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Energy has taken a huge downside hit this week, in the wake of the OPEC+ announcement, US refining capacity utilization declining, etc. What’s happening? Why are we seeing differences between physical and paper crude markets?
Also, there was talk months ago about a new energy supercycle. Is that real? With China-Taiwan-US tensions tighter than they’ve been for years, we’re seeing Chinese tech stocks just muddle through. We haven’t seen a major hit – as if China tech will see major fallout from these tensions – but we also haven’t seen a major bump – as if China is expected to stimulate out of this to win domestic hearts and minds.
Also, could possible government intervention to solve China’s mortgage credit crunch be holding back the broad stimulus we’ve all expected for a couple of quarters?
1. Low energy (prices)
2. China tech & stimulus
3. Equity upside?
4. What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 29th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
Follow The Week Ahead panel on Twitter:
0:30 Key themes for this Week Ahead episode
1:51 Moves we’re seeing in energy markets – why there’s a fall?
3:39 How much of the energy moves is seasonal?
6:58 EIA computer “glitch” problem
7:24 What happened in the refining capacity now at 91%?
8:30 Capacity utilization fall – is this a statement about the denominator or falling demand?
10:14 Is the commodities supercycle happening?
12:13 China and technology – KWEB is not falling or rising
14:00 Will the Chinese government help real estate developers? Will that take away from possible tech stimulus?
16:58 Viewer question: Is there still upside benefit to SPY?
22:18 How will be the start of the Fed pivot — 25 or 50 bps rise?
24:45 What’s for the week ahead? Listen to the podcast version on
TN: Hi everyone. Welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash, and today we have Tracy Shuchart and Albert Marko joining us.
We’re going to walk through a number of topics today. First is energy prices, low energy prices. We want to understand why that’s happening and what’s around the corner. Next, we’re looking at China tech and potentially the stimulus in China and how that will impact tech.
Finally, we want to look at equities. What remaining upside is there in equities right now, given the environment we’re in? Before we get started, I would like to ask you to like and subscribe to the channel. Also give us your comments. We’re very active and respond to comments, so please let us know what you’re thinking. If there’s something else we should be covering, let us know.
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Okay, so guys, we’ve had a really weird week with the Pelosi visit to Taiwan, geopolitics and the risk associated with geopolitics is kind of back on. We’re not really sure exactly how that’s going to resolve, but I’m really interested in the moves we’re seeing in energy, Tracy, and we’ve seen energy really fall throughout the week and I’m curious why we’re seeing that, particularly with crude, as we’ve seen geopolitics dial up. I know there’s not a perfect correlation there, but we typically see crude prices rise a bit with geopolitics.
TS: I think, it’s a combination of a lot of things. First of all, we’ve had which is ramped up to 200 million barrels being released to the SPR, which is fine initially, but we’re looking at the cummulative effect of this. In fact, we’re releasing so much so fast that now those barrels are actually finding their way overseas because we have nothing else to do with them. We can’t process that much right now.
And so we’re looking at that which is putting a damper kind of on the front end. We’re also looking at the fact that open interest is almost at the lowest in a decade, which means there’s nobody participating in this market. People are just not participating in this market.
In addition, we have physical traders that are completely nonexistent in this market anymore. They’re all trading via clear port on the OTC market as I’ve talked to actual physical traders, they don’t even want to be involved in this volatility.
And so that’s also taken a lot of open interest out of this contract. So this contract is easily pushed around because there’s just not of liquidity.
TN: How much of that is seasonal? How much of that is because it’s early August, late July, early August?
TS: It is seasonal. I will give you that because this summer is the summer lag. We generally see more participants in getting in September, and we’ll have to see how that kind of plays out.
But in general, the market is, this whole dive started in, was this market was factoring, we’re going to have this huge recession. Right? It’s going to be low berry session. Demand is going to go up.
And then we have this EIA discrepancy. The discrepancy was on gasoline demand. Actual gasoline demand versus what the DOE is reporting. Right? And ever since they had that “glitch,” where we had two weeks of no reporting whatsoever, those numbers suddenly changed.
And now they’re putting gasoline demand at below 2020 numbers at the height of COVID, which is to me,
not to sound conspiratorial, but to me, there’s just no way that we are below 2020 numbers. Right. And if you look at Gas Buddy demand, which is they look at a kind of a different look. What they look at is how
many gallons are being sold per station across the nation. And that’s how they kind of factor in what demand is. DOE is at the midpoint, right? So it’s like the midstream level. But those numbers should
eventually correlate. That discrepancy should eventually get together.
TN: So Gas Buddy is showing demand still growing, and DOE has it kind of caving. Is that correct? You know what I’m saying?
TS: Okay, yes. First of all, I think we need to look at the 914 numbers, the monthly numbers, which are definitely lagging. They’re too much behind, but they have been correct on production. Right? So I think they have weekly production at 12.1 million. Last 914 monthly report was at 11.6 million. So it is lagging information. But we have to start really looking at these weekly numbers and what the DOE is reporting and what they’re not reporting.
TN: If anything, what I’m seeing just observationally traffic seems to continue to grow. Like, I’m seeing more people going back into the office. I’m seeing more people take drives where they wouldn’t have taken long drives before. So what we’re seeing out of DOE doesn’t really match with what I’m seeing observationally. I could have selection bias, but it just doesn’t seem to match what we saw in April, May
AM: Tracy is absolutely spot on on that. I actually had a few people note that the EIA computer “glitch” problems set all this thing off in the DOE inventory shenanigans. It’s starting to gain more traction with everybody. It just doesn’t add up. When things don’t add up, bad data comes in, and it’s politically advantageous for the moment try to get gasoline down, going into midterms. I mean, Tracy is absolutely 1000% spot on that assessment.
TN: So, Tracy, I want to ask you a couple of questions. We’ve got a chart on refinery capacity utilization, and it shows capacity utilization at about 91%. So last month we were talking about being at 94%. Now it’s at 91%. What’s happened? Has the Denominator going?
TS: Well, that’s not actually a bad thing. Let me tell you that. Refineries operating at 94% 95% leads to a lot of problems. You’re going to see problems with maintenance, you’re stretching that capacity. Personally, I love anything over 90, 91. I’m much more comfortable with than 94 95%, which we got to, which is very stressing to me because you’re stressing those refineries, right. And that’s going to lead
to problems down the road. So for that to come down, it’s not a big deal to me, to be honest. Anything above 90, great. We’re good.
TN: Okay, so we’ve seen gasoline prices fall as we’ve seen capacity utilization fall. And so is that a statement about the, say, the denominator meaning the available capacity, or is that a statement about falling demand?
TS: I don’t think it’s a statement about necessarily anything. Okay. To be honest. Is the expectations around say that the gasoline price falling, is it expectations maybe around recession, but given the job numbers we got? Expectations about being around recession right when we’re seeing these prices fall. And I think we have a lack of participants in this market, especially lack of participants in the physical markets. The physical guys, like guys that trade for BP and Shell, which is where they’re just not in this market anymore because it’s too volatile, it’s too pulled around, and they can’t deal with that right now. So there’s nothing structurally changed about the physical markets right now.
You have to understand, too, is that the paper markets far outweigh the physical markets, meaning that there’s far more paper barrels traded than there are actual available physical barrels on the market
to be traded.
And when we look at a contract like WTI, which is actually physically deliverable, and we look at the market participants that are involved in deliverability, that is shrinking, shrinking margin, and then you look at something like the Brent contract, is completely just a financial contract.
So there’s a lot of hanky panky goingon in that market.
TN: Okay, now one last question while we’re on crude. Months and months ago, we kept hearing about this emerging commodities super cycle. And as we’ve seen commodities fall over the past few months, there have been some questions about is that really happening? So where are you? Do you think we’re in the early stages of another super cycle or do you think we’re just kind of modelling through?
TS: I actually think we’re still in the early stages of a super cycle. I mean, I think we’re kind of like I think my best comparison sake would be like, let’s look at the 1970s, right? And everybody’s looking at that ’73, ’74 when the oil embargo happened. But I actually think we’re closer to the ’67, ’69 era where we saw inflation kind of hit. Right. They tried to hide us into a recession, and then we had another peak in ’73, ’74 because issues with the market and then we have a third wave. So I actually think we’re only in this first wave of an inflationary cycle as far as commodities are concerned, okay.
Because we’re still in a structural supply deficit across not just the energy sector, but base metals, agriculture, et cetera. but you have to think your input cost for metals and for agriculture, it’s all energy.
So if energy is high to see inflation in energy costs, then you’re going to see inflation across all
of these commodities. We’re at $90. We were at negative $37 two and a half years ago. So to think that we’re crashing? You know.
TN: Okay, let’s switch over to China and technology and kind of talk through a few things with Albert. Obviously. Albert, we spoke earlier about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and US. China Taiwan affairs, and I’d recommend anybody view that that we published on Tuesday night US time. But I’m curious, Albert, as we look at and we’ve got KWEB up on the screen, which is an ETF of Chinese technology companies, it’s kind of middling. It’s not really falling. It’s not really rising. It seems like people are a little bit uncertain about what’s happening with Chinese tech. We have the closures of different cities. We have one of the big manufacturing cities that’s going zero COVID now.
And we obviously have the China Taiwan issues. What are your thoughts on China tech right now? And what should we expect over the next, say, two to three months?
AM: Well, over the next two to three months, I think China is going to be forced to stimulate. Once they stimulate names like KWEB, Alibaba actually, I really like Alibaba. There’s some good things happening there. I mean, the delisting stuff is a risk and it’s always been a risk, mainly because Gensler and Yellen have been trying to suppress the Chinese to stop stimulus because it hurts the United States and their plans to fight inflation.
So, yeah, I’m really bullish on KWEB. I really like it at 25 26 level. It’s not that far from where we are right
now. For the Chinese tech, it’s like, I don’t really think domestically, there’s too many problems domestically for KWEB. For me, it’s just all the delisting risk and that shot, the warning shot across the bow from the US.
TN: Okay, so when you talk about stimulus, I want to understand a little bit of the substitutionality of stimulus. So if we have this big mortgage crisis in China where owners aren’t paying their mortgages,
and that’s even worse on the property developers, and there are trillions of dollars at risk there, do you think the Chinese government will intervene and help those property developers? And if they do, will that take away from stimulus that could help technology companies?
AM: They will step in, but they’ll step in selectively for the most systemically important property developers. Not just the best connected, but the ones that touch the most debt and whatnot. So they don’t want things getting out of control. So for sure they will step in. I don’t think it will take away from the tech
sector at all. I think that the Chinese have been pretty pragmatic and diversifying how they get money into the system, whether it be other Asian countries, the US, Europe and whatnot. But they’re definitely in line right now to stimulate the economy going into the fall.
TN: Okay, great. If you’re trying right now and you’re talking about stimulus, that is to make up for kind of the COVID Zero close downs, but it’s also, I would assume, kind of winning some of those hearts and minds going into the big political meetings in November. Right, so you’ve whipped up nationalism with the Taiwan thing over the last couple of weeks and now you need bridge to get you to November. So you’re going to put out a bunch of stimulus to keep people fairly nationalistic and obedient. Is that fair to say?
AM: Yeah, that’s definitely fair to say. I think going even a little bit further than that is keeping the circle around Xi happy. That nexus of connected families that make money off the tech sector manufacturers. They need to be able to solidify it economically and stimulus will be targeted like that. And so when you say keep those families happy. You’re talking about skimming, you’re talking about sweet deals on contracts and that sort of thing.
TN: And I just want to make clear that doesn’t only happen in China. That happens in every country, right?
AM: Oh, every country you can imagine that happens. How politically connected with the donors, the political parties and so on and so forth. I just want to make clear to viewers. Like everybody.
TN: Yeah, I just want to clear to viewers, we’re not just picking on China. This happens everywhere.
AM: No, this is nothing negative towards China whatsoever. This literally happens in every country in every single country. Yeah.
TN: We had a question come in from a regular viewer talking about one of Sam’s calls. He’s not here, so he can talk behind his back today. The question was, Sam had talked about risks being to the upside a while ago for SPY, for the S&P 500. Now that we have had a mini rally, does he still see higher as the path of least resistance or is the risk reward fairly balanced here? I mean, we’ve seen a really nice uptick in the S&P and equities generally. Do you think there’s still upside benefit, or would you be a little bit hesitant in terms of the broad market?
AM: I’m bullish for a week, basically going a week, maybe two. I think that the CPI number is probably going a little bit lower than people think. And then all the peak inflation people are going to come out the woodwork and then they’re going to talk about Fed pivot, whether it’s real or not. I don’t think the Fed actually pivots. I think they just build a narrative of a pivot, if that makes sense, to rally the market.
But going forward, the economy is not a good footing. The job numbers are just not accurate. It’s a purely political headline for Biden going into the midterms. CPI is going to follow the same suit. They’ll probably have a 50 basis point rate hike in September and say that they’re slowing down. And whether it’s real or not.
TN: I want to question you just to push back a little bit. When you say the economy is not on a good footing, what do you mean? Help me understand how it’s done on a good footing?
AM: Well, the whole jobs? Listen, 20% of people don’t have a job. 19% of people have two jobs or more. You’re sitting there making this glorified headlines thatBiden is great for the job market and the economy, but it’s just not accurate. We have people that are struggling paycheck to paycheck more than any time in the last 20 or 30 years. So the underlying economy, forget about the top half that are millionaires that are buying whatever, the bottom half of the country is an absolute recession. So that’s what I’m saying the economy is not good.
TS: I mean, I totally agree with Albert. I mean, I’ll make a case for the bullish side. Let’s put it this way. So not a single trades work this year. Average hedge fund scrambling on how to salvage this year. There’s no other choice, really, but to get long. I mean, we have long going girlfriends been shell shocked. Font, shitty year. Value guys waiting to buy the dip in cyclicals. So I think that until when November comes and we have redemptions and these guys are faced with losing money from clients, I think that right now they have no other choice than to buy the dip, which is really interesting because that coincides with midterms. But not to put on my tinfoil hat there. So that’s my case for we may see a little bit higher than people that anticipate.
Even though I agree we’re still in a bear market. Albert makes a ton of good points, totally agree with
him 100% on that. But for the next few months, we may be looking at different kinds of things, especially because we also have the CTAs that are still super short.
So we have the possibility that we could see a short squeeze now if hedgies start
eating up the market and… This is exactly what the administration wants to see, because they want to see the S&P higher going into Midterm electric if it makes them look great. Of course.
AM: And Tracy is right. And this goes back into the oil numbers from the DOE and the EIA Shenanigans. They lower gas, they try to get inflation lower. They rally the market going into Midterms. It’s just the way it is. Now, going back to the economy, real quick, Tony, I see across the street the US consumer credit was $40 billion. I mean, people are spending and collecting debt like it’s going out of stock.
TN: That’s not a good number. You saw my tweet this last week about the $15 grapes. I mean, that sounds ridiculous, but people are having to. I talked to people about their electricity bills and they’re doubling and tripling over the last few months. And so people are having to do this. Rents are doubling in New York and so on and so forth. So it’s hitting everybody. And people are having to tap into consumer credit just to make ends meet.
AM: Just for the viewers, Tony, the forecast was 27 billion. It came in at 40.
TN: Wow. That’s a slightly overestimate, I would say. Let me ask you a quick question about the Fed pivot. Okay. You say the Fed is going to kind of act like they pivot but not actually pivot. So would that mean and I know everyone’s been on Twitter today or on social media saying, oh, the job’s number puts 75 basis points in focus again, all this stuff. But would the start of a pivot be 50 or 25 basis point rise?
AM: The start of a narrative of a pivot would be 50. But let’s just be honest. Inflation is not going away. They can fake a CPI number, maybe one, maybe two months. But come October, December, January, and inflation is raging, nine point whatever, 9.5%, 10%. They are going to have to keep going 75 basis points.
TN: So when you talk about a pivot, you’re talking about the beginning of a pivot, maybe a 50 basis point rise in September or something just to kind of ease nerves off a little bit?
AM: Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s just the beginning of a narrative to move the market. It’s all it is.
TS: Okay, if we went 50 instead of or even 25 instead of 75, which the market is expecting, the barn market would freak out.
TN: Now what happens to commodities in that case, Tracy, if we’re in September and we go 50? You’re
AM: Okay, this is the problem I keep telling screaming people and why I didn’t think that’s why I didn’t think this rally was a good idea is because all of a sudden now you’re going to create this stupid pivot narrative and do 25 or 50 basis points. But then, like Tracy just mentioned, commodities are going to rip. What’s that going to happen then? We’re going to have stage two of inflation coming around in 2023. That’s going to make this like nothing.
TN: Yeah, but as long as it happens after November, I think. Everything’s fine. Right. No, seriously, we have to think we’re in that. We’re in those closures.
TS: You have to think everything is political right now. So every decision is political right now and you have to factor that into kind of your investment thesis right now.
AM: Tracy’s absolutely right. I was just talking to a client. I said I don’t want to hear anything after November of this year. This era is this era right now. After November is a different era. We’ll talk about that accordingly in the next month. But until now it’s just a pure political game.
TN: What are you guys watching in particular for the week ahead?
AM: CPI. I think the CPI comes in a little bit lower than people expect and will rally the market for another 100 points. Like a seven handle or something? I think it’ll be a seven handle.
TS: I mean, everybody is watching CPI, I agree. I’m watching CPI as well. I think what’s really interesting going into this next week is I would start looking at Basin Industrial Metals and miners at this point because I think that they are lagging crude, they have been lagging crude oil. But we’re kind of starting to see a little bit of turnaround. So my focus really is going to be on base and industrial metals.