone for joining us. And please, when you have a minute, please follow us on YouTube. We need those follows so that we can get to the right number to reach more people.

MG: No, Europe exists, I would argue, as basically two separate components. You have a massive export engine in the form of Germany, whose core business is dealing with China and to a lesser extent, the rest of the world. And then you have the rest of Europe, which effectively runs a massive trade deficit with Germany. I’m sorry. Germany is uniquely vulnerable in the same way that the corporate sector is vulnerable in the United States. That supply chain disruption basically means things go away.

They are also very vulnerable because of the Russian dynamic, as we discussed. In many ways, if I look at what’s happened to Germany over the past decade, their actions on climate change and moving away from nuclear, away from coal into solar, et cetera, has left them extraordinarily dependent upon Russian natural gas supplies. It’s shocking to me that they’ve allowed themselves to get into that place. Right.

So my guess is that their reaction is largely going to be determined by what happens with Russia rather than what happens with China. Right. In the same way that Jamie Diamond can’t say bad things about China. Germany very much understands that they can’t say bad things about China.

Europe, to me, is exceptionally vulnerable, potentially as vulnerable as it has ever been in its history. I agree. It has extraordinary… Terrible way to say it. I don’t know any other way to say it, but Europe basically has unresolved civil wars from 1810, the Napoleonic dynamics all the way through to today, right. And everybody keeps intervening, and it keeps getting shoved back down into a false equilibrium in which everyone pretends to get along, even as you don’t have the migratory patterns across language and physical geographic barriers that would actually lead to the type of integration that you have with the United States, right.

Now ironically, the United States are starting to see those dynamics dramatically reduce geographic mobility, particularly within the center of the country. People are becoming more and more set in their physical geographies, et cetera. Similar to the dynamics that you see in Europe, which has literally 100,000 more years worth of Western settlement and physical location, than does the United States. But they’ve never resolved these wars. Right.

And so the integration of Europe has happened at a political level, but not at a cultural level in any way, shape or form. That leaves them very vulnerable. Their demographics leaves them extraordinarily vulnerable, the rapid aging of the populations, the extraordinarily high cost of having children, even though they don’t bear the same characteristics of the United States, but effectively the lack of land space, et cetera, that has raised housing costs on an ownership basis, et cetera. Makes it very difficult for the Europeans, and they have nowhere else to go now. Right. So the great thing that Europe had was effectively an escape valve to the United States, to a lesser extent, Canada, Australia, et cetera, for give or take 200 or 300 years, and that’s largely going away. Right.

We are becoming so culturally distinct and so culturally unacceptable to many Europeans that with the exception of the cosmopolitan environments of New York City and potentially Los Angeles, nobody wants to move here anymore. Certainly not from a place like Europe. I think they’re extraordinarily vulnerable.

I also think, though, that they’ve lost sight of that because they’re so deeply enjoying the schadenfreude of seeing the unquestioned hegemony of the United States being challenged. Right. It’s fun to watch your overbearing neighbor be brought down a notch. Right. You tend not to focus on how that’s actually adversely affecting your property values in the process.

TN: Sure. Absolutely. So just staying on Europe, what does that do to the importance of the Euro as an international currency? Does the status of the Euro because of Germany’s trade status stay relatively consistent, or do we see the CNY chip away at the Euros, say, second place status?

MG: Well, I would broadly argue that the irony is that the Euro has already peaked and fallen. Right. So if I go back to 2005 2006, you could make a coherent argument that there was a legitimate challenge to the dollar right.

Over the past 15 years, you’ve seen continual degradation of the Euro’s role in international commerce, if I were to correctly calculate it, treating Europe as effectively these United States in the same manner that we have with the US, there’s really no international demand for the Euro. It’s all settlement between Germany, France, Italy, et cetera.

If I go a step further and say the same thing about the Chinese Yuan or the Hong Kong dollar, right. They really don’t exist in international transactions. To any meaningful degree. The dollar has resumed its historical gains on that front. Now that actually does open up a Contra trade.

And I would suggest that in just the past couple of days, we’ve seen an example of this where weirdly, if the status quo is maintained, the dollar is showing elements of becoming a risk on currency as the rest of the world basically says some aspect of we’re much less concerned about the liquidity components of the dollar, and we’re much more interested in the opportunity to invest in a place that at least pretends to have growth left. Right. Because Europe does not have it. Japan does not have it. China, I would argue, does not have it. And the rest of the world, as Erdogan and others are beginning to show us, is becoming increasingly dysfunctional as a destination for capital. Right.

Brazil, perennially the story for the next 20 years and always will be right. Africa, almost no question anymore that it is not going to become a bastion for economic development going forward. And we’re broadly seeing emerging markets around the world begin to deteriorate sharply because the conflict between the United States and China creates conditions under which bad actors can be rewarded. Right.

If I sell out my people, we just saw this in the Congo, for example, if I sell out my people for political influence, I can suddenly put tons of money into a bank account somewhere. Right. China writing a check for $20 million. It’s an awful lot of money if I’m using it in Africa.

TN: For that specific example, and for many other things, the interesting part is China is writing a check for $20 million. Yeah, they’re writing a check for €20 million. They’re not writing a check for 20 million CNY. It’s $20 million. All the Belt and Road Initiative activities are nominated in dollars.

So I think there’s a very strange situation with China’s attempt to rise, although they have economic influence, they don’t have a currency that can match that influence. And I’m not aware, and you’re such a great historian. I’m not aware of an economic power that’s come up that hasn’t really had its own currency on an international basis. I’m sure there are. I just can’t think of many.

MG: Well, no. I mean, the quick answer is no. You cannot project power internationally unless effectively the tax receipts of your local population are accepted around the world. Right? Broadly speaking, I would just highlight that the way I think of currency is effectively the equity in a country right now. It’s not a perfect analog, but it’s a reasonable analog. And so, what you’re actually saying is the US remains a safe haven. It remains a place where people want to invest. It remains a place where people believe that the rule of law is largely in place. And as a result, anyone who trades with the United States is willing in one form or another to say, okay, you know what? I can actually exchange this with somebody who really needs it at some point in the future.

I think one of the reasons that we tend to think about the dollar as having fallen relative to the Euro or the CNY is we have a very false impression of what the dollar used to be. Right. So we tend to think about the dollar was the world’s reserve currency following World War Two and everything happened in dollars. Right.

People forget that half the world, certainly by population, never had access to dollars, never saw dollars. There was a dollar block. And then because of their refusal to participate in Bretton Woods, there was a Soviet ruble block and then ultimately far less impactful things like a Chinese Yuan, et cetera. But the Soviets, for a period of time, had that type of influence. They could actually offer raw materials. They could actually offer technology. They could offer things that had the equivalent of monetary value to places like Cuba, to places like Africa, to places like South America, et cetera. China right.\

That characterized the world from 1945 until 1990. Right. I mean, the real change that occurred and really in 1980 was that Russia basically ran out of things to sell to the rest of the world, particularly in the relative commodity abundance that emerged in the 1980s after the 70s, their influence around the globe collapsed.

And I think the interesting question for me is China setting up for something very similar. Right. It feels like we’re looking at a last gasp like Brisbanev going into Afghanistan, right. And oh, my gosh, they’re moving out and they’re taking over. Well, that was the end. They make a move on Taiwan. And I think a lot of people correctly point to this. It’s probably the end of China, not the beginning of China.

I just don’t know that China knows that it has an alternative because it’s probably the end of China, regardless.

TN: Sitting in Beijing, if you bring up any analogues to the Soviet Union to China in current history, they’ll do everything to avoid that conversation. They don’t want to be compared. Is Xi Jinping, Brezhnev or Andropov or. That’s a very interesting conversation to have outside of Beijing. But I think what you bring up is really interesting. And what does China bring to the world? Well, they bring labor, right. They’re a labor arbitrage vehicle. And so where the Soviet Union brought natural resources, China’s brought labor.

So with things like automation and other, say, technologies and resources that are coming to market, can that main resource that China supplied the world with for the last 30 years continue to be the base of their economic power? I don’t know. I don’t know how quickly that stuff will come to market. I have some ideas, but I think what you’re saying is if they do make a play for Taiwan, it will force people to question what China brings to the world. And with an abundance of or, let’s say, a growing influence of things like automation technologies, robotics, that sort of thing, it may force the growth of those things. Potentially. Is that fair to say?

MG: I think it’s totally fair. And I would use the tired adage from commodities. Right. The cure for high prices is high prices. If China withdraws its labor or is forced to withdraw its labor from the rest of the world, there’s two separate impacts to it.

One is that China’s role as the largest consumer of many goods and services in things like raw materials, et cetera. That has largely passed. Right. And so as we look at things like electrification, sure, you can create a bid for copper. But at the same time, you’re not seeing any building of the Three Gorges again. Right. You’re not seeing a reelectrification of China. You may see components of it in India. And I would look to areas like India as potential beneficiaries of this type of dynamic. But we’re a long way away from a world that looks like the 20th century. And you’ve heard me draw this analogy. Right. So people think about inflation.

The 20th century was somewhat uniquely inflationary in world history. The reason I think that happened is because of a massive explosion of global population. Right. So we started the 20th century with give or take a billion people in the global population. We finished the 20th century with give or take 7 billion people. So roughly seven X in terms of the total population. The labor force rose by about five and a half X.

If I look at the next 100 years, we’re actually approaching peak population very quickly. And if I use revised demographic numbers following the COVID dynamics, we could hit peak global population in the 2030s 2040s. Right. That’s an astonishing event that we haven’t seen basically since the 14th century, a decline in global population. And it tends to be hugely deflationary for things like raw materials. Right. People who aren’t there don’t need copper, people who aren’t there don’t need houses, people who aren’t there don’t need air conditioners, et cetera.

I think the scale of what’s transpiring in China continues to elude people. I would just highlight that we’ve all seen examples of this. Right. So go to any Nebraska town where the local farming community has been eviscerated with corporatization of farms, and the population has fallen from 3000 people to 1000 people. What’s happened to local home prices? What’s happened to the local schooling system? What’s happened to deaths of despair, et cetera. Right. They’ve exploded. China’s facing the exact same thing, except on a scale that people generally can’t imagine. The graduating high school classes are now down 50% versus where they were 25 years ago. That’s so mind blowing in terms of the impact of it.

TN: That’s pretty incredible. Hey, Mike, one of the things that I want to cover is from kind of the Chinese perspective. Okay. So we’ve had for the last 20-25 years, we’ve had Chinese companies going public on, say, Western exchanges and US exchanges. Okay. So if something happens with Taiwan, if China invades Taiwan, do you believe Chinese companies will still have access to, say, going public in the US? And if they don’t, how do they get the money to expand as companies?

Meaning, if they can’t go public in the west, they can’t raise a huge tranche of dollar resources to invest globally. So first of all, do you think it’s feasible that Chinese companies can continue to go public in the west?

MG: Yeah. Broadly speaking, I think that’s already over. Right. So the number of IPOs has collapsed, the number of shell company takeovers has collapsed. So the direct listing dynamics. I just had an exchange on Twitter with a mutual friend of ours, Brent Johnson, on this. Ironically, that would actually probably help us equities for the very simple reason that the domestic indices like the S&P 500 and the Russell 2000 do not include those companies. Right.

So if those companies fail to attract additional capital or those companies are delisted, it effectively reduces competition for the dollars to invest in US companies and US indices. Where those companies are listed and are natively traded, at least are in places like Hong Kong, China, et cetera, those are incorporated in emerging market indices. And I would anticipate, although it certainly has not happened yet. That on that type of action, you would see a very aggressive move from the US federal government to force divestiture and prohibit investment in countries like China.

I think that would very negatively affect their ability to raise dollars. Again, and I mean, no disrespect when I say this. I want to emphasize this, but we tend to think of Xi Jinping as this extraordinarily brilliant, super thoughtful, intelligent guy. The reality is he’s kind of Tony Soprano, right? I mean, it’s incredibly street smart, incredibly savvy, survived a system that would have taken you and I down in a heartbeat. Right. You and I would have been sitting there. Wow. Theoretically, someone would have shot. Congratulations. Welcome to the real world, right. He survived that system. But that leaves him in a position where I do not think that he’s actually playing third dimensional chess and projecting moves 17 moves off into the future. I think he very much is behaving in the “Ohh, that can only looks good.”

I think it’s really important for people to kind of take a step back and look at that in the same way that Japan wasn’t actually forecasting out the next 100 years. The Chinese are not doing that. It’s a wonderful psychological operation. One of the best things that people can do is go back and relisten to the descriptions of IBM’s Big Blue computer or Deep Blue. I’m sorry beating Gary Kasparov. Right. So one of the things that they programmed into that computer was random pauses. So the computer processed things and computed things at the exact same speed. But by giving Kasparov the illusion that he forced the machine to think, he started to second guess himself.

Well, what did I do there that made it think, right. He didn’t do anything. It was doing its own thing and designed to elicit a reaction from you. I think China’s done probably a pretty good job of getting a lot of people in the west and elsewhere. And I think Putin is even better at this, of second guessing our capabilities and genuinely believing that we’re second rate now.

It’s fascinating. There was just a piece that came out from the US Space Force where they’re talking about the rising capabilities of China. And if you read the public Press’s interpretation of this, China is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. And what actually he’s saying is, no, we’re way ahead. But they are catching up at an alarming rate.

TN: That’s what happens. Right.

MG: Of course, it is always easier to imitate than it is to innovate.

TN: Right. When I hear you say that it’s easier to imitate than innovate. I know you don’t mean it this way, but I think people hear it this way that the Chinese say IP creators are incapable of creating intellectual property. I don’t think that’s the case. I don’t think you mean that to be the case. They are very innovative. It’s just a matter of baselining yourself against existing technology. So it does take time to catch up. Right. And that takes years. Your TFP and all the other factors within your economy have to catch up. And it takes time. It takes time for anybody to do that.

MG: Well… And I think also it’s important to recognize that things like TFP, total factor productivity, tends to be overstated because we don’t do a great job of actually correctly defining it.

TN: It’s residual. I can tell you.

MG: Exactly right. And just to emphasize what that means, it means it’s the part that we can’t explain with the variables we’ve currently declared. Right.

TN: Right.

MG: And so when I look at TFP in the United States, I actually think TFP is quite a bit lower than the data sets would suggest, because I think that we are failing to consider the fact that we’ve introduced women into the labor force. We’ve introduced minorities into the labor force. Right. So the job matching characteristics or the average skill level of people has risen.

People live longer, so they get to work in different industries and careers for a longer period of time. The center of the distribution is now starting to shift too old, and that’s showing up as a negative impact. But we failed to consider that on the other side. And the last part is just again, remember going back to the start of the 20th century, the average American had three years worth of education at that point. Third grade education, where a year was defined as three months, basically during the non harvest season. Right.

TN: It’s the stock of productivity. Correct. We’re adding to that stock of productivity, and the incremental add is large compared.

MG: But small compared to the stock. Absolutely correct. Right.

TN: Okay. Just to sum up, since we wanted to talk about the impact on markets, I want to sum up a couple of things that you’ve said just to make sure that I have a correct understanding.

If China is to invade Taiwan, we would have in Northeast Asia a period of volatility and uncertainty. That would go across equity markets, across currencies, across cross border investments and so on and so forth. Okay. So we would have that in Northeast Asia.

MG: And I would just emphasize very quickly. So we’ve seen this rolling pattern of spikes in volatility. Right. So we saw it in 2018 in the equity markets. We saw it in late 2018 in the credit markets and commodity markets. We’ve now seen it in interest rate markets. What’s referred to as the Move index. The implied volatility around interest rates has reached relatively high levels of uncertainty.

The one kind of residual area where we just have seen no impact whatsoever has been in FX. That has been remarkably stable, remarkably managed. That’s kind of my pick for the breakout space.

TN: Okay. Great. Europe also appeared of volatility because of their exposure to both China and Russia. Since both China and Russia have a degree of kind of wiliness, especially Russia, I think almost a second derivative. Europe is volatile because of both of those factors. Is that fair to say? And that has to do with the Euro that has to do with their supply chains? That has to do with a number of factors.

MG: I would broadly argue that’s a reasonable way to think about it. I mean, almost think about it. Flip the image and imagine that the continents are ponds and the oceans are land. Right. What we’re describing is a scenario where a rock gets dropped into Asia or a rock gets dropped into Europe. You will see the waves spread across. There’s potential for sloshing over, and it’ll absolutely impact the United States. But in that scenario, we literally have two giant barriers in the form of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean that separate us.

And while our supply chains are integrated currently, in a weird way, COVID has been a bit of a blessing in starting to fracture those supply chains. We’ve diversified them significantly in the last couple of years.

TN: Okay. And then from what I understand from what you said about the US is supply chains will definitely be a major factor. Corporates will likely keep their investments in China until they can’t. They won’t necessarily come up with, say, dual supply chains or redundant supply chains.

US equity markets could actually be helped by the delisting of Chinese companies. Or we’ll say, US listed equities, meaning US companies listed could be helped by the delisting of Chinese equities, potentially.

MG: Certainly on a relative basis. I might not go so far as to say in an absolute simply again, because you do have people and strategies that run levered exposures. And so anytime asset values in one area of the world falls, you run the risk that the collateral has become impaired, and therefore there’s a deleveraging impact.

TN: Yes. Understood. And then the dollar continues to be kind of the preeminent currency just on a relative basis because there really isn’t in that volatile environment, there aren’t many other options. Is that fair to say?

MG: Well, again, I think there’s an element of complication. I would prefer to argue volatility. I think it is hard to argue that the dollar wouldn’t appreciate, but I also think it’s important, and this is why I go back and say we can’t actually stop Russia from taking Ukraine. We can’t stop China from taking Taiwan.

If they were to actually do that, then there is kind of the secondary loss of phase dynamic associated with it that may you could see and you’ve already seen Myanmar. You could see Thailand. You could see Vietnam. Say, you know what? We got to switch. I’m skeptical, but I’m open to that possibility.

TN: Interesting. Okay. Very good. Mike, thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate how generous you’ve been with what you’ve shared. I’d love to spend another couple of hours going into this deeper, but you’ve been really generous with us.

I want to thank everyone for joining us. And please, when you have a minute, please follow us on YouTube. We need those follow so that we’ve we can get to the right number to reach more people.

So thanks again for watching. And Mike Green, thanks so much for your thoughts on China’s invasion of Taiwan.

MG: Tony, thank you for having me.


Be Warned: High Prices Are Here To Stay

Our CEO, Tony Nash, talks about inflation’s and Omicron’s role in US shares sinking, as fears spread over their non-transitory nature. And how will Asia react to the ‘non-transitory’ nature of inflation and the new Covid variant? Is Gold a good asset to use to hedge against inflation?

This podcast first appeared and originally published at on December 02, 2021.

  • Discover how Complete Intelligence can help your company be more profitable with AI and ML technologies. Book a demo here.

Show Notes

PS: Markets in the US were down across the board. The Dow is down 1.3%. S&P 500 down 1.2% Nasdaq down 1.8%. Now over across in Asia, everyone was up. Nikkei was up .4% Hang Seng up .8% Shanghai Composite also up .4% and STI Singapore up 1.9%. And as I was saying early on, FBM KLCI was down 1.1%.

TN: Yeah. Thanks for having me, guys. I think the biggest consideration really is Powell’s comments on inflation, saying it’s kind of no longer transitory. So people should expect inflation to stay. What that means generally is we’ve hit a new pricing level is his expectation. So meaning prices are not in his mind, in many cases, going to go back to the levels that we saw before this inflationary stairstep. And what we’ve seen, particularly in the US, is consumers have accepted this and consumers accepted it, thinking that it was a temporary rise in prices.

But what he delivered today is some bad news that it’s likely a permanent prize in the level of prices. And the kind of short term cost rises that people thought they were going to endure are more permanent.

KSC: Yeah. So, Tony, try and give us a bit of a perspective here, because obviously the last twelve years and the last accelerated two years of monetary easing have induced this inflation. How does it all end? And does it stop the weak economic growth we’ve been seeing in the US the last few months.

TN: Yeah. So US economic growth, we don’t see a rapid acceleration of US economic growth. And so we have the US, China, Japan, and the EU, all at very subdued growth rates. And that’s bad. Those are the four largest economies with elevated price rises. Earnings are growing in some areas. I’m sorry, wages are growing in some areas, but they’re not necessarily growing across the economy. And part of that, particularly in the US, is a shortage of staff. So people have opted out of the workforce. We’ve lost, like 6 million workers in the US since Covid.

And so there are fewer workers. And so we have wages rising in certain areas. But it’s not necessarily across the board. So people are really going to have to start taking a look at their disposable income to understand what of these ongoing price rises that they can continue to accept. And I think we’re at a point where, since it’s no longer viewed as temporary, people and companies are going to have to start making trade offs. This is really the bad news is when people have to, when it’s no longer temporary, companies and people have to start making trade offs of what to do with their resources.

And that’s where the real problem is. So it’s not ongoing expansionary spending. And even I think it was Biden who said today we don’t expect a stimulus package for the current variant. Again, people are having to look at trade offs, and this is the real problem. When companies have to look at trade offs, they’re looking at their operating costs, they’re looking at their capital expenditure, they’re looking at their investments, they’re looking at other things. So down to Earth type of environment where we’re starting to enter Realville, we’re starting to exit the kind of fantasy environment we’ve been in the monetary induced sugar coma that we’ve been in for the past year and a half.

PS: So that’s a very interesting point, because I’ve always felt like in 2021, we saw this huge divergence in recovery right between the developed world led by the US and emerging markets, which are still really struggling to contain the virus and such. So when we talk about Asia, how do you think markets will react to this tightening of monetary policy by the Fed?

TN: Yeah. We think that Southeast Asia generally will stay pretty muted. We don’t expect early breakout at least over the next quarter or two. We don’t expect really breakout moves in Southeast Asia. We expect China to have a fair bit of volatility, but we do expect China to be generally positive over the next quarter to quarter horizon. We do expect Japan to continue to rise pretty well in India as well. Japan largely on the back of monetary policy automation, other things. So Asia is not one market, of course.

So we do expect different parts of Asia to react differently. Korea will be a mix between China and Japan like it always is. So we’ll see some volatility there reflecting China, but we’ll see some, I guess, acceleration and equities like we would see in Japan to make some both.

KSC: Well, Tony, in truth, inflation has been with us for some weeks now. But what hasn’t been with us for some weeks has been on the Omicron that’s the other big roadblock posing an obstacle to markets. How does Asia behave? How does Asia react, especially since we’re going to be opening in a few hours time?

TN: Yeah, I think Asia generally. You guys know I lived in Asia for most of my life, and Asia generally takes these things in stride with more vaccines available with the typical kind of weathering, the storm kind of approach that people have, particularly in Southeast Asia. I think people will generally take it in stride. This is really the first pandemic. Let’s say in the west that people have had for probably 50 years where they’ve really been kind of freaked out and worried in Asia, we’ve seen these types of pandemics for 2030 years.

It’s a bit different. People are more conservative, people are more used to these types of volatile, say, public health and market and other type of environments in Asia. So of course, we’ll see things shake up, but we won’t necessarily see the dire kind of messages that we’ve seen, say in the west. I don’t think we will. We’ve seen dire messages come out of, say, Germany and Italy and Austria, particularly over the past week with full lockdowns with 100% vaccine mandates, with really dire messaging. I don’t necessarily think we’re going to see super negative messaging in Asia like we’ve seen there.

PS: We won’t freak out as much as what you’re saying then essentially.

TN: No. Come on, man. It’s Asia, right? People are used to volatility in Asia and the developed markets. Developed markets are highly calibrated. Right? 0.2% change. Either way is people see as dramatic in Asia a small they’re not as calibrated. So people are accustomed to more ups and downs, and people just generally take it in stride.

PS: And I said that generally it’s quite calming. Is gold with inflation basically consigned away from this trend trade term? What’s your view in terms of gold? That’s a hit against inflation then? Because if I look at the data, the method is down 6% year to date.

TN: Right. And a lot of the inflationary rise has already happened. A lot of the stuff happens in stairstep fashion, and a lot of the mitigation efforts are already under way. So while we’ll continue to see inflation and we’ll continue to stay at an inflated level, I don’t necessarily. Or we’re not seeing dramatic price rises going forward. Okay. You’ll see it in pockets where there are, say, supply issues or something like that. But gold is more effective when everything is well, gold is a barometer for finding value.

I’ll say that much. It’s a tangible metal and people see it as worth something. And so what used to happen is gold and say the dollar as the dollar do value the gold would appreciate. But now we have crypto and people treat crypto kind of in the same way they used to treat gold. The gold market is really trying to find itself. So I think we’re going to have to see some fallout in crypto if it is to happen. We’ll have to see some fallout in crypto before we start to see gold being the safe haven again or being the preeminent safe haven.

So until Bitcoin and the other crypto assets really deteriorate in value and people go flocking back to gold, which I think will happen eventually. I don’t think it’ll happen overnight, but until we see a lack of faith in crypto, I don’t think we’ll necessarily see dramatic price pressure on gold.

KSC: Tony, you talked about Asia, right? And now China is moving to banners via structure, which is the loophole that allows its companies to list in New York and other foreign exchanges. What does this mean in terms of China’s overall strategy to go its own way to quote Fleetwood Mac?

TN: Sure. Yeah. So I think, of course, it hurts Western banks, and it hurts the Western banks that are in Asia because they don’t necessarily have those fees to take things public in the west. But I think the bigger problem is this those companies going public don’t have US dollar denominated resources to access, and so they have to get CNY or Hong Kong dollar or Japanese yen or other Sing dollar other denominated assets. Okay. But the US dollar is 87% of global transactions. So it helps those companies to have US dollar reserves, especially as they’re newly public.

Because why do you go public? Because you want to buy another company, you want to use that cash for a big investment or something, you want to expand in a big way. So if you don’t have the US dollar assets that come from going public, say, in New York or somewhere in the US or whatever, it’s really hard to have a big source of cash to do a massive international expansion or undertake a big international project or do a big international buy that’s I guess the biggest downside I would see from the decline of that type of structure in China.

KSC: All right, Tony, thank you so much for your time, Tony Nash there chief executive of Complete Intelligence. And just to hang on this last point, Phil, if you don’t list in the US, you don’t get US dollars necessarily. But that doesn’t matter if you are China, and you believe that the real market is domestically or within ASEAN, where you’ve got to combine, I don’t know, 2.1 trillion people or 2.1 billion people. That’s quite a fair few heads. Yes.

PS: Correct. I think it’s a question of whether you see a convergence between where you list versus where you operate.

KSC: Absolutely.

PS: And I think in the past we thought, okay, you could tap financial markets globally to serve your local markets. But I think China is kind of proving the point. No. I think it’ll be closer together.

KSC: Yeah. And what he was talking about in response to your question on gold, Phil, how gold hasn’t responded to all this uncertainty, which has been traditionally the case. And Bitcoin is somewhere hovering around in the mid 50s, which is a bit weird because you would expect some kind of flight to what was seen as safe havens, right.

PS: Ironic is considered Bitcoin a flight to safe havens.

KSC: Well, because it’s finite in nature. So it’s a bit like gold, right. It seems interesting, because in the last few weeks, we’ve seen a move among corporates like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and now Jack Dorsey, formerly of Twitter, who has left his job at Twitter. Still, at the same time was CEO of Square fintech platform financial platform. He’s moving to turn Square into a company called Block, and it’s a bit like it would make Mr. Miyagi proud because martial arts moves from square to block, but he’s going all in.

PS: But this is a very interesting thing because he’s going all in on crypto. And I think you’re referring to Blockchain blockchain reference to Blockchain, which is the distributed platform for data used by Crypto.

But it’s interesting, right? This whole name shift.

I think Jack Dorsey, I think, is trying to evolve away from just being a pure payments provider to offering solutions that are anchored on blockchain as a solution.


Quick Hit Cage Match: Van Metre vs Boockvar on Inflation (Part 1)

This special QuickHit Cage Match edition is joined by opposing sides of inflation versus deflation with Steven van Metre and Peter Boockvar. Why one thinks we’re having deflation and the other believes in inflation? How soon will this happen and to which commodities and industries?


This is the first part of the discussion. Subscribe to our Youtube Channel to get notified when Part 2 is out.


Part 2 is out. Watch it here.


Steven van Metre is a money manager who have invented a strategy called Portfolio Shield. He also has a YouTube show that discusses economic data and the news three days a week.


Peter Boockvar is the Chief Investment Officer and portfolio manager at Bleakley Advisory Group. He has a daily macromarket economic newsletter called The Boock Report.



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📊 Forward-looking companies become more profitable with Complete Intelligence. The only fully automated and globally integrated AI platform for smarter cost and revenue planning. Book a demo here.

📈 Check out the CI Futures platform to forecast currencies, commodities, and equity indices


This QuickHit episode was recorded on October 14, 2021.


The views and opinions expressed in this Quick Hit Cage Match: Van Metre vs Boockvar on Inflation 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.

Show Notes


TS: I kind of want to start broadly here. So if you could give me your two minute elevator pitch on your view on whether you’re an inflationist or deflationist, even though we already know who is who. And how fluid is your view?


PB: So if we just break down, inflation is just the simple, too much money chasing too few goods. We certainly have too few goods with supply challenges around the world and too much money with a lot of fiscal spending over the past 18 months financed by the Federal Reserve buying most of that debt that the treasury issued to finance a lot of this fiscal spending. So it’s combining with inflation situation where it’s really just a good side. That is the part of the debate.


Services inflation is rather persistent. For the past 20 years leading into Covid, services inflation XNERGY is averaged almost 3%, but goods have been basically zero. And it’s always that trade off that has resulted in an inflation rate of 1% to 2% over the last couple of decades. But now you are back on trend with services inflation, and I’ll argue that will accelerate from here because of rents. And now you combine that with a period of goods inflation. Now, goods inflation is typically cyclical, if history is any guide. But how long of a cyclical rise we have really is the question. And I just think it’s not going to be so short term that it could last a couple of years.


SVM: Yeah. So I think that the inflation story is going to be more, at least the former Fed’s view of being on the transitory side, and I take that view strictly from my understanding of how the monetary system works, looking at the velocity of money, the fiscal stimulus cliff going away.


While I do agree that Peter will be right and that we will likely see higher inflation, and I agree in where he thinks it’s coming from in terms of the supply chain. I completely agree with that. But I do think ultimately those higher prices will get rejected without a sustained amount of new money coming in from fiscal or other means or from lending growth. And so even though we’ll see rising prices and they will probably go up a bit more, ultimately, I think the consumer will reject them just like we saw during the great financial crisis and that we are more likely to see inflation turn down pretty hard and perhaps even into the deflation.


TS: Either one of you can jump in here. Where do you see inflation, deflation hitting the soonest and the hardest? We’re looking at commodities that are still running very hot, supply chains that are very stressed. At what point do you think we see demand destruction? And how long do you think that we’re going to see these extremes in the destruction and supply chains that are causing much of this current inflation?


PB: Well, we’re already seeing some demand responses. We are seeing a slowdown in economic growth. Part of that is a pushback against these price increases. If you look at the housing market, there’s particularly the first time home buyer that has sticker shock and doesn’t want to pay for a home that’s priced 20% more than it was a year ago. And they’re saying, okay, let me take a pause here.


So there is some of that. But then, of course, there’s also some forced demand destruction because enough product can’t be delivered and that an auto plan has to shut down an assembly line because they can’t get enough parts, and they’re not sure when they’re going to be able to get enough. Or it’s Nike that can’t deliver enough store product to foot locker because it’s going to take 80 days to get it from their factory in Vietnam rather than 40 days.


Now, at some point, goods, inflation is going to be temporary. The question is, how long does it take to resolve itself? And one of the things that I think will unfold here is that let’s just take transportation costs, because that is a main factor in the rise in inflation, because every single thing that’s made in this world ends up on a plane, a ship, a truck or a railroad to get it from point A to point B.


So let’s just say I’m a toy manufacturer, and my transportation costs are now 35% year of year on top of the cost of my wholesale cost to actually get the product, and my cost of labor is up 5% to 7% year over year. Well, I’m not going to recoup that all in one shot by raising prices to Walmart by 10%. It could take me a couple of years to recoup that. But I promise you, I’m going to do my best to do so, and I’m going to space that out. I’m going to try my best to cushion the blow to that end, buyer who’s buying for their kids for Christmas by spacing out that price increase. But I know I’m going to have visibility because everyone else is going to be doing the same thing for the next three years in raising prices so I can recapture, I may not be able to regain completely, but recapture some of my lost profit margin. So that’s one of the reasons why I think this is going to be sticky.


And to Steve’s point, yes, there’s going to be a fiscal fall up next year to some extent. We’ll see how much of the lost transferred payments are going to be offset by both the child tax money, plus people going back to work. We saw jobs claim have a two handle today for the first time since pre-Covid and to what extent wage increases can offset the rise in the cost of living? And yeah, we’ll have to see that. But the question is, how much do prices come back in?


You take lumber, for example, and I’ll give it to Steve right after this, lumber prices in the heart of the housing bubble in the mid 2000s was about $300. Now it went up to $1600 now it’s about 650. The cost of a home, construction wise, and what a builder would charge their customer is not going back to where it was. They are going to use this and fatten their margin as best they can, and it’s going to take years for that buyer to experience what is truly reflected at 650 lumber, but that’s even more than double where it was. So it’s still multiple years of price increases that are going to flew through the chain.


SVM: Yeah. Peter, you bring up some absolutely excellent points about how long this could go. And that’s something I really haven’t considered that it could run a couple of years because I look at this fiscal cliff and to me, you go back to the pandemic and we know all this was driven by fiscal stimulus. And without it, and I know we still have the child tax credit for a bit. I’m just concerned that this drop off comes a lot stronger than most people are expecting. And I do realize a lot of these goods are sitting off ports waiting to get shipped in, waiting for truckers to take them to warehouses and eventually on the stores.


The question I keep asking is when those goods hit the shelves, will consumers be there with money? Do they have the money to spend? Are they going to go back to work fast enough? And even though, as you mentioned, we had a two handle today, we both know that that’s almost 50% higher than normal.


So the question is we still see this huge amount of job openings everywhere. We’re not seeing people go back to work. We saw the jolt state. I know you looked at that recently from the other day where people are quitting their jobs. And so I keep coming back to the same question is will consumers come and spend and keep these prices up? If they don’t, then we get the reversal. But that’s my question. Do they come?


PB: It’s a great question of whether that will be the case. I don’t think the labor market is going back to where it was pre Covid. And all you have to do is look at the participation rate to confirm that, particularly for the age group of 25 to 54 year olds, which is sort of the core wage earning population, and it’s still well below where it was in February 2020. So, yeah, we’re not going back to a 3.5% unemployment rate with the same number of employed people anytime soon.


Now, what is replacing a lot of the lost sort of or not made up fiscal money that has been spent, particularly December 2020 with Trump’s last fiscal package and then repeated just a few months later with Biden, is that eventually we do have that child tax money that’s going out. We do have an increase in food stamps. Basically that reservation wage, which is basically the wage level at which someone has a tough choice of whether do they go take that job or do they collect all the government handout? That continues to go up.


So that person who may not want to go back to work while they’re getting a lot of benefits elsewhere. And while the aggregate, we’re going to probably see some sort of fiscal drop off. The question is, is that enough from the demand side to offset what’s going on in the supply side?


Now, again, supply side is going to normalize at some point. There’s no question about it. Just a matter of when. Taiwan semi is spending billions of dollars that just broke ground in June in Arizona to build a semi plant. Well, it’s not going to be done until 2024.


Now, there could be a lot of double ordering, triple ordering that’s going on in Semis right now. We’re going to have this major inventory hangover. We’re already actually seeing it in DRAM, for example. And that could happen. And there’s going to be a mess at the other end of this. I just think that this drags out and also a key part of this inflation debate, too, is in what context is this coming in?


If we had a Fed funds rate in the US of 3%, if we had a ten year at four to five, if we didn’t have such thing as negative interest rates, I’d say, “you know what the world can handle about of higher inflation because interest rates are higher. If equity valuations weren’t as extreme as they are and they were more in line with history,” I would say, okay, “we can absorb it.” But that’s not the case right now. We have valuations that are excessive in a variety of different things. Obviously, we have zero interest rates, negative interest rates, QE and so on. So even if inflation decelerated to, let’s just say a 3% rate for a year or two. I just don’t think that the world is positioned for that.


SVM: Yeah. I’m not worried about the upper 50%. I’m really curious about the bottom 50%, who is really the big recipients. I know a lot of people got the fiscal checks, but my wife is a fourth grade teacher, and one of the problems they’re having in schools right now, and you’ve probably been hearing about this is a kid or a staff or a teacher gets Covid, and next thing you know, they’re quarantining out segments of the classroom. They’re sending them home. And the parents are really struggling with this because they want to go back to work. But then all of a sudden, their kids back and they can’t.


And so they’re forced to stay at home and they don’t have the family support. Maybe they don’t want to send the kids to grandma and grandpa because they don’t want them to get sick in case their kid has it. And so I keep wondering, without all this fiscal support from the government is the natural expectation, particularly with higher energy prices, as we go into the winter, that these cash-strapped households are going to ultimately make the choice to I’ve got to buy food. We all know that’s gone up. We have to pay for energy. We know that’s gone up. As Peter, as you mentioned earlier, that rents are probably going up. So what does that leave in terms of discretionary income to spend to drive inflation?


And I kind of wonder, without their spending power, how is this going to last? And that’s my big concern is I don’t think it does. I think consumers are going to reject it. I don’t think they have the income. I don’t think the money supply is growing fast enough. And then you start looking at the dollar and interest rates and you would want to see the dollar going down. You want to see interest rates going up and we keep seeing the dollar fighting to go higher.


We keep seeing interest rates trying to press back lower, and it’s telling us that financial conditions are tight. And, of course, the Feds potentially about to taper and start to remove their support of that. And I just keep kind of shaking my head going, like, how are we going to get through the holiday season unless consumers come out and spend a big way? I’m just not convinced.


TS: Well, perfect segue into what I kind of wanted to get into next was talking about the Fed tapering. So first, because everybody’s talking about this. Do you see the Fed tapering? And if they do, how much is this going to affect inflation? And also, I know the market is saying the Fed is going to raise rates in ’22, ’23. But is this a reality at all?


How Bain uses alternative data and AI to solve business biggest problems

Richard Lichtenstein of Bain & Company joins us this week to talk about advanced analytics. What is it actually and how can companies and private equity firms use this to make better business decisions? He also shares some B2C and B2B examples and use cases. Also, what are some common barriers for companies to incorporate advanced analytics to their toolset?


Richard Lichtenstein is an expert partner at Bain & Company in New York. He has been at Bain for 17 years and he leads their efforts around advanced analytics and private equity. To get in touch with Richard, please email him at


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📈 Check out the CI Futures platform to forecast currencies, commodities, and equity indices



This QuickHit episode was recorded on September 10, 2021.


The views and opinions expressed in this Here’s how Bain uses alternative data and AI to solve businesses’ biggest problems 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.


Show Notes


TS: For people that might not be familiar with advanced analytics or what that entails, can you kind of give us an overview of what this encompasses?


RL: At Bain & Company, we have a team of over 50 people that thinks about just how can we use advanced analytics to serve private equity? And so what do all these people do?


Well, we’ve got a bunch of people scouring the world trying to find the latest and greatest and interesting data sources that we can use. And those could be B2B or B2C. And I can talk more about what those are. Right.


Then we have teams of data cleaners, because sometimes those data sources are really messy on credit card data, and they specialize in cleaning them and making them usable for analysis.


Then we have a group of data scientists who are building Python libraries that they can use to take that data and run fairly sophisticated analysis on these over and over again. So these might be looking at retention by cohort or customer lifetime value or understanding switching behavior and things of that nature.


Then we have a group that takes that output and builds ways to automatically turn that in slides or into tableau so that we can get that in front of clients quickly in a form that brings out the insights.


And then lastly, we have some people who just help other people at Bain figure out how to use all this stuff. We get about over a thousand requests a year from teams trying to figure out which tools should I use? Which data source should I use? Et cetera. And so we just have to help them figure out how to do it.


TS: Can you give us some of your use cases, maybe go into a little bit more detail?


RL: Yeah, of course. So in a way, it’s quite different for B2B and B2C, but both of them have a lot of good advanced analytics examples. If we start with B2C, in that environment, there’s a number of interesting alternative data sets that we leverage, things like credit card data, things like e-receipt data. These show us what people are buying online. Sometimes what people are buying in store, where they go. But it goes beyond some of the traditional data sources, like Nielsen and IRI, and actually shows you what customers are doing. What happens at the customer level. And that allows you to learn some really interesting things.


So, for example, we’ve done some work recently with a fast food restaurant chain. And they’re trying to figure out why are we losing share? We were able to see well among people who are going to your restaurant less often or stopped going, a lot of them were going to Chick-Fil-A. And this isn’t a restaurant that sells chicken. So they hadn’t really thought of them as a competitor. But they are. And that was news to them. Or we did similar work for a coffee chain, and they thought they were losing to McDonald’s on the low-end for coffee. But it turned out, actually, that Starbucks was also a threat to them on the high-end. That help them to figure out strategy. But for private equity investor in these companies, it tells them a lot about the business and where to go.


TS: You wrote a piece last year on like Wayfair and how they used advanced analytics to understand that it was like on the precipice of rapid growth. So what kind of other data or companies using to better understand their market?


RL: Yeah. The Wayfair analysis was really quite interesting. So it’s a great example here. So that’s. And in that case, it was understanding the customer behavior that we were seeing. This was early in COVID, right before the huge spike that we all know now happened. And we were just seeing people coming to Wayfair for the first time. We had never been there before, buying stuff. We were seeing people coming back with great retention. And we were able to observe these kinds of customer metrics at completely outside in.


And that gave our client confidence to make an investment there. One of the other ways we can use analytics there. So we’re working with, you know, another company that’s in a similar space. And so one of the things you can see with this data is because you can see what people are actually buying, you can see what they’re buying from the competition.


So, for example, you could see what are customers who like to shop on Wayfair buying at Overstock or buying a Target or IKEA. And then you could say, Well, if you’re Wayfairer, you then say, well, maybe we need to stock those products. Right. So maybe we should think of adding them. Or maybe we had a stock out on that product for a little bit. And that cost us a business. And so we need to think about our inventory.


And so you can quickly. You can quickly think about your customers differently. At the same time if you’re a brand, obviously, you can use this data to get much better analytics than you ever could about who’s buying your products. Because previously, if you’re a brand and you’re selling online, you don’t know anything about your customers. And now you can start to understand loyalty and things like that.


TS: Have you found any big issues for companies using advanced analytics like it’s hard to access data. It seems fairly sophisticated. So is there a barrier to understanding this kind of data and how it’s presented?


RL: Yeah. I mean, I would say it’s not really for the faint of heart in terms of diving into advanced analytics. If you’re an individual company or an individual private equity firm, it’s hard to really dive in to the degree that we have for a few reasons.


One is there’s a lot of data sources out there. If you go to one of these conferences, there are hundreds of these sources out there, and then there’s more even if you don’t even go to these conferences, right. There’s a lot of sources. It’s hard to figure out which ones are good, which ones really have sufficient sample size and data quality. And these sources also come and go.


Sometimes you might have a source that you really like, and sometimes they disappear or the quality degrades. And what have you. And so you need to maintain a rotating stable of sources. And you need to think a lot about sourcing them. And again, we have people whose job is just to figure that out, which is hard for an individual company to do. And then you also need armies of people to figure out how to use the data in productive ways.


Again, at Bain, we’ve set all that up, but there is a high fixed cost associated with it. And so I think it’s a little self-serving. But I think my view would be that if you’re a firm and you want to get your feet wet in this kind of data, you’re better off partnering with a company like us, like Bain & Company or someone else who’s already got all this figured out and see what insights are possible. What can I really learn doing this? How can this help me make smarter business or investing decisions?


And then once you’ve figured that out, then sort of and you got a narrower focus, then figure out how can you get that on a recurring date? Get a feed of that on a recurring basis versus trying to start from scratch.


TS: Right. That absolutely makes sense. Did you have anything else that you wanted to add to give us any broader scope of your company?


RL: Yeah. The one other thing I might mention, it’s easy to get. And I mean, I just fell into this trap. It’s easy to get sucked into the B2C examples because they’re so enticing and easy to under stand. But I do think there is a lot of exciting work and B2B that we see. And so just to give a couple of quick examples.


One, I think is around people analytics. So that’s an area that’s really come a long way in the last few years. And there’s a lot you can do outside and to understand at a company who works there, what those people do, what’s their turnover and how does that change? And that’s actually enabled a lot of interesting insights. Just to give an example that we did a recent diligence on a software company that served, did a complex sort of B2B type of software.


And the company we looked at was cloud native, and there was a legacy software provider in the space who had been there forever and was slowly developing cloud functionality.


And there was a big question of, well, how fast are they going to catch up? At the moment the cloud native company was ahead. But obviously, the question is could they maintain advantage forever? And so we just looked at the people data, and we saw that our target, the cloud company had a hundred people there and software engineers doing R&D, and the legacy company had 200 people doing it. And so I mean, you sort of figure, well, if one company’s got 200 people and one’s got 100, the 200 person, and it’s going to catch up at some point.


TS: Right.


RL: And I don’t know if it’s in a year or two years, but certainly within the holding period, you have to worry about them reaching parody. And that was not a super complicated insight, but one that had a big impact on thinking about the investment. And if you bought the company, what kind of investment in R&D is required? Just an example.


TS: I was actually I was looking at your site. What is the founder’s mentality?


RL: So that’s a great question. I mean, I will admit, I’m not the expert on founder’s mentality. That was a book that Jimmy Allen wrote. That’s a great book. And if you can get him on your show, he’s far more articulate on this than I am.


But the idea of the founder’s mentality is that, you know, founders can bring a certain sort of secret sauce to their companies and create a dynamic and innovative culture. And that once they leave, sometimes that dynamism can erode and things can become more bureaucratic and ossified. And it can be harder for companies to innovate.


And I think that that is actually, it’s interesting you mention that because this is actually something that’s come up in some of the work that I’ve been doing. One of the ways you can apply this data is in sourcing. So you can help a fund scan the ocean of companies out there and find, you know, of the millions and millions of companies, here’s a sector that’s interesting. And here’s a sub sector. And then within that here are companies that meet our specific thesis and so forth.


One type of thesis that we see sometimes is they’re interested in companies that are still led by the original founder or sometimes they’re interested in companies where the founders just left very recently. And there is an opportunity to think about the culture in a different way.


And we’ve actually built some tools that allow you to look at which companies have founders that have just recently left right. And that was something that at least the fund that we worked with on that, that was very exciting as they look for opportunities. So anyway, that’s the concept. And that’s at least how it fits into my world.


TS: I got it. It seems very interesting. And did you have anything else? We’re going to wrap this up here in a minute. So did you have anything else you wanted to add?


RL: No. I mean, I think we covered the main point. The main thing I would just say to people who are thinking about this is the world of alternative data is really exciting. And the insights that are possible today that just we’re not possible even a year ago.


So it’s really moving fast. We’re signing a new data source practically every month, at least. So it’s great. But it’s also very complicated and tricky and hard to navigate. And again, it sounds self serving. But we strongly recommend that if you’re waiting into this for the first time, you talk to people like us at Bain & Company to really understand specifically how this stuff can help, because often it’s hard to sort of just talk to a data provider. And then from that conversation, really figure out if they’re going to be the right fit. So anyway, we’re here to help, of course.


TS: If people want to contact you, how would they go about contacting you or.


RL: Sure. I mean, I’m happy to have someone reach out to me. I’m certainly here to talk to anyone who wants to think about this, how they can use alternative data. It’s is an easy way to get in touch with me. And I’m happy to talk to anyone again who wants to think about this stuff.


So thanks for the time, Tracy. Really appreciate it. And hope somebody out there who sees this gives me a call.


TS: Absolutely. Thanks again, Richard. We really appreciate everything you’ve shared with us today.


And for everyone watching, please don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel, and we look forward to seeing you on the next QuickHit.

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