The Week Ahead — 18 Jul 2022: Biden’s Saudi Arabia trip 🛢️
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.
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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?
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?
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.
AM: Thanks, guys.
This Week Ahead is originally published at https://www.completeintel.com/weekahead/the-week-ahead-18-jul-2022.