Complete Intelligence


BFM 89.9: Should The Fed Have Gone For 50bp?

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The Morning Run podcast by BFM 89.9 featured Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, discussing the state of the US economy, market movements, and supply chains. The podcast began with a brief overview of the previous day’s market performances. The key US markets had ended in the green, while all Asian markets were in the red, except for the FBMKLCI, which was up by 0.3%.

The podcast host then discussed with Tony the state of the US economy. The US retail sales in January increased the most in two years, and the home builder sentiment rose in February by the most since 2020. Meanwhile, US inflation rose by 0.5% in January. According to Tony, these indicators suggest that there is still demand, and consumers are still willing to spend. Companies are able to raise prices pretty dramatically, resulting in more revenue and faster growth, even if the volume of sales is slightly lower. Tony believed that the Federal Reserve will continue to raise interest rates. He felt that the Fed should have kept the foot on the brake a little more in the last meeting when they hiked by 50. He thinks that the interest rate will remain at 25 for the next three meetings, but the question is how much beyond that will they raise it.

The podcast then moved on to discuss company performance, particularly in the tech industry. Cisco delivered strong results and beat street expectations, suggesting that companies still have money for capex. Tony believed that companies are having to build out more robust technology infrastructure for their existing operations, which is good for tech infrastructure companies like Cisco. However, there is a divergence in the tech industry, with old tech like HP Enterprise and Cisco doing better than new tech like Apple and Amazon. Companies like Apple, Amazon, and Meta suffer on the ad side because there is a growing supply of ad space, but there are not as many ad dollars, and companies have generally less to allocate to marketing on a proportional basis.

Finally, the podcast touched on supply chains. Tony believed that supply chains have generally recovered, partly due to the falling demand. However, there are still challenges, particularly with logistics and labor shortages. Companies are looking at how to reduce supply chain risks and increase resilience, including reshoring and nearshoring. Tony believed that the current supply chain challenges could last up to two years, and he recommended that companies should develop more robust supply chain strategies.

In summary, Tony Nash shared his insights into the state of the US economy, the tech industry, and supply chains during The Morning Run podcast. He believes that there is still demand in the US economy, with consumers willing to spend and companies able to raise prices. The tech industry is experiencing a divergence between old and new tech, with old tech companies doing better. The supply chains have recovered, but there are still challenges, particularly with logistics and labor shortages. Companies should develop more robust supply chain strategies to increase resilience and reduce supply chain risks.


This is a podcast from BFM 89.9, The Business Station.

BFM 89.9, 7:05 A.m. On Thursday, the 16 February you are listening to The Morning Run. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning and Chong Tjen. Now, in half an hour, we’re going to move the proposal for Petronas to be publicly listed in order to pare down national debt. But we are going to kickstart the morning as we always do, and it looks like it’s going to be a glorious morning with a look at how global markets closed overnight.

So all key US markets ended in the green. The Dow was up 0.1%, S&P 500 up 0.3%, NASDAQ up 0.9%. In Asian markets, they were all in the red, except for our very own FBMKLCI. The Nikkei was down 0.4%. Hang eng down 1.4%. Shanghai Composite down 0.4%. The Straits Times Index down 1.1%. But the FBMKLCI, it was up by 0.3%.

So for some thoughts on what’s moving markets, we have on the line with us, Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Now, US retail sales in January jumped at the most in two years, and home builder sentiment rose in February by the most since 2020. While US inflation rose by 0.5% in January. What do all these indicators tell us about the state of the US economy?


It says that there’s still demand. It says that consumers are still willing to spend and that people really aren’t slowing down. We’re seeing things like price over volume. Meaning as we see more companies report, their earnings reports, they’re able to raise prices pretty dramatically, say, eight to say 12%, generally with a volume decline of, say, one to 3%, meaning the number of sales. Okay, so these companies are choosing to raise their prices and have fewer sales, but it results in more revenue and faster growth. So consumers are willing to pay more. They’re just buying slightly less of things.


And Tony, taking all this into account, what do you think the Federal Reserve will likely do next?


Yeah, they’re going to continue to raise. I do think that Powell missed a trick in hiking 50 in the last meeting. I do think they probably should have kept the foot on the brake a little bit more as a transition from 75 to 25. But I think for 25, it’s kind of as far as the I can see right now, at least while the current pace of the economy holds up. So, you know, we’ll certainly see 25 for the next three meetings. The question is, how much beyond that will we see it?


And Tony, are you in the camp where I have seen more economists raising their forecast for US GDP growth? I see numbers jumping from 1% to 2% for the first quarter. Are you in that camp?


Our view has been 1.4 this year, so it really hasn’t changed.




We do reforecast each month.

CI Futures covers 50+ economies around the world. You can see historical data and forecasted data in an instant, like the US GDP here. Learn more about CI Futures:


All right. And then looking at some results right. Old tech, Cisco delivered really good numbers, beating street expectations with strong spending on tech infrastructure, suggesting that companies still have money for capex. Is this indicative that actually companies are doing better than we expected?


Well, I’m not sure it means companies are doing better because earnings generally are on a slowing trend. But I think what it means is that companies are having to build out more robust technology infrastructure for their existing operations. And that’s good for the tech infrastructure companies like Cisco. So we are at the emergence of a new tech cycle with generative AI, there’s a ChatGPT and so on. So companies are going to need more robust infrastructure to deal with that.


But then we also notice there’s a divergence right when it comes to results. So old tech like HP Enterprise and Cisco doing better versus new tech like you see results being soft from the likes of Apple, Amazon. Will this divergence continue?


Well, I think when you look at things like Apple, Amazon, Meta, these sorts of guys, part of their revenues are ad revenues. And what’s happening on the ad side is we have a growing, say, supply of ad space with different companies coming on, like Netflix offering ad models. So there’s more ad supply. There are not as many ad dollars out there, or even if you assume the same ad dollars. With inflation, people are having to make trade offs. Companies are having to make trade offs, so they have generally less to allocate to marketing on a proportional basis. But there’s more ad supply out there. So many of those tech companies where ads are a part of their revenue mix, they’re suffering on the ad side.


Turning our attention to supply chains. During the Pandemic, the world faced a series of supply chain stresses made worse by the Ukraine conflict and China’s sporadic lockdowns. Do you think that global supply chains have recovered? Are they functioning better now? Or do you still see some kind of rocky road ahead?


I’d say generally supply chains have recovered. Part of that is demand falling. So we had in the port of Long Beach, we had the volume declined by about 28% in January. So the volume of imports have have actually gone down year on year on the west coast of the US. So the demand there is slowing. We’ve seen one of the indicators is headcount cuts. Guys like Federal Express or FedEx and UPS are cutting headcount. FedEx has announced about a 10% workforce cut, which tells me those are usually the guys who see the supply chain issues first and the guys who see the slowdowns first as well. So if they’re cutting staff, it tells me that some of these things are really slowing down.

When we look at delays at Chinese port, for example, they’re about half the time of what they were about a year and a half ago. So they’re not really bad at all. And then when we look at, say, freight that’s waiting on ships that’s down dramatically to, say, Q1 of 2020 levels before all of the COVID stuff set in. There’s a great just for your listeners, keel. The Kiel, K-I-E-L, I think in Germany has a great indicators on supply chain delays. So I would recommend you guys to check that out.


And Tony, ASEAN is a key player in this global supply chain. Which countries in this region are likely to be major outperformers in that regard?


Well, you guys know Malaysia is seeing more inward investment, especially around electronics, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some upside in Malaysia. I know the expectations for Malaysia aren’t as aggressive as, say, Indonesia or Vietnam, but it’s possible that Malaysia overperforms those expectations. Indonesia, I think there are a lot of expectations on indonesia’s outperformance partly on AG prices, but also partly on movement of some manufacturing to Indonesia, which has a pretty low base. And then Vietnam, of course, you know, we’ve seen blistering growth in Vietnam. We expect that to continue as people look for a substitute for Chinese supply chains.


And Tony, are you still a bull on energy stocks? Because if you look at the sector, it’s the worst performing in the S&P 500 today and also for the month so far. We see energy stocks all coming under pressure, I think in part due to all prices stagnating and weak earnings from some of these companies. Is it time to buy or is it time to just step back and say, hey, maybe I should cash in my chips?


Yeah, I think you have to look at the different segments of energy. So, for example, oilfield service providers, we’re starting to see upstream, meaning people who take oil and gas out of the ground starting to spend on development outside of the US. So some of these oil and gas services providers, it’s a very interesting space to look at right now because we haven’t had CapEx in so long in oil and gas. And as we get that, we could see some of these service providers do really well. In terms of oil price. I do think that we do see upward pressure. I don’t think anybody really expected that to hit in Q1, but as we end Q1 and go into Q2, we do start to see that. And I think we do see I don’t think we see two or $300 crude oil this year, but I think low 100s, 110s, high 90s. I think those are definitely within possibility and likelihood.


Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us today. 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 ahead. Ending the conversation there with just a projection on how oil prices could be trending later on this year.

Yeah, so I think we’ll have to watch this space. But I want to focus on one of the names that I mentioned earlier on, which is Cisco. Right. So their results came out. In fact, it went up 8% after market hours trading because the street was really impressed with the numbers. Apparently the earnings, the last time we saw this kind of level earnings was in 2013, and that’s like a long time ago. So a lot of attention on Wall Street has been on what I call the new tech. So Amazon, meta, Apple, Microsoft, even on some level. But there’s a little bit of a shift. And I think what these names are showing is that, hey, there is still spending out there.

Yeah, I think the CEO actually said that the public sector business performed stronger than expected as compared to historically. While in the service provider category, some customers are adjusting to better delivery of the company’s products into the environment. In terms of the guidance for the next quarter, Cisco is guiding adjusted earnings of 96 to 98 cents to share and revenue of roughly about 14.25 to 14.5 billion dollars.

So currently the street doesn’t really like this name that much because there’s only 14 buys, 15 holds, and one sell. Consensus target price for the stock is $53.83. Like we say, it was already up 8% after market hours, right. I won’t be surprised. After these set of numbers, we will see quite a number of upgrades on this name because the company is already suggesting on giving guidance a more positive one.

That’s right. Their guidance is more positive for the next quarter. But turning our attention to other earnings report we have, the Canadian ecommerce platform Shopify. Shopify, in contrast to Cisco, didn’t have such a great report. They reported a loss of $623.7 million in the fourth quarter after adjusting for stock based compensation, gains on investments and other costs. The company reported earnings of 7 cents a share, down from adjusted earnings of 14 cents per share in the holiday quarter.

And revenue came in at about $1.73 billion, up from $1.38 billion. And the analysts on average expected an adjusted loss of a penny a share on sales of about $1.65 billion. The company said Black Friday sales rose close to 20% last year from 2021. And this year is working to recover from a misplaced bet that the Pandemic Field search in online shopping would become more permanent. Although he’s cut jobs, raised prices, and expanded offerings to merchants.

19 buys, 25 holes, five sells. Consensus target price for the stock, $46.48. Actually, the current share price is already above that, to $53.39 year to date. Actually, the stock is up 53%, but I think came from a very low base because 2022 was very painful for them.

All right, 07:17 A.m.. We’re going to take a quick break, but we’ll come back and cover more top stories in the newspapers and portals this morning. Stay tuned to BFM 89.9 you have.

Been listening to a podcast from BFM 89.9, the business station. For more stories of the same kind, download the BFM app.


In America, the economy sinks but markets surge. What gives?


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.


Produced by: Michael Gong

Presented by: Noelle Lim, Khoo Hsu Chuang


Listen to the podcast, originally published in BFM 89.9.



Podcast Notes


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.