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 EXPECTATIONS AND OUTCOMES © Leo Haviland September 5, 2022

“Are you gonna bark all day little doggie? Or are you gonna bite? Mr. Blonde asks Mr. White in “Reservoir Dogs” (Quentin Tarantino, director), after their gang’s jewelry heist went disastrously wrong.

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OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION

The Federal Reserve watchdog and its central banking companions, after a very lengthy delay, finally awoke to widespread evidence that substantial consumer price inflation was not a temporary or transitory phenomenon. The Fed guardian generally has evaded taking responsibility for its important role in creating substantial inflation (not just in consumer prices, but also in stocks and numerous other asset classes) via its mammoth money printing and yield repression schemes. But to restore and preserve its inflation-fighting credibility and sustain its marketplace reputation, in recent months the Fed noisily has raised policy rates (and significantly reduced yield repression) and started to shrink its engorged balance sheet.

The Fed’s need to manifest genuine loyalty to its legislative mandate of stable prices (which other central bankers have echoed) thus has provoked it to do some nipping, and even a little biting, of “investors” and other owners in the S+P 500 and other “search for yield” marketplaces such as corporate bonds and US dollar-denominated foreign sovereign debt. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s 8/26/22 Jackson Hole, Wyoming speech (“Monetary Policy and Price Stability”) further emphasized its rediscovered inflation-fighting enthusiasm. The Chairman confesses: “Inflation is running well above 2 percent, and high inflation has continued to spread through the economy.” The Chairman barks: “overarching focus right now is to bring inflation back down to our 2 percent goal”; “Restoring price stability will take some time and requires using our tools forcefully”; “estimates of longer-run neutral are not a place to stop or pause”; this restrictive policy stance likely must be maintained “for some time”; after all, “The longer the current bout of high inflation continues, the greater the chance that expectations of high inflation will become entrenched.” Note the dogged determination expressed by this trusty guardian!

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“Summertime Blues, Marketplace Views” (8/6/22) states: “Despite growing concerns about a United States (and global) economic slowdown or slump, and despite potential for occasional “flights to quality” into supposed safe havens such as the United States Treasury 10 year note and the German Bund, the long run major trend for higher UST and other benchmark international government yields probably remains intact.” Regarding the S+P 500, that essay concludes: “Although the current rally in the S+P 500 may persist for a while longer, the downtrend which commenced in January 2022 probably will resume. The S+P 500’s June 2022 low probably will be challenged.”

The Fed’s late August 2022 wordplay has encouraged the previously existing trends of higher United States Treasury yields and declining prices for the S+P 500 and related search for yield (return) arenas such as emerging marketplace stocks, corporate bonds, and US dollar-denominated sovereign debt. Prices for commodities “in general” also have withered.

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Marketplace Expectations and Outcomes (9-5-22)

FINANCIAL FIREWORKS: ACCELERATING AMERICAN INFLATION © Leo Haviland July 3, 2021

Prince sings in “Let’s Go Crazy”:
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today
To get through this thing called life.”

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CONCLUSION

The Federal Reserve Board and its central banking comrades obviously are not omnipotent. They also are not scientifically objective in their definitions, perspectives, methods, arguments, and conclusions. Neither is the Fed (its policies) the only important variable influencing inflation levels and patterns in America and elsewhere. Many intertwined phenomena in the United States and around the globe, including massive government deficit spending, matter.

Yet given the Federal Reserve’s success with its yield repression strategy (and its quantitative easing/money printing scheme), many observers have great confidence in the central bank’s insight, foresight, and talent for creating and managing “good” United States (and global) economic outcomes. These desirable results include not only adequate US economic growth and stable prices, but also bullish stock marketplace (use the S+P 500 as the benchmark) and home price moves.

The Fed’s long-running marketplace maneuvers, and especially its yield repression policy, have helped to create a culture strongly oriented (married, metaphorically speaking) to the existence and persistence of low Federal Funds and United States Treasury rates. In general, stock owners and securities issuers (corporations and sovereigns), as well as Wall Street enterprises who serve and profit from them, love low interest rates.

“Inflation” (deflation; stable prices) appears in various diverse economic arenas. The Fed itself and the great majority of Fed watchers on Wall Street and Main Street believe the Fed will achieve its praiseworthy goal of stable prices. Thus inflation will not climb “too high” or go “out of control”. Similarly, benchmark US Treasury interest rates also will not increase “too much” (“too far”; or “too fast”).

Since the coronavirus pandemic emerged during first quarter 2020, as part of its highly accommodative monetary policy, the Federal Reserve has purchased a huge quantity of US Treasury securities (as well as agency mortgage-backed securities). This extraordinary and ongoing net acquisition program has assisted its effort to ensure low marketplace yields. But observers should examine the Fed’s UST purchasing process and its consequences in more depth. It has significantly increased the Fed’s already sizable percentage share of the outstanding marketable (and held by the public) UST world. This noteworthy jump in the Fed’s arithmetic and percentage market share holdings of UST probably therefore has decreased the “free supply” (readily available inventory) of UST. Despite accelerating US inflation in recent months, the large reduction in the free supply of marketable UST probably has helped to keep benchmark UST yields (such as for the 10 year UST note) low.

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“American Inflation and Interest Rates: Painting Pictures” (5/4/21) stressed that American “inflation” in the general sense of the term (and even if one excludes the asset price territory of the S+P 500 and homes) is more widespread and less well-anchored than the Federal Reserve Board and armies of its devoted followers (especially investment sects and the financial advisors and media who assist them) believe.

Acceleration in assorted American inflation signposts has occurred in recent months. This probably shows that Fed programs have played, and continue to perform, a critical role in enabling US inflation to rise sharply. Though inflation in measures such as the Consumer Price Index is not yet “out of control”, the Fed at present has less control over this upward trend. Recent significant increases in key inflation benchmarks such as the CPI are not “transitory”. Despite the Fed’s dogmatic adherence to its yield repression approach, the Fed’s various current policies and its related rhetoric will find it very challenging to contain the increasing inflationary pressures.

Rising inflation will force the Fed to taper its ravenous US Treasury and mortgage securities buying program, and gradually abandon its longstanding tenacious yield repression strategy, sooner than it currently desires and plans. Despite the Fed’s yield repression, money printing, and wordplay (including forward guidance), America’s widespread, persistent, and growing inflation severely challenges faith in the Fed’s long run power to block significantly higher interest rates. The Federal Funds rate and UST yields (including those on the shorter end of the yield curve) probably will have to increase faster and further than the Fed shepherd currently wants and predicts. UST yields will resume their long run upward path. Sustained ascending American inflation has a strong likelihood of undermining and reversing bullish price trends in various “search for yield” marketplaces such as stocks.

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Financial Fireworks- Accelerating American Inflation (7-3-21)

MARKETPLACE MANEUVERS: SEARCHING FOR YIELD, RUNNING FOR COVER © Leo Haviland September 7, 2020

In the novel “The Gilded Age” (chapter 7), by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, Colonel Sellers exclaims: “Si Hawkins has been a good friend to me, and I believe I can say that whenever I’ve had a chance to put him into a good thing I’ve done it, and done it pretty cheerfully too. I put him into that sugar speculation—what a grand thing that was, if we hadn’t held on too long.”

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OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION

Diverse, changing, and interrelated marketplace variables of course encourage price rallies and declines in assorted financial domains. Central bank monetary policies, national deficit spending and debt levels, currency trends, and the recent coronavirus pandemic of course are on the list.

Yet focus on United States Treasury rates only slightly above or beneath benchmark inflation indicators such as consumer price or personal consumption expenditure indices. In other leading government rate realms, such as German ones, note negative nominal interest rates. During the era of global central bank policy yield repression by America’s beloved Federal Reserve Board and the friendly central banks of other major advanced nations, “investors” and other traders generally have engaged in ravenous searches for adequate return (“yield”) in assorted financial marketplaces. These playgrounds include United States and other stocks, lower-grade foreign dollar-denominated sovereign debt, corporate notes and bonds, and commodities.

During this repressive policy yield environment, and often encouraged by massive money printing (quantitative easing) and other accommodative monetary programs, price trends in the S+P 500 and these other marketplaces frequently have been similar. They have risen in bull markets (and fallen in bear markets) “together”. Convergence and divergence (lead/lag) relationships between fields such as the S+P 500, US corporate bonds, and crude oil are a matter of subjective perspective. The connections and patterns are complex and not necessarily precise; they can modify or even transform. But in recent years, prices in these benchmark stock indices, lower-grade interest rate instruments, and commodities often have risen (or fallen) at roughly the same time. For example, prices for US stocks and other financial domains enjoyed glorious rallies which peaked in early to mid-first quarter 2020. Their murderous bear crashes commence at around the same time; numerous investors and other buyers (owners) frantically ran for cover and pleaded for help. The ensuing price rallies in these assorted key generally embarked around late March 2020, and their subsequent bullish patterns thereafter have intertwined.

However, various phenomena indicate that these marketplaces are at or near important price highs and probably have started to or soon will decline together. These bearish factors include the probability of a feeble global recovery (the recovery will not be V-shaped), the persistence of the coronavirus problem for at least the next several months, and lofty American stock marketplace valuations (and the substantial risk of disappointing late 2020 and calendar 2021 corporate earnings). Also, the Democrats probably will triumph in the 11/3/20 American national election, which portends a reversal of the corporate tax “reform” legislation as well as the enactment of increased taxes on high-earning individuals and the passage of capital gains taxes. Also on the US national political scene, fears are growing of a political crisis if President Trump disputes the November voting outcome.

Other warning signs of notable price falls in the S+P 500 and various related marketplaces include vulnerable US (and other) households (reduced consumer spending) and endangered small businesses, massive and rising government debt, a greater risk of rising US interest rates (at least in the corporate and low-quality sovereign landscapes, and even with ongoing Fed yield repression) than many believe, and the recent weakness in the US dollar. The likelihood of a substantial new US Congressional stimulus package has ebbed.

The S+P 500 (and especially “technology” stocks; see the Nasdaq Composite Index) probably has been the bull leader for the various asset classes “as a whole” since its 3/23/20 bottom at 2192. For US equities, laments of “where do I put my money?” enthusiastic comments that “there’s a lot of cash around looking for a home”, and venerable rhetoric regarding the reasonableness of buying and holding United States stocks for the “long run” persist. Gurus as well as media cheerleaders still say: “buy the dip” and “don’t miss the train.” Yet such aphorisms and even massive money printing do not inevitably keep asset prices rising.

Despite the Federal Reserve’s late August 2020 promulgation of a revised and even more accommodative policy doctrine, it essentially codified rather than changed the practice of its easing policy of the preceding months. See the Fed’s 8/27/20 “Statement on Longer-Run Goals and Monetary Strategy” and the Fed Chairman’s speech, “New Economic Challenges and the Fed’s Monetary Policy Review” (8/27/20). In any case, the Fed guardian is unlikely to race to the rescue of the US stock marketplace with the S+P 500 hovering around its all-time high.

For detailed further discussion of stock, interest rate, currency, and commodity marketplaces and the political scene, see other essays such as “Dollar Depreciation and the American Dream” (8/11/20); “Divergence and Convergence: US Stocks and American Politics (7/11/20); “US Election 2020: Politics, Pandemic, and Marketplaces” (6/3/20); “American Consumers: the Shape We’re In” (5/4/20); “Crawling from the Wreckage: US Stocks” (4/13/20); “Global Economic Troubles and Marketplace Turns: Being There” (3/2/20); “Critical Conditions and Economic Turning Points” (2/5/20); “Ringing in the New Year: US and Other Government Note Trends” (1/6/20).

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Marketplace Maneuvers- Searching for Yield, Running for Cover (9-7-20)(1)

FANTASTIC VOYAGES: THE US DOLLAR AND COMMODITY CURRENCIES © Leo Haviland April 3, 2016

In the 1966 movie “Fantastic Voyage”, the character Cora declares: “We’re going to see things no one has ever seen before. Just think about it.” (Richard Fleischer, director)

In “On the Road” (original scroll version), Jack Kerouac writes: “But no matter, the road is life.”

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

The substantial rally in the broad real trade-weighted United States dollar (“TWD”) that embarked in mid-2011 played a key part in encouraging (confirming) and accelerating bear movements in emerging marketplace stocks and commodities “in general”. The S+P 500’s majestic rally over its spring 2011 interim high diverged for about four years from the trends in emerging equity realms and commodities. However, the TWD’s 2015 ascent above its March 2009 peak was a crucial event; this dollar climb helped propel the S+P 500 downhill following its 5/20/15 pinnacle at 2135 in conjunction with the emerging stock marketplace and commodity trends.

In January/February2016, these linked price patterns partly reversed. The TWD has depreciated and stocks (emerging marketplaces as well as those of America and other advanced nations) have rallied. Commodities (particularly oil) jumped. The benchmark United States Treasury 10 year note yield ascended from its low. This relatively unified reversal across marketplace sectors paralleled the entwined moves since mid-to-late 2015. Highly accommodative central bank rhetoric and action by the Federal Reserve Board and its allies aimed at achieving their targeted two percent inflation destination will continue for an extended period. For example, note the Fed’s 3/16/16 meeting and its Chairman’s very dovish speech, “The Outlook, Uncertainty, and Monetary Policy” (3/29/16). Underline the expansion of the European Central Bank’s easing scheme (most recently 3/10/16) and the lax policies of the Bank of Japan. Consequently, the current marketplace interrelationships (“roughly trading together”) probably will persist for the near term, regardless of whether the pattern of mid-2015 to first quarter 2016 resumes or that since mid-first quarter 2016 continues. Marketplace history of course need not entirely or even substantially repeat itself.

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Concentrating on and comparing exchange rates of “commodity currencies” alongside the broad real trade-weighted dollar trend offers additional notable insight into the assorted interconnected marketplace relationships. Commodity currencies, associated with countries with large amounts of commodity exports, are not confined to developing/emerging nations. Because commodity exports are significant to the economies of advanced countries such as Australia, Canada, and Norway, the currencies of these lands likewise can be labeled as commodity currencies.

The bearish currency paths (effective exchange rate basis) of important emerging and advanced nation commodity exporters up to first quarter 2016 resembled the similar trends among them during the 2007-09 worldwide economic disaster era. However, these commodity currencies depreciated notably more in their recent dive than during the 2007-09 turmoil. In addition, the lows attained by most of them decisively pierced the floors achieved about seven years previously. Moreover, the TWD rallied more sharply in its bull move to its January 2016 elevation than it did during the past crisis.

The feebleness in recent times for the commodity currency group, as it involved both advanced and emerging marketplace domains (as it did in 2007-09), reflected an ongoing global (not merely emerging marketplace) crisis. Substantial debt and leverage troubles still confront today’s intertwined worldwide economy. The bear trip of many commodity currencies into early first quarter 2016, especially as it occurred alongside big bear moves in emerging marketplace stocks (and in the S+P 500 and other advanced stock battlefields) and despite long-running extremely lax monetary policies, underlines the fragility of the relatively feeble global GDP recovery.

Thus noteworthy rallies in these commodity (exporter) currencies from their recent depths will tend to confirm (inspire) climbs in commodities in general and emerging (and advanced) nation stock marketplaces. Renewed deterioration of the effective exchange rates of the commodity currency fraternity “in general” likely will coincide with renewed firming of the US dollar. Such depreciation in the commodity currency camp probably will signal worsening of the current dangerous global economic situation and warn that another round of declines in global stock marketplaces looms on the horizon.

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Therefore key central bank captains, concerned about slowing real GDP and terrified by “too low” inflation (deflation) risks, have fought to stop the TWD from appreciating beyond its January 2016 top and struggled to encourage rallies in the S+P 500 and related stock marketplaces. Yield repression (very low and even negative interest rates) promotes eager hunts for yields (return) elsewhere. Indeed, rallies in the S+P 500 (and real estate) may help inflation expectations (and inflation signposts monitored by central banks such as consumer prices) to motor upward. Given their desperate quest to achieve inflation goals, central banks probably approve of at least modest increases in commodity prices in general.

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Fantastic Voyages- the US Dollar and Commodity Currencies (4-3-16)