I have adopted the position that when a central bank allows its government to overspend and abuse its currency, something has to give. You could say this is one of the unwritten laws of fiat currencies. Time and time again history has proven this to be true and it is the reason many people claim gold is the only true form of money that cannot be corrupted. In a world where everything seems subject to manipulation, this claim about gold is still up for debate.
The overspending by governments coupled with inflation has really started to affect the perceived value of currencies in relation to other currencies. As these relationships break the losers are the people holding the de-valuated currency. Of course, many factors feed into how we value a currency but the crux of this article is not about whether a currency is over or undervalued but rather what a country must do to defend its value if it comes under attack.
Brent Johnson of Santiago Capital is credited with coining the term the “Dollar Milkshake Theory.” It explains how our debt-based monetary system can cause the US Dollar to rise despite the increasing liquidity injections around the world. Whether this was a “grand master plan” or a situation that just developed over time, it is something that may bode well for the dollar. Johnson recently took part in a discussion that included subjects such as the future price of oil, housing, and the probability of a huge global huge recession.
Johnson conveys what many of us see as a truth that haunts fiat currencies. This is rooted in the fact that when the value of a currency falls, a country and its central bank cannot save both its currency and its bonds. In his “slightly edited” words;
“The problem is you cannot, and this is for every country, the US included, again, there’s a progression in how it’ll go, but you cannot save both the bond market and the currency market because they work at cross purposes. Whatever you do to save the bond market hurts the currency. Whatever you do to save the currency hurts the bond market. And every central bank in history has promised they won’t sacrifice the currency, and every central bank in history has ultimately sacrificed the currency.
And the reason they always choose the currency over the bond or the reason they always choose to sacrifice the currency over the bond market is for two reasons. One, the currency affects the citizens more than the government, and the bond market affects the government more than citizens. So they’re going to bail themselves out before they bail the citizens out. And the second thing is if the bond market blows up and the banking system blows up, there is no longer a distribution system for the government to raise money.
So they can’t let the bond market blow up because then they can’t get money anymore. And then if they can’t get money, they can’t operate. So this is a very long way of saying that I understand why the market moved the way it did. I think maybe in the short term it makes sense, but in the medium to long term, it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Again, kind of watch what they do, not what they say.”
He later added “The problem, as we’ve kind of figured out and found out that it’s very hard to just get four for four or 5% inflation. It goes from 2% to 12% pretty quickly. They don’t have as much control as they think they do, right? And the problem with four or 5% inflation, you can kind of get away with it because it’s annoying and it is frustrating, but it’s not totally ruining your life. But with 8, 9, 10, 12, 15, 80% inflation, that starts to ruin the pledge life, as you mentioned. And that’s when they start to push back from a political perspective. And that’s what central banks and governments don’t want. They don’t want the populace revolting”
When you think about the true motivators driving this “system,” it is logical the government and central banks would throw the populace under the bus. This is about their survival. As to the question of equal pain, those in power justify taking raises to offset the impact of inflation under the idea we “need them” to steer things forward for the “greater good.”
While Johnson’s remarks were aimed at what is most apparent in the actions of Japan, this truth is problematic to all fiat currencies. For more on the Dollar Milkshake Theory see;
In this episode, we’re joined by our special guest, Simon Mikailovich from the Bullion Reserve, along with regular guests Tracy Shuchart and Albert Marko.
First, we looked at systemic risk in the case for hard assets with Simon. When we look at recent events like the BOE intervention in the long-term gilt market, where does he think the next systemic risks could come from? Is it developed more market (European) debt?
Also, Simon discussed how we should be looking at the gold market now. Why is there a divergence between physical gold at the retail level and institutional demand for gold derivatives?
Next, we went into a little bit on OPEC cuts with Tracy. OPEC cut supply by 2m BPD. Everyone has talked about this. We’ve spoken in earlier episodes about a price spike in oil later in Q4, partly owing to SPR releases stopping or slowing. Is this even likelier now? Some US legislators are pushing a bill to break up OPEC. Is that even remotely possible?
And then finally, we took our first look at US midterms. Democrats now control both House and Senate. That’s a huge advantage for Joe Biden. For many reasons – inflation, crime, etc – Democrats are in trouble for November’s midterms, but will they lose control of both the House and the Senate? Albert discussed that in this episode. We’ll cover more of this in the coming weeks, but we want to have a starter conversation here.
Key themes: 1. Systemic risks and the case for hard assets (Gold) 2. OPEC cuts = Q4 Crude price whipsaw? 3. US Midterms 4. The Week Ahead
This is the 37th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
Tony Nash: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Week ahead. I’m Tony Nash. This week we’re joined by our special guest, Simon Mikailovich from the Bullion Reserve. Simon, thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it. We’re also joined by Tracy Shuchart and Albert Marko.
We’ve got a lot to dig into this week. The first we’re looking at is systemic risk. And the case for hard assets? We’ll dig into that quite a bit with Simon.
Next, we’ll go into a little bit on OPEC cuts with Tracy. You’ve all heard about it, there’s no secrets there, but what do we expect for crude prices in Q4?
And then finally we’ll take our first look at US midterms. I think we’ve got a lot to talk with Albert about over the next few weeks before US midterms, but we’ll just do a quick dive in this week.
So before we get started, please take a look at our product, CI Futures. It’s a forecast subscription product. It’s $99 a month. We cover a few thousand assets over a twelve month horizon, economics, currencies, commodities, equity indices. So please take a look at that. The URL is on the screen. Thanks a lot for that.
So, Simon, welcome and thanks for taking the time on a Friday. I know there’s a lot going on in markets, so it’s a huge compliment for you to be here. I want to ask about systemic risks, something you tweet about quite a lot. And we put a tweet, one of your tweets on screen.
You talk about the BoE commits to ensure unicorn in every pot. And this happened a couple of weeks ago, the Bank of England. And I’m really curious, when we look at events like the BoE intervention in the long term guild market, where do you think the next systemic risks could come from? And I guess, more specifically, do you expect those risks to come from developed, more developed markets or emerging markets or does it matter?
Simon Michailovich: First of all, it’s a very difficult subject because obviously you can spend hours and hours talking about it. It’s like the existential problems of our time. And I know we’re also going to talk about gold and systemic risk. What I think I’d like to do is I’d like to have a little parable that kind of explains, I think, or illuminates the situation that we’re in generally. And the dichotomy that may exist, I think exists between markets and life out there.
And terrible comes from very appropriately named for the Times from Russia With Love, which is Ian Fleming’s story, one of the James Bond books. And just to set up this quote that I’m going to read to you, the situation is that James Bond is absconding with a Russian decryption machine on a train and it’s supposed to be met somewhere down the line by the British intelligence agents. And he’s accompanied by a much wiser and older head of station from Istanbul whose name is Kareem Bay.
And Kareem advises him to get off the train immediately because there’s existential danger. They’re being hunted and Bond wants to see this gamble through. And so Kareem tells him a little story which I’d like to read to you which I think kind of explains more or less or answers a question about systemic risk and generally what’s going on between the markets and events that we’re all observing through press but may not necessarily fully understand or yet appreciate their implications.
So what Kareem tells him, he says “you’re a gambler. To me, this is business, to you this is a game.” And then he puts a hand on his shoulder and he says, “this is a billiard table. An easy, flat, green billiard table and you hit your white ball and is traveling easily and quietly towards the end. The pocket is alongside. Fatally, inevitably you’re going to hit the red and the red is going to go into that pocket. It is the law of the billiard table, the law of the billiard room. But outside the orbit of these things a jet pilot has fainted and his plane is dining straight at that billiard room or a guest main is about to explode.
It already has actually, in the real life with Nordstream or lightning is about to strike and the building collapses on top of you and on top of the billiard table. Then what has happened to that white ball that could not miss the red ball and to the red ball that could not miss the pocket. The white ball could not miss according to the laws of the billiard table.
But the laws of the billiard table are not the only laws. And the laws governing the progress of this train and of you to your destination are also not the only laws in this particular game.
And so the point is that for 40 years, the markets, the financial system and the economy has gone along with that, have lived by the laws of financialization, by the laws of the billiard room and of the billiard table and other laws that are outside the real economics more famine, pestilence, inflation have not entered into the equation. And so within the framework of the billiard table there is no, for example US Treasuries do not have credit risk. US dollar does not have counterparty risk. Banking deposits are safe, 100% safe. That’s by the laws of the billiard table. That’s by the laws of the markets.
So essentially this bubble, the everything bubble that the credit bubble that we have been in for x number of years. All the problems inside this bubble were nominal problems related to nominal values in financial markets. And those values can be fixed by creating additional money, by creating additional credit, by creating conditions, by providing liquidity. What cannot be fixed inside this bubble are real problems like energy shortage, like supply chain disruptions, like World War, like the fact that a significant number of other countries are suddenly developing their own ideas as to economic policies and monetary policies and other policies that they want to pursue.
Whereas our system has come to depend on the US dollar as a source of cheap financing without any limits and without any constraints on our ability to create credit, create money, pay the bills, however much, in any quantity at any time. So when you ask me about systemic risks, what I would say is that systemic risks are coming from outside this framework and are not yet fully understood inside the framework.
Which is why, for example, the dollar is on a tier relative to other currencies. And the phrase that’s used to describe it is it’s the least dirty shirt? What is not being said in that statement is how dirty is the least dirty shirt? Has it been already worn for ten days and all the other ones for 20 days, or is it just been worn for ten minutes? That’s my point. So how healthy is the healthiest course in the soap factory? That’s the question, right?
TN: And I guess the question about systemic risk, which is almost unanswerable. But when these things break, do they usually break gradually or do they usually break all at once? Is that an answerable question?
SM: Well, they break gradually and then all at once. Just like the famous also overused quote from Hemingway how do you go broke slowly and then all at once? Obviously you can think of this phenomenon as a confidence collapse. Now, confidence collapse is not a problem in itself. It’s a consequence of other problems where the preponderance of the evidence and preponderance of the mental recognition reaches a certain critical mass, where in the physics it’s called phase transition.
Like for example, boiling water, which looks the same whether it’s half boiling or almost boiling. And then suddenly you see the bubbles, you see the churn, and it almost happens in moments, but it didn’t happen in the moment. It’s been heating up for a while. So that’s how I would describe it. And
TN: this is all great, I guess, if we have a doomsday clock, are we like really close to midnight or are we kind of approaching midnight? And it’s something that will come at some point I know that’s kind of an ambiguous question, but does it feel to you like we’re really close to midnight or can we put it off for a little bit?
SM: Well, I would answer it this way. I think the proverbial train has left the station. The crisis is now underway. Okay? The crisis, geopolitical crisis, military crisis, supply chain crisis, economic crisis, and financial crisis. All of the… And political crisis. You’re going to talk about elections. So all of these events, and by crisis I mean a moment of high danger, again develops similarly to boiling water. Crisis itself, once it starts, it means the heat is now in real time, is going up. The boiling point has not yet been reached. How long does it take to reach it? It depends on the intensity of the flame. Right. So that we cannot gauge. But what we can gauge is that the process has started and it can accelerate or decelerate as it goes, but I don’t think it can stop suddenly.
TN: Right. And a US president using the word Armageddon in a fundraising speech half a dozen times this week doesn’t really help lower the boiling point.
SM: It does not help lower the boiling point. It does not help. And frankly, I think that people are not paying much attention to what happened with this Nordstream explosion. But this is the first act of sabotage on an international against an international supply chain infrastructure, which I think is going to have dramatic consequences ultimately, because it changes the rules of the game. Sure something unthinkable becomes feasible.
Albert Marko: Just real quick. I agree with Simon on the systemic risks. And the fact is the Fed policies have completely ignored geopolitical issues, political issues, supply chain problems. I mean, they keep going on this tear about raising rates is going to bring down inflation, but then they put themselves in doom loop because the demand is going to come back faster than the supply damage that they’re creating.
So, yeah, Simon is correct that the systemic risks are there and getting worse and that’ll see any chance that they can be alleviated in the next six months. I’m skeptical that ongoing rate rises or rapid rate rises is going to have an impact on inflation given… Wait till they end QT in the next couple of months and continue on with rate hikes thinking that’s going to fix things. It’s not. It’s not. It’s whistling past the graveyard. It’s way overused. But that’s what we’re doing.
TN: So before we move on to other things, I want to ask you about gold. Okay, Tracy, kindly put out some questions for you last night. And we got some responses from some Twitter users and this Twitter user @Spudlink1, asked, “if gold doesn’t rally in this environment, how could conditions possibly get more perfect than the last three years? Is gold dead?”
So, very poignant question, but what are your thoughts on that?
SM: So my thoughts on that are very simple. Gold itself. Gold is not a company. It doesn’t release results. It’s not like things are going better or worse. Gold is the same gold. So the price of gold and the prospects of gold are not determined by gold itself or anything that it does, but it is determined by supplying demand, which is human driven. So it’s human perception and human behavior.
So why is gold not behaving like certain people like this gentleman expect it should? That’s because what this gentleman thinks and what few of us think is not accepted as received wisdom by the vast majority of investors. That’s not consensus.
So the fact that these are perfect conditions for gold is absolutely not consensus because by the rules of the billiard table inside the billiard room, gold is not seen at the moment as a safe haven. The dollar is because the dollar is fiat gold. Now, fiat of gold is no gold. But inside this framework that we’ve been in for 40 years, it has been and so demand for gold, you don’t need to take my word for it. I mean, you can just look at the ETF flows like GLD publishes ETF laws and you can see that money is not flowing into gold.
So demand from investors for gold is anemic in an environment where some of us think it should be robust. But that’s because we see certain things and we believe that there’s tremendous systemic risk and market large does not believe it.
Again, you don’t need to take this as the only example. You can look at the Treasuries, they’re trading, I mean for something percent with the percent inflation. Well, why is that? Well, because the breakeven rate, which is market expectation of future inflation, the curve, the forward curve shows that rates are actually positive and getting more positive because inflation is supposed to drop to 2-3% imminently. Well, is it going to? Well, that’s conventional wisdom is that it will. So that’s one thing.
The other thing I would say is when people say that gold is dead, I mean, it’s an American century theory because gold is essentially a reserve currency. It has outperformed all other currencies, reserve currencies but gold. So let’s say in dollar terms gold is down like 6% year to date, but in yen terms it’s up 18%. In pound terms it’s up 13%. In Europe, in Swiss Franc, all of the DXY components, currencies, DXY, Canadian dollar in all of those currencies, gold is up.
So gold is outperforming financial assets, stocks, equity is down 23%, Nasdaq is down whatever it is, 33% or 34% here today. Gold is down 6%. So it’s outperforming financial assets and an underperforming US dollar because US dollar is gold by the rules of the billiard table and the guest line has already blew up, but maybe the plane has not yet hit the room.
And so as long as that’s continuing, everybody’s playing by those rules where there’s no credit risk in the dollar. So if there’s no credit risk in the dollar or in Treasuries, in US sovereign obligations, then by the dent of that reasoning, getting any kind of coupon beast getting no coupon, if you factor out credit risk and market is not factoring in credit risk, I think the credit risk is tremendous. And obviously people who are asking and wondering how come gold is not surging, they think there’s credit risk. But that’s a minority opinion. That’s a simple answer to that question.
TN: And that is fantastic. Thank you so much for that. This is an amazing perspective because I think there is a lot of cynicism around gold in the markets today around kind of popular chatter. And it’s so great to get this perspective.
AM: Tony, I mean, I’ve been a big critic of gold for a long time. However, in this scenario, I even have to admit that if you want to arbitrage for dollars, especially in other currencies and FX’s, gold is the only real way to do it. And the longer that the Fed makes errors in policy, there’s no question that people are going to start resorting to gold just as a hedge.
SM: My only warning to people is gold is a commodity that’s sort of it’s an industrial commodity in physical form. So, of course, all the paper gold exposure has counterparty risk. Physical gold does not have counterparty risk, but physical gold is a manufactured product. And manufactured product borrows coins.
By the way, the premiums on coins are surging, and it’s doubled this summer since the beginning of the summer. So manufactured products, they’re supply chains, they’re manufacturing facilities that produce them. They can work 24 hours a day, but three ships, but they can’t work faster than that.
So just like with toilet paper, it all works until suddenly there’s a surge in demand. Then there’s no toilet paper in your supermarket. It’s the same thing with gold. It’s available until everybody wants it, at which time, by definition, it’s not available because the inventory and supply chain is geared towards test demand, not towards surging demand. So as soon as demand surges, it disappears.
So you buy insurance when you can, not when you think you really need it, because you’re not the smartest guy or person you know, other people achieve the same reach the same conclusion at the same time. And so everybody wants insurance at the same time.
TN: You’re the only guy I’ve ever heard who compared gold to toilet paper in a positive way. Yeah. Okay, let’s move on to crude from one physical quantity to another. Tracy, we talked about OPEC in recent weeks. We talked about crude prices in recent weeks.
And with the OPEC announcement, the supply cut announcement this week, I want to revisit our discussion from a couple of weeks ago about crude prices in Q4. We talked about the possibility of a whipsaw effect for crude prices in Q4. What’s your thoughts on that? Do we see that happening?
Tracy Shuchart: Well, I think what we’re… First, I kind of wanted to touch on this 2 million barrels because it’s not actually a 2 million barrel cut, right? Because the group hasn’t been producing a quota all year, basically. So we’re running at a 3.58 million barrel shortfall, really, which happened in September. And so if we take a look at the cut distribution, yes, the five countries that are producing at or near quote, which are Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Russia, yes, they are shouldering most of that burden. But when you net everything out, it’s really closer to like 1.25 million barrels. So I just kind of wanted to clear that up because it’s really not 2 million.
Going into Q 4, what we have to pay attention to is, one, the ending of the SPR, which if they keep releasing it, eventually it will drain. But so far it should end in November, which is going to immediately take four to 7 million barrels off the market because that’s kind of what they’ve been releasing per week on average. Then we also have to look at China and their COVID lockdowns trying to come to an end because they’re looking for 5.5% GDP by end of year, which is not going to happen.
TN: Well, it’ll happen.
TS: Well, on paper it’ll happen. Statistically it’ll happen. But we are starting to see a little bit of firmness in mobility data in traffic and airlines. What I’m also looking at is they are talking about lifting export quotas. If they do that, that means they are going to have to purchase more crude barrels because it would be a significant increase. Those are kind of the things that I’m.. Going into Q4, in other words, I think the pressure is definitely to the upside rather than the downside, just looking at what is coming online potentially that could propel this market higher as far as… I mean, we’re already in a structural supply deficit, so it’s not going to take a lot for this kind of freak out.
TN: Post US midterms, post CCP meeting, post SPR, post other stuff. Right.
TS: And then December 5, we have to see if EU actually follow through with their oil and product embargo for Russia. So also another thing that would take more barrels off the market.
TN: Right. So I’ve also heard, I think you may have said it where this OPEC meeting, and what we’ve seen over the past few months is really OPEC changing their orientation to Asia and really forgetting about the west. Is that real? Are you seeing that, in fact, or is that just kind of a myth?
TS: Well, no, I mean, if you look throughout the last few years, I mean, China and Russia basically compete, sorry, Russia and Saudi Arabia basically compete for China’s fitness. So off and on, one of those countries has been their biggest suppliers. So this is not new where the focus is towards Asia, especially because over the last few years, the west is pursuing green policies and trying to stay away from that. And so where they can sell barrels like you see Saudi Arabia or you see OPEC in general raising their OSP to Asia consistently, right. Because they can capture above markets for their barrels. That’s not really a new phenomenon.
TN: Well, China’s perpetuating green policies, too, right. Kind of wink wink, supposedly as they build out coal plants and other things. But I think what I find interesting is Europe and the US are kind of begging for more energy and OPEC is saying, no, we’re going to cut back. I think the headline is more important than the fact the 2 million is more important than the 1.25, because that’s what really moved markets in the immediate term. But China had really bought all their crude already by, say, April or something, right? And so they had fixed all that stuff, the prices for the year in kind of second quarter. So this doesn’t at least for now, it doesn’t really affect them. It won’t affect them until early next year or something like that. Is that fair to say?
TS: Well, unless in Q4 they raise these export quotas, then it’s going to matter because that’s still on the table for discussion next year. This is kind of a last-minute thing. And so that’s definitely something that I’m watching if they actually follow through with that. Right?
TN: And also with purchases in a dollar equivalent, whether it’s not US dollar, whether or not it’s US dollar, these are extraordinarily expensive barrels compared to what they could have gotten in Q2. So something has to change for them to want to buy the volumes that they bought. And then if they’re buying at the same time the US is trying to refill the SPR, that creates even more pressure on the market. Is that fair to say?
TS: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, our SPR barrels are going to China, right? Right.
TN: So, Tracy, what are we missing? I mean, we’ve heard all this chat about OPEC over the last couple of days. What’s the nugget that you feel like people are missing?
TS: I think as prices have come down, I think everybody has been forgetting we are still in a structural supply deficit. Even though prices were coming down, they were down to extraneous reasons like recession fears and not as many Russian barrels off the market as initially anticipated. But really, the market structure hasn’t changed, nor has the supply problem. Right. Let me add another question there. I want to ask about refining capacity. What are we at now with refining capacity? We need more refining capacity. 90 something. We’re currently we’ve been between 90 and 95% of our refining capacity, which is crazy because I’m actually surprised that we haven’t seen more heart breakdowns. They’re not built to Google at 95%.
TN: So we have a hurricane goes through Louisiana, cuts out some refineries for a week. What does that do?
TS: Well, that would be a little bit of a relief for crude prices, right? Because you shake it with the barrels. But that’s going to take your product prices through the roof, and your current tax rates are going to go through the roof.
TN: And what’s the lag on that? What’s the tail on that?
TS: That really depends on how long the refinery is offline for. Right. Whether it’s a week or two, that’s fine. But if we start going into, like Katrina, where you’re going in months, then that’s going to be longer. Problem.
TN: Okay, very good. Thank you for that. And as we talk about gasoline, it becomes very political at some point. And Albert, as we go into we’re deep into the midterm season right now, and I’ve got a couple of graphics from Real Clear Politics looking at the House and the Senate races in the US.
And it looks like it’s very competitive in the Senate. The House, it seems like Republicans are doing very well to reclaim the House, but it seems like the Senate is really competitive at the moment. Can you walk us through that?
AM: Yeah, well, simply, the Republicans will easily take the majority. Redistricting alone will give them 20 seats, which is the majority, and then you start looking at any Democrat that one with 2% or less across the country is probably going to lose. So I think that will probably end up getting 250 seats in the House of the GOP. So I think that would end up being like 185 for the Democrats, which is important because you need a buffer to avoid any messy infighting the Senate becomes difficult because the Republicans have kind of weak candidates in Oz, in Pennsylvania, and Walker in Georgia.
If those two candidates were stronger, it would have been a slam dunk, but it’s not at the moment. Nevada looks like it’s trending towards the GOP, which is a big, big problem for the Democrats at the moment. If they lose Nevada, they’ll probably end up losing Arizona. And if they lose Arizona, it’s going to be a one or two seat GOP majority.
TN: Okay, and so what does that do? Okay. We covered Pennsylvania, right? You said it’s potential
Republican but not strong. Georgia potential, but not strong. Arizona is leaning that way. Nevada is leaning that way. Wisconsin is Wisconsin.
AM: Wisconsin and North Carolina are solid Republican.
TN: Okay, so then what does that mean for the second half of the Biden administration?
AM: Not good things. Hearings all over the place, from Hunter Biden’s antics to Biden’s pipeline policies, environmental policies that’s affecting the economy at the moment. Border crime, elections, election integrity, I mean, you name it, it’s going to be all over the news. So it’s just not good for the Biden administration. I expect them to keep on going with executive orders because there won’t be anything that he can pass.
TN: Okay, very interesting. Now for the people not in the US. Most Americans view legislative gridlock as a good thing, right? I mean, it’s a good thing for business when we have legislative gridlock. So this is not necessarily a bad thing for US government. There will be a lot of talk about can’t pass a budget, can’t get extensions on certain things, and that’s just drama that comes every year. But legislative gridlock is not necessarily a bad thing for American business. Is that fair to say?
AM: It’s not. You’re absolutely correct about that. However, actually, with Biden insisting on producing executive orders for his own policies and the treasury, with the Allen just acting insane, in my opinion, god knows what they’re going to sit there and pass. If you can’t pass something legislatively, they’ll do it via budgets. That’s fine. But it sets a terrible pressing going. Forward because we’re well past that, Tony. We’re well past that president. We’re well past that.
TN: Okay, great. I want to cover this over the next couple of weeks as we lead up to the election. So I just want to give people a taste of what we can talk about. So if we don’t mind if you guys don’t mind, let’s just go around and I’d love to know what you guys are looking for in the week ahead. Tracy, do you want to get us started? Then Simon will go to you. And now what are you guys looking for for the week ahead?
TS: Obviously, I’m watching the energy markets right as we get closer and to see what sort of policies the US is going to or the current administration is going to try to pull out of a hat to derail oil prices in front of Midterms. They’ve been talking about fuel bans, fuel export bans. They’re talking about actually trying to pass the no peck bill again. They’re also talking about actually seizing assets of Saudi Arabia, which they do own, motivo, which is the largest refinery in the US. Which is paramount to all out oil war. So closely watching the administration and how they’re going to move forward with energy policy.
TN: is this Venezuela thing real? Will they dial back the restrictions on Venezuela to get Venezuelan crude?
TS: Venezuela produces 7000 barrels per day and literally most of that goes to China to pay debts. There’s nothing more you can squeeze out of Venezuela.
TN: Okay, that’s good to know. So that’s fake news. All right. Okay. Simon, what do you see
going into the week?
SM: Well, a week is not my reference, in my opinion, but I think that the most important thing people should be watching are international geopolitical developments because I believe we are in a world war. It sounds very dramatic. War usually is assumed to be bomb flying, but there are other forms of enforcing essentially will on other people and economic, financial, political, ideological, cyberspace,
space, outer space these days.
So I think the most critical thing to watch are developments like with Tracy’s talking about confiscation of Saudi refinery. I mean, that’s an act of war. That’s an act of economic war. So this is where I think a lot is going to come from. And the other thing I would watch very carefully for the types of developments like what we saw with Gilts in UK just overnight, things happen. Like for example, the repo lines right now are in excess of 2 trillion. I mean, in 2019, the first blow up, they went in with 30 billion. So this is a crisis that’s continuing and it’s being bailed out by the Fed.
So I would watch all these excess, telltales of all these excesses and watch for ripples on the surface to make sure to identify if something is really breaking. Like you said, when is it going to come? Well, is the water starting to boil? That’s what I want…
TN: Real quickly, do you get the sense that at least in the US, they’re trying to hold this back until midterms and then we’ll start to see a bunch of bad news come?
SM: Well, for example, they’re releasing strategic petroleum reserve, which is clearly controlling an attempt to control energy prices at the pump, gas prices at the pump. So, yes, I think after the elections we’re going to see some damage break.
TN: Yeah, interesting. Albert, week ahead, what do you got. Your eyes on?
AM: CPI. And I think it’s going to end up coming in hot and all of a sudden you’ll see the dollar surge once again, maybe threatening 120. Then you talk about what Simon is saying about things breaking and building up of a narrative of ending QT, although we haven’t really started it, but it is what it is.
TN: Well, exciting times guys. Thank you so much. Thanks for your time. Thank you very much for all your insights. And have a great weekend. Thank you very much.
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UK Prime Minister Liz Truss is expected to announce a package of support to deal with rising energy bills in the coming days. It’s understood the government could spend $115 million on plans to subsidise bills. We weigh up the pros and cons of subsidies and windfall taxes with Caroline Meyer, energy analyst and CEO of Meyer Resources.
US e-cigarette maker Juul is to pay a $438.5 million settlement, following a lengthy investigation that found it had marketed its products to underage teenagers. Rachel Butt from Bloomberg in New York explains the background and implications of the story.
Rahul Tandon is joined from Austin, Texas by Tony Nash, CEO and founder of Complete Intelligence, and from Freetown, Sierra Leone by media entrepreneur and TV presenter Stella Bangura.
Hello, there. How are you? This, of course, is Business Matters here on the BBC World Service. I’m Rahul Tandon as always, coming up on the program, we’re talking about changing your leaders. Does it work? That’s happened here in the UK. Liz Truss was sworn in into her new job. We’re going to be looking at the energy challenges that many countries, many of you listeners, are facing at the moment.
It’s going to be a terrible winter and in many countries, it will be for some of the lower income households. It will literally be a question, do I heat or do I eat?
There we go. That is a question I think that many people, unfortunately, across the world, will be facing. A lot of tough questions that are going to face businesses here in the UK. Tony Nash joins us as well this evening from Complete Intelligence. Hello, Tony. Always a pleasure to have you on the program. Our new Prime Minister here is going to need a lot of intelligence. Can I ask you, Tony, sometimes when we’re faced with big problems, we think, let’s just change the leader. That doesn’t always work, does it? Just putting a new person in charge. The problems are still there.
The problems are still there. And the problems that we have right now are very hard problems to solve. So Liz Truss is going to really need a lot of help and a lot of deep thought to solving these problems.
Let’s switch it on its head, though, sometimes, having that new leadership in place, new ideas, new thoughts. She announced her new team a short while ago, Tony, that can make a difference. A fresh look at difficult problems that people are facing, whether it’s countries or businesses as well.
Sure it can. I think some of the problems she’s facing right now, though, are they’re global problems. It’s the energy supply chain, right? It’s the cost of energy, it’s the downstream costs of energy. It’s the cost of things like fertilizer and food into next year. So these are not problems that the head of the UK, the leader of the UK, can solve on their own. This is something that really takes some deep thought to solve, say, the domestic symptoms of those problems, or not the symptoms, but the domestic impacts of those problems, as well as the global sources of those problems. It takes a lot of effort, especially for a new leader, to come in, set up their team and get going.
Yeah, that’s a good point. Tony, last question to you on this particular issue. Sometimes with leadership, the key is knowing when to take over. This is not the best time for any leader to take over in the country because of those problems you outlined there, which we’re going to be talking about in the program in a lot more detail a bit later.
No, you’re exactly right, but I think there’s a certain kind of leader that’s attracted to taking over in a very difficult time. So I’ve done a turnaround and a couple of startups in my day, and it takes a different kind of person who to want to take a leadership position in that situation. And hopefully she’s a person who is focused. Hopefully she’s a person who can take criticism really well. Hopefully she’s a person who can get people on her team and build trust. And if she can do those things and all of the other things that a leader is supposed to do, she may actually do really well.
Stella, you were talking about the elections in Sierra Leone, which are coming up by the beginning of next year. I wonder we’re talking about leadership. I suppose the true test of a leader or somebody who wants to be a leader is taking over in difficult circumstances. Not when it’s easy, but when it’s tough. Against your labs. Tony, when you go around Texas, are you seeing a lot of youngsters vaping nowadays?
I have two kids in university and one in junior high. And my kids who are in university were part of that initial group that was marketed to. And so when they were in high school, there was a lot of vaping in high school, and there still is. And even now the kids in junior high are being marketed. And so when I say junior high, that’s kind of 12, 13, 14 years old.
So are they being directly marketed to? Probably not. But the problem here yes, that’s right. And the influencers and the way that they get to these kids, and there are efforts in the schools here to counter that. A lot of the messaging in the schools is countering, and again, I’m talking 12, 13, 14 years old is countering vaping and trying to get the kids to not start vaping. So it is something that’s very common even at a young age, and there are a lot of efforts to really stop it.
Yeah, go on, Tony.
Yeah, the appeal here for the kids, there are a couple of appeals. First of all, they don’t smell like tobacco, right? So it’s a lot easier to do and conceal. But the other part that’s pretty common is to get vape use that has THC in it. And kids in, say, public schools will smoke in the bathroom between classes or something like that. But it’s the THC juice for their vape.
Because I’m listed, I know what that is.
It’s basically smoking marijuana, right? It’s the THC is the active ingredient in marijuana. And so it’s a very easy and pretty inconspicuous way to distribute this to schools, to kids in schools. And so it’s not necessarily nicotine, it’s the THC. I’m not saying every kid who vapes has THC in their vape juice, but it’s both. And it’s balancing both out that we see a lot in the junior highs and high schools here.
I want to bring in Tony here very quickly, because I remember being in India when the government had demonetization completely changed the currency. It’s not that easy, is it? Sometimes?
No, it’s not easy. It’s a shock. And I think that it’s a little bit of a shock by design so that people understand the new value. But when it doesn’t hold, then that’s a real problem. So I’m not laughing at this specific situation now, but with demonetization in India, obviously, that had an organized crime drive, right? Like they wanted to take out the large bills to take the power out of some of the organized crime transactions. Is that fair?
Yeah, it was. It was also about removing some black money from the economy. Did it work? It’s an interesting discussion that’s still going on in India. Lots more interesting discussions coming up here on Business Matters after the latest news.
What about where you are in Texas? That’s a part of the world that is known, isn’t it, for its energy resources? It’s fossil fuels, also renewables. Now we’re heading towards Midterms. How big an issue is energy there? Not quite as big maybe as it is in Europe, I suppose.
Well, I live in Houston, Texas, the energy capital of the world. So you should know that everyone in my neighborhood has put in a new swimming pool except me over the past year. So the energy companies are doing well and my neighbors are benefiting. And so I don’t say that to be horrible, but these times part of the problem with times like this is people realize that there is actually under investment in energy.
And so whether it’s electric, power companies or storage or transmission, other things, so what comes out of Texas is natural gas, which goes to Europe to kind of fill the gap that isn’t coming from Russia. Okay. And so because there’s not as much supply, those prices go up, and that benefits the people who take things out. But the under investment happens in two places. It happens kind of on the electricity side, but also on the extraction side. So things here actually in Texas pretty good, and we’re not seeing a lot of the downsides that Europe is seeing.
Yeah, very much. And I suppose the price of the gas at the moment, a lot of that liquefied gas coming into Europe at the moment means that a lot of those companies in Texas will be doing very well. We were talking about Liz Truss earlier in the program, the new British Prime Minister, because she’s unveiling her energy plan a little bit later this week, on Thursday. But it’s quite clear now that her government’s going to borrow hugely to keep bills low. In the EU, though, Brussels are going to propose levies on energy companies that would channel sky high earnings back to vulnerable households and businesses.
This is going to cost Europe a huge amount of money because they’re going to have to bail out a lot of people because of the rising cost of energy here and that’s going to have long term economic consequences for the continent.
Sure, yeah and I think that whenever you get a governor estimate, it’s always a little bit low. So whatever the governments are putting out to spend, you can probably count on two times that or more maybe then. Sure, yeah. The government estimates are intentionally low and they always are because they underestimate probably supply constraints in this case.
If you look at things like gas storage. So I’m not of the belief that we’re going to have like a horrific event in Europe this year or this winter because if you look at gas storage, for example, Germany has a natural gas storage, it’s something like 84% of reserves and their target is 95% and they’ll fill that 95% by probably November. So there will be supplies of gas in Europe. It will be expensive.
So as your guest said, people will have to choose between food and heating. I don’t necessarily think that’s the case. If you look at the German government, they have the capacity to issue a massive amount of debt to pay their people to survive through the winter. So not every government in Europe has that luxury, but Germany certainly does and a lot of northern European governments too.
Well, we did see, didn’t we, earlier this week, the Chancellor of Germany outlining plans to help people will have Liz Truss do that as well. Texas, California, two rivals. I think a lot of our listeners across the world will be surprised to hear about blackouts in a state like California, one of the wealthiest in the US.
Well, yes, in California needs a lot of investment in its power grid. That’s really something that’s long overdue and they haven’t necessarily put the investment in. It’s got a creaking power grid and so this is why power is so inefficiently distributed in California. And until they do that they’re going to continue to have these brownouts and blackouts and power distribution problems.
And do you think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve seen a movement of quite a lot of businesses, haven’t we? It’s not just about taxation from California to your part of the world.
Yes, absolutely. It’s about regulation, it’s about the continuity of power and it’s about education. And the students that come out of Texas institutions are very good, very hard working students. So there are a lot of factors related to it. And land, there’s a lot of land in Texas that can be built on for things like Tesla and other places.
Stella well, that’s very similar to the situation in Bangalore, a city that you know well. As you Tony know very well, yes.
Gosh, I spent a lot of time in Bangalore about 20 years ago, before the new airport, before the second ring road, all of that stuff. So it was the same town, but it was a little bit different, not quite the scale that it has today, but the disasters there, it’s heartbreaking.
I moved to Texas in 2017 when we had a Hurricane Harvey, and one of the things your guest was talking about is how people would help each other out in Bangalore with the floods. And that’s exactly what we saw here where we went and helped ten or 20 people take all of their belongings out of their house and started new life. It’s heartbreaking.
It is indeed. And it has been a sad end to the program, talking about the city I know very well in Bangalore. Hopefully, I’ll get on its feet. Thanks to Tony. Thanks to Stella. We’ll be back same time, same place tomorrow.
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.
As US and other markets decouple in terms of recovery trajectories, should investors adjust their portfolio? BFM spoke to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, on the major selldown of cryptocurrencies, as well as his thoughts on oil, gold, and inflation.
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RK: Well, choppy waters, to say the least. There is a little bit of a mixed day yesterday over in Asia. But right now, to talk more about global markets, we have Tony Nash CEO for Complete Intelligence for more insights here. Tony, good morning and thank you for joining us on the line. Now, it looks like the U.S. and other markets are beginning to decouple in terms of recovery trajectories. How do you think investors should allocate their portfolios according to this scenario?
TN: Well, obviously depends on the time, but I think that some action was taken yesterday in the U.S. around Fed comments as people were trying to decipher whether those comments were positive or negative. And today, I think they realized they were actually fairly dovish comments. So the U.S. is positioning itself to grow and other parts of the world say Europe and parts of Asia are still very conservative about opening until, you know, I think with the places that are being fairly conservative about opening, it really depends on investment, really depends on government assistance, monetary policy, you know, these sorts of things.
So investing in those markets depends on support that those companies are going to get and how how those investments will perform.
LM: Yeah, I’m just wondering, there has been increasing fears about inflation. Is that influencing or changing your views right now?
TN: Well, so, you know, we’re realizing that things like like lumber prices, which a lot of people talk about, that’s been a processing issue in sawmills. There’s a lot of raw lumber out there. Those prices in many cases are the same as they were like, say, 10 years ago. OK, it’s the process into their bottom and making issues in a number of other areas. One area that we’re keeping an eye on is crude oil, which I know is important later, of course.
And we’re not we don’t expect a dramatic rise in crude oil prices, partly because I still have six million barrels a day on the sidelines right now. So even if we saw a dramatic uptick in travel and other activity, power generation and so on, there’s spare capacity on the sidelines for a lot of countries to be holding down. So we don’t expect to see and short of having production cuts, we don’t expect to see dramatic oil price rises because that that supply will come on the market as needed.
RK: Right. And beyond crude, Tony, do you know crude oil in general is quite correlated to inflationary pressures and prices, but beyond crude oil, are you paying attention to any other commodities out there? Because, you know, we’re seeing a surge in all of them. Which ones particularly catch your eye?
TN: For industrial metals are the ones that have really rallied from, say, November or December through this month? What we expect is not pricing to continue to stay strong, but the rate of rise will will slow down.
OK, so we’ll continue, for example, to see high copper prices, but we don’t expect copper prices to rise at the same rate as they had been for the past five or six months. We see that across the board in a lot of commodities where we have seen really dramatic rises based on, you know, government spending, monetary policy and also uncertainty about the direction of the dollar when these things are positioned in or denominated in U.S. dollars. We’ve also seen over that same time, because it’s so going that in China we saw the Chinese renminbi appreciate pretty dramatically, which made the dollar denominated commodities really cheap.
And so there’s been accumulation of those commodities in China, whether it’s food or whether it’s industrial or metals. And we’ve seen that stuff accumulated in China because these things are really kind of pretty cheap for them in China in terms.
RK: And one more commodities. Want to get your views on here, Tony, is gold because it’s seen some strengthening over the last few weeks. In fact, you know, it was more towards the high single digits. Now it’s at the one percent range. Do you expect it to break into the green? And what kind of range do you expect for the year?
TN: You know, we do expect gold to continue to rise at least through August, August, September. We think that there’s kind of a sweet spot and people take a pause on, say, cryptocurrency. And as people look at some of these other metals and other commodities where the growth opportunity has slowed, we do expect attention to gold as well as kind of other inflation and currency risk type of focus will turn to gold as well. We expect there to rise through those then kind of a pause late Q3 and then we expect that to continue toward the end of the year.
So we’re not looking at a doubling of prices or looking at a know, low double digit type of price rises in.
LM: And Tony, twenty twenty one was supposed to be a bumper year for U.S. IPOs. Is it still buoyant or has sentiment turned more south?
TN: No, no, even seems like like Robin Hood starting to offer fractional IPO shares on their platform. So where IPO are typically restricted to a select few? We’re starting to see some things happen where where smaller investors are given opportunities in some of these IPO. So we do expect that to continue as long as investors are there to invest in IPO. And we don’t necessarily expect that that will taper off dramatically. We may see some hesitation if we see markets turn south in June, July, but we won’t necessarily see a dramatic taper off to the end of the year.
NL: So we have seen the major sell down of crypto currencies. How is the volatility affecting crypto companies like Coinbase and market confidence to gain legitimacy with institutional investors?
TN: Yeah, no doubt it’s hurting their credibility because cryptocurrency has kind of become a bit of a mockery over the past week or so, we assume on tweets and a number of other things. But I don’t necessarily believe that crypto currencies are a thing of the past. They haven’t been retired yet, but we do expect to see cryptocurrency is more regulation, more explicit regulation and kind of soft infrastructure around cryptocurrency like Coinbase that goes along with it. They’ll have the infrastructure to be able to help in that crypto investors who along with regulation and do just fine.
TN: So I don’t think crypto her dad the new not necessarily realize that they thought they may, but but I do think it’s still something that’s viable within the broad based interests.
RK: Thank you so much for your time this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. And let’s take a quick look over at the coin prices right now. Bitcoin thing, a little bit of a recovery. It’s up two point six per cent now, forty one thousand dollars and on a year to date basis, up to forty one point six percent year to date, still far off from the 100 percent or 90 percent year to date gains we saw earlier this this year.
We take a look at Etha. It is now two thousand seven hundred and seventeen dollars, or seventy two thousand two hundred eighty dollars a coin up a little bit, point four percent year to date, up 275 percent.
NL: Yeah, very quickly as well. Taking a look at a piece of news, the first quarter of 2021 doesn’t appear to be working out in a week’s favor. According to the F.T., Quarterly losses almost quadrupled on year to over two billion dollars.
RK: We work not working. Yeah, that’s a headline in the making right there. The losses incurred as so far this year, three point two billion dollars in 2020. Revenue fell almost 50 percent on year from one point one billion to six hundred million dollars. And the company lost around 200000 customers from a year ago. And this, of course, all information, according to the Financial Times, because this is not a public listed company just yet. In fact, they’re looking to try and go public again later this year after their first failed attempt a year to be eighty nine point nine.
A returning guest joins us for another QuickHit talking about how the current market unknowns are affecting the economy, and what are these “unknowns” anyway? Independent trader Tracy Shuchart discusses with Tony Nash about the “buy-everything” market and why is it happening despite the worries and crashes of economies because of COVID. We’ve also looked at the crude oil market and whether it will recover or not and how? She also shares what she thinks about the regionalization and shifts in supply chain.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on August 14, 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: It feels like the markets have taken a breather this week. Is that what you’re seeing and also what are we waiting for?
TS: You notice all this entire summer, actually, that it’s been a buy-everything market. Bonds are up, equities are up, gold’s up, crude oil’s up, across the board, everything was up. Commodities, equities, fixed income, and then just starting in August about a week, week and a half ago, we started seeing some of that error let out of those sales.
Equities are still grinding higher but gold futures reached 2,089 dollars, and then came off to 200 dollars really quickly. It has stalled out over the last couple of days.
Crude oil in general, this summer has been stuck in a range. So, I guess you could say OPEC did their job. They wanted to stabilize the oil market. They did that.
Then this week we’ve seen some of the air come out of bonds. So I think, right now, it was kind of buy-everything. We had all this government stimulus, we had central bank stimulus and now we’re at the point where the government stimulus is out. The extra unemployment, PPP loans, there’s no more checks things like that. And then we have the election come up. The markets are waiting to see what’s going to happen.
TN: And RobinHood closed their api. So, we don’t know what the Robinhood traders are doing anymore.
TS: Yeah, so it just seems like there’s a lot of things that are unknown. If you look at the vix curve structure you see the kink in that November area. So, the markets are forward looking at that as an unknown. So, these next couple months might be either going to be flat until we find out or it’s going to get really volatile.
TN: Right, the one that really told me that we are in a pause is when gold turned around. When we started to see gold turning around and we’ve seen it paused where it is now, that’s really what showed me that things have changed or things have at least slowed down. And so, are we waiting for clarity around stimulus? Because I don’t think it’s earnings or anything like that that we’re looking for. It really does, as you said, kind of a stimulus-driven market. Is that really the next thing that we’re looking for?
TS: I think it’s a combination of things. Fed purchases have curtailed a tiny bit. We still have an unknown about what’s going to happen and congress just adjourned for recess without a decision. So, we won’t find out what a decision is really probably until September. That leaves a whole unknown, especially, when you’re talking about that extra unemployment.
The big thing is the election because we don’t know what the market’s going to do. If there’s a Biden win, that will only be a sector rotation in my opinion, because of what their agenda is. Everybody’s just very apprehensive right now. They are pulling back on, their involvement in the market being that there are a lot of big unknown factors out there right now.
TN: It’s really one of the only recessions where incomes have actually grown during the recession, which is weird. We’ve seen retail sales and industrial production in recent months come in and they’re actually okay. It seems like the breaks are put on that with stimulus stopped as well. The question really about being stagnant or rising? Or is there a possibility that we tip over and start to decline if stimulus isn’t forthcoming by the end of August or early September?
TS: That’s a possibility that we see a pullback in the markets absolutely. I don’t think you’re going to see anything, like we saw obviously back in February. But I could definitely see a market pull back just on people’s apprehensions of the unknown.
TN: As you mentioned OPEC and that crude oil has settled and it’s been horizontal for the past couple months. What would move that either way? Do you see airlines coming back online? Do you see major events happening that would really push the oil price up? Or do you think we’re just also in a waiting pattern there?
TS: We’re in a waiting pattern. But from what I’m seeing, the fundamentals are improving. Even though people don’t really want to see that. I look at driving patterns not only in the States but driving patterns in the world. I look at airlines and things of that nature and we are seeing a slight improvement. Everybody’s looking for a big crash in oil prices again but I don’t foresee that at this point. Unless, obviously, something fundamental changes, like the whole world goes on a lockdown again or some unforeseen event happens. But right now, the crude oil market looks pretty strong. We’re still over supply but we’re working off that oversupply. Especially going forward into 2021, when that supply really starts to be worked off, then we have a Capex problem. We’re gonna have a supply problem. I can forsee the oil prices even going higher into next year. But right now, I would say we’re stable to drift higher at to the end of the year. We are hitting that soft season. But again, I don’t see the oil market really pulling back that much at this point.
TN: Is the back-to-school factored into your expectation of rising oil prices or would that accelerate it?
TS: I believe that people will be apprehensive to send their kids on a school bus. So they’ll probably be driving them to school. That’s actually oil demand positive for me.
TN: Our view is to see oil grind higher into the end of the year. As of August 1st, that was our view as well. I’m also curious about your views on the dollar. Do you see any dramatic movements either way in the dollar or are we in the low 90s for the next few months?
TS: The market is so oversold at this point and everyone is so leaning bearish. I wouldn’t be surprised in he next couple of months if prices don’t go lower that people start to unwind those short trades and we could see not a huge spike in the dollar. But just a general unwind of that shortness.
TN: Great, okay, is there anything out there that you’re seeing that’s really interesting that we should know about? It’s late summer. People are tired. They’re not really all into work. Is there anything that you’re looking at that we’re not really paying attention to?
TS: The lumber market. I sent out a few tweets about that. I think that’s definitely something to watch because the housing market is doing better than anticipated. However, we don’t need things like extra ten twenty thousand dollars added on housing costs for new home builds. So, that’ll put a very big strain on the market and on home builders. So that’s definitely something to watch at this point.
TN: I noticed if you go to home depot, the lumber section is empty. That’s not where home builders go, but that’s what I see as a consumer is. It’s just empty. There look to be seriously obviously. There’s demand pulled but there really seems to be some sort of supply issue there as well.
TS: Yeah, there’s a supply issue. A lot of the mills have been closed like they’ve been closing for the last couple of years because the demand hasn’t really been that high, well at least in British Columbia. But with this new surge, I’m hearing that tons of mills are back up and running shifts 24/7 now. Even smaller mills that you used to do little to no business are back up and running. So, I think that looking forward October, November, we should see some more supplies.
TN: What we’ve seen since COVID from toilet paper to meat processing to lumber is real stress put on supply chains. And from your perspective as a portfolio manager and a trader, do times like this make you concerned about the stability of the U.S. economy or do these tests make you feel like the people participating in that economy are making their supply chains more resilient? Do you think people are actually investing to make those things more resilient or do you think they’re just getting through and they’ll forget about it within a few months?
TS: No, we are seeing some improvement on supply chains and moving forward. There are companies that are diversifying out of China. It’s in supply chains closer to the U.S., Mexico, Latin America. This particular incident, this COVID really made people rethink and reassess things and I think we are seeing changes. It’s not easy to move supply chains obviously, right? So, it’s just going to take some time but I definitely see in the markets where companies are changing.
In this QuickHit episode, we are joined by Jerry Mullins the Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and External Relations for the National Mining Association. In this episode we explore U.S. mining operations in the height of the pandemic. We take a look at the industry’s serious concern about supply chain security. We also talked about rare earths and how the U.S. miners are contributing to the global green economy.
The National Mining Association is the voice of mining in Washington, D.C. with the administration, with Congress, and different agencies. The focus of the organization is to grow domestic mining in the United States and highlight the most significant and timely issues that impact mining’s ability to safely and sustainably locate, permit, mine, transport and utilize the nation’s vast resources .
This is QuickHit’s episode 16. For previous episodes you might have missed, kindly check:
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: From your perspective, looking at what happened in mining during COVID and post COVID, what did mining firms see around continuity of operations and the risks there? Also, what did mining clients find with supply chain continuity? That’s a real question and that’s something we saw a lot of issues around as countries like Peru and others just completely shut down.
JM: Fortunately, domestic mining in United States was deemed an essential industry, and so it was allowed to continue to operate. That’s really important to recognize. As an industry, it had the ability to absorb the different environment that a pandemic brought on, and companies were allowed to successfully operate. These companies were able to continue to produce the raw materials that were needed for multiple industries across the globe.
As far as the effects of other countries and how they were affected, when you think about the global economies that generally slowed down, a lot of folks hit a pause. Economies had to re-calibrate exactly what they were able to do and the best way to do it. The domestic mining in the United States played a real critical role in leadership of showing the nation how to continue to work forward safely and effectively.
TN: With the supply chain disruptions and some of the geopolitical issues, there is a real sense in the US that there may be some supply chain security issues around metals and minerals. Can you help us with that? What is the Association doing?
JM: That’s an interesting point you bring up about the security issue. Just last month, the National Mining Association conducted a poll and 64% of the respondents said they were concerned about the supply chain dynamics and how reliant the U.S. was on international supplies of different critical minerals.
You’ve seen a real zest of excitement and certainly interest in focusing on the ability for U.S. producers to fill that gap and make sure that those critical minerals that are needed can be produced in the United States. [This means] addressing some of the permitting challenges that domestic mining faces and finding ways to more effectively allow for U.S. mining to meet a lot of demand that exists.
TN: When you talk about things like permitting and we talk about supply chain risk, one of the big kind of things that flag up is rare earths. Can we talk a little bit about rare earths and understand for the U.S. electronic sector and Department of Defense and others? What are some of the things that you’re thinking about and your observations about rare earths in the U.S. and the exposure to rare earths from other places?
JM: Well, certainly the Department of Defense relies on 750,000 tons of minerals each year. That’s for everything from armor for the individual soldier, to armor on a tank, to different requirements for jet engines to telecommunications. When you think about everything from palladium to copper to gold and silver–some rare–some not as rare. But those necessities are real. There’s an opportunity for tremendous growth in the rare earth field in this country. It is really opening up, and that’s something that international investors as well as domestic investors are starting to recognize.
TN: One of the other things we hear quite a lot about is the green economy — electric vehicles, battery technology. We hear a lot about those technologies accelerating in other locations and maybe the U.S. has to catch up or there are minerals from other places that the U.S. may or may not produce. How do you see U.S. miners contributing to the green economy and battery technology and electric vehicles and that whole section of the economy?
JM: When you talk about battery technology and when you talk about the electrification of the auto fleet, what you’re talking about is copper. And you’re talking about mass needs of copper, mass needs of gold, mass needs of silver, and be able to satisfy the requirements. If you look at the wind technology and the coking steel that’s going to be required, the coking coal for making steel that’s going to be required, these are needed to achieve the goals that have been put out there. The American miner is absolutely part of of that future.
TN: Great. Perfect. Jerry, thanks so much for taking your time today. I really appreciate this and I look forward to speaking again as we see all of the supply chain issues with COVID and post-COVID. It’ll be really interesting to reconnect and hear some of your thoughts at that point.
BFM 89.9: The Business Station speaks with CEO and founder of Complete Intelligence, Tony Nash, to explain why the markets have surged and earnings seem resilient despite the US GDP falling to negative 4.8 percent.
BFM: We are talking to Tony Nash, the chief executive of Complete Intelligence on the American markets. Tony, thank you for talking to us. American GDP shrank by 4.8% overnight, the steepest fall since the last recession. What did you think of these numbers in terms of what you expected prior?
TN: It was a bit worse than many people thought. But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. That was the thought that many people had, and markets tend to be looking forward. So looking at Q2, we now have big states like Texas and Florida and others that have started to open up fairly aggressively. So markets themselves are looking forward. And markets are looking pretty favorably on some of the opening up lines.
BFM: Fed Chair Jerome Powell is calling for more action from the government. What are the options and what do you hope to see?
TN: Well, there are options for more fiscal stimulus. The federal government could do things like an infrastructure plan. Two years ago, in his State of the Union address, the President talked about a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan for the U.S. They could do something like that. The individual states, which really imposed a lot of these restrictions, they really haven’t had to pay up much aside from kind of the standard unemployment benefits.
So the states could pony up a bit more cash than they have. They’ve really been relying on the federal government to pay for this whole thing. And they haven’t really had any accountability for the decisions that they’ve made. So I think the states really need to pay up a bit in terms of fiscal stimulus.
BFM: The Fed has backstopped the corporate bond market in the fixed income market for some time. Obviously, you can see that exemplified in the six and a bit trillion dollars of debt on the balance sheet. Do you think they’ll come a time when the Fed backstops the equity market as well?
TN: I don’t know. There’s been talk about that, they’ve certainly done that in Japan and the BOJ owns a lot of the ETFs in Japan. I don’t necessarily see that happening in the U.S. because it’s a door that once you open, it’s very, very difficult to close.
It’s the same question with negative interest rates. And so these are activities that once you start, they tend to be very, very hard to stop. And most of the market observers don’t really want that to happen.
BFM: Q1 GDP came in minus 4.8 percent. But the consensus estimate of economist on Bloomberg reckoned there’s going to be a minus 26 percent drop in Q2. And even more astonishingly, I think a nine percent improvement in Q3. Do those two numbers strike you as a little bit extreme?
TN: Q2 seems a little underestimated, meaning I don’t necessarily think it’s going to be that bad. Q3? It’s possible it could be nine percent. I think given how negative it could be in Q2, you could definitely see a rebound like that. But that’s just a base effect in terms of the quarter on quarter growth. It’s not necessarily a dramatic year on year growth. In fact, year on year, that’s actually negative and a negative print. One would hope that if Q1 and Q2 are so bad that you would see a print that’s at least nine percent in Q3.
BFM: Yet markets charge ahead despite relatively bad macro data. What is this optimism based on?
TN: Seeing the states open, seeing some realistic plans being put together to do this, there’s a balance of doing it aggressively and carefully. I know that sounds a little silly, but we’re seeing some real push by Americans to want to open. So the state governments are going to probably do things a little more aggressively than they initially wanted.
There was some concern that Q1 earnings would be worse than they are. Meaning that companies may try to pack all their negative news into Q1 in hopes that Q2 will look slightly better. But sure, they’ve packed some of the negative news in Q1. But some of the Q1 earnings haven’t been as bad as people had feared. So markets are looking forward. And in the U.S., it’s a flight to safety.
We’re also seeing on a relative basis, U.S. markets perform fairly well as, say, non-dollar assets or overseas dollar assets come into the US.
BFM: Microsoft, Facebook, and Tesla all came out last night all the better than expected. Microsoft showing some picture of health in the corporate sector. Tesla, obviously, where car sales are concerned, then Facebook where the ad consumer market is concerned. Can we read this optimism into Q2 and possibly even into Q3?
TN: I think certainly Facebook and Microsoft, with people sitting at home, those two will probably do quite well in Q2. Tesla? I wouldn’t expect Tesla to do well in Q2. Auto sales have been way down in Q2. And with oil and gas prices as low as they are, the substitutionality effect of electronics from internal combustion engine cars, the incentive is not as high as it once was. So I don’t necessarily see Tesla’s performance to be better than expected. But then again, Tesla bulls are Tesla bulls. They’ll buy, and they’ll pump up the price regardless of how they perform in real life.
BFM: So you don’t expect this to be a broader momentum for the broader market?
TN: Anything focused on productivity, anything focused on virtual activity, will do very, very well. But things like car sales, again, they’ve been really difficult. Anything around entertainment or group, physical, in-person, entertainment, obviously, it’s just not possible or hasn’t been possible for those to grow. So those are going to be really, really hard for people to get optimistic about.
On the other hand, you’ve seen, energy firms actually performing really well today. The major oil and gas firms and U.S. markets performed really well. Part of that is on the back of gossip that the U.S. Treasury may come to the rescue with some preferential financing for American oil and gas firms. Whether or not that’s going to happen, we don’t really know yet. But that may come to pass, which may help some of these firms.
BFM: Talking about the oil industry, are there any structural changes they can make to improve their prospects of survival? Some of these oil majors that you spoke of?
TN:Oil and gas firms are incredibly inefficient. There are a lot of productivity changes the oil and gas firms could make, whether they’re NOCs, the national oil companies, or the private sector majors. Oil and gas workers tend to make a lot more than other sectors.
They tend to be more bloated, so there are a lot of productivity measures that can be taken. For NOCs, for the national oil companies, there can be more activities taken to make them more accountable than markets. And so I think in Malaysia, you’re lucky. Petronas performs pretty well.
But other NOCs don’t perform as well and you can see some major changes in terms of fiscal accountability. Assuming oil prices stay lower, accountability to the central governments and performance rather than the subsidies coming from central governments, as we’ve seen in the past, may come to pass in some countries if they can’t really afford to continue to subsidize these governments. Because, you know, we’re seeing the emerging market and middle-income country currencies come under a lot of pressure versus the U.S. dollar. If you’re seeing energy revenues decline and you’re seeing pressure on the currency, it’s really hard for some of these governments to subsidize their national oil companies.