Manage Your Expectations, Valuations Are Stretched
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?
This podcast first appeared and originally published at https://www.bfm.my/podcast/morning-run/market-watch/manage-your-expectations-valuations-are-stretched on July 8, 2021.
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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.