SM: BFM 89.9. Good morning. You are listening to The Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Khoo Hsu Chuang and Wong Shou Ning at on Thursday the 2020 3 June. In half an hour, we’re going to get an update on the situation in Sri Lanka and what the most viable path out of the economic quagmire that they find themselves in at the moment. But first, as always, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
WSN: Guess what? Every market was down. Every single market that we cover, at least, the down nested were down zero 2%. SMP 500, down zero 1%. Nikki, two to five in Japan was down 0.4%. Hong Seng, Hong Kong, down 2.6%. Shanghai was down 1.2%. Straight times Index in Singapore down 0.8%. And our very own FBM KLCI having a bit of a bad day. It was down 1.8%.
SM: So, mark it’s all in the red this morning. For some thoughts on why, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Thanks, as always, for joining us. Now, the Fed Chair, Jerome Powell came closest to admitting that a recession is inevitable, as engineering a soft landing would be challenging. These are remarks that he made overnight. Does this mean a less hawkish stance by the central bank going forward, do you think?
TN: Well, I think what they’re trying to do is kind of moderate the perception of their hawkish actions that they’ve taken over the past two months. So you have interest rates, rate rises happening, but you also have quantitative tightening starting as well, which means that the Fed is selling assets on their balance sheet. And what quantitative tightening does is it takes currency out of the market, so the money supply is smaller, which makes that currency more valuable, and it puts pressure on, say, equities and other things because money is not as easy. So, yeah, I think they’re trying to help people not see things as hawkish as they are, but they’re still trying to talk down inflation.
KHC: Yes. Tony, so the narrative existingly for recession is further out in 2023, but there’s one or two banks now in the US saying that 2022, the latter half could be the recession. What’s your opinion?
TN: Yeah, I think look, we already had a negative GDP number in Q1, so it’s quite possible that we see another one in, say, Q3 or something like that. What’s interesting to me is total commercial lending is still rising. So we saw total commercial lending, I’m not talking about consumer credit, I’m talking about bank lending. And so we saw in 2008, we saw in 2020, bank lending either declined or flattened here. It’s still on a steep curve. So that tells me that there’s still activity in the economy that people aren’t completely afraid. Yet you do see commercial and industrial loans still growing in the US as well. So I don’t necessarily think there’s a huge amount of say over the past couple of weeks, I’ve started to see people use the word depression. And we see this every time there’s a recession. People take it to an extreme. I’m not quite sure we’re there yet. A lot of people act like it’s a no brainer. We’re already in a recession, but we saw that in Q1. It doesn’t feel good. We may see it later in the year as well.
WSN: Okay, so, Tony, we know that the technical definition of a recession is two quarters of negative growth. Assuming that happens, so we have a technical recession. Just curious, how painful will this recession be? How long will it take for recovery? Or is it too early to try and make a guess on this?
TN: No, I think typically recessions are probably two quarters. Even if they’re say a shallow recession, what typically happens is the job losses are the most painful. And so we’ve heard so much over the past a year and a half about talent shortages and this sort of thing, and a lot of jobs unfilled. So what’s happening now is the investors and the banking analysts are transitioning their expectation on company performance. So during Covid, they were like, basically saying, look, just hold it together, don’t go belly up as a business, just keep running. And we’ll have a wide birth of kind of loss and other stuff for you. During COVID, we’re normalizing now. So analysts are pushing very hard for management teams to produce normal metrics for performance, and many of them aren’t doing it. And we saw with some of the retail numbers and some other numbers coming in, so what’s going to hurt the most is layoffs. And that’s going to come even with a shallow recession, we’re going to see layoffs. Will that happen now? We’ve seen that in tech. I wouldn’t expect other layouts to start until probably Q3. So that’s what’s going to hurt and finding jobs, it’s going to hurt coming out of this.
KHC: Yeah. Another metric, Tony, I saw that house prices continue to ratchet higher. I think average home prices in the US is nearly half a million US dollars. Do you see any kind of impact in terms of maybe a correction on that price rent?
TN: Yeah. So when we look at, say, the median home price in the US. It’s $428,000. Okay. So just under the 500 you mentioned. Now in January of this year, if you took out a mortgage in the US. Which the term for mortgage in the US. Is typically 30 years. So if you took out a 30 year mortgage, your monthly payment would have been around $1,700. Okay. In June. Now, that same size mortgage would cost you $2,500 a month. Okay. So we have $700 more a month just over the last six months. That hurts. So I think we’re starting to feel the pinch. There’s still demand for housing, but the affordability of housing has really dried up. It’s really hard for people to get the house that they want or need, and people are either choosing to stay in place or they’re just buying something of lower quality or different location or something.
SM: So, Tony, let’s switch over to what’s happening in Europe. The Eurozone’s first quarter GDP growth rose 0.6% on a quarterly basis and 5.4% on a yearly one. What do you make of these numbers? Do they show that Europe might avoid a recession this year?
TN: Yes, I think that’s going to be really hard. Europe is on really weak ground because they’ve had negative interest rates for quite some time now, and the ECB is talking about coming out of a negative interest rate stance. So when you look at that in Q One, you already had household consumption at a negative growth rate, negative 0.7% quarter on quarter, and you had public expenditures. So government spending down zero, quarter on quarter. So households and governments are spending less than they were the previous quarter. So it looks pretty bad. You even have things like fixed capital formation, which is kind of long term hard investments like roads and buildings and stuff. It rose just over zero. So Europe is really on this thin edge of having a growing economy or not. And so I think with rising interest rates in Europe and energy prices and other inflationary pressures, it’s going to be really hard for Europe to stay out of recession this year.
WSN: Tony, I want to ask about currency, because if you look at the Bloomberg spot in dollar, it’s up 7% on a year to date basis. Of course, in every other country is feeling the pinch. What is your view on the dollar? Is it bad or good for the economy?
TN: It depends on where you are. What the treasury and the Fed are trying to do right now is strengthen the dollar so that these commodities that are nominated in dollars or priced in dollars go down for American consumers. Okay, so you source copper globally, you appreciate the dollar. The price of copper goes down just by function of the currency that it’s nominated in. That’s fine for American consumers and American companies. But if you’re in a developing or in middle market or even just not America, look at Japan, right? Their currency has depreciated dramatically. And for, say, Japanese to buy things that are normally priced in US. Dollars, it’s, I think, 26% more expensive than it was, say, six months ago. Okay, so it hurts if you’re outside of the US. So what has to be done? Well, for countries that are importing things that are based in dollars, so energy and food and other things, they’re going to have to raise their interest rates and tighten fiscally and other things. Otherwise those products just get more and more expensive in local currency terms. So it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a rough time for emerging markets, especially.
KHC: Yeah. Tony switching our attention to Hong Kong, China. There’s a report coming from the city state that John Lee, the new CEO, is working on a strategy to reopen borders with China. Do you think this pretends, maybe a relaxation of the covered rules within China itself?
TN: I hope so, guys. Really, I mean, Asia and the world really needs China to loosen their covert rules. They’re the second largest economy in the world. They’re the major manufacturer for the world. They are the bottleneck for the global economy. So we hear about how Ukraine, the Russia Ukraine war, is impacting inflation. That is nothing compared to what China is doing with bottlenecking manufacturing and trade. So we really need to encourage China to open up. And I did some analysis a few weeks ago. There is, on average, one covet death reported per day in China. Okay? So China is closed for a one over 1.4 billion chance of dying. Okay? So that’s like 70 to the right of the decimal point before the first number appears in a percentage term. So there’s a minuscule chance of dying and they’re closing for that. So it just doesn’t make economic sense, it doesn’t make public health sense for them to close. So we really need to encourage China to open up so that the rest of the world economy heals.
SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking to us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on some of the trends that he sees moving markets in the days and weeks to come, ending there with an appeal to the Chinese government to please open your borders.
WSN: Please. Because I think what’s very disruptive is also this constant opening and then closing and opening and closing, and we can see the impact of that, especially when it comes to supply chain disruptions, like China still the factory to the rest of the world. But very quickly, I think we also have news coming out of us, and this is so much related to inflation because President Joe Biden has basically called on US. Congress to suspend the federal tax for 90 days. Currently, the federal tax stands at $0.18 for a gallon of regular gasoline and $24 per gallon of diesel fuel. So basically trying to calm down. I think also as America goes into summer holidays and driving season starts and I think we’ve seen prices as much as $5, $6 per gallon, which is a shocker to most households. So this is him, I think, making the political overtures that, yes, I’m aware inflation is a problem and let’s try and do something. But I think whether he can get the bipartisan support is always a problem in the US.
KHC: Yeah, we follow the local US papers over the past seven days, actually, he’s been introducing on a day by day basis different, different measures to try and address gas prices, which is of course, a political hot potato in the US.
SM: Very quickly, the UK still sticking on prices? Inflation has hit a 40 year high in the UK of 9.1% on a year on year basis. In May, it’s the highest rate out of the G Seven countries, and it was even higher than the 9% increase recorded in April. So inflation not abating in the UK. 719 in the morning. We’re heading into some messages. And when we come back, how are businesses embracing ESG in their strategies and frameworks? Stay tuned to BFM 89 Nine.
SM: BFM 89 Nine. Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run. It’s 7:05 A.M. On Thursday, the 31 March, looking rather cloudy outside our Studios this morning. If you’re heading on your way to work, make sure to drive safe. First, let’s recap how global markets closed yesterday.
KHC: US markets down was down. .2% S&P 500 down .6% Nasdaq down 1.2%. Asian markets, Nikkei down zero 8%. Hong Kong’s up 1.4%. Shanghai Composite up 2%. STI up 3%. Fbm KLCI close flat.
SM: So fairly red on the board today. And for some thoughts on where international markets are headed, we have on the line with us, Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Always good to have you. Now markets are speculating that the brief inversion of the two over ten year US Treasury yields this week is a sign of an oncoming recession. So do you agree with this? And if not, what might explain these brief periods of inverting or inversion?
TN: It could be a sign. Shazana, I think we have to see a more consistent and meaningful inversion to say that we’re definitely headed into a recession. So what this means is that what a yield curve inversion means is that people have to pay more for shorter duration money. So right now, if you look at, say, the five year treasury, the yield is 2.4% and the ten year is around two point 35%. So it’s cheaper to borrow longer term money, which is really weird. It could have a lot of reasons. Maybe companies need money more. They’re short on cash and they’re more willing to pay for it. So that would be a sign of a recession. So if we see a more consistent yield driven version, we see the two and the five years continue to be higher rates, then we need to be more concerned. For now, there’s a lot of speculation, but we just don’t necessarily see the certainty of it yet.
TCL: Tony, markets are wondering whether the Fed is going to push ahead with this rate policy on tightening because this volatility both in share markets and bond markets is a bit muddling for the analysts and the fund managers to make sense of. What’s your point of view?
TN: Yeah, I think at least for the last few months the Fed has been fairly consistent. But of course, we’ve had exogenous type of events, the war between Russia and Ukraine being the biggest, and that has had an impact on raw materials costs. So food in the case of Ukraine with wheat and sunflower oil and all this other stuff and energy with Russia. So it doesn’t matter what a central bank does necessarily. They can’t push down the price of oil through monetary policy. What they can do is demand destruction. And this is why we think that they’re going to lead with some fairly sizable 50 basis point rises, say in May for sure, and possibly in June. I don’t know if you saw that today. JPmorgan was out with a note saying that there will be 50 basis point rises in both May and June, which would be a pretty sharp rise in interest rates. The good news is we see a sharp rise initially, but then they’ll only do that for a short period of time to cut off demand pretty quickly and hopefully cut down on some of the demand for petrol and oil and some of these other materials.
TCL: Okay. So your sense is that the Fed and JPowell will stay the cost and increase rates, but what’s happening in Japan is quite the opposite. They’re actually showing quite discernible decoupling because they’re staying with zero interest rates. I think the ten year yield on the JGBs is about zero point 25%. What does that spell? Because the Japanese yen is now down at a six minute seven year low. Obviously, there’s a big sense of what’s going on here. What’s your point of view?
TN: J I think yesterday announced that they would have unlimited purchases of Japanese government bonds. So what they’re doing through that is it’s an open door for them to insert currency. It’s kind of a backdoor to growing their money supply, which leads to evaluation of the yen. And so Japan is in a place right now where they want to grow their export sector. They do that through yen evaluation. The competition between, say, Japan, China, Korea is there. China’s exports keep growing despite a strong Chinese Yuan Japan. There are other central banks. It’s partly that reason, meaning the ECB tightening and the Fed tightening, but it’s also competitiveness of Japan of their exports. So there are a number of reasons at play there.
KHC: So you were saying that earlier that maybe we will see 50 basis points increase in May or June. How do you think the share prices of US banks and financial institutions typically would do in this kind of environment, and would they be ultimate winners?
TN: They could be, I guess the only dilemma there would be the impact on mortgage. So if the Fed raises rates really quickly and it has an impact on mortgage demand and mortgage defaults, then that could be a real problem for banks. But short of that, I think they’re probably in a decent place to do fairly well. Of course, that’s company specific and all that sort of thing. But I think financial services in general should do fairly well on a relative basis.
TCL: Yeah. Tony, if it goes ahead as follows. Right. And Japan does not increase rates like the US is, it just extends its debt to GDP ratio. I think Japan is now 255% to GDP. I think the US is well above 100%. That’s quite disconcerting. What happens? How does it all end? Because it’s quite clear that Japan cannot raise rates because it just cannot fall into recession.
TN: Well, the problem with Japan raising rates is their population. And you all know this story, but they can’t necessarily raise productivity without automation. So they have to automate to be able to raise their productivity, to be able to raise their rate of growth. So that’s the foundational problem Japan have now with the BOJ buying with their JGB purchases, they’re actually buying the debt that the Japanese Treasury creates. Okay. So it’s this circular environment where the Japanese Treasury is creating debt to fund their government, and the BOJ is buying that debt basically out of thin air. They’re retiring. Okay. So Japan is in a really strange situation where it’s creating debt and then it’s buying it and retiring it. And this is a little bit of modern monetary theory, which is a long, long discussion. But Japan is in a very strange place right now.
SM: Tony, thanks very much for speaking to us this morning. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his take on some of the trends that are moving markets at the moment. And in the conversation there with a look at Japan and just the curious situation that it finds itself in amid all these economic and geopolitical pressures happening in the world.
TCL: Yeah, it’s really weird, right? The Japanese are so much in debt and they can’t get out of it. They’re creating these debts and they’re buying back this debt. It’s quite insane. But America does the same thing with their bond buying program until this year. Right. And that they haven’t even significantly cut that program. It’s really weird because what happens then for the US dollar? What happens to the Japanese yen down the line when your paper currency is near as meaningless? Right. It’s not banked by anything. It’s just being printed every day Willy nilly. It’s really weird.
SM: So all eyes are, of course, on the Fed, I guess, the most powerful central bank in the world, and how much it’s going to raise rates when it’s actually going to start or stop its QE in since quantitative easing, opposite of that. Somebody tell me what it means. Qt. There we go. And when they start reducing, that’s something that everyone’s watching very closely. Let’s take a look at some of the international headlines that have caught our eye. We see something coming out of Shanghai. Volkswagen said yesterday that it would partly shut down production at its factory in Shanghai because the lack of key components indicating further how a resurgence of the Omikan variant has disrupted the Chinese economy and global supply chains. The Shanghai factory operated in a joint venture with SAIC of China, and it’s one of Volkswagen’s largest facilities. It shut down for two days in mid March, but reopened now. It looks like it’s going to have to shut down again.
KHC: Yes. And the company also gave indication they didn’t give actually any indication on when normal production will resume. But China is booked Vegas largest market in the essential source of sales and profit. So the country is in the midst of the worst outbreak since 2020. And so that should prompt the government to impose lockdowns and restrictions. And even car maker like Tesla is also having a large factory in Shanghai also have to suspend production because of this strict covet policies. And so voice mechanics, they’re actually having a lot of shortages and slowdowns in other markets as well.
SM: So it’s really the twin it’s the twin issues, right? It’s the pandemic on one hand and then it’s also the geopolitical events in Ukraine that’s really affecting it’s, leading to a shortage of auto parts. So all this comes together and it’s not great for car makers in Shanghai at the moment. Turning our attention to another headline, if we look over at Russia, Russia is going to lift the short selling ban on local equities later today. And this is actually removing one of the measures that helped limit the declines in the stock market. After a long, record long shutdown, the bank of Russia also said equities trading hours will be expanded from a shortened four hour session to the regular schedule of 950 to 650 P. M. Moscow time. So I guess they’re trying to get back to normal but how we see that impact the stock market is still, I think, an open question. Yeah.
KHC: And since the stock market has since that stock actually gained 1.7% and the daily move also has been limited. Prior to the resumption of trading, the Russian government actually took measures including preventing foreigners from exiting local equities and banning short selling and to avoid the repeat of 33% slump scene in the first day of the Ukraine invasion last month.
TCL: Yeah, this whole Russia Ukraine invasion is set off a domino effect of domino effect quite catastrophic. Or repercussions manufacturing in capital markets in currencies. How does it all end?
SM: We don’t know. We don’t know the end to that story. And how long 717 in the morning. Stay tuned to BFM 89.9%.
We’ve seen so much about oil for rubles, gas for bitcoin, etc this week. Does it represent a fundamental shift for energy markets? And is the dollar dead? The yen fell pretty hard versus the dollar this week. Why is that happening, especially if the dollar is dead? Bonds spike pretty hard this week, especially the 5-year. What’s going on there and what does it mean?
Key themes from last week:
Oil for rubles (death of the Dollar?)
Rapidly depreciating JPY
Hawkish Fed and the soaring 5-year
Key themes for The Week Ahead:
New stimulus coming to help pay for energy. Inflationary?
How hawkish can the Fed go?
What’s ahead for equity markets?
This is the 12th episode of The Week Ahead in collaboration of Complete Intelligence with Intelligence Quarterly, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 0:34 CI Futures 1:22 Key themes this week 1:48 Oil for rubles (death of the Dollar?) 3:15 Acceptance of cryptocurrency? 5:34 Petrodollar Petroyuan? 7:32 Rapidly depreciating JPY 10:12 Hawkish Fed and the soaring 5-year 11:58 Housing is done? 13:10 Stimulus for energy 15:53 How hawkish can the Fed go? 17:34 What’s ahead for equity markets?
TN: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Week Ahead. My name is Tony Nash. I’m here with Albert Marko, Sam Rines, and Tracy Shuchart. Before we get started, please, if you can like and subscribe to our YouTube channel, we would really appreciate it.
Also, before we get started, I want to talk a little bit about Complete Intelligence. Complete Intelligence, automates budgeting processes and improves forecasting results for companies globally. CI Futures is our market data and forecast platform. CI Futures forecasts approximately 900 assets across commodities, currencies and equity indices, and a couple of thousand economic variables for the top 50 economies. CI Futures tracks forecast error for accountable performance. Users can see exactly how CI Futures have performed historically with one and three month forward intervals. We’re now offering a special promotion of CI Futures for $50 a month. You can find out more at completeintel.com/promo.
Okay, this week we had a couple of key themes. The first is oil for rubles and somewhat cynically, the death of the dollar. Next is the rapidly depreciating Japanese yen, which is somewhat related to the first. But it’s a big, big story, at least in Asia. We also have the hawkish Fed and the soaring five-year bond. So let’s just jump right into it. Tracy, we’ve seen so much about oil for rubles and Bitcoin and other things over the past week. Can you walk us through it? And is this a fundamental shift in energy markets? Is it desperation on Russia’s behalf? Is the dollar dead? Can you just walk us through those?
TS: All right, so no, the dollar is not dead. First, what people have to realize is that there’s a difference. Oil is still priced in USD. It doesn’t matter the currency that you choose to trade in because you see, in markets, local markets trade gasoline in all currencies. Different partners have traded oil in different currencies. But what it comes down to is it doesn’t matter because oil is still priced in dollars. And even if you trade it in, say, the ruble or the yuan, those are all pegged to the dollar. Right. And so you have to take dollar pricing, transfer it to that currency. And so it really doesn’t matter.
And the currency is used to price oil needs three main factors, liquidity, relative stability, and global acceptability. And right now, USD is the only one that possesses all three characteristics.
TN: Okay, so two different questions here. One is on the acceptance of cryptocurrency. Okay. I think they specifically said Bitcoin. Is that real? Is that happening? And second, if that is happening and maybe, Albert, you can comment on this a little bit, too. Is that simply a way to get the PLA in China to spend their cryptocurrency to fuel their army for cheap? Is that possibly what’s happening there?
TS: It could be. Russia came out and said, we’ll accept Bitcoin from friendly countries. Mostly, they were referring to Hungary and to China. Right. And I don’t think that is a replacement for USD no matter what because not every country except for perhaps China really accepts or El Salvador really accepts Bitcoin or would actually trade in Bitcoin. Right.
TN: In Venezuela, by the way. I think. Right. So on a sovereign basis. Okay. So Sam and Albert, do you guys have anything on there in terms of Bitcoin traded for energy? Do you have any observations there?
AM: No, this is a little bit of… This is even a serious conversation they’re having? With El Salvador going to be like the global hub for Russian oil now because they can use Bitcoin?
TN: That would be really interesting.
AM: But this is just silly talk. Every time there’s some kind of problem geopolitically and they start talking about gold for oil or wine or whatever you want to throw out, they start talking about the US dollar dying and whatnot.
I mean, like Tracy, I don’t want to reiterate what Tracy said, but her three points were correct. On top of that, we’re the only global superpower.
AM: That’s it.
SR: Yeah. My two cent is whatever on Bitcoin for a while.
TN: I think that all makes sense now since we’re here because we’re already here because we all hear about the death of the petrodollar and the rise of the petroyuan and all this stuff. So can we go there a little bit? Does this mean that the petrodollar is dead? I know that what you said earlier is all oil is priced in dollars. So that would seem to be at odds with the death of the petrodollar.
AM: Well, Tony, in my perspective, the petrodollar is a relic of the 1970s. Right. Okay. Today it’s the Euro dollar. It’s not the petrodollar that makes the American economy run like God on Earth at the moment. It’s the Euro dollar. Forget about Petro dollar. Right. Because it’s not simply just oil that’s priced in it in dollars. It’s every single piece of commodity globally that’s priced in dollars.
TN: And Albert, just for viewers who may not understand what a Euro dollar is, can you quickly help them understand what a Euro dollar is?
AM: They’re just dollars deposited in overseas banks outside the United States system. That’s all it is.
TN: Okay with that. Very good.
SR: And the global economy runs on them. Full stop.
AM: It’s the blood of the global economy.
TN: So the death of the petrodollar, rise of the petroyuan and all that stuff, we can kind of brush that aside. Is that fair?
TS: Yeah. I mean, even if you look at say, you know, China started their own Yuan contract rights, oil contract and Yuan futures contract. But that still pegged to the price of the Dubai contracts. Right. That are priced in dollars.
TN: Let’s be clear, the CNY and crude are both relative to dollars. Right?
TN: You have two things that are relative to dollars trying to circumvent dollars to buy that thing. The whole thing is silly.
AM: Yeah, of course. Because Tony, the thing is, if China decides to sell all their dollars and all their trade or whatever, everything they’ve got, they risk hyperinflation. What happens to the Renminbi and then what happens in the world? Contracts trying to get priced right.
TN: Exactly. It’s a good point. Okay. This is a great discussion.
Now, Albert, while we’re on currencies, The Japanese yuan fell pretty hard versus the dollar this week. Do you mind talking through that a little bit and helping us understand what’s going on there?
AM: Yeah, I got a real simple explanation. The Federal Reserve most likely green light in Japan To devalue their yen to be able to show up the manufacturing sector in case China decides to get into a bigger global geopolitical spat with the United States. Simple as that.
TN: Great. Okay. So that’s good. This is really good. And I want people to understand that currencies are very relevant to geopolitics or the other way around. Right. Whenever you see currency movements, there’s typically a geopolitical connection there.
AM: Of course. And on top of that, if it was any other time and they started to devalue the currency like this, the Federal Reserve where the President would start calling the currency manipulators. And there’d be page headlines on the financial times.
AM: And because that didn’t happen, It’s an automatic signal to me that this is what’s happening at the moment. Right.
What’s also interesting to me, Albert, is we’ve seen last week we saw Japan approach the Saudis and the Emiratis about oil contracts. We saw Japan call. There’s a meeting in Japan next week, I think, with China. So Japan is becoming this kind of foreign policy arm, whether we want to admit it or not, they’re kind of becoming foreign policy arm for the US. Because the US is not well respected right now. Is that fair to say?
AM: It’s more than fair to say, I believe Biden’s conference with South Asian leaders was just canceled on top of everything else.
TS: Sorry. And we saw this week Japan and India just signed, like, a $42 billion trade deal. So it kind of seems like they’re smoothing over the rough edges because the United States kind of came after India a little bit earlier about two weeks ago.
TN: Yeah, that’s a good call, Tracy. I think Japan and India have had a long, positive relationship. It’s especially intensified over the past, say, seven or eight years as China has tried to invest in India and the Japanese have kind of countered them and giving the Indians very favorable terms for investment and for loans. And so this is kind of a second part of that investment that was, I think, announced in, say, 2014 or 2015, something like that. And again, as we talked about it’s, Japan intervening to help the US out and obviously help Japan out at the same time. Thanks for that.
Now, Sam. We saw bonds spike pretty hard this week, especially the five year. I’ve got a Trading View source up there on the five year up on the screen right now. So can you walk us through what’s happening with US bonds right now, especially the five year?
SR: Sure. I mean, it’s pretty straightforward. The Fed is getting very hawkish and the market is adopting it rather quickly. And I don’t know how forcefully to say this. The current assumption coming from city is four straight 50 basis point hikes and then ending the year with just a couple of 25. That is a pretty incredibly fast off zero move time, some quantitative tightening, and you’re somewhere around three and a half percent to 4% worth of tightening in a year. That’s a pretty fast move.
So the two year to five years reflecting that the Fed is moving very quickly, you’re likely having the long end of the curve is lagging a little bit. You saw flattening, not steepening this week. The long end of the curve is telling you that the terminal rate may, in fact, actually be at least somewhat sticky around two and a half and might actually be moving a little bit higher. And that terminal rate is really important because that is how high the Fed can go and then stay there. It is also how fast the Fed can get there and how much above it the Fed is willing to go. So I think there’s a lot of things that happened on the curve this week.
TN: Okay. Albert, what’s in on those? Yes, go ahead, Albert.
AM: Oh, I’ve heard whispers that the long bond is going to 2.8% and maybe even 3%. That’s what the whispers have been telling me about that, which is going to absolutely devastate housing.
TN: But that was my actual idea.
SR: Oh, yeah. Housing is done. I mean, you saw pending home sales were supposed to be up a point and down 4%. That’s the first signal. The next signal will be when lumber goes back to $300.
TN: Okay. It seems to me you’re saying by say Q3 of this year we’re going to see real downside in the housing market. Is that fair to say?
SR: Oh, in Q2, you’re going to see real downside in the housing market. Yeah.
SR: Pending sales are, I think, one of the most important indicators of how the housing market is going. Right. It’s a semi forward looking indicator. If you begin to see a whole bunch of these homes in the ground stay as homes that are not being built. Right. So if you begin to see just a bunch of pads out there, it’s going to become a significant problem considering a lot of people have already bought the materials to build it off. And you’re going to begin to have some really interesting spirals that go back into some of the commodity markets that have been on fire on the housing front.
TN: Wow. Okay. That’s a big call. I love this discussion. Okay, good. Okay. So let’s move on to the week ahead. Tracy, we’ve had some stimulus announced to help pay for energy. Can you help us understand? Do you expect we’ve seen California and some other things come out? Are more States going to do this or more countries going to do this, and what does that do to the inflation picture?
TS: Well, absolutely. We saw California, Delaware, Germany, Italy talking about it. Japan already. They’re coming out of the woodwork right now. There’s actually too many to list. It’s just that we’re just now this week just starting to see the US kind of joining this on a state to state basis. The problem is that this is not going to help inflation whatsoever. You’re literally creating more demand and we still do not have the supply online. So all of these policies are going to have the opposite of the intended effect that they are doing. Right. It’s just more stimulus in the market.
TN: Do we think there’s going to be some federal energy stimulus coming?
TS: They’ve talked about different options. I mean, really, the only thing that they could do right now is get rid of the federal excise tax, but that’s only really a few cents. And they kind of don’t want to do that because that goes towards repairing roads, et cetera. That doesn’t fit into their plan that they just passed back in the fall. Right. We had infrastructure plan, so they need to pay for that. That’s already passed. So they probably won’t do that.
The other options that they have that they’re weighing are more SPR release, which is ridiculous at this point because they could release it all and it would still not have a long lasting effect on the market. And that’s our national security. It’s a national security issue. And we’re experiencing all these geopolitical events right now. We have bombs in Saudi Arabia. We’ve got Russia, Ukraine. So I think that’s like a poor move altogether.
TN: So if more States are going to come in, is it suspects like Massachusetts, New York, Illinois, those types of places?
TN: Okay. So all inflationary, it’s going in the wrong direction.
TS: It’s going to create demand, which is going to drive oil prices higher because we still don’t have the supply on the market.
TN: Okay. Wow. Thanks for that. Sam. As we look forward, you mentioned a little bit about how hawkish the Fed would be. But what are you looking at say in the bond market for the next week or so? Do we expect more activity there, or do you think we’re kind of stabilizing for now?
SR: We’re going into month end. So I would doubt that we’re going to stabilize in any meaningful way as portfolios either head towards rebalancing or begin to rebalance into quarter end. So I don’t think you’re going to see stabilization. And I think some of the signals might be a little suspect. But I do think back to the housing front. I’m going to be watching how housing stocks react, how the dialogue there really reacts, probably watching lumber very closely, a fairly good indicator of how tight things are or aren’t on the housing front.
And then paying a little bit of attention to what the market is telling us about that terminal rate. If the terminal rate keeps moving higher, to Albert’s point, that’s going to be a big problem for housing, but it’s going to be a big problem for a number of things as we begin to kind of spiral through, what the consequences of that are. It will be for the first time in a very long time.
TN: Okay. So it’s interesting. We have, say, energy commodities rising. We have, say, housing related commodities potentially falling, and we have food commodities rising. Right. It seems like something’s off. Some of it’s shortages based, and some of it is really demand push based. So energy stuff seems to be stimulus based or potentially so some interesting divergence in some of those sectors.
Okay. And then, Albert, what’s ahead for equity markets? We’ve seen equity markets continue to push higher. How much further can they go?
AM: Last week they eliminated, I think, up to about $9 trillion inputs, short squeeze, VIX crush. I mean, they went all out these last two weeks. It’s absolutely stunning. From my calculations, I think they expanded the balance sheet another $150 billion. Forget about this tapering talk. There’s no tapering. They just keep on going. How high can they go? That’s anybody’s guess right now. I think we’re like 6% off all time highs. On no news.
TN: So potentially another 6% higher?
AM: Honestly, I know that there’s hedge funds waiting, salivating at 4650. Just salivating to short it there. So I don’t think they can even get close to that, to be honest with you. So I don’t know, maybe 4590 early in the week before they start coming down.
TN: Okay. Interesting. So you think early next week we’ll see a change in direction?
AM: Yeah, we’re going to have to this has been an epic run, like I said, 90% short squeeze, 10% fixed crush. You don’t see this very often. Okay, Sam, what do you think, Sam? Similar?
SR: On equities, I like going into the rip higher. I’m kind of with Albert, but a little less bearish. I think you chop sideways from here looking for a catalyst in either direction. Bonds ripping higher today, yields ripping higher today. Bond prices plummeting. That I thought was going to be a catalyst for equities to move lower. It wasn’t. That kind of gives me a little bit of pause on being too bearish here, but it’s hard for me to get bullish.
TS: What’s interesting? I’ll just throw in like, Bama, weekly flows. We actually saw an outflow from equities for the first time in weeks. It wasn’t a lot 1.9 billion. But that says to me people are getting a little nervous up here. Profit taking, as they say on CNBC.
TN: All right, guys. Hey, thank you very much. Really appreciate the insight. Have a great week ahead.
AM, TS: Thanks.
SR: You too, Tony.
TN: Fabulous. Look. I’m married. I’m a man. I don’t notice anything. I noticed the other guys laughed at that. Uncomfortably. That’s great. Okay. I’m just going to start that over, guys. And we’re going to end it.
Tony Nash joins Daniel Lacalle in a discussion on the rise of the machines in a form of AI and machine learning and how Complete Intelligence helps clients automate budgeting with better accuracy using newer technologies like now casts. How GDP predictions are actually very erroneous yet nobody gets fired? And how about China’s GDP as well, and why it’s different from other economies? All these and so much more in markets in this fun discussion.
The video above is published by Daniel Lacalle – In English.
DL: Hello everyone and welcome to this podcast. It is a great pleasure to have somebody that you should actually follow in social media on Twitter, Tony Nash. He is somebody that you definitely need to need to look for because it has very very interesting ideas. Tony, how are you?
TN: Great, thanks Daniel. Thanks so much for having me today.
DL: It’s a tremendous pleasure as I said I was very much looking forward to to have a chat with you. Please introduce a little bit yourself. A little bit to our audience and let us know what is it that you do.
TN: Sure, thanks Daniel. My name is Tony Nash. I live in Houston, Texas. I’ve spent actually most of my life outside of the U.S. I spent most of my 20s in Europe, North Europe, the UK, Southern Europe and from my 30s to almost the end of my 40s I was in Asia. And so you know being in the U.S., Europe and Asia has really given me personally an interesting view on things like trade economics markets and so on and so forth.
During that time I was the global head of research for the economist out of London, I was based in Singapore at the time. Led the global research business. I moved from there to lead Asia consulting for a firm called IHS Markit which is owned by S&P now.
DL: Wow! amazing. Truly amazing. You probably have a very interesting viewpoint on something that a lot of the people that follow us have probably diverging views. Know the situation about the impact of algorithms in the market the impact of high frequency trading and machines in markets.
We had a chat a few months ago with a professor at the London School of Economics that he used to invite me to his year-end lectures to to give a master class. And he mentioned that he was extremely concerned about the almost the rise of the machines. What is your view on this?
TN: I think so an Algo is not an Algo, right? I mean, I think a lot of the firms that are using Algo’s to trade are using extremely short-term algorithmic trading say horizons. Okay? So they’re looking at very short-term momentum and so on and so forth. And that stuff has been around for 10 plus years, it continues to improve. That’s not at all what we do we do monthly interval forecasts, Okay?
Now, when you talk to say an economist they’re looking at traditional say univariate and multivariate statistical approaches, which are kind of long-term trendy stuff. It’s not necessarily exclusively regression, it gets more sophisticated than that.
When we talk to people about machine learning, they assume we’re using exclusively those kind of algorithms. It’s not the case. There’s a mix we run what’s called an ensemble approach. We have some very short-term approaches. We have some longer-term traditional say econometric approaches. And then we use a configuration of which approach works best for that asset or that revenue line in a company or that cost line or whatever for that time.
So we don’t have let’s say, a fixed Algo for gold, Okay? Our algorithm for the gold price is continually changing based upon what’s happening in the market. Markets are not static, right? Trade flows economics, you know, money flows whatever they’re not static. So we’re taking all of that context data in. We’re using all of that to understand what’s happening in currencies, commodities and so on, as well as how that’s impacting company sales. Down to say the department or sub department level.
So what we can do with machine learning now. And this is you know when you mentioned should we fear the rise of the machines. We have a very large client right now who has hundreds of people involved in their budgeting process and it takes them three to four months to do their budgeting process. We’ve automated that process it now takes them 72 hours to run their annual budgeting process, okay? So it was millions of dollars of time and resources and that sort of thing. We’ve taken them now to do a continuous budgeting process to where we churn it out every month. So the CFO, the Head of FP&A and the rest of the say business leadership, see a refresh forecast every month.
Here’s the difference with what we do, compared to what a lot of traditional forecasters and machine learning people do, we track our error, okay? So we will as of next month have our error rates for everything we forecast on our platform. You want to know the error for our gold price forecast, it’ll be on there. You’ll know the error for our Corn, Crude, you know, JPY whatever, it’s on there. So many of our clients use our data for their kind of medium term trades so they have to know how to hedge that trade, right? And so if we have our one, three month error rates on there, something like that it really helps them understand the risk for the time horizon around which they’re trading. And so we do the same for enterprises. We let them know down to a very detailed level to error rates in our forecast because they’re taking the risk on what’s happening, right? So we want them to know the error associated with what they’re doing with what we’re doing.
So coming out of my past at the economist and and IHS and so on and so forth. I don’t know of anybody else who is being transparent enough to disclose their error rates to the public on a regular basis. So my hope is that the bigger guys take a cue from what we’re doing. That customers demand it from what we’re doing. And demand that the larger firms disclose their error rates because I think what the people who use information services will find is that the error rates for the large firms are pretty terrible. We know that they’re three to seven times our error rates in many cases but we can’t talk about that.
DL: But it’s an important thing. What you’ve just mentioned is an important thing because one of the things that is repeated over and over in social media and amongst the people that follow us is well, all these predictions from the IMF, from the different international bodies not to the IMF. Actually the IMF is probably one of the one that makes smaller mistakes but all of these predictions end up being so aggressively revised and that it’s very difficult for people to trust those, particularly the predictions.
TN: Right. That’s right.
DL: And one of the things that, for example when we do now casts in our firm or when with your clients. That’s one of the things that very few people talk about, is the margin of error is what has been the mistake that we have made in the in that previous prediction. And what have we done to correct it because one might probably you may want to expand on this. Why do you think that the models that are driving these now cast predictions from investment banks in some cases from international bodies and others? Are very rarely revised to improve the prediction and the predictability of the of the figures and the data that is being used in the model.
TN: It’s because the forecasters are not accountable to the traders, okay? One of the things I love about traders is they are accountable every single day for their PNO.
DL: Yeah, right.
TN: Every single day, every minute of every day they’re accountable for their PNO. Forecasters are not accountable to a PNO so they put together some really interesting sophisticated model that may not actually work in the real world, right? And you look at the forward curves or something like that, I mean all that stuff is great but that’s not a forecast, okay? So I love traders. I love talking to traders because they are accountable every single day. They make public mistakes. And again this is part of what I love about social media is traders will put their hypothesis out there and if they’re wrong people will somewhat respectfully make fun of them, okay?
DL: Not necessarily respectfully but they will.
TN: In some cases different but this is great and you know what economists and industry forecasts, commodity forecasters these guys have to be accountable as well. I would love it if traders would put forecasters up to the same level of criticism that they do other traders but they don’t.
DL: Don’t you find it interesting? I mean one of the things that I find more intellectually dishonest sometimes is to hear some of the forecasters say, well we’ve only made a downgrade of one point of one percentage point of GDP only.
TN: Only, right. It’s okay.
DL: So that is that we’ve grown accustomed to this idea that you start the year with a prediction of say, I don’t know three percent growth, which goes down to below two. And that doesn’t get anybody fired, it’s sort of like pretty much average but I think it’s very important because one of the things. And I want to gather your thoughts about this. One of the things that we get from this is that there is absolutely no analysis of the impact of stimulus packages for example, when you have somebody is announcing a trillion dollar stimulus package that’s going to generate one percent increase in trendline GDP growth it doesn’t. And everybody forgets about it but the trillion dollars are gone. What is your thoughts on this?
TN: Well, I think those are related in as much as… let’s say somebody downgraded GDP by one percent. What they’re not accounting for, What I think they’re not accounting for is let’s say the economic impact kind of multiplier. And I say that in quotes for that government spending, right? So in the old days you would have a government spending of say you know 500 billion dollars and let’s say that was on infrastructure. Traditionally you have a 1.6 multiplier for infrastructure spend so over the next say five years that seeps into the economy in a 1.6 times outs. So you get a double bang right you get the government spending say one-to-one impact on the economy. Then you get a point six times that in other industries but what’s actually happened.
And Michael Nicoletos does some really good analysis on this for China, for example. He says that for every unit of say debt that’s taken out in China, which is government debt. It takes eight something like eight units of debt to create one unit of GDP. So in China for example you don’t have an economic multiplier you have an economic divisor, right?
TN: So the more the Chinese government spends actually the less GDP growth which is weird, right? But it tells me that China is an economy that is begging for a market. A real market, okay? Rather than kind of central planning and you and Europe. I’m sure you’re very familiar with the Soviet Union. I studied a lot of that in my undergrad days very familiar with the impact of central planning. China there’s this illusion that there is no central planning in China but we’re seeing with the kind of blow-ups in the financial sector that there is actually central planning in China.
And if you look at the steel sector you look at commodity consumption, these sorts of things it’s a big factor of china still, right? So but it’s incredibly inefficient spending. It’s an incredibly inefficient way and again it’s a market that is begging for an open economy because they could really grow if they were open but they’re not. They have a captive currency they have central planning and so on and so forth.
Now I know some of the people watching, you’re going to say you’ve never been to China, you don’t understand. Actually I have spent a lot of time in China, okay? I actually advise China’s Economic Planners for about a year and a half, almost two years on the belt and road initiative. So I’ve been inside the bureaucracy not at the high levels where they throw nice dinners. I’ve been in the offices of middle managers for a long time within the Chinese Central Government so I understand how it works and I understand the impact on the economy.
DL: Don’t you think it’s interesting though that despite the evidence of what you just mentioned. And how brutal it has been because it’s multiplied by 10. How many units of debt are required to generate one unit of GDP in a little bit more than a decade? Don’t you find it frustrating to read and hear that what for example the United States needs is some sort of central planning like the Chinese one. And that in fact the the developed economies would be much better off if they had the type of intervention from from the government that China has?
TN: Sure, well it’s it’s kind of the fair complete that central bankers bring to the table. I have a solution. We need to use this solution to bring fill in the blank on desired outcome, okay? And so when central bankers come to the table they have there’s an inevitability to the solution that they’re going to bring. And the more we rely on central bankers the more we rely on centralized planning. And so I’ve had so many questions over the last several years, should the us put forward a program like China’s belt and road program, okay?
We know the US, Europe, the G20 nobody needs that, okay? Why? Because Europe has an open market and great companies that build great infrastructure. The US has an open market and although European infrastructure companies are better. The US has some pretty good companies that build infrastructure in an open market. So why do we need a belt and road program? Why do we need central planning around that? And we can go into a lot of detail about what’s wrong with the belton road and why it’s not real, okay? But that type of central planning typically comes with money as the as kind of the bait to get people to move things. And so we’re already doing that with the FED and we’re already doing that with treasure with money from the treasury, right?
And if you look at Europe you’re doing it with the ECB. You’re doing it with money from finance ministries. The next question is, does the government start actually taking over industries again? And you know maybe not and effectively in some ways they kind of are in some cases. And the real question is what are the results and I would argue the results are not a multiplier result they are a divisor result.
DL: Absolutely. Absolutely it is we saw it for example. I think it’s, I mean painfully evident in the junk plan in Europe or the growth and jobs plan of 2009 that destroyed four and a half million jobs. It’s not easy to to achieve this.
TN: You have to try to do that.
DL: You have to really really try it, really try.
I think that you mentioned a very important factor which is that central banking brings central planning because central banks present a program of monetary easing of monetary policy. And they say well we don’t do fiscal policy but they’re basically telling you what fiscal policy has to be implemented to the point that their excuse for the lack of results of monetary policy tends to be that the that the transmission mechanism of monetary policy is not working as it should. Therefore because the demand for credit is not as much as the supply of money that have invented. They say, well how do we fill in the blank? Oh it has to be government spending. It has to be for planning. It has to be so-called infrastructure spending from government.
You just mentioned a very important point there is absolutely no problem to invest in infrastructure. There’s never been more demand for a good quality infrastructure projects from private equity, from businesses. But I come back to the point of of central banks and a little bit about your view. How does prolonging easing measures and maintaining extremely low rates affect these trends in growth and in these trends in in productivity?
TN: Well, okay, so what you brought up about central banks and the government as the transmission mechanism is really important. So low interest rates Zerp and Nerp really bring about an environment where central banks have forced private sector banks to fail as the transmission mechanism. Central banks make money on holding money overnight, that’s it. They’re not making money necessarily or they’re not doing it to successfully to impact economies. They’re not successfully lending out loans because they say it’s less risky buying bonds. It’s less risky having our money sit with the Fed. It’s less risky to do this stuff than it is to loan out money. Of course it’s less risky, right? That’s goes without saying.
So you know I think where we need to go with that is getting central banks out of that cycle is going to hurt. We cannot it… cannot hurt, well I would say baby boomers in the West and and in Northeast Asia which has a huge baby boomer cohort. Until those guys are retired and until their incomes are set central banks cannot take their foot off the gas because at least in the west those folks are voters. And if you take away from the income of that large cohort of voters then you’ll have, I guess I think from their perspective you’ll have chaos for years.
So you know we need to wait until something happens with baby boomers. You tell central banks and finance ministries or treasuries will kind of get religion and what will happen is behind baby boomers is a small cohort generally, okay? So it’s that small cohort who will suffer. It’s not Baby Boomers who will suffer. It’s that small cohort who will suffer. It’s the wealth of that next generation that Gen x that will suffer when central banks and finance ministries get religion.
So we’re probably looking at ten more years five more years of this and then you’ll see kind of… you remember what a rousing success Jeff Sax’s shock therapy was, right?
TN: So of course it wasn’t and it’s you know but it’s gonna hurt and it’s gonna hurt in developed countries in a way that it hasn’t hurt for a long time. So that kind of brings to the discussion things like soundness of the dollar, status of the Euro that sort of thing. I think there are a lot of people out there who have this thesis. I think they’re a little early on it.
DL: Yeah, I agree.
TN: So economists you know these insurance people see it from a macro perspective but often they come to the conclusion too early. So I think it’s a generational type of change that’ll happen and then we start to see if the US wants the dollar to remain preeminent. They’re going to have to get religion at the central bank level. They’re going to have to get religion at the fiscal level and really start ratcheting down some of the kind of free spending disciplines they’ve had in the past.
DL: Yeah, it’s almost inevitable that you’re in a society that is aging. The net prison value of bad decisions for the future is too positive for the voters that are right now with the middle age, in a certain uh bracket of of age. Me, I tried the other day my students I see you more as the guys that are going to pay my pension than my students. So yeah…
TN: But it’s you and me who will be in that age bracket who will pay for it. It’s the people who are 60 plus right now who will not pay for it. So they’ll go through their lives as they have with governments catering to their every need, where it’s our age that will end up paying for it. So people our age we need to have hard assets.
TN: You know when the time comes we have to have hard assets because it’s going to be…
DL: That is one of one of the mistakes that a lot of the people that follow us around. They they feel that so many of the valuations are so elevated that maybe it’s a good time to cash in and simply get rid of hard assets, I say absolutely the opposite because you’ve mentioned a very important thing which is this religious aspect that we’ve that we’ve gotten into. And I for just for clarity would you care to explain for people what that means because…
TN: I say get religion? I mean to become disciplined.
DL: I know like you because that is an important thing.
TN: Yes, sorry I mean if anybody but to become disciplined about the financial environment and about the monetary environment.
DL: Absolutely because one of the things that people tend to believe when you talk about religion and the the state planners religion and and central bank’s religion is actually the opposite. So I wanted to write for you to very make it very clear. That what you’re talking about is discipline you’re not talking about the idea of going full-blown MMT and that kind of thing.
TN: No. I think if there is if there is kind of an MMT period, I think it’s a I don’t think it’s an extended period. I think it’s an experiment that a couple of countries undertake. I think it’s problematic for them. And I think they try to find a way to come back but…
DL: How do you come back from that because one of the problems that I find when people bring the idea of well, why not try. I always, I’m very aware and very concerned about that thought process because you know I’ve been very involved in analyzing and in helping businesses in Argentina, in Hawaii, in Brazil and it’s very difficult to come back. I had a discussion yesterday with the ex-minister of economy of Uruguay and Ignacio was telling me we started with a 133 percent inflation. And we were successful in bringing it down to 40 and that was nine years.
TN: Right. So, yeah I get how do you come back from it look at Argentina. look at Zimbabwe. I think of course they’re not the Fed. They’re not you know the EU but they are very interesting experiments when people said we’re going to get unhinged with our spending. And we’re going to completely disregard fundamentals. Which I would say I would argue we are on some level disregarding fundamentals today but it’s completely you know divorced from reality. And if you take a large economy like the US and go MMT it would take a very long time to come back.
TN: So let’s let’s look at a place like China, okay? So has China gone MMT? Actually, not really but their bank lending is has grown five times faster than the US, okay? So these guys are not lending on anything near fundamentals. Sorry when I say five times faster what I mean is this it grew five times larger than the bank lending in the US, okay? So China is a smaller economy and banks have balance sheets that are five times larger than banks in the US. And that is that should be distressing followers.
DL: Everybody say that the example of China doesn’t work because more debt because it’s growing faster what you’ve just said is absolutely critical for for some of our followers.
TN: Right, the other part about China is they don’t have a convertible currency. So they can do whatever they want to control their currency value while they grow their bank balance sheets. And it’s just wonderland, it’s not reality so if that were to happen there are guys out there like Mike Green and others who look at a severe devaluation of CNY. And I think that’s more likely than not.
DL: Yeah, obviously as well. I think that the the Chinese government is trying to postpone as much as it can the devaluation of the currency based on a view that the imbalances of the economy can be sort of managed through central planning but what ends up happening is that you’re basically just postponing the inevitable. And getting a situation in which the actual devaluation when it happens is much larger. It reminds me very much. I come back to the point of Argentina with the fake peg of the peso to the dollar that prolonging it created a devastation from which they have not returned yet.
TN: Right. And if you look at China right now they need commodities desperately, okay? Metals, they need energy desperately and so on and so forth. So they’ve known this for months. So they’ve had CNY at about six three, six four to the dollar which is very strong. And it was trading a year ago around seven or something like that. So they’ve appreciated it dramatically and the longer they keep it at this level. The more difficult it’s going to be on the other side. And they know it these are not stupid people but they understand that that buying commodities is more important for their economy today because if people in China are cold this winter and they don’t have enough nat gas and coal then it’s going to be a very difficult time in the spring for the government.
DL: And when you and coming back to that point there’s a double-edged sword. On the one side you have a currency that is out to free sheet are artificially appreciated. On the other side you also have price controls because coal prices are limited by the government. And therefore you’re creating on the one hand a very big monetary hole and on the other hand a very big financial hole in the companies that are selling at a loss.
TN: That’s true but I would say one slight adjustment to that things like electricity prices are controls. When power generators buy coal, they buy that in a spot market, okay? So coal prices have been rising where electricity prices are highly regulated by the government this is why we’ve seen blackouts and brownouts and power outages in China. And why it’s impacted their manufacturing base because they’re buying coal in a spot market and then they’re having to sell it at a much lower price in the retail market.
And so again this is the problem with central planning this is the problem with kind of partial liberalization of markets. You liberalize the coal price but you keep the electricity price regulated and if you don’t have the central government supporting those power plants they just blow up all over the place. And we’ve seen the power generators in the UK go bankrupt. We saw some here in Texas go bankrupt a couple years ago because of disparities like that and those power generators in the UK going bankrupt that’s the market working, right? So we need to see that in China as well.
DL: Yeah, it’s a very very fascinating conversation because on the other hand for example in Europe right now with the energy shortage we’re seeing that a few countries Spain, France, etc. are actually trying to convince the European Union, the European Commission to try to get into a sort of intervened market price in the in the generation business. Which would be just like you’ve mentioned an absolute atrocity very very dangerous.
TN: This creates a huge liability for the government.
DL: It creates a massive liability for the government. This is a key point that people fail to understand the debate in the European union is that, oh it’s a great idea because France has this massive utility company that is public. And therefore there’s no risk it had to be bailed out twice by the taxpayers. People tend to forget that you’re paying for that.
TN: But again this is what’s that block of voters who doesn’t really care about the impact 10 or 20 years down the road. That’s the problem. There’s a huge block of voters who don’t really care what the cost is because the government’s going to borrow money long-term debt. And it’s going to be paid back in 10 or 20 years and the biggest beneficiaries of this and the people on fixed incomes they actually don’t care what the cost is.
DL: Yeah, yeah exactly, exactly. There’s this fantastic perverse incentive to pass the bill to the next generation. And that obviously is where we are right now. Coming back to the point of the infrastructure plans and the belt and road plan. What in your view are the the lessons that we must have learned or that we should be learning from the Belgian road initiative?
TN: So here’s a problem with the Belton road and I had a very candid discussion with a senior official within China’s NDRC in probably 2015 which was early on, okay? And this person told me the following they said the Belgian road was designed to be a debt financed plan. What’s happening now, and again this was six or seven years ago, very early on in the in the belts and road dates. They said the beneficiary countries are pushing back and forcing us to take equity in this infrastructure, okay?
Now why does that matter well the initial build out of infrastructure is about five percent of the lifetime cost of that asset, okay? So if you’re if China is only involved in the initial build out they’re taking their five percent, it’s a loan and they get out. If they’re equity holders in that let’s say they’re 49 equity holders in an Indonesian high-speed rail then they become accountable for part of that build-out. And then they have to maintain the other 95 of the cost for the next 30 to 50 years. So they thought they were going to be one and done in and out. We do this infrastructure we get out they owe us money and it’s really clean what’s happened is they’ve had to get involved in the equity of those assets.
And so I’ve since had some uh government officials from say Africa ask me what do we do with the Belton road with china? Very simple answer force them to convert the debt to equity, okay? They become long-term involved on a long-term basis. They become involved in those assets and then they’re have a different level of interest in them in the quality maintenance and everything else but they’re also on the long-term basis accountable for the costs.
So they don’t just build a pretty airport that and I’m not saying this necessarily happens but they don’t just build a pretty airport that falls apart in five years, okay? They then have to think about the long-term impacts and long-term maintenance costs of that airport, right? And so but you know the original design of the Belton road was debt financing. Mobilizing workers and so on and so forth what it’s become is a mix of debt and equity financing. And that’s not what the Chinese government has wanted.
So I’ve been telling people for three or four years the Belton road is dead, okay? And people push back me and say no it’s not, you know think tank people or whatever. But they don’t understand the fundamental fact of how the Belton road was designed it was designed as a one-and-done debt financed infrastructure build out it’s become a long-term investment all around the world. So it’s a different program. It’s failed, okay?
They’re not going to make the money they thought yes they’ll keep some workers busy but they’re not going to make the money they thought. All of those assets, almost all those assets are financed in US dollars, okay? So they’re not getting their currency out. It’s not becoming an international unit like they had hoped. They’re it’s not they’re not clean transactions and so on and so forth. So this is what’s happened with the Belgian road. So the lesson learned is they should have planned better. And they should have had a better answer to you become an equity owner. And uh
I think you know if any western governments want to have kind of a belt and road type of initiative. They’re going to have to contend with the demand from some of these countries that they become equity owners. And I think that’s a bad idea for western governments to be equity owners in infrastructure assets so you know this is this is the problem.
Japanese have taken a little bit different because of where the Yen is and because of where interest rates are in Japan. Japanese have basically had kind of zero interest or close to zero interest on the infrastructure they’ve built out. And so they haven’t gone after it as aggressively as China has. They’ve had a much cleaner um structure to those agreements. And so they’ve been, I think pretty successful in staying out of the equity game and staying more focused on the debt financing for their infrastructure initiatives.
DL: Oh, absolutely big lesson, big lesson there because the we see now that the vast majority of those projects are impossible to the debt is impossible to be repaid. There’s about 600 billion dollars of unpayable debt out there. And we also have the example from from the internationalization of the French, Spanish, Italian companies into Latin America that they fell into the same trap. They started with a with a debt-financed infrastructure build type of clean slate program that ended up owning equity. And in some cases with nationalizations hopefully that will not…
TN: And watch for debt to equity conversions in these things. It’s good. There’s going to be huge pressure because the Chinese say the exit bank the CDB. A lot of these organizations are going to be forced to convert that debt to equity and then unload it on operating companies in China. They’re not going to want to do it but we’re going to start to see more and more pressure there over the next couple of years.
DL: Great! Well I’m absolutely convinced that will happen. Tony, we’ve run out of time so it’s been an incredible conversation lots of things that are very very interesting for our followers. We will give all the details to follow you and to get more information about your company in the details of the of the video. And thank you so much for your time. I hope that that we will be able to talk again in a not too distant future.
In this BFM The Morning Run episode, Tony Nash explains what’s happening in the US markets, particularly the tail end of the bull run. Will value stocks improve now as compared to the growth stocks? How about stay-at-home stocks VS cyclicals? Also discussed are currencies, USD against the Japanese Yen and Chinese Yuan, and the labor market.
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WSN: Good morning, Tony. Now, is it likely that the U.S. indices will run out of steam for the moment? I mean, pausing to take stock of the earnings, are equity markets gravitating to what’s stay at home stocks or cyclicals?
TN: The problem with where we are now is that all value was stretched. Monetary policy and stimulus have really pushed money into equity markets as the remaining stimulus checks are distributed, meaning a lot of those stimulus checks are in the mail right now in the post going to homes in the US. So there’s a lot of investment expected and pushing against maybe the downdraft in equity markets. So I don’t think it’s really a question of stay at home versus cyclicals. It’s really a question of where is that value?
I don’t think it’s a sector question. It’s really an individual stock picking question. And that’s the problem. It’s not a sector market. It’s not a market wide phenomenon. We really have to understand where there is value because we’re in the very tail end of a bull market.
PS: Previously, it was the long and now five year Treasury treasuries are inching up. What impact will an upward shift of the whole yield curve have on equities?
TN: I think we’re seeing equities try to climb higher, but we’re not quite getting. The five year is up over five percent today on an incremental basis was up five point six percent. The 10 year is up two point three percent today. So, you know, there are a lot of risks out there. Ongoing Covid risk. France just closed down again today. There are geopolitical risks with the US and China and other geopolitical risks, of course, Syria and so on.
Iran, business supply chain risks. So, you know, with yields rising and the pressure on equity markets to rise as well, we believe that there’s going to come a point where equity markets break and we’re going to start to see see a decline in equity markets. So yields will rise in the U.S. and equity markets will inevitably decline, and that will likely bring some other global markets with it.
WSN: OK, Tony, let’s shift the conversation to currencies, because the U.S. dollar has really made some strident gains against both the Chinese yen and the Japanese yen. I just want to know, why are these two currencies taking such a beating in particular?
TN: Well, both currencies strengthened quite a bit in Q3 of twenty twenty and stayed strong until recently. CNY had been below seven and a bit well actually just above seven and it climbed to almost six point four versus the US dollar. So there’s been a lot of strength in both, as you say, Chinese and Japanese currencies. What’s happened while we’ve had those depreciated currencies is an accumulation of inventories of commodities like industrial metals. We’ve seen the copper price rise dramatically, for example.
And so as we see treasuries rise in the US, and that brings dollar strength, we’re seeing those manufacturers and those guys who’ve been building their commodity inventories in East Asia really slow down on those purchases and their future commitments. So we’ll likely see a lot of those currencies stabilize and weaken a bit more we don’t expect. A dramatic weakening from here, we don’t expect the US dollar to appreciate dramatically more, say, for the next few months. So we’re kind of in a range, we believe, for both.
We do see the CNY, for example, devaluing to say six point six to six point seven. And then, you know, we’ll kind of stabilize in that range unless there’s a dramatic impact.
PS: So a correction is in inventory levels readjust. Can I just shift your attention to oil? Because oil prices are at levels near the break even point for US shale producers. Are you expecting to see a resumption of shale activity this year?
TN: Well, yeah, we you know, living in Texas, we see a lot of shale activity here. So we do expect it to start slowly. But that business runs in a way where if we’re chasing price, more of those shale firms will come online pretty quickly, actually. So, you know, with the ability for shale to turn off and turn on so quickly, we believe that the prices will be range bound if there’s upward price pressure, you know, all things held equal.
If there’s you know, if there isn’t a major geopolitical issue in the Middle East or isn’t a major geopolitical issue in Asia or something, we think that will be fairly wrage range bound as those as those guys come back online. The shale producers.
WSN: Meanwhile, Tony, U.S. numbers, job numbers excuse me, are out on Friday. Are they expected to show a robust recovery in labor markets, in your opinion? Like what sectors grew the fastest in terms of employment?
TN: Well, you know, we’re starting to see quite a lot more capacity in airlines, although we don’t expect a lot of hiring there. The services around, say, travel and hospitality, they were devastated in twenty twenty. And we expect some of those jobs to come back online. We expect to see some restaurant jobs, some of those services jobs to come back online. That’s where we typically see these things come back first, relatively kind of lower wage, but more flexible workforces.
And so we’ll see activity there first. Tourism in the US obviously still isn’t up to what it was, but we have started to see some impact back in tourism. So I would expect to see some some interesting numbers there.
WSN: OK, thank you for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, sadly reminding us that this is maybe the tail end of the bull run that we had been enjoying.
It was a very short one, is that it honestly, in March 2020 when markets collapsed and then because of the concerted, synchronized monetary policies that we saw around the world, central banks really pushing rates to ultra low equity markets rallied and rallied till now.
So he thinks we’re in the tail end and we should stop beginning to look at value stocks as opposed to growth stocks.
PS: And I think specific sector specific stocks, in fact, actually.
PS: It’s kind of very good.
Go for the jugular on specific things.
WSN: Yeah. I think you really do need to take a very bottom up approach as opposed from the top down approach. If you’re talking about the tail end of a bull cycle, what is also worrying is that he does say that with increasing yields in the U.S. and even on the shotted to bonds, which is the five year bonds, lightly equity markets, those are going to face another round of correction. And it’s not just going to be the U.S. it’s going to be other global markets as a result, because let’s face it, we take the cue from the U.S., right?
WSN: If there is a shock there, there’s a shock around the world.
But what does it mean for Malaysia markets? Because yesterday we had a really terrible, terrible day.
And when I look at Bloomberg now and I’m trying to understand what caused the decline, it was really very much glove driven. Topcliffe hoteling, super Max, all coming under selling pressure as a result, took the index along with it, saying it was also the case for the telco sector. Zaatar was also down. Maxi’s was also down. There was actually no stock among the IBM, Kilsyth, the three component stocks, none were in the green. So clearly bad day.
We were down two point to two percent. And on original, on a year to day basis, we are actually down more than three percent.
PS: It’s incredible. I think also the conversation about currency is going to play. So we were talking to Tony about Japan and China. You heard and we saw disconsolately in Turkish I now emerging market currencies are going to all kind of a fall out in the short term.
WSN: Is there going to be a question of, you know, shift from emerging markets into developed markets? That’s the big question. But in about a few minutes, in light of April Fool’s Day, we’ll be speaking to resolve. Then Gizzle, comedian and the co-founder of Crack House Comedy Club. Stay tuned for that BFM eighty nine point nine.