Inflation: Buckle up, it may get worse (Part 1)
Nick Glinsman and Sam Rines are back in this QuickHit episode special Cage Match edition about inflation. Where are we in the inflation and what is the horizon? Both guests have different views and they explain exactly why they have such views. And what about China’s manipulation of CNY through hoarding metals and commodities? Is that a valid way of looking at inflation?
Part 2 of this discussion can be found here: https://www.completeintel.com/2021/05/06/quickhit-inflation-part-2/
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This QuickHit episode was recorded on April 28, 2021.
The views and opinions expressed in this nflation: Buckle up, it may get worse 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: Today we’re talking about inflation. It’s been on everyone’s mind for the last couple months and we’ve got two macro geniuses to talk to us about it today. We’ve got Nick Glinsman from EVO Capital and we’ve got Sam Rines from Avalon.
We look at copper. We look at a lot of these indicators of inflation and it’s been on everyone’s mind over the last few months. A year ago, people were worried about deflation. Now the worry is inflation. Obviously we’ve seen a lot of monetary and fiscal policy in the interim.
So, Nick, can you give us your view on where we are with inflation and what that looks like over what horizon? Is it months? Is it five years? Is it, you know, how does this play out?
NG: The horizon is a little bit tougher. But my my thesis is based on looking back at historical precedence and I focused on the LBJ Vietnam War spending, combined with his great society fiscal spend, which ultimately led in the early 70s Paul Volcker’s fame containing huge inflation there was at that period.
And I’m sitting here having spent the last year but actually building this thesis up for a couple of years thinking that the equivalent of the Vietnam expenditure is Covid and the relief spending that’s been has combined Trump and now Biden, and then the great society equivalent would be Biden’s green infrastructure spending which, I slightly tongue-in-cheek called the green ghost plan, which is enormous. Amazing.
When I find myself agreeing with Larry Summers on inflation. I think his odds of a third in terms of this creating inflation, I would suggest a higher. In terms of timeline, it took five to seven years for the inflation to really kick in during the 60’s leading to Volcker. I think this time around, it will be much quicker due to the differences, a lot of globalization and supply chain management.
TN: Sam, can you kind of give us your view of where we are in inflation and what’s the duration that you kind of expect this to play out?
SR: I have a very different view. If you look at the lumber market, copper, et cetera, these are things that tend to sort themselves out rather rapidly. Being in Houston, the best cure for high prices and energy is high prices. We will pump more if oil ever goes to 80. It’s very similar with lumber and copper. Most of the mills are becoming much more efficient in lumber, for instance.
So we will see that begin to roll over and that will roll over in a very meaningful way as we begin to work through these supply chain issues that we know are coming in the summer and we know are probably going to persist in the fall. But as we get into the fall and we get into early 2022, even if we have a couple trillion dollars infrastructure, it’s going to be spread over the better part of 10 years infrastructure.
It’s not a fast spend and it will not save us from the fiscal cliff. It will not save us from the lower employment numbers that we’ve been seeing on an overall basis. Yes, unemployment is moving lower, but employment is not keeping up with the employment figures.
Once the economy begins to have to stand on its own two legs, even if it has a touch of a tailwind from the government, it’s still going to be very difficult to continue to see consumption going through the roof, continue to see the types of disruptions that we’ll see for the next six to nine months in terms of supply chain that will have one-off price implications.
But that to me says we’re probably getting towards the peak of the sugar high as we get into the summer and the other side of the sugar high is going to be very painful in terms of going back to a one and a half to two and a half percent growth rate in the US inflation that will be very difficult to get higher simply because it’s difficult to have sustained disruptions in supply and demographics that aren’t changing anytime soon. So we will continue to have a number of those headwinds. And I think that’s what the US 10-years is telling you, US tenure at 1.5 is telling you that the market’s looking through this summer and saying the next decade doesn’t look as good as the last decade in a lot of ways.
It’s something to at least keep in the back of our minds that the Fed doesn’t have great control over the 10-year. The fed has great control over zero to two-year timeframe. But nothing beyond that.
TN: Okay, so let’s look at common areas. It seems to me that both of you see inflation continuing to rise maybe not in terms of the rate of rise but certainly continue to rise until, let’s say say Q3 Q4? Do we at least have comic around there?
NG: Yes, absolutely.
TN: When we look at some of the the pressures in inflation, part of my assertion has been, and I’m sure you’re both going to tell me I’m wrong, but as we’ve seen the CNY strengthen, my hypothesis has been with a strong CNY, Chinese manufacturers are stocking up on industrial metals, food, other things because it’s in dollar terms. They can get it pretty cheaply and they’re waiting for CNY to devalue again when their buying power will decline.
What I’m hearing is that a lot of these things are really going to China to be hoarded and as a play on a potentially devaluing CNY. What do you think of that hypothesis aligned with a lot of the central bank easing? Is that a valid way of looking at inflation? Meaning this is stockpiling more than it is demand pull?
NG: My view on China is that, if you look at food firstly, there is a food shortage crisis. And we all know what the CCP are most scared of, which is society unrest. And we can take the examples of the Arab Spring, food is the key. But I also wonder whether the Chinese are stockpiling in anticipation of decoupling? I think of rare earths, of which they have a large control of the refining thereof being problematic. Semiconductors, there is an issue there.
So if I extrapolate further, my view is I think the supply chain issues are much longer standing now because of various geopolitical forces creating a decoupling with China for sure. And we have this Anglosphere grouping that’s clearly beginning to take shape, which now looks like that will include India because of the health crisis there.
If we look at that, then the question is what happens with Europe? Again, I think that’s part of the supply chain problem whilst they decide which site they go to. Is it china-centric or is it anglers-centric?
So I think the supply chain issue is much longer standing, hence I suspect that we’ve got China positioning, because nothing goes on which in China without the government knowing about it, quite frankly. In terms of anticipating a supply chain issue, because all the commodities they’re importing they’re short off.
TN: Okay, Sam, first of all, what do you think about my hypothesis and then Nick’s qualification around the supply chain issues being much longer term on the back of decoupling?
SR: I would take the argument that decoupling isn’t an action. It’s a process, and the process takes a very, very long time. And that creates in my mind a much longer time frame for the United States to build out its portion of the supply chain, for instance semiconductors, et cetera. So I would say I don’t disagree that there is a decoupling underway. In my opinion or my argument would be that it will take much longer than a few years to really get that process to move and it’ll be particularly under this administration a much more diplomatic and less blunt force tools than we’ve seen in the past being used. So I don’t disagree with the supply chain eventually being at least somewhat disentangled from China. I would just argue that it will take quite a while to really begin to become an issue unto itself.
On your point that China stockpiling, that does appear to be happening. It does appear to be a hedge against a weaker CNY to come including with lumber. One of the reasons that lumber prices are spiking is because China’s buying a lot of lumber in the US. That is a significant problem. And I would point to, when they stop stockpiling, that tends to have a significant effect on the price of commodities in the opposite direction. We’ve seen that with copper a couple of times during their infrastructure builds.
The interesting thing right now is you’ve actually seen a pullback from infrastructure spending. From the peak in China, they’ve begun to do their form of policy tightening on that front already. Suspected will continue at least on the margin and that will be a significant headwind for those commodities that have been stockpiled when less of them are being used on the margin as well. So that that does play into a 2022 disinflationary type environment versus 2021.
TN: Given that we have all these different pressures, whether it’s supply chains, whether it’s stockpiling, whatever it is, what the people in the middle, so that the manufacturers, what capacity do they have to absorb these price rises? What are you guys seeing when you talk to people, when you read? Are you seeing that manufacturers can absorb the lumber prices, the copper prices and other things? Or are they passing that directly along?