Work-from-home stocks a defensive play in 2021?
In this BFM episode, Tony Nash explains the defensive play of the WFH company Keane and how it compares to other tech stocks like Tesla? Also, will the good days for the financial and energy stocks continue? And how about the outlook for Sterling as the Brexit deal is being ironed out? Will the Pound appreciate or decline? And why there seems to be a never-ending trade war against China — now recently with Vietnam and Malaysia imposing tariffs on the Chinese steel?
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/work-from-home-stocks-a-defensive-play-in-2021 on December 24, 2020.
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As we head into 2021, will we see more work-from-home stocks being used as a defensive play? The Morning Run speaks to Tony Nash for his perspective on this, as well as his views on financials and energy stocks, the Sterling, and tit-for-tat trade wars.
Produced by: Mike Gong
Presented by: Roshan Kanesan, Wong Shou Ning
WSN: With volumes on U.S. equities drying up ahead of the holiday season, are you expecting investors to hit the sell button or to keep this whole positions over the period? Because the market’s somewhat a little bit more happy today, a little bit more green?
TN: I’m not sure, but I’m sure there is not a conviction either way right now. Investors aren’t really sure that they’re ready to pull the plug on things. People are waiting to see what’s going to happen with the stimulus funds. They’re waiting to see how smoothly the transition goes with the US government. They’re waiting to see how companies Q4 earnings come in. So in the next few weeks, aside from some commodities play, I’m not entirely convinced that we’ll see dramatic movements in one way or another.
WSN: And I’m just curious following up on that. So for the moment, it still seems that even though the Nasdaq corrected a little bit today, the work-from-home, Keane is here to stay as a defensive play?
TN: Sure, that is an effective play, but the benefits or the upside to that play is really questionable. The Nasdaq has over 40% this year. When you look at the valuation multiples on some of these tech companies like Tesla, you’re looking at over a thousand percentage. For some of the tech companies, you’re looking at fifty to 200 to revenue.
Some of these tech companies are being played out. That’s not to say they’re going to see necessarily downside. But the upside? I don’t believe it’s necessarily as high as it has been in 2020. We have these moments in markets where you see serious upside in different sectors and then it comes down for a bit. We’ve seen that in 2020. Are we going to see that in 2021? We’re not convinced. That maybe possible. But we’ve seen some pretty hard closed down for people who’ve had their quickly transition to work from home. A lot of that valuation are largely played out.
WSN: If we look at the performance of the S&P 500, it was really the day for financials and also the energy stocks. Do you think these themes will continue into 2021?
TN: Certainly, that kind of stock are partly a result of the expectation of stimulus — whether that’s $600 to $2000 per person. There should be more transactional activity in terms of services with energy. There’s an expectation that people will start flying a bit more.
What’s positive is the expectation on a margin within oil and gas firms as they refine their products. I think that’s a bit higher as the margins of the percentage go up as the normal values go up. We’ve been saying for several months that the oil prices will rise in the end of December and early Jan, and that’s playing out. We’ve expecting that for about six months. But we do expect crude prices to fall going into February. So while those margin plays are there now, we don’t expect that to be there at the end of Q1.
WSN: Moving to the UK, the Sterling appreciated this morning on the back of the news that Brexit deal might be ironed out. But where do you see the currency heading?
TN: We’ve expected the Sterling to weaken a bit by the immediacy of the news. But over time, we expect the Pound to re-appreciate because we really value the U.K. There’s a lot of wishful thinking within the EU that Britain would suffer as they exit the EU. We’ve done a lot of analysis on this over the last three years and there’s really just a lot of upsides for the U.K. to separate. That’s not a political view. That’s purely an economic view. We have expected the Pound to take a bit of a pounding in the short term. But we do expect it to re-appreciate as that separation gets in pace.
WSN: Malaysia and Vietnam, they recently placed higher tariffs on Chinese steel. And although unrelated, this comes after China imposed some additional duties on various Australian imports. Do you see this tit for tat tariffs going to continue to be the norm in 2021 and no end to it?
TN: We’ve been saying for a couple of years that we expect trade to turn from these fairly invisible activities like subsidy to non tariff barriers, which is really regulatory into direct tariffs. It’s like going back to 1980s pre-WTO where there’s more of a fiscal benefit for the country than the protectionist benefit in a non-tariff barrier regulation.
Many countries are a bit tapped out on subsidies, so they’re not necessarily going to be able to pay their industry as much to protect them. So they’re going to have tariffs to generate revenue. Specifically, the Chinese steel, there’s a global glut of Chinese steel, of the Hang Seng, for years. It wasn’t surprising that these tariffs have been levied because they have a little bit of it’s own steel industry. They’re protecting themselves from the glut of Chinese steel.
WSN: All right. Thank you for your time. And that was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his views on global markets.