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Week Ahead

Energy Market on the Brink: Russia, CNY, and the Fed’s Dilemma

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In the latest episode of The Week Ahead, Tony Nash is joined by Michael Nicoletos, Tracy Shuchart, and Albert Marko. The panel first explores Russia’s recent announcement that it would use CNY for trade settlement outside of the US and Europe. Michael Nicoletos explains that this move could be viable, but it would depend on whether all countries would accept the terms of trade.

Albert Marko believes that the recent rate hike was the right thing to do and predicted that the Fed would raise rates twice more. He also criticizes the lack of depth in the economics department of some central banks, citing examples from the RBNZ and the ECB.

The panel also analyzes the energy market and predicted when we might see an uptrend. Tracy Shuchart updates the chart and pointed out that crude seemed to break the down cycle a bit, leading to a good week for the commodity. The team answers a viewer’s question about the possibility of energy prices remaining low for a long time and offered their perspectives on the matter.

Finally, the panel discusses what they expected for the Week Ahead. Michael Nicoletos predicts that the energy market would remain volatile, and Tracy Shuchart believes that the focus would be on the stock market, particularly the Nasdaq. Albert Marko highlights the importance of watching the inflation data and suggests that investors should keep an eye on the bond market.

Key themes:
1. Russia ❤️ $CNY. Why?
2. Where does the Fed (and other central banks) go from here?
3. When will we see an uptrend in energy?

This is the 58th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.

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Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash and today we’re joined by Michael Nicoletos. Michael is the founder and CEO of DeFi Advisors based in Athens. We’re also joined by Tracy Shuchart of Hilltower Resource Advisors and Albert Marko. Guys, thanks so much for joining us. We have a couple of key themes and I was really in questioning mood when I put these together. The first one is around Russia and the CNY. There was an announcement this week. My question really is why? What’s the point of that? Next is where does the Fed go from here? And really where do all central banks go from here, but mainly the Fed, ECB. Albert is going to lead on that and I know Michael has some views on that as well. That’ll be really exciting to talk through. And then we’ll talk to Tracy about energy. For the first part of this week, we saw energy on an uptrend and we’ve seen a little bit of turbulence on Friday. So when do we expect to see an uptrend in energy? So again, guys, thanks for joining us. Michael, I really appreciate you taking the time from Athens to get involved with us today. Thanks so much.


Thank you. Happy to be here. Great, love to talk to you guys.


Great. So first, Michael, I know that you know a lot about China and you follow a lot of their economic activity. And I saw you commenting on this Russia announcement about CNY. Of course, they announced that they’ll use CNY for trade settlement outside of the US and Europe, which is Latin America, Africa and Asia is what they said in their announcement. So that’s about 37% of Russia’s exports. So I put a little chart together. I used UN ComTrade data.

This is 2021 data, which is the latest data that UN ComTrade has. So if they’re really doing that, Latin America is 2% of Russia’s trade, Africa is 3% of Russia’s trade. China is 14%. Okay? And so I guess is all of their trade with China settled in CNY? I seriously doubt it. And then Asia is rest of Asia is 18%. And of that about 1%, just under 1% is Taiwan. So I seriously doubt Taiwan would settle in CNY. But what’s obvious from looking at this chart is Europe is more than half of Russia’s trade. So it’s not as if this is necessarily a massive bold announcement that everything is going to be in CNY from here on out.


It really is just kind of putting a stake in the ground saying I think it’s almost a best efforts thing. So I guess is this viable? That’s really the question. And Michael, you put out this thought-provoking tweet.

You said if that were the case, China would have no issues running out of USDs. Let’s take that on and help me understand why is China trying to do this and what is the US dollar question that you have around this arrangement?


Well, first of all, again, thank you for having me. It’s great to be here. Now we need to segregate two things: wanting to do something and being able to do something. It’s clear that a lot of countries which are highly dependent on the US dollar for trading would rather be on something else and not be dependent on the dollar. We saw what happened with Russian FX Reserve when the war started. So clearly this was a warning shot or a lot of countries said we could be next if we go into a fight with the US. So clearly there is a tendency and China wants this to happen as soon as possible. Now, for this to happen, there are a lot of things that need to happen first. I’ll give just an anecdotal example because we get all this news flow and all these headlines where one signs an agreement with another and then two people or two prime ministers come up and say we’re going to do it, and everyone takes it for granted, especially on Twitter. It’s either a fanatic from one side or a fanatic from the other side. So again, I agree with everyone who is afraid of this happening in the sense that a lot of people are saying that the end of the dollar is close and that everyone’s going to go to something different.


I agree there is the willingness. I’m not sure this can happen soon, and I don’t think it can happen without some conflict occurring somewhere. So an example is that in 2018, Iran signed an agreement with China to sell oil in Yuan. Still, after four or five years, the volumes are ridiculously low. So again, there are agreements, but in order to enforce them and in order for them to happen, they take a lot more time than one would want. So Russia had no option. So because of the sanctions, they still sell to Europe, a few things, but they’re trying to outweigh it by selling more to China. And China and Russia are trying to make these agreements where they will be settling in Rubles or in Yuan. And they try to make these agreements. They want to expand them to other countries as well. However, you see, for example, India. India doesn’t want to settle in Yuan or doesn’t want to settle in ruble. They want to settle in Dirhams, which is back to the dollar. So you get all this information and the data, at least until now, does not support that there is a threat to the dollar.


There is a threat to the dollar in terms of willingness. There is no threat to the dollar in terms of data which says that this is going to happen tomorrow. So I think that this will eventually happen, but I don’t think it will happen soon. I think until it happens, we’re going to see a few episodes. And these episodes are not straightforward, how they will evolve.


Now, regarding China and its macro, the reason I’m saying what I’m saying and I’m saying that China needs dollars. China has been dependent, first of all, on its real estate, which was like 30% of its GDP. We saw what happened to the real estate. The second leg was it was highly dependent on exports. There’s a global slowdown. So these exports will have some issues. And now, how has China managed to keep this economy running? I’ll give you a few metrics to understand. The US is an economy which is like 26, I think 26 trillion of GDP. And if I’m not mistaken, its M2 is around 21 trillion. In China, the GDP is around 17 trillion, all in dollars. Okay? And M2 is $40 trillion. 40. Four, zero. So what does that mean?


The China government prints money. Prints money. Prints money. Because there are capital controls, the balloon gets bigger and bigger and bigger, but the money can’t leave, or it can leave for selected few, and I’ll explain how it leaves. And for the rest, because our capital control, the money can’t leave. So it stays in. But this is in one. Some try to buy gold, some try to invoice over invoice to Hong Kong and take it out of Hong Kong. But when the disparity is so big, clearly there is a problem. There’s an NPL problem. Chinese banks are like four times China’s GDP.


Sorry, NPL is non performing loans.


Non performing loans. Sorry. Sometimes they’re non performing. You cannot have an M2 of 40 trillion and a GDP of 17 trillion and not have non performing loans. Chinese banking system.


Sorry, I just want to go back and I don’t mean to interrupt you, but I just want to make sure that people understand. China has currency in circulation of $40 trillion, and they have a GDP of $17 trillion. Whereas the US has a GDP of what you say 24 trillion. I don’t remember what number you’re… 26 trillion. And they have 21 trillion in circulation. Right. So for all of these people who talk about China being this economic model for other people, why does it matter that their M2 is more than double the size of their economy?


Let me say something. First of all, let’s put something that the US. Is also the global reserve currency. So everyone in the world wants dollars. It’s not like only the US wants dollars. At this stage, less than 10% of the world wants Yuan. So it’s not like everyone wants to get.


I think it’s 2.1% of transactions or something like that.




2.8, yeah, transactions.


Okay. I saw a number which was around 6%. Maybe I’m wrong. Okay. But again, it’s a number which is very small. 


All this money that is in the economy, if Chinese people were given the choice, they would be able to take it out. The economy is growing at a faster pace than its potential. I’ll give you a number. Right now, Chinese banks are more than 50% of global GDP in terms of size. The US, I think its peak was 32% in 1985 and Japan’s 27% in 1994. So we’ve passed all metrics in terms of the world dominant power or the dominant economy, if you want to put it this way, being a percentage of GDP in terms of banking assets. So the banking assets clearly have a lot of bad debts in there, which we cannot know what they are because the Chinese economy wants the Chinese government wants to control that. Now, there was a special committee put in place this month, I think, in order to oversee the financial situation in China. So I’m pretty sure they’re a bit worried about it. They want to switch from an export oriented economy to a consumption driven economy. But this is still less than 40% of GDP and this takes a lot of time to go like the US is around 70%, but it takes a lot of time to go for 40%, 70%.


Now, all this money stays in China. They have no option, they can’t do anything. So it’s an issue. And I’ll give you a ratio. If you take their FX reserve, it’s around 3 point something trillion. If you divide FX to M2, it’s around 7%. So if that money were to want if that money wanted to leave, in theory, only 7% can be covered by FX reserves, the fixed reserves of the government. Just to clarify, the Asian tiger crisis in 97, the tigers collapsed when the ratio went below 25%. So they didn’t have that support to keep it up.


And just be clear for the US that’s 100%, right?


The US doesn’t have any problems. So this is something that needs to be addressed and I don’t know how they will address it. They try to make all these agreements so that the one becomes a tradable currency and they can invoicing one. So if the Yuan, in theory was to become the global reserve currency tomorrow morning, their debt would become the world’s problem. Now, they haven’t managed to export that, so they need these dollars to keep that balloon, let’s say, from all the area in the balloon to be taken up. They need these FX reserves to keep the money in and they need to build confidence, and they try to build confidence with narratives and not with data. But again, they don’t have a choice right now, in my opinion.


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The difference between, say, the onshore and offshore CNY or CNH or whatever, there is a huge difference in perceived value. I would think you can’t change the perceived value of CNY onshore, but offshore, if people are nominating contracts in, say, I’ll say “CNY” in quotes, there is an exchange right there. But again, this M2 issue, which I can’t stress how important that is, I haven’t heard anybody else talking about this. And it’s so critical to understand the fiat value of CNY itself, right, because it’s not limited, and the government because they’re effectively fun tickets with Mao’s face on it.


Right. And that’s how the PBOC was treating it. And again, when people talk about CNY as a global reserve currency, nobody is looking at the integrity of the PBOC and nobody is looking at how the PBOC manages monetary policy in China.


I’ll give you anecdotal information. I haven’t checked the number for a few years, but the last time I checked, if you look at the import-export numbers from Hong Kong to China, and you look at the PBOC, and then you go and see the same numbers in the HKMA, you would assume that these four numbers should be the same, not the same. Import should be export and export should be imports. The numbers should be very close. The discrepancy is huge. These numbers do not reconciliate, which means that in some form there is some over invoicing to Hong Kong.


And you’re not talking about 30%, you’re talking about multiples.


You’re talking about a lot. It’s ridiculous. So I think if you see the Hong Kong peg has been stable to the upper bound lately because I guess because of the interest rate differential, a lot of money is leaving. So it’s putting pressure on Hong Kong as well. So it remains to be seen what happens there.


So let me go to Tracy. Tracy, in terms of Russia using CNY, okay? And I know you look at a lot of their energy exports, and of course there’s all this official dumb around sanctions and stuff, but what’s your kind of guess on Russia using either USD or proxy USD, Dirhams or something else as currencies for collecting on energy exports or commodity exports more broadly?


Well, first, I think that they prefer dollars no matter what this kind of China saying we want to trade a Yuan. And Russia said, okay, but that was a suggestion. That does not mean that it’s necessarily happening. But what is really interesting is earlier this week, on Monday, Russia laid out conditions for extending the grain, the black seed grain deal, right? Because it was supposed to be for 90 days, but they cut it to 60 days because they’re trying to use that as leverage. And one of the things that they are trying to use as a leverage is they will extend the deal or they’ll give or the other part is they’ll give African countries just free grain instead of selling it. But one of the big conditions for that was for the removal of some Western sanction, specifically to get them back on Swift. And so if that happens, forget it. Everything’s going to be all the trade will be all euros and dollars.


I thought Swift was terrible and everybody wanted on Swift.


I just thought it was important to point out because if they get back on Swift, obviously that’s going to make trading in dollars easy for everything, all commodities across the board.


Right. And so that goes back to what Michael said initially about kind of these guys really want dollars and all this other stuff. There’s the official dumb of the prime ministers meeting each other, right. And then there’s the factual activities they undertake based on the reality of their position in the world economy. Right. What are your thoughts here?


I agree with Michael and Tracy to talk about the reserve currency. Switching from the dollar to the Yuan is a joke, to be honest with you. You do have some people in other countries in the Middle East and China and whatnot talking about the death of the dollar and actual serious tone. But anyone with even like a shred of financial backing and insight knows that it’s just an impossible thing. From what it sounds like, it’s more of like a barter system. But that introduces even bigger problems. I mean, you can’t scale it up. There’s no standardization. How do you value things to begin with?


That’s it.


Valuing goods and services without using the dollar right now is just an impossibility. And on top of that, you have the political problems that come along with it. I mean, like the Saudis, they want dollars for their oil. They need defense assistance. The Greeks needed US defense assistance. The Turks, as much as they want to make noise again, they’re reliant on the US and NATO for defense and whatnot. These components not just financially, what Michael talked about and decided much more eloquently than I would ever would, but there’s also political components that you just can’t get around in the near term.


But even if they had a barter system, they would reference the price in dollars, right?


Well, yeah.


10 billion.


Your chocolate is back to iran did that when they were first sanctioned over a decade ago. They were trading oil for gold, but it was still referencing dollars.


On top of that, you run the risk of hyperinflation eliminating dollars from your FX reserves and starting to trade away from the dollar. You’re going to end up in a hyperinflation event.




Can I say something? Can I say something? About all these points? I agree with all these points. There’s one more thing. Let’s say you trade in rubles and you trade in Yuan, okay? It means that you’re going to keep FX reserves in rubles or in Yuan. So you feel more comfortable keeping a currency from an authoritarian regime than holding the US. Dollar, which is fully liquid, fully tradable, and anyone in the street will take it at a split of a second. You need many years of track record to build that trust. There are a lot of bad things about the dollar. We agree that I don’t think anyone will say that it’s a perfect mechanism, but right now, it’s very functional, it’s very liquid. And if you want to keep your reserves in US Treasuries, you can sell them at the split of a second. You don’t have any issues with that. If you have Yuan, you’re going to do what? You’re going to buy Chinese government bonds? And how will you sell them if the PBOC calls you and says, it’s not a good idea to sell your Chinese bonds this week? We would prefer you didn’t.


Bet on the central bank, right? If you’re holding rubles, you’re betting that the Russian central bank is trustworthy. If you’re holding CNY, you’re betting that the Chinese center. So what central banks are out there that you could potentially trust? You have the Fed, you have the ECB, you have BOJ, right? Those are really the only three that are visible enough that have the scale and transparency to manage a currency. And look what the BOJ has done since Abenomics. And on and on and on. Do you trust the ECB? I don’t know. And it becomes, do you trust the ECB or the Fed more? I mean, sorry, but I just don’t trust the ECB.


I don’t trust ECB. But it’s relative. I mean, you don’t have a problem keeping Euros. Maybe it’s not your preferred choice, but you don’t lose your sleep on holding Euros. Let me put it at this stage.


That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. Okay, guys, this is great. Let’s move on to the next thing, because I think we all agreed violently here, but I think we’re going to not agree on the next one, which I’m really excited about. So let’s talk about central banks. And where does the Fed and where do other central banks go from here? So, of course, we saw the Fed raise this week. I think it was the right thing to do. Albert, I know you think it’s the right thing to do. Markets have been up and down since then. And Albert, you’ve said that you expect the Fed to raise two more times, and I want to talk about kind of what’s behind that assertion. And then we get silly statements like this one from the RBNZ in New Zealand, where the chief economist basically says, if inflation expectations don’t fall, we’ll be forced to do more regarding interest rates.

Well, of course. Why wouldn’t you do that. So can you walk us through a little bit, kind of just very quick, because there have been thousands of hours of Fed analysis this week. But why do you think the Fed is going to raise two more times?


Supercore is trending up and it continues to trend up. Services are on fire. Real estate numbers have been on fire. There’s no slowdown in reality. I mean, even the layoffs have been slow. They’ve come from the tech sector. They haven’t come from construction or any other blue collar jobs at the moment. So until we see that, the economy is going to be red hot and it’s a problem for the Fed, inflation overall.


Okay, so play devil’s advocate here. Banking crisis, Fed had to bail out banks, all this other stuff. So why isn’t the Fed saying, let’s pause on the banking crisis worries?


Because banks are fully liquid. The big banks have no problem whatsoever. Some of these smaller banks that have no risk protocols are getting exposed. The tech heavy investments are getting exposed. Everyone knows that higher rates hurts the tech sector the most. And those banks were at fault. They didn’t hedge properly.


Now you have duration risk. I just want to be clear. I just want to make sure that people understand. You’re not saying that they failed necessarily because they’re tech, but they failed because of duration risk and then their tech depositors took their money out. Right?


Absolutely. But the banking system overall is not really at risk. They’re just shaking out some of the weaker players. But that was inevitable as interest rates have risen. A lot of the problems stem from the Fed and them guaranteeing four, five, 6% deposits, while the banks only do 1%. They can’t compete with that.


Right. Michael, I know that you think this wasn’t the right action. So what’s your perspective?


Well, let me say something first. I believe that it was a mistake, and I’ll say why it was a mistake. I think it’s a mistake when you raise interest rates as a central bank and the banks follow by raising rates on the loan side and on the deposit side, what do you do? You make debt more expensive and then you make people because you have, let’s say, a 5% interest rate on your bank, you create an opportunity cost so people want to save. So you reduce liquidity from the deposit side, and also you reduce loan demand because it’s more expensive, and that creates a slowdown. What happened now, because we had ten years of QE, everyone forgot that there was an interest rate on the deposit side. So the Fed, MDCB and all the central banks raised the interest rate. So the loan side adjusted. That became more expensive, but the deposit side stayed zero at 1%. I don’t know where this is in the US. But it’s really low. At some point, people started waking up when it arrived at 4% and they suddenly started saying, okay, I don’t have any interest on my deposit.


Let me put my money in the money market fund. How much does it give? Three, four, 5%? I don’t know. It’s a much higher rate. So I think I saw somewhere today that around 5 trillion have gone into money market funds. The numbers close to that. So when you take your money out of the deposit and you take it to a money market fund, this is the equivalent of a bank run for the bank that you’re taking the money, it’s a deposit living. It might not feel like a bank run, but on the balance sheet of a bank, it’s a bank run. So this started happening, and again, because of what you mentioned, they had invested in Treasuries and the duration risk was a mismatch. They didn’t do some of them at least hadn’t done appropriate hedging. They started losing money and they started selling this bond at a loss, although they had them at the Healthy Maturity portfolio where you don’t need to take a mark to market loss. And suddenly both sides of the balance sheet were screwed. Let me put it this way. So a few banks started going under. Now, I know that the central bank has come up and I know a lot of people come up.


And I do agree that there’s no systemic risk. And I mean that I don’t see a cascade of people losing their deposits. But nevertheless, people feel uncomfortable and try to do something about it. Either take them more money market funds or take their money from a regional bank, if they can. To JP morgan or one of the big guys. This creates a big problem for the economy. Yes, there are some signs which show that the economy is still robust. But I think a lot of leading indicators suggest that the economy is slowing down and most of the metrics coming from the inflation side have collapsed. Yes, core CPI is still high and it’s a lagging indicator, so it will take time for it to come down. But I think that given the stress we saw this week and why do I say that? Because we look at the US as a closed system. It’s not. When you raise interest rates as the Fed and you are the global reserve currency, you create a global credit crunch. You saw that last week. The Fed had come out with swap lines for everyone. You saw today that foreign banks borrowed 60 billion in liquidity, the ones that didn’t have a swap line.


And we see today Deutsche Bank being in the headlines and Commerce Bank being in the gate. So you might think that the US system is okay, but it creates a domino effect, which we’re starting to see. We saw Credit Suisse going under in a deal, which was not, I’d say, what we would think of. I believe that that deal in combination with the high rates is probably the root of the problem in the sense that they destroyed the capital structure, they wiped out all the 80 ones without wiping out the equity holders. Which means now that in Europe everyone’s wondering if my 81 is of any value. And that creates another uncertainty in combination with the higher interest rates and the stress that has started to build up. I think we’ve passed the moment where, okay, it could be debatable if they did right or if they did wrong. The US bond market is saying that it was wrong. It was a mistake. The two years at 370. And so the bond market went from the one side and the Fed went on the other side.


Why? The two year at 270 is important.


373, 70. Sorry, yeah. Three seven. Because if in two years you’re getting 3.7% and the Fed fund rate is five someone, it means that someone is buying a two year bond getting much less. Which means what? It means that the market is saying rate cuts are coming soon. So the market is saying there’s no way we can keep it this way. And the Fed is saying the opposite. Historically speaking, the bond market has been right. If you take it into context, it could be this time that they are wrong. It feels to me, at least from the stress I look in global markets and not in US. Only, that things are getting a bit out of hand. And having a bank like Credit Suisse go under, which is a big bank, and having all the central banks come in together on a Sunday night to give up swap lines, it means that the stress in the system, it’s much bigger than with yeah, but Sunday night.


Is the best time to get swap lines. Okay, so you talk about European banks, but we had Mueller from the ECB out this week saying, I wouldn’t worry about a financial crisis in Europe.

So we have ECB guys out there going, yeah, Credit Suisse happened and we know Deutsche is an issue, but I wouldn’t worry about that in Europe. So I think we’re seeing statements from Yellen, the Fed, the ECB, other guys who are saying, no, there’s nothing to see here, but then we see things kind of blowing up all over the place. Right, and then we have a question especially specifically for you, Michael, from a viewer who said, I’d like Michael’s thoughts on the EU, particularly banks, pensions and future growth prospects. So can you talk us through? How do these banking issues in Europe flow through to European pensions?


First of all, let’s say something. We’re talking about the US and.




Risk on the bond losses. Let’s remind everyone that at the peak of QE 18 1818 trillion worth of bonds had negative yield, and these were mostly Europe and Asia. So pension funds and banks in Europe which are forced to buy these bonds were buying bonds. With a negative yield. So they were losing on day one these bonds from -50 basis bonds have gone to two and 3%, the losses on these are much greater and pension funds will have much bigger issues than the ones that have in the US we were talking about a pension crisis in the US. But the European one is pretty bad too. Just look at in France, they raised this week the year that you take your pension from 62 years old to 64 and the country is burning to the ground. Now, you understand that it’s 62 to 64. It’s not like they made 62 to 70 years old. So it’s very delicate. And the situation in Europe, given the negative bonds, given the interest rate hikes and given one more thing in Europe, given that Europe doesn’t have the dollar and it has the Euro was mostly a supply driven issue.


It means that we were importing oil and energy from Russia and from everywhere and all these commodities were priced in dollars. So as a Europe tell, the price of these commodities were more expensive. So inflation was a supply driven problem. I think there’s a report, I think from the San Francisco Fed two thirds of the inflation was supply driven in Europe. So when inflation is supply driven and you raise rates to stop it, you’re using the wrong medicine to stop the problem. You need to crash the economy in order for this to stop. This is not really efficient. Now, in the meantime, you have yields going higher and now the yields that we see on our screen on Bloomberg or anywhere are not the yield real yields because the ECB is in and tries to contain the spreads. If you left the market low, I’m pretty sure the spreads would be much, much wider. And you have the new thing which came up this week when the Swiss National Bank decided that tier one, additional tier ones would be written off and equity holder, an equity holder would be saved. Now, imagine what happened. You probably saw what happened this week, all the 80 ones in Europe got smashed because everyone says I don’t trust this instrument.


I don’t know. Yes, central bankers will come out.


These are the cocoa bonds that came out in I think, 2013, right?


Yeah, there are a few of them, yeah, but it’s a cocoa, it’s contingent convertible. It means that they’re convertible be converted to equity if something happens. Let me put it as simple as it is, but these are supposed to be wiped out before the equity. So the question is what prevents for something else similar to happen again, the ECB came out, BoE came out, they said this is not accepted. But the fear and the is now everywhere. So you have a combination of factors. You have a factor that this ECB has been raising rates when I don’t think it’s a proper mechanism to address inflation in europe, they’ve created a slowdown. If you see Germany’s numbers and everywhere’s numbers in Europe, the economy is slowing down fast. You have a discussion on the capital structure of lending, which is very critical in the way companies and banks go and borrow themselves and all this at the same time and when the US. Is draining liquidity from the global system. I think the situation in Europe is very tough. Again, after 2008, I don’t think we have a systemic risk on our hands and the risks never materialize in the same place.


But I think things are about to get tough and it’s going to be much worse before it gets any better.


So what I would offer back, and I think everything you’re saying is valid and Albert Tracy, let me know if you want to think about this, but in the US. We have a presidential election next year. There is almost no way that we will see the US economy crash in the next 24 months because Janet Yellen won’t let that happen. And so we may see issues in Europe and we may see Europe and the rest of the world suffer based on US interest rate and monetary policy. But the US. Will do everything, the current administration will do everything they can to keep the US. From crashing in that time. And I’m not just saying this because they’re Democrats, Republicans would do the same thing to keep the economy afloat in the year before an election.


Albert, what do you think about that? It depends on what is happening specifically with debt ceiling, right? I mean, Janet Yellen and the Biden administration would gladly let the economy sink, the market sink anyways if they could blame it on escape both the GOP on the debt ceiling not getting hyped. So that’s definitely something you need to watch over the next six months because it is campaign fundraising season and they can’t really agitate their voters all that much, to be honest with you. Certainly the political component is going to be high over the next twelve months.


Okay, great. Let’s move on. Thank you for that, guys. Let’s move on to energy.


Can I say something?


Absolutely. Yes, please.


What appears to be happening right now, at least in my eyes, is that the Fed is using interest rates to attack inflation and it’s using the balance sheet to give liquidity. So these two do not go in the same direction at this point. The question is if they can do this for a long time. It doesn’t feel to me that they can. But at least right now they’re giving liquidity on the one side and they’re raising rates on the other side. I’m not sure they can do this for us.


We’ve actually talked about that at length here. But it’s not the Fed. It’s really the treasury. Sterilizing QT They’re coordinating.


They’re coordinating.


Of course they coordinate for the most part, but sometimes in the last six months or the last twelve months. Powell and Yellen have been at odds with each other in policy. So this is a lot of the reasons why the markets has just been topsy turbine. Don’t understand which way it’s going because you have conflicting policy and agendas from the treasury and the Fed.


So you feel it’s conflicting or do you think it’s coordinating? They’re doing it on purpose. That’s what I haven’t figured out yet.


I think the want to eliminate excess cash in the system is coordinated but I think the policy of how they’re doing that is conflicting and that’s going to be a bigger problem, say second half of this year.


Okay, sounds logical, but it’s one of these things that pass on me. I don’t know if they’re doing it on purpose or if they do any as you say, because they’re using other tools and they step on each other doing so.


My rule of thumb is to side with incompetence rather than conspiracy.




It’s not conspiracy when the Fed chairman talks with the treasury guy?


No, I am absolutely in your corner on this one. I absolutely believe that they talk and coordinate things for sure. I just think that their agenda at the moment doesn’t line up 100% of the time.




Very good. Okay, thanks for that guys. Tracy, let’s talk about energy for a while. Up until Friday we had a pretty good week for crude. I thought we were breaking that down cycle a bit, but we’re seeing some chop in energy markets. And so we had a question for you from a viewer saying when do you see oil and natty in a sustainable uptrend?


Yeah, nat gas is a whole other issue. I think it’s going to be very difficult really. We’re trading in the range that we’ve been trading in most of the time for the last 20 years or so. That $2, $3 range has been very comfortable for nat gas. We produce a lot of nat gas. Yes, we are building out LNG facilities and yes, we have had problems with freeport and such. I just think that we probably won’t really see a big spike in prices unless we see another energy crisis in Europe, do you know what I’m saying? And then we’re going to have to force to sell even more. So for right now I would kind of get comfortable with nat gas about that range. But if it starts breaking above like 375 or so I would start getting bullish. But for right now, just kind of in that area where it’s been comfortable most of the time. Right. So I think it’s going to be a while for that. So we got to kind of assess the situation in Europe as we get to summer air conditioning use and to next winter if they have a bad winter, I think it’s going to be a few more months at least down the line for natural gas as far as oil is concerned.


Brent said about $75 right now, saudi Arabia would like it around 80, 90 range is where they’re really comfortable. I think right now what we’re going to have to get through is we’re going to have to really assess we need more time to assess Russia’s situation. They just extended that 500,000 barrel a day cut out until June. The latest records do show that they actually have cut that much so far in March. So the cut is happening, which also means that they’re experiencing kind of a pullback in demand, even though they have really it’s more on the product end rather than, I should say, rather than the crude oil end, because they have floating storage, they have ships piling up everywhere with product. And so I think that will help clear their excess product a little more. So it’s really on the product end and that we also have to see everybody’s freaking if the Fed again decides to stop raising rates or pause. I think commodities really like that situation just because of the cost of carry and transportation and storage for all these commodities is very expensive. Right.




You get bank credit lines for that. Right. And so I think that’s putting downward pressure on markets right now. And then obviously fear of recession is kind of kicking in again after the recent bank crisis in the US. And in Europe. And so I really don’t think that we’ll see higher prices. I mean, typically this is the time of year we do start seeing higher prices heading into high summer demand season. But we’ve also been seeing, I think everybody expected China. China demanded to shoot up right away. That’s taking longer than anticipated, which I kind of have been saying that on this show for quite a few months.


Long time. Exactly.


So I think that there’s a lot of factors involved right now. I do think, again, it’s higher for longer. Historically still, prices at $70 is high for oil. The market is crashing by any means, just coming down from geopolitically induced spike last year. I think it’s higher for longer. And definitely I could see prices go into that $110 range, but likely into 2024. Not really this year, obviously, unless something happens. Okay.


Do you think if the Fed poses or whatever reason, or if they do a rate cut, do you think that commodities will explode or do you think.


I think if they cut, commodities would get really excited. I think if they pause, they would get excited. Right. I think we would see a rebound in a lot of these commodities, grains, things of that base metals and industrial metals and oil. But if they start cutting, then I think that they’ll really like that because then they don’t have to throw product at the market because they can’t afford to store it.


Thank you.


I’m actually quite bullish for oil in the near term. One of the reasons is I’ve heard through the grapevine that the Chicanery and the futures market and I’m reading that hedge funds and other money managers sold the equivalent of 139,000,000 barrels of oil in futures over seven days a week and a half ago. So, I mean, to me, it’s like they’re almost out of ammo when it comes to suppressing oil at the moment. And any little flare up or anything is probably going to be bullish for oil and probably shoot right back up to 80.


So what could that be, Albert?


It could be a natural event. It could be weather, I mean, some kind of economic policy stimulus from Europe coming out there, or even the United States going into, like Tracy was saying, the travel season and whatnot. It could be anything, really. I mean, I think the market is just begging for some kind of bullish signal for them to run it up.


Okay. And Tracy, if you’re sitting in Europe because energy prices were such a factor in 2022, what are the main things that you’re worried about? Their nat gas storage. Has that been depleted much over the winter?


No, it wasn’t depleted. They just had to start injections again because what we are seeing is that this really started in fall of 2021. Everybody kind of forgets that the crisis started before the Ukraine invasion, but what we saw is industry start to shut down, especially industry like smelting and glass blowing and things of that nature that require a lot of energy. Right when nat gas prices started spiking, and that was well before that summer of 2022 spike, they didn’t need to spike much where we saw a lot of those industries shut down. So what we’re seeing now is that since prices have been muted for long enough now, now we are seeing manufacturing and whatnot pick up with the numbers came in overnight for Europe. We’re seeing manufacturing pick up again. We’re starting to see some drawdowns finally in storage. Spain in particular has really ramped up a lot of their industry that had shut down prior. I have to say, natural gas prices are still more expensive than they typically are in Europe. Even at this price, right, they’re still higher than normal. So this is also why we’re not seeing a flurry of activity.


As soon as prices came down, you have to realize that relative to where they were, they’re still generally high. But we are seeing, I think people are getting used to kind of this price range for Ttf, which is Dutchnet gas. And so we are seeing in manufacturing and industry pick up again in some of these traditional industries that require a lot of energy. So we’ll have to see, and if that really picks up, companies are going back to where they went to fuel instead of gas. We’re seeing them go back to gas now. And so that’s really what I’m watching on the energy end. Is this just one off, kind of, or does this continue throughout the summer?






And then everybody’s favorite energy secretary, Jennifer Grandholm, had some comments about refilling the Spr this week. Can you fill us in on that? And what does that mean for markets?


Basically, she said we’re not filling in the Spr, refilling the Spr anytime soon.




She said a few years, which means a lot more years unless there’s a change of administration and a policy change. But I would say from until the election not going to see an Sbr, which makes sense because they know that if they fill the Spr, what’s going to happen? Oil prices are likely going to go higher, and they can’t afford that going heading into an election year. And so I think that’s really why they kind of pushed that off. That’s kind of what’s going on with that.


Can they be saying something and doing something else?


Yeah, but we would know if they’re actually filling the Spr or not because it’s a public auction.


Okay, why don’t we just stop calling it the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and just call it the Petroleum Reserve? Nothing strategic about the way they’re using the Tactical Petroleum Reserve.


They’re using it as a piggy bank. Right.


Instead of strategic, you use slush fund, petroleum reserve.


Right, exactly. Okay, guys, one last question, I guess. What are you looking for in the week ahead? We’ve had a lot of volatility over the past couple of weeks. Michael, what are you looking for in the week ahead?


I’m focusing on central banks and interest rates. I think the issue will be banks. Again, I think the big stress in the economy is private markets and not public markets. BCS, private equity, all these investments need to do write downs. It will take a bit more time for them to do that. It doesn’t happen that fast. They don’t adjust as fast as public market. I believe that bank we will see that stress mostly on banking stocks. A because the cost of funding goes up, b because the capital structure is put into a discussion. C because they continue to raise interest rates. And there is a stress within, I think, focusing on what happens to the banks and to the two central banks. Again, we’re looking at the same thing, unfortunately, but the problem is not in the same place. But these are the indicators you need to look. I believe that you’re going to see inflation coming down fast. That’s my expectation. Maybe I’m wrong, but if you see inflation coming down, it’ll make the life much easier for central bank. Yeah.


And for all of us. Do you expect to see, like VCs, for example, some VCs close up because of the cost of funds and a lot of these banking issues, or do you think it really doesn’t impact them much?


I don’t know if they’re going to close down because it’s a 510 year investment. It depends if they can reinvest or if they have to liquidate. But I think funds that are coming up to their maturity, they need to liquidate or they need to roll over. It’s going to happen at a much lower price than they thought, or they’ll have to wait one or two years more. So I think that stress is going to show up somewhere.


Tracy, what do you see over the next week?


I think it’s type based markets. There’s not really a lot coming up as far as oil is concerned. OPEC meeting is the following week, which we already know they’re going to do nothing. So really, next week, end of month stuff, there’s not a whole lot going on in the commodities world, really newswise next week. So I think probably see the same sideways action.


Okay, great. Robert, what are you looking for? Let me ask a little bit of a kind of loaded question with that. As springtime is coming in in Ukraine, do we expect that to heat up at all as things warm a bit there?


Well, yeah, I would say yes. Geopolitically? I think it would be advantageous for Russia to do something to stay face. Absolutely. But for the week ahead, I think the narrative shift I’m watching for the narrative shift of interest rates to banking, like Michael was talking about, I think Yellen is most likely going to come out and try to guarantee 500,000 in deposits and even talk about 750 and get it up there and just get the crisis over and done with. So that’s what I’m looking for.




Wow. Would that require congressional no, they can use emergency powers. Everything’s. Emergency power is great. Perfect. Okay, thanks, guys. Thank you very much. Really appreciate your time and all your insight, and have a great week ahead.




Thank you very much. Have a great weekend, too.


Thank you.


BBC: How are sanctions affecting Russia?

This podcast is owned and originally published by BBC here:

The BBC’s Business Matters podcast covers a range of topics, including the positive economic signs in the US, the Russian tech brain drain, and the potential for a new plug to be the secret to a green transition.

Guests Emily Eng, NPR’s Beijing correspondent, and Tony Nash, founder and CEO of the financial forecasting platform Complete Intelligence in Houston, provide their insights on these topics.

They discuss the impact of economic sanctions on Russia and how the country is responding to them, including increasing exports to China and reducing its crude oil supplies by 500,000 barrels per day to push up prices.

The conversation also touches on a controversial proposal by the European Commission to seize Russian assets to help rebuild Ukraine.

Additionally, the podcast covers the announcement by the US federal government that all new garages and four courts built in the country will have to include charging points for electric vehicles and its potential impact on accelerating EV adoption.



Hi there. Welcome to Business Matters. My name is Ed Butler, and today, despite all the political rows we’ve been hearing about a potential debt default, there are more positive economic signs from the United States. This week, we read the tea leaves with a former presidential economic adviser and hear about the new incumbent in that job. Also, we consider the Russian tech brain drain, and why a new plug could be the secret to a green transition.


This will definitely help accelerate EV adoption. Charging is one of the things that really does stand in the way of someone’s decision about going electric.


All the latest on electric vehicles in the States coming up in the show, and I’m going to be joined throughout the program by two guests on opposite sides of the world. Emily eng is NPR’s Beijing correspondent, although she is based in Taiwan at the moment. Hi, Emily, can you hear us?


Yes, I can. Good morning.


Great to have you on the show. Tony Nash. He’s the founder and CEO of the financial forecasting platform Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas. Hi, Tony.


Hi, Ed. Thank you.


Great to have you both with us. Tony Nash this is obviously a function of, to some extent of the economic sanctions that we’ve been talking about, those applied against Russia. I mean, the funny thing about this is to some extent Russia hasn’t done that badly in the last twelve months, at least initially. I mean, that’s what the headline data is telling us. You look further into the future, I mean, are you seeing a kind of more serious decline potentially with Russia now because of what’s been applied against it?


Sure, there are a couple of things to look at. First, in the four weeks in January, Russia exported more crude oil than during any four-week period in 2021. So they are recovering their export capacity to places like India, China, parts of Africa, and other places. So, you know, it really hasn’t necessarily hurt their crude exports. When you look at imports, they’ve really substituted, say, the west for China. Their imports from China have grown by, I think, $8 billion a month. It’s got to be more than that, but I saw some numbers recently, but they’ve substituted imports from China. So in terms of trade, they’ve really turned eastward and southward instead of westward, which is just a natural response to sanctions. So where they’ve hurt is domestically in terms of things like industrial production of, say, machinery and domestic goods outside of, say, coal and oil and gas.


What the west, of course, has tried to do most recently is apply these caps on Russian crude exports. Now you’re saying that they’re getting around those or are they simply selling a larger amount of crude but at a lower price?


They’re getting around them. They haven’t hit the price cap yet. The crude is trading, or what has been trading at, I think, a $20 discount to the price cap. So they’re not even hitting the price cap. There’s a $20 discount to Euros crude. What Russia on its own, announced last week is that they’ll reduce their supplies by 500,000 barrels per day. So Russia is, on its own, taking barrels off the market as a way to push up crude prices. So the volume and the price caps really aren’t having an impact necessarily on crude itself. Of course, the Russian economy is being hit. Of course the isolation, of course other things are impacting Russia. I’m not trying to say that there are no impacts at all, but in terms of that natural resources, trade, and some of the import substitution, they’re actually doing okay.


Yeah, import substitution. This is the thing, and it’s a fascinating subject, actually. I was suddenly trying to dig into this, and it’s really complicated. But Tony, one last tantalizing thought on this. An element we understand, what Bloomberg is reporting that may be part of these new sanctions from the EU is to force banks to report more information on what Russian central bank assets they are actually holding. Because of course, the EU and other countries want to know how much has been frozen in Western bank accounts that used to belong to the Russian state budget. Now, this is seen possibly as a first step towards a controversial move touted by the European Commission, not just to freeze Russian assets, but to actually seize them, to use them to start rebuilding Ukraine or to at least pay Ukraine back for the damage that’s been caused. I mean, gosh. Do you think that that could be something we’ll be looking at in the next few weeks?


I think as a threat, I guess useful as a threat, but as an actual policy, I think it would be very difficult to execute and justify. Usually, these things are seized for years or decades. Sorry, frozen for years or decades, not necessarily seized. So I think that could be a very problematic policy to carry out.


Because it would set precedents.


Yes, that’s right.


For western countries, I suppose. Okay.


And the banking system that supports Russian assets or sovereign assets, would be dangerous for people like Russia going forward.


Tony Nash, thank you for now but stay tuned to this because this is big news. If you’re a car owner who wants to buy an electric vehicle, maybe you’ve got an electric vehicle already, especially if you’re in the US. The Us federal government has said that from now on, all charges that are used in the garages and the four courts around the states must be American made and have to be usable for all-electric vehicles. That means that Tesla, which has had most of the existing charging points, they have to carry, adapters, allowing other cars to use them. I spoke earlier about this with Alexis and John of Business Insider in Detroit. Well, Tony Nash, there you are in the big oil state, famously, there Texas. How is EV adoption going in the States?


It’s great. I’m sorry. It’s great. A lot of my neighbors have EVs, and I think it’s probably not as dense as, say, San Francisco or something. But we do have a lot of EVs here in Texas.


You’ve got a lot of territories to cover, though, don’t you? I mean, if you’re a driver. We do, and I have an electric vehicle. Every time I’ve gone 100 miles down the road, of course, I’m starting to sweat at the thought that, you know, at some point I’m going to have to refuel, otherwise I’m going to stop on the highway. Tony Nash are you confident that the move to electric vehicles is going to move as fast as some politicians, I suppose particularly politicians in Europe, are saying that we can sort of phase out the internal combustion engine in the next few years and rely entirely on electric vehicles? It’s going to require an awful lot of infrastructure. An awful lot of rare earth. Exactly, that’s right.


A lot of infrastructure. I mean, I understand the aggressive plans, but I just don’t think it can happen on that time scale. So it seems to me that maybe add ten years to it and sure, that makes sense. And to be honest, ten years in terms of adoption, in terms of building this stuff is really just the blink of an eye. So sure, I think it’ll happen, but I think it’s going to take a bit longer than people right now believe.


Right, it’s going to take longer, but that’s going to leave, I guess, a lot of politicians with egg on their faces, isn’t it?


That won’t be the first time. Quite true. Especially American politicians. Won’t be the first time.


Quite true. evelyn professor Jason Furman. Tony Nash, obviously he’s speaking in an upbeat way. He’s a supporter of the Democratic cause. Are you sensing a slightly kind of warmer, more positive mood in the US right now over its economic performance?


I think the mood is tentative because inflation is affecting everything. So if we look at that retail sales number, if you look at it in inflation-adjusted terms, we actually saw a decline of retail sales by 2.3%, and it was the fifth consecutive year-on-year decline. So five months in a row we’ve seen negative retail sales if we adjust for inflation. So I think inflation really covers everything. One of the things that the professor said that I’m not really sure is right is he says the White House can’t do anything about inflation. So we have Janet Yellen, who is a Treasury Secretary reporting to the White House, who is spending $140,000,000,000 a month from the treasury general account, and it’s offsetting all of the work that the Fed is doing. So the treasury is actually putting $140,000,000,000 into markets every month to keep markets booming. When the Fed is raising interest rates and selling off its balance sheet. So the US Treasury is actually and literally offsetting all of the good that the Fed is trying to do.


It’s interesting because we got Lyle Brainer coming from the Fed right this week to the White House as an economic advisor. You’re seeing that the political executive and the Fed are basically in conflict.


Absolutely. And Lail Brainerd is very smart. She’s fantastic. But she is very much a dove. She’s very much a loose monetary policy believer. And so what Janet Yellen is doing at the Fed in terms of pumping money in through the treasury general account, Lail Brainerd would be an absolute supporter of. And so we have to be very, very careful of inflation. All of these stimulatory activities really hurt your average worker. So there’s a concept called core inflation which really takes out everything energy, food, and so on and so forth. And really all it’s reflective of is service industry wages. Okay? So what we like to see is a headline number which will say 6% or something and what we’ll talk about is a core number which may be 1.2%. All that really means is that your hourly workers are being squeezed by inflation. So when the headline exceeds the super core inflation rate it just means that your hourly workers are being squeezed. And so it’s a really tough environment for wage workers.


Okay? It’s a tough environment. The bigger issue perhaps. Meanwhile, Tony, we still have this debt default issue, don’t we? We’ve been hearing about it in the headlines. Yet another cliff edge approaching in the United States. The wearyingly inevitable to some people kind of confrontation between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.


Yeah, I think what’s happened is the US has not actually had a budget for years and my understanding is what is trying to be negotiated is for the US to actually start doing an annual budget again that gets approved by Congress which is their constitutional role. One of the other items that I know are under discussion is this Treasury general account issue. Kind of profligate spending from the treasury to support markets. So there are some issues. It’s not just about the full faith and credit of the US. Of course, nobody wants the US to default but we’ve had some pretty ugly spending patterns for the past well as far as I can remember and I think some of that is just being discussed to come under control. So the US won’t default but it’s going to take some time to come to an agreement.


Yeah, indeed it will. We’re probably just going to be talking about it for weeks and weeks and weeks.


Well, I don’t think people realize there are thousands of protests in China every year. It’s not rare to have protests in China. Some of them are local workplace protests. Some of them are bigger. There was a protest east of Wuhan a few years ago about the location of I think a plastics factory or something like that. And there was one in Guangdong about, I think, an incineration plant or something, probably four or five years ago. But there are thousands of protests in China. It’s good that this is happening, and it’s a good discussion to have, and it’s good that Western media are able to view it. So every society has protested and every society has disagreements, and China is no different. Yeah, but there are older people, and even during the COVID lockdowns, the aunties in the buildings were yelling at the people, bringing food to them, and yelling at the police. So there is a difference in the age population in China. So I just don’t find any of this surprising, whether it’s a protest or a deference to old people.


What are they yelling down at the government? I mean, is this an escalation in the sense of the language, perhaps the boldness of some of the protesting and the way it’s being put?


They’re not saying, down with the CCP. Right? So if Beijing will let local governments take the flak for local issues, that’s not all that abnormal. It’s not a daily occurrence, but it’s not all that abnormal. If they were shouting down at the CCP, of course, that protest would have been squashed, but local governments and local government officials always take the hit for these types of issues. That’s normal in China.


Okay, Tony and Emily and Tony Nash, I suppose workers, you know, if they did kick up a fuss, for example, at a handful of Starbucks stores, they are still, particularly they’re still potentially vulnerable to just being fired, aren’t they? I mean, how protected are they from that kind of retaliatory action if they were to try and organize just on a shop-by-shop basis?


Yeah, I honestly don’t know. I think that would have to do with the contracts they negotiate. As your guest said, unionizing is one thing, but getting a contract is a whole different level. So I think her interview is very interesting. And what’s really interesting to me is what is leading to this desire to unionize. People obviously don’t feel like they’re getting fair pay and fair benefits, and that’s something that really needs to be looked at across companies.


Yes. And that is what seems to be a legacy of the pandemic, partly, wasn’t it? People went home, they were kind of laid off or furloughed for often long periods, they reflected, and there is a kind of militancy that seems to have left as a legacy.


What’s interesting to me is Starbucks is supportive of this, but they’re also the company that people want to unionize under. Right? And so they have the orientation toward doing that, but they’re not providing on their own the benefits and the pay that would keep people from unionizing. So I just think it’s an interesting circular discussion. Tesla is a different story. They’re an auto company in different parts of the country, automakers are highly unionized. So I don’t think it should be any surprise to Musk that that’s happening in Taiwan.


Thank you so much for all your thoughts, your words, and your wisdom. And to Tony nash there at Complete Intelligence in Houston, Texas. My name is Ed Butler.

Week Ahead

Inflation 2.0, Bullish Metals & Oil, and Russian Supply Caps Discussed

Learn more about CI Futures: 👈

The Week Ahead with Tony Nash brings together experts Tony Greer, Albert Marko, and Tracy Shuchart to discuss the key themes affecting the markets. In this episode, the focus is on Inflation 2.0, Market Chaos, and Russian Supply Caps.

Albert Marko leads the discussion on Inflation 2.0, and explains his view that inflation will re-accelerate this year. He talks about how various factors such as the Federal Reserve, a potential recession or slowdown, and war could impact his thesis. He also mentions the upward revision of December Consumer Price Index (CPI) and the upcoming release of the January CPI.

Tony Greer then takes the lead on Market Chaos and explains why he is bullish on metals and oil. He discusses his views on copper and explains his outlook on crude oil, which he tweeted about in January.

Tracy Shuchart focuses on Energy and the Russian supply caps. She talks about Russia’s announcement to cut production to 500k barrels per day and what this could mean for crude quotas and price caps. She also discusses the impact on natural gas.

Finally, the experts provide their expectations for the Week Ahead.

Key themes
1. Inflation 2.0
2. Market Chaos: Bullish Metals & Oil
3. Russian Supply Caps

This is the 52nd 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 Greer:

Listen to this episode on Spotify.

You can also listen on Apple Podcast using this link.


Tony Nash

Hi, everyone, and welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And today we’re joined by Tony Greer. Tony is with TG macro. He does the morning navigator newsletter. He’s an OG with RealVision and he’s just very, very popular and we’re really lucky to have him today. We have Albert Marko, of course and Tracy Shuchart. We’re very fortunate to have both of them today. So thanks guys, for taking the time to talk with us today. I really appreciate it.

Tony Greer

My pleasure. Thanks for asking.

Tony Nash

Great. So we’re going to start today with Albert. We’re going to be talking about inflation. Albert, you’ve said several times over the past several months that we’re going to have kind of a re-acceleration of inflation this year. And we just had an upward revision of the December CPI. And of course, we have another CPI, the Jan CPI is out on Tuesday. There was a viewer question talking about kind of your Inflation 2.0 thesis.

Can you talk us through that? What are you thinking of when you think through that and when do you think it’ll materialize?


I’m looking at multiple variables at the moment. Russia probably reactivating some of the military operations in Ukraine, which I think we started to see the last couple of days a little bit. We have China reopening. The Europeans have been in a zombie state, so they’re technically reopening, so their demand is coming back. All that’s going to be inflationary, in my opinion. But the biggest factor that I see has been Yellen’s use of the TGA to offset QT.

Tony Nash

What’s the TGA?


Well, the treasury general account. So she has a big slush fund of money where she can place wherever she wants. And what that’s been doing has been helping rally the markets purely out of political reasons. And when you have a net zero quantitative tightening cycle, it’s like, what do they expect that to happen at the moment?

Tony Nash

Let me back up just for people who aren’t… So we had a Fed meeting last week. They raised by 25, they’re continuing QT incrementally. Right. And so what you’re saying is that Yellen is offsetting that QT with spending from the TGA?


Yeah, it’s exactly what I’ve been saying. I’ve been at this for quite a long time. She’s gone hog wild on the treasury bills in the recent months and that’s pretty much the reason we got a stock rally. You’re looking at the duration of liquidity, which is very, very important and nobody really wants to talk about that at the moment. So I mean, these stock rallies have gives a perception of a solid market and overall economy aiming to help the Biden administration for purely political reasons. Right. And this revision, yeah, it was revised and people think it’s an incremental revision, but it’s a 33% rise and CPI from the for the previous data, so it’s not incremental whatsoever.

Tony Nash

Yeah, month on month it’s, it’s a little bit elusive for people to understand how big of a revision this is. Whenever economic data come out, anybody who follows me knows I always say wait for the revision. Right. Especially with OECD countries, wait for the revision because they hide stuff and they leak it out in previous data, other things. And so, as you just said, Albert, there was a 33% revision in the December CPI. That’s massive, right?


Yeah. Wage inflation is spiraling out of control. We have not just the United States, but now you have the Bank of Japan reporting more inflation from their side. In fact, the Australians did the same thing. They’re having hot CPI numbers. I mean, if we have a hot CPI number coming Tuesday, I mean, it’s just not going to be pretty for equities, in my opinion. And I think that’s why Jerome Powell would soft last week, just because he sees the data and he knows what’s coming.

Tony Nash

So what is a hot CPI number to you?


I think anything above what the consensus is, whether it’s even 0.1 or .2, anything that’s sticky in the core CPI is going to be hot.

Learn more about CI Futures:

Tony Nash

Tony, you’re wincing there. Why do you do that?

Tony Greer

No, I mean, I was hoping for a specific magnitude, you know what I mean? As a trader, I’m like, how much higher is he expecting? And he was anything higher and I was like, 8%, 9%, 10%, what do we like? That’s all. I’m very interested. I think he’s on the absolute right track.


It’s hard because the VLS has been using different calculations and methodologies to calculate CPI. They just changed the way they weigh it, so they’re trying to keep it within a reasonable amount. But when you’re looking at fertilizers and fertilizer companies like Mosaic, and then you have nat gas spiking and then wheat spiking today, either that’s Russia ramping up military affairs in Ukraine, or there’s a hot CPI number coming, my opinion, or both.

Tony Nash

Okay. How much of a factor is like the earthquake in Turkey? Or is any of that a factor?


That’s a huge factor, Tony, because that’s going to start cutting off, that’s going to start up cutting oil supply, and that’s one of the prime components of inflation. And I’ll let Tracy get onto the details of that. But that’s one in many variables that we’re going to start looking at.

Tony Nash

Okay, when you say inflation 2.0 is coming, are you looking at say, Q2 or something when that will kind of reemerge or what’s your timing on that?


I’m thinking Q2 at this point. Originally I thought it would be in September or October, but I think the timeline definitely come faster.

Tony Nash

Okay, so what’s driving that is largely kind of energy and ag? Is that..


Energy, ag, and specifically just the market just being just rallying relentlessly, it just won’t go down. And that’s spurring commodities. Copper, oil, you name it, wheat, grains, everything.

Tony Nash

Okay, if I understand you correctly, just to reiterate what you said. We have more money going into the money supply because of the spending from the TGA that’s offsetting QT. And that money in the money supply is going to people who are driving up commodity prices, driving up equity markets, and potentially driving up real estate. Right. Because we saw some real estate numbers this past week that were not discouraging. Right. I mean, real estate isn’t dying like many people thought right now. And mortgage rates are generally kind of going down. So it seems like we have money going into those things, which is kind of the opposite of what the Feds here are trying to achieve.


Yeah, the mortgage rate ticks down just a little bit and all of a sudden the spurs on buying. So everything that the Fed has been trying to do is just not happening. Labor, housing, stocks, everything, literally everything.

Tony Nash

Okay, and so how much longer can Yellen use the TGA, does she have unlimited capacity there?


No, she doesn’t. And Congress can definitely put on oversight on that. But she started off in… Well started off, but she had about 160 billion per month just prior to the midterms. But now she’s down to about 50, 60. Yeah, but that’ll get replenished in April when the tax money comes in for the use.

Tony Nash

Okay, so it will be muted in Feb-March. But she can go guns blazing again in April.


And this is part of the negotiations with the budget, with the Republicans and the Democrats is trying to limit what she can do with the TGA at the moment. They won’t say it publicly, but they’re certainly trying to.

Tony Nash

Okay, very interesting. Okay, so for those of you guys out there, check out the treasury general account and just see what’s out there, I think that would be really interesting to look into. Okay. Anything else on this, Albert? Is inflation 2.0? Is it going to hit the US or hit, say, Europe or Asia or where do you think?


I think Asia and Australia is up first for inflation and then leaking over the United States. Obviously I don’t think we’re going to see 9.9 prints on the CPI, but steady 6-7. We definitely see that.

Tony Nash

Okay, great. All right. And then do you think that tapers off in say, Q4 or something like that?


I think so. I think it’ll start tapering off again. I think it’s going to be in a cycle.

Tony Nash

Okay, great. All right, so we just put out our I just tweeted out our Complete Intelligence CPI print expectations for the year and we think on average we’re going to be about 5.3% for the year. So we’re probably a little bit below your expectations. All right, Albert, thanks very much. I really appreciate that.



Tony Nash

Tony, let’s move on to you. When we spoke before this discussion, you talked about market chaos like you enjoy it. Are you having fun with this?

Tony Greer

Yeah, I am. This is the kind of trading that benefits, a more active trader, I think, like me, and somebody that’s not afraid to get flat things and take advantage of what looked like absurd price opportunities in the immediate term and things like that. So, yeah, I’m having a good time with this, Tony. I really am.

Tony Nash

That’s great. Can you talk us through kind of… You seem to indicate that you’re pretty bullish on metals and oil, so can you help us through that? And let’s look at metals first. I’ve got a chart for copper up and that price has obviously come down recently. But why are you so bullish on metal? Is copper included?

Tony Greer

Yeah. So let’s go right into it, Tony. The copper is definitely included. What got me so bullish was last year, I remember spending the whole entire second half of 2022 watching copper pound 6500 on the LME. Right? And for me, that equates to the 2017 and 2018 peak in copper, from which point it failed and faded lower and then traded down below 5k during the lockdown. So we saw the big spike to 11k, where everybody thought copper was going to the moon.

Tony Greer

All of that was essentially the lead in to the Biden Administration. That was the lead into the Biden administration. The pivot to electronic vehicle was that big copper rally to 11k and it consolidated there for the entirety of 2021. Then in 2022, copper backed off and pounded the highs from 2018 at 6500, held, and got back up above its moving averages. So when you see that and it coincides with another fairly tight physical market, another backward dated commodity, another commodity where inventories are nosediving, so you’ve got the supply side really on your side. The sort of argument against that is that China is storing and taking a lot of copper off of inventory.

Tony Greer

And my response to that is if they’re taking it off inventory, they’re probably not going to sell it anytime soon, so I don’t have to worry about it. That’s kind of the sort of one basic slant of my metal bullishness, right?

Tony Greer

And the other side of it I have in my mind, I’m fairly convinced that the dollar is going to be on a path lower this year. If you notice last year, she peaked at the Bank of England intervention when the guilt market came apart, and then she formed a lower high when Dollar-Yen got to 150 and the Bank of Japan showed up and said, “hold on, hold on, hold on. You guys kill it.” You know what I mean? That was an absolutely inexplicable FX rally that people haven’t seen in decades.

Tony Greer

So with those two central banks at the top, Tony, a curl down below the moving averages, and coincidentally, with the backdrop of two stories, number one, central bank digital currency story seems to be gaining traction. Whether we like it or not, whether it’s good for us or not, I feel like we’re going to have those and that’s going to detract from the purchasing power of the dollar again.

Tony Greer

And then you’ve got the story where it seems like Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, the rest of the BRICS are very interested in starting their own commodity markets, priced in their own currencies.

Tony Nash

Don’t get Albert started on that.

Tony Greer

Yeah, exactly. I was going to say, I don’t know if that’s a fair topic for discussion and maybe he may be a perma petrol dollar and that’s fair too. I don’t know. But I see that as a story, as sort of deteriorating credibility in the dollar, certainly. And that’s just the way I’m leaning. And it’s not something my money is where my mouth is. The dollar for me is a barometer that tells me how much wind am I going to have in my commodity sales. So I do not have any risk on in the dollar.

Tony Nash

Okay, we should actually come back and talk about that at some point in detail. Sorry, Tracy. You were saying?


I was going to say we should also factor into this conversation the fact that we’ve had the lack of capex in the mining industry as far as the metals are concerned. That is equal to the same lack of capex that we’ve had in, say, the oil industry. So that definitely factors into the situation as well when you’re trying to transition to EVs, EV charging stations and all of these metals, even windmills as far as copper is concerned, et cetera. The mining industry again, I don’t know how you feel about that, but I just want to kind of throw that in there.

Tony Greer

Couldn’t agree more.


The only thing I have to say about the dollar moved down and up is I do agree with Tony that I think the dollar will probably go down a little bit, probably 97, 98. Right. But unfortunately, if inflation comes back, they’re going to have to use the dollar to kick it in the rear so we could see a 97-96 and then go right back up to 105 as they try to fight inflation again. It’s certainly possible. This is going to be a topsy turvy of a year no matter which way you look at it, whether it’s going to be dollar up, dollar down, commodities up, down. It’s just going to be all about the Fed and what intervention they do with inflation.

Tony Greer

It’s nonlinear chaos. Right. The curve.




But this is great for a trader, for a trading. You want to see volatility.

Tony Nash

Very good. Okay, Tony, let’s let’s move into oil then. You’re also seem to be very bullish crude and and we have a tweet from you from Jan. 17 talking about crude going through its 50 day moving average and so on and so forth, talking about some serious muscle in crude markets. So can you talk us through that as well?

Tony Greer

Yeah, so that’s strictly a technical look. And to me, oil continues to make bottom formations and fail. Right? That’s what it keeps doing. We keep seeing an inverted head and shoulders, and then it kinda break the moving averages, and then we see another inverted head and shoulders. That’s even shallower than the last one because they can’t pound it any lower, and that can’t break the moving averages and we back off. And now we’ve got another situation where we’ve got another pattern that’s extremely bullish, where we just had the recent low fall between the last two lows, Tony.

Tony Greer

And that’s a little bit of tea leaves, but that formation is called a wiggle, and we haven’t traded lower since we put in that low. That was between those two lows, if you notice. And so now we’re attacking the 100 day moving average. I mean, this could be it. I walked into this year saying technically, I’m not going to miss out on the trade where crude oil goes through the 50 day, the 100 day, the 200 day, and keeps going, right? That’s the trade I’ve got a bullseye on. And if I have to stop myself out of it ten times, I’m going to be in the 11th time, I can guarantee you. So that’s how I’m looking at the world.

Tony Greer

From the supply side, the driver to me has been gasoline demand. Quite honestly, gasoline demand globally is sort of everybody’s concerned about the recession now. Not concerned about recession. I’ve traded through dozens of recessions and I have noticed that many of them don’t put a major dent in gasoline demand. So I feel like we’re set up for that type of move again, where we have steady gasoline demand. We’re able to keep this crack spread elevated at a $30 to $50 level, where they used to be eight to $12. Right. That’s the margin that a refiner makes for splitting barrels of crude into jet fuel and diesel. So with that crack spread and remaining elevated, the rest of the curve remaining backwardated, although that’s another trip that’s going to be non linear and wacky. But with inventories largely diving below five-year average inventories across the board, the demand for diesel, the demand for jet fuel. Demand for diesel was last year. This year, it seems like demand for jet fuel is really coming back quite a bit. So I just see a great supply side story, a fairly good demand side story, and I see resource nationalism everywhere I look, and that’s generally positive for crude oil.

Tony Greer

So when you line all of that up, the stars align with the technical picture. When we do eventually go skipping through those moving averages, the stage is set for it not to come back. I don’t know if that’s going to happen, but as a trader, I’m going to put my chips in that circle and see what happens.

Tony Nash

Sounds very solid. Tracy, I see you agreeing pretty violently. What else do you have to add there?

Tony Greer

Yeah, I want to hear what you’re adding, Tracy.


No, I absolutely agree. When we talk about the supply side and the demand side, we really have to take a look at China. And I know we keep talking about the China opening story, but if we do really look at mobility data and I posted a couple of charts on this today, mobility data is up. Right. And then you also have what I think is more important is if you look at flight data and jet fuel demand, which is up once again, because we know that for Chinese New Year, we had a lot of domestic demand increase, but what we’re really looking for is international demand increase. Right. And so we’ve recently seen China flights to Hong Kong increase in full because that flight pattern was shut down. And so I think this is going to be a major forecast, and we have to realize that China has been drawing down on their stocks locally. Right? And so eventually they’re going to have to rebuy on the international market. If they’ve been depending on the stocks that they accrued since they’ve been shut down over the last year, if they’re pulling down those stocks. China is one country that is not the US.


Let’s put it that way. They do not want their SPR to go to zero, all right? They really depend on this. And so because they’ve had to draw down on their domestic stocks, I would be looking for them to start buying on the international market again, especially when they’re getting really cheap crude oil right now from Russia. They would start buying.

Tony Nash

When do you think that is?


I think now. They are buying now. I’ll post some charts on Twitter again, but according to Bortex data, there is a lot of seaborne crude going to China right now. We know that they get a lot of natural gas domestically through pipeline, and they’re expanding those pipelines, but realistically, crude oil is still seaborne, and so we can track that.

Tony Nash

Okay, interesting.


Yeah. Tony a lot of people sit there and criticize it like, well, China has been open and they’re not doing anything, and blah, blah, blah. But it’s not a black or white thing with China. I mean, they’re staggering their opening. They’re not dumb, because if they open just full speed ahead, they’d have a commodity inflation issue even worse than the United States would. So they are buying. And I agree with Tony with the oil bull market case, and I agree with Tracy. The supply side demand side is heavy. The Chinese are reopening and buying still. And I think oil goes to minimum 110 this year. Minimum.

Tony Nash

I love it when ours says, I agree with Tony because I’m not used to hearing that. But I know he’s talking about you, Tony Greer.

Tony Greer

That’s fine looking, Tony. Beautiful part. Yeah. The beautiful part about this market, Tone, is that you can find the opposite side of your trade. You just got to open your eyes and ears, right?


That’s what you really need to do, because if you have a thesis, you really want to hear the opposite side. Right?

Tony Nash

Tell me about that. What is the downside thesis for oil? What is that downside thesis?

Tony Greer

Drill, baby, drill.


That’s not politically viable.


Which is not going to happen. Which is not going to happen.

Tony Greer

Right. So that’s why you say you can get annoyed at what’s going on or you can make moves in the market, right. You can buy the energy complex and buy oil because that’s the direction it’s naturally going to go if they’re going to try to put this electric vehicle squeeze on by 2030. Right? I mean, that’s almost necessary. And almost the necessary trade is for the Bloomberg Commodity Index to go up 40% from here. If we’re going to fill all these orders to build battery packs and battery power all over the world.


The only the only other downside for oil is if the government starts playing around in oil futures and trying to sell it down just to keep it relatively safe on the inflation front, which they did.

Tony Greer

It was remarkably effective. It was remarkably effective. What they did with the SPR, you have to say, whether we like it or not, they knocked 30, $40 off the price.


It wasn’t just the SPR, though. They were sitting there selling down in oil futures in the market.

Tony Greer

They have a president’s working group that’s allowed to do that. I’m sure they are.


They do.

Tony Nash

Free market capitalism. You got to love it, right?



Tony Greer

Well, free market, political-driven capital.


Well, this is what Tony was mentioned this is what Tony was talking about when he said nationalizing commodities and whatnot. Of course they’re inflationary effects, but the governments only care about short term. What’s going to make my voters happy for the next election in six months? That’s all they care about.


It’s kick the can theory, right? The Fed does this all the time. We see central banks do this all the time. Why not governments, right?

Tony Nash

Yes. Okay, guys, let’s move on to crude oil, specifically. Tracy, on Friday, we saw Russia announce plans to cut production to 500,000 barrels a day. Brent rose on the news. And I’m really curious. What is Russia producing right now? So are they at that volume capacity? And what does that mean for the crude quota and the price cap?


Well, Russia is already producing at their quota according to the OPEC. The thing is, their OPEC quota and I won’t get into the logistics of this, but their OPEC quota is a lot of condensate oil, not straight oil. But aside from those details, we have to go in fact, Russia Euros is trading literally between $40 and $45 right now as we are speaking today on Friday. The the what date is this? I just want to make sure some people the 10 February. And so I think that you have to you know, I think what Russia is trying to do right now is try to bump up the price of oil for themselves, because I think if oil prices are higher for them, even though they are supplying less, they’re going to make more money regardless. I also think that this puts a thorn in the side to the west, because they’re trying to bump up oil prices. When Western nations are trying to push down oil prices. Right. They don’t want to see inflation go higher. And energy is a big part of that, even though central banks don’t realize that. But we have to, you know, it is a big part of the inflation factor.


And so what I think they’re trying to do is basically say, I’m going to be a thorn in your side. We’re going to kick up oil prices. I’m also going to benefit myself because oil prices are going to go higher for me. And maybe they reach the cap $60. They’re well below then. You know, they’re still making more money with reduced volumes.

Tony Nash

Okay, so Euro trades at $20 discount, right, at this point.


To the price cap.

Tony Nash

Right. But who are they hurting, aside from, say, India and China and a few other countries that are their traditional allies?


Well, even if that price went up of your rails, at this juncture, China and India are still getting great deals, right? At $60 a barrel, you’re still getting a great deal. Right. You’re $20, $30 below what Brent and WTI are trading at. And so I don’t think that really matters to them. As far as am I going to lose China and India as customers, I don’t think that’s even a concern of theirs because they realize that their oil is trading well below everybody else.

Tony Nash

So I guess if they’re going to have the same customers, the China India customers generally, why does it matter? Aside from… Why does it matter to Brent that Russia has raised or capped off their production? If it’s going to go to the same markets anyway? I’m just curious. Why does it matter to the non-Euros crude?


Because you’re taking barrels off the market, and that is the only thing the market looks at. How many barrels are you taking off the market? If you’re taking 500,000 barrels per day off the market, then these other that’s 500 barrels per day off the market.

Tony Nash

Sorry, what do they have said this before? What are they producing now?


They’re at about 10.5, but again, that includes condensate. It’s not exactly 10.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Tony Nash



Basically, how’s the earthquake in Turkey affecting things on the supply side?


All right, so if we look at saline ports, we’ve taken 8885 barrels per day off the market as well. Almost a million barrels per day off the market from that specific port. That specific port was supposed to be down for two to three days. That’s looking like a lot longer at this junction.

Tony Nash



That’s also affecting global markets.

Tony Nash

Okay. So between Russia and the Turkey earthquake, there’s a real impact on markets?



Tony Nash



And of course they’d probably take advantage of it. Yeah, that’s the way things work in that part.

Tony Nash

Of course. Of course. Tracy, we had some viewer questions about natgas. There were probably four of them on Twitter. What new insights do you have in natgas over the last couple of weeks?


Well, as far as natgas is concerned, everybody’s asking when is this market going to bottom? Right? Because it’s been just a disaster since summer. We’ve seen like over 40% decline and in my opinion, really what we should be looking at right now, I think we’ll probably consolidate down here for a while. I think what we should be looking for is going into summer because what I think it’s going to happen is that we’re going to see China demand increase because they’re coming back online and cargoes that were bound for the EU will probably go to China now. They’ll outbid the EU because EU is basically full at this juncture, right. So they don’t really need the cargoes. Those cargoes can move to Asia. But during the summer, what we may see happen is increase. And we got very lucky with the EU as far as winter was concerned. And what I think will happen is during summer, if we have a particularly hot summer, air conditioning rises, that means nat gas increases. And so what I think we could see is somewhere this summer we see an increase in prices again because you have to realize that last year EU still had 50% of their capacity filled from Russia before everything went offline. That’s gone.

Tony Nash



I would be looking towards, more towards this summer if you’re looking for kind of price increase. And generally right now I think that we’re probably going to see some consolidation down in this 2, 2.50 area, which is where it’s traditionally traded.

Tony Nash

My neighbors in Texas need more money, so let’s get that pumping.


But the thing is that at this, the producers in Texas that their costs are higher, that production is going to drift if we stayed up long enough. So you have to think about that as far as production is concerned anyway, I mean, we are in surplus right now, but that may not last forever.

Tony Nash

Great. Okay. Very good. That’s really good. Thank you for that. Hey Tony, what does next week look like for you? I know we’ve got CPI coming out. What are you looking at for the week ahead?

Tony Greer

I’m thinking like Carl icon, to be honest with you. Tony. No, I’m serious. If you saw his options play, I guess he’s got, I guess it’s 5 billion notional of options that are struck at 40, 50 for next Friday. If you ask me, he’s looking at number, he’s looking at a couple of things. He’s looking first at I think the bond market, the credit markets in terms of the bonds and break evens in terms of yields and break evens trading higher in the last week, they have both vaulted off of the lows. So there’s been a clear turnaround in market based inflation perception. So I think that he sees that and looks on the calendar and sees CPI and PPI next week, knows that inflation is not linear in any direction and maybe is making a bet on and maybe it’s just a hedge, but maybe investing that money on the idea that we have an upside surprise in any of the economic data. The bond market tanks, stocks tank. If rates go higher, they’re going to mash big tech again and he’s probably going to be in the money and his 40-50 puts.

Tony Greer

So that’s how I’m looking at it. I’m looking to see if my portfolio of trades that I’ve got on can weather that type of storm and if I’m out of the way in certain places, if I should join him in certain places. That’s the way I’m thinking about next week, man. I’m trying to stay alive.

Tony Nash

Sounds very exciting. Tracy, what are you looking for next week?


Continue, obviously watching the commodities markets, metals, energy, watching China data, the mobility data, flight data, see how this is moving along and we’ll see how that.

Tony Nash

We see a higher CPI, what does that do for crude prices, do you think? Do you think there’s a direct impact?


I think you’re going to see crude prices go higher, yeah.

Tony Greer

Tone, what, the dynamics…


Counterintuitive, right?

Tony Greer

Yeah. It’s kind of like the market speak to each other, right. Like a dynamic that we definitely saw along the way of the commodities rally as rates went higher last year. Right. Call it the whole period going into the Russia Ukraine invasion, right. It was oil straight up, but it was kind of like the credit market. I called two year yields last year the bat signal, and I named them that because they were getting out ahead of commodity inflation. We were having weeks where the bond market was getting shellac and there wasn’t much going on in the commodity markets, but all of a sudden they would pick up at the end of the week. And I think it was a lot of the time, like the bond market signaling inflation here. The commodity markets are going to go up. And I think that that’s kind of a sort of a cadence that established itself. And so it’s going to be really interesting to see how that unwinds.

Tony Nash

Fantastic. Okay. That’s a really great explanation, Tony. Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time. Thanks so much. Have a great weekend and have a great week ahead. Thank you.

Tony Greer

Thanks for having us. Be good. Bye.


Thank you.

Week Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

This is the 41st episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.

Follow The Week Ahead panel on Twitter:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

any transparency whatsoever.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AM: Oh, God, no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TN: Yeah, it’ll be liquidation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week Ahead

China risks, tech earnings, and crude stockpiling: The Week Ahead – 31 Oct 2022

Learn more about CI Futures

In this episode, we’re joined by Isaac Stone Fish, who is the CEO of Strategy Risks. He’s the author of a book called America Second, and he lived in China for seven years.

We talk about how are foreign companies dealing with the political changes in China? Or what should they be paying attention to? We’ve seen changes in Xi’s team that, to be honest, weren’t all that unexpected, but seems unexpected anyway. It’s certainly a hard turn to the CCP’s commie roots. This tweet really underscores how desperate Xi is to set an old school tone.

Markets have seemed a little spooked this week, so we saw orders from Beijing to prop up the CNY and Chinese equities, which didn’t work all that well. But with all the political and market backdrop, what does all of this mean for US and other foreign businesses? Are foreign employees at risk? Do we expect direct investment to slow down?

On the risk side, we look at tech earnings, which are super bad. Hiring is a huge issue and tech firms seem to have been hiring based on their valuation not based on their revenues. When will we see headcount reduction announcements? One of Meta’s investors was saying they should cut 20%. Albert shares his views on this.

And we’re also looking at crude oil inventories and refined product inventories. They’re way below averages. We saw another draw on global inventories this week. As OPEC supply is contracting ~1.2m bpd. Russian crude sanctions start soon. And US exported 5.12m bpd last week, making it the 3rd largest crude exporter. We know global inventories are low, but when will it start to bite? Tracy shares to us what’s going in.

Key themes

1. China risk for Western companies
2. Tech earnings & China
3. Crude inventories & Asia stockpiling

This is the 39th 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:


Time Stamp:

0:00 Start
1:00 Key themes for this Week Ahead
2:52 What the news about China means to Western businesses
6:38 What has changed around the concept of Communist Party membership over the last ten or 15 years?
8:20 Anybody who’s overseeing a business in China has to understand modern Chinese history
9:31 Risks for foreign staff in China
12:34 Congress does not want US companies to do business with China
14:14 Danger of a rush to the exits in twelve months
17:58 Tech earnings are super bad – how bad will layoffs be?
21:10 Is it possible to cut 20% of Meta’s workforce?
22:44 China and US competition in India and other countries
24:52 Crude inventories – when will this start to bite?
28:31 Japan is stockpiling crude – is it because of geopolitical concerns?
29:47 China stimulus – will they do it in February?
31:55 What happens to the crude demand of Covid Zero ends?
34:27 Will oil prices raise by 30% before 2022 ends?


Tony Nash: Hi, everybody, and welcome to the Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. Today we’re joined by Isaac Stone Fish. Isaac is the CEO of Strategy Risks. He’s the author of a book called America Second, and he lived in China for seven years as the New York Times in New York Times bureau. So we’re really lucky to have Isaac with us. We have Albert Marko, of course. And Tracy Shuchart. We’re very fortunate to have them again today with us.

So, Isaac, welcome and we’re really happy to have you.

Our theme today that we’re going to talk through first is how are foreign companies dealing with the political changes in China? Or what should they be paying attention to? 

On the risk side, we’re looking at tech earnings and the impact that tech earnings will have on other earnings and headcount reductions and other things over the next few months. And we’re also looking at crude oil inventories and refined product inventories. They’re way below averages. 

And we want to hear from Tracy as to what’s going on. 

Please take a look at our product, CI Futures. It’s a forecast subscription product. It’s $99 a month. We cover a few thousand assets over a twelve month horizon. Economics, currencies, commodities, equity indices. So please take a look at that. The URL is on the screen. Thanks a lot for that.

So, Isaac, welcome. Would you give us a quick overview of what Strategy Risks does?

Issac Stone Fish: Strategy Risks works with corporations and investors to help them manage and reduce their China risk. And with increased tensions between the United States and China, and growing awareness of the liabilities in both China and the United States of working with the People’s Liberation Army or the United Front or the Ministry of State Security or the Chinese Communist Party more broadly, it’s been a good couple of months for us.

And so excited to be joining you and chatting with you on these issues.

TN: You must be working 24 hours a day. I have no idea how you stay, how you get any rest right now with all the stuff that’s going on in China. 

ISF: Under drugs right here.

TN: Isaac, I’m curious, with all of the political changes announced this week, of course, that’s been way analyzed, a lot of different perspectives on things. I would warn people as they read through that analysis, just be careful of kind of some anti China bias, but we have to kind of read things for what they are too.

We saw changes in Xi’s team that, to be honest, weren’t all that unexpected. People have talked about this for months, but the fact that he actually carried through with it, I think made people feel like it was a little bit unexpected. 

But it’s certainly a hard turn to the CCP’s communist roots. I’m showing a Tweet right now looking at Xi taking his team to pilgrimage where the long march ended during the Communist revolution. And so he’s just the optics around the hard turn to the party’s communist roots are front and center.

So Isaac, markets were spooked this week. Of course, we saw orders from Beijing to prop up CNY and prop up Chinese equities. Obviously didn’t work very well. But with that backdrop, what does all this mean for US and other foreign businesses? I know it means a million things, but if you had some top level takeaways, what are the things that you’re seeing that it means for, say, US and other foreign businesses in China?

ISF: Have a really good understanding of leftist ideology. If you decide that you want to stay, which oftentimes we discourage, and if you decide that you don’t want to reduce your exposure, which we always discourage. Have a really good understanding of how Communism works, and read the tea leaves. Spend a lot of time on analysis. Understand that every Chinese company or every company in China that has at least three party members has to have a party cell. And for a long time people overlook that law.

But companies like Alibaba have tens of thousands of party members. So understanding that you’re partnering with the Chinese Communist Party and things that you used to be able to get away with, you can’t anymore. I think the other high level take away is with increased media, consumer and congressional scrutiny on China. 

What happens in China doesn’t stay in China. So the work that you do with a major Chinese charity which does say party building exercises in Chinese orphanages, aka Brainwashing Chinese Children on Party ideology, we can get that information here. Congressional staffers can read that, journalists can pick that up, and you’re going to have to start dealing with the liability of that from a PR perspective. The final highlevel takeaway, the more Xi marches to the left, the more draconian things get. And the more saber rattling we see with Taiwan, the more likely it is that the US and China go to war over Taiwan.

Right now, I would say that’s still not the base case. War is very avoidable. It probably won’t happen. But it’s a very concrete risk and investors and I would argue especially boards of major corporations, need to be discussing this risk. And perhaps the best thing to do with the risk is to say, okay, we know this, we’re not going to change. 

But I think if there is a war, companies are going to have to face some pretty serious shareholder lawsuits because it’s a viewable risk and you didn’t do anything about it.

TN: Right. So let me ask you, take two questions. First is, in 2010 or ’11, I spoke at the Central Party School in Beijing, and the person who drove. I was giving an economic update. I was working with the Economist at the time, and it was so surreal for me. The person who drove me to that event was a venture capitalist. And so I think the view that many people have of Communist Party members is, oh, you know, they’re these soft guys, they’re capitalists like us too, you know, that sort of thing. What has changed around the concept of Communist Party membership over the last ten or 15 years?

ISF: Think of the perception. So when Rupert Murdoch in early 2000s was going into business in China, he would downplay the importance of the Communist Party and say things like, oh, they’re just like us, there’s really no difference. And some people just join the party for opportunistic reasons, and some people do it because they believe, but they’re fairly soft spoken and gentle. And then there’s the very hard security element of the party. 

And I think people are realizing that for every venture capitalist, there’s also the PLA secret agent or the MSS agent or the public security agent in that these people are increasingly important in the Chinese system. 

And the other piece of it is that it used to be seen from a Western context, both PR and regulatory, relatively benign to be working with party members in the Communist Party. But after the genocide in Xinjiang, after Xi’s increasing authoritarianism, people are not getting the pass that they had before when you and I were out there.

TN: Right. And so I think it’s really critical. Anybody who’s overseeing a business in China has to understand modern Chinese history. You have to start from the great famine, really. I mean, start from the revolution, but really the great famine through the Cultural Revolution, through the 70s, through Deng Xiaoping, through… That era is really critical to understand what’s happening today. Right. Because that’s when Xi Jinping grew up and that’s when his ideologies were formed. Is that safe to say?

ISF: Good is safe to say. I think the other thing that we have to understand is we do have to be incredibly humble about our ability to understand what’s going on at the top of the party. We have very little idea. People are going to keep speculating about that crazy video with former Chairman Hujing Tao. We probably won’t know what happened there for decades, I would guess.

And I think when we talk about war with Taiwan, we talk about what’s going to happen between the US and China, we have a lot of insight into how Biden thinks and almost none into how Xi Jinping thinks. We just need to bake that into our predictions.

TN: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. And I cautioned on that earlier this week about the Hoojin Tao exit. It could be health, you don’t know. Right? It could be intrigue. You don’t know. So none of us know. 

So let me also ask you, when you talk about you had a tweet about potential China-Taiwan war earlier this week, and you talked about Chinese staff for American companies or Western companies, sorry, and you talked about Western staff in China. So can we talk about some of those risks, like the real people risks for multinational companies who hire Chinese employees. And none of this is intended to be Xenophobic.

This is intended to be purely practical in understanding really what the risks are. And also with those foreign staff in China. Can you help us understand some of those risks?

Tracy Shuchart: Yeah, I was going to ask something along that line, if I can just tag on my question to that one. We saw a bunch of people who are Americans pulling their staff from Chinese chip companies right, lately. So I was wondering if you saw that, see that trend continuing and bleeding into other sectors besides just the tech sector.

ISF: I very much do, and I think there’s two ways to think about this. One is the economic and regulatory so increasing difficulty doing business in China, desire for localization of staff, Biden regulations that restrict the ability of Americans to work at certain Chinese chip companies. And then you have the potential for war. 

And the idea is that if the US and China go to war, American staff in China and also Chinese staff for certain American companies could be seen as enemy combatants. And we saw this with Afghanistan, we saw this with Ukraine. There’s orders of magnitude, more staff for Western companies in China than in these places. I mean, it’s not even comparable, the numbers. 

And I think from an ethical perspective, I get really worried that people don’t talk about war because then war could just be on us. And the United States has a terrible history of interning Japanese during World War II and harassing Germans during World War I. I think with the dynamic with Chinese people here, we need to have a concrete conversation about it so that we can defend the rights of Chinese and Chinese Americans in America if we go to war. 

And from a corporate perspective and from a risk perspective, companies need to have exit plans for their staff in China because they’re going to be dealing with major, major ethical and insurance risk issues if this happens. And they can’t just take the foreign staff out to Hong Kong anymore. Because that’s not like a free zone anymore. And you hear stories of people being smuggled out now, and I think we’re going to hear a lot more of those, and that’s going to be more and more common.

TN: So, Isaac, what are we missing when you see the discussion about China right now and with American businesses, what are we missing? What’s not being discussed that you’re like, Gosh, I can’t believe people don’t see this.

ISF: Congress does not want American companies to do business in China. And with the UFLPA, the Uighur Forced Labor Prevention Act, we talked to a lot of corporates about that, and they don’t seem to understand how to comply with the law. And that’s the point. It’s a law that’s meant to deter behavior as opposed to shape behavior. 

So it’s okay, we can’t invest in Xinjiang, but this company that we work with, has a branch of Xinjiang. Well, don’t work with that company. And I think the American political calculus of this too. 

People don’t really get Pelosi’s trip, I think didn’t really bake into corporate behavior in the way that it should have because people think this is a Republican issue. They hear Marco Rubio, they hear Ted Cruz, they hear some of the awful remarks that Trump made, and they don’t realize that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer sound almost exactly like Rubio and Cruz on these issues. They think it’s a Republican issue. It’s not a Republican issue. There are holdouts on the progressive left, there are holdouts on the libertarian right. But the US is pretty united about this from a government perspective.

It’s just not from a business perspective. And that’s fine. You can have that discordance. But businesses need to understand main street and Congress feel very differently about these issues than they do.

TN: Yeah. So one last question on this. Unless Albert, Tracy, you guys were going to come in, but do you think we’ll see publicly traded American companies disposing of their China units with say a Hong Kong IPO? 

I mean, I know this is an old idea, but better than nationalization, at least they can get some value of it. And I think of like a GM or something like that, right? It’s a huge business for them. So they could potentially either have that nationalized or they could make it public on the Hong Kong stock exchange or something. 

So do you think we’ll see more of this? Young Brands is the one that everyone knows about from ten years ago or whatever, but do you think we’ll see more of this? And if people don’t do it now, is there a danger of a rush to the exits in say twelve months?

ISF: I think that’s an excellent point. Ping on, which is a major shareholder of HSBC, suggested HSBC break up into two different banks, one headquartered in Hong Kong to focus on China market and one of the rest of the world. 

And companies like Boeing, which has an airplane business that I think it’s something like 14% to 18%, goes to China, specifically the Chinese Communist Party and then has a very important government contracting business which is increasingly at odds with its relationship with the Chinese Communist Party and need to start considering these issues. 

I think you’re right also on the timing, these things take a lot of time and companies are very private with them for obvious reasons. So if they’re considering them now and we’re going to see announcements on it and it doesn’t require that much scrutiny from Cyphius or the Beijing’s regulatory Agency or other Beijing other Chinese agencies, I can see these things happening.

I think if companies are starting to think about it now, it’s probably too late. I think years process. But in the same way that nobody wants to talk about war, nobody wants to talk about spinning off their China assets.

TN: Right. But you either do it now or it gets nationalized. Or you do it for $0.10 on the dollar in a year or two years.

ISF: I think you’re exactly right. And Tony, we should write something on this, and I think this is a good time to talk about this issue.

Albert Marko: Okay. There are other issues. Capital flight out of China, even if you decide to list in Hong Kong, is like, where’s the money going to come from? It’s not going to come from the west. Even the Chinese are starting to take their money out into Singapore and Macau  and anywhere else they can get it out of at the moment.

But I agree with Isaac on 90% of what he’s saying. I don’t think that war, Taiwan is even a remote possibility in the next ten years, to be honest with you.  The pilot bureau, Xi is inspired politburo. It looks scary. There’s no question about that. And the Western companies need to take a look at that because it reminds me of the Nazis from the 1930s.

Now, I’m not talking about what the Nazi crimes were, but just the mobilization of the country and the nationalization of corporations and then starting to boost the economy internally. It’s most likely going to start happening, and they will nationalize companies that they see are instrumental for their vision going forward.

TN: Yes. I mean, honestly, I don’t know why anybody related to SAIC Shanghai automotive. Why would that not become the property of SAIC? If they’re really taking this nationalist bent, that’s a real risk, right? I think so. Any of these guys really need to pay attention and really start to evaluate what is their path going forward? What is their path for Chinese staff? What is their path for foreign staff there? What is their path for IP that’s shared between those units? These are real head scratcher questions. 

Okay, Isaac, thank you so much for that. This is so insightful. I’d love to spend 2 hours with you on this, but we’ve got to talk about tech earnings.

So, Albert, tech earnings are super bad, right? Super bad.

AM: Super bad is an understatement.

TN: Yeah. Horrific. It’s a tech wreck, all that stuff. So we can talk about what missed and kind of we all know what’s missed. That’s been analyzed over the last 24 hours or say a few days or whatever. But I guess what I’m most interested in tech is staffing. 

So the vacancies in the US. Workforce has been a big issue for the Fed. Okay. And I’m showing right now on the screen that the Meta’s stock price from $350 all the way down to I think it was $97 yesterday, just over one year. It’s incredible, right? 

So a lot of these tech firms have been over hiring. They’ve been putting out job wrecks for things that they where they just want to target one person and they don’t really want to target the job and all this stuff. They’ve almost been hiring based on their valuation rather than their revenues. So in terms of those productivity metrics, do you think we’ll start to see headcount reduction in tech? Or they’ve been saying, hey, we’re just going to slow down our hiring.

So do you think they’re going to stick to only slowing down their hiring? Or do you think we’re going to see this kind of tech halt and kind of shrink the tech workforce?

AM: Oh, absolutely. You got to shrink the tech workforce. But that’s not going to come till after midterms. I mean, nobody wants to be in the line of sight of Biden’s firing squad over firing 10 thousand people just before midterms happen. But afterwards you will. Probably after Christmas, you’ll actually start seeing quite the number of job layoffs in the tech industry.

TN: Every time I’ve worked with a tech related firm, the pink slips come literally the week before Christmas.

AM: Yeah, you know what I mean? I don’t think that people understand how bad these tech earnings are. Right. We can note Facebook and Amazon and whatnot, but they had tailwinds of inflation of an extra 10% because CPI, they say 8%. It’s really like 20%. So they had an extra 10% baked into their earnings that people don’t really catch. Right? And even with that, they’re down 30, 40%. 

Amazon lost 25% in two days. Amazon. These are just astronomical. Which is a solid company. I love Amazon. I don’t have any… Company. Yeah, it is a solid company. And I like Amazon, I like the tech, I like the delivery service. And everything they do is correct. But I mean, realistically, they were, them and along with another dozen tech names were so over inflated for the last two years because the market just kept pumping up to just the high heavens that this was just I mean, it was an easy call that tech had to come down.

And on top of that, tech is based on zero rates. We’re not going to see zero rates for years.

TN: Right, that’s fair. Okay, so, you know, one of the hedge funds, I can’t remember who, was pushing Meta or Facebook now, I guess, again, to cut 20% of their workforce. Do you think something like that is possible?

AM: And it sounds like a lot, but given what’s happened with their valuations, do you think a 20% cut is possible? Do you think more or less is possible? And 20% is a lot. Usually when you have over 12%, you start looking at a company as going into bankruptcy. That’s one of the signs that you look at. So 20% is way too much. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Maybe seven to 10% staggered over the next few years.

TN: Okay, that’s fair. But I mean, they hire a huge number of people. What that would do to wages in tech would be immediate, right? $300,000, 22-year-old dev, that would be gone.

AM: Well, yeah, that cuts into the state’s budgets also because they take those tax revenue and whatnot. The other thing that we should talk about is China’s mix with the tech industry. I mean, now that the US congress, like Isaac was saying, is actively trying to prevent companies to go over there, I don’t know where tech earnings are going to come from. I just don’t see it. They’re taking away massive market share. They’re taking away supply chains and semiconductors and everything. I don’t see any silver lining in tech for the next two, three years.

I think they need to run size their organizations and really focus. Plus there’s more competition in the ad market, so you’re not going to see ad rates necessarily rise from here for some time.

So, yeah, I think there’s a lot of headwinds. I actually have to get Isaac’s opinion on this one is no one is talking about the tech industry in China competition with American companies in countries like India. Right? Because you have Chin Data and a couple of other countries that are massive and makes generate a ton of cash out of there.

And nobody’s talking about the competition level in India between the two. And I don’t know if you’ve heard anything, Isaac, but like, that’s something that I wanted to start looking into.

ISF: I think that’s an excellent point, is it doesn’t get nearly enough attention. And the market for the rest of the world for most of these companies is larger than the market for the US and China combined. There are a lot of contested spaces, especially in countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia. 

And I think the lens through which we should see it is the political battle between the US and China because both countries are really pushing all of these third countries to be more sympathetic towards their way of view because so many of these tech companies can be hobbled by regulations. We see that with Huawei. We see that a lot in India where there’s a lot of distrust for Chinese tech companies, a lot of restrictions on the ability of Chinese tech companies to operate.

And so it’s protectionist, but it’s good political warfare for both sides to be making these arguments in countries around the world. And it is good business for these companies to be spending heavily on government affairs in all of these companies, in all of these countries and figuring out how they position their relationship with the government, whether it be the Chinese government or the US.

AM: Yeah, and that’s something I actually criticized the Biden administration that they’ve been so hard on India about using Russian tech and Russian oil. It’s like, come on, you guys got to be a little bit pragmatic here. You know what I mean? They’re stuck between a rock and a hard place with China and Pakistan.

TN: True.

ISF: I think that’s a great I mean, they buy huge amount of weapons from Russia, and they buy those in large part to defend against China.

TN: Yeah, very good. Okay, great. Thanks for that, Albert.

Now, Tracy, let’s move on to crude inventories. I’ve got a Tweet up where you talk about there was another draw this week.

And we saw a draw on global inventories. As we have inventory drawdowns, we have OPEC supply contracting by what, about 1.2 million barrels per day, something like that. Russian crude sanctions starting. We also have with the SPR, it was interesting to see the US became the third largest exporter of crude, I think last week or something, with over 5 million barrels per day because of the SPR draw. 

So we know global industries are low, but when does that start to bite? I feel like the easy answer is well, after the SPR stops, right? What more to the story is there?

TS: I mean, I think it really depends on where you are. I mean, we’re already seeing the SPR. Those draws are kind of dwindling down, right? We’ve gone from about seven, 8 million barrels per week to 3.5 million. Even though that’s still a lot. That’s been part of the reason why we’re exporting, because we kind of, first, we were drawing down sour crude because that’s really what US refiners need. But at some point, that’s almost gone, so we had to start releasing sweet crude, and we can’t do anything with those barrels. And so they are making their way to China, they are making their way overseas.

And that’s why our exports have increased over the last few months there. In particular, we’re kind of seeing an uneven balance where we’re seeing global inventories are drawing, still drawing, right? US inventories are drawing, by all intents and purposes. I mean, we had, what, a 2.8 million build, but we also had a 3.5 million SPR release and an adjustment factor of 15.8 million barrels. Technically, we are drawing. And really, if you include the SPR, we had a draw of 5.9 million barrels total crude plus products this week.

But we are seeing what’s interesting is we are seeing Japan. Their stocks are actually going up because they’re stockpiling mad right now. So they’re buying everything from everybody. It’s stockpiling, and they were giving subsidies for companies to buy that in their SPR. So Japan kind of had a different kind of way of looking at things and the rest worlds just dumping. But they’re literally stockpiling.

China did stockpile for a while, but really their SPR is down, obviously, from the 2020 highs. They’re not stockpiling as much. But with China, I know that there are many problems going on there, but if they increase those import quotas for the Teapots, then we’re going to start seeing them by a lot.

TN: By Teapots, you mean the small refinery?

TS: Is just correct, because they’re talking about possibly raising those import quotas. But we won’t really find that out until December, and that’ll be for into 2023.

TN: Okay, so just a question on both, well, in Japan, first of all. With the yen at these dramatic lows, they’re stockpiling and it’s hugely expensive for them. It’s not just kind of incidental decision, this is a really intentional decision for them to stockpile. So are they partly, do you know, are they partly stockpiling

on geopolitical concerns?

TS: Yes, absolutely. I believe so. And all around, because we really saw them that sort of started to kick off in March after Ukraine invasions. Same with LNG, right? They’ve always been huge importers of LNG, the world’s largest, but they’re importing even more because they’re kind of seeing what’s happening in Europe right now and they don’t want that to happen to them.

AM: I think it’s a little bit more than that. Also, I think that they see that we’re probably even got cues from the US that Japan is going to be a manufacturing hub to try to pick up the slack from China. So I think they’re preparing for that in 2023, 2024. And on top of that, the price of oil right now, that’s still discounting China not stimulating because once China stimulates, the demand is just going to skyrocket.

TN: Okay, all three of you guys want to ask about that China stimulus. So you guys all know China Beige Book, and they’ve been saying everyone’s really foolish for thinking China is going to stimulate, and they’ve been saying that for something like six months. Right? And I hear a lot of people say, oh, they’ll stimulate after the Party Congress. I said that too, and we still haven’t seen that. Do we think that we’re going to see stimulus in China, say, before Chinese New Year, which is what, February?

ISF: I would say absolutely not. I think the real stimulus for the Chinese economy, too, will be less a government led infusion of capital and more a relaxation of COVID concerns. 

And I think that’s going to be a lot more likely after Spring Festival than after the March Congress because, A, you have the appointment of the premiere, you have some important events there, but you also don’t have to worry about mass contagion with hundreds of millions of people wanting to travel.

So I think the base case for the opening of the economy and then potentially economic inflation is after the Congress, after Spring Festival. And who knows, it’s very hard to predict, but that would be my best guess for that.

TN: I think that’s really solid. What do you think about that?

AM: Yeah, I think COVID Zero policies are going to be still in place until March. There’s no question about that. I think stimulus happens around the same time that they think that inflation is under control. I think that’s pretty much their driver at the moment, because if they stimulate price of copper and oil and everything in the country is going to go to the moon and they know this. So I think it really depends on inflation. What the US can do to tame it.

TN: So when do you think they’ll think that inflation is under control?

AM: I think close around March after the US. And also the end of quantitative tightening and whatnot. So it’ll probably be a coordinated effort.

TN: Okay, so Tracy, if they just let go of the lockdowns, what does that do to crude demand?

TS: Well, definitely we obviously start to see that rise because they’re locking down millions of people at a time, you know what I’m saying? An entire city, and not for a couple of days. We’ve seen some cities lock down as long as two months. 

So I think as soon as they start relaxing that we’re definitely going to see demand come flooding into the market. 

And again, China hasn’t really been stockpiling this whole time during this, which they have a little bit from their lows, if you look at their SPR, but not a lot. Not as much as everybody thinks they are. Everybody thinks they are because oil prices are lower and they like lower oil prices. But really, comparatively speaking to how they purchased in the past, the SPR hasn’t been as much as most people think. 

AM: Okay, do you think that they could be? First of all, I don’t trust the data of China. I don’t have anything.

TS: Well, what we can see from satellite systems, right? We have no idea what their underground storage looks like or anything of that nature. But what we can tell and what we can track, what’s actually going into the country. 

AM: Do you think that they can hide that in tankers on the sea for a while?

TS: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they’ve been known to do that before. Absolutely. They’ve used Myanmar,

AM: Singapore also, I believe.

TS: Well, Singapore is a little bit harder to hide just because it’s so huge and so many people are tracking vessels there. So they kind of like to kind of stay away from there when they’re kind of trying to hide stuff.

But definitely, I mean, they’ve, you know, hidden purchases from Venezuela through Singapore, through other ports in that area. From what you can see from the best guess. From the best guess, what you can see, what you can tell what satellite services have picked up, like Kepler or whatever.

TN: OK, let me kind of close up with this question. So I just filled up with gas in the US last night and I posted this price in Texas is $2.95. So I’m sure you’re all jealous. I said, will this be 30% higher by the end of the year? Because post election, SPR releases stop, other things? Do you expect gasoline to rise, say, as much as 30% before the end of the year since SPR release and other things are stopping? Or do you think we’re kind of in this zone that we’re going to be in for a little while?

TS: Well, I think that generally this is kind of lower demand season anyway, right? I mean, usually typically we don’t see prices really start to rise again until about mid December, just seasonally speaking, right before the holidays. Christmas in particular, and everybody goes on vacation, et cetera, et cetera.

But I think, I don’t know. 30% might be a lot for this year, but definitely for next year we’re going to have some problems because they took that last 10-15 million barrels and they pushed that out for December, so we’ll still have some releases then.

So I think they did that it was actually 14 million barrels that are left and so they did push those out until December. So they’re kind of going to triple it out in order to kind of control prices.

TN: Okay, so the selection bias for people telling me that I was right is wrong.

TS: I think it’ll probably depend on where you are in the country, you know, depending on the state. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, if you’re in the Northeast, you’re going to have a huge problem, right, because they have the same issues going on that Europe. They don’t have any pipelines, they don’t have any storage, and they don’t have any refining capacity.

So this winter, especially with the diesel shortage, you’ll probably see the highest gasoline prices, obviously in California and then the Northeast will be the next higher.

TN: And I just want to say to everybody, I’m not promoting the gasoline price as a reason to move to Texas. I mean, it’s all scorpions and rattlesnakes and really terrible bagels here, so please don’t move here. It’s just an incidental benefit of living in a place that’s a pretty rough place to survive.

So anyway, guys, thank you so much. Isaac, really invaluable. I don’t think we’re going to gotten this perspective from anybody else on earth, so I really appreciate the time that you spent with us.

Albert. Tracy. Thank you, guys. I always appreciate your point of view. So thanks very much. Have a great weekend. Thank you.

Week Ahead

Strong US Dollar: The Week Ahead – 19 Sep 2022

Learn more about CI Futures here:

It has been a terrible week in markets. It is not looking good for anybody, at least on the long side. A lot of that seemed to change when the CPI number came out. It’s like people woke up and terminal rate is going to be higher and just everything flushes out.

We talked through why the dollar is where it is and how long we expect it to stay there. Brent Johnson recently said that the USD & equities will both rise. And so we dived a little bit deep into that. We also looked at crude.

Crude’s obviously been falling. Tracy discussed how long is that going to last.

We also did a little bit of Fed talk because the Fed meets this week. And we want to really understand when does the Fed stop? After last week’s US CPI print, the terminal rate rose from 4% pretty dramatically. Does QT accelerate?

Key themes:
1. $USD 🚀
2. How low will crude oil go?
3. When does the Fed stop?
4. The Week Ahead

This is the 34th 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:

Time Stamps
0:00 Start
1:20 Key themes for this episode
2:24 What got us to stronger USD and will it continue to rise?
8:29 Dedollarization
10:23 Intervention in the dollar if it gets too strong?
12:22 Both the USD and US equities will be rising?
14:18 Crude: how low can it go?
18:03 Look at the curves for crude
19:17 Slingshot in December?
20:18 How India and China buys Russian oil and resell
21:33 Restock the SPR at $80??
22:57 When does the Fed stop raising rates?
29:33 What if Russia, Ukraine, and China don’t lock down anymore?
32:08 What’s for the week ahead?

Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:


Tony Nash: Hi everybody, and welcome to The Week Ahead. My name is Tony Nash. We’re joined today by Tracy Shuchart and Brent Johnson. So thanks guys for joining us, really appreciate the time to talk about what’s going on in markets this week and next week.

Before we get started, I want to remind you of our $50 promo for CI Futures. CI Futures is a subscription platform to get forecast for thousands of items: currencies commodities, equity indices and economics. The currencies commodities equities are refreshed every week. So every Monday you come in for a new forecast, economics forecast every month. That $50 a month promo ends on September 21. So please take a look now go in and check it out and if you have any questions, let us know, we’re happy to answer them. So thanks for taking the time to do that.

So, Brent and Tracy, it has been a terrible week in markets. It is not looking good for really anybody, at least on the long side. And so a lot of that seemed to change when the CPI number came out. It’s like people woke up and we’re like, oh no, the term rate is going to be higher and just everything flushes out, right. And earnings and a bunch of other stuff. So we can go into a lot of specifics. But one of the items that I’ve been really curious about for weeks, if not years, ever since I met Brent in 2018, 19, is the dollar. So we’re going to go a little bit deep into the dollar today.

We’re also going to look at crude. Crude’s obviously been falling. So we’re going to ask Tracy kind of how long is that going to last? And then we’re going to do a little bit of Fed talk because the Fed meets in the week ahead. And I want to really understand kind of when does the Fed stop.

So those are our key themes today.

So, Brent, welcome. Thanks again for joining us. I’d really like to talk through the dollar and we are where we are, which is amazing. And you have seen this years ago. On the screen, I’ve got a chart of our CI Futures forecast which shows a dollar continuing to rise over the next year. We’ve got some bumps in there, but for the most part we see a persistently strong dollar.

CI Futures provides highly accurate commodity, equity, currency and economics forecasts using advanced AI. Learn more about CI Futures here.

So I’m curious what got us here and what will continue to push the dollar higher?

Brent Johnson: Sure. Well, first of all, thanks for having me. I always enjoy talking to you, Tony. The reason I like talking to you is you’ll talk a lot about Asia, but you’ve actually lived there and you actually know what you’re talking about rather than people who’ve just read it in a book. And same with Tracy. So I’m happy to do this and happy to do it anytime you invite me.

But anyway, what’s really going on with the dollar is a function of the fact that it’s not only the Fed and it’s not only the US that has, for lack of a better word, idiotic leaders. The rest of the world does, too.

And I think over the last several years. At least in the retail investment world. There’s been this theme that the Fed is out of control. The government’s out of control. They’re going to spend all this money. The dollar is going to pay the price. And it’s going to get inflated away and go to zero. And the rest of the world is going to do great and we’re going to do poor.

And I understand that view if you just analyze the United States. But the problem is you can’t just analyze the United States because it’s a big world and everything is interconnected. And all of the problems that people have forecast to fall upon the US.

Dollar are currently happening to a greater extent in Europe and Asia. And the budget deficits, the printing of the money, the central bank support, the holding down of rates, all of that applies even more so to Japan and Europe than it does the United States. And that’s really what you’re seeing.

Over the last, let’s just call a year, you’ve seen the yen fall 20% versus the dollar. That is an incredible move for any currency, but it is an absolutely astonishing move for a major currency, specifically the third biggest currency in the world, or some would even argue the second biggest currency in the world. And then you’ve seen the euro over the last year is down 10% or 15%. 

So these are very big moves. Again, the reason is because the Fed is raising rates. So on a relative basis, we have higher rates than those two big competitors. And on a relative basis, those two big competitors are doing more monetary stimulus or QE or extraordinary measures, however you want to define that central bank activity.

And you always because the globe runs on the dollar, there is a persistent and consistent bid for the dollar globally. And so it’s really a supply versus the demand issue. Now, everybody always focuses on the supply. Central banks are increasing the currency in circulation. They’re going to print all this money and so therefore the dollar falls or the currency falls. Well, that’s just focusing on the supply side. 

But again, you have to remember that all central banks are increasing supply, but the demand is what makes the difference and that there is global demand for the dollar. Now, whether you think there should be, whether you think it’s the right thing, it doesn’t really matter. It just is. That’s the way the system works.

But there is not that same global demand for yen. There’s not that same global demand for yuan, there’s not the same global demand for euros or Reals or Florence or Liras or anything. 

And so what you’re really seeing play out is Trifan’s dilemma. And so I’ve spoken about this before. But Trifon’s dilemma is an economic theory that states that if you have a single country’s currency that also serves as the global reserve currency, at some point the needs of the domestic economy for that global reserve currency will come into conflict with the needs of the global economy. And that’s what we have.

We have an inflationary pressure problem in the United States. The Fed is very embarrassed about it. They got it wrong and now they need to do something about it. And they’re bound and determined to try to bring it under control. And so they’re raising rates to counteract that. Well, when you raise rates, you’re tightening the monetary supply. And that’s happening. That’s fine for the US. But there’s many countries around the world that cannot handle that right now.

But that’s what’s happening. And so the needs of the domestic economy are in conflict with the needs of the global economy. And it’s going to be the global economy that suffers more than the domestic economy as a result. It doesn’t mean that the domestic economy won’t be hurt. It just means on a relative basis, you want to be closer to the money than far away from the money. And because we have the global reserve currency, we’re closer to the money.

TN: So it’s interesting when you talk about the dollar versus other currencies, and we often hear people say, oh, CNY is rising as a share of spend, which that’s debatable. But from my perspective, it’s not the dollar that’s kind of in the gladiator ring of currencies. It’s the yen, it’s the euro, it’s the British pound, it’s the aussie dollar, it’s these secondary currencies. They’re going to lose share before the dollar does. Is that wrong?

BJ: No, I think that’s absolutely right. And again, that’s a very good way to put it. I know gladiator walks into the ring and thinks, I’m not going to at least get a few scratches. It’s going to hurt. That’s just the nature of being a gladiator. But what matters is who’s standing at the end of the day, right? And so I think it’s these other currencies are getting hurt by the battle more so than the dollar. It doesn’t mean that we’re not getting hurt. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t sting. It doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be any pain involved. But at the end of the day, if you’re at war, you want to be the last man standing because of the way the system is designed, I believe that that will be the US dollar.

The other thing that I would just quickly point out is a lot of people say, why can’t you see it? It’s very obvious. The rest of the world wants to de-dollarize. They’re putting all of these trade deals in place, the dollars falling as a percent of reserves, etc. And the point I would make is, yes, I do see it. I agree with you the world would like to dedollarize, but it’s much harder to dedollarize than just saying, just because you put an announcement out there doesn’t mean you’re actually going to be able to do it.

I’d like to make the analogy that I’ve said I want to lose weight and get in great shape for 20 years. It doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet. 

But that’s the headline versus reality, right? I just think that’s where we’re at. And the dollar, for better or worse, it’s a rigged game in favor of the dollar. And the US set it up that way is the global hegemon. They set it up that way. Now, it doesn’t mean they’re not trying. It doesn’t mean that the world doesn’t want to get away from it. It’s just very hard to do it.

The last thing I’ll say and I’ll shut up, but the other thing I would say is the process of de-dollarization, even if it is successful, will not be a calm transition. And the process of dedollarization is not necessarily, and in my opinion, not probable to be negative for the price of the dollar. I think the volatility and the lack of liquidity in dollars that would go along with de-dollarization would actually squeeze the price of the dollar higher.

And so it doesn’t matter to me whether de-dollarization happens or not. I think the dollar is going higher for all of these reasons.

TN: I think what’s funny there is people always put de-dollarization in this almost moralistic language. It’s a good or a bad thing. And it’s just not. It just is.

Tracy Shuchart: I just had a question for Brent. I mean, do you see at any point that there’s some kind of intervention on the dollar? The dollar gets too strong because it’s going to crush emerging markets? Do you think there’s any point in which Yellen kind of backs up?

BJ: I do think they will. And that’s why I think the dollar is going to go back to all-time highs before this is all said and done. I don’t think it’s going to be a straight line. It can’t be a straight line without absolute devastation. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But I think this is going to play out over several years rather than several weeks. It could play out over several weeks, but I think it will take longer.  And the reason I think it will take longer is I think that they will interact or they will get involved, as you’re suggesting, Tracy. 

I actually think right now the Fed and the Treasury want the dollar strong. I think they’re using it as a weapon or as a tool. It’s something that can be used very effectively. Again, whether you think it should be used or not, I don’t care. I just think it will be, and I think it is being and so I think that will continue.

But I think the Fed and the treasury, they want the dollar higher, but they want it done in a measured fashion that they can control. If it starts to get out of control, I think that they will rein it in. I think they want some of the other parts of the world to be an economic pain, but I don’t think they want the whole system to collapse. And so my guess is that we’ll get the dollar higher, maybe it goes to 115, 120, and then they’ll do something, it’ll pull back for six months, three months, whatever, and then it’ll get higher again and they’ll come out and do something.

So I think this will be a process, a little bit of a roller coaster, up and down, but I think that the general trend is higher and I think there’s more pain to come for the global economy as a result.

TN: Brent, real quick, before we get onto oil. You sent out a tweet earlier this week that said you think that we’re going to come to a point where both the dollar and equities and US equities are rising. Can you walk us through that just real quickly? I know there’s a very detailed thesis behind that, but can you walk us through that very quickly so we understand kind of what you’re talking about there?

BJ: Yeah, so the first thing I’ll say for anybody who’s just kind of passing through this conversation is that I don’t think this is happening right now. It could happen right now. In the short term, I expect US equities to go lower. I think that’s just kind of where markets are headed.

But as the pain develops throughout the global economy, I think we are going to experience a global sovereign debt crisis. And when the world, the US included, starts selling sovereign debt rather than buying sovereign debt, I think that money will have to go.

Now, some of the money will just be, it’ll just go poof. It’ll be gone. And so that money won’t have anywhere to go but the people who start selling the bonds looking for another place to go, I think the next best place to go will eventually be US equities. And I think US equities will be seen as the new… I don’t want to say new Treasuries.

That’s a little bit hard to say. But on a relative basis, the place where big global capital can go, that is the most advantageous to them. And so I think we will get into a point in the sovereign debt crisis where US equities will get safe haven flows and I think the whole world will potentially be printing more money, right.

So be sending more liquidity out there. And so I think that liquidity that is generated with little liquidity there is, I think we’ll find its way into the US and the US Dow, big blue chip stocks and I think they’ll go higher. I might be wrong on that, but that’s my working thesis as of right now.

TN: Let’s move on to crude oil. Obviously we’ve seen crude take some hits over the past few weeks and we’ve got a WTI chart on the screen right now.

So how low will crude go? Are we almost there? Are we headed to 65 where it was for a while? And what then pushes it higher? 

TS: I don’t really want to forecast exactly where crude is going to go. I definitely think that we could see some more downside, but we have to look at what is weighing on price and sentiment right now. One, there’s more Russian barrels on the market than everybody anticipated. 

Two, you’ve got never ending zero Covid China lockdown that haven’t seemed to let up yet. We also have EU recession, right? And then we had 160 million barrels of SPR thrown on the market. And so that’s really weighing kind of on the front end of the curve. Those are the things kind of weighing on sentiment right now. That’s why we’re seeing a lot of weakness. 

That said, if we look at the fundamentals of the market, the market is still very tight. We’re still drawing globally. We definitely have a diesel problem that is global. And I think where we start to see kind of a change in this, I think when it comes to the end of October, when the SPR is done this with kind of been looking over the last couple of weeks, had we not had such large SPRs, we would have actually been drawing a regular stock.

So it’s not as if that oil is going piling up anywhere. So I think as soon as the SPR stops, I think after Midterms, because I think this administration is trying to do whatever they can to suppress the price of oil, thus, gasoline. And I also think that we have to see kind of what happens in China after the People’s Party Congress in the middle of October and trying to see what their policy is going to be moving forward.

Are they going to open up? I mean, they’re looking at they want 5.5% YoY GDP by the end of the year,


TN: They’ll hit it. On the nose, we can guarantee that. 

TS: But I think they’re going to have to start stimulating the economy a little bit more. And we kind of saw announcement Evergrande is going to start financing more inspection projects and whatnot going into starting at the end of September. So I think we’ll probably see the last quarter if we get a little stimulus and if they back on their policy because, that’s the big thing for oil right now, is that if that demand comes back because they’re down about 2.7% on the year and as far as consumption is concerned.

So I think if that demand comes rushing back, know that’s going to be a huge upside surprise for the market. I think over the long run, oil is going higher, but out looking out into 2023, I just think that’s just the trajectory of it. I’m not calling for $200 oil, anything crazy like that. I just think that we will see higher oil, and I think we’re poised to see higher for longer than the functionality of the market and the fact that we have no capex for the last seven years.

TN: So last month you said to look three to four months out, look at the curves three to four months out to understand kind of what the real oil price was or is going to be. And so that would be two to three months now. So that’s November. December. 

TS: Look at those spreads are widening out or not, right. You want to see if we’re moving into more backwardation and even more backward dated market, right? So you kind of want to look at that.

TN: Okay, so I paid $2.88 a gallon for gas at my local last night. We’re the energy capital in the world. Yeah, I’m going to show it off. Anyway, that is kind of coming down. And energy has been the biggest upward factor in some of the inflation issues. That’s good news, at least until the election. Hey, I’ll take it while I can get it, right? And if it heads back up after the election, I think we’re all prepared for that on some level.

So I guess SPR, as he said, election happens, there’s no political reason necessarily to suppress these prices and so on and so forth. So do you expect to see almost a slingshot in, say, December, where things trend higher pretty quickly?

TS: I don’t think we’ll have… I don’t want to call it a slingshot because anything can happen in the oil market. I mean, we’ve seen $7 to $10 in a day before, so that’s not unheard of. But I do think we go higher, especially if you’re looking into the market, is going to get even tighter in December because of tax reasons. December 31 is the tax assessment date for the barrels that you have on hand. So they tend to pull back on production so they can move out inventory as much as they can, so they’re not taxed at the end of the year.

Usually we see a little decline in production anyway in December and the second half of December, we do see prices start to rebound off the seasonal for regular seasonal trend low.  Okay, so that would be normal.

TN: Brent, I think you had a question for Tracy on crude markets as well.

BJ: Yeah, I actually had two quick questions. One, I wanted to get your thoughts on the fact that India and China are buying oil at a discount from Russia. And then there’s lots of stories about them selling that oil

on to Europe or other places. And so they’re making that spread. I just wanted to get your thoughts on that and logistically how that actually takes place.

TS: So if you’re looking at India, definitely they are buying discounted crude. What they do is they don’t

resell that to Europe. What they do is they blend it and they sell fuel. So that’s refined. So it’s really hard to trace what’s in… They don’t trace those barrels that way.

So that’s how that oil is kind of emerging back in Europe. It’s really by way of refined products. Now when we talk about China with the gas, really what they’re doing is they’re buying gas right now, literally half off from Russia, and they’re turning around and selling their own gas to Europe for the higher marked up. The gas they already have. So they’re selling the gas they already have? So that’s kind of how that’s working.

BJ: And then the other question I have for you quickly is I was surprised this week when the rumor was floated by whoever floated that they would restock the SPR at $80. It seems like they’re doing everything they can to get the price lower. And then to have that rumor come out and put kind of a floor under it was kind of surprising to me. So maybe nothing more than just the speculation, but did you have any thoughts on that? 

TS: Yeah, I mean, basically they put a floor on it. Everybody’s calling it, the Biden put now. But the thing is that it’s all nice and well if they want to do that, they still got enough 60 million barrels that they need to release. And then by the time those contracts go through and you want to refill the SPR, I mean, that’s months away. We’re looking at months and months down the road. And who knows what oil price would be? To me, it was just another try to jaw bone market down lower.

BJ: It kind of reminded me of the ECB where they’re raising rates on one hand, but they’re buying bonds with the other. Biden wants his cap. He’s like got a collar on it. He’s trying to put a cap on it and a foot on it.

TN: Strategy. Let’s move on to a little bit more of kind of the Fed kind of Fed talk. There’s a Fed meeting next week, and when CPI came out this week, the terminal rate really rose very quickly. And that’s when we started to see equities fall pretty dramatically. And we’ve got on the screen right now expectations for the rates coming out of each meeting. So 75 in September, 75 in November, and another 50 in December. That has accelerated the expectations for the Fed by about 25-50 basis points?

When does the Fed stop, basically from where you are now, do you think this continues to accelerate in 2023 or given, let’s say, CPI? Of course on a year-on-year basis it looks terrible. But once we get to November, when CPI really started to accelerate, November 21, do we start to see some of those base effects in a year-on-year basis and the Fed starts to pull back a little bit and go, okay, wait a minute, maybe we’re okay with the plan we have when we stop at say 450 or whatever as a terminal rate.

The other complicating factor will add in there is University of Michigan came out, University of Michigan survey came out on Friday and it’s a bit lower than what was expected. And the Fed has really been looking to University of Michigan, which is kind of a semi-serious survey, but they’ve really used that to justify some of their decisions.

So we obviously have a mixed environment. But I’m wondering, with all of this stuff coming out this week, do we expect the Fed to keep marching pretty aggressively into 2023?

BJ: I’ll take that first. So I actually do expect them to keep marching higher into 2023. And I say that for a couple of reasons, and I’m going to qualify this and say that they will pivot when they have to pivot, but I don’t think they’re going to pivot until they have to pivot. And so I think a lot of people that are predicting the pivot are misunderstanding the Fed’s intentions and perhaps for a good reason. They’ve done a fantastic job of ruining their credibility. So it’s understandable not to believe them.

But in this case, I think you kind of have to believe them. And I’ll tell you why I think you have to believe them. Number one, I think they don’t mind the dollar being stronger. Again, I think that’s kind of policy that I spoke of earlier in conjunction with the treasury. 

Number two, I think they want asset prices lower. So the fact that the stock market goes down I don’t think would bother them. I think if the Dow was at 28,000 and the S&P was at 3600, I think they’d say that’s totally fine. I don’t think they have a problem with that as long as it’s not collapsing. Right? Now, if it collapses, then they have to come in. And they will come in,  but I don’t think they mind if the stock market is 10% or 20% lower than here.

The third thing I’d say is the Fed central banks in general, they’re always lagging. They’re a reactionary agency. They’re not a predictive agency. We all know that. They can’t predict anything anyway. I’m not sure I want them predicting things, but to me they’re always behind the curve because they always wait until they see it and then they react, right? They come in and they try to save the day. So when things get really bad, then they’ll eventually come in and provide support.

And when things are always too late to tighten as they are now, and then they try to make up for it. So I think they’re going to despite, like you said, the Michigan number starting to come down, Atlanta Feds already slash their GDP. So even though they’re getting these signals that things are slowing down, they’re not reacting to it yet. They will react to it late.

And then the fourth thing I’d say is that I think Powell is mad and he’s pouting, right? Not just Powell, but mainly Powell, but he got all this advice from all his staff and however many staff, PhD staffers they have at the Fed, and they all said inflation is transitory and it’s going to be fine. And then it wasn’t. Right? Now he’s mad.

TN: He’s a lawyer, not an economist.

BJ: And I’m going to do something about it. And if you don’t think that I can bring inflation down, well, then you just watch me, right? And I’ll take my ball and go home. And his ball is interest rate. So he’s taking them higher, and he’s taking them home, he’s taking them higher. And so it come hell or high water, and after the, I don’t know, the chink in their armor or the threat to their credibility that they’ve had over the last year or two, I think the last thing in the world that Powell wants to deal with is the fact that he slowed down or, God forbid, cut rates and then inflation kept going higher.

That would look even worse than waiting for it to crumble, right? So I think for all of those reasons, you kind of have to take them at their word. Again, I’m not saying not unless the markets force them to do it

and the markets might force them to do it. I’m not saying that that’s out of the possibility. The only thing I don’t like saying about this is this is the hole they’re going to hike until it breaks theory, right?

And I agree with that. The thing I don’t like about it is everybody else seems to agree with it now, too. That seems to be the common refrain, is that they’re going to hike until something breaks, and everybody says, yeah, that’s kind of what’s going to happen. Usually when everybody thinks something, it doesn’t happen that way. But as long as equity prices are higher and as long as inflationary prints keep coming in high, I think they continue hiking.

And think about it, inflation could fall by 30%, and it’s still at five or six, which is still two or three times higher than their goal. So is there a path to a pivot? Yes, I think there’s a path to a pivot, but every week, when people come out every week and, oh, they’re going to pivot, they’re going to pivot. I don’t think they’re pivoting next week, and I don’t think they’re pivoting in October unless they have to.

TN: Okay, Tracy, what do you think of that? 

TS: Yeah, I absolutely agree. All the data coming in, there’s no way they’re not doing 75 next week. In my opinion. I could be wrong. Somebody will come back. I think that’s pretty much a lock. 

TN: Yeah, I think short of, let’s say sometime in Q4, Russia, Ukraine ends, and China says we’re not going to lock down anymore, that would fundamentally change the Feds calculations, right? 

BJ: Well, if they weren’t locked down anymore and it pushed demand higher and it pushed prices higher as a result of demand increasing, then to me, that would keep them on their path to hiking. The flip side. And the flip side is that if something breaks in China, and China has to devalue or revalue the yuan in order to deal with the real estate collapse or the internal problems, whatever it is, that could send a deflationary wave to the rest of the world.

So I’m not going to sit here and deny the inflationary pressures that we’re seeing, but I think to a certain extent, people have again dumped themselves into the inflation camp or the deflation camp, and I think we’re going to have periods of both.

I think if you fundamentally understand the design of the monetary system, the threat of a deflationary

wave is always there. But if you don’t admit that the inflationary pressures are here, I think you’ve also got your head in the sand. I’ve said this several times, but I will admit to a big mistake, and that is, for several years, I hated the term stagflation. I thought it was a cop out. I thought it was for people who just couldn’t decide if they were in the inflation or deflation camp. But I think that’s what we have, and I think we have it in spades. I think some assets and some prices are going to continue to rise and be higher, and I think others are going to collapse, and that’s what makes it so hard to deal with.

So to anybody I ever took a shot at for them using stagflation as a cop out, I apologize. I’m with you now. I got that part wrong.

TN: Brent, one of the things I admire about you is you’re not afraid to say you were wrong, right?

BJ: No. I mean, do you mind if I just make a comment on this really quick? I think too often in our business, people will make a call and then they’re just so afraid to change it. Or you’ll make a call, and then somebody else will call you out on it if you got it wrong. At the end of the day, our job is sort of to predict the future. And so anybody who thinks that they can accurately predict the future 100% of the time has the biggest ego in the history of the world.

The reason I don’t mind making predictions is number one. I don’t mind being wrong because I don’t think I’m the smartest guy in history. And if I get something wrong, then I’ll have to deal with it. But this idea that we’re always going to be right and we know everything, it’s ridiculous. So anyway, we’re all speculating at the end of the day.

TN: That’s right. Okay, real quickly, guys, what are you looking for in the week ahead? More the same. More the same disappointment, difficulties, headwind, all that stuff. Until the Fed meeting? Is that what we’re looking for until the press conference?

TS: Yeah, I think we’re the markets will be in limbo, definitely until the Fed. I mean, everybody expects 75. We get 75. Maybe we see a bounce in equity, actually, because it’s already done with, right. There’s no question anymore.  So maybe we get a bounce after that. 

TN: Slightly less hawkish language than is expected, right? 

BJ: I think that’s right. Now we’ve got the potential of maybe 100 basis points, right. So if they come in a couple of weeks ago, although now there’s a path to pivot, they’re probably only going to do 50 basis points in September. 

Well, then we got the CPI print and it’s 75. That’s 75 is going to happen. Then a couple of people go hundreds now on the table, right? So now if they only come out and do 75, maybe the market kind of breathes a little bit. At least it wasn’t 100. So my guess is that we would have some volatility leading up to the meeting. Maybe they do 75. Perhaps things get a little bit of a bounce as a breather. 

But I don’t think markets are going to change a whole lot between now and the election. I think they’re going to be volatile. I think the Feds are going to keep hiking. And I think Market Powell said it himself. We had the boom and now we have to deal with the pain. This is the unfortunate side effect of what we have to do. So he’s telling you he’s going to cause pain. He just doesn’t want to collapse. So if it starts to collapse, it’s the sad truth.

TN: Guys, thank you so much for your time. Thank you so much. Have a great weekend and have a great week ahead.


UK Prime Minister Truss pledges action on rising energy bills

This podcast is originally published by BBC Business Matters here:

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UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to announce a package of support to deal with rising energy bills in the coming days. It’s understood the government could spend $115 million on plans to subsidise bills. We weigh up the pros and cons of subsidies and windfall taxes with Caroline Meyer, energy analyst and CEO of Meyer Resources.

US e-cigarette maker Juul is to pay a $438.5 million settlement, following a lengthy investigation that found it had marketed its products to underage teenagers. Rachel Butt from Bloomberg in New York explains the background and implications of the story.

Rahul Tandon is joined from Austin, Texas by Tony Nash, CEO and founder of Complete Intelligence, and from Freetown, Sierra Leone by media entrepreneur and TV presenter Stella Bangura.



Hello, there. How are you? This, of course, is Business Matters here on the BBC World Service. I’m Rahul Tandon as always, coming up on the program, we’re talking about changing your leaders. Does it work? That’s happened here in the UK. Liz Truss was sworn in into her new job. We’re going to be looking at the energy challenges that many countries, many of you listeners, are facing at the moment.


It’s going to be a terrible winter and in many countries, it will be for some of the lower income households. It will literally be a question, do I heat or do I eat?


There we go. That is a question I think that many people, unfortunately, across the world, will be facing. A lot of tough questions that are going to face businesses here in the UK. Tony Nash joins us as well this evening from Complete Intelligence. Hello, Tony. Always a pleasure to have you on the program. Our new Prime Minister here is going to need a lot of intelligence. Can I ask you, Tony, sometimes when we’re faced with big problems, we think, let’s just change the leader. That doesn’t always work, does it? Just putting a new person in charge. The problems are still there.


The problems are still there. And the problems that we have right now are very hard problems to solve. So Liz Truss is going to really need a lot of help and a lot of deep thought to solving these problems.


Let’s switch it on its head, though, sometimes, having that new leadership in place, new ideas, new thoughts. She announced her new team a short while ago, Tony, that can make a difference. A fresh look at difficult problems that people are facing, whether it’s countries or businesses as well.


Sure it can. I think some of the problems she’s facing right now, though, are they’re global problems. It’s the energy supply chain, right? It’s the cost of energy, it’s the downstream costs of energy. It’s the cost of things like fertilizer and food into next year. So these are not problems that the head of the UK, the leader of the UK, can solve on their own. This is something that really takes some deep thought to solve, say, the domestic symptoms of those problems, or not the symptoms, but the domestic impacts of those problems, as well as the global sources of those problems. It takes a lot of effort, especially for a new leader, to come in, set up their team and get going.


Yeah, that’s a good point. Tony, last question to you on this particular issue. Sometimes with leadership, the key is knowing when to take over. This is not the best time for any leader to take over in the country because of those problems you outlined there, which we’re going to be talking about in the program in a lot more detail a bit later.


No, you’re exactly right, but I think there’s a certain kind of leader that’s attracted to taking over in a very difficult time. So I’ve done a turnaround and a couple of startups in my day, and it takes a different kind of person who to want to take a leadership position in that situation. And hopefully she’s a person who is focused. Hopefully she’s a person who can take criticism really well. Hopefully she’s a person who can get people on her team and build trust. And if she can do those things and all of the other things that a leader is supposed to do, she may actually do really well.


Stella, you were talking about the elections in Sierra Leone, which are coming up by the beginning of next year. I wonder we’re talking about leadership. I suppose the true test of a leader or somebody who wants to be a leader is taking over in difficult circumstances. Not when it’s easy, but when it’s tough. Against your labs. Tony, when you go around Texas, are you seeing a lot of youngsters vaping nowadays?


I have two kids in university and one in junior high. And my kids who are in university were part of that initial group that was marketed to. And so when they were in high school, there was a lot of vaping in high school, and there still is. And even now the kids in junior high are being marketed. And so when I say junior high, that’s kind of 12, 13, 14 years old.


So are they being directly marketed to? Probably not. But the problem here yes, that’s right. And the influencers and the way that they get to these kids, and there are efforts in the schools here to counter that. A lot of the messaging in the schools is countering, and again, I’m talking 12, 13, 14 years old is countering vaping and trying to get the kids to not start vaping. So it is something that’s very common even at a young age, and there are a lot of efforts to really stop it.


Yeah, go on, Tony.


Yeah, the appeal here for the kids, there are a couple of appeals. First of all, they don’t smell like tobacco, right? So it’s a lot easier to do and conceal. But the other part that’s pretty common is to get vape use that has THC in it. And kids in, say, public schools will smoke in the bathroom between classes or something like that. But it’s the THC juice for their vape.


Because I’m listed, I know what that is.


It’s basically smoking marijuana, right? It’s the THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. And so it’s a very easy and pretty inconspicuous way to distribute this to schools, to kids in schools. And so it’s not necessarily nicotine, it’s the THC. I’m not saying every kid who vapes has THC in their vape juice, but it’s both. And it’s balancing both out that we see a lot in the junior highs and high schools here.


I want to bring in Tony here very quickly, because I remember being in India when the government had demonetization completely changed the currency. It’s not that easy, is it? Sometimes?


No, it’s not easy. It’s a shock. And I think that it’s a little bit of a shock by design so that people understand the new value. But when it doesn’t hold, then that’s a real problem. So I’m not laughing at this specific situation now, but with demonetization in India, obviously, that had an organized crime drive, right? Like they wanted to take out the large bills to take the power out of some of the organized crime transactions. Is that fair?


Yeah, it was. It was also about removing some black money from the economy. Did it work? It’s an interesting discussion that’s still going on in India. Lots more interesting discussions coming up here on Business Matters after the latest news.


What about where you are in Texas? That’s a part of the world that is known, isn’t it, for its energy resources? It’s fossil fuels, also renewables. Now we’re heading towards Midterms. How big an issue is energy there? Not quite as big maybe as it is in Europe, I suppose.


Well, I live in Houston, Texas, the energy capital of the world. So you should know that everyone in my neighborhood has put in a new swimming pool except me over the past year. So the energy companies are doing well and my neighbors are benefiting. And so I don’t say that to be horrible, but these times part of the problem with times like this is people realize that there is actually under investment in energy.


And so whether it’s electric, power companies or storage or transmission, other things, so what comes out of Texas is natural gas, which goes to Europe to kind of fill the gap that isn’t coming from Russia. Okay. And so because there’s not as much supply, those prices go up, and that benefits the people who take things out. But the under investment happens in two places. It happens kind of on the electricity side, but also on the extraction side. So things here actually in Texas pretty good, and we’re not seeing a lot of the downsides that Europe is seeing.


Yeah, very much. And I suppose the price of the gas at the moment, a lot of that liquefied gas coming into Europe at the moment means that a lot of those companies in Texas will be doing very well. We were talking about Liz Truss earlier in the program, the new British Prime Minister, because she’s unveiling her energy plan a little bit later this week, on Thursday. But it’s quite clear now that her government’s going to borrow hugely to keep bills low. In the EU, though, Brussels are going to propose levies on energy companies that would channel sky high earnings back to vulnerable households and businesses.


This is going to cost Europe a huge amount of money because they’re going to have to bail out a lot of people because of the rising cost of energy here and that’s going to have long term economic consequences for the continent.


Sure, yeah and I think that whenever you get a governor estimate, it’s always a little bit low. So whatever the governments are putting out to spend, you can probably count on two times that or more maybe then. Sure, yeah. The government estimates are intentionally low and they always are because they underestimate probably supply constraints in this case.


If you look at things like gas storage. So I’m not of the belief that we’re going to have like a horrific event in Europe this year or this winter because if you look at gas storage, for example, Germany has a natural gas storage, it’s something like 84% of reserves and their target is 95% and they’ll fill that 95% by probably November. So there will be supplies of gas in Europe. It will be expensive.


So as your guest said, people will have to choose between food and heating. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. If you look at the German government, they have the capacity to issue a massive amount of debt to pay their people to survive through the winter. So not every government in Europe has that luxury, but Germany certainly does and a lot of northern European governments too.


Well, we did see, didn’t we, earlier this week, the Chancellor of Germany outlining plans to help people will have Liz Truss do that as well. Texas, California, two rivals. I think a lot of our listeners across the world will be surprised to hear about blackouts in a state like California, one of the wealthiest in the US.


Well, yes, in California needs a lot of investment in its power grid. That’s really something that’s long overdue and they haven’t necessarily put the investment in. It’s got a creaking power grid and so this is why power is so inefficiently distributed in California. And until they do that they’re going to continue to have these brownouts and blackouts and power distribution problems.


And do you think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen a movement of quite a lot of businesses, haven’t we? It’s not just about taxation from California to your part of the world.


Yes, absolutely. It’s about regulation, it’s about the continuity of power and it’s about education. And the students that come out of Texas institutions are very good, very hard working students. So there are a lot of factors related to it. And land, there’s a lot of land in Texas that can be built on for things like Tesla and other places.


Stella well, that’s very similar to the situation in Bangalore, a city that you know well. As you Tony know very well, yes.


Gosh, I spent a lot of time in Bangalore about 20 years ago, before the new airport, before the second ring road, all of that stuff. So it was the same town, but it was a little bit different, not quite the scale that it has today, but the disasters there, it’s heartbreaking.


I moved to Texas in 2017 when we had a Hurricane Harvey, and one of the things your guest was talking about is how people would help each other out in Bangalore with the floods. And that’s exactly what we saw here where we went and helped ten or 20 people take all of their belongings out of their house and started new life. It’s heartbreaking.


It is indeed. And it has been a sad end to the program, talking about the city I know very well in Bangalore. Hopefully, I’ll get on its feet. Thanks to Tony. Thanks to Stella. We’ll be back same time, same place tomorrow.

Week Ahead

Crude Oil Supply: The Week Ahead – 29 Aug 2022

Learn more about CI Futures here:

Crude and energy are on everybody’s minds, and we spent a lot of the Week Ahead parsing the details. Saudi Arabia came out with some comments about restricting their crude supplies to global markets, and we also have a detailed discussion on the SPR release in the US – when will it end, how will that impact crude prices, etc. 

We also discussed Jackson Hole drama and the conclusions of Powell’s latest speech. Powell really didn’t say anything new, so why are equity markets reacting so dramatically?

And will we finally get some stimulus from China’s government? We’ve seen movement in tech stocks and some talks of the stimulus release, but we expect more after the US election. 

Key themes

1. Crude oil supply: Saudi/UAE cuts vs SPR

2. Jackson Hole Drama

3. China Stimulus (Finally?)

4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 31st 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:





Listen on Spotify:


Tony Nash: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. This week, we’re joined by Josh Young for the first time. So I want to thank Josh a lot for taking the time to join us. We’ve got Albert Marko and Samuel Rines. We’re lucky to have these three really valuable guests.

Before we get started, I’d like to ask you to like and subscribe to this YouTube channel. You’ll get reminded every week. Give us comments on the show. We always look at the comments. We always respond to the comments. So thanks for taking the time to do that.

We also have a promo for our product, CI Futures. That product is $50 a month right now. You can go month to month with it, try it out. We cover about 900 assets with weekly forecasts, and we do about 2000 economic variables with monthly forecasts. So check it out. We’re transparent. We disclose our error rates for every month. So it’s good information.

We have a couple of key items this week. First is the crude oil supply. We had Saudi Arabia come out with some comments about restricting their supply. We also have some information on the SPR release in the US. So we’re going to ask Josh to leave the discussion on that. 

Obviously, Jackson Hole drama. We’re probably the only people not leading the Jackson Hole today. But there are some meaningful things happening. There are some things happening that are not meaningful, and Sam will talk us through that. 

And then when we finally get some China stimulus, I think that’s a real question and Albert will lead us on that.

So Josh, thanks again for joining us. You put out a tweet earlier today about the UAE supporting the Saudi comments on supply restrictions.

Can you talk us through that and help us understand why did that happen and why is that important?

Josh Young: So the UAE is supporting what the Saudis and other OPEC members are doing in terms

of threatening to cut production based on the combination of lower price, as well as their observation that there may be some paper market price manipulation and disconnect from what they’re seeing as the largest sort of combined suppliers in the oil market. And it’s particularly important that the UAE did this because what we saw at Bison was that most of the OPEC members were actually producing their maximum production capacity. And when you produce that maximum, the fields aren’t designed for that. It’s sort of like driving with your foot all the way down on the gas 100% of the time. You’ll break your car and you’ll crash.

And so a lot of these fields and their processing facilities, they’re just not designed to run at this. It’s a theoretical capacity that’s supposed to run for a week, a month, three months, not how they’ve been running it. And so there’s a lot of pressure on a lot of fields in many of the OPEC countries to actually reduce production slightly, so it’s not a surprise.

And we forecast that there would be some discussion of this given the high run rate versus their spare capacity. UAE in particular does have some remaining spare capacity, so what we’re seeing is cohesion within OPEC along with supply exhaustion of the other OPEC members. So it’s actually a pretty big thing, and I don’t think people are really picking up on it too much. Although maybe it’s why oils flat up a little.

TN: With the market down a lot today. Is this something that will start small incrementally and then it will accelerate? Meaning will they cut off a little bit of supply and then over time, maybe they take some fields down for maintenance or something like that, and then you start to see bigger chunks? Is that a possible scenario?

JY: Yeah. Honestly, I don’t know exactly what the path will be. I just know that they see it. We were joking before the show that, hey, maybe they’re following my Twitter feed and a few other people’s been observing these problems with the oil market and sort of weird trading patterns versus very strong physical demand and sort of very strong indicators.

And you see Saudi has a very high price relative to their benchmarks. Right. Their poster price, especially Asia, has been very high and usually that’s associated with price strength, and instead we’ve seen price weakness. So I think they’re very frustrated by that, but they may wait for some other things. So oil prices to fall a little more or some other sort of signal, maybe some small amount of demand destruction to the extent that happens. I think it’s a little hard, just given the Saudi relationship  with the US and their sort of hope to maintain a lot of their alliance and their alignment with the west. 

So I think they need sort of an additional catalyst. That being said, once they do it, they might… I don’t know if they start small and then go big, or they might just go big. They might just say, hey, we’re cutting by a million barrels a day. We increased by four over the last year and a half, and we’re fully supportive of the market. We might go a lot bigger if necessary, and there’s a disconnect and we’re going to support it.

TN: Okay, so how much of this is related to the SPR release? Is the SPR release having such an impact on prices that the Saudis are kind of fed up with it, or are there other factors?

JY: I actually don’t think it’s related to the SPR release almost at all. It does look like it’s a little related to some of the job owning around a potential agreement with Iran. And there’s a lot of disagreement in terms of how much oil production could come on if Iran came to an agreement with the west and sort of restarted. JCPOA. I’m in the camp that there’s not a lot left to produce and to export. You can see the amount is getting exported to India and various other countries. It’s up a lot from the last time this was floated, six or seven months ago. So whatever that capacity was for Iran to export, it’s less.

But I think it’s partly tied to that because Iran is a regional foe of Saudi Arabia and UAE and several other OPEC countries. So I think it’s a little bit of that. And I think it’s a lot related to the paper market trading patterns and just this really big weird disconnect where you see consumption fine and you see price down and it’s probably messing up your CI Futures forecasting a little because you’re probably tracking the consumption and the consumption is fine and the price is down. And it’s like. Okay. The inventories are down. This is weird. Again, excluding SPR, when the SPR stops releasing, obviously you’d expect price to recover substantially absent a million barrels a day of demand structure.

TN: Is that what you expect when the SPR release is done, that’s late October or something, right, do you expect prices to rise notably? 

JY: Yeah. And I think like, the EIA forecast for shale production growth and sort of overall US oil production is just totally off base. They haven’t reset it, even though I think they had like a million barrels a day or something forecast for growth. And I think we’re at sort of 300,000 barrels a day so far this year and pretty flat. And the rig count is not up that much, and the frac stack count is definitely not up enough. So I think there’s sort of this disconnect. 

There also in terms of this mark to model from a production perspective versus what’s actually happening in the field.  And then you look at it’s not hard to see who the big producers are on the public side and then which ones had forecast growth and how much they’re actually achieving. 

It’s really hard to reconcile their forecast for production growth versus what’s actually happening. And we’re really well situated for this because we spend most of our time we talk a lot about macro, we spend most of our time just like looking at individual companies and evaluating them and evaluating their securities. And so I think it’s part of why we’ve had such a powerful voice from a macro perspective, because we’re spending most of our time talking to these companies, looking at the rigs, looking at other services, figuring out the bottlenecks, and looking at some of the local stuff.

And when you do that and you step back and say, these numbers don’t make sense, and the companies are not tracking anywhere close to that. So back to SPR, that matters a lot because we’re not achieving the production that is being forecast. And it seems like a lot of market participants, or at least prognosticators, are just accepting as a given. That means that at whatever point… I’m not saying that the SPR release stops in October. They may continue it, but at whatever point, there is a finite amount of oil there. And we’re hitting tank bottom on some of those caverns that are releasing oil. At some point we just run out or we stop releasing and whatever that point is, absent significant demand destruction in a very deep recession, I think we see a lot higher oil prices.

TN: So in terms of the SPR release, you said, you talk about being empty, this sort of thing. How much do you think are you still thinking kind of October? Are you thinking they’re going to continue, but it would kind of have to trickle out, not at the same rate they had been releasing to date. Right? Because they are short on supply in the SPR.

JY: Yeah, I don’t think it has to trickle out. I think they could produce pretty hard for another month or so, and then it starts becoming more of an issue. But as you get down to it, looks like the numbers around 20% or so for any of the individual storage facilities, and for some of them, it might be a little higher, some of it might be a little lower. You start having issues with contamination as well as just physical deliverability, actually extracting it out. 

And I think people take the numbers a little too seriously. And it’s very weird because no one trusts the government about certain things and then other things they just blindly say, oh yeah, it’s right. It’s from, okay, try to reconcile that.

And I think when you talk to engineers and some of the people that have worked on these facilities, their observation is that it’s reasonable to expect less deliverability. But there are enough of the facilities that aren’t drawn down enough that they should be able to supply. I don’t think we’re really hitting deliverability issues yet, but I think we’re likely to start to hit them, let’s say over the next month or so.

TN: Okay. So kind of when we take what you’re talking about and we look at, say, the potential impact of crude prices and refined product prices on inflation and energy prices generally on inflation, seems to me that you’re implying that towards the end of the year we could see those prices rise fairly quickly. Is that fair to say?

JY: It is. But at the same time, gasoline prices are still down a lot. These will start to tick back up the gasoline, which is a big consumer factor, as well as it gets felt through a number of different aspects of the economy. So at least for now, that’s not so much of a risk. But yeah, definitely. Sort of later on in the year, one could expect that. 

And one other way to look at that is there’s been a divergence, and I’ve ignored these historically, to my detriment. There’s been a divergence in between the oil price and oil and gas equity prices and oil and gas equities have done a lot better over the last, let’s say, month and a half than oil prices have. And it looks like the equity market is telling us that the companies… 

I mean, one, the companies are just very cheap, so I would think naturally they should rise. But the degree of divergence is so much that it seems like the equity market is making a forward looking bet on higher than strip prices in the future. And the forward market and the oil paper market is making the bet that it will be lower.

So there does seem to be a noteworthy divergence that could mean much higher inflation, like you’re saying, but it might also be that shelter matters a lot more and some other stuff matters a lot more, and it might really take diesel rising a lot and gasoline rising a lot to actually shift back into high inflation.

TN: Okay, is that divergence between only upstream companies or is it upstream midstream? Is it the whole stack? What is that divergence? What does that include?

JY: So I’m most focused on upstream. I don’t actually remember whether it also included the pipelines and services. But on the upstream, definitely both the large cap, the XLE ETF that includes Exxon and Chevron and stuff, as well as XOP, which includes sort of independence.

TN: Fantastic. Okay, Josh, that is excellent. Thank you so much for that. On that inflation topic,

let’s move to Jackson Hole. Of course, there’s a lot of breathy analysis of Jackson Hole over the last couple of days, and there will be over the weekend. But Sam Rines, who has the most valuable newsletter that I know of that’s available in America today, covered this week, and there’s a chart that he has in there looking at the meeting probabilities and also looking at the headlines that may or may not come out of Jackson Hole.

Sam, can you talk us through that? And what do you expect some of the conclusions to be?

Sam Rines: Yeah, so I thought it was really interesting. The Fed said nothing all that interesting today. I mean, it might have been a shock to people who weren’t paying attention, but the Fed just reiterated about, I don’t know, 99% of what it’s already said and set it in different words. And Powell said it basically eight and a half minutes. Right. That was the big change. All he did was take a bunch of time out of the speech, condense it and say, we’re not pivoting. They were never pivoting. The pivot was out of the picture at the last meeting. He made that pretty clear during that press conference. 

So it’s really interesting to me that there was an actual equity reaction to it. It’s also really interesting

that there was relatively little reaction out of Currencies, relatively little reaction out of global interest rates and only a reaction on the equity front. It was like it was a shock to the equity guys, and everybody else was like, yeah, we need that. So I think that was really the big takeaway was it was a shock to the equity

markets, but everyone who had to be paying attention for the last six months was like, yeah, no big deal.

So Jackson Hole I think one of the things that I had said about it in the newsletter was, you’re not going

to learn anything new. And the only thing that we learned was that Paul was going to say absolutely nothing new and absolutely nothing interesting, and equity markets would still react to it in a pretty meaningful way. The idea that we were going to go to 4% and then stay at 4% was already priced in to Fed fund futures through the end of ’23.

So this whole idea that Powell somehow shocked the market. It’s one of the more entertaining things

today, in my opinion, is just that equity markets were so taken aback by it while you had three or four basis point moves in interest rates across the US curve. And just a big shrug. 

To me, the big news today was probably out of Europe where people were potentially discussing 75 basis

point hike from the ECB. The Czech Republic doing an emergency meeting on energy.

There were some more interesting things that happened in the market today, but I think I overlooked in favor of an eight and a half minute speech by somebody just re iterating what he had already said 900 times.

TN: So let’s talk about Europe a little bit, because that’s interesting. I mean, Europe is in a world of hurt, right? We’ve talked about that several times. So what do you think the path for the ECB is from here? Do you think they’re going to hike 75?

SR: No, I think they hike 50. I think 75 is probably a little too aggressive for them. I mean, we were talking about ten basis points three months ago as being something that we thought would be interesting. And now the idea of floating 75, I think that was mostly to defend the currency, right. They knew that there was a known that you were going into Jackson Hole and if you front ran that with the leak that you might go 75, you’re going to defend your currency somewhat against a potentially hawkish Powell. It’s pretty straightforward in terms of defending a Euro at one. So I think that was basically the case. Call 50, maybe 75, I don’t really care. They’re going to hike, and they’re going to hike in a pretty meaningful way, particularly for a place that is already screwed. Right into the recession, right? Yeah.

I think it’s a pretty interesting opportunity to go long the long-end booned and short the Euro. Yeah, we’ve talked about that a few times here and that’s great.

TN: Okay, guys, what else do you have on the, Albert, Josh? Are you guys hearing anything else on US economy or Jackson Hole? 

Albert Marko: Sam mentioned about the equity reaction. How much of that is really because

of the low liquidity right now? There’s no traders really out there, no volume out there really, at the moment. 

SR: But liquidity works both ways, right? If you have low liquidity, you can rip it. It can get ripped either way. And I think what you saw immediately following his speech was you saw a leg down, then you saw 1% leg down, 1% leg back up, and then a two to 3% leg down, depending on what industry you want to look at. Right. So liquidity works.

AM: But you’re right, nothing was new. That rally that they launched for the weeks prior to that, you expected them to go hawkish after that, what are they going to do? Go dovish and go to 4400, 4500 and look ridiculous? Nothing new came out of this. He’s right about that. 

SR: I think there was an opportunity for them to potentially begin to say, hey, we’re going 50s and then 25s, and then we’re going to pause at 4% and we’re going to see how much we’ve ruined everything. There was the potential for that.

But then when you get STIs, you get financial conditions ripping higher, you have meme stocks

coming back into the news. Yeah. The Fed is not going to consider that type policy. If anything, they’re going to look at that and say, hey, it looks like short term neutral is a little bit higher than we thought it was. We need to move a little further and then begin to pause.

So if anything, the equity rally going into Jackson Hole was more problematic for equity markets than people thought. 

TN: So do you think some of those 25 expected 25s could be 50s in say, Q4?

SR: I don’t care if they’re going to get to four and then they’re going to stop and they’re going to get to four before they’re going to get to four around December and then they’re going to see what kind of carnage they’ve done. If they haven’t done enough carnage, they go higher. Pause there.

TN: That makes sense.

SR: The pace is probably I would say the pace kind of matters for shock and all purposes,

but in general the pace is kind of meh.

The end is really important and the length of staying at the peak is what is truly the most important thing here. If they’re there for a year and a half and they don’t care about a recession, that’s one thing. If they’re there for six months and cut by 75 because we’re in a recession, then go back, that’s a different thing. But I really don’t care how quickly they get there.

TN: Okay. And the run up to the midterms has no bearing on what the Fed is going to do, is that? 

SR: None.

TN: None. Okay. I just hear that from time to time. Well, the midterms are coming, so the Fed

is going to just relax for a few months.

AM: You hear that mainly from me. From my perspective, it’s always been like when I say Fed, I want to say Treasury and Fed together because of Yellen.  But sometimes they have those concerns. Like they don’t want the current administration looking bad. I had a midterm. Yeah.

SR: That should sail.

AM: Well, that should sail because just because of the ridiculous antics that they pulled recently with inflation, it’s being ridiculous. So you’re right, that ship has sailed.

TN: Well, I mean, are they ridiculous or not? I mean, inflation has definitely risen and they’ve definitely taken action to offset inflation.

AM: Yeah, they’ve done that in a vacuum because China is not online yet and Europe is a complete disaster at the moment. Right. And we haven’t had a real event to drive oil up into like the 130s, 140s again. God forbid we have a hurricane in like a week that goes into the Gulf of Mexico while Grandhome is sending out letters to all the refiners saying you can’t export anything anymore. There’s plenty of room. 

TN: She’s encouraging them. She’s not requiring them. Right?

AM: Yeah. Okay, well, we’ll see about that.

JY: She’s making them an offer that they can’t refuse. So my general take was just like, I’m not a Fed watcher. My general take was kind of stagflation coming out of this. Right? It’s like policy that can’t get too extreme to really like they’re going to try to torch the economy, but they’re also not going to go to a 15 interest rate or anything like that. They’re going to go to a four or whatever, and maybe they’ll go slower or faster.

I think there’s some political motivation there. So maybe they go slower and then they turn on higher after the election. Maybe not. Unclear. Kind of doesn’t matter from my perspective.

What does matter is, like Albert was saying, I think there’s a decent shot that we end up with higher oil prices. We end up with other factors. So, like, there are various drivers that are pushing, especially in the rental market, shelter higher, not lower. And so with persistent inflation in the biggest household bucket, and then with a likely move higher this winter in oil and diesel and probably also gasoline, it’s going to look pretty ugly. And if you have them stopping kind of at four, maybe going to let’s say five or something, but inflation is at ten or nine or whatever, right? Some directionally, really high number. At some point, you just start ticking in where you have negative real and positive nominal, and that’s just hard to break unless they go a lot higher. But if the economy is sucking, that makes it really hard. So that was my sort of general take from what they were saying.

AM: I wanted to come back and ask you about the SPR just real quick about the oil in it. Some of it has got to have degradation, and there’s a lot less barrels there that they can actually release. They might have to stop in end of September. You might start seeing oil rise even before October.

JY: Yes. My base case is not that. My base case is there’s a little bit of contamination, but they’ve managed to reduce that either by not pulling from the caverns that have had contamination historically or by treating the oil or something. My base case is that the oil there is extractable, except they can’t get the last barrel because there’s a certain percentage that needs to be there for the caverns to continue to be

functional, and they’re not going to destroy the storage caverns just to get the last oil. That’s my base case.

But I think there’s a reasonable expectation that there’s less oil there, given the history of contamination and the issues. And they did have a big draw this past week, but prior to that, they had multiple smaller draws. There’s also the crude quality thing, which I’m not really in the crude quality matters camp. I think there’s sort of this bizarre notion that crude, which is mostly fungible, really matters. It did to some extent before you could export oil and before various changes in US refineries.

At this point, it matters a little in terms of getting a couple of dollars, more or less per barrel, depending on transport cost. But I don’t think that’s really affecting the global balance. And I think it’s sort of like

a magic trick, right? It’s like focus on this and not like the thing that actually matters.

And so I’m glad you didn’t bring it up. I guess I brought it up and I just don’t think it matters, though.

TN: Great. Thanks for that, guys. Okay, let’s move on to China. Albert, over the past a week or so, we’ve seen a number of stories saying that China fiscal stimulus may finally be coming.

And we’ve seen some movements, say, in China, tech stocks, these sorts of things. So can you talk us through what you’re seeing with China in the stimulus camping? And why now? They’ve waited so long. Why would it be coming now?

AM: Well, it’s coming out because the policy and the dollar is so high, the Chinese economy is struggling at the moment and they come out with these mini stimulus announcements and there were shots across the bow. I mean, the worst thing right now that the Fed can happen is China stimulating commodities ripping at the moment, that would be absolutely atrocious. Inflation will start going higher and we seen like Josh said a 10% CPI prints coming out and they’re going to be forced to do 75 basis points again. It would throw a wrench in a lot of things and it’s not good if they stimulate it right now. 

But after the election, after the US election, they can do what they want to do because they have their own interests at heart at the moment. They cannot let the Chinese economy fall to a point where they can’t recover in the near future.

TN: So what do you see coming out in the near term? This $229 billion bond sale? That was a start, right? So do you see more than that or dramatically more than that coming out? And how quickly do you expect? 

AM: Yeah, I expect by January that will have a significant stimulus package coming out. This little SEC audit deal was basically a gift to delay it as much as long as they can.

TN: Okay, very good. And then so you don’t expect a significant amount of Chinese stimulus before, say, December or something like that?

AM: Yeah, before December. 

TN: Okay. Sam, what do you think about that? Do you think China stimulus hurts the US? 

SR: I really don’t think that the Fed would care or go 75. I mean, it’s commodities, right? And the Fed tries to ignore commodities as much as possible. So yeah, you’re going to get a rip in oil because there’s not enough oil to go around, there’s not enough oil for China and it’s going to coincide with the end of the SPR release. So you’re kind of screwed there. 

Copper, all that stuff goes higher. I don’t think the Fed cares. The Fed is going to try to cut that out. Then they’ll pivot core and you’re going to have a really weak Renminbi and you’re going to have probably at least a little bit of a pass through to US consumers on the goods front as you get goods to flow back. 

So you could actually see kind of an interesting offset where core goods kind of begins to decline on a Chinese reopen. Commodities rip and you get the, hey look, it looks like core is moving back towards two. We’re not going to have to raise rates as much because we don’t really care about headline, we can’t control oil, we can’t pump more oil. 

So I think it’s a weird kind of catch 22 where the Fed is going to have to pivot from talking about headline to talking about core. But I think they’re happy to do it as long as that core is really moving lower because I think they know they’re screwed on energy. They’re in so much trouble in energy, commodities, et cetera, that there’s nothing they can do.

TN: I think you’re right and we’ve needed a weaker CNY for about six, seven months now. So I think it’s about time and we’ve started to see it move, but I think we’ll start to see it move more dramatically soon.

Okay, guys, let’s start looking at the week ahead. Just a quick kind of round the horn of what do you think, Albert, what are you looking for for the coming week?

AM: I’m looking for a little bit of a rally back off these loads here, try to bring it back to 4200. I just personally think that the economy is in trouble, they’re delaying a recession as long as they possibly can, but it’s coming. So I think a little bit of a pump next week and then probably heading back down into September.

TN: Okay, Sam? 

SR: Oh, I agree with Albert there. I think the knee jerk reaction today to the Fed is going to be unloud as people begin to look at what really went on in rates. What’s going on in FX. The concentration should be on what’s going on in Europe. And the flow versus the stock problem that nobody seems to be able to figure out. Which is you can stock as much gas as you want in a bunch of caverns in Europe. If you don’t have flow over the winter, your stocks really don’t matter. I think there’s going to be a little bit of a realization that stock versus flow matter more than stocks and at some point you’ve got to figure that one out. So that’s what I’m watching.

TN: Interesting. Okay, Josh, what are you looking for in the week ahead?

JY: Just more information on oil demand. So we’re starting to see reports of surprise, higher oil demand than people would have thought, which coincide with actual reports of oil demand when you look at the raw data. So that should be interesting to see sort of how that gets processed and then sort of how oil price may or may not get suppressed. Again, just as we get more good data points, price should go higher, but it doesn’t seem to want you for now.

TN: Very good. From the energy capital of the Universe in Houston, Texas, Josh Young, Sam Rines.

Guys. Thanks very much. Albert, thanks. Have a great day, have a great weekend and a great week ahead.

Week Ahead

The Week Ahead – 08 Aug 2022: Low energy prices, China tech & stimulus, equity upside?

Learn more about CI Futures here:

Energy has taken a huge downside hit this week, in the wake of the OPEC+ announcement, US refining capacity utilization declining, etc. What’s happening? Why are we seeing differences between physical and paper crude markets?

Also, there was talk months ago about a new energy supercycle. Is that real? With China-Taiwan-US tensions tighter than they’ve been for years, we’re seeing Chinese tech stocks just muddle through. We haven’t seen a major hit – as if China tech will see major fallout from these tensions – but we also haven’t seen a major bump – as if China is expected to stimulate out of this to win domestic hearts and minds.

Also, could possible government intervention to solve China’s mortgage credit crunch be holding back the broad stimulus we’ve all expected for a couple of quarters?

Key themes:

1. Low energy (prices)

2. China tech & stimulus

3. Equity upside?

4. What’s ahead for next week?

This is the 29th 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:




Time Stamps

0:00 Start

0:30 Key themes for this Week Ahead episode

1:51 Moves we’re seeing in energy markets – why there’s a fall?

3:39 How much of the energy moves is seasonal?

6:58 EIA computer “glitch” problem

7:24 What happened in the refining capacity now at 91%?

8:30 Capacity utilization fall – is this a statement about the denominator or falling demand?

10:14 Is the commodities supercycle happening?

12:13 China and technology – KWEB is not falling or rising

14:00 Will the Chinese government help real estate developers? Will that take away from possible tech stimulus?

16:58 Viewer question: Is there still upside benefit to SPY?

22:18 How will be the start of the Fed pivot — 25 or 50 bps rise?

24:45 What’s for the week ahead? Listen to the podcast version on

Spotify here:


TN: Hi everyone. Welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash, and today we have Tracy Shuchart and Albert Marko joining us.

We’re going to walk through a number of topics today. First is energy prices, low energy prices. We want to understand why that’s happening and what’s around the corner. Next, we’re looking at China tech and potentially the stimulus in China and how that will impact tech.

Finally, we want to look at equities. What remaining upside is there in equities right now, given the environment we’re in? Before we get started, I would like to ask you to like and subscribe to the channel. Also give us your comments. We’re very active and respond to comments, so please let us know what you’re thinking. If there’s something else we should be covering, let us know.

Also, we have a promo for our subscription product, CI futures, right now for $50 a month. With CI futures, you get equity indices, commodities and currencies reforecast every week. And you get all of those, plus about 2000 economic variables for the top 50 countries reforecast every month. So please check it out on the link below. $50 a month for CI Futures.

Okay, so guys, we’ve had a really weird week with the Pelosi visit to Taiwan, geopolitics and the risk associated with geopolitics is kind of back on. We’re not really sure exactly how that’s going to resolve, but I’m really interested in the moves we’re seeing in energy, Tracy, and we’ve seen energy really fall throughout the week and I’m curious why we’re seeing that, particularly with crude, as we’ve seen geopolitics dial up. I know there’s not a perfect correlation there, but we typically see crude prices rise a bit with geopolitics. 

TS: I think, it’s a combination of a lot of things. First of all, we’ve had which is ramped up to 200 million barrels being released to the SPR, which is fine initially, but we’re looking at the cummulative effect of this. In fact, we’re releasing so much so fast that now those barrels are actually finding their way overseas because we have nothing else to do with them. We can’t process that much right now.

And so we’re looking at that which is putting a damper kind of on the front end. We’re also looking at the fact that open interest is almost at the lowest in a decade, which means there’s nobody participating in this market. People are just not participating in this market.

In addition, we have physical traders that are completely nonexistent in this market anymore. They’re all trading via clear port on the OTC market as I’ve talked to actual physical traders, they don’t even want to be involved in this volatility.

And so that’s also taken a lot of open interest out of this contract. So this contract is easily pushed around because there’s just not of liquidity.

TN: How much of that is seasonal? How much of that is because it’s early August, late July, early August?

TS: It is seasonal. I will give you that because this summer is the summer lag. We generally see more participants in getting in September, and we’ll have to see how that kind of plays out.

But in general, the market is, this whole dive started in, was this market was factoring, we’re going to have this huge recession. Right? It’s going to be low berry session. Demand is going to go up.

And then we have this EIA discrepancy. The discrepancy was on gasoline demand. Actual gasoline demand versus what the DOE is reporting. Right? And ever since they had that “glitch,” where we had two weeks of no reporting whatsoever, those numbers suddenly changed.

And now they’re putting gasoline demand at below 2020 numbers at the height of COVID, which is to me,

not to sound conspiratorial, but to me, there’s just no way that we are below 2020 numbers. Right. And if you look at Gas Buddy demand, which is they look at a kind of a different look. What they look at is how

many gallons are being sold per station across the nation. And that’s how they kind of factor in what demand is. DOE is at the midpoint, right? So it’s like the midstream level. But those numbers should

eventually correlate. That discrepancy should eventually get together.

TN: So Gas Buddy is showing demand still growing, and DOE has it kind of caving. Is that correct? You know what I’m saying?

TS: Okay, yes. First of all, I think we need to look at the 914 numbers, the monthly numbers, which are definitely lagging. They’re too much behind, but they have been correct on production. Right? So I think they have weekly production at 12.1 million. Last 914 monthly report was at 11.6 million. So it is lagging information. But we have to start really looking at these weekly numbers and what the DOE is reporting and what they’re not reporting.

TN: If anything, what I’m seeing just observationally traffic seems to continue to grow. Like, I’m seeing more people going back into the office. I’m seeing more people take drives where they wouldn’t have taken long drives before. So what we’re seeing out of DOE doesn’t really match with what I’m seeing observationally. I could have selection bias, but it just doesn’t seem to match what we saw in April, May

of 2020. 

AM: Tracy is absolutely spot on on that. I actually had a few people note that the EIA computer “glitch” problems set all this thing off in the DOE inventory shenanigans. It’s starting to gain more traction with everybody. It just doesn’t add up. When things don’t add up, bad data comes in, and it’s politically advantageous for the moment try to get gasoline down, going into midterms. I mean, Tracy is absolutely 1000% spot on that assessment.

TN: So, Tracy, I want to ask you a couple of questions. We’ve got a chart on refinery capacity utilization, and it shows capacity utilization at about 91%. So last month we were talking about being at 94%. Now it’s at 91%. What’s happened? Has the Denominator going? 

TS: Well, that’s not actually a bad thing. Let me tell you that. Refineries operating at 94% 95% leads to a lot of problems. You’re going to see problems with maintenance, you’re stretching that capacity. Personally, I love anything over 90, 91. I’m much more comfortable with than 94 95%, which we got to, which is very stressing to me because you’re stressing those refineries, right. And that’s going to lead

to problems down the road. So for that to come down, it’s not a big deal to me, to be honest. Anything above 90, great. We’re good.

TN: Okay, so we’ve seen gasoline prices fall as we’ve seen capacity utilization fall. And so is that a statement about the, say, the denominator meaning the available capacity, or is that a statement about falling demand?

TS: I don’t think it’s a statement about necessarily anything. Okay. To be honest. Is the expectations around say that the gasoline price falling, is it expectations maybe around recession, but given the job numbers we got? Expectations about being around recession right when we’re seeing these prices fall. And I think we have a lack of participants in this market, especially lack of participants in the physical markets. The physical guys, like guys that trade for BP and Shell, which is where they’re just not in this market anymore because it’s too volatile, it’s too pulled around, and they can’t deal with that right now. So there’s nothing structurally changed about the physical markets right now.

You have to understand, too, is that the paper markets far outweigh the physical markets, meaning that there’s far more paper barrels traded than there are actual available physical barrels on the market

to be traded.

And when we look at a contract like WTI, which is actually physically deliverable, and we look at the market participants that are involved in deliverability, that is shrinking, shrinking margin, and then you look at something like the Brent contract, is completely just a financial contract.

So there’s a lot of hanky panky goingon in that market.

TN: Okay, now one last question while we’re on crude. Months and months ago, we kept hearing about this emerging commodities super cycle. And as we’ve seen commodities fall over the past few months, there have been some questions about is that really happening? So where are you? Do you think we’re in the early stages of another super cycle or do you think we’re just kind of modelling through?

TS: I actually think we’re still in the early stages of a super cycle. I mean, I think we’re kind of like I think my best comparison sake would be like, let’s look at the 1970s, right? And everybody’s looking at that ’73, ’74 when the oil embargo happened. But I actually think we’re closer to the ’67, ’69 era where we saw inflation kind of hit. Right. They tried to hide us into a recession, and then we had another peak in ’73, ’74 because issues with the market and then we have a third wave. So I actually think we’re only in this first wave of an inflationary cycle as far as commodities are concerned, okay.

Because we’re still in a structural supply deficit across not just the energy sector, but base metals, agriculture, et cetera. but you have to think your input cost for metals and for agriculture, it’s all energy.

So if energy is high to see inflation in energy costs, then you’re going to see inflation across all

of these commodities. We’re at $90. We were at negative $37 two and a half years ago. So to think that we’re crashing? You know.

TN: Okay, let’s switch over to China and technology and kind of talk through a few things with Albert. Obviously. Albert, we spoke earlier about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and US. China Taiwan affairs, and I’d recommend anybody view that that we published on Tuesday night US time. But I’m curious, Albert, as we look at and we’ve got KWEB up on the screen, which is an ETF of Chinese technology companies, it’s kind of middling. It’s not really falling. It’s not really rising. It seems like people are a little bit uncertain about what’s happening with Chinese tech. We have the closures of different cities. We have one of the big manufacturing cities that’s going zero COVID now.

And we obviously have the China Taiwan issues. What are your thoughts on China tech right now? And what should we expect over the next, say, two to three months?

AM: Well, over the next two to three months, I think China is going to be forced to stimulate. Once they stimulate names like KWEB, Alibaba actually, I really like Alibaba. There’s some good things happening there. I mean, the delisting stuff is a risk and it’s always been a risk, mainly because Gensler and Yellen have been trying to suppress the Chinese to stop stimulus because it hurts the United States and their plans to fight inflation.

So, yeah, I’m really bullish on KWEB. I really like it at 25 26 level. It’s not that far from where we are right

now. For the Chinese tech, it’s like, I don’t really think domestically, there’s too many problems domestically for KWEB. For me, it’s just all the delisting risk and that shot, the warning shot across the bow from the US. 

TN: Okay, so when you talk about stimulus, I want to understand a little bit of the substitutionality of stimulus. So if we have this big mortgage crisis in China where owners aren’t paying their mortgages,

and that’s even worse on the property developers, and there are trillions of dollars at risk there, do you think the Chinese government will intervene  and help those property developers? And if they do, will that take away from stimulus that could help technology companies?

AM: They will step in, but they’ll step in selectively for the most systemically important property developers. Not just the best connected, but the ones that touch the most debt and whatnot. So they don’t want things getting out of control. So for sure they will step in. I don’t think it will take away from the tech

sector at all. I think that the Chinese have been pretty pragmatic and diversifying how they get money into the system, whether it be other Asian countries, the US, Europe and whatnot. But they’re definitely in line right now to stimulate the economy going into the fall.

TN: Okay, great. If you’re trying right now and you’re talking about stimulus, that is to make up for kind of the COVID Zero close downs, but it’s also, I would assume, kind of winning some of those hearts and minds going into the big political meetings in November. Right, so you’ve whipped up nationalism with the Taiwan thing over the last couple of weeks and now you need bridge to get you to November. So you’re going to put out a bunch of stimulus to keep people fairly nationalistic and obedient. Is that fair to say?

AM: Yeah, that’s definitely fair to say. I think going even a little bit further than that is keeping the circle around Xi happy. That nexus of connected families that make money off the tech sector manufacturers. They need to be able to solidify it economically and stimulus will be targeted like that. And so when you say keep those families happy. You’re talking about skimming, you’re talking about sweet deals on contracts and that sort of thing.

TN: And I just want to make clear that doesn’t only happen in China. That happens in every country, right?

AM: Oh, every country you can imagine that happens. How politically connected with the donors, the political parties and so on and so forth. I just want to make clear to viewers. Like everybody. 

TN: Yeah, I just want to clear to viewers, we’re not just picking on China. This happens everywhere. 

AM: No, this is nothing negative towards China whatsoever. This literally happens in every country in every single country. Yeah.

TN: We had a question come in from a regular viewer talking about one of Sam’s calls. He’s not here, so he can talk behind his back today. The question was, Sam had talked about risks being to the upside a while ago for SPY, for the S&P 500. Now that we have had a mini rally, does he still see higher as the path of least resistance or is the risk reward fairly balanced here? I mean, we’ve seen a really nice uptick in the S&P and equities generally. Do you think there’s still upside benefit, or would you be a little bit hesitant in terms of the broad market?

AM: I’m bullish for a week, basically going a week, maybe two. I think that the CPI number is probably going a little bit lower than people think. And then all the peak inflation people are going to come out the woodwork and then they’re going to talk about Fed pivot, whether it’s real or not. I don’t think the Fed actually pivots. I think they just build a narrative of a pivot, if that makes sense, to rally the market.

But going forward, the economy is not a good footing. The job numbers are just not accurate. It’s a purely political headline for Biden going into the midterms. CPI is going to follow the same suit. They’ll probably have a 50 basis point rate hike in September and say that they’re slowing down. And whether it’s real or not. 

TN: I want to question you just to push back a little bit. When you say the economy is not on a good footing, what do you mean? Help me understand how it’s done on a good footing? 

AM: Well, the whole jobs? Listen, 20% of people don’t have a job. 19% of people have two jobs or more. You’re sitting there making this glorified headlines thatBiden is great for the job market and the economy, but it’s just not accurate. We have people that are struggling paycheck to paycheck more than any time in the last 20 or 30 years. So the underlying economy, forget about the top half that are millionaires that are buying whatever, the bottom half of the country is an absolute recession. So that’s what I’m saying the economy is not good.

TS: I mean, I totally agree with Albert. I mean, I’ll make a case for the bullish side. Let’s put it this way. So not a single trades work this year. Average hedge fund scrambling on how to salvage this year. There’s no other choice, really, but to get long. I mean, we have long going girlfriends been shell shocked. Font, shitty year. Value guys waiting to buy the dip in cyclicals. So I think that until when November comes and we have redemptions and these guys are faced with losing money from clients, I think that right now they have no other choice than to buy the dip, which is really interesting because that coincides with midterms. But not to put on my tinfoil hat there. So that’s my case for we may see a little bit higher than people that anticipate.

Even though I agree we’re still in a bear market. Albert makes a ton of good points, totally agree with

him 100% on that. But for the next few months, we may be looking at different kinds of things, especially because we also have the CTAs that are still super short.

So we have the possibility that we could see a short squeeze now if hedgies start

eating up the market and… This is exactly what the administration wants to see, because they want to see the S&P higher going into Midterm electric if it makes them look great. Of course.

AM: And Tracy is right. And this goes back into the oil numbers from the DOE and the EIA Shenanigans. They lower gas, they try to get inflation lower. They rally the market going into Midterms. It’s just the way it is. Now, going back to the economy, real quick, Tony, I see across the street the US consumer credit was $40 billion. I mean, people are spending and collecting debt like it’s going out of stock.

TN: That’s not a good number. You saw my tweet this last week about the $15 grapes. I mean, that sounds ridiculous, but people are having to. I talked to people about their electricity bills and they’re doubling and tripling over the last few months. And so people are having to do this. Rents are doubling in New York and so on and so forth. So it’s hitting everybody. And people are having to tap into consumer credit just to make ends meet.

AM: Just for the viewers, Tony, the forecast was 27 billion. It came in at 40.

TN: Wow. That’s a slightly overestimate, I would say. Let me ask you a quick question about the Fed pivot. Okay. You say the Fed is going to kind of act like they pivot but not actually pivot. So would that mean and I know everyone’s been on Twitter today or on social media saying, oh, the job’s number puts 75 basis points in focus again, all this stuff. But would the start of a pivot be 50 or 25 basis point rise?

AM: The start of a narrative of a pivot would be 50. But let’s just be honest. Inflation is not going away. They can fake a CPI number, maybe one, maybe two months. But come October, December, January, and inflation is raging, nine point whatever, 9.5%, 10%. They are going to have to keep going 75 basis points. 

TN: So when you talk about a pivot, you’re talking about the beginning of a pivot, maybe a 50 basis point rise in September or something just to kind of ease nerves off a little bit?

AM: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s just the beginning of a narrative to move the market. It’s all it is. 

TS: Okay, if we went 50 instead of or even 25 instead of 75, which the market is expecting, the barn market would freak out. 

TN: Now what happens to commodities in that case, Tracy, if we’re in September and we go 50? You’re

going higher.

AM: Okay, this is the problem I keep telling screaming people and why I didn’t think that’s why I didn’t think this rally was a good idea is because all of a sudden now you’re going to create this stupid pivot narrative and do 25 or 50 basis points. But then, like Tracy just mentioned, commodities are going to rip. What’s that going to happen then? We’re going to have stage two of inflation coming around in 2023. That’s going to make this like nothing.

TN: Yeah, but as long as it happens after November, I think. Everything’s fine. Right. No, seriously, we have to think we’re in that. We’re in those closures.

TS: You have to think everything is political right now. So every decision is political right now and you have to factor that into kind of your investment thesis right now.

AM: Tracy’s absolutely right. I was just talking to a client. I said I don’t want to hear anything after November of this year. This era is this era right now. After November is a different era. We’ll talk about that accordingly in the next month. But until now it’s just a pure political game.

TN: What are you guys watching in particular for the week ahead?

AM: CPI. I think the CPI comes in a little bit lower than people expect and will rally the market for another 100 points. Like a seven handle or something? I think it’ll be a seven handle.

TS: I mean, everybody is watching CPI, I agree. I’m watching CPI as well. I think what’s really interesting going into this next week is I would start looking at Basin Industrial Metals and miners at this point because I think that they are lagging crude, they have been lagging crude oil. But we’re kind of starting to see a little bit of turnaround. So my focus really is going to be on base and industrial metals.


Bottlenecks To Ease With Xmas Coming?

Tony Nash gave the BFM 89.9: The Morning Run his thoughts on how the sooner-than-expected Fed rate hikes could affect global markets. Will inflation derail hastening of the tapering talk? How does crude oil look like in the next few months? As the Christmas season is coming, how much of a concern supply chains will be for the consumers and the economy? When the Fed begins normalizing rates, which currencies will be vulnerable if or when this happens?


This podcast first appeared and originally published at on November 25, 2021.


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Show Notes


SM: BFM 89.9 good morning. You are listening to the Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar together with Khoo Hsu Chuang and Philip See. It’s 9:07 in the morning. Thursday, the 25 November. If we look at how the US markets closed yesterday, the Dow was down marginally by 0.3%. The S&P 500 was up 0.2%. Nasdaq was also up 0.4%. So for some thoughts on where international markets are headed, we have with us on the line Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. So the Fed minutes revealed that the pace of tapering may be hastened, while macro data points from personal spending to job data suggest that the US economy is in quite the sweet spot, but will inflation derail this?


TN: Yeah. There was a statement from one of the Fed governors today talking about that inflation is not transitory in their mind or could potentially not be transitory in their mind. That’s a real danger to people who are thinking that we’re really in a sweet spot right now because it could mean Fed intervention, meaning tightening sooner than many people had counted on. So I think people had counted on some sort of intervention, maybe in Q2, but it may be happening sooner. That would have a real impact on the dollar. The dollar would strengthen, and that would have a real impact on emerging markets all around Asia, all around Africa. People would feel it in a big way where there is US dollar debt.


KHC: We are seeing that strengthening US dollar in our currency now. But I just want to get your perspective on crude oil because various countries from the US to China are now tapping into their strategic crude reserves to alleviate the present energy crisis. But if you look at crude now, it’s not really being responsive, right to these actions?


TN: Right? That’s right. So what the US agreed to release is about two and a half days of consumption. Not much. The releases agreed in the UK and India, for example, were really token releases. They weren’t really major portions of their consumption. So these countries are kind of giving a nod to the Biden administration, but they’re not really alleviating the supply concerns that are spiking prices. So it really has been a dud for the White House. It’s been kind of an embarrassment because crude prices haven’t fallen, really. They fell initially, but they really came back after the release announcement was absorbed.


PS: Yeah. Tony, that trickling in oil supply releases from the US government hasn’t done much to alleviate the supply concerns. Gas prices in America have been on a massive uptrend as well, just in terms of inflation and not being as transitory as people expected, as we enter Christmas season, how much of a concern is it for consumers as well as the economy?


TN: It’s a real concern. I have to tell you, I’ve driven halfway across the US for our Thanksgiving holiday, which is tomorrow morning. It’s Thursday here, and we’ve seen a lot of trucks with cargoes on US roads, and I make this drive pretty regularly. So it seems like a lot more on roads than I normally see. So that’s good in terms of the domestic supply chain.


I think it’s the international supply chain that is really concerning, and we still have those backups in the Port of Long Beach. That is the real main constraint for supply chains in the US. So I don’t think we’re going to see major disruptions outside of other ports. But through Long Beach, we definitely see issues.


The semiconductor supply chain is the main impact for, say, electronics and automobiles in the US. We did see semi manufacturers start to produce more auto related semiconductors, say mid-Q3 and into Q4. We should start to see those automotive supply chains, the semiconductor dependent issues and automotive supply chains alleviate, probably in Q1. So that will help.


But for the Christmas season, I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot that’s going to help with electronics and say automobiles.


PS: Yeah, Tony with JPowell still back and still in the fair chair in terms of his reappointment. And he does hike rates earlier than expected to address inflationary concerns. How much of a dangerous is to slowing down the economy in America and as  the rest of the world.


TN: Sure, it is a risk in America. I think it’s really hard to hire people in the US right now. There’s a lot of job switching happening and people haven’t come back into the workforce. We lost about 5 million people in the workforce in the US through the Covid period. So that’s a real issue. Anything that raises the cost of doing business is problematic for the US and will inhibit growth. The main problem in the US is that the environment right now, it continues to crush small companies. It’s very difficult for small companies. And while it may seem that small companies don’t matter that much, they are the main employer in the US and the main growth engine in the US. And the Biden administration hasn’t helped this with a lot of their policies. Their policies have been very favorable toward big companies. If the Fed pushes inflation, it will make borrowing a little bit harder. I’m sorry if the Fed pushes the interest rate, it’ll make borrowing a little bit harder. But the collapsing, say, the tapering of the Fed balance sheet will have a bigger impact on liquidity in the US.


SM: And if I could just touch on large US dollar debt and what happens to emerging markets when the Fed begins normalizing rates, which currencies do you see as going to be particularly vulnerable if or when this happens?


TN: Well, I think one that I’m really keeping an eye on is the Chinese Yuan because it’s a highly appreciated currency right now. And the Chinese government has kept the CNY strong so they can continue to import commodities and energy for the winter. And they’ll likely keep it strong through Chinese New Year. We expect CNY to really start to weaken, say, after Chinese New Year to help Chinese exporters. So winter we mostly pass. They want to help kind of push a Chinese export, so they’ll start to really devalue, seeing why probably end of Q1 early Q2.

We do see pressure, the Euro, as you’ve seen over the last three weeks, there’s been real pressure on the Euro as well. Other Asian currencies. We do think that there will be pressure on other Asian currencies. Sing Dollar will likely continue to stay pretty consistent. But we’ll see some pressure on other Asian currencies simply because of the US dollar pressure. The US dollar is something like 88% of transnational transactions. So the US dollar as a share of transnational transactions actually come up over the past two to three years. So there’s much more pressure with an appreciated dollar and it’s coming.


KHC: Just like the one. Tony, India Indian equities record high. Have you reached to speak considering PTM’s IPO failure?


TN: Yeah. I think there’s been a lot of excitement there, and I think it’s at least for now. I think it has I don’t think you can ever really claim that an equity market has hit its peak, but I think for now, a lot of the excitement is dissipated. It may come back in a month, it may come back in six months. But I think that momentum is really important. And as you see, failed IPOs, I think it’s really hard for equity investors to kind of get their mojo back.


SM: Tony, thank you so much as always for speaking to us and happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his thoughts on how the sooner-than-expected Fed rate hikes could affect global markets.