Inflation, Just Transitory Not Hyper
The Fed just announced that hyperinflation is not happening in the US. Is this a transitory inflation and how long will this last? Where is the market headed now, then? What sectors and industries will be greatly impacted and how will they react to the vulnerabilities? Also, where is oil headed now that it reached $75 per barrel. Lastly, China’s clamp down on Bitcoin — how much impact does it have to crypto’s volatility? All these and more in this quick podcast with our CEO and founder, Tony Nash.
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/inflation-just-transitory-not-hyper on June 24, 2021.
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WSN: So to give us an idea of where global markets are headed, we have on the line with us Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence. Good morning, Tony. Now, the big question, where do you think markets are heading? Which direction are they going to take after Powell’s House testimony that the specter of hyper inflation in the US is unlikely?
TN: First, I think hyper inflation in the US isn’t really possible because the US is a global reserve currency. It’s really, really hard to have hyperinflation in the US. Powell knows this. Everyone in the Fed knows that. But I think in terms of the importance of his speech with the House, it wasn’t really all that significant, partly because he came across as unnecessarily hawkish.
People have been trying to back off of that ever since his speech. Janet Yellen coming out today bringing things back to a middle ground on Friday. So we think we’ll see upside from here. We’re not going to see major upside. We do expect things to get a bit rocky later in the third quarter. But short of dump trucks of cash out on every corner or a major new breakout of Covid, I think we are on a gentle glide path for the next couple of months.
PS: So, Tony, can you help us distinguish the difference between temporary transitionary inflation and what is permanent inflation? Because Janet Yellen is in that transitionary stage. But at what point does it become permanent, in your view? Are the triggers there?
TN: Well, what’s misleading a lot of people today is we have what economists call these base effects. Last year, you saw really prices falling, right? You saw economic decline. So when you’re looking at prices today, people are giving you a price in year on year percentage terms. So things are up 30% year on year. Things are up 50% year on year. Actually, when you compare them to 2019 prices, depending on the asset, of course, plywood is different, these sorts of things.
But things are not really all that inflated given where they were in 2019, which was the last normal year that we had. And then when you look at the supply chain issues we’ve had, you do have some uptick in that. But some of this perceived inflation really is mostly a base effect more than anything else. And then when you layer the supply chain issues on top of that, then it’s really created a mess.
SM: All right. I hear you, Tony. That’s fair enough. However, rising prices in the US seem to be feeding into pockets of the real economy. Which sectors or areas do you see as most vulnerable to this?
TN: Housing, we’ve started to see people put off housing decisions as a result of this. It’s hitting food prices in a big way, especially protein. So pork, beef, chicken, these sorts of things. But we’re seeing corn, soybean and other crop prices rise pretty dramatically as well. Wheat prices are up pretty huge over the past week or so. And then automobiles, when you drive by a car lot, an automobile lot here, they’re really only half full because automakers have had to slow down for a number of reasons, whether it’s the metals prices or whether it’s the chip shortages, the auto manufacturers have had to slow down. So it’s really hit those three sectors very hard.
SM: These companies who are in these sectors, have they been able to actually pass on the rising cost to consumers?
TN: Some they have. But we’ve seen, some food companies or other folks pass them on in housing. Definitely, it’s been passed on directly and in automobiles, yes, but I think it’s a bigger supply chain issue than it is actually inflation issues. So they’ll pass on those costs in one certain form. But I don’t know that they’ll be able to get 100% or recuperate 100% of those costs.
SM: So are we potentially seeing some margin squeeze from these companies who are impacted in the coming quarters when we look at the earnings?
TN: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think for companies who are complaining about the costs, but if they don’t see their margins squeezed, then we’ll know this is definitely temporary. But talking to almost any manufacturer here from polypropylene or polypropylene to ordering, industrial metals to wheat or something, everyone is feeling the pinch. But again, it’s as much access to supply as it is the cost of supply.
PS: So, Tony, you go upstream from propylene to actually Brent crude, and I think that’s hit $75 highest in 2 years. OPEC is meeting next week to decide whether they’re going to increase production. What’s your take?
TN: The U.S. crude prices are up a bit based on the drawdowns from storage in the U.S. and that’s on economic activity. States are finally kind of the states that had been holding back or finally opening up fully, which is good news for consumption. But with this Delta variant, there’s a real risk. It’s possible that Europe starts to lock down again as possibly parts of Asia start to lock down. Of course, we’ll have certain states in the U.S. that will probably move toward lock down again as well if it starts to impact.
So that’s a real risk on the consumption side. But for the OPEC+ group, they’re sitting on about 5.8 or 6 million barrels a day of production that they had before Covid. So they decided to cut this production so that prices wouldn’t go too negative or too far down. So they have that capacity that they can bring back online any time. If they discuss that next week, I don’t think OPEC wants to see oil prices because of the resentment it creates and the damage it does to consumers.
So I think there’ll be a lot of pressure on OPEC members to open up supply and bring prices down just a little bit. It’s not as if we need to see prices down in the 40s again, of course. But I think there’s a lot of fear that we’re going to see $80, $90, $100 oil and it is giving people a lot of reason for concern.
SM: All right. Well, we’ll be watching that meeting next week, Tony. And in a little bit of time that we have, one last quick question. What are you making about the volatility in Bitcoin that’s been happening this week? How much of it can be attributed to China’s crypto clampdown?
TN: Oh, sure. A lot of it can. About 70% of crypto mining globally happens in China. So as China clamps down, it really brings down the demand for Bitcoin and it brings down a lot of the pressure on the market. So it’s a little bit of regulatory and tax threat in the West, but it’s mostly the supply in China. And so a lot of that’s on the back of electrical grid pressures. So once the summer passes, the enforcement of that will likely lighten up and we’ll likely see more pressure on bitcoin, upward pressure on crypto markets.
SM: All right. Thank you for your time. That was Tony Nash, CEO of Complete Intelligence, giving us his views on markets. And I think what was interesting is that we can potentially see some companies being impacted by a margin squeeze because prices of certain goods, like you mentioned, meat in particular, lumber, corn or even, you know, all these downstream materials or byproducts of oil have gone up incredibly. And not all this price increase can be passed on to consumers because face it, the economy is just beginning to recover.
PS: Yeah, you know, because the these shubha transition. Right. Is it an issue of demand and demand is very high. Right. So maybe that when you can pass the price, but if it’s things like supply chain logistics as a result of, you know, breakages and, you know, it’s just all screwed up because of covid. Yeah, I think that’s very hard to pass on to the consumer. And that’s where the margin squeeze is going to take place.
SM: That’s right. And Tony mentioned automobiles as one of the areas where you’re going to see price rises. And I listen to this really fascinating podcast not too long ago on Planet Money, where they were talking about the used car sector. And the fact is that the they don’t have enough used cars to fill up the lots right now. So it really has that trickle down effect when you can’t, you know, produce more cars. Yeah, the second hand market will also suffer.
WSN: Apparently, Malaysia, our second hand market has also seen an uptick because of covid-19. There’s a reluctance for people to take public transport. So in the past, maybe you were you know, you hadn’t decided whether you want to buy a car, but now you’re kind of in that zone where you’re like, I need I need it because, you know, public transport, I’m not comfortable. Maybe this, you know, you think at the end of the day, why don’t I just get it rather sooner rather than later?
Plus, actually, interest rates are rather low. It’s only whether the question of whether you still have a job or whether how you feel in terms of sentiment.
PS: It’s fascinating because we talk about rising car prices and it’s also a lift to many things, lithium, SEMICON chips and all that. But on the flip side, we also talk about high oil prices coming through at the pump.
WSN: So we’re not so much for us because we are still subsidizing you run 95 Batla.
PS: Yeah, some of it’s going to be some of us. Pomerol 97.
SM: OK, I’m not one of those there.
PS: Well I do admit I do because my Volvo requires it. OK, in any case that is a challenge. I think in the long term it will hit the paycheck. Yeah. And the pocket later.
WSN: Well up next, we’ll be taking a look at the papers and the pottle. Stay tuned for that BFM eighty nine point nine.