The Bank of England surprised markets by announcing that it would buy long dated government bonds in order to stabilise capital markets. Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence explains why and what does this mean for the Pound.
Good morning. You’re listening to the Morning Run on Thursday the 29 September. I’m Shazana Mokhtar with Wong Shou Ning. Now, in half an hour, we are going to discuss the political future of Crown Prince Mama bin Salman, or MBS of Saudi Arabia, now that he’s been named the Prime Minister of the country. But as always, let’s kick start the morning with a look at how global markets closed.
Yesterday, US markets had a very good date was at 1.9%. S&P 500 up 2%, while Nasdaq was up a whopping 2.1%. Meanwhile, in Asia, it was all red. Nikkei was down 1.5%, hong Singh was down a whopping 3.4%. Shanghai and Times Index both down 1.6%, while our very own FBM KLCI was down 0.6%.
So for some thoughts on what’s moving international markets, we have on the line with us Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Tony, good morning. Thanks for joining us. I want to start off with moves by the bank of England that said it would move to buy long dated government bonds in order to stabilize capital markets. Can you talk us through what the BoE is trying to do and whether this will ultimately be successful?
Yes. So here’s what happened. You had some pension funds who bought debt, debt instruments called Guilt, and they used those gilts as collateral to borrow more money to buy more debt instruments. And they use that as collateral to borrow more money to buy more instruments. So they were many times leveraged on these government debt instruments. And when the value of those gifts declined, they had to provide collateral against the loans they had taken out to buy that debt. So it’s a very circular kind of series of events that’s happened. So because these pension funds got in trouble, the UK, the bank of England wanted to prevent their insolvency, of course, because many of them are government pension funds. So since the bank of England has nearly endless currency, they can help the government come to a relatively orderly decline. So is it ideal? No, but there was some messaging out from the new Prime Minister in Whitehall that was very disturbing to government bond investors and that triggered the sell off and then that triggered a multibillion pound rescue from the bank of England.
Okay, I want to stay on the topic of the United Kingdom, but us about the currency. They must be the only G seven countries still doing quantitative easing in some way. Where do you think the pound is heading? Dendu?
Well, because of the energy environment, they’re going to be spending more money on subsidies to help the British people through the winter and more pound? Denominated spending actually makes the pound stronger, but you have aggressive quantitative easing and you have a relatively stronger US dollar. It’s possible that we see the pound decline, say, 35% more, unless something dramatic happens, like another event like today or another event by the government that really erodes credibility, I don’t see a lot more decline happening, but it’s a weird year. It’s a weird few years that we’re having right now. Right. So I think on some level it’s really hard to tell. And the problem with losing credibility is that you lose credibility. And if they erode even more credibility, it could be worse than anybody thinks. So I think that’s a small chance. I think we’re probably in a range at this point.
And if we take a look over at the US, we have seen federal officials reiterate the very hawkish stance that they have. But San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly said that the bank is resolute by bringing down high inflation, but wants to do so as gently as possible so as not to drive the economy into a downturn. Do you think it’s possible at this point to engineer a soft landing, or is a recession inevitable?
I think it’s possible to engineer a softish landing. I think the problem with the Feds facing as they were very slow to respond to inflation, and so now they’re trying to respond as quickly as they can, and they’re responding in a very kind of brutal kind of way. Mary Daily coming out with these as gently as possible comments are good. And that’s new. Neil Cashari yesterday said he’s another Fed governor. He said there is the risk of overdoing it on the front end, meaning that the Fed could raise rates too quickly. So some of these governors are getting out with messaging, trying to soften the Fed’s hard message over the last couple of months. So the wording from the Feds, ongoing wording generally from especially JPOW, has said that they’re going to be ongoing aggressive hikes, and that’s scaring people. So, like, the Fed needs to be less aggressively hawkish in their language. So that doesn’t mean they turn dovish. That doesn’t necessarily mean they start doing QE. They just need to be less aggressively hawkish. And that’s just toning down the language. I think it’s a little bit too little too late in as much as markets have fallen by, say, 23%, I think, since the highs.
But I think if they start inserting some less aggressively hawkish language, we can have a smoother glide path to balance, meaning higher interest rates, more moderate equity markets at a slower pace.
Okay, Tony, can you help us understand what happened today in markets? Because I’m a little bit confused in the sense that US ten year treasury yields fell the most since March 2020. On a day like this, equities shouldn’t go up, but it did. Why?
Well, I think equity investors are seeing what the bank of England did, and I think on some level they see equity markets versus central banks as a bit of a game of chicken. And the bank of England blinked. And I think equity investors are hoping that the Fed will slow down or blink. This is not a pivot. Meaning when people talk about the Fed and say a pivot, they mean pivoting to quantitative easing and pivoting to dovish language. I don’t see that at all, but I think equity investors are seeing a chance of the Fed becoming less aggressively hawkish, as I was saying. So I think that’s really what happened is just a quick breath think, oh gosh, maybe they’re going to slow down a little bit, which would be positive for equity markets.
And if you take a look at the Nordstream gas pipeline disruption, that does seem to have changed the energy calculus in Western Europe. How do you think it’s going to affect the dynamics of energy prices over there, especially with winter looming?
Yeah, I think it will affect, but there isn’t a lot of gas coming by Nordstream. There are other pipelines bringing gas to Europe, so it’s really, at the moment, more perception than reality. So Europe has a fair bit of gas and storage for winter. It’s 87% of their goal, so they’re in pretty good shape. They’re not in great shape, but they’re in pretty good shape. They can make it all the way through winter with what they have in storage, but they aren’t reliant on Nordstrom to fill their reserves further. So I think the kind of the gut punch on this is that it’s a pretty damaging leak and so it would be really hard to get it back online. If Russia say something happened with a resolution of UK, sorry, Ukraine, Russia, and there was optimism that Russia could turn on the taps again, that would be really hard to achieve. So it’ll be an expensive winter for energy in Europe. But Nordstream doesn’t really impact it all that much. It’s more, say, the long term hopes and expectations for Nordstream.
Tony, thanks very much for speaking with us. 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. Really assessing what’s happening over in the UK with the actions by the bank of England overnight. That has helped somewhat to calm the plunge in the pound sterling that we’ve seen over the past few days. I think this pound has rallied, but how long this equilibrium will last, I think, is anyone’s guess.
Well, this morning pound against ringgate is 5.0260 at the lowest in the last two days, if I’m not wrong, 4.8. Right. So it has truly, truly recovered. But volatile markets ahead, I think still question marks about whether this trust economic policy makes any sense. Confusion over the tax cuts, how they’re going to pay for it, reverberating around global markets because we’ve seen actually global bond yields peak. Question about whether there will be more activities by central banks to intervene, to prop up their currencies or to restore come to their own respective markets, because we saw that in Japan. And apparently even South Korea says it plans to conduct an emergency born buyback program.
Indeed, we do see also that the yuan is coming under pressure, and China central bank has issued a strongly worded statement to warn against speculation after the currency dropped to its lowest versus the dollar since 2008.
I love the language. The language is released yesterday. Do not bet on one way appreciation or depreciation of the yarn, as losses will definitely be incurred in the long term. Can’t spell it out more clearly than that, right? Indeed.
716 in the morning. We’re going to head into some messages. And when we come back, what does long or need more? Another quarry or preservation of its forests? Stay tuned. BFM 89.9 you have been listening to.
Biden’s Saudi trip ended up being a disappointment and there really is no immediate spare capacity, which is a surprise to no one.
What does the appreciated USD mean? We’ve already seen a fall in Sri Lanka and other places which we’ve talked about for weeks, but where is that going and when will that end?
We also talked about the FOMC expectations. What will the Fed do, especially given CPI PPI data? We have to also keep in mind that we have an election coming up in November, so it’s really hard for the Fed to keep the heat on.
Biden’s Saudi Arabia trip 🛢️
USD🚀 rocket ship and fallout
FOMC expectations (CPI/PPI)
What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 26th episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 0:49 Key themes for the episode 1:55 Biden’s trip to Saudi Arabia 3:23 PR game and disastrous foreign policies 5:00 The US President looks like he has no power? 6:17 US can be a marginal price setter for oil, but… 7:34 what happens to crude prices? 10:08 Why is USD pushing higher? 11:22 What’s happening in the Euro Dollar and why? 13:51 FOMC 19:00 What happened to the gasoline prices? 20:07 When will Yellen give up on the 2% inflation? 23:45 What’s for the week ahead?
Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:
TN: Hi, everybody, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. I want to thank Albert and Sam for joining us to take a look at The Week Ahead. Before we get started, please, please like and subscribe on this channel and please comment, ask us questions, let us know additional information you think we should have. We get back to every single one of those and we want to make sure that you guys are happy with what we’re talking about today.
So today there’s a lot that’s happened over the past week and even over the weekend that we want to get into. We’ve got three topics here, but there’s going to be a lot of overlap in these. So I’m just going to introduce these and then we’re going to have a pretty open discussion.
The first is Biden’s Saudi trip, ended up being kind of a disappointment and there really is no immediate spare capacity, which is kind of a surprise to no one, but it happened and we’ll cover it. Next is the US dollar, and what does the appreciated US dollar mean? We’ve already seen a fall in Sri Lanka and other places which we’ve talked about for weeks, but where is that going and when will that end? Next is FOMC expectations. What will the Fed do? Especially given CPI PPI data? And we have to also keep in mind that we have an election coming up in November, so it’s really hard for the Fed to keep the heat on when we have an election coming in November or that would be a normal election year.
So Albert and Sam, thank you so much for taking your Sunday afternoon to talk through to us. Let’s first get into Biden’s trip. Albert, can you give us a little bit of a kind of geopolitical backdrop for us? Help us understand what were the expectations and what actually happened?
AM: Well, I mean, the expectations were that Biden goes into the Saudi Arabians in the Middle East and cuts a deal for them to increase production and capacity and name your whatever little policy that they’re talking about. The reality was Biden wanted to get away from the PPI number and the CPI. They’re just atrocious. So he decided it’s a normal thing that politicians leave and go overseas so they don’t have to deal with it.
So he went over to Saudi Arabia meets MBS, which was already a problem considering the comments that he had for the election. But his goal for upping production by the Middle East and OPEC, it was a fantasy. It was nothing more than a PR gimmick in my opinion, that the Fed has been playing in futures and crushing the price of oil. So it was one of these, look here, this is what I’m doing on the grand stage and oil prices are falling, but in reality they weren’t really connected.
TN: So were there really expectations in the administration that there would be additional immediate capacity? Do they really think that that would be on the table?
AM: I don’t think so to be honest with you, Tony. Like I said, this is a PR game that they’re playing now specifically because, like you mentioned, elections are coming up and their intent is to save the Democratic majority in the Senate. The House is lost, but the Senate is what they’re eyeing up. So in my opinion, this is all PR games.
TN: Okay. But the PR game that is really hard for me to understand is the President, regardless of who it is, okay. The President going to a place that is an ally. Saudi Arabia is pretty much an ally to the US. And coming away with nothing. One would think that the Secretary of State and the Nat Sec guys, other guys would have gone in first to make sure that we could announce something positive and nothing happened.
So it seems to me that there is foreign policy disaster after foreign policy disaster with this administration. I don’t want to be putting my own view on it, but is it that, too?
AM: Of course, we’ve had just multiple disasters and foreign policy. But even from the Saudi Arabian perspective, who’s their biggest client? At the moment, it’s China. Why do they have to listen to Biden, who’s made the Biden administration has made unbelievable mistakes in foreign policy and actually risk their security more than anything else. He’s taking the foot off of the Iranians. The Saudis have to deal with that. The Russians are in their own little world of adventures, but there’s no real stability in the Middle East, and the United States under Biden doesn’t really show that there is anyone stepping up to the plate.
TN: Right. And that’s kind of a leadership issue. Whether or not the US is their main customer, the US has been their main advocate in the Middle East and around the world. Or one of their main advocates. Right.
TN: So that’s the big loss that I see is you have a president going in, not getting an agreement with a huge entourage for agreements that should have been done before they arrived, and it just makes them look like they have no power. Sam, is that how you read it?
SR: Yeah. There’s two things that I think the US. Generally gave to Saudi Arabia, and that was global clout and weapons, right? Yes. And the second part is probably very important to the Saudis going forward because there’s only so many places that manufacture weapons that are decent, and that’s the US, to a certain degree, Russia, China and basically Turkey. So you can kind of buy weapons from those places. Guess what? That was a tool that really wasn’t flexed at all.
And if you’re going to flex policy power, that probably should have been flexed a little bit. And honestly, it doesn’t appear to have been at all. So I would say to Albert’s point exactly, we’re not the largest customer when it comes to oil by a mile. Right, that’s just true. But we are the largest supplier for their national defense.
TN: Here’s the thing that I don’t understand is, with US production, we can be the marginal price setter for global oil prices, but we pull that card off of the table by disabling our domestic manufacturers. Is that a fair thing to say?
SR: Well, I would say that that’s the muscle that we’re kind of flexing right now, right? To a certain extent
TN: Okay, tell me more about that. How are we flexing that?
SR: Well, we’re flexing it. I’m not saying it’s good flex. Right. We’re flexing it by not doing anything. So we are basically the ones holding up global price of oil. OPEC honestly has pumped exactly what they said they would pump with a little variability, and they don’t have much marginal capacity.
The marginal capacity was passed to fracking a long time ago. This is not a shocking revelation. So when you’re the global incremental supply that can flip on in a relatively fast manner and you say, we are not going to do that, period, and we’re not going to in any way supplement the regulatory overhangs and the capital overhangs, and guess what? You’re going to end up with a global shortage of oil and distillates, etc.
TN: Right. So what happens to crude prices with the Saudis saying, okay, maybe capacity in 2027? What do we see in the short term with crude prices? I mean, with a recession looming, supposedly, whether that’s real or not remains to be seen. Right. And we had a good retail sales figure on Friday, pretty strong.
So what do we see happen with crude prices in the short term? Is there upward pressure on crude prices or are we kind of in this range?
AM: I think we’re in this range of 90 to 115. Just simply because of the reality. I want to differentiate pre election versus post election. Right. Pre election, we’re definitely in a range of 90 to 115. The Feds not going to let the price of oil gets to the point where people are paying six, $7 a gallon to the tank. So that’s first and foremost.
After that, hands up. Who knows what’s going to happen then? Because Europe’s going through an energy crisis with gas. The price of oil is probably going to go up just because the green deals that the Biden administration are intent on passing are going to ramp up right at the election and just afterwards. So after the election, I could see 130, 140.
TN: Okay. Sam, any near term change in crude prices because of this? No?
SR: Well, near term, Albert’s point, $90 a barrel seems to be kind of the low here. I don’t think we’re going to go much lower. And that’s a combination of DXY at 108, which DXY at 108 is atypical to oil remaining elevated.
So if you begin to have a dollar breaking into the back half the year, that’s kind of the post election story. I think Albert would back me up on that part. You begin to see that breaking. Guess what? The scaling, that makes 130, 140 is relatively reasonable. But you call it 90 to 115. Absolutely not a problem here. And you probably creep back towards the upper end of that 150 because you’ve seen two things.
You’ve seen gasoline prices come down, which means demand is going to remain resilient, if not pick up on the margins. And guess what? That flows downhill. So I would say oil prices, gasoline prices, they look good right now. I saw a free handle on gasoline close to my house. That’s not going to last. That’s not going to beat the system.
TN: Right. Okay. So, Sam, you mentioned the dollar at 108. We hit 109 last week. Why is the dollar pushing higher, guys?
AM: I can tell you why. I’ve been adamant about this. Yellen tell the European counterparts that she was going to drive the dollar up to 110 and above. She’s done this in 2013 before. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s part of her playbook. She knows what she’s doing. She can even go up another 10%. Now, what that does to emerging markets? Oh, God help them at the moment. But still, the dollar is the most effective tool in their eyes for inflation busting, at least short term.
TN: So how far are we going?
AM: I think we go up to 112 to 115.
TN: Okay, over what time horizon? The next month? The next three months?
AM: Yeah, I think it’s in the next month. I think they want to get this over and done with so they can pivot starting September. Stop the rate hikes. And on top of that, this is something for Sam that could talk about the Fed is I think that Powell probably loses the majority of votes in the Fed for Fed members come October.
TN: Okay, hold on, hold on, hold on. I want to talk about that. But let’s finish up with the dollar first. Okay? This is good. Okay, so with the dollar, help me understand what’s happening in the Euro dollar markets right now. Okay. We’ve seen the Euro dollar fall as the dollar rises. What’s actually happening there, and why.
SR: Not me?
AM: I’ve been adamant about this. Also, as global trade slows down, the need and use of Euro dollars becomes less so. And a lot of people sit there mistake that as the dollar is dying and gold is coming back and whatever name your crypto, that’s supposed to be the next reserve currency. But that’s just the reality of the moment, is they are purposely trying to kill demand. When you kill demand, the Euro dollar starts to fall because there’s less need of it. That’s just the most simple basic explanation that I can give you at the moment.
TN: Okay, so, Sam, that is non US demand in US dollars, right?
SR: Yeah. Dollar denominated non US debt.
TN: Okay. And so the largest portion of the euro dollar market. Is that still in Europe?
SR: No, it still flows through Europe. Right, okay. But it’s a much larger market than simply Europe.
TN: Okay. It tells me outside of the US, there’s a slow down generally. Is that fair to say?
TN: And we’ve talked about this before. Europe has big problems. We saw China’s numbers last week, which are obviously overreported anyway, so Japan is having problems. So all the major markets are having issues. So the Euro dollar is just a proxy for what’s actually happening, those markets through trade and through the demand for actually US dollar currency spent outside of the US.
AM: Yes. Very simplistic terms, yes, that’s exactly right.
TN: Good. Anything else for the viewers here? Like, anything else that you guys want to add on Euro dollars just so they can pay attention to things?
AM: Not really. It’s a very good just simplistic, basic understanding of Euro dollars. I mean, we can get into the whole mechanics of your dollars, but it’s so big it’ll take up an entire episode.
TN: Okay, good. Very good.
SR: Very into the weeds very quickly.
TN: So if anybody’s watching has questions about Euro dollars, let us know. We’ll get Sam and Albert in on this and help them answer the questions. All right?
Okay. Finally, FOMC, okay. We saw CPI hit to the high side. We saw PPI hit to the high side last week. A lot of talk about 100 basis point hike. Sam had a newsletter out that said could be 100, could be 75. And Albert obviously thinks that there’s going to be a pivot in September. So Sam, do you want to kick this one off?
SR: Yeah, sure. I do want to point out that I said there’s a difference between should and will in the newspaper, and the notion was, should the Fed go 100 now? Will they? Probably, unless the University of Michigan survey comes in light. And it came in light. So you’re 75 basis points now. It’s that simple.
SR: Very straightforward. The Fed probably wanted to have flexibility for 100, but when they tied themselves to something so stupid as the University of Michigan survey and it falls I mean…
AM: You know what, Sam, the funny thing is that you say that is, that is exactly what they look at, for making their policy decisions. The only thing they look at.
TN: University Of Michigan.
SR: I know they look at it. The problem was they said it out loud. Like, you don’t say that out loud. That’s the mysterious parts of it. It’s a survey of a very small subsection that is basically never been tied to reality at all across any time frame whatsoever. And like yeah..
TN: It’s like making policy based on Atlanta GDP now. Right. It’s like a lot of these things are proxies of small survey sizes of whatever.
SR: Error terms that interact with each other, yes.
TN: Right. I think a lot of people who watch markets see these indexes, like the University of Michigan index come out and they think that it means something, but it kind of does, but it kind of doesn’t. And so I always recommend people, you have to understand these indexes. You have to understand what these releases mean. You have to understand the methodology. If you’re going to make investment decisions based upon these things, you have to understand what they are.
And as you dig down beneath these things like University of Michigan was put out what 30 years ago initially. The methodology hasn’t changed much since then. So if you imagine the technology and the capabilities 30 years ago and they carried that forward, it’s pretty light. It’s pretty light. A lot of these things are pretty light.
AM: Yeah, but they want it like that though Tony. They don’t want to update their stuff because they don’t want transparency. Seriously.
TN: It’s true.
AM: If you want to massage the numbers, you go with what you know, what you know is flawed and that’s what you go with.
AM: I had a quick question for Sam. Like I said, I think that they’re going to pivot in September after 75 basis point rate hike now and whatever CPI coming in in August. But I don’t think this is the right decision for them to pivot this early because they’re expecting demand to come down and I see no demand coming down anywhere at the moment. So what happens if they sit there and try to pivot for September, October, November, election time and then January, December comes along and demand is sky high again? What does that do to inflation for 2023?
SR: I think it’s complicated, right? Because it’s kind of the goods versus services problem going into the back of the year. Right. We’ll have plenty of goods, print, crap on store shelves and Target for toys and whatnot because that part of the supply chain is solved.
What’s going to be persistent on the CPI price is going to be shelter, which we all know is six months lagged and is going to be a problem for the rest of the year. And there’s nothing they can do about that because their methodology is, again, stupid. So there’s nothing they can do on the prints from here out.
They’re going to have prints that are sitting at 30 basis points plus just because of shelter and it’s weight in core, that’s going to be a big problem for them on the CPI front. So if they pivot, they’re basically going to have to say that, you know, look at headline, it absolutely plummeted. Gasoline.
TN: Will we get a core rating, x Energy, Food and shelter? Will we start quoting that?
SR: Yeah. That’s what I started looking at for the exact reason of trying to find a pivot. Because eventually that will be the metric that they are forced to go to if they want to pivot. It’ll be SuperCore and guess what you call it supercore.
SuperCore doesn’t look that great right now, but it could look pretty interesting if you begin to have gasoline coming down 40% month over month with what the next one is going to say or 25% month over month. So you’re going to continue to have some volatility on the headline CPI front, which is basically what the Fed is going to have to look at in order to pivot.
TN: Okay, so can I ask what happened with gasoline prices? We still have 94% or whatever utilization. Crude prices haven’t come down that much. So why have we seen a 30% fall in gasoline prices over the past three to four weeks?
SR: Recession fears?
TN: That’s it. Okay.
AM: Yeah, pretty much exactly. It’s just the narrative of recessions coming and trying to kill demand based on that. It’s just like I said, PR games, nothing more.
SR: The one thing that I want to point out that I think is really important to kind of consider for Albert’s point of a pivot is equities tend to move in a six month precursor. And what you’ve seen since July 1 is an absolute rip in home builders and a relative squashing of utilities.
And if people were betting on a longer recession in a longer Fed cycle, XLU would be the buy and homebuilders would be the short. And that has simply not been the case so far.
TN: Very interesting, Sam Rines.
AM: When do you think that Yellen this is for both of you, when do you think that Yellen gives up on the 2% inflation number and says 4% is the goldilocks level?
TN: Sam Rines you first. It’s a great question.
SR: I don’t think they go 4%, but I think they say, and they’ve begun to do this, if you go back over the last six months of speeches that 2 to 2.5 is fine.
AM: Still it’s going to be higher.
SR: They’re creeping it up. Right. I don’t think it’ll be 4%. I think between two and 3% is a reasonable target, blah, blah, blah, given and they’ll go into things like because of the way that we measure CPI, 2 to 3%, blah, blah, blah. There’ll be some.
AM: Fun times.
TN: I think if they did that, Albert, I think it would be after the election.
AM: Oh, of course. They’re not doing anything that’s going to trip up Operation Save the Democratic Senate, you know what I mean? They’re just not going to do that. Right?
TN: Yeah. I think people are already really upset about inflation. Companies are starting to report or expected report numbers down, their earnings down, and so it’s hurting everybody.
AM: Yeah, but everything they’re doing is just going to make inflation worse in 2023. But it’s going to come back with a vengeance because unemployment is still unemployment is going to start ticking up, because…
TN: It’s not an election year. Nobody cares because it’s not an election year.
AM: Stimulus checks will flow again. It’ll be fun.
SR: The one thing, again this goes to Albert’s point on, will a potential September pivot be a mistake? Pepsi’s report this week showed a 1% organic volume growth and 12% pricing. They put 12% pricing and consumers and had volumes creep up 1%. Guess what? If companies can get away with that, they are going to all day long, and they will in fact, make a fortune on the back side of this.
AM: Of course.
SR: Paying attention to that demand destruction has not crept through yet. If you can push that kind of price and not have volumes fall, guess what?
TN: Well, the biggest thing, of course, and this is a no brainer, but prices are not going back to where they were. They are not going back to where they were. This is not a temporary inflation thing. And it may have started that way, but the way we responded to it was completely wrong. And it just baked in these supply side things that flowed all the way through to the retail side.
AM: Wage inflation alone. Wage inflation alone.
TN: Yeah. But I think we’re going to see more on the, say, low, medium side of wages. I think in order to keep up with a 12% price hike in Pepsi, you’re going to have to see more action on the wage side.
SR: Granted, that was mostly free online. That was mostly salty snacks. And it might have had something to do honestly, it might have had something to do with more frequent gasoline stops. You buy more chips. But I wouldn’t read too much into that. Right. I do think that their ability to push price is pretty good.
SR: Yes. To your point, it’s a step function in pricing and therefore it’s a step function in inflation. Great. Okay, guys, 60 seconds. What do you see for the week ahead? Albert, go.
AM: Commodities. Rebounding commodities. I’m long wheat. I think there’s problematic globally for wheat. I want to see wheat prices start to track back up, to be honest with you. Same thing with oil.
TN: So soft and energy.
TN: Okay. Sam?
SR: Yeah. Watching the inflation trade, honestly, and I think it’s very similar to Albert’s point on oil. And wheat, I’ll be watching the relative sector distribution pretty closely here, looking for those like XLU versus the housing guys versus some of the other trades to see what people actually putting money to work are really thinking, not just by them.
TN: Very good, guys, thank you so much. Thank you so much for taking your Monday afternoon. Thanks, everybody, for watching our late week ahead. And guys, thanks. Have a great week ahead.
This past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. It was a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from the beginning to the end of the week. In this episode, we’re going to focus on geopolitics.
Is India a geopolitical trendsetter?
China, MBS & Biden – BFFs?
What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?
What’s ahead for next week?
This is the 21st episode of The Week Ahead, where experts talk about the week that just happened and what will most likely happen in the coming week.
0:00 Start 1:36 India as a geopolitical trendsetter now? 3:55 US is frustrated with India? What’s going? 7:35 Is India being ridiculously nationalistic? 8:00 China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs? 10:08 How does MBS look at Biden with China opening up? 11:31 Awkward and Desperate: Is the US-Saudi a short-term diplomatic issue? 14:45 Is there any place they can go for energy supply? 16:00 What does Turkey get out of halting the NATA expansion? 20:20 What impacts on some countries by opening the Bosphorus. 21:22 What is DC thinking and do out of the gun discussions? 24:24 What to expect for the week ahead?
Listen to the podcast version on Spotify here:
TN: Hi, and welcome to The Week Ahead. I’m Tony Nash. And as always, we’re joined by Sam, Albert, and Tracy. Before we get started, could you please like and subscribe? It’s very important. But here’s what’s more important today. If you could comment on the episode, we would appreciate it. We check that stuff every week. If you disagree with us, if you think we’re full of it, let us know and let us know why. Okay.
So this week, this past week, we had a flat S&P 500. Nasdaq was up slightly. Bond yields were up slightly. Kind of a summer stall this week. Not a lot happening from beginning to end of the week. So we’re going to focus on geopolitics this week.
We’re looking at a few things. Is India a geopolitical trendsetter now? That’ll be a really interesting discussion. Second, we have China, MBS, and Biden as BFFs. So let’s see what’s there. What does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion? Really, Turkey becoming a real geopolitical linchpin. And then we’ll have a quick chat on what we expect for the week ahead.
So first is India as a geopolitical trendsetter. India recently has halted some commodity exports. They’ve done some deals with Russia for energy, and they’ve been really independent. And India’s typically independent with foreign policy. But I’m curious if we can look at, say, the energy deals first, Tracy, can you help us understand a little bit about that, and what is India doing there?
TS: Well, I mean, absolutely. First of all, India has been complaining about oil price and saying that it’s unsustainable for them for months now, right. As we’ve been over $100. And so when they were typically not really buying anything from Russia.
However, after the Ukraine invasion, then we had that discount. The Euro to Brent discount fell to almost $40 at one point. So India started buying a lot of oil from Russia, obviously, because it’s less expensive. And they said outright energy security is more important to us right now than anything else because they are also having issues with coal. And whatnot really that’s their focus right now.
And so what we think is that likely they’ll probably become a semi permanent customer of them and probably will take in about 500,000 barrels per day going forward. So what is coming off of the European market is actually going to India and China.
TN: A lot of Westerners don’t understand that India and Russia or the former Soviet Union have had a long political ties, longtime political ties, and those long term political ties tend to come up when people need friends. There is a connection between India and Russia that a lot of Westerners don’t understand.
Albert. I guess the US tends to do this very binary. You’re with us or against us. And I would imagine that the White House and State Department, if we actually have a State Department, that they’re a little bit frustrated with India. What’s going through the US’s mind with the India relationship right now?
AM: Well, this is basically goes back to Obama, actually, with his animosity towards Modi. But the Biden, State Department and the DoD just have this naive idea of how things work in the world. India, like you said, the Russian ties with India are long standing because they use them as a counterbalance against the Chinese aggression. Right.
If you look at a map, because I always say this on Twitter, look at a map before you start talking about geopolitics. India’s surrounded by Pakistan, China, all these other proxies to China and Russia. So they can’t afford they can’t afford to sit there and poke the Hornets nest in the region because it’ll just come back at them. I mean, Pakistanika starts things in Kashmir.
The Chinese have been building mountaintop air bases to stress India over the watershed in the Himalayas. There’s so many issues that the Indians have to deal with and balance that with their Western counterparts, animosity with the dealings with Russia. It’s not that complex if you sit there and talk about it for 15 minutes. But for some reason, our State Department just can’t come to grips with that. And it’s actually causing quite the damage of the state relations of United States and India right now.
And you can talk about the Chinese component and how they stress India because they’re a major competitor in the manufacturing sector.
SR: And not to mention that India has always been a very large importer of energy. And it’s a critical part of their development going forward. And they’re a 1.1 billion population. If you begin to have significant problems with energy prices and food prices, that’s a big problem for a democracy in that part of the world.
And not to mention, I think it’s somewhat hypocritical for the US government to be so mad about them buying 500,000 barrels a day when you still have Europe buying oil and gas every single day and being like, well, maybe we’ll be done by the end of the year.
SR: The number of hypocrites that just keep coming out. Is India really our friend? It’s like, well, it’s Germany, it’s France, Italy.
TN: Those are valid questions.
SR: I mean, to me, it’s a little bit insincere for us to continuously be pounding on India for trying to survive as a democracy. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
TN: Well, you conveniently overlook the fact that India regularly imports energy from Iran. Korea places like Korea regularly import energy from Iran. The State Department and White House regularly just overlook things conveniently because they want to. Right. But when it comes to Russia, for some reason, it’s a major issue.
So one quick thing I want to talk about with regard to India, and this has happened with some other Asian countries where India stopped exporting sugar and a few other commodities. We saw Indonesia stopped exporting, say, palm oil and a few other things. So this has been kind of painted as some sort of nationalistic action.
My contention has been, look, a nation state has the kind of obligation to look after their own people first. What do you guys think about that? Is India being ridiculously nationalistic by not exporting sugar and a few other things?
AM: Absolutely not. I mean, this is a case of survival, not just for India, but for multiple countries. Egypt recently, Morocco and all the other North African countries are following suit. I mean, they got to feed their own people. You can’t have your own citizens miss meals because pitchforks and torches start coming out.
TN: Yes, I think that’s a perfect way to say it. Okay, let’s move on to kind of a little bit of a crazily, delicately balanced series of relationships with China, MBS in Saudi Arabia, and Joe Biden. There’s been talk of a trip of a Biden trip to Saudi Arabia, which is a little bit awkward given the fact that MBS wouldn’t take his phone call last month. And then we’ve got China as energy importer. There are a number of levers there.
So, Sam, actually, Tracy, can you take us down that path a little bit on the energy side of what happens there and why that is so important?
TS: Well, I mean, I think it’s a thing. Relations have already been strained. Right. So I think it’s too little, too late. And second of all, to go ahead and think that Saudi Arabia or OPEC, for that matter, can lower oil prices in the US or lower gasoline prices in the US is completely misguided. We should be focusing domestically on what we can be doing here instead of banking other countries.
TN: Let me stop you right there and ask the refinery capacity is like the highest it’s been in 20 years or something, right? 92.4% or something.
TS: Yeah, it was 92.7% this week. The prior week was we were at 93.4%. So we’re pretty much at we’re cranking it out. We definitely need more refining capacity going forward. We haven’t had a major refinery built since 1977. Brownfield projects, but not real Greenfield projects.
TN: Okay. Going back to the Biden-Saudi visit, Sam, what are your thoughts on that? And if you can throw a little bit of China analysis, if China is actually opening up. How does MBS look at Biden with the potential of China opening up more aggressively?
SR: I think he looks at it as a little bit desperate. Right. And probably wants quite a bit out of doing anything. And to begin with, Sunny doesn’t have that much fair capacity. There’s not a whole lot they can do very quickly, maybe release some stocks, et cetera, but there’s not a whole lot they can do to get oil on the market quickly. And there’s a lot less that they can do to magically make diesel.
We don’t have the amount of diesel out there that we need. And we are building a refinery, and a refinery takes three to five years to build. So good luck with that. So I think it’s going to smack is a little bit desperate to MBS, and I think there’s going to be a pretty good bargaining spot for him to be in, given that China has largely shut down for a month and a half to two months, maybe reopening, and that’s going to be another tailwind to oil consumption.
And if you all of a sudden have higher oil consumption coming out of China, that’s going to be a problem for oil prices, even from $1.20, $1.15 where we’re sitting right now. That’s a tailwind that I think MBS kind of has a little bit of a grin on his face saying, hey, nothing I can do here.
TN: Right? And tell me a little bit more about the political dynamics there. Does the US and Saudi Arabia, is this kind of a short-term, say, diplomatic issue, or is it something longer term?
AM: Well, you and Sam said two key words, “awkward” and “desperate.” At the moment, Biden going to Saudi Arabia to meet with the King, which was rejected, so they’re actually pushing them off to MBS is such a black eye to the United States foreign policy. Unbelievable. I mean, at this point, you’re going to have Joe Biden go meet with MBS, who Biden’s cabinet brought up Khashoggi not too long ago, which prompted the phone call to be not even taken by the Saudi, leader of a US President. I can’t even remember when last time US President was ignored by the Saudi Arabians. I mean, it’s a disaster in the making that will probably take a good ten to 15 years to rectify.
The Saudis, what are they really going to do? A couple of hundred thousand barrels extra in a pump just to make Joe Biden happy? It’s not going to do anything. I mean, swallowed up by demand almost instantly. But when it comes to the political stuff, you have a realignment between Saudi Arabia, Russia and China happening right under our noses. And it seems to be just completely missed by the State Department of Biden administration.
SR: And to Albert’s point here, and I think it’s an extremely, extremely important point. Saudi doesn’t need the US anymore. Saudi needed the US for a while. We were their biggest customer. We are not their largest customer by a mile, and we’re unlikely to be their largest customer ever again.
So their pivot towards Asia and away from the US makes strategic sense for them. And that, to me, is an understated long term fundamental issue facing the US-Saudi relationship.
AM: That’s exactly right, Sam. And the only other component that actually contradicts that is because of the security situation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Saudis need US armaments, they need the relationship with Israel, and they need to re-mend relationships with Turkey. But if Russia at this point, if they’re not poking the Iranians to mess with the Saudis, there’s really no real desperate need by the Saudis for the US defense umbrella at the moment and they can just be free to sell to the Chinese, the Asians and whoever else. And remember that Biden attempted to go to Venezuela to try to get them to pump more, but then realized that while their refinery is broken down and can’t really produce anything at the moment.
SR: So the Arabians went to fix it.
AM: There’s a lot of hypocrisy and a lot of awkward things that’s coming out of the Biden administration right now for geopolitical issues concerning the Saudis.
TN: It’s amateur hour, guys. Lincoln is a joke, often as a joke. I can’t believe it’s embarrassing where we are right now. Tracy, is there any place else they can go for supply right now?
TS: If you look at OPEC, OPEC can’t even produce what their current quote is, right? Because you have too many, too many laggards. So it doesn’t really matter. I mean, they’re 2 million barrels plus below quota last month. So it doesn’t matter if they keep raising or not. They just don’t have the spare capacity. And a lot of the smaller countries are having problems with production.
There’s nowhere else to go. Right. Especially if you’re trying to push Russia out, which is, depending on the month, the second or third largest producer. Right.
TN: Okay. And I think we can all agree that if we just buy electric cars, that would solve everything.
TS: Oh, absolutely. With the announcement that we’re going to have rolling blackouts in the Midwest this summer, I’m sure that rush right out and get EVs should help us.
TN: Right? Exactly. Okay. Let’s move on to Turkey and get really interested in the power dynamics with Turkey right now and their veto power over NATO expansion and some of their control of energy going through the Bosphorus. Turkey has really emerged as a real regional power.
I remember reading about this with George what’s his name’s book the next 100 years, reading that Turkey would be really powerful. This was a 20 year old book. Right. George Freedman. Right. And so it hasn’t happened exactly as he thought. But at the time I thought, “no, Turkey can’t reemerge.” And it’s happening right now. Right.
Albert, can you talk us through what does Turkey get out of halting NATO expansion?
AM: Well, a few things actually, quite. They really want to stop the Kurdish money system support system coming out of the Scandinavian countries because that’s where a lot of the money and support groups based themselves out of Stockholm and parts of the Baltic area. So they really want to stop that. Right. But that’s not really what they’re after because the Scandinavians put a block on their sales of arms. Right. So the Turks obviously want to sell their drones.
They want to sell some military equipment to the EU and to other players in the region. The Turks, they have a big economic problem. Right. And so they’re using every point of leverage they possibly can use. They’re trying to press the EU to give more loans, trying to stress the refugee situation, trying to stress the energy situation, trying to stress the food situation through the Bosphors. And I’ll let Sam and Tracy touch on that.
But for them right now, if you look at it like I said, with India, look at a map. Turkey right now is arguably the most geostrategic position in the entire world right now with concerns to wheat, gas, oil, refugee status. You can just pick a topic and Turkey is pretty much top five.
TN: Okay. Sam talked us through kind of from a macro perspective. What does that mean? What opportunities does that bring up?
SR: I mean, it brings leverage, right? It brings incredible amount of leverage, particularly as you begin to have Sri Lankan type issues. Go to North Africa. The easiest way for North Africa to solve its problems is for Turkey to solve the problems very quickly by opening the Bosphorus or doing something along those lines. So I think from a macro perspective, it’s really about leverage and what type of leverage they want. Right.
They actually manufacture really good, fairly cheap drones. That’s a pretty easy thing for NATO, the EU, to kind of give them a pound on the back and say, okay, yeah, go. Right. That’s something that they can actually do. And quite frankly, if you’re Sweden and Finland, guess what? You don’t really have a choice.
Turkey is going to be selling drones. Turkey is going to have some leverage on what they get to do, and you’re not going to be able to veto it or you’re going to be sitting there like a sitting duck for the next time that Putin decides he wants a little extra territory.
TN: Right. Okay.
AM: And to expand on that, Tony, the Turks, in sort of cooperation with the Iranians and the Russians, have been moving into Africa using old Ottoman trading post colonies, I mean, through West Africa, North Africa, Horn of Africa, everywhere. And there’s been absolutely no talk about it, no counteraction against it. They’re acting as if they were a major superpower with no one really putting them in their place.
TN: Well, this potentially could turn into I don’t know how much you guys know about Ottoman history 1860s, 18870s, debt load that the Turks had and the refinancing that the British and French came in to do it. And I wonder if that’s where we’ll be in five or ten years. It’s really interesting to see how that Ottoman history played through and see if that happens again with Turkey. I hope it doesn’t, because that ended up leading to World War One. But this could be really interesting.
Tracy, they opened the Bosphorus. What impact does that have on some of these countries, like Egypt and North African countries and say, Lebanon and some of these other countries that are really desperately waiting for some things out of Russia and Ukraine?
TS: Yeah. I mean, obviously that’s going to help. We’re going to get some wheat out. It looks like that is going to happen and that we are starting to see shipments flow that’s obviously going to ease tensions. Hungry people tend to revolt. So something needed to be done, in other words. And so it looks like that’s starting to happen, which is obviously a good thing.
TN: Great. Okay. I want to spring a kind of a surprise topic on you guys just really quickly. It’s a big debate in the US since we’re talking geopolitics. Guns on top of everyone’s mind. Some shootings in the States over the past few weeks.
Albert, I know, you know, DC probably better than all of us. So can you walk us through really quickly? Excuse me, what is DC thinking? What will likely happen in DC out of all of the gun discussions?
AM: Well, because it’s an election year, probably nothing. And I’ll tell you what. In politics, you cannot take a singular issue, isolate it and solve the problem. It doesn’t work like that. So, for instance, and this is something I always stress about. When you look at guns, you have to look at it as what voters intentions are and feelings are with the guns because they’re electing their members. Right.
When you have guns, they’re typically rural Americans that are religious, that have views on abortion and are farmers. Right. What’s under farmlands? Oil. So not only do you have to tackle the religious voter, the anti abortion voter, the rural farm voter, but then also big oil that actually funds all these people. So you can’t take guns alone and say, I’m going to solve it without agitating another 40 million Americans and Senate races are completely dependent on rural voters, not so much urban because that tends to go Democratic anyways. But there is actually swing cities and swing areas on top of the conservative areas that there’s a political calculation and numbers game that has to be played.
So for this year, I don’t see anything happening with guns at all. Maybe something extremely minor, but nothing that would actually be effective.
TN: For people who are non Americans, what do people outside of America not understand about the gun discussion in the US?
AM: It’s a cultural thing. The United States prides itself on being a system of checks and balances. Right. And for guns, Americans tend to think we are not going to let our government intrude and overtake us. That’s our checks and balances to dictatorships. Right. Authoritarian systems.
As other issues come up from the left and come up from the right, just everyone’s going to get more pulverized on this. There’s never going to be 100% solution. The Europeans are definitely not going to understand why Americans love their guns. But it’s just…
TN: Europeans, Australians, Asians, they don’t actually some in Asia get it.
AM: Some in Asia get it. The Swiss hilariously get it. They’re mandatory. They have Pentagon, everyone’s. And it’s unfair for the rest of the world to compare a small country of like, say, 10 million people statistically to the United States that has 350,000,000 plus people out there, the giant system.
AM: We’re doing our best and nothing is a perfect system and we’re getting towards it. But it’ll take decades.
TN: Yes. Okay, good. I just wanted to cover that off since it’s been such a big topic lately. Okay, guys, the week ahead. We had a kind of a lackluster week this week. Tracy, what do you see happening in the week ahead? Crude actually had a fantastic week. What do you see going on next week in, say, energy and commodities?
TS: I’m still bullish energy and commodities. From a technical standpoint, we broke out of a technical pattern. Right. I don’t see anything changing, in other words, in the physical landscape, I mean, markets are tight. We have a structural deficit. The whole complex is in bacridation. So I expect energy prices to stay high. Really? I don’t think Biden’s meeting is going to do anything.
TN: Right. Okay. Very good. Shannon, what are you looking for?
SR: More chop. A lot more chop. I think the jobs report on Friday, there was a quote that it was goldilocks-ish it was not goldilocks-ish if you’re the Fed. The Fed saw a lot of jobs created. It’s a participation tick up and it’s average hourly earnings still sitting at 5.5% for everyone on a year over year basis. Those are three things that they don’t really want to see sitting that high.
SR: It’s that simple. They would be much happier with 100,000 jobs created or lower. I think they want a couple of negative prints. An average hourly earnings that’s closer to 2% year over year. That means that the wage price spiral isn’t happening. And they really want an awful lot of call it pain in the inflation space. So you’re not really seeing anything to knock the Fed off of its current path. And if anything, you probably gave it a little bit of a tailwind to some more hawkish rhetoric.
Brainard being a Hawk? That should scare everyone. Because when Brainard comes out as a Hawk, that’s a signal.
TN: That’s weird.
SR: That’s a signal that they’re going and they’re going hard.
TN: Yeah, that’s upside down world weird. And then was it May said out yesterday saying they could do another fifty in September?
SR: Yeah. After the print on Friday, guess what, this is the best part about the Brainard statement is she said in order to have a better balance in the labor market, they need to see job openings decline.
This is critical, though. Job openings are reported a month lagged to everything else. Right. So in September, they’re going to be looking at maybe August.
TN: Let me ask you this. Elon Musk was out this week saying, hey, if you’re not going to come back to the office, we’re going to consider that you resigned. Are we going to see more CEOs do that? And could that potentially have an impact on the jobs numbers?
SR: Not really. One, Musk, then he said we’re over staffed by 10% across salaried workers. So the statement for Musk was probably more to get some natural attrition. So we didn’t have to actually lay off people because it’s a lot cheaper when people quit than it is when people get laid off. And Musk needs a couple of headlines because his Twitter deal was a really dumb idea.
TN: Yeah. And also I kind of preempted Musk by two years. I told my staff in June of 2020, but if you don’t show up, you could resign. So I was early on that boat. So Albert, what do you expect in the week ahead.
AM: Everyone saw Yellen come out and say I missed the inflation and how bad it’s going to be. That’s her getting ahead of the CPI print. It’s going to be a bad one. I think it actually could get close to 9% which would be not good for the markets.
On top of that Opex Fed minute coming up, I think we’re going to be like Sam said, I think there’s going to be some chop. They’re doing their best to keep this thing above 4200. So I think we’re going to be looking at probably push 4250 which is a bull bear line this week until CPI print comes in and then Armageddon.
TN: That’s what you said last week.
AM: That’s a 4200 on that Monday on futures.
AM: They tried but they sold it. Everyone’s just selling.
TN: Okay. So we have another chance this week.
TN: Great guys. Thank you very much. This has been a great discussion. Thanks so much and I really appreciate this. Have a great week ahead.
This week, we saw commodities skyrocket then drop off. We saw crude oil hit levels not seen since 2008, with gasoline and home heating prices on everyone’s minds. The nickel market broke the LME. Chinese tech and real estate bloodbath. And – despite all of this – Janet Yellen assured us there will be no recession in the US. Quite a week.
As we said last week:
– Tracy called for commodity price volatility – across sectors
– Downside bias in equities with high volatility. Albert predicted 4200-4250 and pretty much nailed it.
– Sam said a Fed rate rise would become boring and talk of QT would disappear.
This episode we talked about mostly the energy commodities with the continuing Russia-Ukraine conflict. Can the US use other alternatives like the West African oil to replace Russian oil? What are the politics around Venezuelan oil and why is it the same as getting Russian oil?How about uranium — and can the US produce it and will the conflict affect rare earths? Is this war the reason for the US’s inflation? How will inflation actually play with voters in this year’s US election? Lastly, what’s happening in Chinese tech and real estate and why there’s a bloodbath and for how long will this continue?
This is the tenth 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.
TN: Hi, everyone, and welcome to The Week Ahead. My name is Tony Nash. I’m joined by Tracy Shuchart, Albert Marko, and Sam Rines. Before we get started, I appreciate if you could like and subscribe to our YouTube channel. And also please know that we have a special offer for Week Ahead viewers for CI Futures, which is our market data and forecast platform. CI Futures has about 800 assets across commodities, currencies and equity indices and a couple thousand economic variables. We track our error. We have very low error rates. So we’re offering CI Futures to Week Ahead viewers at a $50 a month promotion. You can see the URL right now. It’s completeintel.com/weekaheadpromo. That’s a 90% off of our usual price. So thanks for that.
So these week, guys, we saw commodities skyrocket and then drop off. We saw crude oil hit levels not seen since 2008. With gasoline and home heating prices really on everyone’s minds. The nickel market broke the LME, Chinese tech and real estate. We saw a blood bath there. And despite all of this, Janet yelling assured of us that there will be no recession in the US. So it was quite a week.
So let’s look at last week. Tracy called for commodity price volatility across sectors. So it wasn’t just an oil call, it was across sectors. And we saw that in spades. We talked about a downside bias in equities and high volatility. Albert predicted a 4242 50 range, and he pretty much nailed that. And then Sam said that a Fed rate rise would become pretty boring and talk of QT would kind of disappear. And we’ve really seen that happen over the past week. So, well done, guys. I think we need to really focus on inflation this week. Inflation and quantity prices are on everyone’s mind. Energy is the first kind of priority, but it’s really come across, like we said, nickel and other things.
So, Tracy, let’s start there. We have a viewer question from At Anton Fernandez, Russian oil, if you don’t mind helping us understand the environment for Russian oil and what’s happening there and some of the alternatives, which we’ve covered a little bit before, but also West Africa. Is West Africa viable within that? So if you don’t mind talking to us a little bit about what’s happening in the crude market and also help us with a little bit of understanding of the context of West Africa.
TS: Yeah. So if we look at the crude market in general, what we have been seeing, we’ve seen sanctions from Canada, which is basically political. They haven’t bought anything since 2019. We also saw Australia sanctioned oil, but they had only bought a million barrels over the last year. It’s nothing. The US only 600,000 bpd. That is nothing. And UK is going to take a year to get off oil because it’s 11% of their imports as opposed to 2% of our imports. That said, what we are seeing in this market is a lot of self sanctioning. Right.
So we’re saying we have nine Afromax Russian oil tankers basically sitting aisle because they can’t get insurance and nobody wants to pick up oil right from them. Actually, what is most surprising right now, I have to say, is that looking at Asian buyers, everybody thought that Asian buyers because it would be offered at such a discount, they would be buying this stuff up like crazy. But there was just an auction for SoKo, which is a very popular grade with South Korea, China, Singapore and Hawaii, and there was literally zero bids.
TN: Really? Wow.
TS: The next auction that we need to be looking for is ESPO, which is the most popular grade for China refiners. But if we see a zero bid there, that would be indicative of saying that we’re taking a lot of brush and barrels.
TN: Chinese we’re not seeing any interest there, at least so far.
TS: Right. Which is quite incredible because the Chinese have always decided to be apolitical. Right. And they don’t recognize Unilateral sanctions and they have stressed that. So whatever sanctions that the west has, China says we don’t care about that. We saw that with Iran as well.
TS: But it’s pretty incredible to see this particular auction go at zero bid. Right. In regards to looking at West Africa, I’ve been talking about this since 2020. Niama is a very interesting place. There’s been a lot of offshore activity there. And so I think that is a place to be looking for. The problem is that looking at offshore projects, they take it’s a seven to ten year timeline, as opposed to something like Shell, which is six months to 18 months. But yes, there’s definitely opportunity.
TN: So is West African crew substitutional with Russian crude?
TS: No, it is not.
TN: Okay. So is it lighter, that sort of thing?
TS: It’s lighter. It’s lighter crude oil, what we’re looking at right now. And this is exactly why the US went to Venezuela and said, we’ll be willing to lift sanctions with you as long as you only sell us oil.
TS: And the funny thing is that they have a very good relationship with Russia. The problem with this sort of relationship is that we could inadvertently be buying from Venezuela that is actually Russian oil.
TN: Sure. Exactly. So it’s an interesting point on Venezuela. Albert, what are the politics around that we just pick up the phone. Does Lincoln just have a conversation with Venezuela? We send a deputy sect down there, do a deal. How does that work? And is that palatable?
AM: No, it’s not palatable. It’s an absolute joke. Like Tracy said, the Russians have their tentacles all over Venezuelan oil, that you would be self sanctioning yourself from Russian oil globally, but then buying from Venezuela, which is going to be mixed because everybody in the industry knows that if you want to mix oil, you do it in the Caribbean, especially from sanctioned oil from overseas. So it’s not palatable. It’s a joke. I don’t understand what they’re trying to do. It’s just a Wally world at this point.
TN: I guess the thing that I’m continually astounded by is the diplomatic actions of the US administration from Anchorage through this week with Venezuela. They just seem to be tripping all over themselves. What am I missing? Like they just seem to be eroding credibility by the day. Is that fair to say?
AM: It’s more than fair. They’re throwing spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks based only upon their little echo chamber of ideology. And it’s extremely naive ideology when it comes to geopolitics or what they’re doing right now.
You can try to erase Russia and go play and then think that you can go to Iran and cut a deal with Iran, not understanding that Russia is going to sabotage that deal. Right. Like they did just today.
TN: Tight diplomatically. While we’re on this this week, the headline said that the UAE and Saudi declined having talks with Joe Biden this week. Is that true? Is the headline the reality of it? And from the time Biden came into office, he was not friendly to Saudi Arabia. So is this payback from that?
TS: No, I don’t think so. Sorry.
AM: Actually, I think it is that it is payback because you have the Saudis and the UAE that have security concerns with the Houthis and the Iranians. And if you’re sitting there approaching the Iranians playing all nice with them, what do you think MBS is going to do?
TS: I agree with Albert on that respect. I just want to interject that the OPEC + Alliance has mainly tried to stay apolitical. Right. So just because the United States says OPEC produce this much more, Saudi Arabia and UAE, which are both the producers that can produce more than the rest, had come out this week and said no, we’re in this alliance and this is how it is, which is totally understandable.
AM: Yeah, but Tracy, but the problem is OPEC saying that is one thing but not taking his call.
TS: No, I agree with you. I agree with you that we have burned bridges. I’m not disagreeing with you here whatsoever. I’m just taking a different kind of look at this.
TN: Sam, what’s your view on that? I’m not hearing you.
SR: Can you hear me now?
TN: Yes, sir.
SR: I would say the naivety of believing that you’re going to have a JCPOA deal or you’re going to be able to have some sort of comeback in terms of Venezuela. So you add the two of those together and who cares relative to what you need to replace Richmond Oil? I mean, it would be great and fine, whatever, but it’s nowhere near enough simply. Right. But it’s also a political naivety to believe that you’re going to have that type of dialogue and you’re going to have it quickly.
SR: On the front of Saudi and UAE, I would say it is both an OPEC Plus. We’re not going to blow this up before it blows up on its own from the call it the allies of OPEC. Plus.
It’s also the UAE and Saudi is saying, remember, you want to be friends with us, US.
SR: Don’t pretend you don’t want to be.
SR: So I would say it’s politics in the best possible way on that front. And on Iran, JCPOA, and Venezuela, it was wishful thinking to think that the Russians were going to say no on both fronts.
TN: Well, and the Chinese. Right. I think there are a number of Venezuela has relationships with both Russia and China.
TS: That’s all I was saying is that OPEC is not going to give up that plus alliance. They’re going to try to stay apolitical. Right. Whatsoever. Do I think that the United States is pushing OPEC to Russia and China? Absolutely. Do you see the huge deal that Saudi Arabia made today? Absolutely. Right.
So they’re looking at investing further into China because they are being pushed away from the United States. So agree on that aspect. But I’m just trying to say that they do try to stay apolitical. If you look at the history of OPEC, Iran and Saudi Arabia have been able to subsist cohesively in the OPEC alliance, regardless of the years of them being enemies and having proxy wars against each other. That’s all I’m saying.
TN: Okay. Let’s move on to the next thing. There are a couple of questions about commodities, Tracy, and let’s just cover these really quickly. We have a question about uranium from @JSchwarz91. Will the US ban or will Russia restrict its uranium and could the US actually start producing uranium on its own? Is that a possibility?
TS: The US won’t restrict uranium. It hasn’t restricted uranium because we actually buy a significant amount of uranium from them. It’s easy to say we can skip 600 barrels per day of oil, but not as easy to do with uranium. We’ve stayed away from that.
Will Russia decide to not sell to us? Again, it’s about money, so probably not unless we really push a button in there. Can we produce that amount of uranium in the United States? Absolutely not.
TN: Interesting. Okay. Let’s also move on to rare Earth. So we have a question from @snyderkr0822. He’s asking about the impact of Russia and Ukraine on the availability of rare earths. Is that a factor or is rare Earth more of a China thing?
TS: That’s more of a China thing. We all have to watch to see if China sides with Russia and see how that market ends up. But really, they’re the largest producer in the world, and that’s who we are largely dependent on for rare earths.
TN: Okay, great. Thanks for that.
Now let’s move on to kind of this war driven inflation narrative that we’ve seen over the past a couple of weeks. We had February inflation come out today, and I feel almost as if we’re being tested as a trial balloon for an inflation narrative that inflation is kind of Russia’s fault.
So, Sam, can you talk us through some of the economics of this? Is inflation a new thing like did it just happened two weeks ago?
SR: No. So the inflation narrative going forward, there’s some validity to Russia being the reasoning behind an increase over a base case. Whatever you want to decide that base case is. But in February, January. December and November, those are not in any way related to Russia generally.
What’s interesting to me is how many people are kind of forgetting that, we kind of had a little bit of a log jam breakup in supply chains beginning to occur. It looks like we were going to get a little bit of respite from that narrative. But now if you looked at what’s going on in the neon market, if you look kind of six to twelve to 18 months down the road, it looks a lot less like we’re going to have that log jam broken up and a lot more like we’re going to have somewhat persistent inflation that there is no way for the Fed to solve. There’s no way for the ECB to solve BOJ, et cetera. You’re just going to have to continue to have this hawkish language to try to tamp down those longer term expectations.
TN: Demand destruction.
SR: Demand destruction. But it’s really hard to destroy demand for semiconductors when they’re in everything from my daughter’s doll to my laptop. It is very difficult to destroy that much demand and create an inflationary environment that is less toxic to the Fed or to the ECB without breaking something.
So if the Fed isn’t willing to break something in the next call it six months. They’re not going to break inflation. And if you print out six months from now, you’re breaking something into a midterm election.
SR: So I’m so much skeptical on the Fed’s ability to do anything at this point.
TN: Right. That’s a great transition to Albert. So how is inflation playing with voters?
AM: Oh, it’s absolutely nuclear football. Allowing inflation to go this high is just going to be devastating to the Democratic Party and Joe Biden. But I want to go back because I have a couple of contentious things to say. Right.
TN: Please do.
SR: Oh, God! Right.
AM: So everyone is pricing in five, six, seven hikes at the moment. Right. But inflation at the moment has probably taken three of them out of the equation because the money’s gone. It’s erasing money left and right at the moment, from the federal point of view, it’s like, why really get rid of it all? That why really attack it when it’s doing our job for us where we only now have to hike three times. Right.
And on top of that, something even more contentious is everyone knows that once the VIX gets to a certain price, somebody sells it off. Right. Somebody industry. Right. But everybody knows that. And when everyone knows that, the house casino usually moves to a different area. What about oil? What if somebody with a big account has bought oil futures and every time it gets to the 120s or 130s, they just crush it for $1015 and the market rallies again.
So this artificial inflation that obviously we have real inflation just because of wage inflation and supply chain. But there’s a little bit of artificial, artificial aspect to it that I think the Fed has been using. Politically, it’s going to be extremely damaging. But for their point of view is if they can get over it and then get the rate hikes out of the way and then maybe probably start QE later in the summer, They could suck their voters at the beginning of the economy back on track again. I don’t think it’s going to work.
TN: Let’s say a month or so ago there was suspicion that we would be doing QT in say June, July. That’s off the table now because of the money that inflation is taken out of the market, right?
TN: But we’ll do rate hikes and have QE potentially?
AM: That’s right. That’s my point.
TN: You’re in an insane phase of economic history.
AM: It’s just look around, Tony. What’s not insane at the moment?
TN: Undoing this.
TS: That’s 100% fact.
TN: Undoing this is going to be insane. Okay, speaking of undoing crazy stuff, the Chinese techs and real estate stocks really have some problems this week.
So Albert, Sam, can you guys talk a little bit about that? And we have a tweet showing some stocks from Tencent, Alibaba, JD, other ones down 50, 60, 80%. So what’s happening with the tech blood bath in China?
SR: I’ll just do a quick start. Did you see the numbers coming out of JD? They were horrible. I mean, they were absolutely atrocious. So, yeah, you’re going to get a sell off in tech broadly across the board in China. When your numbers are horrible, then you’re going to have additional pressure put on the potential for delisting in the US and the general call it risk off move in markets. So you’ve got the trifecta of horrible for Chinese tech in a nutshell.
But the JD numbers were absolutely atrocious on a revenue growth line. And there’s no way to save Chinese tech if you’re going to have numbers like that. If you continue to have numbers like that, guess what? Look out, because the bottom is not in.
On the Chinese real estate front, I think Albert has a much better view on this than I do. But I would say if you’re going to have a risk off in tech, good luck having a risk on in real estate.
TN: Sorry. Let me stop you before I move on to real estate. So the tech story, what I’m pulling away from there is that it’s potentially disposable income story at the retail level, at the consumer level, and tells me that China is way overdue with its stimulus. Is that fair to say?
SR: That’s harder to say.
SR: I would be very careful in saying that the Chinese consumer is not there. China is coming with stimulus. If you’re trying to hit 5.5 by the end of this year and you’re going into a plum, guess what? You got to hit the pedal.
TN: Well, they better hurry up.
SR: They’ve got time, but they’re going to hit the pedal. And the question is how do they hit the pedal? And it’s got to be the consumer because they’re not going to hit it on real estate.
TN: No, they’re not. Going through some of the real estate.
AM: Yeah, well, I have a couple of points to make on. I have a couple of points about the tech. China tech. What was interesting is Sam is right. JD numbers were horrible. Right. This SEC Delisting thing pointed out five companies. Right. Just five. And the big ones. Gamble is a big one. And whatnot. But why only five? It happened to be the only five that actually did their accounting and submitted their accounting numbers. Right. And would that actually let a snowball effect out to say, Holy crap, they will take down every single Chinese number, Chinese company in the market. That’s why a lot of this actually sold off harder than you think it would sell off.
Going to the real estate market. I mean, 75% of China’s fault is real estate. So unless Xi wants pitchforks and torches coming after him, he’s going to have to stimulate the economy, something to support the real estate market.
TN: Yeah. It seems like it’s going to have to come hard and fast. I could be wrong. But, you know, with.
AM: I think by June. I think by June he’s got to do something. He has to.
SR: Hit through the middle.
TN: Good. And do you guys have any ideas on what exact forms that’s going to take? I mean, of course they’re new triple R, of course, taking a new infrastructure spending. They do the stuff. They announce it every other year. Are there other forms that you have in mind that will take that?
AM: I don’t, to be honest with you, that is $64 million question. To be honest. That’s a big question. That’s very complex.
SR: Yeah. And if I had the answer to that question, I probably wouldn’t be on this call.
TN: Come on, Sam. We know you would.
SR: I would be on a yacht somewhere.
TN: Yeah, that’s right.
TS: It’s interesting about that. If you look at the energy perspective, they just had a meeting and they totally decided that they’re going back to coal other than anything else. So that to me that signifies we have stress in other markets. Right. We cannot spend the money in other places. So we’re going to go back to what we do best, what we know best. And they also offered, if you look at internal documents that are offering huge discounts for going back into the coal industry or whatever. I just like to.
TN: So there’s still 73% coal for their power generation, something like that?
TS: Yes. So for them, they backtracked on COP. They need the money right now, in other words.
TN: Right. So the whole Paris agreement is a convenient agreement, is that what you’re saying?
TN: Okay, very good. It’s good to know that we’re all committed to the future. Okay. So guys, speaking of the future, finally, what do you view for the week ahead? Albert, let’s start with you. Maybe with China. Do you think there’s more to come with the blood bath in China?
AM: I think there’s another week or two to come with China blood bath. And I think that’s going to obviously lean on our equities going into Fed week.
AM: So yeah, I think we’ll be another down week.
TN: Okay. And guys, what about US equities? Are we on a steady decline down to some number 4300 whatever it is, or are we kind of about there? What do you feel is going to happen over the next week?
AM: I think we’ll be sub 4000 by the end of the week at some point.
SR: Yeah. I wouldn’t be anything other than market neutral until immediately following the Fed meeting and then you just rip it to the upside.
AM: Yeah. The only thing that I have a concern about is we still have this Ukraine war going on which is giving outrageous headlines and then if the Fed hikes 25 basis points and then extremely hawkish tones while Putin is shelling Kiev.
AM: It’s hard to rip until after that’s all settled.
TN: So sorry, Sam, in your scenario, are you saying the first half up until say Wednesday we have a pretty quiet market, then Thursday and Friday, things are pretty active to the?
SR: Oh no, I am not saying that you have a quiet market until the Fed. I’m saying you don’t want to take a position period until the Fed and then you either want to grip it or rip it one or the other.
AM: I agree with that one wholeheartedly.
TS: These markets will continue to be volatile until we have some resolution with this Ukraine Russia situation just because of all every day we’re seeing new sanctions against Russia and against commodities within Russia, at least for the commodity sector. I think we’ll continue to see volatility, but over the long term I’m still very bullish commodity.
TN: Okay. So Tracy, Sunday night, futures open, crude traded very high. Do you think there’s a possibility of us seeing another dramatic spike like that in the next week or two?
TS: I think that mostly been priced out of the market. I think that was priced in right. We saw a lot of that risk premium come out of the market, which I was very glad to see. I would personally be happy if we saw it traded in the 90s again before going into high demand season because I do think that we will trade higher on fundamentals. But it scares me when we have these big kick ups due to headlines and geopolitical risk.
So for me right now I would like to see this market come down a little bit. I’d like to see it pull back some and hopefully things will resolve quicker than sooner with this situation. But still going forward, I’m still very bullish this market.
TN: Okay. We didn’t talk at all about nickel and metal’s markets, but we saw the LME close today because of a nickel trade supposedly. Will we see those markets reopen and will we see nickel trade? Is it scheduled to trade again on Monday and is there the potential for commodity specific disruption and markets closing over the next week or two because of the volatility.
TS: There’s been a very high contention discussion right now, especially within the commodities industry. I would just say that it was kind of unprecedented what we saw there and the fact that they canceled all the trades. I would say that hedge funds are kind of backing away from that market right now because they’re skeptical of that market right now. But again, it’s not like I don’t want to say this is going to be the norm or anything like that.
TS: I think this was a one off crazy thing. It happened in the aluminum market years ago and you can even look it up on Wikipedia, right.
TN: Okay. Last thing week ahead with bonds. Sam, what are you thinking about bonds? We’ve seen the ten year go back up to about two. Are we going to see that continue to take up?
SR: I don’t know. I think the ten year is a little less interesting than the five year and the seven year.
SR: The five year and the seven year are really what you want to watch because if the fed goes 25 and goes really hawkish, it’s the five and the seven that you’re going to get the juice from and the ten and the 30 you’re going to get a little less so watch the five and seven. I think the five and seven are really interesting here. If you want to take a bet on a really hawkish Fed.
TN: Fantastic. Okay, guys. Thanks very much. Really appreciated. Have a great week ahead. Thank you very much.
This is the most recent guesting of our CEO and founder Tony Nash in CNA’s Asia First, where he shares his expertise on inflation and the US economy. Will consumers continue to spend to help the economy? What’s his view on Biden’s call to boost oil supply to ease prices? Where does he think the US dollar is headed and how will that impact Asian currencies?
CNA: What’s still ahead here in Asia First. We’ll check if US companies continue to charm investors with some big earnings in focus. Plus, to give us a stake on markets inflation and the US economy, we’ll be joined by Tony Nash from Complete Intelligence.
US stocks closed in the red overnight as lingering inflation concerns continue to dog investors. The Dow ended lower by six tenths of one percent, dragged down by a four point seven percent. Drop in visa the S&O 500 slipped 0.2 percent. And the NASDAQ fell by 0.3 percent.
Now after the bell, we also had some US tech earnings. NVIDIA shares rose after it beats on the top and bottom lines. The ship maker saw its revenue jump 50 percent on year on strong gaming and data center sales. Cisco shares tumbled and extended trade after missing on revenue expectations before the quarter. The computer networking company also issued a weaker than expected guidance.
For more on the broader markets and economy. We’re joined by Tony Nash is founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence speaking to us from Houston, Texas. So Tony as we heard their inflation fears seem to be back despite better expected earnings but CEO’s are starting to warn of more pain when it comes to supply chains. And that could put a damper on in that could lift inflation. Do you think the US consumers will continue to spend despite all this and will that help the recovery of the US in the next year?
TN: Yeah, I think the real issue here is that inflation is rising faster than wages. And what we’re seeing with oil prices. These oil prices are not terrible given kind of historical prices but it’s oil prices within the context of everything else. Obviously, the supply constraints really are pushing up prices of food and other activities as well as say goods that are imported for say the holiday purchases that Americans will make.
So Americans have absorbed a lot of those price rises to date. They’ll continue to absorb some but I think they’re almost at their limit in terms of what they can tolerate without getting upset.
CNA: Yeah, Do you think there’s a disconnect here when it comes to energy because Biden administration is hoping to boost supply to ease that oil price pressure but OPEC and its allies expect surplus into the next year. So, do you think they’re looking at it differently? And who has it right here and where oil prices headed?
TN: Yeah, I think part of the issue in the US with crude oil is the Biden administration restrictions on pipelines and on the supply side in the US. So, Joe Biden is asking other countries Russia, Saudi Arabia, other OPEC members to supply more oil yet he’s restricting the supply domestic supply in the US. So, I think what’s happening with those other suppliers they have customers who are buying their crude oil. They don’t necessarily want to have to produce more because they want slightly higher prices. They don’t want things too high but they want slightly higher prices and so they’re pushing back on on Joe Biden and saying look you really need to look at your own domestic supply. You really need to look at at those issues yourself before we start to open up our own market.
So you know, the current administration is trying to have it both ways. They’re trying to restrict supply within the US. They’re trying to bring in more supply from overseas. Americans see this and they understand kind of the incongruent nature of that argument from the administration.
CNA: I want to get your thoughts on the US dollar, Tony. Because that hit a 16-month high amid his expectations of more aggressive policy from the Federal Reserve. Where do you think the US dollar is headed and how will that impact us here in Asia, especially Asian currencies?
TN: Sure, it’s a great question. We saw a lot of action with the US dollar yesterday. The dollar index as you said reached highs for in the last say 18 months, two years. And that is on Fed action but one thing to consider is we’re looking at potentially changing the Fed chairman later this year.
So, if the current Fed chairman is exited. There is an expectation of a more dovish Fed chair coming in that’s one possibility. I think people are really trying to… While there is upward pressure on the dollar. People are trying not to get too far too much behind it because there could be a more double dovish Fed chair coming in. So, we think the dollar is overshot just a little bit in the short term.
We don’t expect it to continue rallying at its current pace. We expect say the Euro has fallen quite a bit and depreciated quite a bit in the last say three weeks. It’s going to appreciate just a bit a couple cents over the next month or so. Asian currencies, we think the CNY will stay strong. We think CNY will remain strong through say March, April as they start a devaluation cycle to help exporters. We think the Singapore dollar is going to stay in the same range that it’s in about now. We don’t see much policy change in Singapore and we think with a stable dollar at these levels. We think the same dollar will stay at about the same exchange rate of Scott now.
CNA: All right. We’ll keep our eyes on those currency exchanges and who becomes the next Federal Reserve Chairman. Tony Nash thanks for joining us. Tony Nash there founder and CEO of Complete Intelligence joining us from Houston, Texas.
Energy commodities experts Tracy Shuchart and Sam Madani joined forces in this special #QuickHit episode to talk about crude, OPEC+, JCPOA, and how lockdowns will affect the market this year. Most importantly, how investors should plan?
Tracy writes for a Hedge Fund Telemetry, where she is the energy and material strategist. She also manages an energy and materials portfolio for a family office. Meanwhile, Samir Madani is the co-founder of TankerTrackers.com. They’re an online service that keeps track of oil that’s being shipped around the world. His specialty is the tricky tankers, the ones that like to play according to the rules.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on July 17, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this OPEC+, JCPOA & Delta Variant: Strength or weakness for oil & gas prices? QuickHit episode are those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any contents provided by our guest are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: We’ve seen kind of an uplifting crude prices. We’ve seen things like copper prices come down, natural gas prices really start to see some upward pressure recently. At the same time, we’re seeing talk about the JCPOA and some other Middle East type of changes with OPEC+ and UAE and Saudi. What’s your thoughts on the crude and natural gas markets? We can talk about commodities generally.I know that’s a big, wide open question. Tracy, do you want to give us generally your view and some of your positioning at the moment?
TS: Well, I’m very bullish on commodities, particularly industrial metals, base metals and minerals needed for this energy transition. So copper and things of that nature.
This is CI Futures July forecast for COMEX Copper this YTD.
Discover the forecasts for nearly 1,000 other assets.
We have seen a little bit of a pullback in a lot of commodities, which is not surprising. We had such a large move up. However, everybody’s looking at this as a group like the CRB index rate has pulled back. But if you look at individual commodities, you’re still seeing iron ore still at highs. So it’s not like a whole commodity collapse. You’re still seeing strength in a lot of different areas.
So my positioning is instead of index, I’m positioned in individual stocks and particularly on the minor side, because minors are going to have the same capex problem that oil is having.
TN: OK, that’s a great point. Sam, what’s your view like generally with with energy?
SM: I remain bullish when it comes to oil in particular, and I pat myself on the back for having gone long in at the end of March last year, when the the mutual funds were at the all time lowest in regards to oil. And that’s come up quite a lot since then.
I do believe that we will probably find a good footholding now in the 70s. And in order for that to remain, I think something drastic is going to have to happen on the upward probably scathe $100 and come back down so that the OPEC can look like the good guys in the mid 70s. So I think also because of the fact that there’s a capex shortage in the oil sector, they need this revenue to come in order to sustain production as well.
My original intended investment horizon was around three to four years. I’m going to be cutting that short until September of next year because the issue that we have now is that the lockdowns are still in effect in many areas, but also when it comes to Europe where I’m situated, most of the inoculations have only gone through the first phase. So we’re still waiting for the second shot and therefore this summer will be delayed. We’re not going to be traveling everywhere like we were in 2019. Instead, that will happen most likely next summer.
There’s still one big run up towards the three-digit oil price and that would be most likely to happen next year rather than now.
This is CI Futures July forecast for COMEX Copper this YTD.
Discover the forecasts for nearly 1,000 other assets.
TN: So you brought up OPEC. There’s been news this week around OPEC+ and a deal with Saudi and UAE and some other Middle East dynamics. What’s your view on that? How much downward pressure will that put on crude markets?
TS: Because of those factors in the Middle East, because I am of a belief we will see a deal and we will get some more barrels on the market, the market is actually very tight right now. But we’re also having lockdowns in some places in Asia. So right now, we already are seeing a pullback in crude. Until we get a little bit more certain that 65-75 range will probably hold us for a while, I see some consolidation there and after $115 move from the lows last year, it makes sense for oil to chill out, consolidate here a little bit.
TN: Sam, what’s your view on the kind of OPEC+, Saudi, UAE and other kind of OPEC countries wanting to tag along on the UAE?
SM: I think one issue that they themselves want to know is status of the JCPOA. They really want to know how much of an issue Iran would be if their balance come back to market. Now, that’s a big if.
But if we look at what happened during the Trump administration, the United States pulled out of the deal and that was not good optics for the U.S. side. But now what’s happened is that Iran is not complying with the deal. So the ball is now in their court instead. So the Biden administration is saying, yes, the United States wants to be part of the deal, even though it’s not a very popular deal in the US. I don’t see any popular support for it. It’s more of a let’s just get back in there so Iran can improve its compliance. But they’re not improving their compliance. Instead, what they’re doing is going the other direction and they’re increasing their enrichment. They’re becoming more brazen about how they move around the world with Navy vessels and so on.
And now, of course, there’s an Iranian president that’s going to take office in August. So I think the deal will play fall apart instead because of the fact that Iran is not complying.
TN: If the deal falls apart, does that chaos help oil prices, meaning rise or does it create the perception that there will be a dramatically larger supply in the market?
SM: I think the initial reaction will be that, “Oh, these barrels are not going to be reentering the market, therefore the price will go higher.” So that’s the first automated response. But then, you know, the dust will begin to settle after a while when there’s an understanding of what kind of barrels are not entering the market.
So in Iran’s case, they are shipping sour crude. Whether it’s light or heavy, it’s sour. In order for that oil to become sweet, which is more attractive, you have to de-sulfur the oil. And so Iran, what they do is they give you a discount if you want to buy light sweet oil, but then they’re buying like sour oil. Iran gives $10 discount, for instance, and then they just remove the sulfur at the refinery at their own expense. And that’s what’s causing, for instance, West Africa to lower their exports. So moving out a lot less oil now out of Africa than before on account of China buying more Iranian oil instead.
TS: I think what people forget, there’s already a lot of Iranian oil on the market. So even if they came back at production of 4 to 4.5 million, it’s not really a lot of extra added barrels that are not already on the market.
SM: Exactly. And it will be absorbed by the demand that’s coming of course.
TN: But it seems to me the kind of perception of legitimacy that would come through JCPOA may calm prices down a bit through the kind of perception of legitimacy of that supply?
TS: Yeah. I mean, if it came to fruition, which I don’t foresee it, I have to agree with Sam on this point. But yeah, the market would think, oh, OK, we have all these barrels coming on even though there isn’t, and that it would be a numbers game from there, then you’d have to see supply and demand numbers from the various agencies monthly reports.
SM: And the thing also does not happen overnight. So even if the process of JCPOA happens and Biden finally signs, for instance, initially a waiver, the whole process takes forever to reboot again. We saw it last time. Remember Tracy back in years ago, it took many months.
And also in the case of Iran, most of their domestic national fleet is tied up containing gas condensate. So they have around 70 million barrels of gas condensates floating. And that used up nearly all of the VLCC supertankers, the ones that can carry two million barrels. So what Iran has done is they put additional vessels, vintage VLCC. So now they have 200 vessels as opposed to 70. And those are the ones, the foreign flagged vessels that are moving the oil mostly to China.
TN: You both mentioned lockdowns earlier in the conversation. And I think the tone here is that we have a pretty strong basis for rising crude prices. But we’ve seen some moves over the last week in the Netherlands and California and other places for maybe not full lockdowns, but more severe compliance with masks and other things and that seems to be leading toward potentially some lockdowns. First of all, if there are lockdowns coming, what would be driving that? And we all know about the Delta variant and stuff. But are there political factors that would be driving that? Second of all, if there were, how would that impact the six to nine month view of crude markets for you guys?
TS: The United States is so big, I don’t believe that they’re going to lock down the whole country again. It just won’t happen. You would literally have riots on the streets in some places. So I don’t foresee that happening. I could see some of the states like California just reinstated their mask mandates. I’ve been watching those states that kind of had more severe lockdowns to begin with like Michigan. If they’d lockdown again in the fall, that would probably be more politically motivated, but we’ll have to see what the numbers are and whatnot.
As far as my crude view, I’m very bullish on crude. But that doesn’t mean like I’m expecting a $100 tomorrow. How I’m invested is longer term. So I’m invested for at least the next five years or so.
And I do believe that if we get through the fall and we don’t have lockdowns in the United States, Europe and Asia, then I definitely think six to nine months, we’re back in the swing of things, because that’ll put us right to basically next spring when oil demand really starts.
TN: Sam, what’s your view in Europe on lockdowns? Do you see that stuff coming back and how do you see that impacting consumption?
SM: I would think that it would be mostly in the countries with the high population density. Germany is obviously one of those countries and the UK is another. In other countries, not so much the case. I live here in Sweden. We never had lockdowns. So we had seniors living in retirement homes and so on. But then, we pretty much met the same statistic level as every other country — 10% population suffer through it, 1% or so perished as a result. But I don’t think that we’ll be seeing any big efforts on locking down countries again.
And what’s more interesting now is schools are coming up in a couple of months or at least a month and a half. Here in Sweden, life will pretty much continue as is. I have four kids and none of them missed more than a week of school, throughout the entire ordeal since 2020.
TN: So it sounds to me like you both see there may be some lockdowns at the edges, but it doesn’t sound like it’s something you expect to affect the mainstream. Maybe we see a slight dip in the rate of rise of demand. But it doesn’t sound like it’ll have a huge impact to the downside on energy prices generally, whether it’s crude or natgas or something like that. Is that fair to say?
TN: When it comes to natural gas, Tracy, I know you’ve been talking about that a lot lately. Can you tell us a little bit about your observations and your thesis and and what you’re seeing there?
TS: For natural gas, the reason I like it is it’s the great transition fuel especially for emerging markets, because it’s very inexpensive than to go straight into something like solar or wind just because the cost of those minerals and metals can make those are skyrocketing right now. So natural gas is abundant. It’s a great transition fuel. It’s cleaner burning than oil.
We just saw the EU green deal, they just stepped back and now are including that gas, whereas before there was no oil or gas, because I think they’re also realizing that it’s inexpensive, it’s a good transition fuel. If you look at Germany, there’s still a lot of coal going on in Germany. So for Europe, it’s not like fossil fuels are gone.
I think they realize also it’s an inexpensive transition fuel. In particular for the United States, what I like right now is we’re seeing European natgas ETF and JKM, which is the Asian natgas, are trading at significantly higher than the United States is right now. And so I think there is opportunity there because the US can export and still come in at a lower cost, even with the cost of transportation to Europe or to Asia.
TN: Interesting. Living in Texas, I have to say that I love that message. Sam, what about the tanker fleet? Is the global tanker fleet ready to to provide the capacity needed to power EMs with, say, American natgas or Middle Eastern natgas?
SM: So natgas, I haven’t checked too much. But tankers in general, the demand is not that great right now. When I say that, I mean that usually, they really step up to the plate whenever there’s a floating storage opportunity to talk about. So you had that case in Q2 of last year, and that really drove up the prices from the growing normal rate of 20,000 barrels a day to 500,000. That spike.
And it’s come down so much. Complete occupancy is far lower than what I normally see if I talk about the tonnage and it’s around under 40%, which is very little. We were looking at April of last year, it was around north of 55, close to 60%. So that’s a big swing. And that really crushed the prices for tanker rates. They’re even negative. Below zero. But when I look at the transfers of illicit oil, it’s around $38,000 a day. So there’s a lot lot of money to be made in those transfers, unfortunately. But for nat-G, I’m not entirely sure. So I can’t say for sure.
TN: OK, very good. Guys, thank you so much for your time. This has been really helpful. I’m really intrigued by kind of the long bull thesis for energy because we hope that we’re going to start recovering much quicker than we had been, which is fantastic. So thanks for your time. I really appreciate. Always, I really appreciate talking with you guys. Thanks very much.
Tony Nash joins the BFM team, giving them his views on the equity markets, fixed income market, Fed Reserve, and oil prices. What’s his recommendation to investors now that Dow, S&P 500, and more equity markets have reached a new all-time highs? And what about the consensus on oil? With all the changes in the markets, are we seeing a new economic model?
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PS: Really good day in the U.S. The Dow and S&P 500 were up 0.3%. The Nasdaq was flat. Shanghai is up 0.7%. But the rest of Asian markets were down negative. Heng Seng was -0.4%. Nikkei down 1%, FTI down 1.5%. And back home, FBI culture was also down 0.01%.
WSN: So to help us make sense of where markets are going, we speak to Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Now, Tony, Nasdaq, S&P 500, Dow, all hit all-time highs. Does this make you actually nervous? Markets looking a bit toppish?
TN: I don’t know about toppish today, but I guess what people have to be aware of is how big is the gain from here? So whether you’re toppish now or toppish in October, you really have to be careful about the risk calculation right now and what your expectations are as things turn over in the coming quarter or two.
PS: But time to switch for anything. What asset classes or markets look attractive now?
TN: You know what. I think you just got to be careful all around. The expectation, evaluations, levels of investment, profits and so on seem pretty stretched as we’re in the middle of wage pressures, inflation pressures and stressed consumers. So I think there seems to be more risk than opportunity out there. So I think we’re in a pretty stretched market and short of more support from global governments. It’s really hard to justify significantly higher valuations.
SM: And everyone is, of course, looking at the Fed, where last night’s FOMC minutes, what financial markets expected from the Fed or or do you think they could have given more clarity on their monetary policy?
TN: Well, they can always give more clarity. I mean, there’s always kind of reading the tea leaves with the Fed. But I think what really came out of it was what was expected. It was pretty noncommittal. They said tapering is coming, but they didn’t say it’s coming soon. There’s no expectation of a rate hike hike soon. So it’s really the current status quo, whatever that is. But it’s kind of more of the same for more time.
We don’t really expect much to change in the Fed through 2022. Markets have sufficient headwinds as it is as the world re-normalizes. We don’t expect much exciting happening. We didn’t expect that this month. We don’t expect it for some time.
WSN: Is that why the 10-year bond yields in the U.S. dropped from a four-month low, 1.3163? I look at the bloom at the moment. DO you think…
TN: This could be. But it’s also, you know, the current Fed chair may not be renominated by Biden. And if Jerome Powell is out, we’re likely to see Lael Brainard come in, who is very much a monetary policy activist. So we could see a really active Fed, not a conservative and extremely dovish Fed if Lael Brainard comes in. So I think that could be part of the reason we’re seeing expectations change in some of the bond markets.
PS: Can we shift your attention over to oil? Because as you know, the lack of consensus in OPEC+ and with the failure to negotiate production quotas has really put pressure on oil prices again. Is this conflict going to introduce more short term volatility in oil markets?
TN: Sure, yeah. Until there’s agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, I think we are going to see volatility because as the UAE creates a gap in expectations, other players like Russia and other folks can potentially violate the OPEC+ agreement. OPEC doesn’t necessarily have a history of agreeing uniformly very often. OPEC+ agreement has been one where they’ve really abided by it pretty well. And so OPEC is more fractious than it is kind of universal. I think we’re going to see volatility for at least a short time. But I do think there is underlying strength in oil prices. We don’t expect the $100 oil any time this year. Some people are calling for that. But we do see continued build in the strength of oil prices through the end of the year marginal bill.
SM: All right. And looking at other indicators, I mean, the US economy is booming, but the US ISM non-manufacturing figure for June came in below market expectations. Could you give us some explanation on what were the reasons for that drop?
TN: You know, the main reason really is unemployment or employment. Companies have had to cope with fewer workers as these federal government subsidies have kept workers on the sidelines. Effectively, they’ve paid workers to sit at home more than they’d make in hourly jobs. And so small companies particularly have had to figure out a way to work without additional workers. So now a lot of those workers are coming off of the federal stimulus packages. But a lot of these small and mid-sized sized companies have kind of learned how to cope without as many workers.
So they’re not trusting new workers until wages really come down. So it’s really kind of putting an impediment in the path for especially small and mid-sized companies. And that’s where there’s a little bit of doubt in the ISM.
WSN: So are we seeing a new economic model then, Tony, where there’s a lot of what we expect in terms of the full and employment numbers will change?
TN: It’s a great question, I certainly hope not. Over the last year and a half, we’ve seen immense government intervention in markets globally. Was the stimulus too much? Was it misallocated? We can argue that all day long. But the fact is, we’ve seen immense government stimulus and it takes a long time for stimulus that large to wash through the system.
We’re seeing the back side and the down side of stimulus. You know, we’ve seen things like inflation rates rise, you know, all this stuff over second quarter, but that’s really just a year on year number. We’re seeing what’s called base effects there. We’re seeing the same in things like wages and impacts on markets from government activity. So Q2 was a huge anomaly for markets and for government because of what’s happening globally with Covid in Q2 of 2020. As we kind of come back to a relatively normal-ish market, maybe by Q4, you know, we’ll start to see more normal readings across wages across, profits and other things.
So there really is a slow build. And as more of that government stimulus gets pulled out of the market or at least slows down, we’ll start to see things normalize. I don’t necessarily think it’s a new model unless the government insists on continuing to intervene and subsidize markets.
WSN: All right. Thank you for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his views on the equity markets and even the fixed income market. But what was really surprising is that he thinks Jerome Powell will be replaced as the Fed chair. I was like, “this is news to me. I thought he was doing an OK job.” And usually I would imagine Joe Biden leading them to do their thing.
PS: That’s right. I wouldn’t expect Joe Biden to have places, political perspectives in the appointment of the Fed chair. But I think there are a lot of key decisions that has to be made. And that whole link between the tapering of his asset purchases and adjustment of interest rates, how do you have that delicate balancing act will be very critical.
WSN: Janet Yellen and Jerome Powell worked well together and Janet Yellen is his appointment. So I’m a little bit surprised by this news. But other news that I was like kind of focused on was also the fact that he thinks at the energy market upside is limited. So I think all of us as investors have to adjust our expectations in terms of the returns, because if you talk about the rally from March 2020 lows to now, it’s about 90%. And that’s staggering.
PS: And Tony is alluding to the fact that the stimulus was too broad, not targeted enough, I think, which basically resulted in a wash of cash, I think, creating a lot of frothy markets. And this is the challenge now.
WSN: So how does the bubble kind of burst, right, without creating chaos? Absolutely. You kind of want to deflate it, but not so much.
SM: And can I also draw your attention to something else that Tony said that caught my eye, the fact that he thinks oil isn’t going to hit $100 per barrel. We’re actually going to be discussing more on oil later at seven thirty after the bulletin with Sally Yilmaz of Bloomberg Intelligence. So stay tuned for that conversation on what the oil market’s going to look like.
This is the second part of the crude oil discussion with energy markets veteran Vandana Hari. Tony Nash asked if the political tensions in the Middle East will affect oil prices in this environment, and how soon can we see the effect in oil prices if the Iran agreement is made? She also discussed her views on the Texas shale industry and when can we see a bounce back, or if we’ll ever see one.
Vandana Hari is based in Singapore. She runs Vanda Insights and have been looking at the oil markets for about 25 years now. She launched Vanda Insights about five years ago. The company provides timely, credible, and succinct global oil markets, macro analysis, mostly through published reports.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on May 19, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this Crude oil: New super cycle or continued price moderation? QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
VH: And then, of course, we have Iranian oil and we could talk about that separately. So there’s plenty of supply.
TN: Let’s move there. So let’s talk a little bit about the Middle East with. First of all, with the political risk around Israel Palestine. Is that really a factor? Does that really impact oil prices the way it would have maybe 20, 30 years ago?
VH: OK, so with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that we’ve seen flare up in recent days, the short answer is no. Oil, it’s not even a blip on the radar of the oil complex. Now, obviously that’s because those two countries are neither major producers or consumers of oil. It is also not affecting shipping, the kind of fear that was in the markets, for instance, when ships were attacked in the Strait of Hormuz or the Red Sea.
But having said that, generally the oil market is keeping an eye on how that region, the tensions have been escalating. The Iranian and Arab tensions have been escalating. We have seen more attacks over the past few months. It seems to have died down a little bit recently, but more attacks from by the Houthi rebels just managing to miss white facilities in Saudi Arabia. So, yes, it is an area of concern. But somehow the oil market, maybe because there is enough oil available against demand, but the oil market has sort of almost gotten into this pattern of, that’s a knee jerk reaction. Every time, it looks like a supply might be affected from that region. But the oil complex has just been generally reluctant to price in on a sustained basis of geopolitical fear premium.
TN: Yeah, I can see that. That’s very evident. With the JCPOA, with the Iran agreement, how much of a factor would that be to supplies and over what timeframe would it be a factor? Would it be an immediate factor? Would it be something in six months time from if an agreement is made?
VH: We know the indirect talks that have been going on between the US and Iranians the past few weeks, and then there’s been a bit of confusing signals as well in terms of news emanating earlier this week. We had a Russian diplomat say that, oh, it’s on the verge of a breakthrough and then retracted so it doesn’t help the oil market of anybody as opposed to have that adding to the confusion. The oil market has made its calculations.
First of all, Iranian oil production as well as exports have been edging up. That’s a fact. Now, obviously, there’s no clearly transparent data, but there’s plenty of ship tracking companies, all of which have very clear evidence that there’s more oil going into China.
So to some extent, you could argue that crude prices today have factored in a little bit of extra Iranian oil coming back into the market. Just to remind our viewers that it never went down to zero. There was always Iranian in oil flowing into and we’ll not go into the details of that. But basically it’s sort of bypassing the US sanctions. So the question now is how much more Iranian oil can come into the market and when it could come into the market?
And I would add a third point to that is that what will OPEC+ do to that if it ends up pressuring prices? So how much more oil could come into the market? An estimated 1.2 million barrels per day additional oil could come if the sanctions are removed. When it could come back into the market? I’m no more privy to what’s going on behind closed doors in the discussions than the next person. But my personal feeling from reading what’s coming out of these talks is that it’s a very complex set of issues.
There’s a lot of politics going on when people come out and say, oh, we’ve made progress and so on. But it’s a complex web. It’s multilayered. I personally don’t expect sanctions to be removed before next month’s Iranian elections. So sometime this year, yes. But not right away.
And here’s the point I would make as well, is that I don’t think OPEC-non OPEC alliance will sit on their hands and see, especially if crude starts spiraling downwards with the Iranian oil more than Iranian oil coming back into the market. I think they will make adjustments accordingly. If the market can absorb it without a big hit to oil prices, well then good, you know, which is what was the case with Libya last year. But if it can’t, I think they’ll just redistribute that sort of cut back a little bit more or taper less basically. So either way, I don’t see that putting a huge downward pressure on crude.
TN: I’m in Texas and so we haven’t really seen a lot of new capacity come online with the with the Texas plays over the past few months as prices have risen. So what will it take for Texas to kind of install new rigs or re-open rigs and get things moving here? What are you looking for and what do you think the magic number is? I mean, if it hasn’t been hit already? What do you think needs to happen for Texas to kind of reopen some of these fields?
VH: Yes, we saw oil rigs across the US, which is a very crucial measurement of the activity in the shale patch, especially. We saw that number crash last year. And I look at the fracturing fleet count as well, which tells you exactly how much oil is being drilled out of those wells. But not just how many wells are being drilled. So both of those have been creeping up from from the crash of last year. I think since about August last year, they they have been moving up. But if you compare year on year still, that the total rig count is just half of the levels before Covid last year. Overall, US oil production and shale is the lion’s share of it has dropped from about nearly 13 million barrels per day to about 11. Two million barrels per day of capacity has basically disappeared from the shale patch.
And for OPEC, as well as for the oil market, I think it’s a key area to keep an eye on because we have seen in the previous boom and bust cycles and oil price up and down cycles, that shale was very quick to respond to oil price recovery. I think the story is very, very different this time. There’s a few influencing key factors, which are all pulling in the same direction.
So first of all, on a very sort of global level, we know that generally, funding is drying up in fossil fuels. OK, so that’s a baseline. That’s affecting conventional fuel. It’s affecting shale equally. The second is that we see and this has been an ongoing trend over the past few years, more and more majors have made inroads into majors are now independent players still produce the majority of the tight oil from the US shale. But the majors have become quite significant players as well. And almost every major that you tune into is saying that we are going to be very, very cautious in… We’d rather return money. We’d rather pay down debt, cash discipline, essentially. We would rather return money to our shareholders than invest in just growth at any cost. That’s happening.
When it comes to independence. I think they’re going their own ways, basically. You can’t say all independents have the same philosophy. But again, when I listen to the major independent players, they pretty much are also into cost discipline strategy. If you aren’t, are going to just have a tough time, far tougher time than than the previous down cycles in getting funding. So we generally see that funding for the shale sector is also starting to dry up.
I suppose banks and lenders and shareholders probably just seen enough of that, how sales fortunes go up and down. If you’re a long term investor, it’s not really an area of stability. So all of these put together to lead me to conclude that the EIA thinks shale production will creep up a little bit this year. But of course, compared with 2019, they’ll still remain low. It’s predicting quite a big bounce back in ’22. But I’m not that sure about it. I have a feeling that it’s probably going to sort of plateau from here on.
TN: OK. Really interesting. So it sounds like kind of that marginal barrel that would come from shale to be honest, isn’t really that necessary right now given the cost that it would take to reopen the rig. Is that fair to say?
VH: Yeah. And then you have to remember that the OPEC is sitting on that marginal barrel of supply as well. And that has to come back into the market. And you have to see prices supported, let’s say WTI, well above sixty dollars. And then ask yourself that have any of these, the three conditions that I outlined earlier changed substantially enough for shale to go into a boom again? So I think the answer is pretty clear.
Commodities expert Tracy Shuchart graced our QuickHit this week with interesting and fresh insights about USD, CNY, oil, and metals. Will USD continue on the uptrend with Yellen on board? What is the near-term direction of CNY? Will metals like copper, aluminum, etc. continue to rise, or will they correct? Will crude continue the rally or is it time for a pause? Watch as Tracy explains her analysis on the markets in the latest QuickHit episode.
This QuickHit episode was recorded on March 12, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this How robust is the global financial system in the wake of Covid? QuickHit episode are those of the guests and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Complete Intelligence. Any content provided by our guests are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any political party, religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.
TN: I’ve been focused for the past few weeks on the Dollar and Chinese Yuan and on industrial metals. Can you talk to me a little bit about your view on the Dollar? What’s happening with the Treasury and Fed and some of their views of the Dollar and how is that spreading out to markets?
TS: Right now, we have a little bit of mixed messaging, right? So, we have the Fed that wants a weaker Dollar. But then, we have Yellen who’s come in and she wants a strong Dollar policy. So, I think that markets are confused right now. Do we want a weaker Dollar or do we want a stronger Dollar? And so, we’re seeing a lot of volatility in the markets because of that sentiment.
TN: So who do you think’s gonna win?
TS: I think that Yellen’s going to win. I think we’re probably going to get a little bit of a stronger Dollar. I don’t think we’re going to see a hundred anytime soon again. We’ve seen stronger Dollar when she was at the Fed. She’s come in right now and said that she wants a stronger Dollar. We would probably have at least a little bit more elevated than the low that we just had, like 89.
TN: I think things are so stretched right now that even a slightly marginally stronger Dollar, let’s say to 95 or something like that would really impact markets in a big way.
I’ve been watching CNY. I watch it really closely and, you know, we bottomed out, or let’s say it appreciated a lot over the last six months. It feels like we bottomed out and it’s weakening again. What does that mean to you? What is the impact of that?
TS: The impact obviously will have a lot to do with manufacturing, with exports, and things of that nature. So if their currency starts depreciating, and they’re going to export that deflation to the rest of the world, it’s just starting to bounce over the last week or so. Unless we have another trade war, I don’t think we’re probably gonna see like seven, seven plus. I remember last time we were talking about it, we were talking about it’s going to be 7.20 and you nailed that. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on obviously, because they’re such a big purchaser and because they’re such a big exporter.
TN: We’re expecting 6.6 this month, and continue to weaken, but not dramatically. We’re expecting a pretty managed weakening of CNY barring some event.
What I’ve been observing as we’ve had a very strong CNY over the past six months is hoarding of industrial metals and we’ve seen that in things like the copper price. Have you seen that yourself? And with a weaker CNY, what does that do to some of those industrial metals prices in terms of magnitude, not necessarily specific levels, but what do you think that does to industrial metals prices?
TS: We’ve been seeing that across all industrial metals, right. It hasn’t just been copper. It’s been iron ore. It’s been aluminum. It’s been nickel. We’ve seen that across all of those. China likes to hoard. So when everything was very cheap like last summer, when everything kind of bottomed out, they started purchasing a lot. Then we also had problems with supply because of Covid. So prices really accelerated and then suddenly we just had China’s currency pretty much strengthened. We’ll probably see a pullback in those prices. It’ll be partly because of their currency. If they allow that to depreciate a little bit. And then also, as extended supply comes back on the market.
But it’s even getting to the point now where if you look at oil, oil prices are getting really high too. We’ll likely see China scale back on purchases, probably a little bit going forward just because prices are so high. Or we will see them, which we’re seeing now, is buy more from Iran, because they need the money. They get it at a great discount. It’s cheap. If they start buying more from Iran, that takes it away from Saudi Arabia and Russia, who are the two largest oil producers.
TN: When I look at Chinese consumption, at least over the past 15 months, there’s been almost an adverse relationship of CNY to USD and say industrial metals prices. It looks like a mirror. Crude oil doesn’t look that way. It’s really interesting how the crude price in CNY there really isn’t that type of relationship.
One would expect that if CNY devalues, they’ll necessarily cut back on purchases. I would argue and I could be wrong here, that it’s not necessarily the currency that would cause them to cut back on purchases. They’ve hoarded and stored so much that they don’t necessarily need to keep purchasing what they have been. Is that fair to say?
TS: They still like to hoard a lot. Between January and February, they were still up 6% year over year, where January was very high, February was lower because they have holiday during February. Oil, that is different. It’s not really related so much to their currency because you have outside factors such as OPEC, which has really taken eight percent off the market and they’ve held that over again for another month. And the fundamentals are improving with oil. I’ve been seeing a lot of strength in the market over the last eight months.
US is the world’s largest consumer. Whereas you look at something like industrial metals, they are the world’s largest consumer. When we were talking about crude oil, because that’s spread out so much, they don’t really have that much pull on the market per se that they would in metals markets.
TS: And I’ll remind you. I’m sure you remember this. When we spoke in Q2 of 2020, you said it would be Q2 of ’21 before we even started to return to normal consumption patterns for crude and downstream products. I think you hit that spot on. And it’s pretty amazing to see. I had hoped that it would return sooner, but of course it didn’t.
Tony joins BFM for another discussion on the US markets, this time, sending a message to Fed on what needs to be done. What he thinks will Powell do next and why is the Fed buying a lot of ETFs. Plus, a side topic on oil as Saudi called for a larger production cut.
BFM: The Fed chair, Jerome Powell, painted a rather negative view of the economy unless fiscal and monetary policymakers rise to the challenge. But what’s left in the toolbox, though?
TN: There’s quite a lot left, actually. We’ve seen a few trillion dollars spent. What we need to make sure is that that money actually gets out to businesses. So offering lower rates, nobody is really in a mood to borrow unless it’s forgivable. With the mandatory closing of a lot of small and mid-sized businesses, it’s really putting their revenue models in peril. Actually helping those businesses with cash to substitute for revenue, since this was a government shutdown, is really all they can do. But I think the next path is looking to medium-term spending programs like infrastructure. A number of these things that can go from direct cash payments to earned cash so that we can have a more viable economy again.
BFM: Could you elaborate more on some of the fiscal measures that you’re talking about?
TN: For small and mid-sized businesses, we’ve had things like the PPP, the Paycheck Protection Program. What that does is it gives about two and a half months’ worth of expenses to companies so that they can retain their staff and pay for their rent during the downtime. But what’s happened is not a lot of companies have been approved. Of those who’ve been approved, not all have gotten their money, a number of them are still waiting.
For small companies, they run on cash flow. They don’t have three to six months of cash sitting in the bank normally. So while they wait, they’re going bankrupt. They’re having to fire people. At the same time, we’re starting to see more and more large companies announce layoffs over the past two weeks. And so we’ve seen the devastation of a lot of small and mid-sized companies in the US. We’re starting to see that bleed into large corporate layoffs.
Those large companies want to see the expenses associated with those layoffs put into Q2. As we go through Q2, we’re expected to see more and more corporate layoffs, so that all those companies can pack them into their earnings reports for Q2.
BFM: The correction of the last couple of days, the American share market has been a bit of a test, up 30% since the March lows. A lot of billionaire investors like Stan Druckenmiller and Appaloosa management’s David Tepper say that stocks have been the most overvalued for a number of decades. What does that do for your thinking by way of your portfolio? Are you taking some money off the table? Are you getting more cautious? What are you going to do?
TN: The only thing we can really guarantee right now is volatility. And what is happening is they’re trying to find a new pricing level. Until we’ve found that new pricing level, really anything can happen.
What we’re entering right now is a phase where people are realizing that states may stay closed longer than many expected. I actually think you’re going to get a lot of push back from citizens in the U.S. Los Angeles just announced they are going to stay closed for three more months. You’re going to see a lot of unrest there. People are really pushing back because their hopes and dreams of decades of these small and mid-sized businesses are just being devastated as local officials make these decisions. I feel in the next few weeks, we’re going to see more and more people pushing back on those orders because they need to get back to work. They’ve got to run their companies. They’ve got to make some money.
BFM: That’s right. But this is an ongoing chasm between what’s happening on Wall Street, which is essentially a rally and Main Street, which is dying. People are divided over whether the policy response will be to get into the Fed buying equity market instruments on top of the junk ETFs and all the backstopping of the bond market. What’s your stance and what Jerome Powell is going to do next?
TN: They can do that. It’s certainly within their remit to lend money. The ETFs are kind of an indirect way to lend money. It’s radical, but it’s not beyond their capability. Where it looks like the Fed is going is with yield curve control. That means they’re likely to target a rate for the 10-year Treasury, and then they will spend almost unlimited cash to make sure that the rates stay there.
If the Treasury yield curve rises too much and people stop taking out long-term loans for infrastructure projects or for other things, if that rises too much, the Fed will push that yield curve down, let’s say, to a half percent rate so that people can borrow over long terms for cheaper. That’s the way for the Fed to encourage investing. That’s not a direct government fiscal policy, but it’s a way to get the private sector to spend cash. This is really for the larger, private sector companies. It’s a signal to me that the federal government itself is preparing itself to spend a lot more money in terms of fiscal policy, and also encourage the private sector to spend a lot more money on these long-term projects.
BFM: That is a theoretical concept, which hasn’t proved right in the last 10 years, because what corporations have done is that instead use that easy money to buy back shares and to return dividends to shareholders, not to invest for the long term. So that’s to be the problem.
TN: Well, either way, shareholders win, right? Either way, cash is spent or they get it in their return. U.S. equity markets are broadly held among most working Americans. So on some level, if that is done through share buybacks, it will help a broad base of shareholders through those equity prices. Share buybacks sound morally questionable, but either way that money is spent, it helps the broad economy.
BFM: So the U.S. Fed is now buying junk bonds, why ETF for the first time. Why these instruments? What’s the significance of it?
TN: They can’t invest directly in equities. Some of this stuff is a signal that they want to do more in debt markets. They’re too big to help out small companies. They’ve put together this main street lending program as a way to lend to, quote, unquote, small companies. But those small companies are actually pretty big. Most of the corporate entities in the U.S. are actually pretty small. The Fed is trying to alleviate the market of certain risk assets. I believe and hope that banks will lend to small and medium-sized companies. They’re trying to take the risk out of the market and off the balance sheets of banks so that those banks will invest more directly in actual operating companies that need the money and not necessarily the risky, junk bond companies.
BFM: A little bit on oil. Saudi Arabia has called for larger production cuts. Will the whole OPEC plus community back them? Should we expect some pushback? And what does this look like for oil prices?
TN: I don’t think you’re going to get a lot of pushback. We have about three months of crude supply overhang right now. Given that economies are locked down, there’s really no way to burn that off. So the only way to get prices back up to a sustainable level is really to cut off supply. Until the largest producers really slow down their production, and we can burn off some of that supply overhang, we’re not going to see prices rise much.
Demand’s not necessarily coming about quickly. It’s going to be gradual. As demand gradually accelerates and supply declines gradually, hopefully, we’ll meet in the middle somewhere and get a price that’s a little bit more livable for oil producers globally.