Art Cashin interview with Christoph Gisiger, Finanz und Wirtschaft – excerpts posted with permission
You’re working on the floor of the stock exchange for almost six decades. During that time you have seen many difficult moments. How severe is the situation right now?
It is very similar to what you get before you slip into a crisis. Also, it’s earnings season and because of that many corporate buybacks have to be paused during this period. That removes an important potential support for the market. Over the last year, companies buying back their own stock have put more money into the market than all of the public has. The stop of those buybacks is probably a reason why we’re seeing the rather sharp selling that has occurred.
Are there already signs of contagion?
Several market participants have been asked to put up more collateral to prepare for bad loans. Also, on Wednesday there were both rumors and indications that there was a good deal of forced selling going on. There were rumors that it could have been either a hedge fund or a sovereign wealth fund, maybe investors who are exposed to the oil prices. It could have been Saudi Arabia or Norway. Forced selling and margin calls are very hard to deal with because such an investor basically has no latitude. Positions must be sold at any price and that’s very difficult for the market.
Also, there is alarming news coming out of China. What’s the problem here?
On Friday, before trading started in New York, Chinese equity markets were down another 3,5% already overnight – and that is despite the best efforts of the Chinese government and the central bank to keep prices from destabilizing.
Then again, the US economy seems hardly to be related to China.
China is the second biggest economy in the world. The US may not sell much to China. But many of our economic partners like the countries in Europe do have big markets with China.
So you think the rate hike of the Federal Reserve is one of the main sources for all the turmoil?
The Chinese currency isn’t the only one that is under some stress. For instance, the Saudi Arabian currency is also partially pegged to the dollar. So you’re seeing many other nations beginning to suffer somewhat in reaction to the Fed move to begin raising rates.
The appreciation of the dollar is also putting pressure on the export sector in the United States. Manufacturing has slowed down significantly over the last months.
In its hundred year history the Fed had never before raised rates with the ISM index for the manufacturing sector below fifty which is showing that the manufacturing sector is in somewhat of a recession. I think the Fed basically painted itself into a corner. In September, because of the turmoil in the international markets, they were afraid to raise rates and they said: »We didn’t want to move with the markets destabilized.» Because of that they found some critics here in the US who said: »Hey, you’re the central bank of the United States and not the central bank of the world. Therefore, do worry about us and do what you think our economy requires. Don’t pay attention to other economies.» So when the December meeting came the Fed talked itself into a corner with no chance to change.
But on the day the Fed raised rates for the first time since the financial crisis many investors applauded and stock prices rallied. Why has the mood soured?
The rate hike had to work its way through the system. Investors had to see what would happen to the Chinese currency and how the Chinese central bank and the Chinese government respond to what happened to their currency. Not a lot of people guessed that immediately when they saw that the Fed raised the rate. It’s now working through the system and it’s contributing to the turmoil that we’re experiencing.
Looking ahead, what’s going to happen next?
The bumpy ride is probably not over yet. I would remain very careful. I think efforts have to be made to stabilize the oil price. Investors have to review their risk exposure. So make sure you’re on guard.
Full interview here