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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YIELD CURVES AND SPREADS- MAKING A DIFFERENCE © Leo Haviland, August 22, 2011

The 10 year versus two year spread on the United States government yield curve offers some insight into major economic and financial marketplace trends. US Treasury 10 year note spread relationships versus other instruments of similar maturity further confirm or signal major marketplace trends. The US of course is not the only nation with a yield curve, and America’s debt playground is not the only relevant one. America is not the only country with painful fiscal troubles. However, both the UST 10/2 yield curve differential and important 10 year UST note intermarket spreads underline recent trends in stock benchmarks such as the S+P 500 (and in commodities “in general”). They also warn of US (and worldwide) economic weakness ahead.

Across various parts of the yield curve, traders and other observers compare instruments of similar maturity. A popular time benchmark is 10 years. Given the variety of nations and marketplace sectors, potential quality comparisons are numerous. A survey of a handful underlines the ability of such spreads to shed light on economic conditions and various marketplace trends.

However, history is not destiny in spreads, including this German/US sovereign spread. Admittedly Treasuries offer some an apparent safe haven against the crumbling of parts of the international banking (financial) system. Yet with the US ten year yielding about two percent and current US inflation levels around that, and with the Fed determined to create inflation of around two percent, how eager will Chinese, Japanese, and other holders of US government debt be to keep being net buyers of it? We all know that shorter term UST yields are even less. What if foreigners become net sellers of Treasuries? Or, suppose the US dollar weakens sharply from current levels. What if this is not only on a broad real trade-weighted basis, but also against the Euro FX as well? What if America engages in another substantial round of money printing (or some other clever easing), and that the European Central Bank does not follow suit?

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Yield Curves and Spreads- Making a Difference (8-22-11)

FLIGHT PATHS (THE MONEY JUNGLE, PART FIVE) © Leo Haviland, June 27, 2011

Especially if noteworthy economic variables- including so-called political ones- warn of or reveal substantial financial danger or injury, many marketplace participants preach “flight to quality” doctrines. What represents a supposed “safe haven” sector varies according to viewpoint and era. Inflation often is feared. Or, how could a severe recession or deflation injure us? Political unrest and military conflict sometimes surface.

Many gurus designate gold as a worthy store of value. We all saw it skyrocket over $1500. Clairvoyants devote much attention to government notes and bonds as an escape hatch if a dangerous downturn beckons or is underway. In terrifying recent times, those of the United States and Germany often have allured traders.

Instead, concentrate awhile on the Swiss Franc. Switzerland indeed is a rather small nation. However, this mountainous land has a very long history of and reputation for financial stability, which it battles fiercely to protect. The fluctuations of the Swiss Franc against the Euro FX are not precisely the same as its trajectories relative to the US dollar. In recent years, the major levels and trends of Switzerland’s actively traded currency nevertheless reflect worldwide (particularly European and American) economic disaster fears and recovery hopes.

Fear and hope interrelate in marketplaces, as elsewhere. Yet suppose one equates marketplace “flights to quality (safety)” with fear. Then there is a counterpart to the flight to quality outlook. Its opposite is the hopeful “flights of fancy” vision. Especially when policy interest rates are kept near rock bottom levels for extended periods (and all else equal), pursuits of profit via other paths of potential returns often become quite fervent. Suppose money printing occurs as well. All else equal, massive money printing tends to boost nominal prices of “assets”, including stocks, commodities, and low-rated (junk; many emerging marketplace) bonds.

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Flight Paths (The Money Jungle, Part Five)

THE MONEY JUNGLE (PART ONE) © Leo Haviland, May 9, 2011

The S+P 500 is at or near an important high in price and time terms. Watch the major resistance of 1440 (the May 2008 final high before the acceleration of the worldwide economic crisis), plus or minus five percent. Commodities “in general” likewise have achieved or soon will make a noteworthy top. Suppose these reversals haven’t begun yet. What is a guideline for the latest time for them? At the risk of being attacked by hunters armed with hindsight wisdom, let’s climb out on a limb and say midsummer 2011. However, the Federal Reserve and its allies will rush to the rescue and strive to prevent any sustained major fall in equities.

What about the broad real trade weighted dollar (“TWD”)? For the near term, its April 2011 level of 81.3 represents a low or is close to one, with its timing linked to that in stocks and commodities. The United States 10 year note yield will continue to meander sideways. However, yields eventually will move higher and attack the four percent barrier.

In recent years, the linkage between equities, commodities, the broad real trade weighted dollar, and interest rates has been close.

Focus first on price and time notes for these arenas in the period of the dismal depth of the worldwide financial crisis.

Timing may not be everything, but it’s pretty important in both music and marketplaces.

What does this forest of data for stocks, commodities in general, and the broad real trade weighted dollar portend for their current and future environment? There have been two alternating marketplace songs in recent years. Strong stocks/strong commodities/weak dollar has been one clear tune, with sagging stocks/cratering commodities/strong dollar the alternative one. It is very likely that a major or any very significant high in stocks and commodities will occur around the same time (within a couple of months). That peak probably will happen around the time of an important low for the dollar.

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The Money Jungle (Part One)

AMERICAN DEBT GARDENS- HIGHER YIELDS (“DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES”, EPISODE 7) © Leo Haviland, February 8, 2011

The sustained economic rescue and repair efforts by America’s resolute yet fearful central bank and politicians and their overseas allies will continue to encourage rising US interest rates. The Federal Reserve’s seeds of very low Federal Funds rates and its quantitative easing deluge play crucial roles. As part of its heated quest to propel a recovery and rehabilitate injured consumer net worth, the Fed scrambles to create some inflation. Congress and the President, enamored of stimulus, place fiscal discipline aside in the tool shed for the foreseeable future.

Such US regulatory and political permissiveness erodes the broad real trade-weighted dollar. Rising interest rates and a slipping dollar tend to diminish the appetite of foreigners for US securities in general and debt ones in particular.

Are climbing interest rates a sign of the success of “green shoots” economic policies? Many weathervanes proclaim them as such. Yet over the next several months, higher yields will tend to reflect and encourage economic weakness.

Take the US 10 year government note as a benchmark for rate trends. Yields will test the 400/430 range, probably by end-June 2011 at the latest.

The likelihood of an eventual move in the 10 year Treasury toward 500/550 is higher than many believe. In that regard, inaction regarding the deficit rot and a substantial wilting of the US dollar are key ingredients. Moreover, the Fed’s deliberate cultivation of some inflation creates the danger of more than sufficient inflation. The Fed and many other watchdogs display minimal concern about inflation hints from high-flying equity and commodity marketplaces. Signs of more than adequate money floating around trouble them little. Recall the sluggish analysis and action of such guardians in the prelude to and dawn and early afternoon of the economic crisis that emerged in 2007. Will exit strategies to preclude so-called excessive inflation be rapid or forceful enough to preclude marketplace tragedies?

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this market essay as a PDF file.

American Debt Gardens- Higher Yields (Desperate Housewives, Episode 7)