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Week Ahead

The Great, Great Depression: Navigating Banking Risks, Rising Rates, & China’s Changing Global Role

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This Week Ahead features a discussion on banking systemic risk versus inflation with Hugh Hendry, Tracy Shuchart, and Albert Marko. The group covers recent events in the banking sector, including Credit Suisse and the potential risks posed to the global economy, the impact of higher interest rates on crude prices, and China’s growing diplomatic role.

To start, Hugh expresses concern over the lack of GDP per capita growth since the Great Financial Crisis and the failure of the remedial work undertaken since then, labeling the current environment as “The Great, Great Depression”. He warns that raising interest rates in this environment could be disastrous and discusses the creation of credit and the muted credit cap, as well as the contraction of the M2 series.

Hugh questions the need for central bankers and believes that the totality of credit creation should be examined. He suggests that the bond market has been more accurate in predicting rates than central banks and he notes that there are persistent trade surplus nations that create surplus capital, which is being invested in the United States, resulting in asset price inflation. He argues that the problem lies in the flow of capital rather than the currency (the US Dollar) itself.

Next, Tracy highlights how rising rates are affecting the prices of commodity cargoes. The discussion digs into the possible impact of falling cargo rates on the supply and pricing of commodities. Meanwhile, the discussion anticipates that the upcoming CPI report could inform the Fed’s expected raise of another 25bps at this month’s meeting. They also discuss the ECB’s recent 50bps raise to offset European inflation.

Finally, Albert leads a discussion about China’s shift from an aggressive “wolf warrior” foreign policy to one of a peace negotiator. The discussion explores the motivations behind China’s recent diplomatic efforts to negotiate a Saudi-Iran agreement and facilitate a Russia-Ukraine peace agreement. They also explore the position and potential level of involvement in these discussions by the United States.

Key themes:
1. Banking systemic risk vs inflation
2. Higher rates & commodity cargoes
3. China: From wolf warrior to peace negotiator?

This is the 57th 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’re joined by Hugh Hendry. I don’t think he needs an introduction, but Hugh is a founder of Eclectical and Macro, as well as being a hotelier in St. Bart’s and a lot of other things. We’ve also got Tracy Shuchart with Hilltower Resource Advisors. And we’ve got Albert Marko. Guys, thank you so much for joining us. So much has happened over the last two weeks in the banking sector and especially over the weekend with Credit Suisse. So looking forward to a lot of this discussion.

We’ve got some key themes today. The first is banking systemic risk versus inflation. As the Fed meets, and as we sort out a lot of these banking backstops, I think there’s a lot of discussion about which is more important right now. I think a lot of it is focusing on banking systemic risk panic, but we’ll talk through that with Hugh. We also want to talk about higher rates and commodity cargo prices. Tracy brought some thoughts about that earlier, I guess, over the weekend. So we want to talk through that today. And then we’ve seen China kind of come forward as kind of a negotiator for the Middle East and Russia, Ukraine and other things. And I want to talk to Albert about kind of how real is that, how much of a good faith negotiator is China in those areas?

So, Hugh, first of all, thank you so much for joining us. Hasn’t been easy to get you, and we’re really glad to have you. So we really appreciate having you here. Great. So first off, banking systemic risk versus inflation. Everybody knows the Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic and the BTFP stuff here in the US. All the Credit Suisse and UBS stuff happened over the weekend. What are you watching there? Like, what’s your biggest worry? Is it these 81 bonds? What are you focused on there?


Well, I have been focused for some time. My focus has been this impending car crash, which is now becoming more apparent perhaps to the many. And my concern had been Fed by my observation, my belief that we’ve been operating in a silent form of depression ever since the remedial work undertaken since the great financial crisis. Let’s date that to March 2009. It has been a spectacular failure. I will share with you a chart. Maybe we’ll be looking at it now. And it comes from who does it come from? I want to say I always get these names mixed up. Michael Klein. I think the wonderful economist academic works of Michael Barr, doesn’t work with Michael Pettis, but collaborated on trade wars, of political class wars. And he shows the indexing of US GDP per capita from the starting point of the Great Depression. And likewise, he superimposes a similar series for now, if you will, from that March 2009 and over the period spanning to almost 15 years us. Per capita GDP in the Great Depression went from 100 to almost 190. And this time around we’ve gone from 100 to 115. So I said silent.

We should call it the Great Great Depression that no one is allowed to speak of. We went through the pandemic environment to realize that there are some terms where there’s almost a censorship and it would seem that in US financial literature the word depression has been assigned to the past and not to the present. So raising interest rates in a Great Depression has filled me with dread and I think that is what has come to light in the last ten days or so.


So when we look at the amount of credit that’s been created since the financial crisis and kind of the payoff in terms of GDP per capita, is that one of the variables that concerns you most? I know it’s everything and I think we’re all looking at everything, but it seems to me that the payoff for every dollar of debt incurred by the government and by individuals is rapidly kind of falling down.


Yeah, I would say that the credit cap has been muted. And again, I make a distinction between sovereign dollar creation and by that I mean the dollar creation from onshore domestic US banks entering into new loan agreements and if you will, printing dollars versus the dollar creation. I would call it non sovereign, which is the Euro dollar which is taking place offshore and where with the ability to provide collateral, new dollars will be created. Now, the Fed I believe, is less interested in the latter and I believe over the last 40 years the latter, these non sovereign dollar creation have come to be really much greater than the sovereign onshore and the credit provision there has been really to fund assets and it’s funded asset price inflation. And I think market participants have been very aware that that credit spigot got turned off, let’s say 18 months ago very dramatically. So I would say it’s been contracting. And now we’re seeing I don’t like discussing the M two series because I think it takes away from this non sovereign creation, but we’re seeing that the onshore M Two series is now contracting as well. We don’t have much per capita GDP augmentation to show for for that.


Right. So so wouldn’t, after all of the creation of money in and I would say through, largely through government spending and obviously Fed balance sheet in 2000 and 22,021, isn’t this kind of a normal reaction, kind of a normal medium term reaction to that much creation and distribution of money into economies?

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Well, again, it’s kind of crossing my arms. It’s a funny money conversation.

I keep saying, I go to Starbucks and ask for a caffeine latte, and I promise to pay it in bank reserves, and they kick me out. The Silicon Valley Bank was acutely sensitive because their corporate customers are startup businesses, which are very much at the riskier end of the spectrum. And typically that bank would be funding between the last six to three months. Your cash is disappointing. You need another fundraise.

But the bank steps in and it holds you over. There was no prospect of more fundraising, so it was kind of exaggerated. But I think with the other banks, what you’re seeing is that and with Silicon, you were seeing that their assumptions with regard to operating cash flow from their client, from their clients, just was not being met. That actually the economy is weaker. That we’ve we’ve, again, within this kind of silent depression, we’ve imposed I mean, I don’t dispute we’ve imposed structurally higher prices, but without again, without the legacy of a dynamic of credit creation, which left, like, a really strong economy, which was to be tamed and to be tempered by the Federal Reserve’s oversight. To my mind, it’s been a muted economy for the real folk. If we move a kilometer or so outside the financial centers of the world, the real world just seems rather grim. And that real world is being hammered by higher rates. And again, with the prevalence of debt, I keep saying, if debt was one X GDP in the so we’re taking out decimal points, then I’d say we’re four X today. And so the Fed at 5% rates is really the Fed at 20% rates in the 70s.

If I can get away with that kind of leap and you break things and we’re breaking things, that’s been my concern. My concern is, I believe, that the depression has been fueled by Bernanke. Back in was it 2013 when we had the taper tantrum, where he encouraged the private sector to raise rates on his behalf? We had seven and a half percent adult unemployment. He was saying, Heavens, I’m beginning to worry that the economy is getting overcooked. The market doubled ten year rates. You know what? The economy hit a wall. Then we had John Yellen, tentatively, in 2015, trying to raise rates again. Why? There was never this economy which was running away. And then you had Jay, and Jay is just being determined from his first day in office to kind of be some kind of volcker guy, what was it called? The Duke of York. He marched them up to the top in 2018 and promptly had to take them down and then he came back again and finally I think I feel like particularly the American economy has been crucified on the cross of Jay’s miscommunication. During the pandemic, he explicitly said on daytime television that they were printing money.

I get why he said it. He was saying it to alleviate the real fear of that time. But it was I mean, I’m going to say it, it was a lie. And so he now owns the price, I would say. Is it causality? Is it something I don’t think the inflation that we saw is monetary. I say it was a supply side thing. I think it will abate because the monetary power will not be there to perpetuate it. But Jay couldn’t escape that. He was the guy who said I’m printing money and then you had an explosion in prices. And so they’re fighting desperately to kind of preserve or reign back their reputation. But it’s the economy and these banks and other actors which are feeling that.


Yeah, I guess so if the Fed is kind of trying to bring back in their reputation I know this seems a little bit random, but who has a better reputation? Like all central banks have terrible reputations right now. No. So are they in fact the best of the major central banks or are there other people that are more credible? ECB raised 50 basis points last meeting. So is that a credible trajectory?


There’s only one thing we know for certain that the ECB will raise rates at the wrong time.

And again, it’s like the pushback I also have is just tell me the last time any central bank made a glorious decision, you thought, gee, these guys, they got it, they got it. Maybe it was 1994 and there was a kind of preemptive hike by Greenspan maybe, but 1994 is a long time ago. So in terms of do we need central bankers? Given I mean the American central bank is the regulator of the onshore banking sector and I maintain that we should be investigating and spending a close amount of money to examine the totality of dollar creation, credit creation because I believe it’s tremendously larger outside the review of the central bank. And then finally, who does it better? Well, the inversion of the treasury curves, not just the US treasury, but it’s a global phenomenon. If you’ve seen what the German curve has been doing, especially the last really if following that huge eruption in the UK pension market when we had the fake budget or whatever, when you have an inversion, it is not the bond market telling you it’s best guess of where rates will be. They create the inversion via a desire to hedge against the expectation of negative consequences like unforeseen consequences of Federal Reserve tightening in a world of tepid demand.

And in a world of great leverage, the bond market has been spot on. Those inversions are at record levels. And again, we are seeing a record form of banks going wrong and needing record forms of financial intermediation from the central bank to fix it.


Right. So it’s interesting when you say do we need central banks? I know that’s a hypothetical question, but especially over the past week and a half, as we’ve seen the Fed come in to backstop bank runs, that’s precisely the reason why central banks were created. Is that right?

So they kind of are with this BTFD, they’re kind of doing what they were created to do. And I guess with the Swiss central bank, what they did over the weekend, they’re kind of doing what they were created to do. Although nobody loves the fact the kind of bank bailout discussion nobody loves that, but they’re kind of doing in the purest form what central banks were created to do. Is that a fair categorization.


At the tail end of the process? Yes. I don’t dispute what they’re doing. I wouldn’t ask them not to do it. Right. But I feel that especially this time around, they are the malignant force that is causing the failure in the host banks. I mean, Credit Suisse credit Suisse has been a problem that should have been addressed at least a year ago. Oh, yeah.


It surprises nobody. I mean, the fact that anybody’s surprised is surprising.


And there’s no bailout. Even if you bought the equity on Friday, I think you lost 60%. The equity lost just about everything. And of course, that spread into one of the tiers of the kind of quasi debt debt structure. So again, we accept that. The wider question is just why is it happening and why is it caught out the central banks? There’s no dispute that the central banks are responding. And I don’t take huge exception to how they’re responding. I take exception to the fact that they’ve been the custodians of a if you were to accumulate the myths in potential GDP you know this, Tony, that in the 30 years up to 2007, most kind of g seven. Economies outside the phenomenon of China were kind of compounding like 2.7%. And it’s been more like one and a half in those years since then. So the miss is now the equivalent of the entirety of the Chinese economy. It’s a big mess. I think it stems from a change in the risk seeking behavior of the horse bank supporting the euro dollar system. They had a near death experience and they’ve been regulated to bring it down.

Okay. And secondly, it’s been periodic preemptive hiking by the central bank, maybe with a noble cause, but actually ending up doing wrong. Those those two functions. I actually believe at the end of this, I think we’re I think the generational time clock where you get profound, you know, like ray Dalio talks about these things, you know, 75 years. He has different clocks, and they all have like, a variation of 25 years, give or take. But we’re in one of those variations in terms of where we look at the underlying monetary system. We had a gold standard. It failed. Great Depression. People talk about bread and woods. I think bread and woods was a kind of in between. It didn’t really work. Private banks went, this doesn’t work. Let’s work it to our ends. And I think that Eurodollar system from was it NatWest Bank in London in 1956 or something, I think that system is near its death as well. I think we’re getting to the point where we’ll have to invent a better way now that’s not to kind of come back and see the dollar is doomed. It’s actually that the system that America accepts is really no longer doing it.

It’s not an unfair advantage. It’s the opposite. You have to really question why they support it. What do I mean by that? Why they support being the recipient of the world’s surplus capital inflows? Why are the world’s capital inflows going into the US. Where they have absolutely no desire for investment beyond the domestic pool of savings? Okay? And so the result of that is we get profound asset price inflation. We turn an economy famed for its entrepreneurial ship, and we turn it into an economy of speculation. That speculation is being unwound with the advent of GDP. When debt accumulates or debt to GDP rises, then you end up there’s a danger that you’re overstating the current GDP at the expense of future GDP. And as you overstate growth, you kind of create a fictional wealth in terms of the price of property, the price of price of stock market, the price of private equity. And it’s not done through kind of sinister means. It’s a miscalculation. And the US. Now, for the last heavens, the last 25 years, we’ve had, what, three or four events within 25 years that in a normal distribution, if there is such a thing, you’d expect these things to be spread out over 70.

We got four events that you would expect to kind of come to bear over maybe 100 and 5200 years. And yet we’ve seen it within 25. It’s no longer doing the US. Any favors. And so I think ultimately the US. Will have to look to perhaps mimic China and say and put up barriers whereby you cannot be the recipient of all these surplus capital flows. I think there would be a better place for that, but that’s perhaps for another time.


That’s really interesting.


I’d like Tony. I don’t want to be the one to defend central bankers, by all means, but how much of it is political influence for central bankers to combat supply side inflation? I mean, voters in each of these countries are facing 2020 5% inflation on goods and services and the way I look at it is those politicians need to get reelected. And for them to push back on the central banks to try to do something to combat inflation is the way that I would work it.


I agree. It’s an agency to my mind, this is an agency problem and not an economics problem. I mean, it’s creating an economics problem, but it’s the agency of government. It’s the government being the principal and turning to its agent, the Federal Reserve, and saying, you guys messed up and messing up. You affect me, okay? And if you affect me, I’m really going to affect you. So do something about it. It’s mafioza. But my point is this is not an economics problem. Inflation I was saying she was going to have all my tombstone. Inflation is a monetary phenomenon, okay?


Many tombstones, not just yours. Yeah. So, Albert, what you brought up about the euro dollar kind of out kind of outlasting its use. What are your thoughts on that? I know you know the euro dollar inside and out. Can you talk us through your view on that?


The problem that I have with that argument is there’s just no alternative at the moment. And I understand what she was talking about is, yeah, maybe we should look at a different alternative. And I think I was on this podcast maybe two weeks ago where saying that theoretically the Anglo sphere could come up with a digital currency founded by the dollar and whatnot to come up with a new system. But these are all theoretical policies that I don’t know how would they work. I don’t know what it would do to the economies, how things would even transpire at that point. There’s a lot of unknowns, in my opinion. But I don’t think that the euro dollar I don’t think even Hugh believes that the euro dollar is in any danger of going away in the foreseeable future.


Right now, the Euro, if we go back 20 some years, the Euro was supposed to kind of be that offshore mechanism, but it never really worked that way. Partly because the Dutch and the German.


Different national interests tony the different national interests, different financial policies, different political interests. It just doesn’t work right.


But it’s also tony but it’s this point that Europe is founded still upon the rock of Germany, Holland, et cetera. And these are persistent trade surplus nations that create surplus capital, and that surplus capital is invested in the United States. The housing crash of 2007, 2008, the majority of mortgage credit was provided by European banks, not American banks. So again, Europe and China, Asia are less open to the flow of capital than principally the US. And the United Kingdom. I don’t believe to Alba’s point, that we have to invent a new currency. I don’t believe it has to be digital or physical or, God forbid, commodity. There just has to be a greater regulation in the conduct and behavior of trading blocks with regard to each other.


I agree. There’s a problem where Yellen is the one she’s done this before in 2013, where she drives up US. Dollar policy and hoping that capital comes back into the United States to keep asset prices elevated just purely for her own labor ideas and political leanings. So that’s something like for me, if you don’t put any controls to stop yelling and others from doing this, they’re going to just keep doing it over and over again. We’re going to be stuck in a doom loop of capital flows coming into the United States.


Okay, but that’s interesting. What you said, Albert and Hewitt, you said about almost trade flow. So it’s the flow that is the problem. It’s not necessarily the currency is that my point.


And again, there are achievable. Here we are, and we want to talk about Greta’s recent Silicon Valley, but it’s buried so deeply the underlying problem, which has been with us for at least 25 years. I want to say that the last time the kind of Charles Kindleberger handbook to a currency crisis actually worked out with the great logic of his orthodoxy, where you could monetize it was the Thai bat. And since then and what was the change, because it was the specter of China et al. Seeing the vulnerability to those Asian currencies from being so open and so those bolt fast to being effectively closed or very much controlling the money coming in. So in return, the US. Has had profound asset price inflation. Now, if you wanted to discourage that, you could put a withholding tax on treasury holdings by central banks, by foreign central bank. They already have it at custody with the New York Fed. And and I don’t believe that these institutions are like hedge funds, that they are profit seeking. They are working to a political goal and they will pay it. And if you squeeze it enough, you may actually discourage them, but at least you could impose a rent on their behavior and the disturbances that that behavior is, as we see the disturbances today, play out again.


Okay, very interesting. Okay, so we’ve gone into kind of the core of the problem. But if we go very short term because we have a Fed meeting coming up, everyone’s nervous about the systemic banking crisis or inflation, what do you think takes the priority in the next Fed meeting? Do you think the Fed stays on its trajectory? And all you guys, Tracy, Albert, Hugh, what are you guys views on this? Do you think the Fed says, hey, this banking thing scared us. We’re going to stamp pad on zero for a meeting and then we’re going to see what happens? Or do you think they proceed with 25s as they’ve been talking about and saying, hey, we put the backstop up. The Swiss central bank came in and put their backstop up. All is good with the banking crisis. Nothing to see here. We’re going to keep fighting inflation. What scenarios do you see them coming through again with a very short term mindset.


Or Tracy, forgive me, Tracy, we haven’t heard from you. Why don’t you contribute?


That’s fine. I hate having an opinion. Because everybody has an opinion.


Yes, that’s why you’re here.


Everybody’s talking. I would think they stay at 25. That said, I think that if they decided to hold, that would be great news for commodities, and the commodity markets would react very positively towards that. But I think that they’re going to stay with the 25 because they’re going to say everything’s contained, just like we’ve heard a million times before. But we’ll see.


I remember in 2007, at the beginning of the financial crisis, the early indication said, it’s a 200 billion dollar loss. We’ve got it contained. Nobody talks about this today, but it’s $200 billion. Don’t worry about it. It’s all fine. We’ve got it contained. Is it possible that we’re in one of those scenarios now where 2007, $200 billion, it’s all fine, and we just kind of keep kind of raising into this when there’s a bigger specter living out there, or do you think it’s done? Tracy?


I feel like this is not a repeat of 2008. I think it’s completely different. So I don’t want to equate it with 2008 exactly, but I feel like the rhetoric is kind of the same where everything’s contained. It’s okay. We took care of it.


Yes. Okay. Very good. Albert, what’s your view on the next Fed meeting?


You think they’re going to do 25? I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I think they should do 25. Going to zero. Pausing is, I think, a bad sign for the market. I mean, it might be bullish for a few days, but realistically, it’s not going to help solve anything to do with inflation, specifically supercore, which is what I think the Fed is. Powell has said himself is what he’s been watching, and its trajectory is going up. So I think they have to stay the course and do 25. That said, they could do zero just because this banking issue has gotten, at least in the press, out of hand, with a lot of bazookas being sent out by central banks to squash it. So we’ll see. But I hope they do 25.


So if they do zero, do you think it indirectly confirms everyone to worst fear? It’s like, oh, my gosh, they did zero.


It must be worth really bad.


Yeah. Narrative wise, that’s exactly what I would be thinking. It’s like, what’s going on? Why are they overreacting like this? So that’s exactly what I think the sentiment would be. Definitely negative over the long run.


Right, Hugh?


You’re all blinking crazy. May I remind you, for the last 15 years, the growth in per capita GDP for the average American has been catastrophic. It’s been one 6th that experienced during the Great Depression. And we’re talking about the Fed hiking rates further. I recall my trading experience, Tony, you mentioned 2007, and I always sat on big dumb leverage positions and we had northern rock go under. We had some French banks kind of have closures, but it was still modest. It wasn’t really what we’ve seen of late. And the Fed cut rate and the S and P was like pretty much at his all time high. And they won’t do anything. They’ll talk about it. They’ll express concern, boom, cut interest rates. The question is, is that an old Fed? And that may be relevant in the sense that I think the Fed should have been cutting rates six months ago. I think that the sovereign curves have been telling you that. But they’re kind of trapped again to the agency point and to the assumption, as Tracy said, hey, if they hold, can you imagine they cut, your commodities would be off to the stars and risk assets would explode.

And I think the Fed is very conscious of that. And so a Fed that should be, I think, should be cutting. Can I just say, banks have discovered that they have funding deficits. These regional banks, they’re not money center banks. They don’t have colossal sums of other instruments that they can sell off to meet liquidity needs. They have illiquid pools of mortgages to corporate America. And what you can do with that is you can package them like a CDO, these illiquid tranches, and you can offer it to the big money center banks and they’ll give you Treasuries. And then with the treasury, you into the eurodollar system and then they’ll address your funding. Now, the funding is coming I believe the funding is coming from the inflation in that everything is 15% or more expensive, but the underlying business health and revenue isn’t there. And so the corporate customers are their cash balances are coming down and down and down, creating the deficit which these banks can’t fund. Like I say, we’re in a depression. And the preoccupation is how far will the Feds raise rates? It’s going to get worse. The economic fallout, the consequences of this, like finding you remember, we have what percentage of the economy is the Frankenstein businesses that were supported by the fact that the carry was so low?

How much of the economy is the conceitful economy, which hasn’t marked the market, is I am full of angst.


But are we here partly because interest rates were kept so low for so long? I mean, that was really on some level, what was behind Silicon Valley Bank is they were holding this debt that was so far underneath the market that they couldn’t keep up with their cash needs. So is that part of the problem? If they cut rates, it puts us back into that environment?


Yeah, that is the problem. But the deeper problem again, is beg of thy neighbor policy. We’re. Missing, like I say, $15 trillion of global economic demand. And I think that’s because China et al, pures a policy of making things cheap and keeping its current. Imagine if where are we on the remembri? We’re six.




Yeah. Seven. Eight. They call it seven. It was at nine when we created NAFTA many years ago. So nine to seven in terms of appreciation, the damn thing should be at four. The Chinese should be the citizens in the household sector should be really rich, they should be buying tons of overseas products and we wouldn’t have that deficit. But again, owing to the Thai pad episode and how we’ve organized trade flows, that hasn’t happened. And so, again, that’s why the per capita GDP for the ordinary folk in the States has barely budged, which is why we’ve had to keep rates on life support. But of course, the consequence is you blow up asset prices and trying to get the two balance between the two. I don’t envy anyone that decision.


No, it’s painful. And as we see housing prices come down to earth, if that happens here in the States, that’s where most people’s wealth is based. Right. So if their portfolio is coming down a bit, if their house price is coming down a bit, there are a lot of delicate balances, delicate, say, household balances, that will be upset here in the States, if not globally. So I think you have a great point. I think it’s a really difficult dilemma. I hear people all the time talk about how dumb the guys of the Fed are. They’re not stupid people. I don’t think they’re stupid people. I think they understand the problem. I think it’s a very complex issue that they have to get out of.


Right. Yeah. Can we ask Tracy? But on oil, why is oil so weaker? And where that huge surplus has come and it’s changed the shape of the curve, there’s no demand for it. Can you speak to that?


Yeah. I think part of the problem is a lot of Russian oil is still on the market that most were anticipating. It not be. We are seeing China demand come back, but not as fast and furious as everybody had anticipated, and still kind of very soft, even though mobility data has improved significantly. Still, their demand for oil is because they were stocking it for a year in their surplus. So they have a lot of surplus. So obviously they’re going to drain that first, while oil prices are high and making deals with Russia for cheap oil. And the other part of it is that interest rates are high, and that is because when you’re talking natural resources, they’re particularly exposed to rising rates, right. Because trading houses rely on bank credit to buy, transport and store these commodities. So with higher rates, what is happening is these companies are either having to sell right away at any price because they can’t hold it like they used to and wait for a better time to sell when the price was higher or the opportunity was better. So they’re having to sell it right away for whatever price that means, which is also causing downward pressure on prices right now, realistically speaking and hearing from some of the big trading houses that they’re having to forego some trades.


Right. And so that’s stranding product with the producers. So I think that’s why we’re seeing weaker commodity prices pretty much overall.


Do you have data on the driving statistics in the continent of North America?


Yes, I do.


Am I making it up to say that here we are, so many years after the pandemic when we know that everyone was kept at home and that the mileage is not really changed much?


It really depends on the area, I think. Right. So we’re kind of still seeing more limited in, say, some of the blue states where you’re seeing a lot of uptake in some of the red states. Obviously, in the south there’s a lot more mobility, or the mobility data is a lot better. If we go and we look at TSA, I mean, TSA, we’ve been wobbling, like just above 2019, just dipping just below and then just above. So that data is still pretty strong. So that looks good. But mobility data is very regional in the United States.


And I guess with anyone shouting at the screen saying it’s the adoption of Teslas and electrical vehicles, I hear you. But the whole notion of this curse of inflation, that it doesn’t persist, or a sign that it’s unlikely to persist, is when you see changes in economic behavior where you have discretion. You cut back because you just don’t. Have the financial wherewithal to support a wallet which your wallet is not 15% higher. But the price of goods and services are 15% higher. And so maybe driving would be discretion in that sense. Anyway, thank you for that.


Yeah. On top of that, I’ve talked a lot about Spr releases timed with the Fed selling oil futures to bring down the price of oil in their mind to help combat inflation. I mean, that’s something that’s happening.




Last year for a little while. And I know that they’ve been doing it again this year. And, I mean, I heard through the grapevine that it was up to $800 million worth.


Really? So, Tracy, I thought that had come to an end. The biden policy of selling the reserves, the oil reserves.


We have the last little bit sold in December of 22, and that was from that 180,000,000 barrel release that was released throughout the year. There’s about 26 million barrels to release this year. That was scheduled back in 2015. That’s part of a whole different deal. It was part of the upgrading of the Spr, paying for the upgrades of the Spr. So that release will still happen. The thing is, traders were looking at at these prices the government was going to rebuy. Right? And so they did hold an auction on in January and they didn’t get any offers. They didn’t get any bids so they decided not to do that. And people are definitely looking at prices this low because really their target area was $68 to $72. So at these prices they were looking for the government but it looks like that’s just not going to happen because I think they are very happy with prices this low and they know if they start reflecting the spr that’s going to raise prices.


Okay great, thanks for that and Tracy, I appreciate the cargoes or the pricing and the urgency of the finance of commodity sales. How long do you expect that to last? Do you expect that to continue to last for the next couple of months or is that something that we’re just kind of in this period where things are changing really fast and it’s a relatively temporary issue?


Yeah, I think it’s a relatively temporary issue. I think really what we’re going to I still think we need a few more months to really see what Russian oil is or is not off the market. And by the way that is getting very difficult to track these days because they have their own fleets and you have a whole gray market there. But from whatever Sts satellite information that those people gather they are seeing a lot of product build up on water that’s not going to be able to be sold because February 5 is when that policy enacted with the ban on products. So I think we still need a few more months to see where that goes. I still think we need a few more months and I’ve said this for months now when China started to reopen I said I think this is not going to be like it’s going to cause commodities to skyrocket. I think it’s going to be very bumpy. I think particularly the property sector is still a mess. They’re not building anything there’s not really creating a lot of stimulus right now and they have a lot of oil stored.


So I think they’ll need to kind of work through those issues a little bit before we really see China demand take off. Maybe an H, two of the share if the whole world is not in a global depression.


Yeah I remember a few months ago I remember a few months ago talking about that when China was kind of supposed to open in Q One and there were a lot of cheerleaders saying it’s going to be a rocket ship, it’s going to take off really quickly. And I think what we talked about here was it’ll be slower than most people think and that’s come to pass right?


Yeah they’re pragmatic, they staggered their reopening. They’re making moves for the next six to twelve months on commodities. Which leads me into my section today is what they’ve done in the Middle East with brokering a deal between Iran and the Saudis. I mean, this is specifically done because the Chinese are the biggest clients of both parties. So you’re going to have to appease your biggest client and come up with some sort of truce. But it’s a short lived truce. As the Russians, the Iranians and Saudis start competing for more Chinese market share, since they are the biggest buyers on the Earth at the moment, tensions will inevitably come back up. They’ll bubble up again and this truce just doesn’t have any legs to it.


The most surprising part to me is that China just a few months ago was still under this kind of wolf warrior diplomacy kind of theme, right? Very aggressive, very direct, very unlike what I’d seen in China for decades before. And now they’ve changed really quickly to this dove policy of we’re going to negotiate peace in the Middle East, we’re going to negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine. What happened there? Why is it just easier to sell stuff in a peaceful environment than it is in war environment? Or what is it? Because they’ve been the biggest buyer of tiny crude for a while, so that’s.


Not necessarily it’s mainly to do. The United States is leaving vacuum, their newest foreign policy, leaving vacuum in the Middle East. They’ve just basically abandoned it. We abandoned Afghanistan, we’ve pretty much abandoned Africa at the moment. And the Middle East is we’re not visible at the moment. So inevitably people like China and Russia are going to sit there and go and fill the vacuum. And it’s very easy for them to leverage their purchasing power on Iran and the Saudis and say, hey, cut a deal between you two so we can keep these trade deals going. Now I think also the Saudis are leveraging their oil reserves versus the United States and say, hey, if you don’t become a little bit more friendly with us in the defense sector and start pushing back on the Iranian nuclear aspirations, we’re going to cut deals with China. And I mean, I would do the same thing, to be honest with you.


So why this may sound like a stupid question, but why doesn’t the US come alongside these discussions and say, hey, it’s peace, let’s negotiate. Let’s get involved with this and support it? Why would the US. Not do that?


Well, it’s much more complex to say, let’s just have peace. I mean, the Iranians and the Saudis absolutely despise each other. The Israelis are also a major lobbying group in the United States. They certainly don’t want to see Iran benefit financially over this and push that right into their nuclear program. So there’s a lot of moving parts at the moment. And specifically when you talked about Russia and the Ukraine brokering peace there, the reality is the Russians are not going to leave their annexed areas and the Ukrainians are not going to accept that at best, you can get to a status quo, as we were a few years ago. But in terms of peace deals, it’s just not realistic.


But over the weekend, didn’t the White House come out and say, ukraine is a sovereign nation, but basically we won’t let them negotiate a peace deal with Russia right now? There was something like that that came out over the weekend. So how can the White House supposedly recognize Ukraine as a sovereign nation, but also not allow Ukraine to negotiate a peace deal? That doesn’t really make sense.


Ukraine’s defense is completely based on US. Armaments at the moment. So of course they can use that as leverage. And, I mean, the United States loves specifically the Biden administration loves to have Putin as a scapegoat for inflation. The moment the Russians marched in there, the term Putin price hikes came out and all over the news. It’s just one of those things where politics has reared its ugly head trying to influence economics. And here we are.


Great. Okay, so let’s take a quick look at what we expect, say, this week or the week ahead. What are you guys looking for? Tracy, we’ve seen crude way down over the past two sessions. What do you expect to happen in energy? Is this likely to continue with crude continuing downward, or is this very temporary?


I think it is a temporary move. I mean, if you look at this, even though we have some softer demand, we are heading into higher demand season. Right. And so, again, there’s a lot of recession fears right now, too.




So that reared its ugly head again, because of all of the banking crisis. And you also had a lot of what we saw, too, is when US treasuries spiked, right? Because everybody was short spiked. There were a lot of margin calls. And so it was kind of sell what you have to. Oil been sideways for three months, and so sell what you have to. And so I think that was part of that initial push down just from the price action, because we’ve seen that before. But I think it’s going to take a couple of months to digest all of this, to see where we’re at. Let’s see what the Fed does decide to do. Again, if the Fed decides to do nothing, commodities would love that, right? Yeah, they could.


Love it. Everyone would love it.


I’m not sure I’d love it. I’m not sure I’d love it. And I’m not sure commodities would fly. When you say the Fed does nothing, the Fed sits at 5% rates. Or if we’re in the 1970s, the Fed sits there content with rates at 20%. I think oil has done something extraordinary. I mean, from the high tick with the Ukrainian invasion. I mean, oil the oil price is halved. I mean, oil is trading at levels prevailing 2004. That’s extraordinary. And it speaks more, I think, again, to my notion of this silent depression, an aggressive tightening of policy which is appropriate for asset price inflation, but is sheer misery for the ordinary folk.


I’m actually looking for a 25 basis point rate hike just to agitate you. But I agree with actually, I agree with you. I think that the Fed needs to actually cut rates if you want to see commodities start going these sky high parabolic moves again. And I don’t think we’re close to that at the moment. I do think that a pause would push commodity prices up, but I don’t think it would go parabolic like it did before.


Oh, yeah, definitely it would be parabolic.




Of course, if I was to talk my book, I want the Fed I want them being ECB. Like, I have to be cautious of how I say this because I don’t want them doing malevolent things to ordinary folk. But if I was to top my book, I’m really very enamored, very long of the very long end of the treasury curve. Because, again, to repeat myself, broken record depression in terms of price, if we ignore the Carry On Treasuries, which is, again, you could say fanciful, but we’ve wiped out 20 years of price performance, which is to say you’ve had profound mean reversion. And so I do like mean reversion events in terms of global asset. I don’t like mean reversion for individual stocks or individual kind of eclectic risk positions. But the generic give me something trading at the 20 years. So to my mind, where the treasury bond trades, where the inversions are trading, is that most likely we have for the curves to be correct? They’re really imagining a situation where the Fed could rapidly unwind like it did from September 2007 from five and a quarters to terminal of zero. Not a terminal five and a half, six or terminal of zero.


And so you’ve got to think, how do you get to a terminal of zero? Well, you get there by inflicting, again, just a colossal deadweight cost of economic pain on the economy. So you can conspire how that would come about from this intellectual reputation or agency trap where they’re just forced to continue with hiking.


Yes. Over the next week. What are you looking at here? What are you looking in the very short term? What are you paying attention to in the very short term?


You don’t want to know.


Oh, I do.


My insights for these markets come from not watching them a great deal. I mean, I’m heading to the most outrageous party in Paris on Wednesday, thursday night. I’ll restock maybe Monday on the West Coast, next week in the US, and we’ll see what’s happened. If I had to guess, I’d expect there’s a huge desire to buy the markets here. The fed’s done something. We’ve even resolved the long standing corpse of Credit Suisse. You look at the equity market, it’s not really indicative of any great danger. The commodities. I mean, yes, I was talking about oil, but the commodity complex, it’s not kind of signaling any profound falling off a cliff. There’s just been a profound revision, I think, coming from hedging activities at the very short end of the treasury curve. Even the long end of treasury curve, it’s not really done anything. So the notion, I think and I was speaking to friends who manage risk, and they’re all agitating, and we were looking at banks. If you look at Irish listed banking securities, they’re way above where they were trading september, October last year. They’ve had a pullback for certain, but they don’t look whole.


So I think the presumption is still going to be to feed and come back and try and chase a rally higher. That would be my guess.


Very good, guys. Thank you so much. This has been a fantastic discussion. Hugh, I’m glad we can keep up with you. Really good kind of long term views, and I really appreciate your perspective. Tracy, Albert, as always, thank you so much for your time, guys. Really appreciate it. Have a great weekend. And you have a great time at that party in there, right?


Nice white shot.

Week Ahead

FTX, crude & crypto, CPI & inflation: The Week Ahead – 14 Nov 2022

Emma Muhleman, Boris Ryvkin, and Albert Marko join us for this Week Ahead episode. We talk about FTX and why it happened. FTX transferred about $8 billion of customer deposits to a trading arm called Alameda, and they lost it. FTX was assumed to be a regulated institution. It wasn’t. So customer deposits evaporated. There was a desperate attempt to merge with Binance. That didn’t happen. FTX filed Chapter 11 on Friday, and then Sam Bankman-Fried apologized as if that just absolves him and makes everything better.

Albert, Emma, and Boris help us understand what happened here and what it means not just for FTX executives, but for markets in the week ahead.

We also saw some selling in crude markets as FTX collapsed. Emma talks us through that and tells us how long the crypto unwinds will impact commodity markets.

Based on the market reaction to Thursday’s CPI print, you may think inflation is solved. CPI seemed to override FTX worries and there was this huge sigh of relief in markets. Not so fast. Boris, Emma, and Albert talk us through the CPI print and where we’re seeing persistent inflation (diesel, food, etc). Will the Feds raise by 50 in December followed by some 25s? How will this affect layoffs across the economy?

This is the 41st 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 panel on Twitter:


Tony Nash: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. Today we’re joined by Emma Muhleman. She’s a macro strategist and if you don’t know her, you’re not on social media. We’re also joined by Boris Ryvkin. He’s with Montefly Holdings. He’s also a former M&A attorney with Skadden and a bunch of law firms, and he was National Security Advisor in Capitol Hill. And Boris has an amazing perspective on macro, on history, on markets. It’s really great to have both of you guys. And we have Albert Marko. You guys know Albert. So it’s just great to have you guys. Thanks so much for being here.

Before we get started, I’m going to take 30 seconds on CI Futures. Our core subscription product. CI Futures is a machine learning platform where we forecast market and economic variables. We forecast currencies, commodities, equity indices. Every week markets closed, we automatically download that data, have trillions of calculations, have new forecasts up for you Monday morning. We show you our error. You understand the risk associated with using our data. I don’t know if anybody else in the market who shows you their forecast there. We also forecast about 2000 economic variables for the top 50 economies globally, and that is reforecast every month.

So we had a lot going on this week, particularly kind of in the second half of the week with FTX. Unless you’ve been kind of on vacation or away, you probably know about this already, but I’ll recap a little bit. 

FTX transferred, I think, something like $8 billion of customer deposits to a trading arm, Cart Alameda, and they lost it. FTX was assumed to be a regulated institution. It wasn’t. So the customer deposits evaporated. 

There was a desperate attempt to merge with Binance. That didn’t happen. FTX filed Chapter 11 on Friday, and then Sam Bankman-Fried apologized. We’ve got his tweet from Thursday on the screen. He sent another apology out today. And if that just absolves him and makes everything better. 

So, Albert, I know you’re a huge fan of crypto, so can you help us understand kind of what happened here? And really, what does it mean not just for Sam, but what does it mean kind of for markets going into next week?

Albert Marko: Well, for Sam, you can look at my shirt. That’s I purpose wore stripes, because that’s where he needs to go to. He needs to go to prison. The crypto space has been just littered with fraud. I mean, just incredible fraud. This guy had the nerve to go up into Congress and talk about transparency and central banks are illiquid and there’s no transparency.

Meanwhile, he’s taking customer deposits, not only just setting it to Alameda, right. But then now there’s a political component of it because he was spreading it around to super PACs for the Democratic, for Democrats.

This is a bigger story than people are alluding onto. On top of that, you had a bunch of Republicans come out and say, why was Gary Gesler helping him get through loopholes in the system?

TN: Was that actually happening? Because I saw that gossip on Twitter, but I’m just not sure if that was actually happening.

AM: Well, yeah, this is political season, so I’m not sure if it actually happened. But you don’t just come say something like that, right? You don’t just make those kind of accusations out of nowhere.

So there’s definitely going to be congressional hearings on this. SBF could be in jail at some point in time.

Concerns of where the customer’s money is. This is not funny. As much as I just absolutely despise crypto, this is not funny when you take people’s hard earned money and put it into different outfits without

any transparency whatsoever.

TN: I hear a lot of comparisons of this to Corzine from, like, 15 years ago. Are there similarities between what Jon Corzine did and what Sam did?

AM: That’s a really good question. I don’t think I can really answer that because we know exactly what FTX actually did with all these funds, where they’re at. Because there are stories that there’s penthouses and condos all over the Bahamas and the Caribbean that they can’t even touch yet. We’d have to find out a little bit more detail of what went on, what transpired into FTX.

Emma Muhleman: Because a lot of the deposits don’t invest in them in illiquid private equity investments, including VC funds that were invested in FTX.

AM: Like Sequoia put in a little bit of money and then they get 500 million back.

EM: Sequoia put in like $420 million that they wrote down to zero.

TN: And they got 500 back? It’s a great deal.

Boris Ryvkin: What was interesting was that Kevin O’Leary, he had a Jim Cramer moment with FTX. He said, if there’s one place where I could feel totally safe and fine, it’s FTX, apparently, because he was confident in their compliance capabilities. Because apparently the CEO was like his parents were like compliance lawyers or something. And he’s probably that’s not one of Mr. Wonderful’s more wonderful calls, I think.

AM: Well, when your parents are compliance lawyers, it just means that they’re going to teach them how not to be compliant and not get caught. That’s what happens when that occurs.

TN: Okay, so what does this mean for crypto generally? I know you’ve been not been a crypto fan for a long, long time. So is this an FTX issue or is this a crypto issue?

AM: This is a crypto issue. This ruins the credibility of any crypto that’s even valid in people’s eyes at the moment. Even Bitcoin is the 800 pound gorilla. There’s other cryptos that are trying to be stable and compliant and everything, and it kills. 

TN: Do you know how many crypto pages we’re going to get in the comments to this?

AM: I bring it on because I’ve been telling these people for years that the space has been just a positive scheme after another.

TN: So does this permanently kind of impair crypto, or do you think there’s a time that two or three months from now, everyone forgets about it and people are back in and crypto is back on?

I just think that the crypto excitement is so persistent that I’m just not sure that this hurts it for the long time. They haven’t had that moment yet.

AM: No, not yet. It doesn’t hurt it. Actually, I want to say it actually kind of makes it better because it is weeding out the real problems and showing the problems that are in the space. 

But the bigger problem that they have now is one side of credibility is getting retail money into the space. Retail money is just not going to get into the space, and even institutional money is going to have to think ten times more about getting an investment in the future.

TN: So what was it, thanksgiving of 2019, I think, when all the retail money went into the space Something like that, right? We got Thanksgiving coming up here in the States, and we’re probably not going to have the same effect this year.

AM: Oh, God, no.

TN: Are there any other players, do you think, that are likely to fail as spectacularly as FTX has failed?

AM: I don’t think so. At this point, I think that the FCC is going to have to really crack down on the entire crypto space and really force these guys to be compliant with, your know your customer rules and whatnot. So that’s something, actually, Boris could talk about, but I think they’re going to have to do something drastic here with the whole space.

TN: Boris, I guess from a legal perspective, how much do these guys have to worry? Do you think Sam can get away with this?

BR: I just don’t. No, I don’t. I think that, you know, the issue, of course, is just going to be the chain of ownership, first of all, of all, these shell companies. Where’s the money? Where did the money go? Because the money’s gone. I think it was something I know that there were a lot of jokes. He went from 16 billion net worth to a dollar, and he can’t afford his verification badge on Twitter now.

I think there was specifically because he’s now requesting, what, 94 billion as a rescue package. Once you’re already, and today he officially announced today was that they were filing for Chapter Eleven. So that was the official name today after requesting 94 billion, which was already I mean, when you’re already at that point, it means that nobody’s keeping the book.

So first of all, just in terms of any kind of account, whoever the accountant is, if there even was an accountant tied to this, whoever was signing off on this needs to worry a great deal. It’s not just Sarbanes Oxley and everything related to that, but it’s just simply who are these accountants and who was actually keeping these books? Because these numbers that were being thrown out, putting aside that it was impossible for him to get any kind of rescue package that quickly. But that number, it’s a number that is simply not credible.

TN: I’m going to get really boring on you for a second. Most companies have a DOA delegation of authority, right? And so I would think that to transfer $8 billion, the delegation of authority would go up to the board level. Is that fair to say?

BR: Well, I mean, it should, because again, it depends how these companies are actually managed, right? Because these could be not under US law managed, board managed, or there could be LLCs involved here which are member managed or have separate managers or what have you. It should go to the board level. 

And in any event, you should have the senior management sign off on the accounts, not just the account. Even though that’s the position with public companies now since Starbucks and everything else. But even when it comes to private companies, to have for sufficient transparency, to really have investors comfort, you would need to have that chain of control.

So the DOA would have to come depending on who actually the board would have to authorize the management to give the DOA either broadly upfront or specifically for a specific transaction as it would happen. 

TN: Because of $8 million, that’s still a fair bit of money, right?

EM: There were several acquisitions that he made that were private companies with the tune of over a billion each. So I guess you got like two $1.5 billion private investment, 500 million here. So I guess that’s how that all works out.

TN: You would guess that those have to have board approval at some point, I would think.

BR: I’ve done in the past very discreet deals where it’s sort of like, we’ve already transferred 100 million for this property. Please paper all of that over retroactively.

I’m sure that that’s what happened here. In other words, there was a lot of money moving around, nobody papered over what they needed to paper over. And I would be surprised if there’s  actually a chain where all of the documentation that was needed at each stage of the transfer was actually put in place.

I’m certain that money just moved around all over the place, which makes it now very hard to track because there’s going to be a very limited paper trail to find,  which is going to be a problem for him and everybody who’s authorized per the corporate documents of these companies for having to move the money around. So it’s going to be multiple levels of potential liability.

TN: Okay, so I would guess also that everyone in every crypto company is probably also coming up with their policies, if they didn’t have them already.

BR: So what are the investors are going to start calling to talk major policies. But I think the bigger issue, and Albert sort of touched on this, is the fact that this is an exchange, fundamentally. 

So the issue isn’t we’re talking about Bitcoin as a currency, but if you can’t trust one of the largest exchanges and I forgot that was it, it wasn’t Coinbase, it was one of the others that pulled out of an attempt to that’s a last minute shotgun. Binance. And that has a second and third order effect. So not only did this huge exchange fail, it was such a disaster that the Binance, which is one of the more credible exchanges like Coinbase and what have you, just simply said, you know, this is beyond saving.

So it could really have a cascade effect. I know some are calling it the Lehman moment for crypto, although Albert would say there have already been five or six of those. 

TN: Right, well, and before we get too critical of FTX as an exchange, let’s look at the LME and the credibility of kind of traditional exchanges. So, I mean, it’s easy to point the finger at crypto exchanges, but the LME has done some pretty screwy stuff over the years. So I think we need to be really careful

of just saying, well, I know you didn’t say this Boris, but crypto exchanges do screw things. Other exchanges do screw things as well.

EM: might I mention, though, with the LME, they are now under the control of the Communist Party of China via HVX. Great. Who is running the show? Real competent folks at the CCP. Binance is even shiftier if you ask me, but we’ll see.

TN: Speaking of markets and crypto, Emma, can we talk a little bit about kind of markets and correlations? How are we seeing this crypto activity and how do we expect this crypto activity to kind of flow through into other markets, equities, commodities, other things? Obviously it didn’t hit equities yesterday and today, but it seemed to be hitting earlier in the week. 

EM: Yeah, just as it was all falling apart, we saw a big risk off move in equities. We saw the Nasdaq coming down, we saw some weakness in oil that may have not had anything to do with the

fundamentals in the oil market. I would venture to guess or argue that it had more to do with the FTX sell off because there were several companies, including pension funds, that had significant exposures in FTX. So that oil related selling around the time that FTX all this broke. It may not have to do with the report, this actual EA report.

TN: So I’ve got a graphic from Tracy’s newsletter earlier this week where she talks about the funds and the investors that were deleveraging in oil because of FTX. BlackRock, Ontario Pension Fund, Sequoia, Tiger Global, et cetera, et cetera.

So there were some big players impacted by this and I can’t believe that it just impacted oil. I also have a hard time believing that it was a one time, say, 48 hours event.

EM: Yeah, I would think that. Not having done any diligence for a pension fund, Ontario Pension Fund,

like for BlackRock. I mean, I don’t want to call out too many names. We all know what SoftBank is about. They were intimately involved. There’s going to be a lot of problems and a lot of spillover that we’ll just have to wait.

TN: At the end of the day, I hate to say “only”, but in terms of global fund flows, it’s only $8 billion of retail money that was lost. It’s I say “only”, but, you know, it’s not a huge amount in terms of flows, but I just don’t know how much is in these funds themselves.

AM: Yeah, you don’t know how much the funds have lost and what they’re trying to make up and like yeah, sure, 8 billion doesn’t sound a lot, but in a market that’s so illiquid with a lot of these funds blowing up right now, it can be a lot. You don’t know what they’ve leveraged off of it.

EM: And what they might be being forced to sell as a result.

TN: So we probably haven’t seen the end of that. Fair to say?

EM: We’ll see a long restructuring or not restructuring Chapter Eleven. Not a restructuring, but a liquidation. 

TN: Yeah, it’ll be liquidation.

AM: Discovery will be fun. See where all this money went to.

TN: Great, that’d be great. Okay, perfect. Anything else on markets and FTX and crypto? Are we looking at is this impacting, say, European markets or Asian markets? Since crypto has been so big in Asia, are we seeing impacts in Asian markets, like in China?

AM: I don’t think so. I think that’s really Binance’s territory at the moment. Right now, I think FTX was solely the US and Western Europe.

EM: I would think you would see an impact on Japanese investors as well, who own a lot. But just like, not the kind that puts out life insurance companies or puts you a lot of business, but more like retail investors getting screwed.

AM: retail investors have just been taking it on the chin for the last 18 months. It doesn’t stop. 30 years.

BR: Except for Warren Buffett and those who invest with him because yet again, everyone’s underwater, he’s up like 2.3%.

TN: Boris, say, can you talk us through the CPI print this week? Because it seems like CPI, the rate of rise of CPI slowed. CPI didn’t slow, but the rate of rise of CPI slowed. And so it feels like it kind of overrode the FTX worries and there was this huge cyber relief in markets for the past couple of days that we’ve kind of conquered inflation. And the Feds only going to raise by 50 in December, and then after

that we have some 25s. What’s your sense of that? Do you feel like kind of inflation is conquered? Is that base effects? Is that kind of core inflation coming down? What does that seem like to you?

BR: Yeah, I don’t think that it’s conquered. I mean, what’s interesting to me is sort of the degree to which all that matters is what the Fed may or may not do and trying to price in factional differences within the Fed. That’s how granular it’s now become. Because I think the markets were waiting for any reason, anything, to cling onto for Powell to reverse course and to after his very hawkish last meeting, where he said, ignore all of the pivot talk.

Essentially, you know, we’re going to continue to do this as effectively as long as it takes to see a sustained reduction in inflation over that’s defined. So he essentially was very angry and Albert and I were talking about this as well, that he was very angry by some of the Pivot talk from brainer than some other people yelling, was saying certain things. It looked like some of the more devastated member. And then Powell comes out and basically says, I don’t know what you’ve heard about any Pivot talk, we’re going to stay the course until we see more evidence of multi quarter reductions and declines in inflation. 

But it looked like the market really was desperate to find a reason to not believe them and to hope that anything that might persuade him to in other words, the market is looking for anything to latch onto to have a pivot, even if we don’t actually get one.

So initially it was the official position, if you were even to read the kind of the superficial financial media was they were worried if we focused on the red wave, that was what was going to get the relief rally. Then we forgot about what was happening with the midterms. And now we have this softer inflation report that as you said, to slowed the rate while most of the slowdown was because of on energy, used cars and a couple of these other, in my view, short term fluctuations which are, I mean, to the extent that CPI has already been massaged to death. 

Obviously the listeners of this podcast of course know that very well. If we measure inflation how it used to be measured from the 1970s on, we’d be in double digits. I mean, that’s just a fact. So taking even to the extent that they were able to massage it, what I saw here was the market latching onto the top line figure, hoping that this would block the Fed into doing what the markets want the Fed to do, rather than actually looking at what’s happening to the core and actually looking below the hood and the underlying trend.

That’s what I’m seeing. You also can’t have to take into account biden’s political depletion of strategic petroleum reserve. You have to take into account the unseasonably milder sort of late fall that we’ve been having, I think that’s been having an impact on natural gas prices which have this very sharp decline and now have rebounded a little bit. 

Certainly that’s coming out of Europe as well, but I’m not seeing anything fundamental that would actually allow us to conclude peak inflation and sustained reduction inflation has been achieved. So I’m not saying that when it comes to energy, I’m not seeing that when it comes to food, I’m not saying that. I mean, the housing market is not doing well. I’m not seeing any fundamental changes in the housing market. Really. This to me seems like a short term story and the market overreact, in.

TN: My view at least, this is that’s great. So I’ve got on screen Sam’s from Sam Rines newsletter, the core CPI and all CPI items, just showing a bit of turnover there. So it could be encouraging to people who like lines. Right.

But if we look at the target rate probabilities for the Fed, which is the second item on the screen, it does look like we have from a 4.5 almost to a 5.5 target rate.

So that shows there may be ongoing tightening, say maybe into Q one, if we don’t see a dramatic continued decline in the rate of rise of inflation. Is that fair to say?

BR: Yeah, I think so. I think that it seems that the growing chorus is shifting from do what continue as long as it takes to fear of overtightening, at least outside of Powell and maybe one or two other people. And Albert really, I think, is the resident expert on FOMC, inside of baseball on that and sort of thinking, et cetera. 

But once that rhetoric shifts to fear of overtightening, that tells me that they’re looking for any excuse to stop and to begin moving back. And that will just bring the inflation genie back out. Because again, these policies are being set by people who don’t fundamentally understand what inflation is and isn’t and what’s causing the inflation. So they’re looking at the wrong things still, in my opinion. 

So none of the fundamentals that I’m seeing, as I said, that would really drive a sustained reduction in inflation have changed in that direction. And once if they do decide, as you said, Tony, if they do continue to tighten into the first quarter and then decide to do a sharp 180, that’s going to just bring everything back, if not make the situation even worse. 

So they’re in a very difficult position and I think, as I said, there’s a lot of political pressure for them to move back, especially given what’s happening with these midterms, certainly on the part of Yellen and the bike administration. But I think maybe Albert can also chime in.

TN: Let’s talk about the Yellen Fed factor and also since she’s a labor economist, Albert, let’s wrap some of these layoffs that happened this week into that discussion.

AM: How coincidental that these layoffs come right after Midterms and after Yellen has done everything in her power to keep equities up so they don’t have to have layoffs until now. Well, now all the layoffs are coming. Like we’ve talked before, they’ll do this right before Christmas. 

But also on the CPI and the inflation front, there are two glaring problems that they’re staring at the moment right now. How’s y’all going to deal with the Chinese reopening in March? Because that’s going to be really announced in February. They did a little bit about real estate today. They talked a little bit about real estate supporting the real estate market. And every Chinese name that was on my screen was up by 7%.

And then you talk about oil and then we have a big diesel shortage in New England at the moment and it’s leaking down all the way into the Southeast. And those are just going to add to costs across the board. And I don’t think that they understand how bad inflation can really get. They can only suppress it for so long with SPR releases and whatnot. But it’s coming to a head and I don’t think that Paul is going to be able to release. I think he’s going to have to do another 75 again.

EM: The thing that’s just disturbing to me about that is that, like, for instance, we are going to have a serious diesel shortage coming here currently and it’s only getting worse. Powell cannot fix that problem. So let’s just shoot the consumers even more like his policies. They’re not helping. Unless you want to completely destroy the economy and have a complete disaster blow up with Deleveraging and the whole shebang.

TN: Default rate in auto loans this week. Right. I can’t remember the percentage of people who were two months behind in auto loans.

AM: Skyrocketing wastelouses start kicking into that, too. Started kicking in. But just to touch on what Emo is saying about Powell trying to kick the teeth into the consumers from his perspective, he’s trying to do the right things, but he’s just not getting any help from yelling or other members coming out there talking about pivots.

TN: What would that look like? Help from Yellen. What would that look like?

AM: Well, she can drive the dollar down to Dixie. That rallies the markets pretty easily.

EM: Well, he doesn’t want a market rally, right? She can help.

AM: Powell does not want a market rally. Brainer and yelling did want to market rally for the midterms. So this is the problem that they have. There’s a civil war within the Fed and treasury that is just making these policies look even stupider than usual. And I know Powell is going to get the brunt of it because he’s the Fed chair, but he only has two other members that are on his side. The rest of them are against them. So he doesn’t really have much of a choice. He’s going to have to do 75 in December.

TN: Well you say he’s going to have to do 75 in December.

AM: He’s going to have to do 75 because we have a CPI print coming out December 14. It’s probably not going to be as nicely massaged as this one was. And on top of that he’s running out of time because the Chinese look like they’re going to stimulate in February, March.

TN: Yeah, you’re right. I agree with the timing on China opening and Chinese stimulus in the meantime is going to be really ugly in China. Do you think that it’s possible that there’s some sort of regulatory relief especially for energy that allows, eventually allows more US. Supply, this sort of thing? Or are we too far down that path with the current administration?

AM: Me and Boris are bred from DCP, the Beltway guys, we’ll just laugh at anyone with the notion that think that anything is going to get done legislatively in the next two years.

TN: Okay, but nothing getting done legislatively is not terrible, right? At least we know the rules of the game and their content.

AM: Yeah, it’s not if there wasn’t problems but there’s glaring problems everywhere and things need to get fixed. So you need something from progress.

TN: Okay, let me throw this out to you guys. We have seen a little bit of move on CPI, whether it manipulated or not. We all kind of know it’s always in there a little bit. But what’s the timing on inflation coming back into a reasonable area? Let’s say five to six, I don’t know. Are we a year, two, three years from that, six months from now? What do you guys think? Emma, what do you think?

EM: If we’re ignoring energy and then we’re ignoring fertilizer prices and food prices, we’re looking at goods, those we may see services come down and wait the wage issue come down a little bit. Just like we’ve seen with auto delinquencies, used cars, these sort of things. You see numbers starting to roll over as demand destruction and liquidity has been pulled. 

But I think you’re going to see the opposite in energy and you’re going to see diesel shortages which pushes goods prices up. Right. If every trucker in the nation has to spend a time for every time they fill up with diesel and they can’t even fill up enough, then there’s going to be not only a shortage of goods but goods prices will less go up. 

I don’t see how we fix that situation. We only have extra finding capacity. It takes like 30 years to build a new one so I don’t see how that gets fixed. So that’s something that really looks like it would push inflation upwards. So if we add all that together, I’d say we’re going to have a problem with inflation for good at least another year if we include energy and food.

TN: OK, let me ask this. That’s a great answer. Let me ask this divorce, because I know I’m going to get an answer that doesn’t agree with what I think is there pressure to broker a Russia Ukraine piece? And if that happened, would that alleviate some of these diesel price issues?

BR: I think that there is. I know that Orban, for example, and Erdogan met and basically said to Zelensky’s, time to use this window of opportunity to start negotiating. So they liberated Kirstan today, which was.

They liberated Kirsten today, which was the one major city that the Russians were able to occupy and they were offensive earlier the year. So this is kind of a huge move with the Russians on the back foot. And these are people who are everyone is playing all sides. 

And Orban, of course, is more kind of the one European leader that’s closest to Putin major leader. But I don’t think that the US is. I know that there was some discussion from the Biden administration about don’t be so categorical about Zelensky, about saying you’re not going to negotiate with Putin. It’s irritating African countries, South America, et cetera. 

You have to start taking advantage. I don’t think there’s any pressure and will be in the near term, and especially after these midterm results, I think that the risk of any major, immediate cutoffs in military economic aid from the US to Ukraine are going to be somewhat subdued now, given the kind of the risk from right and left. So I don’t think there’s going to be any nearterm pressure on the Ukrainians right now to start looking at essentially trading land for some kind of an intermediate piece.

But as a side issue, there was some in terms of alleviating the diesel and the gas problems, especially in Europe, there was some discussion about Erdogan purchasing Russian gas at a discount and essentially creating an alternative for the Europeans through that pipeline that was being built basically through the Black Sea, et cetera. 

And there was a lot of kind of talk in the US and some European capitals like Erdogan is going to save us because he’s playing everybody and he’s going to create a new gas hub in Turkey, as he declared with the Russian gas. What he’s actually going to do, and Albert and I were talking about this too, in my opinion, is because of Turkish elections next year, he’s going to keep the discounted gas, sell it at home, domestically cheaply, in order to drum up support for his reelection next year. He’s not going to resell that to the European. 

So that life raft is not going to be sailing. So therefore, I think that unless there is some relief from the weather, I’m not seeing any, because I know that at that moment, because the weather was unseasonably warm to a large extent, you have this natural gas flood in Europe now, which has driven down natural gas price, at least in the short term.

Dutch and et cetera, the benchmark. But I don’t think that’s necessarily going to sustain. I think we could have a colder winter and Erdaman is not going to provide that relief. I know the Ukrainians are looking at alternatives themselves, but the Ukrainian economy doesn’t exist anymore, really. 

Right now, we’re basically balancing their budget through direct cash transfers at the moment. I think it’s only going to be bad news and it will reinforce what Emma has said about her predictions about the diesel shortage and about just energy in general and how that would impact inflationary changes. So I’m not seeing any major improvement. 

And also, in terms of the broader discussion on inflation, I also agree that, again, kind of what I said before to dovetail off of that, like, none of the fundamentals to reduce inflation have improved, have changed markedly. So we could be, it’s really, to me, a risk tolerance for recession on the part of the Fed. 

When will the Fed decide that if they’ve given up on a soft landing, then we’re going to have one projection in terms of when inflation is going to start coming down dramatically. If they still are insisting on the fantasy of a soft landing, then there will come a point where they might decide.

Regardless of what happens with inflation, recession is a much bigger problem. And we’re going to have to, sooner than we had hoped, begin to pivot, which is probably not something that Powell would want to do, but that’s a recession versus a soft landing versus hard landing balancing act that they’re, I think, going to have to perform over the next couple of quarters. 

And I think that’s sort of their near term focus and to kind of close that point off. Right. I mean, I think that the layoffs and I mean, the fundamentals are cooling, the economy is slowing. We’re seeing that with the layoffs, the housing market is going to get worse, in my opinion. Oh, yeah, it’s a disaster.

TN: Look at the MBS holdings at the Fed. They’ve just started to tighten them. They’ve just started. Right.

BR: But then you also have to take we talked about you said auto defaults for auto loans. What about credit card debt, consumer credit card debt? And also, what about the leverage that’s on the books of these companies? Why is the tech, which is tech at the tip of the spear? Why are we seeing all of them down 70%, 60, 70% on the year? Why are we seeing the layoffs hit tech massively? First, because they grew too much too quickly and are over level.

EM: They did refinance in 2021 when they had a chance. So they’ve got like a couple of years.

BR: I don’t know who’s advising Zuckerberg here and his colleagues. I think what we’re going to do is we’re not going to refinance, we’re going to double down on Meta, which we don’t really know what to do with and we’re going to double up on the head count dealing with Meta, on the Metaverse thing, that isn’t getting adopted the way that we would want it adopted. It’s like everything, every mistake that could possibly have been made from the financing to the head count to the rollout, and that’s happening across the tech sector, but we’re financing.

TN: Would you have done differently? I would have taken on all that too, because it was fun. I’m kidding. But I actually think that there are more rounds of layoffs in tech coming. I don’t think this is the only round. I think that in the auto sector, tony and auto and other guys. 

So I think I was in Silicon Valley in 1998 to 2001. I know that’s ancient history, but my company went through six rounds of layoffs. I didn’t know when I say my company, the company I worked for, they went through six rounds of layoffs. 

So I think all these stories about people at Meta thinking they were going to dodge it and all this stuff, I don’t think that I don’t think this is the only one. I think they’re going to have to do more in three to four months. 

I think you’re going to see more companies bandwagon on top of this to say, hey, Meta is doing it and Stripes done it and all these other guys are doing it. So let’s use this opportunity to become more productive and we’re going to see a flood of these before the end of the year. Just a flood. I think the tech sector is going to be wrecked in terms of employment.

AM: Oh, yeah, without question. Even going back to your previous point about the Ukrainians and the Russians getting some kind of peace agreement, even if they did, that would solve the diesel problem overnight.

Even if they did that today, it would take a year, maybe 18 months until all that got rolling in again if they looked at the sanctions, because they still have to go through that whole process for all the countries.

EM: Russia doesn’t send us diesel heavy crude and then we have to process it at refineries, which are running at max capacity. Hence the crack spreads being so wide, we can only convert so much crude into distillates, which diesel of which is one of which jet fuel for planes is another, but both things that cost a lot of money when the prices of the input key input goes up.

TN: Okay, great. Let’s do just a really quick round the week ahead. What are you guys looking for for next week? Albert, you go first.

AM: I’m actually going to look at to see what the House majority and Senate majority makeup comprises of and whether the markets are going to react negatively towards it. Because if the Republicans, I know they’re going to take it, but when they get announced that they take the House, the stimulus packages all but die at that point for two years. So I’m very curious to see how the markets react to that.

EM: I’ll be continuing to watch what’s going on in Crypto to see if anything’s happening with Bitcoin ethereum, because we’ve already seen a lot of other tokens just literally, basically go to zero. So just see how that continues to play out.

TN: Great. My $20 a DOJ is still at, like, three times where I bought it at, so I’m just holding on to it just to see where it goes.

EM: And then I’ll also, obviously, as usual, be watching China and certainly the bank of Japan and just the end period.

BR: Yeah, like Albert, the makeup in Congress and also going to be looking at some of the emerging markets. I think maybe if we’re going to get more evidence out of China as to when they’re still pursuing COVID Zero, I think they’re now recording again, like, a record high number of cases from April. It’s not working yet. They’re continuing to double down and reward everybody who’s pursuing that. 

So I want to see if they’re going to continue with that and they’re going to be on track for what Albert said to reopen early next year or if it’s just going to get worse. So that’s what I’m going to be focused on.

TN: Yeah. You’ve heard of the great league forward, right? I mean, these don’t really take sound policy advice. When they get their mind on something, they just push it and push it and push it until it harms everybody they can.

EM: I often when you’re trying to when you have, like, the worst debt crisis ever and the population that’s, like, you know, put the equivalent of $50,000 down on apartments, like, millions of people have done that, and they’ve got nothing to show for it, and you want to keep them from acting out and protesting in the streets. It’s pretty convenient to have them all segregated where they’re not communicating. I wonder really what the motivation behind COVID Zero is. And so I don’t know if I buy that it’ll ever end until it’s convenient for it to end economy wise, where she feels no threat.

TN: I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I think things in China don’t necessarily end until they want them to end. Right. And if you look at exports from China to the US. They’re back up to preCOVID levels now. So in terms of that export machine in China, it’s humming, right? So there’s not feeling economic pain, at least in terms of trade. 

So if they’re comfortable feeling the domestic economic pain, then why would they stop? So I think what Albert talked about is Code Zero ending in March, and he and I’ve talked about that a couple of months ago as well. I think that’s the best case. So I think there’s a best case that they end it and they stimulate in March, but it’s quite possible it continues going on because there may be social reasons, there may be other reasons to not open up. 

So I don’t think, as westerners, we can look at the Chinese government necessarily and understand the perspective they have on policy and the reasons they have for policy. There is so much inside of Jungkonghai and all of the different things that happen that we just can’t look at it rationally and say they should do A, then B, then c, and very few Americans can look at that and understand why and how it’s happening. You may be exactly right.

EM: Yeah. It’s not a logical I mean, it’s more like if I’m she or if I’m trying to do this, it’s not really like what westerners typically associate as logical things to do economically. It’s more like it’s possible.

TN: Yeah. Anything’s possible. Guys, thank you so much. I really appreciate the time you took to talk through this. Have a great weekend. And have a great weekend. Thank you so much.