Corporate earnings are beating the Wall Street estimates — are these even accurate? For the exporting countries in Asia — will they be badly hit with further lockdowns? And why is WTI crude oil dropped all of a sudden? All these and more in this quick podcast interview with Tony Nash at the BFM 89.9 The Morning Run.
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/us-complete-lockdowns-unlikely on August 5, 2021.
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SM: BFM 89.9. Good morning. You are listening to the Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar in studio today with Wong Shou Ning and Philip See. First, though, as always, we recap how global markets ended the trading day.
PS: Yes, the U.S. was relatively mixed. The Dow is down 0.9%. S&P 500 also -0.5%. Nasdaq was up 0.1%, crossing over to the Pacific and Asia. Also a mixed day. The Nikkei was down 1.2%. Shanghai Composite and Hang Seng were both up 0.9%, Singapore up 1.1%. And actually, not surprisingly, FBN, Kilcher was down 1.6%.
SM: And for some insights into what’s moving markets, we have on the line Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Always good to have you. So looking at corporate second quarter earnings, they’ve been beating Wall Street estimates, yet a prevailing bearishness seems to be creeping into U.S. markets. Is this an accurate reading driven by the rise of Covid-19 cases from the Delta variant?
TN: Yeah, earnings are up about 90% year on year, and a lot of that really has to do with companies cutting back staff and trimming expenses. This is a really nice, obviously not unexpected, but a really nice pop. But the cutbacks have come to a limit if we’re straddling a come back. Part of that is revenues are up 22% on quarter, which is great. But given the cutbacks, it looks extraordinarily good. So these things have a way of winding down. There’s only so much you can only get this good for so long. So we do expect this to to erode a little bit going into next quarter.
WSN: But does this mean that markets will find it hard to go to the next leg up in?
TN: It depends. It depends on company performance, but it also depends on things like central bank activity and fiscal spending. So if we look at Covid, it depends on which way it’s going. And if Delta variant gets worse and the fatality rate gets worse, which isn’t here in Texas, the fatality rate per case is half of what it was back in February. So just six months ago, the fatality rate here was twice per case of Covid.
So we’re hearing a lot about case counts. But the reality is the fatalities are declining pretty rapidly. So here we see that is a good thing. And and so we’re hopeful that things will you know, we’ll continue to move back to a normal situation. But there’s a lot of talk about, you know, closing things down. New York just put coded passports in for going to restaurants and going out in public, the sort of thing.
What that does is that really it really hurts small local businesses. It hurts chains for, say, restaurants and shopping. It helps companies like Amazon that do a lot of local deliveries. So so if New York is going to lock down, it helps to work from home type of company try it. But it seems to me in the US it’s going to be really hard to close the US down again because there’s a lot of push back in the US to closing down in some places, not so much New York, California, those those places, but other places. If there was an attempt to lock down again here in Texas, people would be pretty resistant.
PS: And you made a point on central bank activity. Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida confirmed that they are on track to raise rates in twenty twenty three, but jobs data is soft. So how should we make of all this?
TN: Yeah, I don’t see that happening. Look, you know, people talk about rates a lot, but the Fed has so many tools. I would expect the Fed to commence some sort of QE plan in the not too distant future before I would expect rates talk. I think we’re closer to QE than we are to rates much closer to QE than we are at a rate. So I don’t see rates changing certainly in obviously in twenty one. I don’t see them changing in twenty two. If it’s twenty three, maybe it’s the back half, but I just don’t see that happening simply because we’ve got to stop the flow of finance ministry and central bank activity going into economies globally first before we start to impose higher rates on borrowers. So we just need to get to a zero state or a semi normal state before we start imposing higher rates on borrowers.
SM: OK, and turning our attention closer to home, Tony. An economic upswing in Southeast Asia this year looks increasingly uncertain. And given that ASEAN is predominantly export dependent, how badly hit do you think countries in this region are going to be?
TN: Yeah, I think it’s hard. For those countries that have the benefit of, say, natural resources exports like Malaysia with palm oil and crude oil and other things, I think that helps. However, manufactured goods are difficult, partly on supply chain issues, partly on Covid, you know, restrictions and other things. So international transport is still in a very difficult situation. So I think it’s tough for Southeast Asia. I think there’s a big move in Europe and North America to have more manufacturing done nearby in regions.
So I think this, over a period that’s been protracted 18 months or longer. I think the more that happens, the more we see unwinding of global supply chains and the more we see the unwinding of Asia as the centralized manufacturing hub globally. I think we’ve seen more regional manufacturing. I don’t think that necessarily means that the manufacturing in China or other places are necessarily in danger. Unfortunately, a place that I think places that I think are more in danger of places like Malaysia, Thailand, the middle income, middle tier type of manufacturing countries. So the automation, competitiveness, these sorts of things are really much more important in places like Malaysia and Thailand.
WSN: And Tony, I want to switch to oil because when I look at the Bloomberg at the moment, WTI is showing at sixty eight U.S. dollars a barrel for delivery in September. What do you make of this sudden drop in prices? Is it due to demand decline?
TN: It’s on Covid fears. News all over the here in the U.S. It’s a lot of Covid fear mongering and you know, a lot of that. The media is based in New York and D.C. And so there’s a lot of chatter on the government side. And in New York, the New York media is trying to get the the focus away from Andrew Cuomo, the governor there, and really trying to focus on Covid and other things. So markets are reacting.
Business doesn’t want things closed down. Again, people in business don’t want to close down again. So I think, you know, you’re going to see a real push pull in markets over the next couple of weeks as that debate happens about two places closed down or not. And you’ll see some volatility in things like commodities and in other markets as that very active discussion continues.
SM: All right, Tony, thanks as always for your insights. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, talking to us about the situation of the economy in the US. And, you know, that push and pull between closing down, how do we deal with with the covid, but at the same time, you know, make sure the economy doesn’t suffer too much.
PS: You made a very interesting point that with closing down, who is affected the most. Right, with respect to businesses. He did say smaller businesses are more susceptible as result of a closure locked out. But the same is exactly the same thing you’re going to see across the board.
WSN: Yeah, yeah. I think he also brought up an interesting point about the fact that, yes, there is this decentralization of manufacturing hubs. Right. Because I think a lot of businesses are concerned that with covid-19 and they have really been proven that supply chains can be very easily disrupted. But ironically, Malaysia may not be a beneficiary. It might move to other countries. And it’s a question of whether we move up the value chain to provide that, you know, that that automation that we need do.
The things that we talk about are 4.0. I’ll be ready for it. Do we have to staff for it? Will they go to other countries? And he hinted that he might. So I’m just curious, in the longer term, what is our government’s plans, especially now 12 million, your plan confirmed to be in September and budget 2022 in October?
SM: That’s right. And we’re going to get a perspective on this later on in the show at seven forty five when we speak to the president of the Malaysian Semiconductor Industry Association. So stay tuned for that BFM eighty nine point nine.