Stock market history is packed with drama – 1929 Crash; Black Monday 1987; Asian Financial Crisis in 1998; Dotcom mania in 1999; Great Recession 2008. Nothing new will come as surprise. Sell-off then a rally, followed by more sell-off then another muted rally. The catalyst is always what the Federal Reserve does – QEs, interest rate cuts or purchase of corporate bonds. Rosy views from Wall Street should make one cringe. Every known indicator says it is headed for a major crash. Ask Nuriel Roubini, he will tell you it is a 10- year depression! Who are the winners? The top 1% elite of course, as they dump shares the retail investors are picking them up. Would it mean commerce in Main Street can get back to business as usual?
No, there is a disconnect between liquidity and the Dow with commercial lending and business on Main Street. The current slump in activity in most economies will continue until a vaccine for Covid-19 is found or people’s behaviour change – social distancing and masks. No matter how QEs are done, unless liquidity is injected directly into businesses, bypassing banks and stock markets, the economy will remain in doldrums. High unemployment, negative growth, and massive revenue losses are features of failed pump-priming measures.
The other hazard in this situation is a rise of fraud. Not only will people do creative accounting but may commit serious financial shenanigans to survive. Already we have Luckin Coffee, the Chinese Starbucks, and Hin Leong, the Singaporean energy trader. More will follow.
Meanwhile, smaller firms that provide employment are hurting. Some with limited track record find banks are not willing to lend. And Government institutions that provide guarantees require 3-year annual statements and a profit to boot. New Bumiputra companies will not have both, unless they have solid contracts from the Government. Then banks will tell you “we will revert in 3-4 weeks”. It never happens! So, businesses close and Government asks what happened? Nothing, of course, because we are dead!
What do SMEs want?
· An extension of the moratorium on principal loan repayments from October 2020 to March 2021;
· Guarantees (for loans) that support even start-ups;
· Tax “holiday” for one year;
· Meaningful salary and rental support for one year (grants are preferable); and
· Incentives to digitalise, automate or computerise operations.
The five-pillar strategy above will help SMEs and employers to be on their feet, looking out for revenue. What do you think?