GLOBAL ECONOMICS AND POLITICS

Leo Haviland provides clients with original, provocative, cutting-edge fundamental supply/demand and technical research on major financial marketplaces and trends. He also offers independent consulting and risk management advice.

Haviland’s expertise is macro. He focuses on the intertwining of equity, debt, currency, and commodity arenas, including the political players, regulatory approaches, social factors, and rhetoric that affect them. In a changing and dynamic global economy, Haviland’s mission remains constant – to give timely, value-added marketplace insights and foresights.

Leo Haviland has three decades of experience in the Wall Street trading environment. He has worked for Goldman Sachs, Sempra Energy Trading, and other institutions. In his research and sales career in stock, interest rate, foreign exchange, and commodity battlefields, he has dealt with numerous and diverse financial institutions and individuals. Haviland is a graduate of the University of Chicago (Phi Beta Kappa) and the Cornell Law School.


 

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CRUMBLING BRICS: A CURRENCY PERSPECTIVE © Leo Haviland February 11, 2015

Assorted marketplace wizards around the globe for many years have praised past and predicted future stellar (or at least rather robust) growth for key emerging and developing nations. These countries not only display cultural diversity. They also manifest a significant range in economic development, arrangements, focus, and strengths. Though many embrace democracy to some extent, their political characteristics and stability are far from uniform. Despite this variety, the popular BRIC acronym, standing for Brazil, Russia, India, and China (now including South Africa), coined by Goldman Sachs nearly 15 years ago, acts as a rough shorthand summary for much if not all of the emerging/developing nation group.

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Marketplace history of course need not entirely or even substantially repeat itself. However, the recent appreciation of the United States broad real trade-weighted dollar (“TWD”) warns of erosion in global economic output rates.

The TWD established a major bottom at 84.2 in April 2008 (Federal Reserve Board, H.10; monthly average, March 1973=100). After climbing to 86.7 in August 2008 and 88.8 in September 2008, it bounded to over 93.8 in October 2008. Recall the noteworthy acceleration of the worldwide financial crisis after mid-September/October 2008. Its March 2009 pinnacle around 96.9 represented a 15.1 percent bull advance relative to April 2008.

After deteriorating to its major trough around 80.5 in July 2011, the TWD meandered sideways within a narrow range for about the next three years. Its high over that span was June 2012’s 86.3. Yet in recent months, as it did beginning in April 2008, the broad real trade-weighted dollar has marched steadily higher. A five percent bull move in the TWD from its July 2011 trough at 80.5 equals about 84.5, a ten percent climb about 88.6. A fifteen pc rally gives 92.6, a 20pc leap about 96.6.

September 2014’s 86.6 broke through June 2012’s barrier, with December 2014’s attaining 90.5. January 2015’s 92.4 rose 2.1 percent over December 2014. The TWD’s 14.8 percent ascent from the July 2011 depth rivals its April 2008 to March 2009 move. Significantly, its January 2015 level neighbors that of October 2008 and is not too distant from March 2009’s 96.9 elevation.

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What do FX movements (trade-weighted, effective exchange rates) within the BRICS universe reveal nowadays? Their recent travels differ to some extent from the 2007-09 crisis adventures. However, as during the darker days of the worldwide economic disaster, the current currency voyages of Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa generally display depreciation. As in the earlier period, however, China’s currency has rallied recently on an effective exchange rate basis. Looking forward, these currency patterns alongside TWD strength do not merely confirm the TWD bull move, but also emphasize the likelihood of further slowing of global real GDP.

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Crumbling BRICS- a Currency Perspective (2-11-15)

NEGATIVE CREEP: THE GLOBAL ECONOMY © Leo Haviland February 2, 2015

The European Central Bank’s magnificent march into full-scale quantitative easing captivates cheerleaders hoping for significant European (and worldwide) economic growth, a decisive defeat of the evil deflationary dragon, and further bullish ascents in stock marketplaces such as the S+P 500. Prior massive money printing, especially but not only by the Federal Reserve, engendered optimism, enhanced near-term economic growth, and helped to propel many equity benchmarks (notably the S+P 500) upward. So given the ECB’s bold policy announcement on 1/22/15, shouldn’t we all be rather positive about global (and Eurozone) economic prospects? No.

Of course the ECB’s decision to begin devouring “euro-denominated investment-grade securities issued by euro area governments and agencies and European institutions in the secondary market” is only one variable. But despite that central bank’s long-hoped for purchasing scheme, adequate Eurozone GDP growth still appears out of reach, and overall international economic prospects look less robust than they seemed only a few months ago. In addition, despite the ECB’s dramatic policy intervention, key government securities yields show little signs of climbing. This holds true not merely for Germany, but also the United States and Japan. Plus the broad real trade-weighted United States dollar remains relatively strong, nearing critical points achieved in mid-2008 during the global financial disaster. After their massive tumble in recent months, commodities in general (use the broad Goldman Sachs Commodity Index as a benchmark) remain well beneath their June 2014 (and previous) heights.

Yet at least shouldn’t the ECB’s big easing at least manage to rally key stock arenas, and especially to push the S+P 500 above its December 2014 summit? Recall what happened to the S+P 500 after the Federal Reserve unveiled its quantitative easing rounds, or what occurred after Japan introduced “Abenomics” and Quantitative and Qualitative Easing!

However, the S+P 500’s inability thus far to creep up to new bull trend highs beyond its 12/29/14 summit at 2094 contrasts with its prior behavior after the Fed’s QE programs. Again, keep in mind recent yield patterns of key government yield signposts such as the US and German 10 year notes, as well as the stronger dollar and weaker commodities. Also, emerging stock marketplaces in general, with various twists and turns, gradually have sagged lower since their spring 2011 high. So although admittedly not much time has passed since the ECB’s December action, these interrelated factors and slipping world growth prospects indicate that the ECB’s new policy probably will not produce the hoped-for rally in the S+P 500 and related stock playgrounds. These present-day marketplace variables, especially when interpreted alongside their history during the mournful 2007-09 global economic crisis, instead suggest that a notable S+P 500 downtrend is or soon will be underway. And in today’s environment, what happens to American stocks if overall US corporate earnings slow or move into reverse?

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Negative Creep- the Global Economy (2-2-15)

TAKING SHAPE: NYMEX NATURAL GAS BEAR TREND HISTORY © Leo Haviland January 19, 2015

What does historical analysis of noteworthy United States natural gas bear marketplace moves (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) reveal regarding the ending of the major bear trend that emerged in late February 2014? The mid-January 2015 low around 2.80 (NYMEX nearest futures continuation basis) could be, but probably is not, the final bottom. It is more likely that a final low will occur by end February 2015. The mid-January low probably will not be broken by much; in any event, substantial support lurks around 2.40.

Even if an observer focuses their attention on the natural gas price history variable alone, this is a very difficult marketplace call. In the current environment, much depends on weather, petroleum marketplace levels and trends (OPEC policy), whether (and how long) anticipated natural gas production jumps occur at current (or lower) gas prices, and the degree and duration of American economic strength. So the final bottom for natural gas may be postponed beyond February 2015.

Although history need not repeat itself, major natural gas lows (and highs) have not occurred in calendar March. April chronicles of course include the exceptional April 2012 major bottom; consequently, that calendar month represents a notable anniversary to watch, especially if weather for the balance of winter is warmer than normal. Gigantic inventories spurred the ferocious bear charge down to 1.90 in April 2012. However, assuming normal weather, and even allowing for increases in gas output, the current and probable US natural gas inventory situation looks relatively neutral, particularly in the context of NYMEX gas prices well under 4.00.

NYMEX natural gas reached many important troughs in late calendar August and September. However, a final low in late summer 2015 would stretch out the February 2014 bear marketplace longer than historical averages.

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Taking Shape- NYMEX Natural Gas Bear Trend History (1-19-15)

DO WHAT WE MUST: EUROZONE THEATRICS © Leo Haviland January 3, 2015

In the relatively near future, the European Central Bank probably will declare it will embark on more extensive quantitative easing (money printing) via purchasing Eurozone sovereign debt in secondary marketplaces. Assorted intertwined variables invite dramatic action. First, the ECB’s creative measures of the past several months have accomplished little. Think of negative policy interest rates. Marketplace response to the Targeted Longer Term Refinancing Operations (TLTRO) has been uninspiring. The ECB underscores its determination to significantly expand its balance sheet. Nevertheless, its current money printing scheme, which purchases asset-backed securities and covered bonds, thus far appears relatively modest to most audiences.

Moreover, the ECB’s fear of insufficient inflation (the deflation spectre) has increased in recent weeks, partly due to the continued bloody tumble in the petroleum complex. In its early December 2014 meeting, it underlined the Eurozone’s mediocre economic growth realities and prospects.

Potential for notable social unrest on the European scene exists. Unemployment remains stubbornly elevated. Difficulties, especially in Greece, but potentially elsewhere, recall the European periphery crisis. Greek political troubles erupted again, with a crucial election being held in late January 2015. Greece’s leading left-wing opposition party has a significant chance of winning that contest. That party wants to renegotiate and reduce the nation’s monstrous debt. Will it continue reforms of the economy and state administration desired by creditors? At times, though less so recently, this leftist group has displayed some hostility to the country’s remaining in the Euro FX circle.

Despite the Eurozone’s noble struggle to create adequate inflation (avoid deflation), its success on that front probably will be limited. Inflation and long term government interest rates in key nations such as Germany probably will not sustain substantial increases even if the ECB races down the path of massive money printing via buying of government debt securities. Keep in mind Japan’s history. The United States still falls short of the Federal Reserve’s inflation target despite sustained massive easing. Remember as well America’s experience after it ceased (or steadily “tapered”) quantitative easing rounds; the 10 year United States Treasury note yield declined.

In recent months, the Euro FX has weakened, both against the United States dollar and on an effective exchange rate basis. This currency relationship and bear trend will continue. Nowadays, part of the ECB’s inexorable determination to “do what we must” pursuant to its interpretation of its mandate involves a willingness to let the Euro FX slump. In any event, even if massive ECB money printing and currency feebleness manage to achieve an inflation goal (and higher interest rates), they likely will not generate enduring significant Eurozone economic growth.

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Do What We Must- Eurozone Theatrics (1-3-15)