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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MARKETPLACE VEHICLES: GOING MOBILE © Leo Haviland, December 13, 2017

The Cars ask in their song “Drive”:
“Who’s gonna tell you when it’s too late
Who’s gonna tell you things aren’t so great”?

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

To the majority of Wall Street marketplace observers, price fluctuations for at least the past few months in many key benchmarks such as the United States government 10 year note, the broad real US trade-weighted dollar, and the S+P 500 generally have seemed relatively peaceful. Many players are rather complacent. However, history reveals that the relative lack of dramatic movement (“volatility”) according to such perspectives of course does preclude greater and ongoing violent future swings. Though the outward landscape of the given financial realm may seem calm, powerful intertwined and shifting forces may lurk beneath, perhaps eventually and possibly suddenly causing substantial tremors in one or more economic (and political) domains.

Confidence yardsticks for US consumers and small businesses are high. American unemployment has slipped substantially in recent years. Yet the fierce political conflicts around the globe between assorted camps, including various right and left wing populist crews and diverse establishment (elite) groups, hint at and probably reflect strong, entangled, and contending variables in economic spheres. The long-running accommodative monetary schemes by the key global central banks such as the Federal Reserve Board, European Central Bank, Bank of England, and Bank of Japan reflect not only their devotion to their interpretation of their beloved legislative mandates. Sustained marketplace manipulation programs such as yield repression and money printing (quantitative easing) also aim at sparking and sustaining economic outcomes favorable to (or at least protective of) the economic and political interests of “the establishment”. Central banks do not want the establishment’s boat to get rocked too much or capsize!

In America and many other regions around the world, sharp cultural divisions involve more than just economic (or “class”) quarrels and concerns regarding financial opportunities and mobility. Partisan feuds involve politics, whether Democrats versus Republicans, liberal versus conservative, the quality of the current Presidential leadership, and so on. Yet fervent debates and frequent anger on Main Street regarding issues relating to race/ethnicity, sex/gender, age, religion, geography, the environment, and so on probably reflect economic (political) splits and consequently hint at the potential for marketplaces to become inflamed.

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In any case, the US Treasury 10 year note and the broad real trade-weighted dollar (“TWD”) are two important marketplace vehicles currently near critical levels. The key US 10 government note height is around 2.65 percent, that in the TWD around 96.2 to 96.6. A sustained rise in the UST above that level or a decisive TWD breakdown under 96.0 (and especially if both events occurred) might reflect and probably would increase price volatility in those fields. Such significant moves in rates and the dollar probably also would spark a substantial reversal of the current bull trend in the S+P 500 (and related advanced and emerging marketplace stock arenas). Commodities “in general” in this scenario likely would decline as well.

The enthusiastic “buy the dips” chorus for US equities likely will not remain forever fashionable or successful. What happens if the American Congress does not enact tax “reform” in the near future? Suppose observers focus more closely on the long run US federal budget deficit and debt issues (and debt problems in China, Japan, and elsewhere)? What if US corporate earnings do not sustain notable growth? Will such events (or a US dollar decline; or higher interest rates or central bank threats of these; or some other phenomenon such as trade wars, the North Korea nuclear issue, or further petroleum price rallies) help to stop the train of the glorious long bull market trend for the S+P 500?

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FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
Marketplace Vehicles- Going Mobile (12-13-17)
Charts- Trade-Weighted US Dollar and UST 10 Year Note (for essay Marketplace Vehicles- Going Mobile, 12-13-17)

TREND RELATIONSHIPS: US AND CHINESE STOCKS AND THE INTERNET SECTOR © Leo Haviland, November 27, 2017

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“Away from baseball, I had a lot of fun, and much of it came in pitting myself against the odds found in the financial world, which are somewhat longer against success than getting a base hit.” The Hall of Fame star Ty Cobb, “My Life in Baseball”

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The price movements and levels of various leading “internet-related” stocks attract the attention of and story-telling by assorted stock marketplace strategists and media guides around the globe.

Attached are several charts.

Charts 1-5 constitute America’s FAANG army (Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Netflix). Charts 7-9 cover the large Chinese internet groups labeled BATs (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent). Although these bar charts are weekly, the handwritten price and date noted is for the actual trading day.

During the past two and a half years, a review of the dates and lines noted on the graphs of this array of internet companies manifests a similarity “in general” (for the group) as to noteworthy price trend shifts (or accelerations) “around” several critical marketplace turns. These key time points include: mid-2015 high; late August 2015 low; late year 2015 drop-off; first quarter 2016 bottom; dramatic rally after the 11/8/16 election.

Not every stock necessarily closely fits the given key turning point noted, but the majority did. Of course not all travelled the same percentage distance. Nevertheless, there has been some tendency for the group members to “confirm” each other’s trend.

Sometimes a given stock, stock sector, or broad marketplace may lead (lag) another (the convergence/divergence issue).

This trend and timing linkage for the FAANGs and BATs provides guidance for anticipating and evaluating movements in broad indices such as the S+P 500 and China’s Shanghai Composite. United States and Chinese benchmarks do not always voyage together, but they have frequently done so (see the notes on chart 1).

The internet sector and broad equity stock indices are not necessarily divorced from movements in other stock sector domains (such as “financial” or “retail”) and their members. Many scouts closely monitor noteworthy financial corporations such as Goldman Sachs. The GS chart is at page 6 (unlike the other eight graphs, this one is monthly).

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A noteworthy decline in this internet stock group “in general”, whenever this happens, probably will occur around the same time. Given the widespread importance and allure of the internet playground (and the “technology” territory), such an important sectoral shift by the FAANGs and BATs likely will develop around the time of one in the S+P 500 and Shanghai Composite (and perhaps for other related broad stock indices of advanced and emerging/developing nations as well). As always, watch for price leads (lags). For the S+P 500, given its glorious long-running bull move, a decline of about ten percent (or more) would worry many observers.

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Keep an eye on rising interest rates for (and other signs of tighter credit in) the United States and China (and in other key nations). What if the United States does not enact tax “reform”? A significant portion of the rally in the overall US stock marketplace since the November 2016 election probably has derived from optimism regarding the passage of a massive tax cut package (particularly for corporations). Yet watch debt trends in America (especially if the so-called reform becomes law) and China. The adventures of the broad real trade-weighted dollar, especially if it breaches important support and resistance levels, also intertwines with and can significantly influence trends in stocks, interest rates, and commodities.

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FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
Trend Relationships- US and Chinese Stocks- the Internet Sector (11-27-17)
Charts- Trend Relationships- US and Chinese Stocks and the Internet Sector (11-24-17)

US TAX REFORM: PROPAGANDA AND PROSPECTS © Leo Haviland October 9, 2017

Genevieve Larkin exclaims in the film “Gold Diggers of 1937”: “It’s so hard to be good under the capitalist system!” (Lloyd Bacon, director)

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

The most recent American corporate and individual tax “reform” proposal sketched by the President and Republican Congressional leadership is merely a “framework”. These ringleaders and their acolytes proclaim that genuine legislative planning and serious negotiations will create a robust document, a beneficial bill suitable for passage. However, the overall explicit and implicit policy substance (partisan aims) incorporated in the current outline probably will not become law. Even if a few elements of the “reform” scheme manage to pass the House and Senate and become law, at most this will represent modest tinkering with rather than major changes in the current tax code.

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Why will the corporate and individual tax reform program advocated by the President and others generally fail to be enacted? First, partisan political divisions in America in general and Congress in particular are too severe. Although the Republicans control both Houses of Congress, their Senate majority is slim. Whereas Congressional Democrats for the most part have held ranks since the 2016 election, Republican unity, particularly within the Senate, has been fragile. Not all Republicans adopt the same (or Trump’s policies).

The corporate and individual tax code reflects a diversity of political (cultural) viewpoints. Consequently, perspectives regarding as well as campaigns to transform, modify, or preserve critical aspects of it reflect opinions. Thus competing cultural camps with assorted outlooks and aims engage in heated rhetorical battles to advance their interests. Moreover, these proposed so-called tax reforms represent significant ideological approaches, not merely cosmetic fixes and updates.

In recent years, compromise in Congress in various critical policy matters has appeared with less frequency and generally only grudgingly. If the Senate cannot repeal (or repeal and replace) Obamacare (Affordable Care Act), how will they manage to make substantial alterations in an extremely complex document such as the United States tax code? Donald Trump’s remarkable and shocking Presidential triumph in America’s 11/8/16 election has not been followed by Congressional passage of his legislative agenda (Inauguration Day was 1/20/17). Why will Democrats help President Trump and Republicans win a notable legislative victory on taxation with election 2018 coming into view?

In the United States, even though labels are not definitive and groups can overlap, look further at and beyond the “political” sphere. America of course has never been entirely homogeneous or unified. The widely-shared American Dream has been expressed and implemented in various ways. Yet America’s disagreements and debates currently are wide-ranging. The lines between and within camps are not always clear; moreover, individuals may be loyal (belong) to various (and often competing) categories.

In any case, the long list of America’s noteworthy splits and fractures makes it especially changing to enact wide-ranging changes in the core taxation (and spending, including entitlements) policy arena. There are liberals (progressives), conservatives (traditionalists), centrists (moderates), and independents. Populists (both left and right wing) confront the establishment (elites). Globalists contend with nationalists.

America, as a house divided, has rich versus poor, haves versus have-nots. Highlight the nation’s substantial economic inequality. Is America nowadays a Gilded Age era? Are economic and social mobility increasing?

Consider divisions relating to race (ethnicity), gender/sexuality, religion, age, geographic region, and urban/rural. Fierce quarrels rage not only over tax and spending policies, but also over health care. Heated fights occur on trade and tariff issues, economic regulation (how much is appropriate), abortion rights, immigration, gun ownership, and environmental fields such as climate change.

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Moreover, President Trump probably will be unable to lead the contending camps inside and outside Congress toward a realization of his tax “reform” plan. Some circles fervently admire Trump. His “Make America Great Again!” and “America First” slogans and many of his policy pronouncements obviously appeal to large numbers of Americans. Yet he nowadays lacks sufficient influence over Congress as a whole, including parts of the Republican caucus. And among the nation in general, his popularity is quite low. Many observers see him as erratic in his outlook and imprudent and insensitive in his opinions and actions.

Moreover, Donald Trump lacks government insider experience. Rhetoric and behavior (and talents) suitable for running a successful family-owned business, a reality television show, or even a successful Presidential campaign are not necessarily appropriate (adequate; likely to succeed) in regard to leading a country well or inspiring Congress to adopt his policy agenda.

Although Trump won in the Electoral College, he decisively lost the popular vote tally. The popular vote outcome obviously reflects America’s sharp political divisions. Also, the Russian President “directed a vast cyberattack aimed at denying Hillary Clinton the presidency and installing Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office, the nation’s top intelligence agencies said in an extraordinary report” (NYTimes, 1/7/17, ppA1, 11). Trump’s popular vote defeat and reports on Russian political interference undermine Trump’s political “legitimacy” (faith in it) and thus his ability to lead effectively.

The President’s continued unwillingness to release his own tax returns makes it challenging for some to agree with his reform package. Might he or his family benefit from the proposed framework?

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Over three decades have passed since the last notable US tax reform (Tax Reform Act of 1986). Even though many gurus complain about parts of the current personal and corporate tax system, there does not appear to be a widespread consensus as to how to dramatically overhaul it.

Keep in mind that the individual and corporate tax codes are not merely long and complicated. It is a rhetorical structure reflecting a large and complicated society. Its lengthy enshrined provisions and interpretations of them therefore frequently represent competing visions and values. America’s current tax laws took a long time to reach their current structure. The US from the vantage points of both individuals and corporations of course is a diverse and complex country; this parallels the complexity of the global economy, with which the nation is enmeshed. Some “special interests” will fight vigorously for the proposed “reform” (or parts of it), but other crews will lobby heatedly against all or many of its provisions. These considerations also make it very difficult, and particularly unlikely in the current domestic American political environment, for substantial tax changes (“reform” of whatever fashion) to occur.

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FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
US Tax Reform- Propaganda and Prospects (10-9-17)

STOCK MARKETPLACES: AT THE CROSSROADS © Leo Haviland, September 4, 2017

“Money beats soul, every time.” “Roadhouse Blues”, by The Doors, with John Lee Hooker

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

Many observers (including stock owners) are complacent about prospects for the emergence of significant stock marketplace declines, particularly in regard to the United States stock arena. Even a ten percent drop in US equities would shock many audiences. The S+P 500 and related American benchmarks nevertheless have been in the process of establishing an important top. The glorious long run bull advance in American stocks which started with the S+P 500’s major bottom at 667 on 3/6/09 probably is at or near its end. The S+P 500’s record height to date is 8/8//17’s 2491. That S+P 500 elevation probably will not be exceeded by much, if at all.

American stocks “in general”, although not an isolated island, have their own “individual” stories, as do assorted other stock marketplaces, whether in relation to earnings, valuations, or other phenomena. Yet marketplace history in recent years suggests that prices of stock marketplace signposts for other advanced (developed) nations and for emerging marketplaces “in general” likely will accompany any notable downtrend (including a bear move) in US equities.

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Admittedly, since first quarter 2016, and especially after around America’s November 2016 Presidential election, emerging stock marketplaces generally have rallied alongside the S+P 500 and its domestic comrades such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite, and Wilshire 5000. But the MSCI Emerging Stock Markets Index, from Morgan Stanley (“MXEF”), a guide for emerging stock marketplaces, is around major resistance and (unlike the S+P 500) well below all-time highs.

Owners of (particularly “investors”) American and international equities hopeful of enjoying further upward rides should note other significant yellow warning lights. In mid-year 2017, leading European and Japanese stock marketplaces established highs. The S+P 500’s 6/19/17 interim top at 2454 occurred around the time of these highs. However, these European and Japanese mid-2017 stock tops have not been broken. And the S+P 500’s August 2017 high exceeds its June 2017 one by only 1.5 percent.

But after their dreary troughs in first quarter 2016, didn’t Germany’s DAX and the United Kingdom’s FTSE exceed their spring 2015 plateaus, as did the S+P 500 (5/20/15 high 2135). Yes, but the April 2015 summit for a broader measure for European stock performance, the STOXX Europe 600 Index (“SXXP”), remains intact. Japan’s June 2015 Nikkei height likewise remains a roadblock.

The adventures of Canada’s S+P/Toronto Stock Exchange Composite Index (“SPTSX”) are also a bearish sign to worldwide stock marketplaces. It has failed to vault over its February 2017 top (established prior to the mid-2017 ones in Europe and Japan). Also, February 2017’s SPTSX plateau edged only 1.6 percent above its September 2014 pinnacle.

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this article as a PDF file.
Stock Marketplaces- at the Crossroads (9-4-17)