BFM 89.9 The Morning Run talks to Tony Nash for his insights on the US economy. Why the tech industry is performing better than other industries? Is it the new inflation theme? And how about the reflation narrative? How will that affect price pressures for corporates in Q4 of 2021? Why is China importing less from the US while exporting a whole lot more? What’s the status of the supply chain issues amidst the coming holiday season?
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/inflation-stares-down-a-reflating-us-economy on October 14, 2021.
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KHC: Okay, well, the Dow was unchanged. Basically, it just went side raced last night. The S&P was up by 0.3%. The Nasdaw was up by 0.7%. Preceding that, the Nikkei was down by 0.3%. The Hang Seng was actually closed due to the typhoon and also today for a public holiday. The Shanghai was up by nearly half a percentage point. The Sci by one and a half percent. Of course, FBM KCI yesterday up by 1%.
SM: And for some thoughts on what’s moving markets, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Thanks for joining us today.
So last night Nasdaq did better than the other indices on the back of tech companies having better pricing power. Do you see this being the new theme as inflation rises?
TN: Sure. I mean, I think tech prices can be adjusted pretty quickly for the most part. And I think especially with tech hardware, people understand that supply chain issues are very real. So I think the ability to change prices in tech are pretty quick, especially around software and software services. I think whether it’s prices rising or even in the case of additional competition, prices falling, I think they can do it in tech much more quickly than they can in other industry sectors.
KHC: Yeah. And, Tony, most of the news has focused on the effects of the energy crisis on China and, of course, in Europe. But in what race does this crunch impact the US. Is American immune from it?
TN: Oh, no, not at all. I think there are some considerations in the US. First is how regulated are the markets. So when you look at markets like New York, Massachusetts, California, highly regulated markets. Also, they don’t really have energy. They don’t have natural gas and oil, or they don’t really actively drill for it there. So they’ll have a tougher time over the winter, I think. In places like Texas and the Gulf Coast in the south, where we drill oil and gas in Texas, we also drill offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. We have supply, we have the pipelines in place. They’re pretty unregulated markets. We’ll find it easier here because of the availability of the energy and the infrastructure that we have.
SM: And looking at the reflation narrative. It’s starting to get louder in markets. Do you think last quarters corporate earnings were affected by rising price pressures, or is that going to be felt more in the coming Q4?
TN: Yeah. I think they were a little bit, but not much. Don’t forget in really Q2 of 2020 and early Q3 is when companies really started shedding costs because of a COVID. So they reaped those year on year profit benefits. Those profit growth benefits through 2021, so far. But that base effect really comes to an end in Q3 of ’21. So we’ve expected. Well, since the end of Q2 earnings, we’ve been telling people Q3 earnings will be worth because those base effects are gone and also because inflation has intensified. So, yeah, it definitely gets worse than Q3.
KHC: Yeah. So we are on the cusp of earning seasons reporting. And of course, I think Delta reports later today. JP Morgan as well. What’s your sense of what corporate earnings will be in this coming quarter?
TN: Well, they’ll still be earnings, but the growth rate will definitely be slower this quarter. There are some areas where they’ll continue steady. But in things like travel, where we’ve seen with airlines where we’ve seen fuel prices rise, we could see some real issues there. Not major issues, but we would see that eating into profit margin.
KHC: Okay. Let’s talk about the China trade surplus then, of course, with the US rising record high in September. Tony, why is trying to import less from the US while exporting a whole lot more currently?
TN: Well, part of what we’ve seen, the US exports a lot of ag and energy to China. And so when commodities prices rise, China buys less. We saw things like corn and sorghum and soybeans rises in the middle and end of Q2, early Q3 rose pretty dramatically and trying to slow down its buys of those. Now we see natural gas rising pretty rapidly, actually. So a year and a half ago, it was, say, a 1.5 in the US. Natural gas is now $5 in the US. So it’s risen pretty dramatically. So trying to slowed the buys of, say, US natural gas. They’ve also slowed some buys of, say, natural gas and all from other parts of the world.
So they’re buying commodities. They can slow those buys. And we’ve seen that impact, for example, on their electricity markets. The US buys largely manufactured goods. And so because of supply chain issues, Americans have really been over buying what’s available so that they can ensure supplies for months ahead. So there’s still, say empty shelves in many cases in the US. There are still backlogs. But we’re over buying because people don’t want to see empty shelves here.
SM: And I guess one final question, Tony, before we let you go, taking a look at our region, the Asian region. The economic outlook seems more brilliant in Asia as countries reopen. Which economies do you see outperforming as border restrictions lesson in this part of the world?
TN: Yeah. We definitely hope to see Asia come back pretty strong. We expect India, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Australia to perform best in Q4. Australia, obviously on the back of commodity and energy price exports. China and Taiwan on the back of global manufacturing kind of supply chains. Of course, they won’t be totally cleared up in Q4, but we will see continued buying and over buying for those items. So we don’t necessarily see it as a border issue because travelers, for example, we’ll have to consider how long will they have to quarantine if they do travel, because we don’t necessarily expect that to go away soon. So we don’t expect the cross border restrictions lightning up to impact too much. It will impact a bit, but we don’t see too much upside in Q4 yet.
SM: Tony, thanks as always for speaking with us. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us a view of the economies in Asia that could improve as economies open up. But he says travel is still not going to be that lightning rod for growth or activity at this moment. Things are still going to be cautious on that front.
KHC: Yeah. The aviation sector has really come into focus in the last few days. Air Asia has been top volume in the last few days, and I think it looks. Look at Southeast Asia’s region. I mean, travel is such a huge factor in the economies. We know that Indonesia is slowly opening up. Bali has talked about opening up. Thailand is opening up. No choice, right? Obviously, with tourism, such a systemic part of the economy. China is still locked up. China is actually arages biggest market, right? So many destinations.
India is still locked up. So it’s a mixed bag. Right? But the one thing that has really put a spanner in the works is this whole inflation thing. You know how the Fed talked about how it’s going to be transitory is gonna be here for the short term. It’s not the case. I mean, you’ve seen wages go through the roof, supply chain disruptions, which is send prices higher labor shortages, much more jobs than people get to apply for. In fact, people are leaving jobs like in F&B, restaurants, waiting jobs, low pay, long hours. They go into much better paying jobs. Energy price as I think Brent, this morning’s at $83. Global energy crunch so much this inflation is commit malicious. I don’t now what that’s going to do? The market. But it’s definitely something.
SM: Watch out for that’s. Right. And if we’re talking about supply chain bottlenecks that are contributing to inflation, we have a story here coming out of the US, where President Joe Biden wants to break a log jam at US ports and stave off a holiday season of shortages and delays. Tony was speaking earlier about empty shelves in the US and the fact that US customers are overbuying because there’s so much demand. But supply chain is blocking these products from getting to the shelves. And Joe Biden wants to solve this by making ports operate longer just to clear that backlog. But that isn’t really quite solving the problem because, as you pointed out, there are other trends, such as the labor issues that are finally coming to a head in this scenario. And it’s causing a lot of chaos in terms of supply chains.
KHC: Yeah. Because, you know, this part of California, in fact, part of Los Angeles, right. It’s one of the biggest basic choke points for supply into the US. And, I mean, that’s got, like something like 60 to 70 container ships waiting in the Bay just to get in and offload this stuff. It’s incredible. To supply chain shortages, I think that’s supposed to last until 2023. Right.
KHC: And there’s this huge amount of capital going into the US in the semiconductor companies that are just building chips which are going to require less energy and smaller to just alleviate some of this choke point. This bottleneck is crazy. I mean, this is how capitalism world sometimes.
SM: The juxtaposition to what happened last year is so stark. Last year, there were enough containers. They couldn’t leave their forte because they just couldn’t get the containers to ship their products. And now they’re just too many of them, and they’re jamming up the Port. So it’s really curious how the pandemic has kind of shifted us from one extreme to the next term in the economy. Stay tuned to BFM 89 nine.