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Unveiling Shocking Risks: Markets, Cracks, Freeport, and Ukraine’s Hardware

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In this video, our first-time guest Jim Iuorio leads the discussion on the topic of whether markets are too good for the Fed. With speculation around CPI, layoffs, and interest rates, the question of the Fed’s direction and potential pivots later in the year is raised.

Jim also delves into the recent success of the metals market and offers insight into where the market may go in the future. He also offers his thoughts on the potential impact on equities if the S&P hits his target of 4060.

Next, Tracy takes the lead in discussing cracks and Freeport. She explains the significance of rising crack spreads and its impact on the market. She also shares her insights on the recent opening of the Freeport facility and its effect on US natural gas prices.

Albert then discusses the risks associated with Ukraine’s new hardware. He addresses the classification of “direct involvement” and its potential impact on European countries. He also offers insight into what actions Russia may take to further complicate the situation and the potential impact on markets such as wheat.

Finally, the team gives their expectations for the upcoming Fed meeting and what to look for in the week ahead.

This is the 51st 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: https://twitter.com/TonyNashNerd
Jim: https://twitter.com/jimiuorio
Albert: https://twitter.com/amlivemon
Tracy: https://twitter.com/chigrl

Listen on Spotify here:

Listen on Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/complete-intelligence/id1651532699?i=1000597046195

Transcript

Tony

Hi, and welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash and today we’re joined by Jim Urio. Jim is at TJM Institutional and he’s with the Futuresedge podcast. Or is it on the Futuresddge podcast, right? Yes. Also with Albert Marko and Tracy Shuchart with Hightower Resources Advisors.

We’ve got a couple of key themes. Obviously, it’s the week before the Fed and we’ve had a really good week in markets. So one of our key themes is our market is too good for the Fed. Second I think Tracy is going to talk about crack spreads and Freeport and what’s happening there. And then we’re going to look at the risk with Ukraine’s new hardware. There’s been a lot of talk about tanks going to Ukraine this week, so we’re going to talk about some geopolitical risks with Albert.

Learn more about CI Futures tiered pricing here.

So Jim, first, thanks again for joining us and watching some of your comments through the week with markets breaking through some of the key levels that you were looking at, the Fed’s direction is obviously a big factor in markets and there’s a lot of conjecture around CPI, layoffs, rates going lower or pause or pivot or whatever you want to call it, and people saying the Fed may do 25 and then pause.

What’s your view on that? You’ve been obviously speaking about this several times this week. So I’m curious, what’s your view after seeing a whole week, where do you think we go from here?

Jim

Well, I’ve been somewhat more of a bull, I think, than most over the last few months. And I’m not trying to take a victory lap or anything, it’s just a fact. And my reasoning was that every one of us knows that these Fed rate hikes have a huge lag period before we feel the efficacy. Fed knows that too. As stupid as the Fed is, this is something that’s so fundamental, but I think they genuinely do know that. So now we’re starting to see things happen. We saw a pretty good PCE report today. CPI has been trending lower too. The only things in CPI that are stubbornly high, consistently, are food and energy, which are the two things that are least rate sensitive. The yield curve is still wildly inverted, signaling to them that they still are in a financially tight market. I believe that the Fed is getting close to having some sort of gentler language. Now, whether they go 25 basis points this time and then 25 basis points again, that’s fine to me. Now, the one thing I do have a problem with is that the Fed Funds futures curve says 50 basis points over the next two meetings.

And then toward the end of ’23, there’s going to be an ease. But they say it’s only going to be a quarter, two and a half point ease. And that I say “no way.” If they’re ever going to actually pivot and start easing, it’s only going to be as if something is burning and something is falling down and then it’s not going to be a quarter point ease. That being said, I still like risk assets. And I have because I think we are nearing the end of the Fed tightening cycle. I believed, I’ve been doing my podcast for the last hour. I wanted the market to settle above 4070. It certainly did, right? We went into the closed pretty strong, I thought. And I think that that green lights the next move higher. I particularly like the metals market, and I’ll shut up in 1 second, I swear to God. I particularly like the metals market because I think that… I don’t mean to talk for so long. I thought copper was being held down by China news, by the Fed, by the strength of the dollar, and all those things have seemed disappeared. And I’ve made good money on that so far, and I plan on keeping those lumps.

Tony

So it’s a good question about metals. What are you looking at? You said China and you said China reopening other things. What are you looking at in metals? Are you looking at industrial metals, copper and so on? Are you looking at precious metals or kind of all of the above?

Jim

Copper is number one and that’s my biggest position. Silver and then go down from base industrial all the way to just gold being pressured. And the gold thesis for me is different than the copper one in that I believed at the time when I started buying more gold, that Bitcoin and Etherium in the crypto market and all that dollar safety hedge or whatever the hell it is, if that was disappearing, then money would go back into gold. Well, that didn’t disappear. Bitcoin is butting up against new cycle highs now, but gold is still doing well. So in that I was kind of wrong on the thesis. The thesis was also the dollar weakening, which happened as well. Once the Pound of the Euro started really bouncing off those October lows, I thought, okay, the green light is on for all these metals. So I’ve done okay in gold, even though my thesis about crypto was wrong.

Tony

Okay, but was your thesis wrong? Do you see crypto and gold as substitutional somewhat at the margin still?

Jim

I don’t know. I was going to ask you that same question. I always did. And I thought that the $3 trillion crypto market was sucking away some of the gold. And I thought that that was a big deal. But then it doesn’t seem to be now, so I guess I can’t answer that. I’m confused, I guess.

Tony

Yeah. I’m curious. What do you think about that, Tracy, in terms of crypto and gold? Do you think there’s a trade off there?

Tracy

This is not really my… Crypto market, is not really my market.

Tony

Internet, say whatever you want.

Tracy

Albert knows way more about this than I do, to be honest, because I’ve never traded crypto, and he’s traded a lot in the past. So I’m going to defer this to Albert.

Albert

Before I do think that there was a correlation between how much money was flying into crypto versus taken away from gold, I think there is no doubt that gold suffered because of that. I don’t think that as the case right now, simply because there’s been too many blow ups in the crypto world at the moment. I don’t really know how liquid it really is. There’s certainly no retail left in the crypto market, so it looks like it’s all institutional. So I don’t know. You can’t really make a fundamental call on crypto at the moment.

Tony

Could you ever make a fundamental call on crypto?

Albert

You could at some point, because institutional money was flying in there because their clients were forcing them to get into the space. So you could make a little bit of a fundamental case for crypto, but as all these ponzi schemes blew up, like FTX and everything, that’s just gone completely out the window at the moment.

Jim

Sure, Tony, I can make a slight fundamental argument of it. When they were adding an additional $7 trillion, throwing it into the money supply, and really being poor stewards of the dollar, that was somewhat of a fundamental argument for crypto, I guess, right?

Tony

Yeah. Okay. Are markets too good for the Fed. As we’re going into next week, are these levels too good for the fed? Is Powell going to come out and really, you know, say, look, this is irrational or whatever, and it’s too much, and is he going to pour out, say, 50 basis points and disappoint a lot of people?

Jim

Just to punish me a rug pull? I mean, I think he’s capable of that. He certainly did at the Jackson Hole meeting a while back. So you have identified, I think, the major risk, and it’ll probably go into that somewhat hedged. And again, hedging is probably going to be expensive going into it because people realize that that’s where the risk is. So on balance, I will say, no, I don’t believe he is. I think he believes that going too far this way. And again, I think he thinks going not far enough in this direction is the worst possible thing. But I also think he’s starting to realize going too far and what that looks like. He sits around and talks about creating slack in the job market, and to him, it’s just an equation on a whiteboard where the reality is talking about people losing their jobs. I think he balances a lot of realities. I think he’s incompetent. His entire tenure has been mostly incompetent, but I think he’s done a pretty good job trying to clean up the mess that he made over the last year and a half, and I don’t think he’s going to do something stupid like that. But, yes, to your point, it is a risk.

Albert

I actually disagree with Jim on this.

I think it’s going to really matter about what the market does. If we start flying into the 4200 before Tuesday on the SPX and whatnot. I think that Powell will come out. I don’t know if he’ll do 50. I don’t think he’ll do 50, but he might come out with a 25 basis point rate hike and then start talking extremely hawkish and dismiss all the rate cuts that everybody’s been talking about, which would be essentially the same thing as doing 50 to the market. If the market says that. If the market here is that we’re not getting rate cuts till 2024, I don’t see that as positive whatsoever.

Jim

I certainly hope you’re right in the near term, too, because I’m short some of those 4200 calls, like, too many. That’s the position I keep checking in my bold position was like, oh, sh*t, they’re getting too expensive. So I actually like what you’re saying a little bit in the short term.

Albert

Yeah, I have a problem because of this is falling liquidity right now and tightness at the same time. I look at the market and I’m like, well, money is starting to fly out into Asia, which we talked about Tony, repetitively for months now. Where are we going to get that $5 trillion incremental money coming into the market to keep this thing afloat? For me, it’s like I don’t see the math adding up to 4300 on the S&P and anytime soon. And on top of that, if you calculate rate hikes and everything you’re looking at the market, 4150 or 4200 is more expensive than 4800 was. It’s technically even higher valuation. So for these things, I’m just like I think we’re probably going to retrace the 3850 on some kind of ridiculous Powell talk. And on top of that, Brainard is talking about leaving. She’s not leaving if Powell is talking about being dovish. She wouldn’t be doing that, in my opinion.

Tracy

I asked a question. I was just saying and that’s for both of you. I mean, considering that the Fed has hiked so quickly, do we even think, and the data has remained pretty good, considering right, so do we think that the rate hikes have actually even been able to filter down into the economy at?

Jim

I don’t, Tracy. I think that that’s the point. I think when you look, just take the real estate market. How in the world is it not going to be a major hurdle for the real estate market to take mortgage rates from 2.8% to 7%? I think that it’s silly to think that if they just left things the way it is, I believe that we would certainly go in recession at some point in time with money being restrictive as it is compared to… I’ve argued for 30 years that rates had to be inorganically low to make up for the fact that we have all these crappy regulations and punitive taxes on companies. They need low rates to function. I think rates are to point now where eventually they would drag on us too much. Albert, do you agree with that?

Albert

I do. But the flip side of that is, like, if Powell doesn’t stay the course, Yellen is using the TGA, in my opinion, from what I heard, to offset quantitative tightening. This could set off another round of inflation if China comes on too fast, or even Europe starts to gear up a little bit and reset their manufacturing sectors with stimulus. The fear I have is a second half inflationary run again, and then we’re going to be talking no more pauses, but another round of 50-75 basis point rate hikes.

Tony

Second half of Q2. I don’t think it’s a second half inflation run. I think it’s Q2. I think it happens a little bit sooner than that.

Albert

Yeah, it could. I mean, you could have any kind of geopolitical event like Russia re-invading Ukraine with some gusto this time.

Tony

Okay, guys, here’s my question, though. We’re talking all this potential dovishness, but all we’ve seen is the rate of inflation slow. We haven’t seen prices come down. Okay, so why would he go to zero? Or why would he just do 25? I’m not seeing it. When you look at the job market, sure, you’ve lost 70,000 tech jobs, but they hired 2 million since 2020 or something like that, right? So it’s nothing. It’s dropping the bucket.

Tracy

Chipotle hiring 15,000 so those people can get a job.

Tony

Exactly. What is it that would tell us that he’s going to go 25 or pivot or whatever? I’m just not seeing that thing because the job market is still really strong.

Jim

So here’s what I would say to that, is that the job market is going to be strong and tighten. It’s a weird kind of anomaly that happened with 3 million boomers leaving the job market prematurely over the last three years. To your point about why would he not stay the course if prices aren’t coming down? Because, remember, ultimately, the end of the day, the inflation was intentional and it was done because of this wild indebtedness all over the board. But I always focus on the five states that could not possibly have paid their bills under any possible scenario. And that’s why for ten years, they kept telling us that they needed inflation. So I think in Powell’s mind, he tells us 2%. I think he’d be perfectly happy with three and a half.

Albert

And they’ll get three and a half because they’re starting to change the way CPI has waited starting 2023.

Jim

Just like when Nixon changed the definition of unemployment back in the 70s.

Albert

The BLS have done that in the past. They changed the way unemployment is calculated. Now they changed the way the CPI is calculated.

Tracy

They changed the way inflation is calculated.

Albert

Perception is reality in the market. We can sit there and b*tch about fake data from China and fake data from the Europe and the US. But perception is reality in the markets.

Tony

Yes. So we’re going to change the rules to win.

Albert

Well, yeah, of course.

Tony

And the CPAC calculation changes this month, right?

Albert

Yeah, January 2023.

Tony

Fantastic. Okay, so you guys are in the 25 basis point camp for next week, right? 25 and very hawkish. 25 and very hawkish.

Jim

Okay, I don’t I like what Albert saying. I say 25 and mildly hawkish.

Tony

All right, we’ll see. I think it might be a little harder than that. So we’ll see. That’s good, though. I appreciate that.

Tony

Okay, Tracy, I want to talk a little bit about refineries and crack spread. You sent out a tweet on Monday about diesel prices.

Can you help us, help us understand what’s happening at refineries and what’s happening with diesel and gasoline and other refined products prices?

Tracy

Well, this is actually the perfect segue because I tweeted out a chart of ULSD, which is diesel, basically. And so we’re seeing those refinery margins explode again. And most people say, well, that’s anticipation of the diesel embargo in Russia and refineries across the world that are not part of Russia are seeing these increases. But that’s not just happening in the diesel market, that’s also happening in gasoline cracks. And so higher refining, basically the long and short, higher refining margins mean higher prices for consumers. Right. So Tuesday we just hit a three month high of $42. And when oil was at its highest price, those crack spreads were at $60. So this should start ringing alarm bells a little bit about inflation. This is why it kind of correlates to what we were just talking about. And so CBs, even though they don’t count energy in the CPI as part of inflation, they should be keeping an eye on these indicators because it kind of indicates that we’re going to see higher gasoline, diesel costs, jet fuel, et cetera. And that could add to inflationary pressures across the board, not only for just the consumer, you and I, but for companies that are heavily dependent on these products.

Tony

And when there’s inflation in energy, there’s inflation in everything.

Tracy

Right, right.

Tony

Second or two tier impacts.

Tracy

Exactly, yeah.

Albert

One of my oil friends was telling me that normally January, February, they’re running at minimum rates, trying not to lose money. But this has been like absolutely insane, where they’re just making money hand over fist right now because the demand is so high.

Jim

Tracy, I have a quick question for tracy, by the way. Is that okay?

Tony

Yes.

Jim

So, Tracy, just last week, I don’t know if it was Chevron or Conical Phillips, where they announced raising the dividend or whatever, paying bonuses and not investing in it. Was that an indication that they still feel that the government is not smiling upon fossil fuel companies expanding their operation?

Tracy

Oh, 100%. Right. For over a year now, we’ve seen elevated energy prices in that seventy dollars to eighty dollars range. Negating, the spikes that we saw from the Ukraine invasion. But so after a year of pretty much stable higher energy prices, we are still not seeing anybody want to invest in this sector. Right. They still want to cater to the investor. They still want to pay down debts. They still want to do higher dividends. They still want to engage in stock buybacks. All to placate the investor. And so that is very telling that after a year, they’re still not willing to reinvest into capex, particularly in shale.

Tony

It’s nothing but downside to invest, right?

Jim

No doubt.

Tracy

Yeah, absolutely.

Jim

It’s maddening when you think about it. Everything seems like it’s such a self inflicted wound. And this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night. It seems like a government that’s working against us. And I’m not trying to be that guy. I’m not political. I just see policies and they’re asinine.

Tracy

Who wants to invest when they say, we want to phase you out, we want to kill you?

Jim

Right? Yeah.

Albert

Well, this is the problem when politics gets mixed up in economic policy, it starts muddying things up and mistakes become exponential at this point.

Tony

But politics is always mixed up in economic policy everywhere. You know that. I’m not telling you you don’t know, but it’s always there. When I hear you talk about refineries, and it’s been how many decades since we built refineries in the US, Tracy? The 70s was the last time we built refinery?

Tracy

70s was the last major. We’ve had a lot of brown projects, which means we’ve added refinery capacity to already existing refineries, but we haven’t had any new green projects, which means building new refineries. And we were talking about, I think, last week or the week before the expansion that we’re having in Texas. But the problem is that the amount of refining that is coming offline is more than the refining capacity that is coming online.

Tony

Right. So what’s our capacity utilization right now in refineries?

Tracy

Well, we’re down right now because we’re in the middle of maintenance. And we also had Elliot storm, which some refineries, for instance, Baytown, is just coming back up this week from the storm in December. So utilization rates right now at about 89.5%. But, you know, you have to realize that, you know, we’ve been over, well over 90%.

Tony

Yeah, 94 or something like that. Right?

Tracy

Yeah. And we have aging refineries. And so what does that mean? Those refineries are more prone to breakdown because we’re running them at, like, ridiculous max capacity. Right, exactly.

Tony

Okay, so since you mentioned Texas, let’s look at this tweet that you put out a couple of days ago saying that Freeport gets approval.

So USLNG, the Freeport terminal has been approved and reopened. So can you talk us through what that means for European nat gas and what that means for US nat gas prices?

Tracy

Well, for US natural prices, that is positive. And I know that all nat gas prices have tumbled 35% to 45%. Regardless, we’re back into that two area that is pretty much where we’ve been for several years. But it is a good thing. I think the market, I think, spiked 15% or 15% $0.15 sorry, on that move. And they kind of retraced it. I think the market is a very Freeport is an export place. So what that means is that if Freeport being closed basically landlocks US nat gas, which is obviously a negative because we have a lot of it. But I think that the market in general is a little bit skeptical. But as soon as we actually start seeing export capacity increase from that facility, then I think that the markets will be more enthusiastic about the success of that because it’s really been since August since that facility is shut down.

Tony

So you’re saying we should see US nat gas prices rise as we have more export volumes from Freeport?

Tracy

Absolutely. And even this week, Semper Energy announced that their new Port Arthur facility has already been booked. And that facility isn’t even all the way built yet. And that’s another export facility. So there’s a lot coming online and a lot being built out that we will be able to see. I think that just market participants have become a little bit placated because they look at European stocks and European stocks, of course they’re still full. They’ve had a mild winter, but everybody kind of forgets that last year 50% of their storage capacity came from cheap Russian pipeline. And that’s not going to happen this year.

Tony

Yeah. So all of those new roads that are being built in Texas, it may have been started with other money, but it’s going to be finished with European money. Right. So I just want to take this moment to thank our European friends for finishing our transportation.

Albert

About time they give back.

Tony

That’s right.

Jim

Finally, their currency has come back a little bit, so now they can actually buy stuff here.

Tony

Perfect. Okay, very good, Tracy. Anything else on nat gas? Are you still keeping eye on fertilizer for kind of late spring time period?

Tracy

Yes, absolutely. I think that’ll still come into play. I mean, nat gas prices are extremely low right now, which is great news for fertilizer prices. That will give farmers a break. This is all good news in that respect, but I still think we need to keep an eye on this going forward and keep an eye on that gas prices because obviously that’s going to affect fertilizer prices and farming in general.

Tony

Jim?

Jim

Tracy, you talked about diesel before, and I don’t trade diesel. Is the spread between diesel and regular WTI still blown out? And what could possibly get diesel back in line?

Tracy

Well, I think that there’s been a shortage for a very long time. That spreads come in a lot, comparatively speaking. But now it’s starting to blow out again because again, you have the EU embargo of diesel, and they got literally like 95% of their diesel came from Russia. Another dependent project. And I’m sure Russian diesel will go somewhere else. It’s not more about that, but it’s more about really boils down to refining capacity as well. Because even in the United States, we can’t refine. If Europe wants to buy from us, we can’t even refine enough. We’re sending what we have over there as well as our domestic needs. So really, diesel to me comes down to refining capacity altogether.

Jim

That’s an unfixable problem, right?

Tony

Until Russia’s solved, right?

Albert

What about the Jones Act waivers for sending diesel up to these coast cheaper?

Tracy

Yes, they could do that, but they haven’t done that. They’ve done that in the past for Puerto Rico after the hurricane and all of that, but they still haven’t given waivers. Even when prices were extremely high in the United States, when we were at the height back in June, July, when prices, gas prices were highest, diesel prices were highest, they still wouldn’t give Jones Act waivers. You have to understand that the Jones Act came into play into 1920 when we had a fleet of over 1000 vessels, and we now have under 100 vessels that can transport that. So, you know, it’s the government could do it. They’ve chosen not to. Why? I’m not sure, but…

Jim

We can come up with some guesses. They’re either stupid or they’re nefarious. I believe at some point in time you’re going to have to say some of it’s nefarious, where they keep making the wrong decision at every turn. And I apologize for that.

Tony

No, don’t apologize. Look, it’s making it more expensive for people on the East Coast to get diesel. It’s not good.

Tony

Okay, great. Speaking of Russia, Albert, we saw a lot of news over last week about tanks going to Ukraine. And there’s a tweet from Max Abrams, who’s a great geopolitical professor talking about  Russia, says that tanks from the west count as, quote, “direct involvement in the war”.

So I wanted to get your… Jim said what would solve the diesel problem. Obviously, Russia coming back into the market would solve the diesel problem. Now with a lot of Western countries sending tanks to Ukraine, that doesn’t sound like we’re coming closer to a solution on that. So first of all, why are they sending them if they don’t have the people to operate them? Second, tanks are to take land. Right? So what do you think is being planned? And third, how risky is it? Do you think it really implicates these kind of donor countries as direct participants in the war?

Albert

I don’t really buy into the whole direct participants of the war. The rhetoric coming out of Russia is a little bit bombastic in that respect. Referring to those tanks, there’s only going to be about 100 of them, right? They’re not going to be able to push out the Russians with those tanks. On top of that, they’re going to be about six months out until they’re actually even deliver, and then you still have to train these guys and they need supplies, and the Ukrainians don’t really have all that. So the best guess that I have is that they’re forcing Russia to come into a ceasefire in about six to eight months time, which gives them a window now to try to take Dambus and have some kind of wind before these tanks get delivered. Listen, they’re no joke. The Leopard tanks and the Abrams are better than what the Russians have. But in terms of the Ukrainians using them to push Russians out of all Ukrainian territories, that’s just not happening.

Tony

Right. So are these just old tanks or is it a quality kit that they’re getting?

Albert

Well, I think they’re getting like the second tier tanks of what the west has, but that’s still better than what the Russians have or even willing to use for Ukraine. So, like I said, this is more of a measure to force the ceasefire later on in the year.

Tony

Okay. Yeah, Jim?

Jim

Albert, a couple of days ago, when this escalation started in Germany, we announced I immediately put on my screens, looked at oil, wheat, even the defense sector ETF, and nothing really budged. Do you think the market was looking at it like it wasn’t a big deal? Or do you think the market was looking at it as somewhat balanced, perhaps a quicker end of the war and not an escalation, or perhaps an escalation, the two things come around?

Albert

Oh, man, that’s a good one, Jim. I honestly think that the market’s probably in a wait and see position at the moment.

Jim

Numb to the shit kind of. Right?

Albert

Yeah. You got to wait and see what Moscow is going to do. I certainly think they’re going to use wheat and grains and other grains asymmetrical responses to the west to push inflation out over there, make it hurt. That’s the only thing they have. They don’t really have anything else to go after. I mean, the oil that they’re selling to India and China is enough to sustain their pocketbooks for a little while until this gets sorted out. But until there’s some sort of major upheaval in Ukraine, I don’t think the defense stocks will take off or wheat yet. But they will. I think they will. They haven’t moved.

Tony

The defense stocks haven’t moved for a while. If it is we and other AG stuff that is going to be their lever, that probably means the Turks will get more involved in the discussion because they’re the ones who arbitrated the discussion earlier. Is that right?

Albert

Well, they’re trying to get into the discussion. I actually have really good connections with the Turks and their main thing is to distract the West and the Russians into Ukraine while they push their trade deals out into Africa at the moment. You know, the Turks have a great drone, the TB Two, which they sell to pretty much everybody. So that’s as far as they’ll actually get into the war besides making media comments.

Tony

Right, okay. And so what risk do you think there is on wheat? Do you think we see more wheat risks, say, in Q2 – Q3 this year?

Albert

I absolutely do. The Ukrainians, they’re planting a lot less. I think 40% less is what they’re reporting, is probably even more than that.

Tony

Right.

Albert

And on top of that, if the Russians decide to blow up a port or blow up a few ships that are trying to get out with wheat, and all of a sudden, wheat, you know, takes off back to the 900 or $1,000 mark again. So I definitely see that happening in Q2 Q3.

Tony

Okay. That could be exciting. All right, guys, let’s close it up. We’re in that quiet period for the Fed. We have that Fed discussion next week. So what are you keeping an eye on next week aside from the Fed, of course, but what are you keeping an eye on in markets? Tracy, why don’t you get us started.

Tracy

Well, I know that most people are looking forward to OPEC is next week at the beginning of February. My personal stance on that is that I think they will keep everything as is. Right. They made that 2 million cut, even though it’s technically not 2 million, because they were under quota anyway. They said they were going to carry that through 2023 unless something came up that they really needed to address. And I just don’t see anything coming. I don’t see any reason they would need to change this policy stance right now. We have Russian barrels still on the market. We have China is still kind of an unknown because they haven’t really opened up yet. So that’s what I’m looking forward to, or at least that’s what my feeling is about the data.

Tony

Great. Okay. Albert, what are you looking at next week?

Albert

Well, obviously the Fed. I think, is in order with a hawkish tone, but honestly, I want to see how the dollar reacts to all this. And the VIX. The VIX at 17, start looking at some good old put options and call options with the 17 VIX is fantastic. But, yeah, basically what the dollar is going to do. I really want to see if the dollar breaks into the 90s with some kind of bull market talk.

Tony

Excellent. Okay. And Jim. Wrap us up. What are you looking at?

Jim

The unemployment numbers on Friday. Big deal. The last shooter drop is going to be the slack in the labor market that they want. Albert mentioned that level on the dollar. I call it like 101 to 100. As soon as it goes below that, as soon as we get a nine handle on the dollar, I think it greenlights a lot of risk assets. But the thing I’m mostly focused on is unemployment and then the week after that my trip to South Florida. Because every time I leave these damn markets, something crazy happened. So you guys can count on that. I’ll tell you when I’m on my flight. Something weird is going to happen.

Tony

When is that?

Jim

I don’t know. My wife makes the arrangements. I think it’s the next, like a week from next Thursday. I think we’re going on vacation.

Tony

Keep an eye on. Jim, thanks so much for joining us, Jim. Guys, this has been great. Thanks very much everyone have a great weekend. Thanks Jim.

Jim

Thank you guys. Yeah, let’s see you guys.

Categories
Podcasts

Softer Fed Tone But Don’t Get Too Excited

This podcast is originally published on https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/fed-rate-hikes-earnings-downgrade-outlook-for-2023

The released Fed minutes show that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes. Markets reacted positively but this is false optimism as the terminal Fed Funds Rate may eventually be higher. The 3Q reporting in the US is also coming to a close and 75% of corporates experienced downgrade in earnings. Have the cut in earnings by analysts been adequate or will there be further downside, with 2023 outlook still uncertain? For answers, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence.

Transcript

BFM

BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run at Thursday. It’s Thursday, the 24 November November Friday, junior, as we like to call it. Here. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning and Chong Tjen San. As always, let’s kickstart the morning with a look at how global markets closed overnight.

All key US markets showed gains as most members of the Fed said the pace of rate hikes will slow down. So the Dow was up 0.3%. The S&P500 was up 0.6%, and Nasdaq was up 1%. In Asian markets, the Nikkei and Hang Seng was up by 0.6%. The China Composite was up by 0.3%. The Straits Times Index was down by 0.1%, and our very own FBMKLCI was up by 0.2%.

Joining us on the line now for more on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Hi, Tony. Good morning. Now, let’s start with just some reactions on the Fed minutes that were released. It showed that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes, but that the terminal rate might need to be higher. What do you think? Are we seeing a relief rally? And is that sustainable in the short term?

Tony

Yeah, I think the ultimate destination is probably the same, but the pace of getting there is slower than many people thought a couple of weeks ago. So I think what it means is we’ll see more, say, 50 and 25 basis point hikes. That’s the expectation. It’s still possible we’ll see a 75 if Powell really pushes hard for December, but we’re still going to see a 5, 5.5 terminal rate, depending on really how things end up for CPI and PPI next month. But it’s just the pace and markets are more comfortable with a gradual adjustment to higher rates than the continued kind of shock treatment.

BFM

And Tony, the US reporting period is coming to a close. How would you assess the quality of corporate earnings release so far? How well have they tracked market expectations?

Tony

They’re OK, they’re pretty weak, actually. Compared to 2021, we had, I think, 25% earnings growth in ’21 about this time last year. They’re just over 3%. So it’s not even near where it was last year.

Something like 75% of companies are seeing estimates for their downgrade. So people expecting inflation to endure longer than they thought. If you remember a year ago, people were saying inflation was transitory, so they’re saying inflation will endure longer and rate hikes will continue.

So with credit tighter, businesses and consumers are not expected to spend as much.

So going forward, there is a fear that wallets will be more closed than they are now and earnings will continue to be tight.

BFM

Which just confuses me, Tony, because if the Fed stops their rate hikes at least decelerates the pace of it. And at the same time, corporate earnings aren’t going to be as robust as ever. Then why is the S&P500 above 4000 and the Dow Jones at 34,194 points? I mean, they’re just in fact, the Dow is only down 6% on a year to date basis and the S&P down 15%. Shouldn’t markets be actually more bearish than they are now?

Tony

Well, I think there are a couple of things happening there. I think first, there really is consumers have continued to spend and businesses have continued to spend in the US. Although we’ve seen economic growth slow dramatically, we’ve had spending continue to push forward. So if the Fed slows its tightening cycle, and keep in mind, they haven’t really started quantitative tightening, meaning getting things out of their balance sheet. They’re only, I think, $200 billion off of their high.

But if the Fed continues to tighten at an accelerated pace, then markets are worried. But again, if they slow it down, the feeling is that spending will move in stride. It won’t necessarily be too shaken up.

Also, on inflation, don’t forget inflation didn’t really start on an accelerated basis until November of ’21. So we had inflation, but fairly muted inflation then. And so what we get after November, well after this month, is what’s called a base effect.

So we’ll likely continue to see inflation rise, but not necessarily at the pace that it’s been over the past, say six to nine months. So does that mean inflation is peak? No, not at all. But it means the pace of the rise of inflation is likely going to slow on base effects.

So if that happens, we’ll have a lot of people declare victory over inflation, but I think that there is an expectation that that rate will slow as well.

BFM

Can you look at the prospects of retailers like Best Buy? We see Abercrombie and Fitch. These names are defying inflationary trends and higher rates to post better results than expected. So why has this sector been the exception to the norm?

Tony

Yes, the quick answer is most of those guys have been pushing price. So they’ve been passing along their higher labor and goods costs onto consumers.

Now they’ve been pushing price while sacrificing volume. So they’ve been pushing 8 to 10 to 15% price hikes in many cases. But they’ve had fewer transactions between one and say 6% fewer transactions.

Regardless, they’re earnings have risen. So they’re not as worried about fewer transactions. They’re focused on keeping their margins up.

And so when you look at retailers like Walmart, which has mixed, say, general goods and food, they’ve done very well. They had a very difficult Q2, but they did very well this past quarter.

Home Depot, which is a DIY store, has done very well because they pushed price Cracker Barrel has done very well.

Cracker Barrel. These are not these are not retailers that are at the high end of the market either. These are mid and even, say lower end companies, but they’re pushing price on the middle and lower end of the market.

Higher end of the market? They’re doing great. So it’s tough to be a consumer in this market because price definitely continues to be pushed and we expect price to continue to be pushed through probably Q2 of next year.

BFM

And Tony, with potentially slower pace of interest rate hikes, how do you expect the technology sector to do? Is there more pain to come for the likes of Amazon and Meta?

Tony

For sure. Amazon, Meta and technology companies generally do very well in very low interest rate environment, where the money is effectively free or negative real interest rates.

As you have to pay for that money, it becomes tougher for those companies to do well because their core investment is in technology. And we had things like Mark Zuckerberg at Meta really went off the rails with some of his spending and investment.

It’s not to say that the Metaverse investment is not ever going to happen, but much of that stuff really went way overboard. Same thing with, say, Amazon with some of their infrastructure investments and delivery investments.

So we do expect HP today, I think announce 6,000 jobs to be lost over the next, I don’t know, twelve months or something. So we do expect much more pain in tech. We expect that to continue until at least the end of Q1, if not a little bit further.

BFM

And Tony, let’s talk about oil because WTI for futures delivery in January, $77 a barrel. And we know that there’s an upcoming OPEC meeting in December. What are your expectations in terms of oil price then?

Tony

Yeah, it’s tricky, right? Because oil prices are kind of in that zone where a lot of people are comfortable. And so the question is, is this acceptable to OPEC members? So Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq and Kuwait have already come out and said they’re going to stick to the current plan, the current cuts that were already announced last month.

But we have things like the Russian price caps coming into play. And you know, our view is the price caps are pretty meaningless actually, because Europeans are pretty good at circumventing the kind of emotional embargoes they put in place.

I’m sorry to put it that way, but they put these laws in place and then they circumvent them pretty well. A lot of this is theater. So that’s not the price caps are not going to have as much of an impact as many people thought. So it’s possible if we get into next week and crude prices start coming back pretty strongly, or sorry, if we get into next week and crude prices are as weak as they are now, we may see a 500,000 barrel per day cut. I think that’s a possibility, but it’s likely they’ll stay on what’s already been announced.

BFM

Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us. And since it’s Thanksgiving eve. Happy Thanksgiving to you. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks ahead.

All eyes, of course, on that all-important inflation number and how that will affect how the Fed raises hikes moving forward.

I think the key takeaway for me was he mentioned that 75% of corporates in the US had downgrades, which I feel it’s a good thing as it brings expectations lower and more in line with future expectations and it also gives perhaps some room to surprise on the upside.

Yeah, well, markets seem to be at crossroads, but a little bit cheered by the fact that the Fed isn’t going to raise rates as aggressively as they have in the past. But I want to keep my eye on corporate earnings. I think that if you see continuous downgrades by the analyst community, you see the messaging coming out of US corporates that things aren’t looking as rosy as they are, then it’s just going to be hard for the Dow, S&P500 to actually break through their current resistance levels. So I think it’s something we have to keep an eye on.

Categories
Podcasts

The Federal Reserve Was Slow To React But Inflation Is Real This Time

This podcast was originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/us-fed-reserve-inflation-rate-down-slowing-car-homes-sales

All eyes will be on the US CPI data as it gives us an indication of the quantum and pace of rate hikes. But is the Federal Reserve too slow to see if inflation is coming down when there is anecdotal evidence of slowing car and home sales? Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence tells us.

Transcript

BFM

This is a podcast from BFM 89.9. The Business Station BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You are listening to the Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning and Chong Tjen San. 07:00 a.m on Thursday the 13 October. Let’s kickstart the morning with a recap on how global markets closed yesterday.

BFM

Looking at US markets, all three key indices close in the red S&P 500, down zero 3%. The Dow and Nasdaq down zero 0.1%. And I think that the S&P has been down for six consecutive days already. Moving to Asian markets, and the Nikkei down marginally 0.02%. Hang Seng down 0.8%. The Shanghai Composite Index back the trend. It’s up 1.5%. Straights Times Index down 0.7%. And our very own FBM KLCI is down 0.5%.

BFM

So for some thoughts on where international markets are heading, we have on the line with us Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Thanks as always for joining us. Now, US CPI data is due out on Friday. What are your expectations for that figure? And how much of this do you think will determine the quantum of the next Fed rate hike?

TN

Everything rests on CPI right now. So I think if it comes in line or higher than expected, it’s just bad news for markets for the next few days. So people are hoping for a lower number because it would provide some relief and some proof that inflation has maybe peaked or is at least slowing down. I think it’s possible that we have it come in slightly under, but given the PPI reading that came today, it’s not a good a sign. So we may see CPI continue to rise in tomorrow’s trading day in the US.

BFM

Okay, Tony, we have a history of the Fed being late to the game, right, when it came to inflation. They kept saying “transitory, transitory,” and we know it wasn’t transitory at all. Do you think that they are also late to the game in recognizing that inflation has been brought under control? Because when I look at some of the data points, one of which is used car sales, that’s dropping. New car sales are also dropping. House sales, home sales are also dropping. Is it possible that inflation is being overstated?

TN

Well, you’re 100% right on the Fed being late to the game, both to recognize inflation and to impact it. The problem that we’re seeing with, say, used cars is, although the unit volume is slowing, the unit price is still rising for, say, used cars, for eating out, for these sorts of things. There’s still been upward pressure on these because of the factor input costs and supply chains and labor and others. So it does feel in the US like things have not that prices have gone back down, but that the rate of rise has slowed. That’s what it feels like at the consumer level, except for petrol, gasoline, which has started to rise again over the past week.

BFM

Let’s take a look over at the UK, where George Bailey, the Bank of England Governor, said that the BoE would end support for UK Gilts by the end of this week. What does this mean for the Pound specifically and other sterling-denominated UK assets like equities?

TN

Oh gosh, we’re likely to see more devaluation of the Pound. There’ll be pressure on the Pound. Well, maybe not devaluation, but depreciation of the Pound. UK pension funds and other guiltholders will likely have to sell assets if the BoE is stopping their intervention in that market. They’re likely to likely to see downward pressure on those prices. So holders of those assets, like big pension funds, will have to use other assets to pay for their collateral for those investments. So it’s going to be ugly all around once the BoE stops because the market for guilt is so weak.

TN

And we’ve seen for the Bank of Japan, we’ve seen for the Fed, for different auctions, different government debt auctions, there have been zero takers for government debt auction. And that tells me they’re not paying enough. The interest rates for that debt has to rise because people feel like inflation and interest rates are going to rise. So these governments need to offer their debt out at a higher rate so that people can make a profit with it, given the inflation environment.

BFM

And Tony moving on to China with a Party Congress meeting happening very soon, and with Xi Jinping set to win an unpresented term, what economic implications would that have for China? And with growth slowing down across the world, how will they aim to achieve the goal of common prosperity?

TN

Yeah, Common Prosperity as a definition can be really taken as raising people up, or it can be taken as pushing kind of those achievers down. Okay. And if you look at China’s history in the late 50’s and the 60’s, as you know, Mao Zedong really pushed those achievers down through the great famine and all this other stuff. So my fear is that as Xi Jinping has consolidated his power, he’s going to start well, he’s already started a couple of years ago, pushing some of those economic overachievers down like Jack Ma and other people.

TN

So I really do worry coming out of this Party Congress that we get a much more restrictive Chinese economy. We’ve already seen foreign investor sentiment sour on China, and we’ve already seen with code lockdowns, with supply chain lockdowns and other things, there has been a functionally more restrictive environment and with sentiment souring as well.

TN

I’m not optimistic, at least in the short term. The Chinese government, whether it’s Xi Jinping or other elements of the Chinese government, they’re going to have to do something to reassure the world that they are a good faith partner in global supply chains and for manufacturing. It’s not going to make them happy to do that. But if they want to continue growing at the rates they have grown, they’re going to have to do that.

TN

So when I say I’m not optimistic about China, I’m not saying China is going to crash. I’m saying I think they’re going to have some pretty mediocre growth rates in the coming years because of the economic environment, regulatory environment and market environment that they’ve cultivated of late.

BFM

OK, Tony, I want to stay in Asia and I want to look specifically at Japan because the Yen weakened to a fresh two-decade low, hitting 146 to the US dollar. What do we make of this? Is this really on the back of Corona vowing to maintain its very accommodative monetary policy?

TN

Well, they have a choice. They can either support the yen or they can buy government bonds. And they’ve continued buying their bonds. So I think they’ve made a choice not to support the currency. And with the strong US dollar position and Janet Yellen made some comments today saying, again, saying that it’s really not the US’s responsibility to maintain the currencies, economies of other parts of the world. It wasn’t those exact words, but it was similar. That will likely push the dollar even stronger and we’re likely to see even more depreciation of the Japanese yen.

TN

So there is a lot of pressure on Japan right now, and the Bank of Japan really has some decisions to make about how they’re going to approach that. Maybe they’re okay with depreciating their currency, but it will fundamentally change things like their imports of energy. They’re very dependent on imported energy. They’re very dependent on imported, say, raw materials like metals for their manufacturing. So this really changes their approach to managing those imports.

BFM

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 ahead.

BFM

Yeah, I like his comments on the yen. Right. At what point does it then become really painful for the Japanese economy? Net energy imported, clearly LNG from Malaysia is one of the key imports. What does this then mean for inflation? But it’s one country where inflation has been ultra low, almost as low as ours, I think barely 2-3% for them. But for them it’s a bit of a shocker because they’ve been in a deflationary period for more than ten years.

BFM

Yeah, and his comments on China, I think he said that growth would likely be slow over the next couple of years, and I guess Xi Jinping and China will unlikely dial back on its Zero Covid policy next week. It looks very unlikely at this point.

BFM

I mean, everyone’s hoping to see some kind of announcement to that vein. But again, lots of things to look out for in the weeks ahead.

BFM

We just heard headlines coming out Shanghai, parts of it under even more lockdown.

BFM

Well, very quickly, let’s take a look at some good news. I guess that’s coming out of Australia. We have contest airways. They said their first half year profit will jump to as much as 1.3 billion Australian dollars as travel demand accelerates and the airline stabilizes operations after a prolonged and bruising period of cancelations and delays. This ends a streak of five consecutive half yearly losses totalling 7 billion Australian dollars.

BFM

It said that the frequency of scrap flights, late departures and loss backs are all improving. CEO Alan Joyce said it’s been really challenging time for the national carrier, but the announcement shows that how far the airline has actually improved, and they’ve seen big improvements in their operational performance and acceleration in financial performance as well. And this takes some pressure off Joyce.

BFM

Well, if I look at the street, they like this stock. Twelve buys, three holes. One sell. Contest at close was $5 and 17 Australian cents. Tucker price, 653.

BFM

All right, 718 in the morning. We’re heading into some messages. Stay tuned. BFM 89 Nine you have been listening.

BFM

To a podcast from BFM 89 Nine, the business station. For more stories of the same kind, download the VSM app.

Categories
Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 11 Jul 2022: Energy Backwardation

We had a pretty volatile week last week, with crude selling off pretty sharply early in the week. In this episode, we looked at energy backwardation, and Tracy educated us on what’s happening in those markets.

We also had some comments from Putin about a multipolar world. Albert talked through that.

And then on Friday, unfortunately, we saw the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe. We talked about the Japan post-Abe and what that means for the region.

Key themes:

  1. Energy backwardation
  2. Putin’s Multi-Polar world
  3. Japan post-Abe
  4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 25th 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:

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

Time Stamps

0:00 Start
0:54 Key Themes for the week
1:28 Catalyst of the energy sell-off on Tuesday
5:44 Will we see more action in energy prices?
6:57 Is it cost-ineffective to make hydrogen with natgas prices?
8:11 Diesel
9:20 Vladimir Putin’s multipolar world.
13:44 Japan post-Abe
20:29 What’s for the week ahead?

Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:

Transcript

TN: Hi. Welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. Thanks for joining us. I’m with Tracy and Albert today. Sam is away, but we are talking about a pretty volatile week this week. Before we get started, actually, please like and subscribe. Please ask any questions below, make any comments. We want to make sure this is interesting for you, so just let us know any additional info you want or comments. We’re happy to address those.

We had a pretty volatile week this week with crude selling off pretty sharply early in the week. So we’re going to look at energy backwardation, and Tracy is going to educate us all on what’s happening in those markets. We also had some comments out of Putin about a multipolar world. We’re going to have Albert talk through that. And then on Friday, unfortunately, we saw the assassination of Japan’s former Prime Minister Abe. So we’re going to talk about the Japan post Abe and what that means for Japan and the region.

So first let’s get into energy. Tracy, obviously, we had a big sell off in energy early in the week, and then we saw it come back later. What was really the catalyst for that energy sell off on Tuesday?

TS: What happened is that we started on July 5, right? We opened with low liquidity in the market in general. Then we saw a sell off in the general markets and commodities and risky assets that kind of exacerbated that trade. And then on the 6th, we saw a liquidation of a couple of very large positions in that market. And so fundamentally, basically, there is no reason for this sell off other than technicalities.

In fact, if we’re looking at this market, this spreads, the calendar spreads, which means month to month, were exploding higher during this entire move. That implies that the physical market at least, is very tight right now because you’re seeing backwardation increase significantly when we’re seeing a $10 move in ZZ, which is crazy.

TN: Can you tell us what that means? A $10 move in ZZ. What does that mean for the rest of us?

TS: If you’re talking about calendar schedule, we’re talking about monthly. So we can talk about the current front month is August. So we look at August, September, September to October, October to November, et cetera, et cetera. And once these spreads start exploding higher, that means that we’re seeing people want to dump oil in the front month market because that’s more lucrative than keeping it in storage.

So if I’m an investor and I’m looking and I want to invest in a backwardated market, I’m looking at a convex market that goes from right to left, and I’m going to invest in, say, a back month, and I want my investment to move higher…

TN: I’m investing further in the future.

TS: Right. That’s what it backwards. If you’re in a contangable market, we’re looking at the opposite situation, where you’re looking at a convex structure going from right to left, whereas if I invest in December, by the time my investment reaches Frontline X free, I’m losing money. I’m losing value in my investment.

TN: Right.

TS: And so that’s how we kind of have to look at that situation.

TN: Yes. You had a great tweet this week explaining that with visuals.

TS: I did. It’s on Twitter, if anyone wants to see it.

TN: Exactly. We saw this in crude. We also saw it in a natural gas. Right?

TS: Yes. We’re kind of seeing a major pullback in many of the commodities markets. Right. We’re seeing a little bit of a bounce this week because we’re looking at China. China has recently announced we have one last announcement with $200 billion bond sale rate. So we’re looking at a lot of stimulus out of China that’s giving commodities the boost. Right now, we have to see I think the markets are still going to wait on, particularly the industrial and base medical markets are going to wait until we actually see some action in China to really see investment back into these markets after this huge goal.

TN: So nobody believes the China stimulus story right now. It’s kind of a show me the money period. Right. But once they do start to show the money, do you think we’ll see much more action in energy prices?

TS: I think you’ll see more action in metal prices than you will equity prices.

TN: Copper’s way off compared to, say, the last 18 months. But it’s not way off, given historical copper prices. If we go back before, say, Q1 of 2020, it’s kind of where it had been previously in the ballpark, at least. Right. So we haven’t necessarily reverted back to pre-COVID, necessarily. We’re just in the start-stop manufacturing world, and that’s what’s affecting base metals like copper. Is that fair to say?

TS: Oh, absolutely. If you look at, like, a monthly chart rather than looking at a five-minute chart, and the market has kind of just been consolidating, really, for the last two years, until we see a really big break above, say, $5, a really big break below $3, we’re still kind of in that consolidation zone.

TN: 3.50 to 4.50 kind of range. Interesting. Okay. Sorry, Albert.

AM: Yeah. I got a question for Tracy. Nat gas, as we’re talking, since we discussed it a little bit, that’s used to make hydrogen, if I’m not mistaken, and since the nat gas price seems to be elevated, isn’t that going to be a little bit too cost-ineffective to make hydrogen, which causes a diesel problem, if I’m not mistaken? I’m not sure about that. That’s what I’m asking.

TS: No, absolutely. I think that would be a problem. Looking forward. I think there’s a lot of problems if we’re looking at the hydrogen market. There’s still a lot of problems when we’re talking about taking this idea to actual fruition. Right. Because if you look at the hydrogen market, there’s like a rainbow of green hydrogen, blue hydrogen, this hydrogen, this hydrogen. But we really haven’t gotten to the point that can overtake, not gas the allure of the situation is that you can take hydrogen, mix it with nat gas, you can send it down the same pipeline, and that saves a lot of money.

AM: Yeah.

TS: The situation is this is not a great idea in theory, but we’re just not there yet.

TN: Okay, got you. Albert’s, question about diesel. Diesel is not any less tight than it was a week or two ago. Right? In fact, that’s just as tight or tighter than it was, say, a couple of weeks ago or a month ago.

TS: Yeah, I think the diesel market is still very tight.

TN: Right.

AM: Maintenance season starts, isn’t it? From September to November?

TS: Yes, we will start maintenance seasons.

TN: Okay.

TS: I would actually look for some of these refineries to maybe put off maintenance season. So that’s what I would watch to the maintenance season happen. And it’s happened before. If we have it such a tight market, we could see them putting off maintenance seasons. It’s not unheard of.

TN: Okay, so hurricane season and maintenance season are upon us, but we may see at least maintenance season for all of us.

TS: Oh, not I just moved to Florida.

TN: Good luck with that. I’m in Texas. We don’t get as many of you, but it’ll be a fun season for you.

Okay, let’s move on, guys, to some comments out of Putin this week. Vladimir Putin had some comments about us, the multipolar world becoming more and more of reality. We heard this ten years ago. We heard this 20 years ago, and it came up again this week. So, Albert, can you kind of let us know what’s going on there?

AM: Tony, I’ve used this multipolar example for the US. Dollar dominance I got for years now. And the fact of the matter is, we are not in a multipolar world. We are not even going into multipolar world.

People are confusing a little bit of weakness in the US. Leadership and errors and decision making, foreign policy for multipolars, it’s just a multipolarity, and it’s just not the case for the world to be in a multipolar scenario, you would need multiple countries with equal militaries and economies. We are nowhere near that.

The Russian economy is 2.5 trillion. The American economy is pushing 30 trillion. This is just a joke by Vladimir Putin. Simply undermine the US dominance both in the world stage and the dollar.

TN: Aside from some dumpster pundits who write for The Atlantic or whatever, who believes that nonsense?

AM: A lot of Europhiles that want to see the United States take a step down, they can do it. A lot of crypto guys, a lot of gold guys. These guys have to make that argument, because without multipolarity, you cannot have a neutral reserve asset to settle trade. And that’s just the fact of the matter.

The problem becomes, if you have a multipolar world, you’re on the verge of another world war, because there always has to be one alpha that takes hold of the system. You just can’t have equal people.

TN: And the cost of the transaction? Cost? The cost of trade, everything goes up. If you have multiple rights go up, everything goes up.

AM: It’s completely unstable.

TS: Inflation from other countries to other countries.

AM: Yeah.

TN: The world is built on China exporting deflation. Has been for 15, 20 years. And it will continue. If they could just keep their ports open, it will continue. And it makes people happy. Right.

AM: No, you’re right. That’s just the way our system works right now, with the dollar underpinning all of it. It’s the lifeblood that makes trade work. And people are not going to like it. But I promise you, no one alive today is going to see anything other.

TN: So let me just take a step back. Who does he think the polls are? Russia, China and the US? Or Germany or something?

AM: He’s trying to make an assumption to say that Russia and China are the new contenders to the United States. The problem with that is they don’t have military power projection globally like the United States does. They can’t even invade Ukraine. China can’t even invade Taiwan. Otherwise they would have taken it if they’ve it could have. This is the world we live.

TN: Yeah. Russia can stir up problems in Libya or the Middle East or whatever.

AM: There’s no question that they can stir up problems and they can fill in gap vacuums that we leave right, unintentionally, unintentionally. But they cannot hold that territory. They cannot force changes in governments like the United States did.

TN: And every time I hear somebody talk about the Belt and Road as a sign of China’s dominance, it reminds me of Napoleon’s march to Russia. Right? I mean, they’re spreading themselves so thin. They can’t keep that up.

AM: They can’t. That’s perfect example to do that, to make that thing actually successful, you need to back that up to secure your trade line, trade with the military. Right. China has like, what, two military bases outside of China? Like one in Djibouti and something else. I mean, they can’t send ships over to their armor.

TN: Myanmar.

AM: Yeah. This is beyond a joke to me. I don’t take anybody seriously that even brings this part up, right. Vladimir Putin included.

TN: That’s good. So anybody watching this, if you have an alternative view, let us know in the comments. Honestly, we’d love to hear it. We just want to hear some credible.

TS: Put your notes in the comments.

TN: Yes, absolutely. Okay. Now, finally today I woke up in the US to the really tragic news of Japan’s foreign Prime Minister Abe, being assassinated.

I saw Abe in his first stint as PM in the mid 2000s. And then when he came back in, in 2013, and with the Abenomics plan, which was really difficult to pull off, ultimately successfully. The guy was smart. He was all about Japan. He’s all about Japan recovering, all about Japan being competitive. I put a picture up of Abe shaking hands with Prime Minister Modi of India. Japan and India were very tight. A lot of Japanese investment going to India, a lot of partnership across those two countries and in Africa, both to defend against China in Asia and other parts of the world. So Prime Minister Abe will be missed.

I think what Abe did partly was bring back Japan’s ability to defend itself by passing a constitutional change that allowed the Japanese military to defend itself where previously it wasn’t even allowed to do that. So there’s a lot of dignity that Japan kind of got back, and we can rub Japan’s nose in World War II for eternity, but it’s not going to be constructive. What happened, happened. They’ve paid their dues, and that’s kind of what Abe said, look, we paid our dues, we’re going to move on now and join the 21st century. And that’s what Japan did.

So I’m just curious to get your thoughts, guys, on Japan post Abe. What do you see as of course they moved on to another prime minister. Japan has already moved on from the Abe government. He wasn’t a sitting prime minister. But what do you see kind of the challenges of Japan’s role in Asia particularly, but also in the world post Abe?

AM: I think the most pressing issue for Japan would be contending with China, both militarily and economically. Abe was, like you said, brilliant statesman and patriot for the Japanese people. So he’s going to be sorely missed. And it’s not just he’s going to be missed, but his cabinet and the people that his network is going to be missed because they’re losing a big part of what he brought to the table in terms of strategy and ideology. It was a big shift.

I think that the Japanese are probably going to struggle for strategy in the next five to ten years. And it’s a sad thing, but I’m sure the Japanese, they’re resilient people and they’ll move on and they’ll recover.

TN: Tracy?

TS: No, I absolutely agree with what Albert said. I think the thing is that people are painting him, the media right now, in particular the Western media, painting them with some villain, which is very interesting to me. And I think that people should really just look at his legacy and respect what he’s done instead of jumping on the bandwagon.

TN: So they’re portraying him as some ultra nationalist, but he’s as ultra nationalist as Modi as in India, or Jokowi is in Indonesia, or Lee is in Singapore, you name it. Tsai Ing-wen in Taiwan. It’s an Asian direction now. Right. And has been for the last ten to 15 years.

AM: Yeah. The media also, Tony, is desperate to not allow any center right or even right nationalist figures be murderers or looked up upon. They just can’t stomach it. They just can’t help themselves to demonize a person that is absolutely unjustifiably demonized by being called an ultra-nationalist and even worse, by the NPR.

NPR had two other headlines that they had to delete because it was just so atrocious. This is a.. And Modi, Abe, I don’t want to put Victor Orban into that, but all these right leaning leaders just get attacked and the media can’t help it.

TN: Right, yeah. I think from an economic plan, if we look at what Abe did with Abenomics, of course, the Japanese Central Bank is kind of “independent,” right. But they really took the JPY from kind of 76 to the dollar to, say, 120 to the dollar, and it really allowed Japanese manufacturing to be competitive again. Right.

And it took somebody with that clarity of economic vision, as well as the clarity of, say, the military vision and political vision, to be able to pull off what they did. And in terms of, say, energy sustainability under Abe, they also created much deeper relationships in the Middle East with places like Qatar, UAE.

TS: And they also looked forward to nuclear, where you looked at the west was looking to shut things down, Abe was looking to invest in nuclear projects. You’re looking for energy security, energy going forward. There are a lot of things that he did to advance that sector in Japan, which is admirable.

TN: Right. Albert if we take a US perspective on this? The US has worked hard to kind of hold a line against China. Do you think with the mediocre leadership we have in the US right now, do you think it’s possible that some of that US say coalition falls apart a little bit? Or do you think we just kind of take a breather and then it resumes based on the institutional stamina of parts of the Japanese government?

AM: That’s a great question, Tony. That’s actually a really good question. And I think where we have to look for we have to separate the Biden foreign policy cabinet with the Pentagon. Because the Pentagon is actually leading this charge for the Pacific with Japan and Australia in charge. I really don’t think that the Japanese are going to take a step back or the US is going to take a step back. I think the system is pretty much, the train has already left the station and it’s rolling.

There might be an argument from the opposition in Japan, but I don’t think. That it’s going to take hold to derail this new initiative by the US and the Pacific.

TN: Great, that’s good to hear. Okay, guys. Hey, on that somber note, we’ll end it, but let’s look at the week ahead. Guys, what are you looking for in the week ahead? We’ve had this real turnaround this week. What do you see going into next week? Do you see things calming a bit?

We saw it coming into Friday. Things really turn up in US markets and in commodity markets. Do we see things stabilizing a bit going into the Fed meeting after we’ve had some Fed comments late this week?

AM: I want to see the comments of where they might signal a 50 basis point rate hike versus a 75. I absolutely believe 75 points is coming just from the jobs data that they posted. It was obviously massaged a little bit.

TN: Just a little bit.

AM: Of course it is. Yeah, but this was a good one. And then the revision too, and it just seems to me that they want another 75 basis point rate hike.

TN: To really kill it?

AM: They got to tackle inflation. I mean, they’re looking at 8.8 on the next CPI, which is just.. And you’re staring on the barrel at 9% and 9.2 and 9.3 in the coming months, which is absolutely a political nuclear bomb that goes off.

TN: Okay, Tracy, what are you looking for in the next week especially in commodities?

TS: Yeah, I mean, I agree we probably will see 75 after non farm payroll this week, which I was looking for a clue kind of are we going to get 50, are we going to get 75? It looks like 75 for sure.

So looking in the coming weeks, I’m really looking to China right now and to see what comes to fruition with these sort of stimulus plans. What does that do to the base in industrial medals markets? And I think those are the two things that you should be focusing on right now, particularly if you’re invested in commodities markets.

TN: Very good. Okay. Yeah. I’m kind of hoping they give in to 50, but I’m not hopeful. I do think they’ll on the kind of conservative hawkish side and go 75. But if they can pick up the bat phone and talk to China, and the China guys will unload a dump truck of cash over the next week or so, then I think they’ll be a little bit lighter and do 50 basis points. But I think a lot of it depends on China ECB. They can’t get their act together, so there’s nothing ECB can do to really help.

And Europe is in so much trouble that it doesn’t really matter what they do. They have huge problems anyway. So. I think you’re right. And tell me what you think about this. But I don’t necessarily think we see massive chop. I think we see just a lot of fairly sideways moved for the next week or so.

AM: I would be wary if we jumped up to 4000 or even, like, 3970. I think a rug pull would be in an order right after that. That’s what they do. They bowl everybody up and then pull the rug out.

TN: Tracy?

TS: Yeah. After this big move down in the oil market, in particular, because we did have sort of a flow event coupled with a couple of large funds kind of workforce to liquidate. So I could see that we still could go a little bit higher next week. Sideways to higher next week.

TN: Very good. Okay, guys, be interesting to see. Thanks for joining us. Thanks very much. Have a great weekend. And have a great week ahead.

TN: Very good. Thank you, guys.

AM: I struggle with the headache through that whole thing.

Categories
Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 04 Jul 2022: Metals Meltdown

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We’ve all seen many chops in the markets, especially on the energy side, with the fuel and oil shortages. That was a little bit unexpected to people. Equity markets are struggling and there are a lot of talks this week about recession and trying to move the Fed into being more accommodative, which is 180 degrees from where we were two weeks ago.

Copper is hurting and down 28% since March. What is this telling us about metals, generally, and drivers of metals demand? Is this telling us that China – the largest buyer of industrial metals – won’t really bounce back? Does the market doubt China’s stimulus announcements?

We also discussed Europe, its slowing economy, rising unemployment, and gas shortages.

Lastly, is the Fed anchoring inflation?

Key themes:

  1. Metals Meltdown
  2. How badly is Europe hurting?
  3. Fed inflation anchors
  4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 24th 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:

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

Time Stamps

0:00 Start
1:45 Key themes for this episode
2:23 Metals meltdown – what are they telling us?
3:48 Will there be a comeback of automotive?
5:09 Does the market believe China’s promise of a stimulus?
7:25 How much is China’s manipulation be beneficial for China?
9:26 What about Japan?
12:00 Europe’s economy and inflation
15:21 Europe’s concentration risk on the sale side
19:42 Europe’s problems stem from this
20:32 Fed and anchoring inflation
25:50 What’s for the Week Ahead?

Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:

Transcript

TN: Hi everybody, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. Today we’re joined by Sam Rines and Albert Marko. Tracy is out for the long holiday weekend. Before we get started, please don’t forget to like and subscribe the video and please comment on the video. We look at them, we engage. We want to hear your feedback. Also, while you’re here, we have a promo for CI Futures. This is our markets forecasting tool. Our promotion is three months free on a twelve-month subscription. That promotion ends on July 7. So please take a look at it now and get our best promo ever.

So, key theme for this week. We’ve all seen the markets a lot of chop as we talked about. We saw a lot, especially on the energy side, kind of negative with the fuel shortages and oil shortages. I think that was probably a little bit unexpected to people. Equity markets are struggling and there’s a lot of talk this week about recession and trying to move the Fed into being more accommodative, which is 180 degrees from where we were two weeks ago. So a few things we’re talking about.

First is the metals meltdown. Second, Albert Marco, although he’s been in an undisclosed location, he has been in Europe. And we’re going to talk a little bit about how badly Europe is hurting right now. And then we’re going to look at inflation and how the Fed is potentially anchoring inflation.

So first, let’s look at the metals meltdown. If we look at copper. Copper has been a lot of buzz around copper over the last few days and copper is down 28% since March. But I think we could speak to metals more broadly. We’ve got the copper chart on the screen right now. So Albert, if you don’t mind, what are metals telling us generally about markets and the drivers of demand?

AM: Well, I mean, it’s pretty clear that the manufacturing sector across multiple industries is hurting at the moment and has taken a toll in the metals market. There just simply isn’t any demand for consumer products. There’s not going to be any demand for metals probably until the Chinese really start to stimulate.

It’s pretty clear. And then on top of that, they have pressure from the dollar that just keep on charging along trajectory to 110. So those things are really weighing on the metal market. I mean, copper specifically, like you mentioned, aluminum taken some hits just across the board.

TN: Right. So if we look at things like automotive, automotive is held up because of semiconductor supply chain issues which are working out, but automotive manufacturing slowed pretty dramatically. If we see, say, the chip issues get worked out for, say, automotive, do you expect to see more like a comeback of automotive, of car manufacturing, which will pull metal prices along?

AM: No, I don’t. And I don’t think that’s even going to be the case for the next 18 to 24 months. I mean, the auto sector is actually in a really bad shape, And it’s not specifically just because of the chips, like everyone assumes, but you have rubber shortages, you have polyurethane shortages, you have shortages across the board for the entire auto sector, for the manufacturing process. So until all of those supply chain issues get settled, there’s just no hope at the moment, which is interesting because there hasn’t been really any layoffs yet.

I know they’re artificially keeping these people on payroll and doing whatever they want to do with the shifts and manipulating that. But at some point and i’ve been arguing about this specifically the auto sector, there will be layoffs because of all this.

TN: Just for the people who don’t know. Albert is from Detroit, so he pays attention to the auto sector pretty closely, and he knows he has pretty close relationships there. So we’re talking to a man who really does kind of pay attention to what’s going on. Sam, as we see metals prices fall, we’re also seeing china become more aggressive in making statements about economic stimulus and other things. Are the metals prices right now telling us that the market doesn’t believe that china is going to put in the stimulus that they claim to be?

SR: I would say it’s a show me game with China. There’s been way too many people that have been burned way too badly, listening to the rhetoric and trying to get ahead of things on the ground, and then nothing actually happens, or they do something a little different than what they said they were going to do, and you end up with an investment profile that’s completely different.

I think that’s one of the big things to keep in mind is, yes, China is probably going to have to do something into or around the party congress this fall in terms of stimulus. They have to look at going into it. So there’s going to be some stimulus. The question is, what is it and when does it hit and what does it look like? Is it a tax cut? Because in that case, who cares, right?

It’s not going to be that big of a deal for picking up the manufacturing side in a meaningful manner. Is it going to be reopening? Right. Because if they’re sending out checks but not reopening, that’s not going to allow their manufacturing sector to get back to work, which is going to Albert’s point, going to continue to clog the supply chains for autos and auto manufacturing significantly, whether you’re us. Based manufacturer or your South Korean manufacturer, et cetera.

This is a longer term problem where I think you’re not necessarily going to have the pop and metals until people actually see the real data from either Australia or the us. Or even in Mexico. But that’s a significant amount of the auto sector assembly. You’re going to actually have to see the data before people.

TN: Right. And so what I hear about metals in China and I’ve mentioned this before, but what I’m told by people, especially in the copper sector, is that the warehouses in China are actually full, although we’re told that they’re not. They are. And words that warehouses empty out from time to time is simply to manipulate the market up. But there’s ample, say, copper and other industrial metals in warehouses in China, given the demand that the world has.

AM: Let me ask you both little question here. How much is China’s manipulation of their stimulus on and off due to them trying to force the Fed into lowering the rate hikes or putting them into a position where it’s beneficial for China overall?

TN: Sam, what do you think?

SR: I would say they definitely have a calculus instead of the ECB, instead of a certain extent the BOJ when they.. they all have to take that into account and they all have to either front run or attempt to talk their markets one way or the other. That’s why I’m saying it’s definitely part of the calculus. I don’t know how much of the fiscal side is directly related to counteracting with that and how much is directly related to keeping the people happy. I would say those are the two primary catalysts.

TN: Yeah, I think that’s right. I think any Chinese stimulus that’s going to be effective in the short term has to be cash in, say, local government accounts, people’s accounts, company’s accounts. As Sam said, that tax cuts not going to cut it, indirect payments are not going to cut it. Announcing a new rail stimulus, which they do every other year, is not going to cut it. They actually have to just churn cash out in markets. But with the US dollar and rates, I think they’re really careful right now about how quickly they devalue CNY. And I think that is one of the things that they’re being careful of. They don’t want to devalue it too quickly because Chinese exports have surged over the past six weeks. And so if they can continue to make money at the rate they have, they’ll put off the DeVal as long as they have to. But if the dollar continues to appreciate, they may have to accelerate the evaluation and they’re in a tough spot. China is not the all seeing, all knowing planner that many people think, well.

AM: Part two of that would be what about Japan? Because they devalued the Yen and they’re kind of combating whatever China is trying to try and propose and stimulus. So how does that all come into the equation?

SR: And I’ll just pop out that one of the interesting pieces to kind of throw into the puzzle is not copper sending one signal that China is maybe not going to stimulate, et cetera. But you look at Chinese Equities X, the state owned entities, and guess what? You had a plus almost 7% second quarter for those equities. So the market is sniffing something out there. There might be a little bit of a hedge of, well, if you’re not going to build a bunch of stuff, you might hand out checks, like you said. And if you hand out check, it’s going to benefit the Internet and Chinese tech companies more than it’s going to benefit the metals industry.

TN: Right. And if they want to stimulate the top echelon of Chinese society, they could just goose equities and focus on a trickle down theory, which is very anticommunist, but it’s something that they can do pretty quickly. They did it in 2015, they’ve done it at other times, and they can do that. But going back to your Japan question, Albert, it’s an interesting one because China is such a supply chain risk going forward, the uncertainty there, that Japan is selling itself as a secure alternative to China. And that’s why one of the reasons why they’re devaluing so strongly is so that it’s just a no brainer to get stuff done in Japan. Right?

AM: Yeah, of course. That’s a great explanation. It’s very concise and simplistic, and I had known this, but I wanted you guys to explain this to the viewers because it’s a critical thing that most people don’t really take into account. They always see China. China. And they ignore Japan and South Korea.

TN: Yeah, Japan and South Korea have been devaluing. It’s more depreciating than devaluing. I know there’s a nerdy difference between those two, but they’ve been pushing depreciation because they wanted to be seen as a safe alternative to China. But then you also look at Southeast Asia, places like Vietnam, other places, things in Vietnam, all those exports are done in dollars, not in dong, so they can’t really play the currency card to do values.

SR: It’s also worth remembering that Japan exports a lot of machinery to China, and so if they don’t, if they strengthen their currency while China is devaluing, that puts them in there.

TN: That’s right. Great questions, Albert. Thank you for that. Okay, let’s move on to Europe. Albert, so you’ve been there. Let’s start by looking at inflation. So we’ve got on the screen right now a comparison of inflation rates in, say, the US. Europe and China. And PPI, especially in Europe, is blistering hot. It’s 40%. And CPI, of course, is accelerated as well. It’s ten plus percent, if you believe that. I think it’s higher than that. But as you’ve been there, can you walk through some of your observations of what’s happening in Europe right now and how it’s affecting companies and the way people spend and so on?

AM: Well, from the bottom up, for the general public, that’s just pure desperation. The media just doesn’t want to cover it because it’s just bad news for every single political party out there. Inflation is running rampant. Food, it’s running rampant. And every single product they have, they’re used to high gas prices to begin with, but like the United States, there’s a certain amount where the strain is just too much for families.

I believe the UK. One out of four people were skipping meals because of food inflation prices. One out of four? That’s stunning. And that will have long term health effects down the road. But we’re talking about the year now. Europe’s manufacturing sector is an absolute shambles. Their export engine into China is just nonexistent. They haven’t built out any overseas networks into Africa or other emerging markets to be able to compete. They have no military to sit there and actually push the trade issues their way. They’re secondary. Not secondary. They’re behind Russia and China in that aspect, not to Mention The United States. So, I mean, I complain about the auto sector in the United States. The manufacturing and the auto sector in Germany is absolutely dead.

TN: Okay, I want to pull that Apart a little bit. Okay, so the manufacturing in Germany is dead or dying, largely because of concentration risk in Russian gas as a feed fuel, right, for electricity.

AM: The energy prices have skyrocketed. Corporations And Private businesses are struggling to keep up with margins to cover their costs. And the governments are just like. They’re just making things worse in Germany, I believe they’re handing out money to every single person, refugee or youth person, that think that will vote for them in the future. That makes inflation worse. I can go down the list of different things that they’re doing an error, but I don’t see how Europe pulls out of this specifically in the fall and going into 2023. I mean, their gas shortages are such a problem here right now that I can’t even fathom what the problems are going to be in Germany and Italy and France going forward.

Actually, in Germany and Austria, they’re running out of wood to heat their homes because people are stockpiling that already, and this is July. So I mean, there’s going to be some serious repercussions of Europe. And this is why I targeted Europe to be a problem, possibly for financial crisis and contagion leading back into the United States. It’s just a big problem across the board.

TN: That PPI chart is just so stunning. Now we talk about concentration risk on the supply side. Let’s look at concentration risk on the sales side. Right. Europe has really over concentrated a lot of its sales requirements in China. China has been the market for a lot of European companies. Right. And outsource manufacturing. So they’re as concentrated in China or more concentrated in China than many US companies are, first of all.

AM: By far.

TN: And they’re more dependent on China as a sales market in many cases, than many US companies are, right?

AM: Yeah. This is the problem that I’ve had with Germany specifically. I want to pick on Germany because they are economic. That’s just the fact of the matter. But the Germans, they go out and they see China as a huge market, and they start pushing out their high tech trains and their windmill technology and so on and so forth. Well, the Chinese, all they did was order that stuff, buy it, piece it apart, copy it, and then they sell that to the Africans for one fourth of the cost of the Germans could possibly sell it to the Africans.

So not only is Germany losing out long term with Chinese trade in the market, because that’s stagnating, but now they have no chance to go into the African market because it’s flooded with Chinese parts.

TN: Sure.

AM: They made such critical errors for the years, and they were just so drunk on cheap money out of China that now for the next decade or two, they’re going to have problems.

TN: Yeah, but my overarching points are that Europe is over concentrated on the energy side with Russia, and they’re over concentrated on the manufacturing and then market side with China. And aside from that, they’re kind of out of bullets. They don’t have a lot. And I think that is a lot of the basis for the reason we’re seeing PPI just explode in Europe.

AM: Yes, of course. The only country that even has the only country… The French are smart. I don’t want to hear anything from the Americans be like, Oh, the French are weak and put up the white flag on the Eiffel Tower, whatever these jokes are. But the French have nuclear power and they have food security for their entire nation.

Two of the biggest problems right now in Europe, France has a grasp on. The rest of Europe is total chaos. But those two issues in France are absolutely secure, and the French are smart and they’re looking for long term gains to push the Germans out of the way and take over the EU, and that will actually end up happening. But in the near term, inflation is almost worse there than it is here. Their housing market is mainly cash based, so it’s not as bad of a bubble, but everything else.

TN: So you don’t see much let up in Europe for the rest of 22. You think it continues to be pretty dire in Europe for the rest of 22?

AM: Oh, absolutely. I think the only reason that it’s even somewhat stable at the moment is the tour season has kicked up, and then that’s created other problems where you’re going to cancel flights and overbooked hotels.

TN: Right. Sam, do you have a similar view on Europe at least for the remainder of the year? It continues to be really difficult for the remainder of the year.

SR: Oh, yeah. And the only other place that I would point out is Italy. I mean, Italy is in a pretty rough spot here too. Even with Mario Draghi at the helm, they’re still in a pretty tight spot, and part of it is natural gas and pretty tight there. But the other part is that when it took Legarde about 35 seconds of saying, we’re going to tighten up a little bit here, from negative rates to maybe zero to almost blow up the bond market in the BBB market, it was insane what was going on, and it was a very small move, and you still had yields blow out across the Italian government deck. It’s one of those situations where things move very quickly, things break very quickly, and it doesn’t have a whole lot of bullets in the site.

TN: It’s not like they can go to their version of the permian and drill again. Just to bring this back to something really basic. A lot of Europe’s problem stems from the fact that it has a very old population. So they don’t have young, productive people to keep up with the commitments to very old people in very simple sense. Does that make sense? Is that right?

AM: Oh, absolutely. Looking at just the Italian demographic, all those young Italian guys have bolted for the UK, London, and New York and Miami. They’re gone.

TN: So until they either have a lot of babies, automate, or have a lot of new immigrants, Europe continues to have the same issue?

AM: 100%.

TN: Okay, good.

SR: Demographics don’t change quickly.

TN: No, they don’t.

SR: It’s about 18 years.

TN: That’s right. Okay, so let’s move on to the Fed and inflation anchoring. Sam, you had a great piece in your newsletter, which I’ve referenced many times, and people always ask me how they get their hands on it. So it’s one of the most exclusive newsletters you can get in America. But you had a great piece on Fed Anchoring. Now, I put a chart up on five year inflation expectations. The only reason I put this up is because they really peaked back in late February. Okay? And after that, the five year inflation has really broken down a lot, almost to normal ranges. Okay. So I know you’re looking shorter term, but can you walk us through a little bit about the Fed Anchoring inflation and what you expect? Kind of the near term impact?

SR: Sure. So kind of the point of what I was trying to get across. There’s really two things that you needed anchored for markets to begin to find some footing in the US. At least. And that was you needed to have inflation expectations begin to become anchored. And I think we’ve seen that. Right. You see that chart and it peaked in March, give or take, and has fallen back towards call it normal ranges, if not slightly below what you would expect in this type of environment. That makes sense, right?

In five years, we’re not going to have this type of solution. I’ll be willing to accept that no problem unless we have another flare up somewhere. But I think that’s a fairly reasonable thing to do. But also you have to have the expectations for the Fed anchored as well, because you had two unanchorings that were really happening side by side that was highly problematic for markets.

One, you had inflation unanchoring very quickly, and that’s problematic for markets generally. But you also have the Fed expectations becoming unanchored, and the market was pushing, pushing, pushing for whatever it could get in terms of hikes. Right. It was 75-75-50-50-50. Adding an item to somewhere around four and a quarter percent at the peak. And as of today, you’re back to having the terminal rates or where the Fed raises interest rates to happen by December of this year, and it’s 3.25% 3.5%, and then it cuts next year, is the expectation.

So you’ve begun to have, call it a pricing that’s similar to 1994 hike and then cut style of Fed. That is pretty interesting. That’s a pretty anchored expectation for the Fed. It’s a reasonable expectation of the towards neutral. You’re probably somewhat towards real rates at that point being somewhat positive just because you have inflation of about 3.2 and you have a Fed funds rate a little bit above that. nThat’s why I think that’s a fairly reasonable place for it on the inflation expectations front, that’s largely specifically going to call it close in inflation expectations under a year.

Those are largely call it oil and gasolated and groceries.

TN: Very much energy.

SR: Yeah, this is US. This is not Europe. But as long as in the US, you don’t continue to have those rise in a dramatic fashion, people tend to stop extrapolating. Those forward in their inflation expectations either stabilized or declined back to what they call it normality. And that normality would be somewhere between two and a half and two so that we could spot.

TN: So if gas prices, gasoline prices in the US stopped at, say, 490 or whatever they’re selling at now as a national average, let’s say we plateaued there for three or four months, people would adjust and it would be livable?

SR: It would be livable, yeah, it would be livable. So long as the not accelerating higher.

TN: As long as what, sorry?

SR: As long as they’re not accelerating higher.

AM: Yeah, Sam is right. The risk is as long as they stabilize, I completely agree with Sam. We have one hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. We have a problem, like a real problem, looking at like $5.50 to $6 gas, and then inflation becomes absolutely just insane.

Going back to the inflation number that they printed out last time, they’re using this ridiculous 5% for housing and shelter and the CPI equation. It’s a little bit hard for me to swallow, but if they can do some kind of magic and keep inflation somewhat steady over the next few months I agree with Sam.

TN: It’s kind of a short at that point.

SR: The interesting part about that is you create an interesting duality in calling risk markets, where the US risk market looks very attractive. If you’ve peaked on Fed pricing, if you peaked on the PE killing. PEs are down 35% year over year. That’s a bigger drop than we’ve seen for several corrections.

You can have a really interesting US risk market going into the back half of the year across markets. The curve, on the other hand, that could be two spends to get very interested very quickly.

TN: Very good. Okay, good guys. What are we looking for for the week ahead? We’ve got a holiday here on Monday. We’ve started to see, say, gasoline prices perk back up in markets on Friday. Are we going to start to see potentially in the near term gas prices rise post July 4?

AM: I think so. One of the things that’s not being said, I don’t think we touched upon, I think last time we did, but the Saudis come in with lower than expected barrels per day, lower capacity, and this must have been stemmed from McCrone and Biden trying to price cap them. Come on, you do that to us, we’re going to do this to you. It’s a game at this point. And the Russians are certainly pulling strings of the Saudis and the Iranians to make this a little bit more chaotic for the US. So I think gas does go does start to trend a little bit higher over the next two weeks.

You’re certainly going to hear noise from people with July 4 prices for barbecues coming up. So that’s going to be all over the news.

TN: Okay, interesting. Sam, what are you looking for during the week ahead?

SR: To build on what Albert was talking about? I think it’s really interesting that spare capacity from OPEC just doesn’t appear to be there whatsoever. But at the same time, you’re also probably going to have at least somewhat of a call, a permanent impairment of Russian oil fields if you continue to have sanctions, that puts a floor long term in global energy prices, period. And if you don’t have US service firms keeping those fields going, we’ve seen what happens when you send Chinese and Russian oil services firms to Venezuela just before you destroy the oil industry.

So look forward to that. On the other side, I’m really looking forward to the conversations that a bunch of millennials have to have with their parents, the crypto markets this July 4.

TN: You are a millennial.

SR: But I am looking forward to some glorious Twitter cons that Tuesday.

TN: Fantastic. Okay, guys, thanks very much. Have a great holiday weekend and have a great weekend.

AM: Thanks, Tony.

SR: Thanks, Tony.

Categories
Podcasts

The Unbeatable Artificial Stock Market

Show Notes

MG: The Lead Lag Report joining us for the hour here is Tony Nash of Complete Intelligence has found a lot of people that I respect following. Tony, I saw a few people saying they were excited to hear what Tony has to say. So hopefully we’ll have a good conversation here.

Tony for those who aren’t familiar with your background talk about who you are how’d you get involved in the data side of markets and forecasting in general. And what you’re doing with Complete Intelligence.

TN: Sure, Michael. First of all, thanks for having me. I have followed you for probably 10 or 15 years.

MG: I am very sorry for that I am very very sorry for that.

TN: But yeah so, I got involved in data way back in the late 90s when I was in Silicon Valley and I built a couple of research firms focused on technology businesses. I then took about probably eight years to become an operator. I did a turnaround in Asia of a telecom firm. I built a firm in Sri Lanka during the Civil War and then I started down the research front again. I was the Global Head of Research for the Economist and I was the Asia Head of Consulting for a company called IHS Markit which is now owned by S&P and then after that I started Complete Intelligence.

So, you know my background is really all about data but it’s also all about understanding the operational context of that data. And I think it’s very hard for people to really understand what data means without understanding how people use it.

MG: Okay. So that’s maybe a good direction to start with that point about context with data because I think part of that context is understanding what domains data is more appropriate for forecasting and others. Right? So, I always made this argument that there are certain domains in particular when it comes to, I would argue investing that have sort of a chaotic system element to them. Right? Where small changes can have ripple effects. So, it’s hard to necessarily to sort of make a direct link between a strong set of variables and the actual outcome because there’s always a degree of randomness. Whereas, something that’s more scientific right that doesn’t have that kind of chaos theory element is it’s clearer.

So, talk about that point about context when it comes to looking at data. And again, the kind of domains where data is more appropriate to really have more conviction in than others.

TN: Yeah. Okay. So, that’s a great place to start. So, the first thing I would say is take every macro variable that you know of and throw it out the window. It’s all garbage data 100 of it. Okay? I would never trade based on macro data.

We’ve tested macro data over the years and it’s just garbage. It doesn’t matter the country. You know we hear people saying that China makes up their data. Well, that may be true you can kind of fill in the blank on almost any country because I don’t know how much you guys understand about macro data. But it is not market clearing data. Okay? Like an equity price or a commodity price.

Macroeconomic data is purely academic made-up data that is a proxy for activity. It’s a second or third derivative of actual activity by the time you see, say, a CPI print which is coming out tomorrow. Right? And it’s late and it’s really all not all that meaningful. So, I wouldn’t really make a trade or put a strategy together based on macro data even historical macro data. Every OECD country revises their data by what four times or something.

So, you see, a print for CPI data tomorrow that’s a preliminary print and that’s revised several times before it’s put on quote-unquote actual. And so, you know, you really can’t make decisions using macroeconomic data beyond a directional decision. Okay? So, if you follow me on Twitter, you see I’m very critical macro data all the time. I’m very sarcastic about it.

I think the more specific you can get… You know if you have to look at say national data or macroeconomic data, I would look at very low-level data the more specific you can get the better. Things like household surveys or you know communist and socialist countries. Chinese data at the very specific level can be very interesting. Okay? Government data the high-level data in every country I consider it garbage data in every country. So, you’re looking at very low-level very specific government or multilateral data, that’s interesting.

The closer you get to market clearing data the better because that’s a real price. Right? A real price history on stuff is better and company data is the best. And of course, company data is revised at times but that really helps you understand what’s happening at the kind of firm level. And what’s happening at the transaction level. So, you know, those are the kind of hierarchies of data that I would look at.

MG: So, okay this is a great. That’s a great point you mentioned that it’s you said very these variables is macro variables they’re proxies for activity. Right? They’re really more proxies for narratives. Right? Because and that’s where I think… You mentioned sarcasm almost 99 of my tweets at this point are sarcasm because when Rome is burning, what else I’m not going to do except joke about it. Right? Because I can’t change anything. Right?

So, and to that point I share a lot of that cynicism around data that people will often reference in the financial media that sounds really interesting, sounds like it’s predictive but when you actually test it to your point, you throw it out because it doesn’t work. Right? There’s no real predictive element to it.

So, we’ll get into some of the predictive stuff that you talk about but I want to hit a little bit on this market clearing phrase you kept on using. Explain what you mean by market clearing.

TN: Data is where there is a buyer and a seller.

MG: To actual prices of some asset class or something like that.

TN: Yep. That’s right.

MG: Okay. So, that makes sense. Okay. Now again I go back to the certain domains that data is more clear in terms of cause and effect and getting a sense of probabilities the challenge with markets. As we know is that the probabilities change second by second because not only does that mean meaningless data change second by second but the market clearing data changes second by second. Right? Going back to that point.

So, with what you do with Complete Intelligence, talk us through a little bit. What are some of the variables that you tend to find have some predictive power? And how do you think about confidence when it comes to any kind of decision made based on those variables?

TN: Sure. Okay. So, before I do that let me get into why I started Complete Intelligence because if none of you have started a firm before don’t do it. It’s really really hard so…

MG: From the people in the back because I got to tell you I’m an entrepreneur, I’m going through. And all you got is people on Twitter kicking you when you’re down when it’s the small sample anyway.

TN: Absolutely. So, I was where I had worked for two very large research firms The Economist and IHS Markit. And I saw that both of them claimed to have very detailed and intricate models. Okay? Of the global economy industries, whatever. Okay? For all of the interior models. And I have never spoken with a global research firm a data firm that is different from this. And if I’m wrong then somebody please correct me. But at the end of that whole model pipeline is somebody who says “no that’s a little bit too high” or “a little bit too low” and they change the number. Okay? To whatever they wanted it to be in the first place. So, and I tell you 100% of research firms out there with forecasts today have a manual process at the end of their quote-unquote model. A 100% of them. Again, if there’s somebody else that doesn’t do that, I am happy to be corrected. Okay? But I had done that for a decade and I felt like a hypocrite when I would talk to clients.

So, I started Complete Intelligence because I wanted to build a 100% machine driven forecasts across economics, across market, across equities, across commodities, across currencies. Okay? And we’ve done that. So, we have a multi-phase, multi-layer machine learning process that takes in billions of data items. We’re running trillions of calculations every week when we reforecast our data. Right? Now the interval of our forecast is monthly interval forecast. So, if people looking at daily prices that’s not what we’re doing now. Okay? We will be launching daily interval forecasts. I would say probably before the end of the year to be conservative but we’re doing monthly interval forecasts now.

Why is everything I’ve said is meaningless unless we measure our error. Okay? So, for every forecast that we do. And if you log into our website, you can see whether it’s the gold price, the S&P 500, USD, JPY, molybdenum or whatever. We track our error for every month, for everything that we do. Okay? So, if you want to understand your risk associated with using our data it’s there right in front of you with the error calculations. Okay? It’s only fair, If I’m gonna say sell you a forecast, you should be able to understand how wrong we’ve been in the past, before you use that as a decision-making input.

MG: Well, maybe just add some framework on that because I think that’s interesting. So, what you call error I call luck. Right? Because luck is both good or bad. I always make that point that with any equation any set of variables you’re going to have that error is the luck component that you can’t control. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that the equation is wrong. Right? It’s just means that for whatever reason that error in that moment in time was higher or lower than you might otherwise want. Okay?

TN: There is no such thing as zero error. And anybody who tells you that they have zero error is obviously they’re an economist and they don’t understand how markets work. So, there is always error in every calculation.

So, the reason we track error is because that serves as a feedback loop into our machine learning process. Okay? And we have feedback loops every week as we and what we’re doing right now is every Friday end of day. We will download global data process over the weekend have a new forecast on Monday morning. Okay? And so all of that error whether it’s near-term error, short-term error or say medium-term error, we feed that all back in to help correct and understand what’s going on within our process. And we have like I said, we have a multi-phase process in our machine learning platform. So, error is simply understanding the risk associated with using with using our platform.

MG: Right, which is basically how apt is a thing that you’re forecasting to that error which is again luck good or bad. I’m trying to put in sort of a qualitative framework also because I think… Yeah, there’s errors in life obviously, too. Right? And so, when they’re good or bad. But you know those elements.

TN: Right. But here’s what I would and I don’t know, I don’t want to dispute this too much but I think there is. So, you use the word luck and that’s fine but I think luck has a bit to do with the human element of a decision. Okay? We’re using math and code there’s zero human interaction with the data and with the process. And so, I wouldn’t necessarily call it luck. I mean, it literally is error like our algorithms got it wrong. So, if you want to call luck that’s absolutely fine but I would say luck is more of a human say an outcome associated with a human decision. More than something that’s machine driven that’s iterating. Again, we’re doing trillions of calculations every week to get our forecasts out there.

MG: Yeah, no that’s fair and maybe for the audience, Tony. Explain what machine learning is now.

TN: Sure.

MG: I once developed an app called “How Edition”. I was having dinner with the head developer once and he said he just came back from a conference about machine learning and he was just basically well, having drinks with me laughing and joking saying everybody use this term machine learning but it’s really just regression analysis. Right? So, talk about machine learning what is actual machine learning? How important is recent data to changes in the regression? Because I assume that’s part of the sort of dynamic nature of what you do just kind of riff on that for a bit.

TN: Okay. So, when I first started Complete Intelligence, I was really cynical about AI. And I spoke to somebody in Silicon Valley and asked the same question: what is AI? And this person said “Well AI is everything from a basic I say, quadratic equation upward.” I’m not necessarily sure that I agree that something that simple would be considered artificial intelligence. What we’re really doing with machine learning is there are really three basic phases. Okay? You have a preprocess which is looking at your data to understand things like anomalies, missing data, weird behavior, these sorts of things. Okay? So, that’s the first phase that we look at to be honest that’s the hardest one to get right. Okay?

A lot of people want to talk about the forecasting methodologies and the forecasting algorithms. That’s great and that’s the sexy part of ML. But really the conditioning and the pre-process is the is the hardest part and it’s the most necessary part. Okay? When we then go into the forecasting aspect of it, we’re using what’s called an ensemble approach. So, we have a number of algorithms that we use and let’s say they’re 15 algorithms. Okay? That we use we’re looking at a potential combinatorial approach of any individual or combination of those algorithms based on the time horizon that we’re forecasting. Okay?

So, we’re not saying a simple regression is the way to go we’re saying there may be a neural network approach, there may be a neural network approach in combination with some sort of arima approach. We’re saying something like that. Right? And so, we test all of those permutations for every historical period that we’re looking at.

So, I think traditionally when I look back at kind of quote-unquote building models in excel, we would build a formula and that formula was fairly static. Okay? And every time you did say a crude oil forecast you had this static formula that you set your data against and a number came out. We don’t have static formulas at all.

To forecast crude oil every single week we start at obviously understanding what we did in the past but also re-testing and re-weighting every single algorithmic approach that we have and then recombining them based upon the activity that happened on a daily basis in that previous week. And in the history. Okay?

So, that’s phase two the forecasting approach and then phase three is the post process. Right? And so, the post process is understanding the forecast output. Is it a flat line? Right? If it’s a flat line then there’s something wrong. Is it a straight line up? Then that there’s something you know… those are to use some extremes. Right? But you know we have to test the output to understand if it’s reasonable. Right? So, it’s really an automated gut check on the reasonableness of the outcome and then we’ll go back and correct outliers potentially reforecast and then we’ll publish. Okay?

So, there are really three phases to what we do and I would think three phases to most machine learning approaches. And so, when we talk about machine learning that’s really what we’re talking about is that that really generally three-phase process and then the feedback loop that always goes back into that.

MG: Yeah. No that makes sense. Let’s get…

TN: That’s really boring after a while.

MG: No, no, no but I think that’s it’s part of what I want to do with these spaces is try to get people to understand you know beyond sort of just the headline or the thing that is thrown out there. As a term to what does that actually mean in practice you don’t have to know it fully in depth the way the that you do. But I think having that context is important.

TN: I would say on the idea generation side and on the risk management side right now. Okay? Now the other thing that I didn’t cover is obviously we’re doing markets but we also do… we use our platform to automate the budgeting process within enterprises. Okay? So, we work with very large organizations and the budget process within these large organizations can take anywhere from say four to six months. And they take hundreds of people. And so, we take that down to really interacting with one person in that organization and we do it in say less than 24 hours. And we build them a continuous budget every month.

Once accounting close happens we get their new data and then we send them a new say 18-month forward-looking forecast for them. So, their FPA team doesn’t have to dig around and beg people for information and all that stuff. So, some of this is on the firm event could be on the firm evaluation side, as well. Right? How will the firm perform? Nobody’s using us for that but the firms themselves are using that to help them automate their budgeting process. So, some of that could be on this a filtering side and the idea generation side, as well.

So, we do not force our own GL structure onto the clients. We integrate directly with their SAP or Oracle or other ERP database. We take on their GL structure at whatever levels they want. We have found that there is very little deterioration from say, the second or third level GL to say the sixth or seventh level GL, in terms of the accuracy of our forecast. And when we started doing this it really surprised me. We do a say a team level forecast for 10, 12 billion organizations, six layers down within their GL. And we see very little deterioration when we go down six levels than when we do it at say two levels. Which is you know it really to me it speaks to the robustness of our process but would we consider Anaplan a competitor not really, they’re not necessarily doing the kind of a budget automation that we’re doing at least, that I’m aware of. I know that there are guys like Hyperion who do what we’re doing but again their sophistication isn’t necessarily. What we’re doing and they do a great job and Hyperion is a great organization. I think Oracle gave them a new name now but they’re not necessarily using the same machine learning approaches that we’re using. And our clients have told us that they don’t get the same result with using that type of say ERP originated or ERP add-on budgeting process.

Yep. So, I would say we can’t we can do company-specific information for a customer if that’s what they want. Okay? We don’t necessarily have that on our platform today aside from say individual ticker symbols. Okay? But we’re not forecasting say the P&L of Apple or something like that or the balance sheet of Apple. Something we could do in a pretty straightforward manner but we do that on a customer-by-customer basis.

So, what we’re forecasting right now are currency pairs, commodities about 120 commodities and global equity indices. Okay? We are Beta testing individual equity tickers and we probably won’t introduce those fully on the platform until we have our daily interval forecast ready to go to market. But those are still we’re still working some kinks out of those and we’ll have those ready probably within a few months.

MG: Okay. So, let’s talk about commodities here for a bit tonight. Obviously, this is where a lot of people’s attention has gone to. What kind of variables and I know you said you have a whole bunch of variables that are being incorporated here but are there certain variables in particular when it comes to oil and other commodities that have a higher predictive power than others.

TN: There are I think one of the stories that I tell pretty often and this really shocks people is when we look at things like gold. Okay? I’m not trying to deflect from your oral question but just to you know we’ve spoken with the number of sugar traders over the years. Okay? And so, we tell them that say the gold price and the sugar price there may not necessarily be a say short term say correlation there but there is a lot of predictive capability there and we talk them through why. And I think the thing that we get out of the machine learning approach and we cast a wide net. We’re not forcing correlations is that we’ll find some unexpected say drivers. Although drivers implies a causal nature and we’re not trying to imply causality anywhere. Okay?

We’re looking at kind of co-movement in markets over time and understanding how things work in a lead lag basis with some sort of indirect causality as well as say a T0 or current state movement. So, with crude oil you know there are so many supply side factors that are impacting that price right now, that I can’t necessarily point to say another commodity that is having an impact on that. It really is a lot of the supply side and sentimental factors that are impacting those prices right now.

MG: That makes a lot of sense. And I’m curious how did you mention it’s I think the intervals once a month. Right? So, given the speed with which inflation has moved and yields have moved how does a machine learning process adapt to sudden spikes or massive deltas in in variable movement. Right? Because there’s always a degree of randomness going back to error. Right? And you can make an argument that the larger move is the that may actually be more error but I think that’s an interesting discussion.

TN: So, I’ll tell you where we were say two years ago when 2020 hit versus today. Okay? So, in March of 2020, April 2020 everything fell apart. I don’t think there were any models that caught what was going to happen. It was an exogenous event that hit markets and it happened very quickly. So, in June, I was talking with someone who is with one of the largest software companies in the world and they said “Hey has your AI caught up to markets yet because ours is still lost” And you guys would be shocked if I told you who this was because you would expect them to know exactly what’s going to happen before it happened. Okay? I’ll be honest I think it was all of them but the reality is you know Michael you where you were saying that ML is just regression analysis.

I think a lot of the large firms that are doing time series forecasting really are looking at regression and derivatives of regression as kind of their only approaches because it works a lot of the time. Right? So, we had about a two-month delay at that point and part of it was because… So, by June we had caught up to the market. And we had started in February to iterate twice a month, we were doing once a month; I hope you guys can understand with machine learning two factors are we’re always adjusting our algorithms. Okay? We’re always incorporating new algorithms. We’re always you know making sure that we can keep up with markets because you cannot be static in machine learning. Okay? The other thing is we’re always adding capacity why? Because we have to iterate again and again and again to make sure that we understand the changes in markets. Okay?

So, at that time we were only iterating twice a month and so it took us a while to catch up. Guys like this major technology firm and other major technology firms they just couldn’t figure it out. And I suspect that some of them probably manually intervened to ensure that their models caught up with markets. I don’t want to accuse any individual company but that temptation is always there. Especially, for people who don’t report their error. The temptation is always there for people to manually intervene in their forecast process. Okay?

So, now, today if we look for example at how are we catching changes in markets. Okay? So, if I look at the S&P 500 for April for example, our error rate for the S&P 500 for April I think was 0.6 percent. Okay? Now in May it changed it deteriorated a little bit to I think four or six percent, I’m sorry I don’t remember the exact number offhand but it deteriorated. Right? But you know when there are dramatic changes because we’re iterating at least once a week, if not twice a week we’re catching those inflections much much faster. And what we’re having to do, and this is a function of the liquidity adjustments, is where in the past you could have a trend and adjust for that trend and account for that trend. We’re really having to our algorithms are having to select more methodologies with recency bias because we’re seeing kind of micro volatility in markets. And so again…

MG: So, kind of like the difference between a simple moving average versus like an exponential moving average. Right? Where you’re waiting the more recent data sooner.

TN: It could be. Yeah.

MG: Right.

TN: Yeah. That’s a very very simple approach but yeah it would be something like that, that’s right. Yeah. What so when we work with enterprise customers that level of engagement is very tight because when we’re getting kind of the full set of financial data from a client obviously, they’re very vested in that process. So, that’s different from say a small portfolio manager subscribing to RCF futures product where we’re doing forecasts and they have their own risk process in place. And they can do whatever they want with it. Right? But again, with our enterprise clients we are measuring our error so they can see the result of our continuous budgeting process. Okay?

So, if we’re doing let’s say, we launch with a customer in May, they close their mate books in June get them over to us redo our forecast and send it over to them and let them know what our error rate was in May. Okay? So, they can decide how we’re doing by department, by team, by product, by whatever based upon the error rates that we’re giving at every line item. Okay? So, they can select and we’re not doing kind of capital projects budgets we’re doing business as usual budgets so they can decide what they want to take and what they don’t want to take. It’s really up to them but we do talk through that with them and then over time they just start to understand how we work and take it on within their own internal process.

MG: So, back a little bit Tony. So, you mentioned you do this machine learning forecasting work when it comes to broad economics, markets and currency; of those three which has the most variability and randomness in other words which tends to have a higher error? Whenever you do any kind of machine learning to try to forecast what comes next?

TN: I would say it depends on the equity market but probably equity markets when there are exogenous shocks. So, our error for April of 2020 again, we don’t hide this from anybody it was not good but it wasn’t good for anybody. Right? And so, but in general it depends on the equity market but some of the emerging equity markets, EM equity markets are pretty volatile.

We do have some commodities like say rhodium for example. Okay? Pretty illiquid market, pretty small base of people who trade it and highly volatile. So, something like rhodium over the years our air rates there have not necessarily been something that we’re telling people to use that as a basis to trade but obviously, it’s a hard problem. Right? And so, we’re iterating that through our ML process and looking at highly volatile commodities is something that we focus on and work to improve those error rates.

MG: Here, I hope you find this to be an interesting conversation because I think it’s a part of the of the way of looking at markets, which not too many people are themselves maybe using but is worth sort of considering. Because I always make a point that nobody can predict the future but we all have to take actions based on that unknowable future. So, to the extent that there might be some data or some conclusions that at least are looking at variables that historically have some degree of predictive power. It doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to necessarily be better off but at least you have something to hang your hat on. Right? I think that’s kind of an aspect to investing here.

Now, I want to go a little bit Tony to what you mentioned earlier you had lived abroad for a while in Europe. And when I was starting to record these spaces to put up on my YouTube channel the first one, I did that on was with Dan Arvis and the topic of that space was around this sort of new world order that seemed to be shaping up. I want you to just talk from a geopolitical perspective how you’re viewing perhaps changing alliances because of Russia, Ukraine. And maybe even dovetail that a little bit into the machine learning side because geopolitics is a variable. Which is probably quite vault in some periods.

TN: Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, with the evolving geopolitical order I would say rather than kind of picking countries and saying it’s lining up against x country or lining up with x country or what country. I would say we’ve entered an era of opportunistic geopolitics. Okay? We had the cold war where we had a fairly static order where people were with either red team or blue team. That changed in the 90s of course, where you kind of had the kind of the superpower and that’s been changing over the last say 15 years with say, China allegedly becoming kind of stronger and so on and so forth. So, but we’ve entered a fairly chaotic era with say opportunistic macroeconomic relation or sorry, geopolitical relationships and I think one of the kinds of top relationships that is purely opportunistic today is the China-Russia relationship.

And so, there’s a lot of talk about China and Russia having this amazing new relationship and they’re deep. And they’re gonna go to war together or whatever. We’ve seen over the past say three, four months that’s just not the case. And I’ve been saying this for years just for a kind of people’s background. Actually, advised the Chinese government the NDRC which is the economic planning unit of the central government on a product or on an initiative called the belt and road initiative. Okay? I did that for two years. I was in and out of Beijing. I never took a dime for it. I never took expense reimbursement just to be clear, I’m not a CCP kind of pawn. But my view was, if the Chinese Government is spending a trillion dollars, I want to see if I can impact kind of good spend for that. So, I have seen the inside of the Chinese Government and how it works and I also in the 80s and 90s spoke Russian and studied a lot on the Russian Government and have a good idea about how totalitarian governments work.

So, I think in general if we thought America first was offensive in the last administration then you really don’t want to learn about Chinese politics and you really don’t want to learn about Russian politics because they make America first look like kindergarten. And so, whenever you have ultra-ultra-nationalistic politics, any diplomatic relationship is an opportunistic relationship. And I always ask people who claim to be China experts but say please tell me and name one Chinese ally. Give me one ally of China and you can’t, North Korea, Pakistan. I mean, who is an ally of China there isn’t an ally of China.  There is a transactional opportunistic relationship with China but there is not an ally with China.

And so, from a geopolitical perspective if you take that backdrop looking at what’s happening in the world today it makes a whole lot more sense. And a lot of the doomsayers out there saying China is going to fall and it’s going to have this catastrophic impact. And all this other stuff, the opportunism that we see at the nation-state level pervades into the bureaucracy. So, the bureaucracy we hear about Xi Jinping. And Xi Jinping is almost a fictional character. I hate to be that extreme on it but there is the aura of Xi Jinping and there is the reality of Xi Jinping, just a guy, he’s not Mao Zedong. He doesn’t have the power that supposed western Chinese experts claim that he has. He’s just a guy. Okay?

And so, the relationships within the Chinese bureaucracy are purely transactional and they are purely opportunistic. So again, if you take that perspective and you look at what’s happening in geopolitics, hopefully you can see things through a different lens.

MG: Now, I’m glad you’re framing that in those terms because I think it’s very hard for people to really understand some of these dynamics when it’s almost presented like a like the story for a movie. Right? For what could be a conflict to come by the media because and it’s almost overly simplified. Right? When you hear this type of talk. So again, I want to go back into how does that dovetail into actual data. Right? Maybe it doesn’t at all. When you have some of these dynamics and you talk about market clearing data, you’re going to probably see mark movement somewhat respond off of geopolitical changes. Talk about anything that you’ve kind of seen as far as that goes and how should investors consider geopolitical risk or maybe not consider geopolitical risk?

TN: Yeah, I think, well when you see geopolitical adjustments today all that really is… I don’t mean overly simplified but it’s a risk calibration. Right? So, you know Russia invades Ukraine, that’s really a risk calibration. How much risk do we want to accept and then what opportunities are there? Right?

So, when you hear about China, you have to look at what risk is China willing to accept for actions that it takes? Keeping in mind that China has a very complicated domestic political environment with COVID shutdown, lockdowns and all of this stuff. So, having worked with and known some really smart Chinese bureaucrats over the years, these guys are very concerned with the domestic environment. And I don’t although there are idiot you know generals and economists here and there who say really stupid stuff about China should take over TSMC and China should invade Taiwan, these sorts of things. My conversations over the years have been with very pragmatic and professional individuals within the bureaucracy.

So, do I agree with their policies? Not a lot of them but they are well thought out in general. So, I think just because we hear talk from some journalist in Beijing who lives a very sheltered life about some potential thing that may happen. I don’t think we necessarily need to calibrate our risk based on the day-to-day story flow. I think we need to look at like… so there’s a… I’m sure you all know who Leland Miller is in China beige book like?

MG: Yeah, he’s not too long ago.

TN: Yeah. He has a proxy of the Chinese economy and that’s a very interesting way to look at an interesting lens to look through China or through to look at China or whatever. But so, I think that the day-to-day headlines, if you follow those, you’re really just going to get a lot of volatility but if you try to understand what’s actually happening, you’ll get a clearer picture. It’s not necessarily a connection of a collection of names in China and the political musical chairs, it’s really asking questions about how does China serve China first. What will China do to serve China first and are some of these geopolitical radical things that are said do they fit within that context of China serving China first? So, that’s what I try to look at would I be freaked out if China invaded Taiwan? Absolutely. I think everybody would right but is that my main scenario? No, it’s not.

MG: In terms of the data inputs on the machine learning side how granular is the data meaning? Are you looking at where geographically demand might be picking up or is it simply this is what the price is and who cares the source? Because again with hindsight if you knew that the source of China and kind of had a rough sense of the history of Russia-Ukraine maybe that could have been an interesting tell that war was coming.

TN: Yes or No. To be honest it had more to do with the value of the CNY. Okay? And I’ll tell you a little bit about history with the CNY. We were as far as I know, the only ones who called the CNY hitting 6.7 in August of 2019 with a six-month lead time. And so, we have a very good track record with USD-CNY and I would argue that China’s buying early in 2022 had a lot more to do with them from a monetary policy perspective needing to devalue CNY. So, they were hoard buying before they could devalue the CNY and I think that had a lot more to do with their activity than Russia-Ukraine. Okay? And if you notice they’ve made many of their buys by mid-April and once that happened you saw CNY, go to 6.8. Right? It’s recovered a little bit since then but China has needed to devalue the CNY for probably at least nine months. So, it’s long overdue but they’ve been working very hard to keep it strong so that they could get the commodities they needed to last a period of time. Once they had those commodities, they just let the parachute go and they let it do value to 6.8 and actually slightly weaker than 6.8.

MG: The point of the devaluation is interesting. I feel if I had enough space but we were talking about the Yen and what’s happened there. And this observation that usually China will start to devalue when they see the end as itself going through its own devaluation.

How does some of those cross correlations play out with some of the work that on machine learning you’re doing? Because there’s a human element to the decision to devalue a currency. Right? So, the historical data may not be valid I would think because you might have kind of a more humanistic element that causes the data to look very different.

TN: Well, they’re both export lab economies. Right? And we’ve seen a number of other factors dollar strength and we’ve seen changing consumption patterns. And so, yes when Japan devalues you generally see China devalue as well but also, we’ve seen a lot of other activities in on the demand-pull side and on the currency side especially with the US dollar in… I would say over the last two quarters. So, yes, that I would say that the correlation there is probably pretty high but there are literally thousands of factors that contribute to the movement of those of those currencies.

MG: Is there anything recently Tony in the output that machine learning is spitting out that really surprises you? That you know… And again, I understand that there’s a subjective element which is our own views on the world and of course then the pure data. But I got to imagine it’s fascinating sometimes if you’re sitting there and seeing what’s being spit out if it’s surprising. Is there anything that’s been kind of an outlier in in the output versus what you would think would likely happen going forward?

TN: Yeah. You know, what was really surprising to me after we saw just to stick on CNY for a minute because it’s the first thing that comes to mind, when we saw CNY do value to 6.8. I was looking at our forecast for the next six months. And it showed that after we devalued pretty strong it would moderate and reappreciate just a bit. And that was not necessarily what I was hearing say in the chatter. It was kind of “okay, here we go we’re going to go to seven or whatever” but our data was telling us that that wasn’t necessarily going to happen that we were going to hit a certain point in May. And then we were going to moderate through the end of the year. So, you know we do see these bursty trends and then we see you know in some cases those bursty trends continue for say an integer period. But with CNY while I would have on my own expected them. I expected the machines to say they need to keep devaluing because they’ve been shut down and they need to do everything they can to generate CNY fun tickets. The machines were telling me that we would you know we’d see this peak and then we would we would moderate again and it would kind of re-appreciate again.

So, those are the kind of things that we’re seeing that when I talk about this it’s… Oh! the other thing is this: So, in early April we had a we have people come back to us on our forecast regularly who don’t agree with what we’re saying and they complain pretty loudly.

MG: So, what do you say I talk when I hear that because whenever somebody doesn’t agree with the forecast, they are themselves making a fork.

TN: Of course. Yeah. Exactly. Right? Yeah, and so this person was telling us in early April that we’re way wrong that the S&P was going to continue to rally and you know they wanted to cancel their subscription and they hated us and all this other stuff. And we said okay but the month’s not over yet so let’s see what happens this was probably a week and a half in April. And what happened by the end of April things came in line with our forecast and like I said earlier we were like 0.4 and 0.6 percent off for the month. And so that person had they listened to us at the beginning of the month they would have been in a much better position than they obviously ended up being in. Right? And so, these are the kind of things that we see on a… I mean, we’ve got hundreds of stories about this stuff but these are the kind of things that we see on a regular basis. And we mess up guys I’m not saying we’re perfect and but the thing that we when we do mess up, we’re very open about it. Everything that we do is posted on our on our website. Every call we make, every error we have is their wars and all. Okay? And so, we’re not hiding our performance because if you’re using our data to make a trade, we want you to understand the risk associated with using our data. That’s really what it comes down to.

MG: It reminds me of back in 2011 and in some other periods I’ve had similar situations, where I was writing and I was very adamant in saying the conditions favored a summer crash. Right? I was saying that for the summer and the market should be going up and people would say oh where’s your summer crash and I would say this summer hasn’t started. Like it’s amazing how people, I don’t know, what it is, I don’t know if it’s just short-termism or just this kind of culture of constantly reacting as opposed to thinking but it is it is remarkably frustrating.

Going back to your point at the very beginning being entrepreneur don’t do it, that you have to build a business with people and customers who in some cases are just flat out naïve.

TN: That’s all right though. That’s a part of the risk that we accept. Right?

MG: Yeah, the other thing right now that happens with every industry but from the entrepreneur’s standpoint. It’s what you’re doing the likely outcome of your product of your service. You’re trying to communicate that to end clients but then in the single role of the die the guy the end client who comes to you exactly for that simply because they disagree with you know the output, now says I want out.

TN: Oh! Yeah! Well, your where is your summer call from 2011 the analogy today is where is your recession call. Right? So, that’s become the how come you’re not one of us calls right now. So, it’s just one of those proof points and if you don’t agree with that then you’re stupid.

So, I would say you never finish with that there is always a consensus and a something you’re you absolutely, must believe in or you don’t know what you’re talking about.

MG: Yeah, well, thankfully. What you’re talking about so appreciate everybody joining this space Tony the first time you and I were talking. I enjoyed the conversation because I think it said on investing and I encourage you to take a look at Tony’s firm and follow him here on twitter. So, thank everybody. Thank you, Tony and enjoy.

Categories
Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 13 Jun 2022: CPI & “Peak Inflation”

We had a chop last week. And towards the end of the week, we had the CPI print, which put a damper on markets. In this episode, we’ll talk about CPI and peak inflation, which people have been talking about for months, but we haven’t quite hit it yet.

Of course, we’re going to talk about the hot dollar, and we’re going to talk about fuel inflation and things like refining capacity and even a nat gas plant explosion that happened here in Texas last week.

And then finally, what is going on in the week ahead?

Key themes:

  1. CPI & “Peak Inflation” – Core CPE, hand off from goods to services, Fed policy and markets.
  2. Hot dollar – DXY has only been higher in Feb 1985 and Jan 2002. Fed, Dollar, Yellen, etc.
  3. Fuel Inflation – Refining capacity, natgas explosion.

This is the 22nd 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:

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

Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:


Transcript

TN: Hi everybody. And welcome to The Week Ahead. My name is Tony Nash. We are with Tracy and Sam today. Albert is in an undisclosed location, so he won’t be joining. But we’ll have a good show anyway. So before we get started, please like and subscribe. And as importantly, please comment. We really appreciate those. We respond to all of them. And it’s great to have the engagement.

This week. We had chop, as Sam talked about. And towards the end of the week, we had the CPI print, which really put a damper on markets. So we’re going to talk about a few things. First, CPI and peak inflation, which people have been talking about for months, but we haven’t quite hit it yet. Of course, we’re going to talk about the hot dollar, and we’re going to talk about fuel inflation and things like refining capacity and even a natgas plant explosion that happened here in Texas last week. And then finally, what is going on in the week ahead?

So first, CPE was all of the focus for the last half of the week. Sam put out an amazing note, a couple of amazing notes this week talking about inflation and what the Fed will do. So we’re looking at a chart right now on core CPI. And Sam, can you walk us through why the core matters and what’s happening there?

SR: Sure. The core matters because it strips out food and energy, and that’s what the Fed likes to look at. Right. That’s what the market looks at for underlying inflation dynamics generally. It’s kind of a quick and easy number. Luckily, it’s accelerated by some marginal amount on a month over month, year over year basis. Cool. Nobody should really care about that, because when you break apart the actual numbers, the entirety of the deceleration and core inflation was in the good side. We know that goods are coming down, particularly on a year over year basis. They want skyrocket and to the right, that’s just not sustainable.

TN: Is that because of the inventories that were accumulated at retailers and other folks.

SR: That’s part of it. Used cars as well. There’s airline fares are in there, too. So that’s going to be somewhat of a problem as we move forward.

The interesting thing to me is when you actually dig into it. Yeah. Core goods accelerated, but core services, which are far stickier and far more difficult for the Fed to kind of get a hold of accelerated.

TN: Right. So let’s put that up now and then. Yeah. So we’ve got your chart up now about the commodities, less food and energy and then services, less energy. So can you help us understand what that means?

SR: Yeah, sure. That’s just call it the core CPI broken into services and goods. Right. So it strips out food and energy from both of them. And then you kind of get a more of a feel of what’s really happening in the underlying economy. And there was always this big debate among economists about when this hand off from goods to services was going to happen and how that was going to affect the economy. And unfortunately for the Fed and for market participants, that hand off is happening.

You can see it in the data and you can see it in the inflation data in particular. It’s happening. The problem is that you don’t have goods coming down fast enough and you have services moving up way too quickly. And those two components are unlikely to give the Fed any sort of comfort in the next six to nine months.

TN: Okay. With services moving up, does that mean that wages, say on the lower end around things like hospitality and restaurants, does it mean that those wages are going up?

SR: Not directly. There’s some implied probability that you’re beginning to see some movement there, but you’ve seen quite a bit of movement at a leisure and hospitality in particular in terms of the wage gains there.

Unfortunately, the wage gains can be pretty large in magnitude, a 5 to 9 percent type acceleration year over year in leisure and hospitality wages. But it doesn’t really move the needle in terms of overall wage gains because those tend to be the lower end of the income scale.

TN: Okay. So I saw some data this week looking at credit capacity, and it looks like US consumers put record amounts on credit cards in April and May. Does that make you nervous? And I’m not talking about the high end of consumers. I’m talking about the middle and lower end of consumers because there’s a lot more of them. Right. Does that make you nervous?

SR: Yes. And it goes to the conversation that Tracy and I are going to have in a little bit here. A lot of it is due to gasoline. Right. You don’t go to a pump and typically pay with cash. I mean, you did that 10, 15, 20 years ago. You typically go to the pump and pay with a credit card.

So when you begin to have prices like this, move this quickly on the pump side of things and grocery side of things, you tend to have a move up in credit card usage that’s translating to debt because you simply don’t have wages keeping up. Yes, wages are ticking higher, but they’re not keeping up. So the lower end of the consumption, called the lower two quartiles, they are struggling with this, and that is going directly on the credit cards.

TN: I’ve talked to a few people this week about how wages in developed economies work. And if we were in an emerging economy, middle income economy, there would be more flexibility on wages because wages rise faster generally in those economies. But in, say, the US, wages really don’t rise fast.

So on some level, it’s a bit hard for people to understand that wages in the US are generally inflexible, especially at the lower and middle ends. And so it is kind of zero sum. Right. So as gas and food prices rise, that takes away consumption from other areas, right?

SR: It does. And the other thing that it leads to is more of a trend towards unionization and other forms of labor activism. And you’re going to continue to see labor activism if wages continue to trail this far behind inflation. That is an underlying trend that I think is going to be somewhat important for understanding how markets react because labor was fairly cheap, give or take for US businesses in particular.

If you begin to have more unionization, if you begin to have more of an activist labor movement, that is going to be a thing to corporate earnings, not just for the next year. That’s going to be a thing for corporate earnings going forward.

TN: Okay. So let’s talk about corporate earnings. As we look at, say, Q2 corporate earnings, it doesn’t look good, right? I mean, generally the expectation is that their margin compression, all this other stuff really starts to sting in Q2 Is that right?

TS: It depends on the industry as well, because what we’re seeing and what I’m hearing as far as obviously oil companies are going to do extremely well so are refiners right now. But we are also seeing the hospitality industry do extremely well as far as travel is concerned, because we’re seeing a lot of pent up demand where people are not spending retail spending, but they’re still spending for trips.

If we look at US air bookings, for example, there are 93% of 2019 levels for Europe. We’re at 95% for South America. We’re at over what we were in 2019 to the Caribbean. And we’re also seeing soaring hotel bookings right now, even with cost pushing higher and ticket prices higher. So I think that Q2 is going to be very good actually, for, say, oil and gas and the hotel industry. But then as we move into Q3, I think we’re going to see a big hangover in that area in the fall.

SR: And to Tracy’s point, hotel bookings are above 2019 levels and the average price of those rooms through the roof. So you multiply those two together to get your average room rate and Occupancy, those are some big numbers that we’re going to see over the summer. To Tracy’s point, there’s going to be a lot of people that blow it out of the water in terms of earnings, and there’s going to be a lot of people that surprise the downside.

If you were a work from home darling, that was expecting work from home and those dynamics to be permanent and you’re in trouble. Right. That’s the target problem. People aren’t buying goods. They’re going places. And the bifurcation there is going to become stark as we move through the second quarter and probably into the third quarter.

TN: Really interesting. Okay. And then I guess the question that is probably overanalyzed, but people are waiting for is what does this mean for the Fed? They’re still on target for 50 in June, 50 in July and 50 in September. Is that your assessment? And maybe 25 in November? I think.

SR: 50 in November, 50 in December.

TN: 50 in November, 50 in December? Wow. So we’re going back to the 90s.

SR: Basically fully priced in the market.

TN: Is there any chance that they will accelerate beyond 50? Like, would they front load any of that just to shock the system?

SR: No, because I don’t think they want to shock the system. The Fed already has a credibility problem. If you move from 50 to 75, you create more of a credibility problem because you forward guided 50-50, and now all of a sudden you’re telling the market you’re doing 75, the market is just going to stop believing and they’re going to push the Fed and they’re just going to push back and it’s going to be a huge problem.

So I don’t think they’re surprised on that front. They may tweak the balance sheet. That’s a little bit of an easier move to make. Right. You can speed up the MBS role. You can pick up a little bit of the front end roll on US Treasuries, you can tighten that way and have it not be as much of a shock to the system.

TN: Okay.

SR: But have it be pretty interesting on the tightening front.

TN: Okay. But let’s dig into that, though. I’m sorry to spend too much time on our first topic, but if they accelerate the MBS stuff, housing is already kind of at a standstill over a two month period. Two to three month period.

A lot of people have had wealth effects because of the rapidly inflated house prices. So if they accelerate MBS, that perception of housing wealth collapses even more. Right. And so does that have relatively like a multiplier effect on the deceleration of consumption?

SR: It does. But that transmission is pretty slow generally, and you had a significant amount of call it front running against the housing market to take out equity. So I would push back a little bit on a collapse in transactions is going to have a big effect. What you really need to see is pricing actually coming down because it’s about pricing.

TN: Pricing coming down.

SR: Yeah. And pricing. The data is so delayed that it’s almost worthless.

TN: Nominal housing prices.

SR: Yes. But you’re still seeing housing prices hold up pretty well for most of the country. So until you really begin to see a crack there, I don’t think the wealth effect really takes hold from houses.

But you’re probably talking about a September, October type time frame for home prices to be weighing on people’s minds.

TN: Okay. It feels like over the past few months things have changed pretty dramatically. Expectations and these sorts of things. I know you’ve been talking about this for months, but I think the world is just catching up to it. And two months ago everyone said, oh, it’s all priced in. And then we get a day like Friday where obviously it’s not priced.

SR: I’ll stop after this but the interesting part about Friday was it wasn’t just call it the November December meetings getting priced higher for Fed rate hikes. It was March and May of next year that also saw pretty significant volumes and saw the pricing of the Fed movement get pushed pretty hard. So you’re seeing movement across a very long time horizon.

You’re talking twelve months out is kind of what people are pushing on now. So that really creates a different dynamic. But it’s a different dynamic to have eight or ten basis points priced in in September or November. It’s a bigger deal to have quite a bit of tightening priced in for December and March. Those are some out months those begin to really move markets on the margin.

TN: All of this in a midterm year. All of this in the midterm election year.

SR: It’s really painful all around, right? It’s painful all around. But I think the Fed kind of plays second fiddle to Tracy’s point on energy and how that flows through the consumer and the consumer psyche because that is critical at this point.

TN: Okay. So speaking of second fiddle let’s move on to the hot dollar and Fed playing second fiddle to Janet Yellen as Tracy has said before. We’re looking. At DXY that is the third highest it’s been ever it was very high in the mid eighty s it was very high in I think February 2002.

We’ve got that chart up now and now it’s hitting rates that it hasn’t hit for years so we have the Fed doing certain things to tame but we also have things like crude and other commodities that are rising in dollars. Terms. And it looks like the dollar is being pushed up to fend off some of that. So, Tracy, can you talk us a little bit through your view of kind of Yellen and her dollar bias and then impacts that you expect to see.

TS: She said since the beginning she wanted a strong dollar. Right. The problem is that right now this is a disastrous recipe for emerging markets right now with high energy prices and high dollar. And it’s no wonder we’re seeing huge outflows in emerging markets right now as far as investments are concerned. And so really that’s who’s going to feel the pain the most that could throw us to a global recession, for sure.

TN: Right.

SR: To that point, Europe is in a lot of trouble, and the Dixie is basically a measurement of euros and yen. That’s right. If you want to talk about a central bank that’s lost credibility, there’s none better than the ECB and Madame Lagarde and that wonderfully stupid speech that she gave this week, it was spectacularly bad.

TN: It’s what happens when you have a lawyer running monetary policy.

SR: They’re raising rates, and we have them, too. Anyway, moving on. So there is an interesting kind of dynamic there where you basically had the ECB for the first time in forever, say we’re going to raise rates like they just told us straight up they were going to do it and they got the wrong reaction across markets.

The currency didn’t go up. The currency didn’t strip. The currency looked pretty ugly that day. And then you’ve got yen sitting at 135 because they’re still doing yield curve control and it doesn’t look like they’re ever going to end it. So you have the Fed going in the exact opposite direction or much quicker than the rest of the world. In the DM world in particular.

That’s a recipe for a stronger dollar. And until you either get the ECB to smarten up or you get YCC brackets moved, yield curve control brackets moved by the bank of Japan, there’s no stopping the Dixie from moving higher. Right. It’s a two currency, two currencies basis.

TN: Remember Abenomics, when they were fighting to get 2% inflation in Japan.

SR: Yes.

TS: They’re still fighting. That’s why you can’t see inflation, it’s incredible.

TN: Yeah. Tracy, if we continue to see the dollar strengthen, do you think that has much impact on, say, crude prices and fuel prices?

TS: I know that everybody likes to think it’s a one to one correlation. Right. We think stronger dollar commodities. But it’s really not a one to one correlation, especially when you’re talking when you have actual supply demand issues. Right. Like we have a supply deficit across. So a stronger dollar is not going to hurt oil prices when you have real supply demand issues. Whereas if you look at something more like gold, the stronger dollar is not necessarily great for gold right now.

TN: Yeah. So I love it when people like talking about correlations of oil and dollar because many of them don’t realize that actually the positive correlation between oil and dollar is more frequent than many people want to admit, and it’s more persistent than many people want to admit.

So the kind of go to there’s a negative .9% correlation between oil and the dollar. It’s just not true. It’s a fiction.

SR: And the dynamic changed when the US became a major producer of oil.

TN: Right.

SR: That completely changed the dynamic. So if you’re not paying attention to the structural breaking system where the US became the world’s largest producer of hydrocarbons, you don’t know what you’re doing.

TN: Right. So who hurts the most? I think we mentioned EMs, but kind of who hurts the most, aside from Sri Lanka, which we already know? Is it like North Africa, those types of places? Is it Southeast Asia? Just off the top of your head, we didn’t rehearse this, so I’m just curious, what do you think hurts the most?

TS: I think you’re going to see a lot of problems in Africa for certain only because a lot of the OPEC producers there are struggling themselves already. Right. All of those people are the ones that are contributing majorly to the quota misses right now. So I think you’re going to see real pain there over Asia, I would say.

TN: Okay, Sam?

SR: Yeah, I would agree with Tracy. North Africa, East Africa, those look very vulnerable, particularly when you combine food costs with gasoline costs and oil. It’s kind of a toxic mix because if you have oil at 125 Brent, there’s an incentive that you want to pump and the people expect you to pump and buy them food. And if you can’t pump and buy food, then you’re basically an illegitimate government in North Africa.

TN: Right. Which is just trembling all around. Okay, let’s move on to energy prices and gasoline and petrol prices. Of course, we just hit this week again, I think three or four times this week we hit record prices for gasoline. And of course, that’s happening all around the world.

I think in the UK it’s £2 a liter or something like that. In the US, it broke $5 a gallon on average. I think 5.01 this morning, Patrick Dejan was saying that. Tracy, can you walk us through? We’ve mentioned this a couple of weeks ago, but in a bit more detail about what’s happening with refining capacity in the US and why this is such a big deal?

TS: Right. The last largest Greenfield project that we had was 1977. We’ve had a lot of brownfield projects, meaning adding to capacity to already existing refining facilities. However, right now we sort of peaked in 2018 and 19 as far as refining capacity is. And now we’re starting to come down again because we’re starting to see more closures, we’re seeing more unplanned outages.

These facilities are very old. So the operable capacity has been on the decline for the last few years. And if you look at Europe and Europe, it’s even worse. Right. So, I mean, Europe already has a problem, too, and that’s why they buy most of their diesel from Russia, which is going to affect them, because the diesel that they buy from them is seaborne. Right. All of it, which it falls under sanctions.

TN: And they can’t get insurance for those vessels.

TS: Yeah. And so they’re going to have a lot of problem. just to put a little tangible example, there’s a news here in Houston this week that I think it’s a Lyondell refinery that’s being closed, and that refinery is over 100 years old. Yes, our refineries are old. They’re aging facilities. They need a lot of maintenance. And we just really haven’t built out enough capacity for the amount that is coming offline over the last few years.

TN: So, Tracy, I know this is a little bit of a request, but we’re sending $40 billion to countries around the world to do different things. Would it not make sense to have some sort of government incentive for midstream companies to actually build refineries?

TS: Well, yeah, absolutely. I mean, infrastructure projects as far as the oil industry is concerned. If you look at the government’s complaining about oil companies are making so much money. However, where were they when they were in the red and racking up the debt? They were nowhere. How many times do we bail out the Airlines and the auto industry? The oil industry never got any help.

TN: Because they’re bad, tracy, oil companies are bad. They’re all my neighbors. But you would think they’re all bad, evil people.

TS: This is causing… Where our refinery operable at capacity? We’re at 94.2% refining right now, which is off the charts. Good. That means good news for your refining stocks if you own any. But we’re pushing it. We’re using it as much as we’re producing. Right.

TN: Let’s say somehow people came to their senses and said, look, we need to incentivize new refineries. How much just off the top of your head? Ten, $20 billion. Is it $100 billion? Just to get things started? How much do you think that would cost? Since we’re throwing money around.

TS: Since we’re throwing money around, I think if you could throw 10 billion, 20 billion at it, you could get some good projects going or tax incentives or something like that for current refineries to be able to build out or upgrade things of that nature. There’s a lot of things the government could do to help boost refining capacity.

TN: Okay. So while we’re throwing money around, would it make sense to reconfigure some of those refineries to refine light sweet Texas crude instead of, say, I don’t know, Venezuelan crude?

SR: Yes, it’s pretty simple. We built the right type of refining for a certain point, but we didn’t build the right type of refining for now. Yes, we would need to upgrade all of them, and it’s going to be a pretty significant issue.

The other really important thing that I think gets overlooked a lot is that even if you begin these projects now. It’s not a solution for several more years. By several more years, three to four at a minimum, kind of where you would expect these to begin to come online.

And the question is, what does the oil market look like at that point? What kind of mix do we have? So you have to make some fairly large assumptions about what your input mix is going to be down the road. So, yeah, I do think that it would be worthwhile to at least upgrade the current refineries, but I think that’s kind of a pipe dream.

TN: Okay. So while we’re throwing $40 billion overseas, we could take half of that and build new refineries and reconfigure refineries with American crude oil. Am I misunderstanding this?

SR: No.

TN: I just want to hammer the point home again. Okay, great. Thank you, guys. We had a really choppy week. We had a lot of kind of bad news come out. What are we looking forward to next week? Is it kind of more the same? Are we still in a really rough place and the Fed meetings this week, some announcements. I don’t think it’s going to surprise anybody, but what else are you looking for this week?

TS: Pretty much the same. I think we’re kind of stuck in this market low for a while now. So I figure you still see chop, you probably see oil sideways to up again. I expect that trend to pretty much continue into the summer until we really start to see some demand destruction, which we’re just not seeing enough yet.

So I think headed into fall, we have a better chance of seeing oil prices come down because again, I think that we’re sort of going to have a travel hangover and everybody’s going to get home and they spend a bunch of money on their credit cards and the economy is not that great. So that’s what I’m looking at. And again, for the week ahead, I think more of the same.

TN: Sam?

SR: Yeah, you have a million meetings next week of central banks. I think that’s really what the markets are going to key off of. And it really depends who says the most dumb stuff. And it’s going to be a competition because you have Powell and then you have the Bank of Japan. So we’ll see if maybe you get a little bit of a bracket move on yield curve control that would make things a little more spicy across markets. And we’ll see what Powell is capable of messing up when it comes to forward guidance during the press conference.

So I would say it’s more the same, but there’s a likelihood that markets are about as hawkish as they can be going into the meeting and that Powell doesn’t want to push markets more. So there may be a little bit of a rally off Powell just not being an uberhawk, and that might be positive, but I would say you’re in for some serious chop, particularly across the rates markets, currency markets.

And when it comes to equity markets, I think it’s going to be exactly what Tracy and I talked about earlier. It’s going to be the story of travel over retail.

TN: Okay? So next week, let’s talk about who said the stupidest central bank statement. Okay?

SR: Perfect.

TN: You got it.

SR: Does that work?

TN: Very good. Okay. Thanks, guys. Thank you very much. Have a great weekend. And have a great weekend.

SR: You, too. Tony.

Categories
Podcasts

Amidst Volatility, Boring is Good

This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/us-fed-interest-rates-inflation-earnings-consumer-sentiment 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.

Categories
Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 06 Jun 2022: Is India a geopolitical trend setter?

This past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. It was a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from the beginning to the end of the week. In this episode, we’re going to focus on geopolitics.

Key themes:

  1. Is India a geopolitical trendsetter?
  2. China, MBS & Biden – BFFs?
  3. What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?
  4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 21st 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:

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

Time Stamps

0:00 Start
1:36 India as a geopolitical trendsetter now?
3:55 US is frustrated with India? What’s going?
7:35 Is India being ridiculously nationalistic?
8:00 China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs?
10:08 How does MBS look at Biden with China opening up?
11:31 Awkward and Desperate: Is the US-Saudi a short-term diplomatic issue?
14:45 Is there any place they can go for energy supply?
16:00 What does Turkey get out of halting the NATA expansion?
20:20 What impacts on some countries by opening the Bosphorus.
21:22 What is DC thinking and do out of the gun discussions?
24:24 What to expect for the week ahead?

Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:

Transcript

TN: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And as always, we’re joined by Sam, Albert, and Tracy. Before we get started, could you please like and subscribe? It’s very important. But here’s what’s more important today. If you could comment on the episode, we would appreciate it. We check that stuff every week. If you disagree with us, if you think we’re full of it, let us know and let us know why. Okay.

So this week, this past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. Kind of a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from beginning to end of the week. So we’re going to focus on geopolitics this week.

We’re looking at a few things. Is India a geopolitical trendsetter now? That’ll be a really interesting discussion. Second, we have China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs. So let’s see what’s there. What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion? Really, Turkey becoming a real geopolitical linchpin. And then we’ll have a quick chat on what we expect for the week ahead.

So first is India as a geopolitical trendsetter. India recently has halted some commodity exports. They’ve done some deals with Russia for energy, and they’ve been really independent. And India’s typically independent with foreign policy. But I’m curious if we can look at, say, the energy deals first, Tracy, can you help us understand a little bit about that, and what is India doing there?

TS: Well, I mean, absolutely. First of all, India has been complaining about oil price and saying that it’s unsustainable for them for months now, right. As we’ve been over $100. And so when they were typically not really buying anything from Russia.

However, after the Ukraine invasion, then we had that discount. The Euro to Brent discount fell to almost $40 at one point. So India started buying a lot of oil from Russia, obviously, because it’s less expensive. And they said outright energy security is more important to us right now than anything else because they are also having issues with coal. And whatnot really that’s their focus right now.

And so what we think is that likely they’ll probably become a semi permanent customer of them and probably will take in about 500,000 barrels per day going forward. So what is coming off of the European market is actually going to India and China.

TN: A lot of Westerners don’t understand that India and Russia or the former Soviet Union have had a long political ties, longtime political ties, and those long term political ties tend to come up when people need friends. There is a connection between India and Russia that a lot of Westerners don’t understand.

Albert. I guess the US tends to do this very binary. You’re with us or against us. And I would imagine that the White House and State Department, if we actually have a State Department, that they’re a little bit frustrated with India. What’s going through the US’s mind with the India relationship right now?

AM: Well, this is basically goes back to Obama, actually, with his animosity towards Modi. But the Biden, State Department and the DoD just have this naive idea of how things work in the world. India, like you said, the Russian ties with India are long standing because they use them as a counterbalance against the Chinese aggression. Right.

If you look at a map, because I always say this on Twitter, look at a map before you start talking about geopolitics. India’s surrounded by Pakistan, China, all these other proxies to China and Russia. So they can’t afford they can’t afford to sit there and poke the Hornets nest in the region because it’ll just come back at them. I mean, Pakistanika starts things in Kashmir.

The Chinese have been building mountaintop air bases to stress India over the watershed in the Himalayas. There’s so many issues that the Indians have to deal with and balance that with their Western counterparts, animosity with the dealings with Russia. It’s not that complex if you sit there and talk about it for 15 minutes. But for some reason, our State Department just can’t come to grips with that. And it’s actually causing quite the damage of the state relations of United States and India right now.

And you can talk about the Chinese component and how they stress India because they’re a major competitor in the manufacturing sector.

TN: Right.

SR: And not to mention that India has always been a very large importer of energy. And it’s a critical part of their development going forward. And they’re a 1.1 billion population. If you begin to have significant problems with energy prices and food prices, that’s a big problem for a democracy in that part of the world.

And not to mention, I think it’s somewhat hypocritical for the US government to be so mad about them buying 500,000 barrels a day when you still have Europe buying oil and gas every single day and being like, well, maybe we’ll be done by the end of the year.

TN: Right.

SR: The number of hypocrites that just keep coming out. Is India really our friend? It’s like, well, it’s Germany, it’s France, Italy.

TN: Those are valid questions.

SR: I mean, to me, it’s a little bit insincere for us to continuously be pounding on India for trying to survive as a democracy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.

TN: Well, you conveniently overlook the fact that India regularly imports energy from Iran. Korea places like Korea regularly import energy from Iran. The State Department and White House regularly just overlook things conveniently because they want to. Right. But when it comes to Russia, for some reason, it’s a major issue.

So one quick thing I want to talk about with regard to India, and this has happened with some other Asian countries where India stopped exporting sugar and a few other commodities. We saw Indonesia stopped exporting, say, palm oil and a few other things. So this has been kind of painted as some sort of nationalistic action.

My contention has been, look, a nation state has the kind of obligation to look after their own people first. What do you guys think about that? Is India being ridiculously nationalistic by not exporting sugar and a few other things?

AM: Absolutely not. I mean, this is a case of survival, not just for India, but for multiple countries. Egypt recently, Morocco and all the other North African countries are following suit. I mean, they got to feed their own people. You can’t have your own citizens miss meals because pitchforks and torches start coming out.

TN: Yes, I think that’s a perfect way to say it. Okay, let’s move on to kind of a little bit of a crazily, delicately balanced series of relationships with China, MBS in Saudi Arabia, and Joe Biden. There’s been talk of a trip of a Biden trip to Saudi Arabia, which is a little bit awkward given the fact that MBS wouldn’t take his phone call last month. And then we’ve got China as energy importer. There are a number of levers there.

So, Sam, actually, Tracy, can you take us down that path a little bit on the energy side of what happens there and why that is so important?

TS: Well, I mean, I think it’s a thing. Relations have already been strained. Right. So I think it’s too little, too late. And second of all, to go ahead and think that Saudi Arabia or OPEC, for that matter, can lower oil prices in the US or lower gasoline prices in the US is completely misguided. We should be focusing domestically on what we can be doing here instead of banking other countries.

TN: Let me stop you right there and ask the refinery capacity is like the highest it’s been in 20 years or something, right? 92.4% or something.

TS: Yeah, it was 92.7% this week. The prior week was we were at 93.4%. So we’re pretty much at we’re cranking it out. We definitely need more refining capacity going forward. We haven’t had a major refinery built since 1977. Brownfield projects, but not real Greenfield projects.

TN: Okay. Going back to the Biden-Saudi visit, Sam, what are your thoughts on that? And if you can throw a little bit of China analysis, if China is actually opening up. How does MBS look at Biden with the potential of China opening up more aggressively?

SR: I think he looks at it as a little bit desperate. Right. And probably wants quite a bit out of doing anything. And to begin with, Sunny doesn’t have that much fair capacity. There’s not a whole lot they can do very quickly, maybe release some stocks, et cetera, but there’s not a whole lot they can do to get oil on the market quickly. And there’s a lot less that they can do to magically make diesel.

We don’t have the amount of diesel out there that we need. And we are building a refinery, and a refinery takes three to five years to build. So good luck with that. So I think it’s going to smack is a little bit desperate to MBS, and I think there’s going to be a pretty good bargaining spot for him to be in, given that China has largely shut down for a month and a half to two months, maybe reopening, and that’s going to be another tailwind to oil consumption.

And if you all of a sudden have higher oil consumption coming out of China, that’s going to be a problem for oil prices, even from $1.20, $1.15 where we’re sitting right now. That’s a tailwind that I think MBS kind of has a little bit of a grin on his face saying, hey, nothing I can do here.

TN: Right? And tell me a little bit more about the political dynamics there. Does the US and Saudi Arabia, is this kind of a short-term, say, diplomatic issue, or is it something longer term?

AM: Well, you and Sam said two key words, “awkward” and “desperate.” At the moment, Biden going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the King, which was rejected, so they’re actually pushing them off to MBS is such a black eye to the United States foreign policy. Unbelievable. I mean, at this point, you’re going to have Joe Biden go meet with MBS, who Biden’s cabinet brought up Khashoggi not too long ago, which prompted the phone call to be not even taken by the Saudi, leader of a US President. I can’t even remember when last time US President was ignored by the Saudi Arabians. I mean, it’s a disaster in the making that will probably take a good ten to 15 years to rectify.

The Saudis, what are they really going to do? A couple of hundred thousand barrels extra in a pump just to make Joe Biden happy? It’s not going to do anything. I mean, swallowed up by demand almost instantly. But when it comes to the political stuff, you have a realignment between Saudi Arabia, Russia and China happening right under our noses. And it seems to be just completely missed by the State Department of Biden administration.

SR: And to Albert’s point here, and I think it’s an extremely, extremely important point. Saudi doesn’t need the US anymore. Saudi needed the US for a while. We were their biggest customer. We are not their largest customer by a mile, and we’re unlikely to be their largest customer ever again.

So their pivot towards Asia and away from the US makes strategic sense for them. And that, to me, is an understated long term fundamental issue facing the US-Saudi relationship.

AM: That’s exactly right, Sam. And the only other component that actually contradicts that is because of the security situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Saudis need US armaments, they need the relationship with Israel, and they need to re-mend relationships with Turkey. But if Russia at this point, if they’re not poking the Iranians to mess with the Saudis, there’s really no real desperate need by the Saudis for the US defense umbrella at the moment and they can just be free to sell to the Chinese, the Asians and whoever else. And remember that Biden attempted to go to Venezuela to try to get them to pump more, but then realized that while their refinery is broken down and can’t really produce anything at the moment.

SR: So the Arabians went to fix it.

TN: Yeah.

AM: There’s a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of awkward things that’s coming out of the Biden administration right now for geopolitical issues concerning the Saudis.

TN: It’s amateur hour, guys. Lincoln is a joke, often as a joke. I can’t believe it’s embarrassing where we are right now. Tracy, is there any place else they can go for supply right now?

TS: If you look at OPEC, OPEC can’t even produce what their current quote is, right? Because you have too many, too many laggards. So it doesn’t really matter. I mean, they’re 2 million barrels plus below quota last month. So it doesn’t matter if they keep raising or not. They just don’t have the spare capacity. And a lot of the smaller countries are having problems with production.

There’s nowhere else to go. Right. Especially if you’re trying to push Russia out, which is, depending on the month, the second or third largest producer. Right.

TN: Okay. And I think we can all agree that if we just buy electric cars, that would solve everything.

TS: Oh, absolutely. With the announcement that we’re going to have rolling blackouts in the Midwest this summer, I’m sure that rush right out and get EVs should help us.

TN: Right? Exactly. Okay. Let’s move on to Turkey and get really interested in the power dynamics with Turkey right now and their veto power over NATO expansion and some of their control of energy going through the Bosphorus. Turkey has really emerged as a real regional power.

I remember reading about this with George what’s his name’s book the next 100 years, reading that Turkey would be really powerful. This was a 20 year old book. Right. George Freedman. Right. And so it hasn’t happened exactly as he thought. But at the time I thought, “no, Turkey can’t reemerge.” And it’s happening right now. Right.

Albert, can you talk us through what does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?

AM: Well, a few things actually, quite. They really want to stop the Kurdish money system support system coming out of the Scandinavian countries because that’s where a lot of the money and support groups based themselves out of Stockholm and parts of the Baltic area. So they really want to stop that. Right. But that’s not really what they’re after because the Scandinavians put a block on their sales of arms. Right. So the Turks obviously want to sell their drones.

They want to sell some military equipment to the EU and to other players in the region. The Turks, they have a big economic problem. Right. And so they’re using every point of leverage they possibly can use. They’re trying to press the EU to give more loans, trying to stress the refugee situation, trying to stress the energy situation, trying to stress the food situation through the Bosphors. And I’ll let Sam and Tracy touch on that.

But for them right now, if you look at it like I said, with India, look at a map. Turkey right now is arguably the most geostrategic position in the entire world right now with concerns to wheat, gas, oil, refugee status. You can just pick a topic and Turkey is pretty much top five.

TN: Okay. Sam talked us through kind of from a macro perspective. What does that mean? What opportunities does that bring up?

SR: I mean, it brings leverage, right? It brings incredible amount of leverage, particularly as you begin to have Sri Lankan type issues. Go to North Africa. The easiest way for North Africa to solve its problems is for Turkey to solve the problems very quickly by opening the Bosphorus or doing something along those lines. So I think from a macro perspective, it’s really about leverage and what type of leverage they want. Right.

They actually manufacture really good, fairly cheap drones. That’s a pretty easy thing for NATO, the EU, to kind of give them a pound on the back and say, okay, yeah, go. Right. That’s something that they can actually do. And quite frankly, if you’re Sweden and Finland, guess what? You don’t really have a choice.

Turkey is going to be selling drones. Turkey is going to have some leverage on what they get to do, and you’re not going to be able to veto it or you’re going to be sitting there like a sitting duck for the next time that Putin decides he wants a little extra territory.

TN: Right. Okay.

AM: And to expand on that, Tony, the Turks, in sort of cooperation with the Iranians and the Russians, have been moving into Africa using old Ottoman trading post colonies, I mean, through West Africa, North Africa, Horn of Africa, everywhere. And there’s been absolutely no talk about it, no counteraction against it. They’re acting as if they were a major superpower with no one really putting them in their place.

TN: Well, this potentially could turn into I don’t know how much you guys know about Ottoman history 1860s, 18870s, debt load that the Turks had and the refinancing that the British and French came in to do it. And I wonder if that’s where we’ll be in five or ten years. It’s really interesting to see how that Ottoman history played through and see if that happens again with Turkey. I hope it doesn’t, because that ended up leading to World War One. But this could be really interesting.

Tracy, they opened the Bosphorus. What impact does that have on some of these countries, like Egypt and North African countries and say, Lebanon and some of these other countries that are really desperately waiting for some things out of Russia and Ukraine?

TS: Yeah. I mean, obviously that’s going to help. We’re going to get some wheat out. It looks like that is going to happen and that we are starting to see shipments flow that’s obviously going to ease tensions. Hungry people tend to revolt. So something needed to be done, in other words. And so it looks like that’s starting to happen, which is obviously a good thing.

TN: Great. Okay. I want to spring a kind of a surprise topic on you guys just really quickly. It’s a big debate in the US since we’re talking geopolitics. Guns on top of everyone’s mind. Some shootings in the States over the past few weeks.

Albert, I know, you know, DC probably better than all of us. So can you walk us through really quickly? Excuse me, what is DC thinking? What will likely happen in DC out of all of the gun discussions?

AM: Well, because it’s an election year, probably nothing. And I’ll tell you what. In politics, you cannot take a singular issue, isolate it and solve the problem. It doesn’t work like that. So, for instance, and this is something I always stress about. When you look at guns, you have to look at it as what voters intentions are and feelings are with the guns because they’re electing their members. Right.

When you have guns, they’re typically rural Americans that are religious, that have views on abortion and are farmers. Right. What’s under farmlands? Oil. So not only do you have to tackle the religious voter, the anti abortion voter, the rural farm voter, but then also big oil that actually funds all these people. So you can’t take guns alone and say, I’m going to solve it without agitating another 40 million Americans and Senate races are completely dependent on rural voters, not so much urban because that tends to go Democratic anyways. But there is actually swing cities and swing areas on top of the conservative areas that there’s a political calculation and numbers game that has to be played.

So for this year, I don’t see anything happening with guns at all. Maybe something extremely minor, but nothing that would actually be effective.

TN: For people who are non Americans, what do people outside of America not understand about the gun discussion in the US?

AM: It’s a cultural thing. The United States prides itself on being a system of checks and balances. Right. And for guns, Americans tend to think we are not going to let our government intrude and overtake us. That’s our checks and balances to dictatorships. Right. Authoritarian systems.

As other issues come up from the left and come up from the right, just everyone’s going to get more pulverized on this. There’s never going to be 100% solution. The Europeans are definitely not going to understand why Americans love their guns. But it’s just…

TN: Europeans, Australians, Asians, they don’t actually some in Asia get it.

AM: Some in Asia get it. The Swiss hilariously get it. They’re mandatory. They have Pentagon, everyone’s. And it’s unfair for the rest of the world to compare a small country of like, say, 10 million people statistically to the United States that has 350,000,000 plus people out there, the giant system.

TN: Yeah.

AM: We’re doing our best and nothing is a perfect system and we’re getting towards it. But it’ll take decades.

TN: Yes. Okay, good. I just wanted to cover that off since it’s been such a big topic lately. Okay, guys, the week ahead. We had a kind of a lackluster week this week. Tracy, what do you see happening in the week ahead? Crude actually had a fantastic week. What do you see going on next week in, say, energy and commodities?

TS: I’m still bullish energy and commodities. From a technical standpoint, we broke out of a technical pattern. Right. I don’t see anything changing, in other words, in the physical landscape, I mean, markets are tight. We have a structural deficit. The whole complex is in bacridation. So I expect energy prices to stay high. Really? I don’t think Biden’s meeting is going to do anything.

TN: Right. Okay. Very good. Shannon, what are you looking for?

SR: More chop. A lot more chop. I think the jobs report on Friday, there was a quote that it was goldilocks-ish it was not goldilocks-ish if you’re the Fed. The Fed saw a lot of jobs created. It’s a participation tick up and it’s average hourly earnings still sitting at 5.5% for everyone on a year over year basis. Those are three things that they don’t really want to see sitting that high.

TN: Right.

SR: It’s that simple. They would be much happier with 100,000 jobs created or lower. I think they want a couple of negative prints. An average hourly earnings that’s closer to 2% year over year. That means that the wage price spiral isn’t happening. And they really want an awful lot of call it pain in the inflation space. So you’re not really seeing anything to knock the Fed off of its current path. And if anything, you probably gave it a little bit of a tailwind to some more hawkish rhetoric.

Brainard being a Hawk? That should scare everyone. Because when Brainard comes out as a Hawk, that’s a signal.

TN: That’s weird.

SR: That’s a signal that they’re going and they’re going hard.

TN: Yeah, that’s upside down world weird. And then was it May said out yesterday saying they could do another fifty in September?

SR: Yeah. After the print on Friday, guess what, this is the best part about the Brainard statement is she said in order to have a better balance in the labor market, they need to see job openings decline.

This is critical, though. Job openings are reported a month lagged to everything else. Right. So in September, they’re going to be looking at maybe August.

TN: Let me ask you this. Elon Musk was out this week saying, hey, if you’re not going to come back to the office, we’re going to consider that you resigned. Are we going to see more CEOs do that? And could that potentially have an impact on the jobs numbers?

SR: Not really. One, Musk, then he said we’re over staffed by 10% across salaried workers. So the statement for Musk was probably more to get some natural attrition. So we didn’t have to actually lay off people because it’s a lot cheaper when people quit than it is when people get laid off. And Musk needs a couple of headlines because his Twitter deal was a really dumb idea.

TN: Yeah. And also I kind of preempted Musk by two years. I told my staff in June of 2020, but if you don’t show up, you could resign. So I was early on that boat. So Albert, what do you expect in the week ahead.

AM: Everyone saw Yellen come out and say I missed the inflation and how bad it’s going to be. That’s her getting ahead of the CPI print. It’s going to be a bad one. I think it actually could get close to 9% which would be not good for the markets.

On top of that Opex Fed minute coming up, I think we’re going to be like Sam said, I think there’s going to be some chop. They’re doing their best to keep this thing above 4200. So I think we’re going to be looking at probably push 4250 which is a bull bear line this week until CPI print comes in and then Armageddon.

TN: That’s what you said last week.

AM: That’s a 4200 on that Monday on futures.

TN: Okay.

AM: They tried but they sold it. Everyone’s just selling.

TN: Okay. So we have another chance this week.

AM: Yes.

TN: Great guys. Thank you very much. This has been a great discussion. Thanks so much and I really appreciate this. Have a great week ahead.

AM, SR, TS: Thank you. Bye.

Categories
Podcasts

Business and Market Discussion

This podcast was originally published in https://www.rthk.hk/radio/radio3/programme/money_talk/episode/810164.

Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to a 40-year high. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in March, the fastest annual gain since December 1981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest jump since September 2005 and a sharp acceleration from February’s 0.8% increase. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says peace talks with Ukraine have reached a “dead-end” and he accused Ukraine of deviating from agreements reached in Turkey. He said Russia’s “military operation” will continue, blaming Ukraine for “inconsistency in key issues” from talks and “fake claims” about war crimes.

The World Trade Organisation said that global trade could be cut almost in half and is expected to grow by 2.4% – 3% in 2022, lower than its previous estimate of 4.7% in October due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The WTO said the war could lower global GDP growth by 0.7-1.3 percentage points to somewhere between 3.1% and 3.7%. 

Sri Lanka said yesterday it will temporarily default on its foreign debts amid its worst economic crisis in over 70 years. The country was due to pay a US$1bn international sovereign bond in July, part of a total of US$7bn of debt payments due this year. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at US$1.93bn at the end of March. 

Shanghai saw a drop in new Covid cases on Tuesday after ten straight days of record highs. The financial hub reported 23,342 new local cases for the day, compared with just over 26,000 the day before. However, it was being reported on Tuesday that authorities were backing away from lifting restrictions in several thousand low-risk areas. Residents can move around within their compounds but are still barred from venturing out onto the streets if their surroundings belong to higher-risk areas. Officials ordered another round of mass testing, at least the seventh in 10 days, in the highest lockdown zones. 

On today’s Money Talk we’re joined by Dickie Wong from Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova of UBP and Tony Nash, Founder & CEO & Chief Economist at Complete Intelligence.

Show Notes

PL: This is Radio Three Money Talk. Good morning. It’s eight in Hong Kong. Welcome to Money Talk on Radio Three. From me, Peter Lewis. Here are the top business and finance headlines for Wednesday, 13 April. Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to a 40 year high. Consumer prices rose 8.5% in March, the fastest annual gain since December 1981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest jump since September 2005 and a sharp acceleration from February’s zero 8% increase. Russian President Vladimir Putin says peace talks with Ukraine have reached a dead end, and he accused Ukraine of deviating from agreements reached in talks in Turkey. He said Russia’s military operation will continue, blaming Ukraine for inconsistency in key issues and fake claims about war crimes. The World Trade Organization said that global trade could be cut almost in half and is expected to grow by 2.4% to 3% in 2022, lower than its previous estimate of 4.7% in October due to the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Wto said the war could lower global GDP growth by zero 7% to 1.3 percentage points. Sri Lanka said yesterday will temporarily default on its foreign debts amid its worst economic crisis in over 70 years.

The country was due to pay a $1 billion international sovereign bond in July, part of a total of $7 billion of debt payments due this year. Sri Lanka’s foreign reserves stood at just under 2 billion at the end of March, and Shanghai saw a drop in new covert cases on Thursday after ten straight days of record highs. The financial Hub reported 23,342 new local cases for the day, compared with just over 26,000 the day before. However, it was being reported yesterday that authorities are backing away from lifting restrictions in several thousand low risk areas. On today’s Money Talk, we’re joined by Dicky Wong from Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova of UBP, and Tony Nash, founder and CEO at Complete Intelligence. The moderation in core CPI initially prompted a rally in stocks on Wall Street and sent US Treasuries higher. But stocks then gave up their gains as the session wore on, with the S Amp P 500 and Nasdaq falling for a third day. The S Amp P 500, which was up 1.3% at the high of the day, closed a third of a percent lower at 4397. The Dow relinquished a gain of over 360 points to close 88 points lower at 34,220, and as the composite index, which was up 2%, declined zero 3%, ending at 13,372.

In Europe, the regional Stock 600 index fell a third of a percent. Deutsche bank and Commerce Bank led losses for the index, with both falling more than 8% after an undisclosed shareholder unloaded roughly 5% stakes in both German banks. London’s footsy 100 dropped null. .6% and it was a volatile day for mainland China and Hong Kong stocks, which opened higher before plunging late morning and then staging a drastic rebound in the afternoon session with reports that the China National team was actively supporting the market. The rebound came amid calls from China’s market regulator that firms buy back shares and ask major shareholders to support stock prices amid a sluggish stock market. The Hangsting index had slipped half a percent by lunchtime to a four week low before rebounding to close 111 points, or half a percent higher at 21,319. Tech index was up two and a half percent in the morning session before dropping zero 8% at lunchtime and then rebounding to close 1.4% higher. The Shanghai Composite recovered from losses of 0.8% to close one and a half percent higher at 3213. $0.10 advanced 3.6% added 4.2% after China approved new online gaming titles for the first time since July.

In the commodities markets, brewing crude oil rose almost 6% to $104.87 a bowel. Gold is up close to 1% at $1,966 an ounce. The yield on the benchmark ten year treasury notes fell five basis points to two point 73% after hitting two point 83% early in the session. And in the currency markets, the US dollar is stronger this morning. The Euro is trading at $1.08 and a quarter cents. The Bucks at 125.5 Japanese yen Sterling is worth one point $0.30 and Hk$10.19, and the Chinese yuan is at six point 38, versus the dollar in offshore markets. Bitcoin this morning is about 1% firmer at $40,100. Around Asian stock markets this morning. In Australia, the SX 200 up about zero. 1%. Stocks in Japan have now opened the nicate 225, about three quarters of a percent higher. The Cosby in South Korea is half a percent higher, but futures markets pointing to a loss of about 70 points for the Hang Sein at the open this morning. Fine. Let’s welcome our guests. We have with us Dicky Wong, head of research at Kingston Security this morning, Dickie

DW: Good morning, Peter. How are you?

PL: I’m well, thank you. And also with us, Carlos Cassanova, senior Asia economist at UBP. Morning to you, Carlos.

CC: Good morning, Peter.

PL: And over in Texas, in the USA, we have Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence. Thanks for joining us again, Tony.

TN: Thank you, Peter.

PL: Let’s start in the US with those inflation numbers. Surging energy and food prices in the United States have sent inflation to 40 year high. Consumer prices rose eight and a half percent last month. That’s the fastest annual gain since December 1 981. The monthly rise was 1.2%, the fastest gain since September 2005. Excluding food and energy, core CPI increased 6.5% on an annualized basis in line with expectations, core inflation rose zero. 3% for the month energy prices, they were up 32% year on year food prices, they jumped 8.8%. And shelter costs, which make up about a third of the CPI, rose by 5%. Tony, you’re over there in the US, so let’s start with you. It’s hard to find very much good news in this data. But who do workers blame for this?

TN: I think a lot of Americans really do see inflation rising as Joe Biden has been in office. It’s accelerated during his tenure. So whether it’s his fault or not, he’s sitting in the seat while it’s happening. There is a lot of resource from the White House going into saying that this is Putin’s inflation responsibility, claiming that inflation didn’t really accelerate until the war started. But again, if we look back to the rapid acceleration of inflation, it really started, I guess you could say maybe October. But we’ve been at this for a year or so. I think Americans working level, Americans, whether they’re working class, blue collarly workers, they’re obviously the hardest hit by this. And for workers at those levels, it’s really looking at the political issues, not something that’s happening on the other side of the world.

PL: So what can Joe Biden do to try and bring inflation under control? What are people expecting to do?

TN: Well, I think one of the really easy things that he could do, which I’m in Texas. So this is a very biased view, but since Joe Biden has come to office, he’s put a lot of restriction on the drilling and transport of oil and gas. And so there could be a lot of alleviation of energy prices if the White House would remove the regulations that they put in place on the drilling and transport of oil and gas. The White House also killed a pipeline of Canadian crew or a pipeline from Canada that would transport heavy crude to American refineries, which is what’s needed for petrol or gasoline here. And Americans actually don’t necessarily use the light sweet crude that’s refined or drilled, say in Texas. They use the heavy sour crew that say from Canada and from Venezuela. So the pipeline from Canada would have been very helpful to keep prices stable in the US, energy prices stable in the US, but that was killed literally on the first day of the Biden administration.

PL: Vicki, what is the impact for markets and particularly out here, US markets? They rallied initially because they took some optimism for the fact that the core CPI had declined slightly from last month, but they lost those gains. How do you think markets are going to respond to this?

DW: Well, in terms of inflation, I guess it’s an overall problem not only in US but basically everywhere else, also in China. And you may say, like Russia invasion of Ukraine intensified the situation of inflation in US, but inflation is already there. It’s already a problem in US. So in terms of the market expectation, I would expect first of all will probably have another rate cut for even 50 basis points in May and continue to high interest rate until the year end. At the year end, maybe the sets and target rates will be like two point 75 even at this really high level compared to one year ago. So in terms of the year car still going on, keep going up there’s no question ask but already probably the market already digest this kind of situation like you asked me have to continue to high interest rate. But in terms of in mainland China is another thing. Even though China official CPI rose by 1.5% in March, still below US CPI or everywhere else in Europe. So expecting that PVoC may have some kind of room to have an outer round of rate card or triple archives.

But in terms of the situation now in mainland China it’s pretty dilemma because if they really want to have another round of fresh cut of interest rate or even triple R may intensify the situation now because the ten year value of the US Treasury is slightly higher than the same period treasury in mainland China. Now it may be some kind of money outflow from mainland.

PL: Is the window of opportunity for the PPO to go and cut rates? Is it closing the worst this inflation data gets? It doesn’t leave them much opportunity, does it?

DW: Exactly. So I don’t really expect a rate cut in the near term but maybe I expect Arrr cut instead of a rate cut because rate cut create a high pressure of capital outflow. We have already seen in March no matter in the bond market, also in the Asia market from the stock connect. So people actually getting money out from mainland China. So this is also another reason why recently the Asian market underperformed even the US market because the capital outflow. So it’s not a good timing for China but then you still have to think about it, what they can do because capital outflow and intensified the situation in Russia and Ukraine. So also create another round serious pressure. The CPI future growth is mainland June.

PL: Let me bring Carlos in. Carlos, this is not an easy situation for central banks to deal with, is it’s? Because this is not demand led, this is a supply shock, correct?

CC: I think what we saw in the market this week was some investors pricing in the probability that inflation was peaking within the next few months. We think it’s a little bit early to say we are expecting around eight to 9% inflation in the US in the coming months and of course then a gradual descent, but it will nonetheless remain significantly higher than expected in 2022. And as Tony was mentioning, this will be front and center with Biden facing elections in the fall. So I do think that central banks around the world are going to be very focused in trying to address the demand side factors or drivers of inflation even as they have very little control over the supply side factors. And on that note, just keep in mind that we have this conflict in Ukraine that’s leading to supply chain disruptions. But we are already seeing disruptions to global shipments through the Port of Shanghai following from the lockdown there. So it is likely that these supply factors will continue to exert pressures in the coming months. So in my opinion, I think central banks will unfortunately remain in this very hawkish trajectory even though they don’t have 100% control.

PL: And what does the PPOC do? That’s probably the one major central bank in the world that would like to ease monetary policy to cope with the slowdown there on the mainland. It’s in a difficult position as well, isn’t it?

CC: Ppoc is in a very difficult position because we’ve seen authorities voice their concerns about the lack of easing quite a few times since the middle of March, and yet PPOC has an east the risk of outflows is real. We saw that China’s premium over the US in terms of its ten year yield is completely gone. So any form of eating will exacerbate potential capital risks. But you have inflation creeping up potentially above the 3% target set by the beginning of the year. So the conditions could turn less accommodative very quickly. So PPO has a narrow window of opportunity in my opinion to deliver stimulus and a triple our card won’t be enough given what is happening in Shanghai, given that we have -40% sales in the housing sector and that accounts for a third of the economy is not going to be enough to get us from where we are now to 5.5% growth by the end of the year. So unfortunately, they should be doing a rate cut even if that exacerbates capital outflows and even if the impact of a rate cut might be more muted as most people remain in some form of lockdown.

So it’s less easy to go out and spend money. I think that is something that PVC has been discussing, but it doesn’t matter. They need all hands on deck in order to reach the fact growth target by the end of the year and really running out of time given that inflation is rising.

PL: Tony, you mentioned energy prices, but of course, food prices are also jumping as well. They were up 8.8% over the period. We’re seeing global trade slow quite dramatically now. And the UN saying that the war in Ukraine is causing a huge leap in food prices. The UN food prices index is at a record high. It was up 13% in March are on consumers feeling that as well. Over in the United States, this rise in food prices?

TN: Yeah, for sure. Americans are feeling the rise in food prices. I think, however, the most acute food price rises will be in places like Lebanon and Egypt and other places that are more directly affected by the Ukraine and Russia war. Here in the US, we do have pressure on wheat and corn prices, corn prices or maize prices. There’s upward pressure on those prices partly because the White House just said they want to add corn to fuel here to in their minds, reduce fuel prices. So there’s pressure on corn both to feed people and for fuel now and of course, with proteins, those prices are up as well double digits. So Americans are feeling it really all around, but not as acutely as some of the people in Europe and the Middle East will as the pressures from, say, Ukrainian and Russian exports hit those markets.

PL: We’ve already had an energy shock in many parts of the world. Do you think we’re heading for a food crisis that we’re going to see shortages, we’re going to see prices soaring, and maybe, as unfortunately always happens in this case, it affects the poorest parts of the world the most?

TN: Yes, it does. And sadly, I think that is the case because places like Ukraine and Russia do provide so much mostly Ukraine provide so much weed and maize and cooking oil to some of these markets. So, yes, I definitely think that that is.

PL: Our Americans questioning President Biden’s support for Ukraine. When you start to see the costs of this mounting. They’ve banned American. They banned Russian oil and gas imports. That’s helping fuel price rises. They’re seeing the price rises in food. Are they starting to question whether or not the US is on the right track supporting Ukraine?

TN: I don’t know. I know that a number of Americans have questioned it from the start, not that they don’t support Ukraine, but Americans are worried about being directly involved, meaning sending troops to Ukraine. I think Americans generally are comfortable sending weapons and supporting with that aid, but not necessarily with the troops.

PL: Okay, Dickie, let’s talk about the lockdowns up on the mainland. There was a slight decrease in COVID cases yesterday, but we’ve had ten days now of record cases in Shanghai. Guangdong, Guangzhou has gone into a partial lockdown as well. Now, what sort of impact is this having on the economy?

DW: Well, that’s so obvious. The big lockdown in Shanghai may give some kind of pressure to not only the first quarter GDP, but indeed the 5.5% annual gain of the GDP. It’s probably not that easy to achieve. So I do see some kind of civil linings because China’s government recently added some of the approval of the online and cellphone gaming. And also when we talk about the first quarter lending also hits record to 1.3 trillion before PVC take any action in the first quarter because last year PPOC cut LPR rate triple R, but not this quarter. So I would expect definitely I do agree that PPOC has to take some kind of action like seriously to treat the problem, especially the lockdown in Shanghai. And 5.5% is not something easy. So they have to no matter fiscal policy, monetary policy, and et cetera regulations has to be used, especially some of the tech companies.

PL: Let me ask you also because I want to ask you about the markets as well. We’re seeing a lot of calls now from Premier Leakage, the State Council to take steps to support the economy and also from the regulators now to support the market the China Securities Regulatory Commission wants shareholders to buy back stock. It wants Social Security funds, pension funds, trusts, insurance companies to increase their investment in the markets. What are your thoughts on this? Isn’t this the regulator going way over their skis here? It’s not the job of the regulator, is it to tell companies to buy back more shares and to put public money into the stock market? Surely this is way, way beyond what the regulator should be doing.

DW: Well but in terms of the mainland market, the HR market, this is probably the regulator will regularly do I know they do it but it’s wrong isn’t it wrong that the regulator should do that?

PL: It’s sort of almost an outrageous abuse, isn’t it? The regulator should be there to make sure the market operates fairly and efficiently to crack down on abuses but not do this?

DW: You may say so but the regulator to mainland because you can see intensifying the tension between China and US never gone and also like recently no recently just yesterday the holding foreign companies accountable action called Hscaa a fresh round of addiction of a lot of Chinese companies like more than twelve companies this is the fourth round already it gives some kind of pressure to the ADR market yesterday in US and definitely some of the ADR may open slightly lower today although the pressure may not be as high as the previous one or the first round of the addiction of the Hscaa but because of the tension of these two countries China may have to do their own thing so in terms of like Green Valley always comment about the stock market and try to interfere with the stock market I will not say good or bad but at least it would be some kind of support to the local Hong Kong stock market so I believe we find support at 21,000 because investors may expect or they will expect like PPOC will take action very soon so it may help to stabilize the overall sentiment in Hong Kong as well as in Asia Carlos.

PL: We’Ve heard Premier Leakage now has issued his third warning about economic growth in under a week what can they do?

CC: Well, we do expect to see weaker growth in March, April and May so those will be the three weakest months I think that in addition to doing more monetary policy and fiscal policy support the big question Mark is will they announce some easing of restrictions or at least provide some degree of regulatory clarity for global investors? On the housing and also tech front there’s a whole debate around this. Recent regulations surrounding dual circulation in China points to some additional regulatory headwinds for some of these companies but I think that the issue is not so much regulation it’s more the lack of visibility so they are likely going to at least provide that in the coming weeks. And of course, if this contraction is bigger than expected in the first half, and I did use the word contraction because I do think that GDP has a chance of actually declining in Q two, then the measure of last resort in order to achieve that growth target would be to effectively inflate the housing sector again in Q four. But we should be back to square one. So I think they will try as much as possible to use more Australian and other channels to try to prop up the economy so that growth doesn’t follow the cliff.

But they are running out of time and we do hope that they will announce something big in April.

PL: Okay, Tony, final word to you. I know all sorts of things go on on the mainland that perhaps wouldn’t go on elsewhere, but when you see the regulator trying to arm twist companies into buying back their own stock and get public funds to get the market back up, what do you make of that, Peter?

TN: It reminds me of June of 2015, if you remember, when markets on the mainland really fell pretty hard. There is pressure domestically in China for people to buy shares for a patriotic reason. Even within the Chinese bureaucracy. There was pressure for Chinese bureaucrats to buy shares. So I think they’re just doing it out loud now and they’re doing it for the companies themselves. But to me, when I first saw this news, it really was an Echo of June of 2015 when markets fell and there was real pressure on Chinese retail investors to buy the dips and to support the market. And a lot of them lost. I knew people there who lost 2030, 40% of their wealth because they were buying patriotically.

PL: Yeah. Okay. Well, that’s a fair warning. Thanks very much. That’s Tony Nash, founder and CEO and chief economist at Complete Intelligence. Dickie Wong, head of research at Kingston Securities, Carlos Casanova, senior Asia economist at UBP. You’re listening to Money Talk on RTHK Radio Three. Let’s take a final look at the markets for today. In Australia, the SX 200 up zero 2%, the Nico two five in Japan rallying as well, up zero 8%. The Cosby is up. A third of the cent in South Korea does look like, though the hangsting is going to fall slightly, about 50 points or so at the Open later on this morning. Thank you very much for listening this morning. Please join me again for the final time this week in a holiday shortened week at 08:00 tomorrow. Stay tuned for covered updates after the news with Jim Gold and Anna Fenton. The weather forecast, mainly cloudy, few showers going to be hot with sunny intervals during the day. Maximum temperature of 29 degrees, mainly fine and hot during the day tomorrow. And on Friday, the temperature right now 25 degrees, 82%. Relative humidity 32 here’s Andy Shawski with the half hour news.

AS: Thank you, Peter. The head of the Government’s policy innovation and coordination office says the authorities have expanded it’s $10,000 subsidy for people who have recently lost their jobs Due to covet. Officials say they have received 470,000 applications for the subsidy. In February. They expected only 300,000 Would apply. Doris Hoe said that’s because more people have lost their jobs.

DH: This is partly because more people were out of employment in March When the unemployment situation was in February and partly because we expanded our scheme subsequently to cover employees working in closed app premises such as affinity centers and beauty salons and who were forced out of work about their employers.

AS: Medical Association President Choi keen says the government initiative giving private doctors access to oralcobid drugs will definitely be effective in preventing severe cobalt infections. Authorities on Monday said that private doctors could request antivirals through a dedicated electronic platform. Doctor choice said this is a sensible arrangement.

DH: The patients usually see the GP first before they go to the emergency Department before they get very ill, so it’s the first stage that the antivirus are infected. So if they are seen at the first stage and given the medication, they will not proceed to a very ill stage so it is effective and useful.

AS: Police in New York are searching for a man who shot ten people at a Brooklyn subway station during the morning rush hour. Six others were also hurt, Mostly through smoke inhalation. None of the injuries are life threatening. The New York city police Commissioner, Ketchen Sewell, gave details of the incident just before 824 this morning.

KS: As a Manhattan bound and train waited to enter the 36th street station, an individual on that train donned what appeared to be a gas mask. He then took a canister out of his bag and opened it. The train at that time began to fill with smoke. He then opened fire, Striking multiple people on the subway and in the platform. He is being reported as a male black, approximately 5ft five inches tall with a heavy build.

AS: The city of Guangzhou has reported 13 new COVID cases. Health officials in the city say the new infections were linked to previous cases, but they warned that transmissions might have been taking place for some time before the new cases were found. And the next few days will be critical. To contain the outbreak, local authorities have been conducting mass testing to screen out patients primary and secondary schools of suspended face to face class.

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