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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In the film “The Deer Hunter” (Michael Cimino, director), a character asks: “Did you ever think life would turn out like this?”
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
Prices for both emerging marketplace stocks and emerging marketplace debt securities “in general” peaked in first quarter 2021. The price tops (yield bottoms) in key emerging marketplace interest rate instruments (around early January 2021) preceded mid-February 2021’s summit in “overall” emerging marketplace equities. Emerging marketplace debt securities established interim price troughs in March 2021, and their prices thereafter rallied (yields fell) for several months. However, yields for those benchmark interest rate securities thereafter have climbed, and that has coincided with slumping prices for emerging marketplace stocks. Moreover, stocks for these developing nations have made a pattern of lower and lower interim highs since February 2021.
This price convergence between emerging marketplace stock and debt securities probably will continue, and prices in both arenas will continue to decline.
The latest coronavirus variant (Omicron) can encourage falls in both advanced nation and emerging stock marketplace prices, but it is not the only bearish factor for them. Rising interest rates and massive debt also play critical roles in this theater. Substantial global inflation and increasing debt burdens encourage higher interest rates around the world, despite the efforts of leading central banks such as the Federal Reserve Board and its allies to repress yields. The Fed’s recent tapering scheme and its related rhetoric portend eventual increases in policy rates (Fed Funds) and higher yields in the United States Treasury field and elsewhere. Moreover, long run United States interest rate history shows that noteworthy yield increases lead to peaks for and subsequent declines in American signposts such as the S+P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average.
The recent rally in the US dollar undermines prices for emerging marketplace debt instruments (both dollar-denominated sovereign and corporate fields) and thereby emerging marketplace stocks. All else equal, rising interest rates (particularly in the US dollar domain), especially when linked with US dollar appreciation, increase burdens on emerging marketplace sovereign and corporate borrowers.
Convergence and divergence (lead/lag) patterns between marketplaces can change or transform, sometimes dramatically. Marketplace history does not necessarily repeat itself, either entirely or even partly. But marketplace history nevertheless provides guidance regarding the probabilities of future relationships.
America’s S+P 500 and stocks in other advanced nations soared to new highs after February 2021 while emerging marketplace equities have marched downhill (price divergence). However, the chronicle of those two broad marketplace realms at least since the Goldilocks Era of the mid-2000s reveals that their price and time trends tend to coincide. Over the long run, these arenas are bullish (or bearish) “together”. In the current environment of rising American and international yields, that warns of eventual price convergence between the S+P 500 and emerging marketplace stocks. The S+P 500’s record high, 11/22/21’s 4744, occurred near in time to prior interim highs in developing nation equities. These intertwined patterns warn that the S+P 500 probably has established a notable top or soon will do so.
Many pundits label commodities in general as an “asset class”. Like stocks as well as low grade debt securities around the globe, and likewise assisted by yield repression (with UST yields low relative to inflation) and gigantic money printing, the commodities arena in recent years has represented a landscape in which “investors” and other players hunting for good (acceptable, sufficient) “returns” (“yields”) avidly foraged and bought. Sustained falls in commodity prices in general probably will link to (confirm) price slumps in both advanced and emerging marketplace stocks.
Recall past financial crises in the past few decades in emerging (developing) nations (for example, Mexico; “Asian” financial crisis) and other important countries (Russia; Greece and several other Eurozone countries) which substantially influenced marketplace trends in more advanced nations. The “Mexican Peso” crisis emerged in December 1994, the terrifying “Asian” problem in July 1997. Russia’s calamity began around August 1998. The fearsome Eurozone debt troubles walked on stage in late 2009/2010. The coronavirus pandemic obviously has been a very severe global economic problem which has generated international responses by central bankers, politicians, and others. However, at present, no crisis similar to these various past national or regional ones, and which eventually might significantly affect the “world as a whole”, has spread on a sustained basis substantially beyond local (regional) boundaries. However, given current international inflation and debt trends, traders and policy-makers should not overlook minimize signs of and the potential for a genuine, wide-ranging economic crisis (perhaps sparked or exacerbated by the coronavirus situation).
Nowadays, consider country candidates for such dangers like Brazil, South Africa, Pakistan, and Turkey. For many emerging marketplace nations, their significant economic, political, and social divisions and related internecine conflicts can make it especially difficult for them to solve major economic challenges. After all, America is not the only country with significant internal “culture wars”. Though China’s troubled corporate real estate sector is not a nation, its massive size and influence makes it analogous to one. Those with long memories undoubtedly recall the “surprising” (“shocking”) problem uncovered in the United States housing (and related mortgage securities) marketplace (and other areas) during the 2007-09 worldwide economic disaster. Nowadays, if such a substantial predicament appears and is not quickly contained, it likely will be bearish for stock marketplaces around the globe.
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Emerging Marketplaces, Unveiling Danger (12-2-21)
“I know what gold does to men’s souls,” says a grizzled prospector in the movie, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (John Huston, director)
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
Foreigners hold a massive quantity and substantial share of United States Treasury securities. Such foreign ownership of and trading activity in UST therefore is an important variable for US government interest rate levels and trends, which in turn intertwine with yield elevations and movements in other American debt playgrounds. And of course to some extent, and in various (and sometimes changing) fashions and degrees, given the importance of America within the global economy, UST yields interrelate with and influence yields overseas, as well as assorted currency, stock, and commodity marketplace levels and trends.
Federal Reserve Board (and other key central bank) policy, inflation trends (in America and other major nations), equity adventures (for the S+P 500 and other important advanced nation and emerging marketplace benchmarks), and the strength of the US dollar will influence decisions by current and potential overseas owners of UST. So will numerous other economic as well as political factors such as the America’s November 8, 2016 election and its aftermath.
Many marketplace visionaries focus primarily on the grand total of foreign holdings of United States Treasury securities, ascents and descents in that sum, and that amount’s relative share of US debt outstanding. This indeed can provide observers with helpful information.
Yet in regard to UST ownership by overseas entities, the foreign official and private sectors do not necessarily behave the same way. Sometimes this distinction appears significant enough over time to monitor closely.
Thus concentrating on the grand total of foreign holdings and shifts in that statistic risk overlooking an important pattern which appeared in recent months within those holdings. What is that pattern? The net foreign official holdings have fallen not only as a percentage of overall foreign holdings, but also in absolute levels. This substantial official exodus is important.
Suppose not only that such noteworthy net UST liquidation by the foreign official sector persists, but also that the overseas private sector decides to reduce its net buying significantly, or to become a net seller. All else equal, that will help to push UST yields higher.
Selecting variables regarding as well as presenting explanations (“causes”) for marketplace and other cultural phenomena reflect the subjective viewpoint and rhetoric of the given storyteller. And marketplace history does not necessarily entirely or even partly repeat itself. Net foreign official selling (or net buying) of US Treasury securities of course is not always or the only factor relevant to American stock marketplace trends. Marketplace participants nevertheless should note that sometimes over roughly the past two decades (since 1997), substantial net foreign official selling of UST can be associated with a decline in the S+P 500.
US federal budget deficits indeed have plummeted from their pinnacles reached due to the global economic disaster. But they have not disappeared. And they probably will increase in subsequent years. So looking forward (and all else equal), if substantial net foreign selling of UST by both the foreign official and private groups exists, that will make it increasingly difficult for the American government to finance looming budget deficits. Will this eventually encourage UST yield rises? Perhaps the US public will help to fill the deficit financing gap, but it may take higher rates (better real returns) than currently exist to inspire them.
A DELUGE OF DEBT
“‘A Ti-tan iv Fi-nance,’ said Mr. Dooley, ‘is a man that’s got more money thin he can carry without bein’ disordherly. They’se no intoxicant in th’ wurruld, Hinnissy, like money.’” (Finley Peter Dunne’s “Mr. Dooley” commenting “On Wall Street”; spelling as in the original)
There are various measures of US federal (national) indebtedness. Also, reports regarding breakdowns in debt ownership at times vary in their presentation. But regardless of the analytical perspective embraced, foreign ownership of UST is substantial in absolute and percentage of debt terms.
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Running for Cover- Foreign Official Holdings of US Treasury Securities (10-13-16)
In love and commerce, taking implies giving. On Valentine’s Day and throughout the year, undoubtedly the prudent Federal Reserve remembers the benefits of having and needs of both debtors and creditors. This regulatory chaperone surely would declare that they passionately strive to perform their very best (do what’s most reasonable according to their interpretation of their regulatory duties) for all parties concerned. Besides, they must balance competing interests. Besides again, the Fed has a long run horizon. The Fed’s recent policies nevertheless imply not only an ethics of inflation, but also manifest somewhat greater affection for debtors than creditors.
Japan’s general government gross debt as a percent of its GDP is gigantic, at 241.0 percent for 2012 (IMF, Fiscal Monitor Update, Table 1, 1/24/12). This dwarfs America’s 107.6pc and the Euro area’s 91.1pc. Japan’s general government debt has been huge for several years. How does it keep financing this massive total? And if Japan can keep doing it, doesn’t America really have a lot of room to go (and time to wait)?
Japan may have more domestic savings than America, or be more of a nation of savers from an overall cultural perspective. Japan has run a current account surplus for quite some time, in direct contrast to the bulging United States current account deficit. (See the September 2011 World Economic Outlook, Statistical Appendix, Table A10.)
However, Japan’s ability to accumulate and finance its big general government deficit also may be due to its more favorable treatment of creditors. And despite low interest rates! Creditors of the Japanese government have earned, and have earned for quite some time, a net positive return due to deflation alongside low government interest rates.
So how long will the Fed and US Treasury get away with offering negative (or very low) real returns on US government debt?
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Sweet Talking, Slick Banking- Federal Reserve Policy (2-14-12)