The latest inflation data released by the labor department on Wednesday (10 Nov) showed that the consumer price index (CPI) rose for the 17th consecutive month in October, rising 6.2% from a year earlier, exceeding all economists’ expectations and reaching a more than 30-year high. It’s the fastest year-on-year increase since 1990 and continuing to accelerate. Inflationary pressures are also brewing in the labour market, and severe labour shortages are pushing up wages. Prices of groceries and dining out have risen the highest in decades. Data show that the seasonally adjusted number of initial jobless claims fell to 267,000, the lowest since mid-March 2020.
In fact, the US PCE price index for September, released at the end of last month, already has signs. The Fed’s favorite inflation data, the PCE price index, was at its highest level last month, and the reason why the market did not have a big response was because it was basically in line with expectations, but this time the CPI was completely unexpected. Data show that the US PCE price index rose 4.4 per cent in September from a year earlier, the fastest pace since 1991. Excluding volatile food and energy categories, the core PCE price index rose 3.6% in September from a year earlier, the highest level in nearly 30 years. All the signs are that with global supply chains in disarray, inflation is likely to remain uncomfortably high long after 2022.
Why is the US inflation underestimated? In fact, at first, many people expected that with the increase in vaccination prevalence, Americans could spend more money on services such as travel, meals and entertainment.
But as the epidemic repeats, Americans pour a lot of pent-up demand on goods, adding to the pressure on the supply chain, with high demand and insufficient supply, pushing up inflation. Many economists expect inflation to get worse as a result of continuing supply chain chaos and labour shortages and price pressures extending to categories such as housing and energy.
In the face of soaring inflation, the first to be restless is not the Federal Reserve, but the US government. On Wednesday (10 Nov), after the announcement of the CPI, US President Joe Biden said that he had asked the White House National Economic Council to take measures to reduce energy costs, that reversing inflation was a top priority, and asked to fight back against any market manipulation. In order to curb high oil prices, the US government has repeatedly persuaded OPEC to increase production, but with little effect. The renewed surge in inflation data may increase the probability that the country’s oil reserves will be released, which may have a short-term impact on oil prices, but the overall impact on inflation is limited. International crude oil futures, fell three consecutive weeks. US WTI December crude oil futures closed at USD80.79 per barrel.
Another option for the US government is to sharply reduce tariffs, especially on China. Data show that from January to October this year, China’s exports to the United States reached 3.95 trillion yuan, an increase of 21.8%. As a result of trade frictions between China and the United States during the Trump administration, the United States has imposed huge tariffs on Chinese exports, which have now been proved to be passed on to American consumers and are one of the important reasons for stimulating price increases.
This Monday’s Biden-Xi summit comes at an interesting junction post COP26. Although the newsflows have been discussing geopolitical tensions, a discussion about lifting tariffs is not on the table. Irrespective of political leaning, US voters overwhelmingly support the current U.S. tariffs on China. That said, President Biden’s wilting approval ratings and the historically elevated level of US inflation may forestall any new tariffs.
The Fed is under a lot of pressure. Although the Fed announced a reduction in asset purchases at its last meeting, in essence, the Fed’s monetary policy is still loose. Because although it has shrunk, asset purchases continue, and the Fed has been claiming that it is too early to raise interest rates. Although there are many hawks among Fed policy makers, the most crucial Fed Chairman Colin Powell has always been a dove. In recent months, Powell has called inflation “frustrating” and said it will “continue into next year”, but he has insisted that inflation is largely related to past epidemics and supply chain problems.
In the face of rising inflation, the Fed has been repeatedly accused of not acting fast enough, and many lawmakers even claimed the need to replace Powell. Powell’s term ends next year, and Biden has not yet announced whether he will remain in office. But Brainard, who is most likely to succeed Powell, is more dovish. Markets are already betting that the Fed will have to raise interest rates as soon as possible. Forcing the Fed to act earlier may mean that it needs to accelerate the pace of tapering of asset purchases before raising interest rates.
The Michigan consumer confidence index released on Friday unexpectedly fell instead of rising in November, hitting a 10-year low, but US stocks were strongly supported by technology stocks. The recent surge in inflation is easily reminiscent of the stagflation in the US in the 1970s. However, the current situation is different. The most critical point is that the unemployment rate in the United States is now declining. although the US economic growth slowed in the third quarter, the job market is strong, especially in October’s non-farm payrolls report, so investors are not so pessimistic. Also, the rise in inflation will not end in the short term, and investors had better allocate some anti-inflationary assets for a rainy day. Given the 10 years US treasuries bond yield is persistently low, fixed income funds flows are switching into the equities. The kinds of businesses that weather inflation best are those with valuable intangible assets and little need for tangible assets. Companies can also stomach rising prices if they’re able to hike their prices without sacrificing material market share or unit volumes, and adjust to big dollar-volume increases in business without investing much additional capital. Warren Buffett recently gave the examples of Berkshire-owned See’s Candies and one of his company’s biggest investments, Coca-Cola. Both companies have powerful brands that allow them to raise prices without losing a lot of business, he said, and don’t require much capital to grow.
This week, Tesla, Inc. and Rivian both had a lot of big news. Musk frantically reduced his holdings of Tesla, Inc. and sold several times this week, selling a total of 6.3m shares or USD6.9bn. Rivian made its debut on Nasdaq, becoming the largest IPO in 2021 and the sixth largest IPO in the history of US stocks. Rivian performed well two days before its listing, and its market capitalization broke through the USD100 billion mark the next day, making it the second largest listed car company in the United States after Tesla, Inc.. Compared with trillions of Tesla, Inc. and hundreds of billions of Rivians, General Motors Co has a market capitalization of USD88.8 billion and Ford Motor has a market capitalization of USD78.9 billion.
Tesla last month became the latest US tech giant to hit USD 1 trillion in market value. Tesla, Inc. CEO Musk recently launched a vote on the Internet on whether to sell his shares. As a result, more than half of the netizens supported the sale, and Musk complied with the result of the vote and sold the shares publicly. His tweets followed a proposal by US Congressional Democrats to tax the super wealthy more heavily by targeting stocks, which are usually only taxed when sold. According to documents submitted by Tesla, Inc. to SEC. Musk has sold Tesla, Inc. shares for the fifth day in a row, cashing out a total of about USD6.9 billion or 6.3m shares.
Musk’s current holdings of 170.5 million shares, plans to sell 10% of his holdings and Tesla ‘s closing price of USD1,222.09 on Friday 5th, Tesla. shares worth about USD21 billion will be cashed out if Mr Musk abides by the agreement. To recap: In Aug 2012, Musk was entitled to a stock option of 22m shares, expiry on 13 Aug 2022, exercise price is at USD6.24. As of Friday 5th November, Tesla’s closing price of USD1,222, it worths USD27bn. Tax is 53% at this level, that would be a USD15bn tax bill. Tax Might even go up to 57% next year. So most likely, he needs to sell shares in order to pay the taxes before the year end. In fact, if he sells 10% of his existing holdings of 170m shares, he will be adding 5m shares after the 22m option shares are fully exercised, bear in mind, this action does not change the business fundamental of Tesla.
Rivian is known as Tesla, Inc. ‘s biggest competitor and is supported by Amazon and Ford. After the IPO, Amazon.Com Inc still holds 17.3% of shares; this means that Amazon’s stake is worth more than USD17.3 billion, and Amazon.Com Inc has made a huge profit of USD7.674 billion in the past two days as Rivian has soared after listing. Another shareholder, Ford, has made a huge profit of $4.609 billion in the past two days. As early as 2019, Amazon took the lead in investing USD700m in Rivian, and in the same year, Ford also invested USD500m in Rivian. Rivian beat its competitors in the market with all-electric pickups, but has not yet mass-produced its vehicles. Rivian is producing delivery vans for Amazon and Amazon has ordered 100,000 for delivery by 2030. It is estimated that 10,000 Rivian vehicles will transport Amazon’s parcels as early as next year.
Rivian now has only one plant in Illinois with an annual production capacity of 150,000 units, which is far from meeting current order demand. Although the cars haven’t been mass-produced yet. Rivian is constantly considering investing in a series of projects, actively looking for a site for an independent battery factory in addition to a pair of new car assembly plants already planned. The top investment priority for Rivian is a second US car factory, followed by a European plant, which will start producing cars by the end of 2023. Arizona, Michigan and Texas, are all on the shortlist of battery factories. Rivian has previously revealed plans to build a second assembly plant in Texas in order to expand capacity.
A number of electric vehicle support programs have been approved in the recently passed USD1 trillion infrastructure investment and jobs bill. The goal is to add more charging stations to the road system. If the United States is to achieve its goal of switching to a larger proportion of green vehicles and achieving net zero emissions by 2050, both parties say expanding the charging network and speeding up charging speed will be the key to more electric car purchases, which will require private and public investment. Under its tax credit, the “better to rebuild” proposal would extend the tax credit to USD12,500 per electric vehicle or gasoline / electric hybrid if certain conditions were met. This undoubtedly gives investors a new impetus to continue to push up the share price of Rivian.
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