The United States Federal Reserve’s plan to ease its pace of interest rate hikes as soon as December would bring some relief for markets concerned about the central bank overtightening too quickly, Mr. Tony Nash, founder and chief executive of data analytics firm Complete Intelligence, told CNA’s Asia First.
CNA: Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has signaled policymakers could slow interest rate increases starting this month. That sets the stage for a possible to downshift to a 50bps rate hike when Fed officials gather again in two weeks.
Powell: Monetary policy affects the economy and inflation with uncertain lags. And the full effects of our rapid tightening so far are yet to be felt.
Thus it makes sense to moderate the pace of our rate increases as we approach the level of restraint that will be sufficient to bring inflation down. The time for moderating the pace of rate increases may come as soon as the December meeting.
CNA: But it isn’t quite a dovish turn. The U.S Central Bank Chief also stressed that they have a long way to go in restoring price stability despite some promising developments.
Mr. Powell warns against reading too much into one month of inflation data saying that the FED has yet to see clear progress on that front. In order to gain control of inflation, the Fed chair says the American labor market also has to loosen up to reduce upward pressure on wages. Job gains in the country remain high at nearly 300,000 positions per month and borrowing costs are likely to remain restrictive for some time to tamp down rapid price surges.
This is where U.S interest rates stand after an unprecedented series of four 75 bps rate hikes. Policymakers projected earlier that this could go as high as 4.6 percent but Powell says they will likely need to keep lifting rates more and go beyond that level until the inflation fight is done.
The less hawkish tone from Powell Boyd U.S market stow and the S&P500 erased losses it searched three percent. The Dow gained two percent while the NASDAQ jumped more than 4.4 percent. the 10-year treasury yield also dipped as Bond Traders dialed back their expectations on how high the Fed may push interest rates while the U.S dollar retreated.
Tony Nash is founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence joining us from Houston, Texas for some analysis. Now Tony, just looking at Powell’s comments, the first differs in some way with what the Fed and its officials have been telling us earlier in the year and how we’ll get there fast to try to reach the terminal rate. But now it’s signaling that it will get there slower. What is this going to mean for businesses and consumers in the US?
Tony: I think what it means is we’re going to get to the same destination. It’s just going to take a little bit more time to get there. So the Fed has seen jobs turn around they’ve seen jobs aren’t necessarily slowing but the rate of rise in open jobs is slowing. We’ve seen mortgage rates go up. We’ve seen the rate of inflation rise slowly.
So the Fed is seeing some things that they want and they’re worried about over-tightening too quickly. Because what we’ve seen so far is really just interest rate rises. They really haven’t even started quantitative tightening yet. I mean they’ve done a little bit maybe a couple hundred billion dollars. But they have nine trillion dollars on their books give or take.
They haven’t even started QT yet. And they’re starting to see inflation and some of these pressures on markets at least slowed down a little bit. So I think they’re saying “hey guys we’re still going to get to a terminal rate of five percent or five and a half percent but we’re going gonna slow it down from here unless we see things accelerate again.”
CNA: When do you think we will actually see that five to five and a half percent?
Tony: You’ll see it in the first quarter. You know if we do say 50bps in December and maybe another 50 in January, we’ll see some 25bps hikes after that but I think what markets the cyber leaf that markets are giving right now is just saying. Okay, we’re not at 100 or 75 in December.
I think that’s a big size that you saw today and you know. It raising at 75bps per meeting just put some real planning challenges in front of operators people, who run companies. So if they slow down that pace and people know we’re still going to get to that 5 to 5.5%, it allows people to plan a little bit more thoughtfully, and a little bit more intelligently.
I think this does relieve some people of the worries of the Fed over-tightening too quickly and it also relieves worries that the Fed is only relying on monetary policy. They’re not relying on interest rates I’m sorry and they’re not relying on quantitative tightening. so the Federal balanced approach sometime in Q1.
CNA: Okay, you also mentioned before in our past conversations, the concern that the market has been having for this week especially since it’s China’s lockdowns and you see these restrictions ending gradually. What is that going to mean for Energy prices and inflation?
We see Energy prices say now they’re what high 70s low 80s somewhere in that range. We do see a rise of say crude oil prices by about 30 percent once China fully opens. We could easily be 110-120 a barrel once China fully opens. And so there will be pressure on global energy markets once China opens. Other commodity prices will see the same because we’re just not seeing the level of consumption in China that we expect.
What we also expect is for Equity markets to turn away from the U.S. and more toward Asia. So the US has attracted a lot of investment over the past year partly because of the strong dollar partly because of kind of a risk-off mentality consolidating in U.S markets. As China opens and there becomes more activity in Asia than we would expect, some of that money to draw down out of the US and go back to Asia.
CNA: Can you look at the jobs market in the US even as we expect this potential pivot towards Asia for stock market investors? The jobs market and the picture on wages there because the ADP data shows that there seems to be a cooling in demand for labor how soon do you think we can see a broadening out to the broader jobs market?
Tony: You would have broader cooling of demand in the jobs market I think, that’s definitely hidden tech. You’ve seen a lot of layoffs in technology over the past say three weeks. And that will cascade out. I don’t necessarily see think that you’ll see that in places like energy, but you will see that in maybe finance, some aspects of financial services. You’ve seen some of that and say mortgage brokers and this sort of thing so you’ll see that in some aspects of financial services. Some aspects of say manufacturing at the edges. but I do think there’s a lot of growth in U.S manufacturing as this reassuring narrative really takes uh gets momentum in North America. And so even though we may shed some manufacturing jobs in one area I think we’ll see growth in manufacturing jobs in other areas.
CNA: Okay, Tony. We’ll leave it there for today. Thanks for sharing your analysis with us. Tony Nash is founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence.
The released Fed minutes show that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes. Markets reacted positively but this is false optimism as the terminal Fed Funds Rate may eventually be higher. The 3Q reporting in the US is also coming to a close and 75% of corporates experienced downgrade in earnings. Have the cut in earnings by analysts been adequate or will there be further downside, with 2023 outlook still uncertain? For answers, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO, Complete Intelligence.
BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run at Thursday. It’s Thursday, the 24 November November Friday, junior, as we like to call it. Here. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning and Chong Tjen San. As always, let’s kickstart the morning with a look at how global markets closed overnight.
All key US markets showed gains as most members of the Fed said the pace of rate hikes will slow down. So the Dow was up 0.3%. The S&P500 was up 0.6%, and Nasdaq was up 1%. In Asian markets, the Nikkei and Hang Seng was up by 0.6%. The China Composite was up by 0.3%. The Straits Times Index was down by 0.1%, and our very own FBMKLCI was up by 0.2%.
Joining us on the line now for more on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Hi, Tony. Good morning. Now, let’s start with just some reactions on the Fed minutes that were released. It showed that most officials are backing a slower pace of interest rate hikes, but that the terminal rate might need to be higher. What do you think? Are we seeing a relief rally? And is that sustainable in the short term?
Yeah, I think the ultimate destination is probably the same, but the pace of getting there is slower than many people thought a couple of weeks ago. So I think what it means is we’ll see more, say, 50 and 25 basis point hikes. That’s the expectation. It’s still possible we’ll see a 75 if Powell really pushes hard for December, but we’re still going to see a 5, 5.5 terminal rate, depending on really how things end up for CPI and PPI next month. But it’s just the pace and markets are more comfortable with a gradual adjustment to higher rates than the continued kind of shock treatment.
And Tony, the US reporting period is coming to a close. How would you assess the quality of corporate earnings release so far? How well have they tracked market expectations?
They’re OK, they’re pretty weak, actually. Compared to 2021, we had, I think, 25% earnings growth in ’21 about this time last year. They’re just over 3%. So it’s not even near where it was last year.
Something like 75% of companies are seeing estimates for their downgrade. So people expecting inflation to endure longer than they thought. If you remember a year ago, people were saying inflation was transitory, so they’re saying inflation will endure longer and rate hikes will continue.
So with credit tighter, businesses and consumers are not expected to spend as much.
So going forward, there is a fear that wallets will be more closed than they are now and earnings will continue to be tight.
Which just confuses me, Tony, because if the Fed stops their rate hikes at least decelerates the pace of it. And at the same time, corporate earnings aren’t going to be as robust as ever. Then why is the S&P500 above 4000 and the Dow Jones at 34,194 points? I mean, they’re just in fact, the Dow is only down 6% on a year to date basis and the S&P down 15%. Shouldn’t markets be actually more bearish than they are now?
Well, I think there are a couple of things happening there. I think first, there really is consumers have continued to spend and businesses have continued to spend in the US. Although we’ve seen economic growth slow dramatically, we’ve had spending continue to push forward. So if the Fed slows its tightening cycle, and keep in mind, they haven’t really started quantitative tightening, meaning getting things out of their balance sheet. They’re only, I think, $200 billion off of their high.
But if the Fed continues to tighten at an accelerated pace, then markets are worried. But again, if they slow it down, the feeling is that spending will move in stride. It won’t necessarily be too shaken up.
Also, on inflation, don’t forget inflation didn’t really start on an accelerated basis until November of ’21. So we had inflation, but fairly muted inflation then. And so what we get after November, well after this month, is what’s called a base effect.
So we’ll likely continue to see inflation rise, but not necessarily at the pace that it’s been over the past, say six to nine months. So does that mean inflation is peak? No, not at all. But it means the pace of the rise of inflation is likely going to slow on base effects.
So if that happens, we’ll have a lot of people declare victory over inflation, but I think that there is an expectation that that rate will slow as well.
Can you look at the prospects of retailers like Best Buy? We see Abercrombie and Fitch. These names are defying inflationary trends and higher rates to post better results than expected. So why has this sector been the exception to the norm?
Yes, the quick answer is most of those guys have been pushing price. So they’ve been passing along their higher labor and goods costs onto consumers.
Now they’ve been pushing price while sacrificing volume. So they’ve been pushing 8 to 10 to 15% price hikes in many cases. But they’ve had fewer transactions between one and say 6% fewer transactions.
Regardless, they’re earnings have risen. So they’re not as worried about fewer transactions. They’re focused on keeping their margins up.
And so when you look at retailers like Walmart, which has mixed, say, general goods and food, they’ve done very well. They had a very difficult Q2, but they did very well this past quarter.
Home Depot, which is a DIY store, has done very well because they pushed price Cracker Barrel has done very well.
Cracker Barrel. These are not these are not retailers that are at the high end of the market either. These are mid and even, say lower end companies, but they’re pushing price on the middle and lower end of the market.
Higher end of the market? They’re doing great. So it’s tough to be a consumer in this market because price definitely continues to be pushed and we expect price to continue to be pushed through probably Q2 of next year.
And Tony, with potentially slower pace of interest rate hikes, how do you expect the technology sector to do? Is there more pain to come for the likes of Amazon and Meta?
For sure. Amazon, Meta and technology companies generally do very well in very low interest rate environment, where the money is effectively free or negative real interest rates.
As you have to pay for that money, it becomes tougher for those companies to do well because their core investment is in technology. And we had things like Mark Zuckerberg at Meta really went off the rails with some of his spending and investment.
It’s not to say that the Metaverse investment is not ever going to happen, but much of that stuff really went way overboard. Same thing with, say, Amazon with some of their infrastructure investments and delivery investments.
So we do expect HP today, I think announce 6,000 jobs to be lost over the next, I don’t know, twelve months or something. So we do expect much more pain in tech. We expect that to continue until at least the end of Q1, if not a little bit further.
And Tony, let’s talk about oil because WTI for futures delivery in January, $77 a barrel. And we know that there’s an upcoming OPEC meeting in December. What are your expectations in terms of oil price then?
Yeah, it’s tricky, right? Because oil prices are kind of in that zone where a lot of people are comfortable. And so the question is, is this acceptable to OPEC members? So Saudi Arabia, UAE, Iraq and Kuwait have already come out and said they’re going to stick to the current plan, the current cuts that were already announced last month.
But we have things like the Russian price caps coming into play. And you know, our view is the price caps are pretty meaningless actually, because Europeans are pretty good at circumventing the kind of emotional embargoes they put in place.
I’m sorry to put it that way, but they put these laws in place and then they circumvent them pretty well. A lot of this is theater. So that’s not the price caps are not going to have as much of an impact as many people thought. So it’s possible if we get into next week and crude prices start coming back pretty strongly, or sorry, if we get into next week and crude prices are as weak as they are now, we may see a 500,000 barrel per day cut. I think that’s a possibility, but it’s likely they’ll stay on what’s already been announced.
Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us. And since it’s Thanksgiving eve. Happy Thanksgiving to you. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks ahead.
All eyes, of course, on that all-important inflation number and how that will affect how the Fed raises hikes moving forward.
I think the key takeaway for me was he mentioned that 75% of corporates in the US had downgrades, which I feel it’s a good thing as it brings expectations lower and more in line with future expectations and it also gives perhaps some room to surprise on the upside.
Yeah, well, markets seem to be at crossroads, but a little bit cheered by the fact that the Fed isn’t going to raise rates as aggressively as they have in the past. But I want to keep my eye on corporate earnings. I think that if you see continuous downgrades by the analyst community, you see the messaging coming out of US corporates that things aren’t looking as rosy as they are, then it’s just going to be hard for the Dow, S&P500 to actually break through their current resistance levels. So I think it’s something we have to keep an eye on.
Last week’s big news is Ukraine and Russia. So in this episode, we want to talk you through some context and what this means for markets in the near term. First, the guys talked about the most surprising thing that happened and then we moved on to answer a few viewer questions like what’s the implication of Russia being disconnected from SWIFT? Will anything change between Europe and China? Will the Russia-Ukraine inspire China to actually invade Taiwan? How disrupted the energy markets will be? And finally, what happens to the world economy – Fed, QE, QT, consumers, etc.?
TN: Hello. Welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And I’m joined by Tracy Shuchart, Albert Marko, and Sam Rines. Before we get started, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to our YouTube channel. And like this video. It helps us with visibility and you get reminded when a new episode is out. So thanks for doing that right now.
We had a lot on this week, especially around Ukraine. So today we’re really focused on Ukraine. We want you to understand the context around Ukraine. We want you to understand what it means for markets. And we’re going to take a lot of your questions that we’ve been gathering off of Twitter.
So just a quick recap of what we said last week. Coming out of last week’s episode, we said it’s not a time to make big decisions. We said to keep risk tight and be careful of volatility. And we said that crude markets would move sideways. So we did kind of come into this assuming risk would be there this week. And obviously, we saw that.
So first, guys, can you walk us through some of your observations of the past week? What are you seeing directly in and around Ukraine or Ukraine, and how is that affecting markets? And as each one of you talk, Albert, I want to start with you, but name something that surprised you most in the past week in markets. Okay. Can you give us a quick overview? I know you’ve got deep networks in that region. So can you talk to us a little bit about what you’re hearing and seeing there?
AM: Well, I mean, concerning Ukraine and the markets. What I was most surprised and a little bit taken aback by was the amount of mainstream media just decorations of World War Three and whatnot then how much it affected the markets? So much so that you have to look at the markets and say what is going on?
Because this is just not normal behavior for markets to respond to a situation in the Ukraine that’s really kind of not really attached to the United States market at the moment. I mean, it isn’t commodities and that’s something Tracy will get into. But it was an overabundance of bad news, just an overdrive. And that’s what actually really took me aback.
TN: Good opportunities out there.
AM: There is absolutely good opportunities. But the problem is the volatility goes way up higher. The VIX exploded. You can’t get into options because they’re just far too expensive. You’re going to get burned doing that. And what do you do? Maybe sitting on your hands is the proper thing to do until things stabilize. But yes, there were actually great opportunities.
TN: What are you hearing on the ground, Albert? I know you’re really close to that part of the world. So what are you hearing on the ground?
AM: Well, the situation is really fluid and really tense at the moment. I think the Russians were taken aback. I know that the Russians were taken aback about the actual veracity of defense by the Ukrainians. Their main objective is to take Mariupol and then take Odessa. That is their number one and number two objective. Their next objective is to take not really to take you because I don’t think they can actually do it unless they want to do some kind of redo of the Chech and guerrilla warfare and just start massacring people. They’re not in that business at the moment. The world’s eyes are on it.
So I think political change, maybe snap elections is what they’re probably going for in Kiev just to surround it, stress the city, stress the residents, force a change where Western governments can’t get a bigger say in the matter on a nation that’s right on the doorstep.
TN: Okay, so I’m seeing on say on social media like TikTok videos of burned out Russian tanks and all these things, and I think it seems to me that Russia is losing the PR war right now and that’s really important in the early days and with different demographics even within Russia. Do you think Russia or Putin kind of underappreciated the impact that social media would have, at least on the early days of this?
AM: Of course, Russia has a vast network globally of PR campaigns in the west. So for him, it’s definitely a concern where you have negative images of Russia, Russia’s military trying to enact power projection. It’s a little bit daunting for him at the moment.
However, from a military strategic point of view, we don’t know exactly what their exact strategy is. Whereas they’re just trying to expand Ukrainian defenses, trying to get the best of their defenses out already. So they have a shortage of supply later on. That’s what most professionals would say is happening.
So we really have to see over the weekend to see what kind of resources have been expended by the Russians trying to take back Mariupol and Odessa.
TN: Do you think the Ukrainians can get stuff resupplied? Do you think they would have any difficulty getting stuff resupplied from the west?
AM: It’s totally up to the west and what they’re going to supply them and how they’re going to supply them. I’m sure that the west have Special Forces sprinkled without inside of Kiev assisting as advisers to the defense forces there. So it just depends on the will of the Europeans at the moment.
TN: Okay, Sam, what have you seen this week in markets that’s kind of gotten your attention or surprise you?
SR: I would say what really caught my attention were two things. One, how quickly Wheat went up and how far it went up and then how quickly Wheat went down and how far it went down.
There were two days where Wheat was just skyrocketing. I think it was 5.5% day followed by negative. I forget where it closed, but a significant negative day in the six to range at a minimum. That really caught my attention.
Ukraine is incredibly important on the wheat front. That’s a pretty important one. And then I would say how quickly and how far gold went. Right. Gold was almost $2,000, and now it’s below where it was prior to the invasion, and it did that all in a day. I mean, that was an incredible move in my book and somewhat shocking. And I think it was kind of interesting when people caught on that if you cut off Russia from being able to really sell, call it dollars, Euros, et cetera, on the market openly, it’s going to potentially have to sell gold if this thing drags out.
So you have an overhang of gold in a war scenario. Not necessarily, I call it a tailwind. I thought that was a really interesting call it knee jerk reaction up in gold, and then kind of a realization of, oh, crap, this might not be the thing to own here.
And then the final thing and I’ll make this one quick is crypto and how war was supposed to be great for crypto. And as the war started, you saw crypto sell off pretty hard. I think it’s interesting on two fronts. One, there’s a significant amount of crypto activity in Ukraine and Russia.
Russia is the second largest country when it comes to providing hash rate to the market for Bitcoin. And if there’s any sort of disruption there, all of a sudden the US could become 50% of the hash rate awfully quickly, which could become an interesting scenario there.
TN: How does the hash rate for people who aren’t crypto experts? How does the hash rate equate to say, the crypto price?
SR: It makes it, call it’s basically an efficiency mechanism where you can either do transactions more quickly, more efficiently, and somewhat of a lower cost. That’s basically what you do.
So if you lower the hash rate, you increase the cost of doing transactions and slow the general system down.
TN: Okay, great.
AM: This is interesting, Tony, because this actually leads into a lot of my arguments against crypto being decentralized, saying, hey, when push comes to shove, governments have control of the networks and the financial system. You can’t get away from that.
TN: Yeah. And if you cut off the electricity supply, it becomes even more difficult.
AM: Nearly impossible. Puerto Rico.
TS: And if you’re Russia that has control of the entire Internet, you can cut off whatever sites that you want. Right?
SR: Yeah, that’s right. Yeah. It was interesting. There was something floating around yesterday where it appeared that Russia was at least partially geofencing their country from the rest of the world. And if it does that, that could become problematic if it does it in a meaningful way for crypto.
TN: Sure. And taking down the RT site doesn’t help their paranoia there. Right. Tracy, what happened for you over the week? What’s one of your observations that really kind of surprised you?
TS: Well, I mean, to be honest, because I’m focused on the commodity side of everything, pretty much how I saw the markets going or how I pretty much thought how the markets were going to go. Right. I posted a bunch of stuff on Twitter.
TN: You saw all this coming?
TS: No. Well, I didn’t do this. I don’t want to sound like arrogant. I focus on energy, metals, materials, agriculture. And because Ukraine and Russia are such large hubs for all of these commodities, wasn’t really surprising to me that we saw a jump in all of these.
TN: Yeah. Were you surprised the magnitude of the jump?
TS: Yes. And in some respects, I actually expected Palladium to have a bigger jump than it did because Rush is 43% of that global markets and wheat went far beyond bonkers that I thought it was going to go.
Was I surprised about oil? No. On the upside and on the downside today.
TN: Great. Okay, very good. Let’s jump into some of these viewer questions. You guys know that we saw a lot of viewer questions at the start of this.
So the first one I’m going to read out is from Keith Snyder. It’s @snyderkr0822. He says, what would the implications be of disconnecting Russia from SWIFT?
I’ve inspired your knowledge and have to be informed. So there’s been a lot of talk about SWIFT over the past few days. Sam, do you have some insight there on what would happen if Russia was taken out of the SWIFT network?
SR: It would be less bad than it would have been call it three years ago. Russia has somewhat insulated themselves from SWIFT, but not entirely by no means. Right. The SWIFT system can cut you off from dollar denominated, at least dollar denominated transactions.
That’s a pretty important thing, particularly when you’re selling a lot of things that are denominated in dollars. Right. Oil, et cetera. That becomes somewhat problematic. I would say that would be a very significant hit to Russia.
And it would also be a significant hit. And by significant hit, I mean that’s putting you on par with Iran and Cuba. Right. That’s basically putting you at Code E country without saying it. That’s Iran, your Cuba, see you later, bye.
I think that what I would be paying very close attention to is the reaction of European banks. That’s $330 billion worth of Russian liabilities assets on their books. So you’ve got to figure something out there pretty quickly because those books are going to get smacked if you can’t actually get on the SWIFT system.
TN: Okay. And Tracy, if they were taken off a SWIFT on Friday, Germany said that they would be okay with imposing that sanction, how would Germany pay for its electricity?
TS: I mean, Germany said that with a caveat, let’s say, because they did say we’re going to look at this, but we need to look at the implications of this. So obviously the problem there in lies that if you take a Rush off SWIFT, then Europe is screwed energy wise. Right? Unless they choose to scramble and make long term contracts with, say, the United States.
They could go through the United States. They could go through Azerbaijan on the Tap pipeline. They could go through Israel and Egypt if they wanted to, through the Southern gas quarter. I mean, there are options for them.
The problem is that they should have been looking at long term contracts this summer when we already knew that Nordstream Two was going to be delayed.
TN: Four, three, four years ago. I mean, they’ve had this optionality on the table for a long time.
TS: But those options are still on the table for them. But by delaying SWIFT, if you cut Rush off SWIFT, the big problem Europe has to decide is do we cut off SWIFT and hurt ourselves or do we hurt Russia more? And I could argue that both ways. Anybody could argue that both ways. But that’s a big decision that they have to make.
TN: Well, everybody hurts, right? That would not be a sanction that would be pain free for anybody.
TS: Right. Except maybe the US.
AM: Well, Tony, despite the rogue status of Russia, it’s still well attached to the Western financial system. It’s not seen as able or even as aggressive as the Chinese are and detach it from the financial system.
There would be a lot of problems if they were banned from SWIFT. But it’s certainly a valid deterrent if the west wants to actually use it. They keep a lot of their bank and central bank money in the Euro dollar market. So no SWIFT would mean no more Treasuries, but they’d just move into the Euro dollars itself.
Maybe that’s why they were buying gold because of this tension that they saw coming. It’s a risk to their global market.
TN: Sure. Okay, let’s move to China now. We’ve got a few questions on China. We’ve got one from @NathanDallon. He says, does anything in Europe change the situation with China?
There’s another one from Ritesh @chorSipahi, he says question for Samuel Rines and Albert, Ritesh. I’m not taking offense at this. What is the deterrence for China not to invade Taiwan or now to invade Taiwan?
And then we’ve got another one from Rich @rm_ua09. How could China benefit the most out of the Russia Ukraine situation? A, supporting Ukraine in some manner, B, remaining neutral, or C, taking measures to whether Putin.
So there’s a broad spectrum of questions there, guys.
TS: Take the first one, I think, Tony.
TN: Okay, let’s go for it. What happens in Europe?
AM: Well, Europe. I think that the Europeans are going to be actually more dependent on China trade after this because they’re seeing a problem with the Russians politically.
You can’t sit there and tell me that they’re going to be able to support the Russians like they were in trade, whether it’s commodities or whatnot on steel. I mean, name your commodity. Name your.
TN: Chinese already own like 70% of the global steel market. So is it going to make that much of a difference?
AM: It’s, well, I mean, they still diversify. They’re still going to have to play ball in the global trade. So I think at this point, politically, Russia’s poisonous, and then you’re going to have to steer even more towards China.
TN: Right. So, yeah, it seems to me that China could actually use this as an opportunity to distance itself from Russia. Right. If it goes bad, China is very silent right now. And if it goes bad, they could distance themselves from Russia and make some really tight allies in Europe at Russia’s expense. Does that make sense to you guys?
AM: It does to me.
SR: 100%. I think that would be the spare play from China in a lot of ways, because you get two things. You’re going to get tighter ties to Europe, which diversifies you somewhat away from the US even more. It gives you call it a barrier to the United States and whatever the US wants to do, and it also, to a certain extent, raises your profile on the international stage. Right.
TN: That’s key. China really wants to be seen as a credible diplomatic player and I think there’s still a bit of a chip on their shoulder about not being seen as an equal with a lot of the larger Western Nations. So I think your last point is really important.
There seems to be a view that Russia invading Ukraine somehow enables China to invade Taiwan. What are your thoughts on that?
AM: I absolutely disagree with that wholeheartedly. I think the two situations are nothing alike at the moment. I mean, Ukraine is in Russia’s eyes, it’s own territory. Same as is China views Taiwan.
However, Taiwan has a much more active defense military force and more of a backing from not only the US, but Australia, Japan, India. That’s a problem for the Chinese, too. So I think the two. I don’t like to draw a comparison between the two. I don’t think there is anything related to it.
SR: I have almost nothing to add beyond that. And I think the one country that’s really interesting in there is India, because India did not step up on the Ukrainian front and India would step up on the Taiwan front.
AM: Yeah. And on top of that, on top of that, let’s just be realistic here. We know that the Chinese probably have military observers inside of Ukraine watching and taking notes.
TN: Sure. How to conduct right now. If you’re a Chinese PLA officer and you’re looking at what’s happening in Russia versus what the United States did in Iraq, what would be your assessment? Russia gives us nothing against the United States.
The United States is a juggernaut. That’s what I think nobody’s even talking about.
TN: Yeah. If Russia didn’t just roll into Ukraine and take it over in 24 hours, what kind of model are they for China?
AM: And that’s on their border, Tony, that’s on their border.
TN: Exactly. No, exactly. So logistically, Russia’s logistic supply chain for their military, it seems like it’s pretty horrific. Their intelligence, like everything. It just seems like a mishmash of let’s just go get them.
AM: They are a professional military force. They have budget problems. That’s what. If they really wanted to go into Ukraine and just smash the place, they could. But the problem is you’d have to kill many civilians in the meantime, which they can’t do that.
So the Chinese are sitting there probably looking at like, what do we do here? Who is this military partner that we’re actually partnering up against the United States? It’s not sufficient.
TN: Yeah. It seems to me that on some level, going back to the social media comment I made, Russia is kind of embarrassing itself. China doesn’t want to be seen allied with someone who’s embarrassing themselves. Right. They’re happy to.
TS: That’s why they’ve been so quiet. They haven’t said nothing.
TN: Yes. And I think China is always looking also looking at how unified is the world’s response against Ukraine. Right. So if they were to go after Taiwan, how unified would the response be?
So going back to what I said earlier, I think China has a real opportunity here to distance itself from Russia, to play nice on Taiwan and really benefit from trade and finance and diplomatic relationships.
TN: Tracy, do you have anything else on that on China? Any other thoughts?
TS: No. I think you guys…
TN: Awesome. Okay, very good. Let’s go to the next ones. Okay. Tracy, these are all energy related. So primarily, if we look at this @DaveRubin15, he says, what are the energy implications if Ukraine has no choice but to make this a war of attrition rather than surrender, bleeding Russia out from exposure and can this catalyze an energy super cycle? Okay.
And then we’ve got another one from Giovanni Ponzetto asking, assuming that gas from Russia is kept flowing at the same rate of the past couple of months, will the EU be able to restock gas reserve? So, Tracy, you’re the expert here. Take it away.
TS: All right. So for the first one, there are two extreme scenarios that could happen. Either somebody blows up a pipeline by accident or somebody blows it up on purpose and blames the other side. And if you look at the chart that’s on the screen right now, you can see the choke points where this could easily happen to really hurt gas flows into Europe.
That said, if we look at the role of Ukraine in the gas markets, they’re much smaller today than they were in the 1990s. Right. There was a time when 90% of gas that came from Russia to Europe went through Ukraine. And now it’s about less than a quarter percent.
The other extreme is that Russia just cuts off gas flows entirely. Right. And that hurts EU way more than it hurts Russia because they don’t really actually make that much money selling gas. They make way more money selling oil. They have $640 billion in reserves. They could live without the gas for a few months. And that’s kind of why the US has had problems getting the Europeans on board with sanctions against existing flows from Europe.
In addition, Europe also has other options. They can go again to the United States, Azerbaijan or Israel and Europe.
Now there are about 2.9 million barrels at risk of oil exports that are exported from Russia to the United States and Europe, which is about 30% of their exports. And that would be much more catastrophic than, say, natural gas in the oil markets. But as far as oil flows through Ukraine, it’s very limited. Again, you can see the map.
TS: The second question.
AM: Sorry about that. I had a related question for you. How possible is it or how necessary do you think it would be for the Italians to take the initiative and become Europe’s energy hub?
TS: Actually, they really could with Greece. Right. And I’ve been talking about the Southern gas border for a very long time, which branches off, you could go Cypress into Greece and then you could go straight into Italy from the Southern gas corridor.
I think that region is really something you really want to keep an eye on right now. And I’ve kind of been talking about this for a couple of years right now because there’s just so much supply. And although people say that region is geopolitically unstable, so is everywhere. But that’s never really stopped oil and gas flows.
Personally, I think as an investor, I would be looking at that particular area of the world because they really have a lot of gas supply. And now we have pipelines built, and I think it’s more stable than, say, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, that have had a lot.
AM: You know what’s funny, though, Tracy, is every time the Libyans or Egyptians or whoever try to export gas and oil and whatnot, the Russian Wagner conveniently shows up.
TS: Conveniently shows up. Right. Exactly.
AM: Here we are, guys.
TS: Exactly. For the second question, as far as, I think that you were asking about gas flows, if Europe could restock. Absolutely. They can restock because of the things that, because of the alternative sources that I mentioned before, and we’re headed into a season that we don’t need as much. So I think that as we head into summer, it will not be as dire as the dead of winter.
TN: Very good. Okay. Thanks for that.
Sam, let’s look at some economic questions now. We’re looking at from @_0001337 probability of rate hikes and tightening now. We just let inflation run amok. When we see price controls. That’s one question. There’s another one, wondering how North America will go about continuing to grow consumerism, things like cuts on gas taxes, that sort of thing.
And there was another question about gold, which you covered a little bit at first from @Mercerandgrand looking at gold prices. So if you don’t mind, let’s talk a little bit about kind of Fed options now. Are we still expecting given the volatility, are still expecting the Fed to act in March? Are they going to continue to are they going to stop QE? Will they hike? Is QT still on the table for June?
SR: Yes, 25 is going to happen. They will end QE, and QT is still on the table, at least a runoff, not a sale. They’re not going to go over their skis here and start selling mortgage backs or do anything along those lines.
SR: But they will continue with their tightening path. I think the broader question here is just how far they actually can go this year. I do think that the limiting factor of highly volatile energy prices at the pump, which is something that monetary policy just can’t solve. Right.
Tightening 5100 basis points isn’t going to push the cost of oil down unless you somehow spark a recession or something. So I think it’s going to be interesting to see how their language evolves around future hikes. I think we kind of know that it’s 25 basis points. 50 is simply not priced in enough for them to do that.
And how we see and how they see monetary policy evolving, call it in the September and onward is going to be really important with the midterms coming up, et cetera. So I think that’s important.
On the consumer front, maybe you see call it a gas tax holiday or something along those lines to lower gas prices at the pump. That could happen. But generally the consumer is not in horrible shape. The consumer is not great, but it’s not in horrible shape. So I don’t really think they have to do much there. And I don’t see any point in buying gold here with the type of move you’ve seen over the past week. I think that if you had narratives that went from invasion of Ukraine to World War Three and you only got it to $2,000 and you couldn’t hold, I think that’s a little bit of a problem for the gold narrative.
TN: Sure. Okay, great. So let’s wrap it up and let’s start looking at the week ahead. What do you guys expect to see the week ahead? Albert, I guess we’ll start with you. Part of it is what do you expect to see on the ground in the week ahead in Ukraine? I expect that to impact markets.
AM: I think that we’re going to get a little bit more bloody, a little bit more daunting headlines. It’s going to affect the markets. I think we probably start shooting a little bit lower depending on how low we go. I think that’s going to make a big impact of what the fed does. I agree with Sam. I think it’s going to be 25 basis points. If the news is okay out of Ukraine, I think they even go 50 basis points.
TN: Wow. Okay. Tracy, what do you expect to see in the week ahead?
TS: I’m looking at the equity markets in particular. So just came out and global flows despite the fact that equities are coming off globally, we’re still seeing people pile into equities, right. We’re still seeing flows into equity markets.
So that to me says that the current situation with Ukraine in Russia is likely to be temporary and that perhaps the big funds and managers are thinking that we’re going to see less of a rate hike in March than most anticipate because they’re still selling bonds and they’re still buying equities.
TN: Okay. Interesting. Sam?
SR: I think you’re looking at a lot of chop here as we transition from as pointed out a moment ago, as you transition from Ukraine grabbing all the headlines to the Fed getting back in the headlines that’s going to be a choppy hand off. When the fed was in the headlines. It wasn’t exactly great for markets and a little bit of a relief rally here off of world war three going into.
TS: Sorry to interrupt. I think that’s a bit of a little bit of end of month rebalancing too, right? What we’re seeing right now.
TN: It could be. Yes, that’s right.
SR: Yeah. Definitely. But I think the hand off from Ukraine headlines back to the Fed headlines creates a lot of chop and probably some downside bias across asset classes or at least we’re assessing.
TN: Sounds like a very interesting week ahead, guys. Thank you. You so much. I really appreciate this. Have a great week ahead. Thank you.
Energy markets expert Vandana Hari is back on QuickHit to talk about crude oil. Brent is nearly at the $70 psychological mark and is also a 2-year high. However, demand has not picked up to the pre-Covid levels. Vandana explained what happened here and what to look forward to in the coming year. Also, is crude experiencing supply chain bottlenecks like in lumber and other commodities and how oil demand will pick up around the world?
Vandana Hari is based in Singapore. She runs Vanda Insights and have been looking at the oil markets for about 25 years now. The majority of those were with Platts. She launched Vanda Insights about five years ago. The company provides timely, credible, and succinct global oil markets, macro analysis, mostly through published reports. They are also available for ad hoc consultations and research papers.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on May 19, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this Crude oil: New super cycle or continued price moderation? QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: I want to talk about crude oil, because if we looked a year ago and we saw where crude oil prices were a year ago because of the Covid shock and we look at where crude is today, it’s something like two-year highs or something like that today. And we still have kind of five or six million barrels, we’re consuming about five or six million barrels less per day than we were pre-Covid. Is that about right?
VH: Yeah, absolutely. So we have had a Brent flood with the $70 per barrel psychological mark, it has not been able to vault it in terms of, you know, in the oil markets, we tend to look at go-buy settlements. So we’re talking about ICE Brent Futures failing to settle above 70 dollars a barrel? But it has settled a couple of times so far this year, just below, which was two-year highs.
And the man on the street, as you quite rightly point out, does end up wondering. And I’m sure people at the pump in the US looking at three dollars a gallon prices that hang on like the global demand is yet to return anywhere close to pre Covid. So why are prices going to two-year highs?
So two fundamental reasons. If you talk about supply and demand in the oil markets, the first one is the OPEC – Non OPEC Alliance is still holding back a substantial amounts of oil from the markets. If you hark back to last year when they came together in this unprecedented cutback, almost 10 million barrels of oil per day, cumulative within that group, they said they’re going to leave it in the ground because of the demand destruction.
Now, starting January this year, they have begun to so-called “taper.” Yes, people borrowed that as well in the oil market. All over the place. Yeah. So they’re tapering. But they’re doing it very, very cautiously.
So where do we stand now? They are still holding back almost six and a half million barrels per day. So basically two thirds of the oil that they took out of the market last year is still, they’re still keeping it under the ground. So that’s one main reason.
The second one is a bit, of course, demand has been picking up as countries and globally, if you look at it, I mean, we can talk about individual countries, but globally, you know, the world is starting to cautiously emerge out of Covid-related restrictions.
Economies are doing better. So oil consumption is moving up. But but some of, it’s not entirely that. I would say some of the the buoyancy in crude of late, and especially when it was, you know, Brent was a two-year highs, is because of a forward looking demand optimism. And when it comes to that, I think it’s very, very closely connected or I would say almost entirely focused on the reopening of the U.S. economy.
TN: OK, so. So this is a forward looking optimism, is it? I know into other areas, like, for example, lumber, which has been there’s been a lot of buzz about lumber inflation is because of the sawmills and with other, say, commodities, there have been processing issues and with, you know, meat and these sorts of things that have been kind of processing issues and bottlenecks in the supply chain. But with crude oil to petrol, it’s not, it’s not the same. Refineries are doing just fine. Is that, is that fair to say?
VH: That’s a very good point, Tony, to to just kind of unpick a little bit. Because what happens is when you hear talk of super cycles, commodities, bull run, and then, of course, we have a lot of indexes and people trade those indexes, commodity index, we tend to lump together, you know, commodities all the way from copper and tin, lumber and corn all the way to crude oil and gasoline and gas oil and so on.
But, you know, here’s what. You know. We could spend hours talking about this. But, but just very quickly to dissect it, I would say look at it in terms of you have commodities. And I would sort of lump metals and to some extent agricultural commodities in this one Group A and Group B.
So as I mentioned earlier, Group B, which is which is oil. Well, crude oil and refined products, to a large extent, the prices are being propped up by OPEC, plus keeping supply locked out of the markets. It’s very different from, as you mentioned, what’s happening in metals and ags and these kind of commodities where it just can’t be helped. So there’s supply chain issues, this production issues all the way from from Chile, where copper production all the way to even here in Malaysia, you know, palm oil, because workers are unable to return fully. Or in terms of even the the packaging, the storage and the delivery of it. So I think there’s a major difference there.
Now, the commonality here is, of course, all of these are seeing demand rebound. You know, that I agree as a commonality. Demand is rebounding. But I think it’s very important to remember. And why is it why is this distinction important is that you could argue that, well, if demand continues to sort of go gangbusters in terms of copper, tin, lumber, it will, for the foreseeable future, meet against supply constriction. So you cannot.
So accordingly, you can assess what might be the prices of these commodities going forward. They may remain elevated, but it would be wrong, I think, to sort of draw a parallel between that and oil, because in oil, I do believe OPEC non-OPEC are waiting. In fact, I don’t think they can hold their horses any longer, waiting to start putting that oil back into the market. So, you know, keep that distinction in mind.
TN: So there’s an enthusiasm there. So let’s say we do see demand kind of come back gradually, say, in the U.S., a little bit slower in, say, Europe. But China is moving along well and say Southeast Asia, east Asia is coming along well. The supply from the OPEC countries will come on accordingly. Is that fair to say?
VH: Absolutely. And when you talk about demand, again, I think there’s a sort of a bias in the crude futures markets, which tend to be the leading the direction for the oil complex in general, including the Fiscal markets, is that there’s definitely a bias to looking towards what’s hot right now, at least looking towards what’s happening in the US and getting carried away a little bit. Because when you look at the US, it’s a completely positive picture, right?
You base that, you see things around, you see how people are just kind of moving away. You’re removing mask mandates, people are traveling. And, of course, we’re getting a lot of data as well. The footfall in your airports. The other thing about the US is you have good data, right. Daily, weekly data. So that continues to prop up the market. But if you just cast your eye, take a few steps back, look at the globe as a whole. And, you know, sitting here in Asia, I can shed some light about what’s happening here.
No country is opening its borders in Asia, OK? People are, for leisure. If people are even not even able to travel to meet their family, you know, unless it’s in times of emergency, unfortunately. So nobody’s traveling. The borders are sealed very, very tight.
There is an air bubble, travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia. But, you know, nobody’s bothering to even check what that’s doing to jet demand. What do you think it will imagine? You imagine it will do.
And then you have Europe in between, which is, yes, again, it is reopening very cautiously, though. We’ve had the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, cautioning that the travel plans for the Brits might be in disarray because of this so-called Indian variant. I don’t like to use that term, but this virus more transmissible virus variant. So it’s a very patchy recovery. It’s a very mixed picture, which is why I’m not that bullish about global oil demand rebound as a whole. You know, at least the so-called summer boom that people are talking about.
TN: Do you do you see this kind of trading in a range for the next, say, three or four or five months or something? Demand come, supply come, demand come, supply comes something like that.
So there’s not too much of a shortfall for market needs as kind of opening up accelerates?
VH: Very much so. I think, first of all, unfortunately, I mean, as individuals, of course, we like to be positive and optimistic. But with an analyst hat on, we need to look at data. We need to use logic. We need to overlay that with our experience of this pandemic, the past one and a half years.
Somehow, we’ve had a few false dawns, unfortunately, during this pandemic. We’ve seen that right from the start. When you remember the first summer, 2020 summer, some people said, oh, the heat and all that, the virus will just die away.
So, again, I think we need to be very, very cautious. I do think, unfortunately, that this variance and as you and I were discussing off air earlier, this is the nature of the virus. So I think there’s going to be a lot of stop, start, stop, start. The other thing I see happening is that it’s almost like, I imagine the virus sort of it’s moving around. And even if you look at India now, it’s just gone down in the worst hit states of Maharashtra and Delhi. But now it’s sort of moved into the rural area.
So I think sort of, unfortunately, is going to happen globally as well. The other important thing to keep in mind is, is vaccinations, of course, is very, very uneven. You know, the ratio of vaccinated people in each country so far, the pace at which the vaccinations are going and, you know, not to mention the countries, the poorer, the lower income countries.
So we’re probably going to see, you know, maybe a bit of start. Stop. Definitely. I don’t think we’re going to see national boundaries opening up to travel any time soon. And then exactly as you pointed out, we have this OPEC oil and then, of course, we have Iranian oil and we can talk about that separately. So there’s plenty of supply.
TN: So let’s talk a little bit about, let’s talk a little bit about the Middle East with, you know, first of all, with political risk around Israel Palestine. Is that really a factor? Does that, does that really impact oil prices the way it would have maybe 20, 30 years ago?
Commodities expert Tracy Shuchart graced our QuickHit this week with interesting and fresh insights about USD, CNY, oil, and metals. Will USD continue on the uptrend with Yellen on board? What is the near-term direction of CNY? Will metals like copper, aluminum, etc. continue to rise, or will they correct? Will crude continue the rally or is it time for a pause? Watch as Tracy explains her analysis on the markets in the latest QuickHit episode.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on March 12, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this How robust is the global financial system in the wake of Covid? QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: I’ve been focused for the past few weeks on the Dollar and Chinese Yuan and on industrial metals. Can you talk to me a little bit about your view on the Dollar? What’s happening with the Treasury and Fed and some of their views of the Dollar and how is that spreading out to markets?
TS: Right now, we have a little bit of mixed messaging, right? So, we have the Fed that wants a weaker Dollar. But then, we have Yellen who’s come in and she wants a strong Dollar policy. So, I think that markets are confused right now. Do we want a weaker Dollar or do we want a stronger Dollar? And so, we’re seeing a lot of volatility in the markets because of that sentiment.
TN: So who do you think’s gonna win?
TS: I think that Yellen’s going to win. I think we’re probably going to get a little bit of a stronger Dollar. I don’t think we’re going to see a hundred anytime soon again. We’ve seen stronger Dollar when she was at the Fed. She’s come in right now and said that she wants a stronger Dollar. We would probably have at least a little bit more elevated than the low that we just had, like 89.
TN: I think things are so stretched right now that even a slightly marginally stronger Dollar, let’s say to 95 or something like that would really impact markets in a big way.
I’ve been watching CNY. I watch it really closely and, you know, we bottomed out, or let’s say it appreciated a lot over the last six months. It feels like we bottomed out and it’s weakening again. What does that mean to you? What is the impact of that?
TS: The impact obviously will have a lot to do with manufacturing, with exports, and things of that nature. So if their currency starts depreciating, and they’re going to export that deflation to the rest of the world, it’s just starting to bounce over the last week or so. Unless we have another trade war, I don’t think we’re probably gonna see like seven, seven plus. I remember last time we were talking about it, we were talking about it’s going to be 7.20 and you nailed that. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on obviously, because they’re such a big purchaser and because they’re such a big exporter.
TN: We’re expecting 6.6 this month, and continue to weaken, but not dramatically. We’re expecting a pretty managed weakening of CNY barring some event.
What I’ve been observing as we’ve had a very strong CNY over the past six months is hoarding of industrial metals and we’ve seen that in things like the copper price. Have you seen that yourself? And with a weaker CNY, what does that do to some of those industrial metals prices in terms of magnitude, not necessarily specific levels, but what do you think that does to industrial metals prices?
TS: We’ve been seeing that across all industrial metals, right. It hasn’t just been copper. It’s been iron ore. It’s been aluminum. It’s been nickel. We’ve seen that across all of those. China likes to hoard. So when everything was very cheap like last summer, when everything kind of bottomed out, they started purchasing a lot. Then we also had problems with supply because of Covid. So prices really accelerated and then suddenly we just had China’s currency pretty much strengthened. We’ll probably see a pullback in those prices. It’ll be partly because of their currency. If they allow that to depreciate a little bit. And then also, as extended supply comes back on the market.
But it’s even getting to the point now where if you look at oil, oil prices are getting really high too. We’ll likely see China scale back on purchases, probably a little bit going forward just because prices are so high. Or we will see them, which we’re seeing now, is buy more from Iran, because they need the money. They get it at a great discount. It’s cheap. If they start buying more from Iran, that takes it away from Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are the two largest oil producers.
TN: When I look at Chinese consumption, at least over the past 15 months, there’s been almost an adverse relationship of CNY to USD and say industrial metals prices. It looks like a mirror. Crude oil doesn’t look that way. It’s really interesting how the crude price in CNY there really isn’t that type of relationship.
One would expect that if CNY devalues, they’ll necessarily cut back on purchases. I would argue and I could be wrong here, that it’s not necessarily the currency that would cause them to cut back on purchases. They’ve hoarded and stored so much that they don’t necessarily need to keep purchasing what they have been. Is that fair to say?
TS: They still like to hoard a lot. Between January and February, they were still up 6% year over year, where January was very high, February was lower because they have holiday during February. Oil, that is different. It’s not really related so much to their currency because you have outside factors such as OPEC, which has really taken eight percent off the market and they’ve held that over again for another month. And the fundamentals are improving with oil. I’ve been seeing a lot of strength in the market over the last eight months.
US is the world’s largest consumer. Whereas you look at something like industrial metals, they are the world’s largest consumer. When we were talking about crude oil, because that’s spread out so much, they don’t really have that much pull on the market per se that they would in metals markets.
TS: And I’ll remind you. I’m sure you remember this. When we spoke in Q2 of 2020, you said it would be Q2 of ’21 before we even started to return to normal consumption patterns for crude and downstream products. I think you hit that spot on. And it’s pretty amazing to see. I had hoped that it would return sooner, but of course it didn’t.
Returning guest Tracy Shuchart graced our QuickHit this week with interesting and fresh insights about oil and gas. What is she seeing on the industry — is it coming back to the normal levels, or better? Why she thinks oil will reach 70+ USD per barel? What’s happening on copper and why does its price going up? And is she seeing any surprises under the Biden administration?
Tracy Shuchart is the energy and material strategist for Hedge Fund Telemetry and she is a portfolio manager for a family office. She’s pretty active on Twitter with a large following. Check out her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/chigrl
This QuickHit episode was recorded on November 24, 2020.
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: We’re seeing a lot happening in markets on the energy side and in things like industrial metals. We’re starting to see some life back into energy not just food but even in energy companies who come a fair bit off of their loads that we saw in Q2 and Q3. Can you help us understand what’s happening there? Why are we seeing, if we see people walking down again in the US and locking down in Europe, why are we starting to see life in energy?
TS: Part of that reason is we are seeing a little bit of that rotation into value from growth and the energy sector has been really beat up. It’s finding a little bit of love just from that kind of rotation. But also, we’re seeing these lockdowns and things like that, but what people aren’t really realizing, because of all these lockdowns and things of that nature, we’re actually seeing demand up in other areas where there really was not so much demand before.
So everyone’s talking about nobody’s driving anymore. Nobody’s flying anymore. When you know in fact, everybody’s online, e-commerce, we’ve got cargo ships full in the port of Los Angeles. They’re lined up there. That’s shipping fuel. And it’s not just in Los Angeles. Asia’s seeing the exact same thing. Singapore. Trucking has become huge if you you know look at the truck index. It’s basically exploding from 2019-2018 levels because you you have trucks that have to go from the port of LA to all the way to Atlanta. You have everybody ordering on Amazon so you have all sorts of trucking going on. And even down to the little things like propane. They’re actually seeing double propane demand right now merely because everybody’s dining outside and it’s getting cold.
So demand showing up in these little places that typically didn’t have as much demand before. Recently, they were talking about the airlines this holiday season. That air travel is picking up in the United States. Domestic travel is almost completely back to normal in Asia and in China, particularly. So things aren’t as bad as it seems.
TN: So when we talk about oil and gas companies, we’re really starting to see some of those oil and gas companies to come back as well. We’ve spoken over the past six or nine months a couple times and it seemed like there were fundamental operating issues with those companies. Are you seeing those oil and gas companies cycle through their issues?
TS: A lot of the Q3 calls that I was on, a lot of these companies are changing their tune a little bit. We’ve also had a lot of of mergers and acquisitions in this space. We’ve had a lot of bankruptcies in the space. That pile, it’s gotten smaller. Only stronger surviving and not that I don’t think that they’re 100 in the clear, but the bigger names and the bigger companies are finding a little bit of love right now especially you see that in refining right now, because heating oil is actually pulling up that whole sector right now. The whole energy sector. Refiners were the first ones to really take off because refining margins are getting better as oil prices get higher and things of that nature. So that kind of started leading and then of course, they’re the safe havens likePBX, XOM, BP, Equinor…
Once people see oil getting some sort of footing, they’re more likely to move into those stocks. They’re beaten up. If you’re looking for value stocks, you want to look for something that’s 80 percent off the ties. It’s a bargain.
TN: We had also talked about crude prices would stay depressed into Q2 or something of next year of 21. Does that seem about right, still? Do we still expect things to stay in the low to mid 40s until Q2? Obviously, we’ll see bouncing around. I’m not saying I’ll never go above that. But do you expect people will think to stay in that range for the next two quarters or has that moved forward a little bit?
TS: That’s moved forward a little bit. I remember when we spoke last, we were talking it to the end of this year and I saw the upper 38s. Obviously that averaged this quarter so far. We’ll be a little bit higher. So I think that we’re still in that range. We’re not going to see a huge bounce in oil. Not yet, but it’s coming.
TN: You say it’s coming. What brings that about? Is it demand? Is it supply? Is it a massive shortfall? Where’s the pressure that would bring about that 70 plus?
TS: We’re going to have a supply shock just like we had a demand shock this time. We’ll have a supply shock just because of the sheer lack of Capex in the market and the sheer amount of companies that have gone under. I don’t think that you’re going to see shale back at 13.5 million barrels per day anytime in the near future ever again. A lot of those wells are closed. They’re gonna open them up again. It’s just not cost effective. So we lost a lot of producing capacity just because that. So as we move on and we move forward in time and flights come back and we start having more and more demand, I think we’re gonna find a shortfall so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see 60, 70 dollars a barrel in 2022.
TN: We’ve seen copper have just a stellar few months and given the demand issues that we’ve seen in the markets probably a little bit surprising. So can you talk us through some of those dynamics and help us understand is this here to stay? Are these elevated prices here to stay? Or is this something that we’ll see for a relatively quick cycle then it will turn back?
TS: With copper, we really had a supply issue because a lot of the mines were closed during the summer. China by that time had already been pretty much back up and running and ordering what they normally order. That’s kind of lifted prices off of that like two dollar level initially because we had a supply problem and then I think the expectation is, there’s a lot riding on electric vehicles, which require a lot of copper.
Manufacturing is rebounding in a lot of places. Maybe not Germany. But it is rebounding here. It is rebounding in Asia, not just China. It’s rebounding in Australia. There is that anticipation of demand. We’re starting to get supply back online and yet you know prices are still going higher. I don’t think we’re gonna go straight to five dollars by stretching the imagination. But that’s kind of where copper lost its disconnect with the market. When you know markets started coming down, copper’s still shooting up because it’s generally considered a gauge of the health of the global economy. But that kind of correlation went out of whack when we had a whole bunch of supply problems.
TN: And based on copper prices today, I would think everyone was back to work, we’re all traveling, probably with disposable income. So there is that weird disconnect right now and I’m not sure that it’s necessarily an indicator that a lot of people really point to.
So we’ve just had a big change in the US as well with the election and some shifting around. What are you expecting over the next few months? Are you expecting big surprises, big moves or what are you looking at over the next few months?
TS: Everybody pretty much knows Biden. Everybody knows his voting record. I looked at it as an energy strategist, obviously. I’m looking at his voting record and went on his past history and is the new green deal going to dictate the markets or how is he prone to be? He’s been in the office since the 70s. So we already know him. All his picks so far have been in been in DC forever, right. Whether it’s in an Obama administration, etc. So I don’t think there’s really a whole lot of surprises, which is why I think the market is so calm right now, because the election’s basically over. We don’t have that anymore. We’ve got this vaccine and the people that are going to be taking office in January are people that everybody’s familiar with. So I think that’s also giving the markets a little bit of complacency at this point.
TN: Right. It does feel a little bit complacent to be honest. I think you’re right. I think you’re right. So let’s see if there’s a surprise over the next few months.
TS: Right? You never know.
TN: Tracy, hey, thanks again for your time. It’s always great to talk to you. We really appreciate everything you say. I just want to ask everyone watching if you could follow us on YouTube. We look forward to seeing you next time. Great! Thanks.
Here’s another guesting of our founder and CEO Tony Nash in BFM Malaysia, talking about trade war between US and China. Can these two countries actually decouple? Or is the current supply chain too dependent to do that? Can the economy have the V-shaped recovery that everyone is dreaming of, or is it just an illusion? What can the policymakers do to improve the economic outlook for this year? What can his firm Complete Intelligence see happening based on the algorithms and AI?
This is a download from BFM eighty nine point nine. So is the station. Good morning. This is BFM eighty nine point nine. I’m considering that I’m with one shotting bringing you all the way through the 10:00 o’clock in the morning and Rano 76. We are talking about markets, but well above 50 bucks sort of because of that with about 15 minutes time, we’re talking to call you. Ling was an independent panel, a political economist at Ciggy and I’m advisers will be discussing palm oil.
BFM: So last night in America, the stock market slumped. Investors are cautious, right How did the markets do?
Not so well, because there’s been clearly a resurgence in virus cases in multiple states, which puts into question the economic recovery. So, unsurprisingly, the Dow closed down three percent and S&P 500 closed down 2.6 percent, while the Nasdaq closed down 2.2 percent. Meanwhile, in Asia yesterday, only Shanghai was up, which was up 0.3 percent, while the Nikkei 225 closed down marginally by 0.07 per cent. Hang Seng was down 0.5 percent, Singapore down 0.2 percent, and KLCI was down 0.3 percent.
So for more clarity into the whys and wherefores of markets, we’ve got it on the line with us Tony Nash, who is the CEO of Complete Intelligence. Now, Tony, thanks for talking to us. Trump’s getting tough on China rhetoric highlights, well, obviously, the American’s concerns about being too reliant on China. And, of course, we can see that being manifested in the list of 20 companies, which is deems suspicious. In your opinion, can the two economies decouple or other interests in supply chains too heavily aligned?
TN: Well, I don’t think it’s possible to completely decouple from China. I think the administration are really being hard on each other. And I think the hard line from the US, you know, it’s relatively new. It’s a couple years old. But I don’t think it’s possible, regardless of the hard line for those economies to decouple and for the supply chain to decouple. We had some comments over the weekend out of the U.S. saying that they could decouple if they wanted to. But that’s just the hard line and unaware of the possibilities. We’ve been talking about, for some time, probably two and a half, three years, is regionalization of supply chains. And what we believe is happening is the US-China relations have just accelerated regionalization. It means manufacturing for North America, moving to North America. Not all of it, but some of it. And manufacturing for for Asia is largely centered in Asia. Manufacturing for Europe, some of it moving to Europe. And that’s the progression of the costs in China. And some of the risks are relative risks to supply chains highlighted by COVID} coming to the realization of manufacturers.
BFM: U.S. markets corrected sharply last night. So is the market actually now waking up to the reality that COVID 19 is going to be a problem for economic recovery? And this V-shaped that what many investors thought is probably a pipe dream?
TN: I think what markets are realizing is that it’s not a straight line. Well, we’ve been saying for a couple months is that end of Q2 or early Q3, we would see a lot of volatility. Then people started to understand how the virus would play out. Until we’ve had some certainty around the path, we will have days like today. And we’ll have a danger with an uptick as optimism comes back, what’s happening is markets are calibrating. People are trying to understand not only the path of COVID, but what those actors mean—the governments, the companies, the individuals—will do to respond, how quickly the markets come back. But what are people going to have to do? What mitigations that we’re going to have to take? What monetary and fiscal policies will governments take as well? We’re not done in that respect. So more of that’s to come, but we don’t know what’s to come there exactly. Markets have moved a lot on new case count. I don’t believe that it’s the case counts itself because a lot of these are are really mild cases. It’s just the uncertainty around how long it will last. The magnitude and the mitigation that people will take around it. There’s more of this volatility to come.
BFM: Tony, you might have seen the IMF‘s growth forecast, which was just announced a few hours ago. They’ve now said that global growth will shrink 4.9 percent for 2020. That’s nearly two percent worse than what they originally thought. And I think the U.S. also marked by an expectation of a negative 8 percent, down from negative 6o.1 percent. Do you think this might cause the policymakers to have an even more vigorous policy response and liquidity into the system?
TN: It might. I think the U.S. has shown that it’s not really afraid to be pretty aggressive. I think you may see more aggressive policy responses in other places. Obviously, Japan is very active on the monetary policy side. But we need to see more actual spending and more direct support of individuals and companies to make it through this. So, I do think that, obviously, IMF’s forecast concern people and get policymakers attention. I do think that they’re probably a little bit overblown to the downside, though. So I wouldn’t expect 8 percent decline. I wouldn’t expect a global decline as acute as they’ve stated today.
BFM: If you look at oil prices declined last night and I think this is on the back of U.S. crude inventories increasing. But is this also a function of COVID-19 fears in terms of how that may impact the economy’s going forward and consumption of oil again?
TN: Yeah, that’s interesting. The oil price is our… I think there are a number of things. The storage, of course, as you mentioned. But there’s also how much are people starting to drive again? What do traffic patterns look like? Also, how much are people starting to fly again? We really need to look at like Google Mobility data. We need to be looking at flight data. We need to be looking at looking to really understand where those indicators are headed. So when we compare a $40 a barrel of oil at $39 s barrel for WTI today, compared to where it was a month ago. The folks in oil and gas are really grateful to have that price right now. And it’s a real progress from where we were a month or two months ago. So I think what people are looking at today is the progress and then the expectation. They’re not even necessarily looking at the real market activity today. It’s all relative to a couple of months ago and it’s all expectations about a couple of months from now.
BFM: Last question on perhaps the data that your algorithms generated, Complete Intelligence. What kind of signs and indicators does our technology and the AI tell us about the direction the market’s going forward?
TN: Yeah, well, this is where we we pulled our assertion of volatility. We we really expected things to be pretty range traded for some time. So, you know, crude oil is a good example. We were saying back in February, March, the crude oil would end the quarter in the low 40s. This is WTI and here we are. So, with volatility, we’re not necessarily trying to capture the high highs and the low lows. We’re just recognizing that the markets are trying to find new prices. So it’s interesting when you look at things like the dollar. The dollar is a relative indicator for, say, emerging market‘s uncertainty and troubles as well. We did expect a dollar rise toward the end of Q1, early Q2, as we saw. But we haven’t expected the dollar to come back to strengthen until, say, September. So there are a number of indicators around trade or on currencies. And what we’re finding generally with our client base, for global manufacturers generally, are the algorithms… We’ve found that our average-based forecasting has an error rate that is about nine percent lower on average than consensus forecasts. So when we had all of the volatility of the last three, four months, consensus forecasts in many cases were 20 to 30 percent off. Ours were about nine percent better than that. Nobody expected the COVID slowdown. If we look at that from a few months ago, the bias that’s in normally of doing things, negotiating, procurement, supply chain, the revenue, that sort of thing. We take that out and this passionate… I would suggest that there is a lot of passion in the analysis from day to day when you look at three percent fall in markets today, but you can’t extrapolate today into forever. And what we can do with AI is taking emotion out of this, take a rational view of things. And really remove, not all of the error, of course, nobody can remove the error. There area a lot of the error from the outlooks in specific assets, currencies, commodities and so on.
BFM: All right, Tony, thanks so much for your time. And that was Tony Nash, chief executive for Complete Intelligence talking from Texas, USA. Interesting that this kind of stuff that he does at his business, tries to remove the emotional, the emotive side of the markets and give something a predictor over the future. But I think that sometimes you can’t discount too much of human emotion because it’s all driven by essentially two emotions, right? Greed and of fear.
But you know, basically his nugget is it’s going to be volatile. Right. Hang onto your seats. Right. Because we really don’t know. There’s too much uncertainty out there at the moment. This is a scene where it’s for oil prices or even for equity markets.
Avalon Advisor’s chief economist and author of “After Normal: Making Sense of the Global Economy”, Sam Rines joins Tony Nash for the 14th episode of QuickHit, where we discussed the L, U, and V recoveries in different states and industries. He also shares some interesting data on traffic congestion, CPIs, car sales, and food prices — and what these data mean for investors, businesses, and people. And what trend is he seeing to pop back up in travel and leisure?
Don’t miss out some of our relevant QuickHit episodes:
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: I’m trying to figure out when and how do we come out of this? We have our models, we have our views on things. But I read your stuff every day and what are you thinking? Where are we right now? Are we early, mid, late? Where are we now and where do you think will go in the next few weeks or months?
SR: So I think the answer is all three. We call it LUV in the Time of COVID. There will be an L-shaped recovery, a U-shaped recovery, and a V-shaped recovery depending on whether you look at Texas or Florida or Kentucky. Whether its manufacturing or services. Everything has its own shape. So we’re early on some, middle on some, and late on others.
On the overall employment side, we’re probably past peak pain. At this point, you’re mostly having unemployment benefits a hindrance to bringing people back to work, not help people keep afloat. That’s not true everywhere. Certainly, there are places that are still shut down and those people still need those unemployment benefits. But places like Texas that are reopening to a certain degree like Florida and Georgia. It’s difficult to bring people back to jobs that pay less than the enhanced unemployment benefits.
One interesting piece of the puzzle though is the continuing unemployment claims and you’ve begun to see the states that open actually begin to roll those down. So people are coming off those unemployment slowly. It’s not happening quickly. Florida is one of the exceptions that Florida came off extremely fast. I think that’s going to be one of the stories that’ll pick up pace over the next three to four weeks. There’s a decent chance that if we’ll continue to have these types of numbers for continuing claims. There’s a decent chance that the May unemployment number will be the worst number we see this year. You begin to improve pretty quickly. The June number, we don’t take that survey for another few weeks. That’s more than likely going to be better than May in terms of unemployment beginning to come down. So we think it’s a mixed bag. But employments probably going to improve from here.
TN: That’s good news, I hope. There are a lot of service jobs and blue-collar jobs that were laid off in the first waves. Is that right?
SR: Yeah most of them. The interesting thing is it’s fairly easy to social distance within most manufacturing facilities. So manufacturing, theoretically, can snap back a little bit faster than the services side of the economy. The services industry is going to be the laggard here. But the service industry is also the majority employer, far more important on the employment side of manufacturing.
TN: You keep an eye on things like traffic patterns and restaurant usage. What are you seeing as the rate at coming back and then what does that say about things like food prices or gasoline consumption?
SR: It’s snapping back very quickly on the driving side of things. That’s snapping back much faster than public transit, airlines, etc. You have the U for airlines and mass transit. But you have what appears to be a pretty sharp V in driving. Congestion is almost back to normal levels in places like Houston during rush hour. Texas generally is back towards its baseline according to most of the metrics.
The RV sales are through the roof. People still want to go on vacation. And if you can’t and don’t want to get on a plane and go to Cabo, you get in an RV and go to the Grand Canyon. It’s just another way to get out of the house. I got to a little bit of trouble for saying it. But I’ll say it again, if you keep boomers off of cruise ships, they’ll find a way to still go places and still have fun in retirement. They’re not just gonna stay up. They’re not just going to stay cooped up in their house. And the interesting thing about that is an RV is not a small investment for most people. So I think that travel might have more legs than people are really giving credit for. Camping might actually make a come back here versus your more crowded areas, particularly within that boomer crowd.
TN: Back to the 70s for camping. We hear about food shortages with meat and we also hear about storage for crude oil. With more activity, are you seeing faster drawdown with crude oil? Are you seeing anything happening there in terms of food?
SR: So with crude, we’re beginning to see drawdowns and I’m not sure that it’s faster than we anticipated. But gasoline particularly has picked up much faster than people anticipated. That drawdown will be much faster, much stronger and have longer legs than was anticipated. On the overall demand side for oil, it’s a harder picture to paint. Aviation fuel is a significant driver on the margin of usage within the US. A lack of that is offsetting any bullishness on the gasoline side. Those will probably balance each other out for the most part as we move forward and you have a drawdown that’s relatively in line with what we were anticipating a few months ago.
On the food side, you’ve seen a snapback in restaurants for Texas in particular. We are back to, give or take 55 percent usage for restaurants. We have 50% occupancy allowed in Texas. That appears to be pretty close to maxed out. At least restaurants, we get reservations. We’ve seen some interesting things on the eat-at-home food side. We dug through the CPI, the inflation data pretty carefully and found that the food at home was getting increasingly expensive in a way that we hadn’t seen in a long time. Eggs were getting expensive. Meat was getting expensive. Fresh fruits and vegetables are getting expensive and they were accelerating at a pretty rapid pace.
It does look like we’re going to have some pretty good crops. It doesn’t look like we’re going to have trouble on that front. So we shouldn’t have the pricing pressure emanating from that side, which is good.
The critical aspect is going to be how do we get the beef demand back up to the point where you actually have cattle ranchers wanting to not cull their herds and therefore drive state prices higher. I think that’s going to take more states opening restaurants like New York, California, and other big steak consuming areas of the country reopening and really beginning to drive that incremental demand.
Another fun note is I grew up in New Hampshire. Lobster is an important part of eating there. And lobster prices plummeted to the point where lobstermen decided they probably shouldn’t even go out and they were selling for two to four dollars a pound on the side of the road.
TN: Let’s just take a minute and we’re sitting in October 1st. We’ve gone through Q2. It was carnage. We’ve gone through Q3 and we’re looking back on Q3 versus Q2. What are you thinking at that point, October 1st of this year? Help me understand a little bit of that based on your perspective today.
SR: Based on my perspective today, I’ll probably be sitting in Boston, hopefully having a client meeting at a lobster that’s more expensive than three bucks, looking back and wondering how we missed the pickup that was happening in June and July and how the pockets of things that were doing much better than anticipated.
It’s worth noting according to one of the data sources I used, auto sales are actually picking back up rapidly from down, north of 60% for new cars and used cars. New autos only down, I’d call it the high 20% range from a year ago. Used cars down single digits from a year ago, on a volume basis. That kind of snapback in different pockets of the economy is going to be what I’m looking back and wondering how I missed whatever it might be whether it was people wanting to get back on cruises. I don’t think they’re going to want to give back on cruises. I don’t think people are gonna jump back on planes very quickly.
I think we have a 911 type of recovery. Three years, give or take there. I think that’s the mindset to use. But there will be something that just completely catches me off guard in terms of the speed and rapidity that it comes back, or with the L-shaped, it’s just never coming back. One thing I think we’ll catch a lot of people off-guard is the pivot on the margin from hotels to homes. Renting at home instead of renting a hotel. Being spaced away from people, having the pool to yourself. I think there will be trends like that that have become pretty clear whether or not they have legs by October and I think that’s probably one of them.
We continue discussing oil companies this week with Tracy Shuchart, who is a portfolio manager and considered as one of the leading experts on crude trading. Tony Nash asked who is trading oil these days, why the oil went negative, and when can we see a bit of recovery for the industry? Most importantly, will layoffs continue, and at what pace?
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: Hi everyone. This is Tony with Complete Intelligence. We’re here doing a QuickHit, which is one of our quick discussions. Today, we are talking with Tracy Shuchart, who is a portfolio manager with a private equity fund and she is one of the foremost experts on crude trading. We’ve had a number of conversations with her already, and we’re really lucky to get a little bit of her time today.
Tracy, just a few days ago, I was talking with Vandana Hari, who was formerly a Research Scholar at Platts and knows everything about energy. She was telling me that there are three to four months of crude oil supply, and that’s the imbalance that we have in markets right now. That’s why we see WTI at less than 20 and these really difficult price hurdles for people to get over. Can you tell us who’s trading crude oil right now? Is it mom and pops? Is it professionals? What does that look like? And also, what will have to happen for those prices to rise, generally?
TS: Right. Right now, the USO had to get on the prep-month contracts.
TN: Sorry, just to clarify for people who aren’t trading ETF’s. USO is a broadly traded energy ETF, and they’ve had a lot of problems with the structure of the futures that they trade. So they’ve had to push back the futures that they trade from the front month, which is the nearest month that’s traded to further back in a channel in hopes that the value of crude oil in the further of months trades higher than the current one. So they’ve done a lot of reconfiguration over the last few weeks. So sorry. I just wanted to explain that.
TS: That’s okay. They’re out of the front month. Bank of China just had a big problem when oil prices went negative. They had a lot of money in the front months. They’re out.
Most retail brokers are not allowing regular retail to be traded in the front couple months actually. All that you have trading front months are the big funds, anybody who’s been hedging and then maybe a bank or two. But it’s definitely not retail that’s in there, and there are a lot of big players now that are not in there.
When we get towards expiration, the problem is that most of the funds are pretty short and most of the hedgers are pretty short, and the banks are on the opposite side of that trade. But when we come to expiration, what I’m worried
about again is we’re going to have a no-bid scenario. We’re going to have that vacuum once again. You’re not going to have any natural buyers there.
TN: Okay. So the WTI traded in the US goes negative, but the WTI traded in London on the ICE doesn’t go negative.
TS: They just decided not to let that contract go negative. The difference between the contracts is the CME Group contract is physically deliverable, right? And ICE contract is a cash-settled contract. So they’re not going negative, but CME allowed this contract to go negative.
And they actually put out a notice about five days before that they were going to start letting some contracts go negative. This wasn’t a total surprise, as soon as I saw that, I thought it was going to go negative.
TN: Both you and I have told stories about how we had friends who wanted to trade. Like I had a couple of friends who wanted to triple long Crude ETF a week and a half before it went negative, and I said, “please, please don’t do that.” So grateful that neither of them did that because it could have been terrible.
So how do we clear this? We’ve got three-four months of oil just sitting around?
TS: If you talk to most of the big trading houses in Switzerland like Vitol, Trafigura, etc., basically their base case scenario, and they’re physical traders, their BEST scenario is it’ll be September before we get some sort of hints of a balance left.
So what is going to happen? There are either two things. We’re going to fill up storage, and then producers literally won’t have to shut it. There’s nowhere to put it, so they literally have to do what I call forced shut-ins. If you don’t want to shut-in, the market is going to force you to do that. That scenario is going to happen. Or we’re going to get a scenario where people decide to voluntarily cut back. Just look at the backend like CLR, Continental Resources just did that. They shut in about 30 percent of their production on the back end, and I think there’s about thirty-five to forty percent now that’s shut-in. And there are some other basins where that’s happening as well, in the Permian, etc.
TN: So that’s mostly people in the field they’ll probably let go. Will we see people at headquarters? Those CEOs or only those workers in the field?
TS: I think you’re going to see a broad range of layoffs. It’s already happening. You’ve already seen companies lay off a bunch of people… Halliburton’s laid off. Everybody’s laying off people. And they’re not just laying off field workers as they’re shutting rigs down, they’re cutting back on their office help, too.
And with the shutdown, it’s even more worrisome because maybe they figure out that, “we definitely don’t need this many people,” and all these people working remotely.
I don’t think that the layoffs are done yet. We’ve only had a couple of months of low oil prices. If this continues for another 3-4 months, we’re definitely in trouble.
TN: So is this time different? I mean if we were to stop today, and let’s say things come back to 30 bucks tomorrow, which they won’t. But if it stopped today, would the oil and gas industry look at this go, “Thank God we dodged that bullet, again?” Do they just go back to normal like nothing happened? Or if it were to stop today, would they say “Gosh, we really need to kind of reform who we are. Focus on productivity and become a modern business?” How long does it take for them to really make those realizations?
TS: I think what’s going to have to happen, which may not happen, is the money runs out, right?
So first, you had to ride the shale boom. All these banks throwing money on it. After 2016, things were easing up. So private equity guys got in there, and they threw a bunch of money at it. Basically, these guys are going to keep doing what they’re doing as long as they have a source of equity and a source of capital thrown at them all the time. As soon as that dries up, then they’ll be forced to delete and go out of business. We’re already seeing that happen. We’ve had over 200 bankruptcies just in the last four years alone, and this year we’re starting high. So they’re either going to go out of business — Chapter 7s, not 11s. And the thing is that with the big guys, like Chevron and Exxon that just entered into the Permian, they’re just waiting to chomp on some stranded assets.
So again, what it’s going to take is the money’s got to dry up or they go out of business. That’s the only way I really see them changing.
TN: Yeah and we’re just at the beginning, which is really hard to take because it’s tough. So Tracy I’d love to talk for a long, long time, you know that. But we’ve got to keep these short, so thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate your insights. We’ll come back to you again in another couple of weeks just to see where things are. I’m hoping things change. But I’m not certain that they will. So, we’ll be back in a couple of weeks and just see how things are.
In this week’s QuickHit episode, we have Vandana Hari, CEO and founder of Vanda Insights. She has 25 years of experience in the oil and gas and we asked what she expects to see happening in the near future. Will the oil industry recover, and when? Will bankruptcies and layoffs in big oil firms continue? And what can these companies and the government do to prevent the worst from happening?
The views and opinions expressed in this QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: Today we’re joined by Vandana Hari of Vanda Insights. She is one of the top energy market experts in the world. Can you tell us a little bit about your firm and what you do?
VH: I have been looking at the oil markets for 25 years now. I started my firm Vanda Insights, which provides global oil markets macro analysis about 4 years ago. Prior to that, I worked with Platts, which is a very well-known name in energy commodities. I looked at the pricing of crude, refined products and various other energy commodities. I covered news and analysis.
TN: Great. So it’s obvious why you’re here. Crude markets are in crisis. The big, big question is how long are we in this kind of sub $20, sub $30 zone? Generally, what’s your expectation for the length of that super depressed pricing?
VH: It’s certainly not going to be a v-shaped recovery. As we speak Brent, a benchmark crude, is trading around $22 to $23 a barrel. US WTI, another benchmark, is trading around $12 or $13 dollars a barrel. Now where do I see these going?
As we look out into May, and I’m taking into consideration a couple of factors there. One is that we are starting to see gradual reopening of the economy in Europe, the worst-hit countries Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and then we have the US and as we were discussing offline, Texas is looking to reopen. Some of the other US states are going to reopen as well. The oil markets will have a very close eye on these re-openings because they have the answer to demand revival. We are coming out of an unforeseen, unprecedented trough in global oil demand close to 30%–30 million barrels per day–of global oil demand has been destroyed. How does this go into May?
I’m expecting a very extremely slow gradual revival. There may be a bit of an impetus and upward boost to oil prices from a gradual reopening. Nothing like what we are seeing in the stock markets, though. I think that’s where stocks and stock markets and oil are going to decouple and have already started to decouple from what I can see.
The other element is going to be supply. So OPEC and non-OPEC alliance of 23 members. 20 out of those 23 have committed to reducing production collectively by about 9.7 million barrels per day for May and June. Now typically, that sort of an announcement, which happened back on the 12th of April would have in itself boosted oil prices. But this one didn’t. Now clearly it is seen as too little too late. Nonetheless, it will start mopping up some surplus. It’s just that it will again be very slow in giving any sort of positive signals to oil because remember, oil has to work through nearly three months of oversupply and an overhang. So the glut is going to take its time to disappear.
TN: It’s a demand problem, right? It’s a supply problem, but you do have lack of demand from the government shutdowns, and then there is supply continuing to come online. All of this issue, it makes me wonder bout the shale companies. I’m curious about shale and kind of privately held independent oil companies. But I also want to learn a little bit about NOCs, the national oil companies. If you don’t mind telling us, what is your view on shale? And how do you expect the NOC’s to fare after this? Do you think they’ll thrive? Do you think they’ll cut the fat? Do you think they’ll change at all, or do you think they’ll just continue to lumber along as they have for the past whatever 70 years?
VH: The one characteristic of this crisis is that the pain in the oil sector is being felt and will continue to be felt across the spectrum, all the way, from oil production to refining to logistics. And we can talk about logistics in a little bit as well, because that’s doing quite well now because of storage demand.
However, the pain is going to be felt all the way down to refining and retail. It’s also going to be spread across geographies. It’s going to be spread across the size and nature of companies, whether you are an oil major or an independent or an NOC.
Let’s talk about shale first. It’s not just the OPEC, non-OPEC enforced mandated cuts, but I am expecting to see major decline starting to happen in North America, in Brazil and perhaps in other places like the North Sea as well. What happens in the US is going to be key because it’s the biggest oil producer, thanks to the shale boom. Shale contributes nearly 80% of US oil production. What happens to shale is also going to hold the key to US energy independence in the future.
I also look at a couple of very key metrics in the shale patch. One is the weekly rig count that I monitor from Baker Hughes. The other one is a weekly count of the fracturing fleet. So in the hydraulic fracturing, it is far more jaw-dropping decline in numbers that have seen. 70% drop in the frat fleets currently versus the start of this year.
What all of that tells me, and we’ve done some number crunching of our own, is we expect to see close to a million barrels per day of decline in June going up to 2 million barrels per day in July. That’s something that the oil market is not quite factoring in yet. Let’s remember that shale bounced back phenomenally after the 2014-16 downturn. That’s the impression that the market has. That shale may be down on its knees, but it will bounce back. But this time, I think it’s going to be very, very different. It’s going to be nothing like a bounce back.
As far as national oil companies are concerned, I look at them quite closely sitting here in Asia, they are a breed in themselves. A lot of them are lumbering giants, very slow to change. Most of them are directly controlled by the government or have majority state ownership.
Now, one of the things that I have noticed that is going in favor of the NOC’s, especially in Asia–countries like India, China, even places in Southeast Asia–is that they have a captive, domestic, fast-growing market. These NOCs also tend to be vertically integrated, so and more often than not, Asia is a net importer of crude. They have giant refining operations and relatively less upstream or oil and gas production operations.
Refining is also getting hit in the current downturn. What we see refiners doing, which includes these NOCs of course, are they’re cutting back out. Port refining margins are terrible. They have gone into negative for a lot of the major products. How will the NOCs survive this? I think they come out of this with a great deal of financial strain. We have to see to what extent they get government support. Some of the NOCs, unfortunately, especially in countries like Indonesia, also struggle with fuel subsidies. So those might fare even worse in the recovery mode. Overall, I think another transition that’s going to take hold for NOCs is the investment in technology: to be more efficient whether you’re producing or refining or retailing oil. And to be more environmentally-friendly with products.
TN: Do you think they’ll be more productive? Do you think they’ll invest in technology? Just across the board with oil and gas companies in general. Do you think they’ll actually invest in productivity or do you think they’ll just kind of hold their breath and buckle down like they have always done? Can they afford to do that this time?
VH: So when it comes to technology, specifically for cleaner energy, it tends to be driven more by regulation than by market forces or by just companies one day waking up and deciding “Hey, I’m going to be more environmentally friendly.” It just doesn’t happen that way, and that’s certainly true for NOCs. I think oil majors are under a slightly different kind of dynamic. We’ve seen, for instance, only in recent weeks, BP and Shell double-down on their commitment towards greener, cleaner energy. Of course, their feet are being held to the fire by their shareholders.
NOCs are in a very different environment. I think a lot will depend on to what extent governments in Asia re-commit themselves to the Paris Agreement, and are part of the global drive towards cleaner energy. We have seen in recent years visible, tangible air pollution has been a major concern in cities all the way from Delhi to Beijing.
TN: As we as we stop under COVID, you know, air quality has improved dramatically, right?
VH: Yes indeed. You have to think when people go back to the new normal, and they are out and about and the pollution levels increase, what will that do in terms of pressure on these companies? So overall, I think the pressure from the environment will remain, to adopt new technologies, to move towards cleaner fuels.
Pressure from oil prices to be more efficient may be the case for NOCs. I see that a little bit less, and they’ll have to just pick and choose basically, right? But your big question, where does the money come from? I think that remains a major, major issue. Will they be able to raise money? So we’ve seen in the latest crisis, a few oil companies that are well-regarded, oil majors have tapped banks and raised loans. What I would personally love to see is for these NOCs to come out there a little more aggressively, because after all, they will be back in favor, thanks to the captive market. So I’d love to see them raise money with bonds, bank loans, or whatever, because they will need money from outside. There certainly won’t be enough to dip into their pockets.
TN: Yeah. The national accounts from any of these countries can’t really handle it. So that’s a great point.
We’re running long, but I don’t want to stop this conversation. So normally, I’d cut this off. But let me ask you one last question, okay? I live in Houston, Texas, and oil and gas town. We’ve seen some layoffs. But we actually haven’t seen a lot yet. You don’t live here so, you know, you can give us an unbiased view of the energy sector. What do you expect, and it’s not just Houston, of course, it’s the energy sector globally. Are we at the midpoint of energy layoffs, are we early, are we late? I mean, how bad do you expect it to get?
VH: I think we are probably at the beginning of it. So we have started seeing bankruptcies in the shale sector. Well, to be clear, the bankruptcies in the shale sector accelerated even in 2019. Shareholders and lenders have been becoming disenchanted with the sector for a while. But I do expect bankruptcies to set a record unfortunately in 2020, perhaps spilling over into 2021 as well.
But when I look at the US energy sector, I’m also paying attention to a lot of news about the US government making a lot of noise about wanting to help the energy sector. So whether it be, opening up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, allowing producers to store oil there or to giving them loans from the Fed’s Main Street Lending program. All of that, remains to be seen, and we’ve heard some ideas about banning or putting tariffs on OPEC crude and so on, which probably won’t happen. But I think some of these other measures will happen.
My concern is that for most companies, it will probably be too little too late. So I do expect a huge consolidation, and unfortunately a lot of layoffs. People will just have to reinvent themselves, learn new skills, because there may be no going back to oil sector jobs.
TN: I think you’re right. I think it’s a generational change. I think it’s a really tough time, and you know these people, it’s nothing they deserve, it’s nothing they’ve even done. But it’s just a very tough global situation where supply outweighs demand. It’s that simple.
So Vandana, this has been amazing. I haven’t done any of these interviews that are this long. I’m so grateful to get this much of your time. Thanks you and I’m hoping maybe we can revisit with you in a few months see where things are and take stock of what the future holds?
VH: It’s been my pleasure, Tony and I’d love to do this again and thank you to our viewers who’ve stayed with us all the way to the end. I hope it has been worth it.