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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HOME ON THE RANGE: FINANCIAL BATTLEGROUNDS © Leo Haviland April 1, 2023

“Weapons change, but strategy remains strategy, on the New York Stock Exchange as on the battlefield.” Edwin Lefevre, “Reminiscences of a Stock Operator”

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CONCLUSION

In America and many other important countries around the globe, uncertainties and risks regarding numerous intertwined economic and political variables and marketplaces appear especially substantial at present. In particular, inflationary and recessionary (deflationary) forces currently engage in a fierce battle for supremacy.

Monetary tightening by the Federal Reserve Board and its central banking allies has helped to cut lofty consumer price inflation levels. However, inflation remains undefeated. It hovers well above targets aimed at by these noble guardians. Yet in comparison with ongoing high actual consumer price inflation, inflationary expectations for longer run time spans generally have remained moderate. But massive public debt challenges America and many other leading nations nevertheless arguably signal the eventual advent of even higher interest rates. And given the ongoing Russian/Ukraine conflict and an effort by OPEC+ to support prices, how probable is it that petroleum and other commodity prices will ascend again?

Higher interest rates have diminished worldwide GDP growth prospects and raised recessionary fears. But central bankers, Wall Street, Main Street, and politicians do not want a severe recession and will strive to avoid that eventuality.

The United States dollar, though it has depreciated from its major high achieved in autumn 2022, arguably remains “too strong”. However, history shows that a variety of nations elect to engage in competitive depreciation and trade wars to bolster their country’s GDP.

Unemployment in the United States remains low, which helps consumer confidence. Sunny Wall Street rhetoric regarding allegedly favorable long run nominal earnings prospects for American stocks bolsters enthusiastic “search for yield” activity by investors and other fortune-hunters. Yet Fed and other central tightening and economic sluggishness may reverse this healthy unemployment situation and dim corporate earnings prospects. Consumer net worth levels and trends are important in this context. A strong and growing household balance sheet encourages consumer spending and thereby economic growth. Consumers, the major component of American GDP, unfortunately have endured damage to their balance sheet from the fall in the stocks (S+P 500 peak in January 2022) as well as a year-on-year decline in home prices over the past several months. Recent shocking banking collapses in America and Europe hint of fragilities and uncertainties facing diverse economic arenas and the value of their assets.

Persistent fierce partisan conflicts range across numerous economic, political, and other cultural dimensions. This makes it difficult for politicians to compromise (witness America’s federal legislative circus) and thus significantly to alter ongoing marketplace trends and relationships via resolute substantive action.

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Given these contending considerations, critical benchmark financial battlegrounds such as the United States Treasury 10 year note, US dollar, and the S+P 500 for the near term therefore probably will travel sideways for the near term. Price trends for commodities “in general” probably will converge with those of the S+P 500 and other key global stock marketplaces, although occasionally this relationship may display divergence.

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Home on the Range- Financial Battlegrounds (4-1-23)-1

MARKETPLACE RELATIONSHIPS: LIFE DURING WARTIME © Leo Haviland March 7, 2022

In Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel “The War of the End of the World” (Part III, chapter II), the Baron de Canabrava declares: “‘The times are out of joint…Even the most intelligent people are unable to make their way through the jungle we’re living in.’”

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine halted, but did not end, the major trend for rising yields in the United States Treasury marketplace which commenced in March 2020 and accelerated in early August 2021. Despite this “flight to quality” (safe haven) pause, the long run pattern for increasing UST rates eventually will resume. Substantial inflation in America and the OECD relative to recent interest rate levels as well as globally high government (and other) debt levels will propel UST rates upward. Previous essays pointed not only to rising rates for high-quality government debt outside of the United States, as in Germany. A pattern of higher yields in the United States corporate sector as well as in lower quality emerging marketplace sovereign debt appeared. Thus a long run rising yield environment is an international phenomenon.

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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. Marketplace history nevertheless provides guidance regarding the probabilities of future relationships.

“History on Stage: Marketplace Scenes” (8/9/17) and subsequent essays updating it (such as 3/9/21’s “Truth and Consequences: Rising American Interest Rates”, “Financial Marketplaces: Convergence and Divergence Stories” (4/6/21), “American Inflation and Interest Rates: Painting Pictures” (5/4/21), and “Paradise Lost: the Departure of Low Interest Rates” (2/9/22) emphasized: “Marketplace history need not repeat itself, either entirely or even partly. Yet many times over the past century, significantly increasing United States interest rates have preceded a noteworthy peak in key stock marketplace benchmarks such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S+P 500. The yield climb sometimes has occurred over a rather extended time span, and the arithmetical (basis point) change has not always been large.” The US Treasury marketplace has been an important standard for this analysis. The 10 year UST note is a key benchmark.

What about trends for the S+P 500 and other advanced nation stock battlegrounds? Quite some time prior to Russia’s 2/24/22 attack on Ukraine, rising interest rates and tumbling emerging equity marketplaces warned that the S+P 500 probably would fall significantly. “Emerging Marketplaces, Unveiling Dangers” (12/2/21) concluded that “the S+P 500 probably has established a notable top or soon will do so”. “Paradise Lost: the Departure of Low Interest Rates” (2/9/22) stated: “The S+P 500’s stellar high, 1/4/22’s 4819, probably was a major peak; if its future price surpasses that celestial height, it probably will not do so by much.” “The S+P 500 price probably will decline further and establish new lows beneath the January 2022 trough. The development of a bear trend (decline of at least 20 percent) also is probable.”

Significantly, the S+P 500’s 1/4/22 high at 4819 and its initial 12.4 percent correction to 1/24/22’s 4223 preceded Russia’s late February 2022 invasion by several weeks. Thus that attack did not initiate significant S+P 500 weakness. In addition to the rising yields (increasing inflation; as well as lofty debt levels and outlook) and feeble emerging stock marketplaces, arguably high valuations from the historic perspective for the S+P 500 also existed prior to the Russia/Ukraine war. The strong United States dollar prior to the attack also pointed to stock marketplace weakness. The US dollar remains robust. The vicious bull spike in petroleum, wheat, and many other commodities since the invasion further undermines the S+P 500 and related stock domains. Looking forward, the S+P 500 probably will continue to retreat.

As “Paradise Lost” stated, the UST 10 year note yield probably will climb to at least the 2.50 to 3.00 percent range, with a substantial likelihood of achieving a considerably higher summit. The Federal Reserve and other heroic central banking generals probably will not deploy substantial actions to rescue the S+P 500 unless it tumbles around twenty percent or more from a prior pinnacle.

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Marketplace Relationships- Life During Wartime (3-7-22)

EMERGING MARKETPLACES, UNVEILING DANGER © Leo Haviland December 2, 2021

In the film “The Deer Hunter” (Michael Cimino, director), a character asks: “Did you ever think life would turn out like this?”

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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.

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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)

EMERGING MARKETS, COMMODITIES, BITCOIN, AND THE S+P 500: TRAVELS AND SIGNS © Leo Haviland December 3, 2019

The movie “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” (Sydney Pollack, director) depicts a Depression Era dance contest marathon with a noteworthy monetary prize for the winning couple left standing. The master of ceremonies declares: “And believe me, these wonderful kids [the “kids” are all adults] deserve your cheers, because each one of them is fighting down pain, exhaustion, weariness, struggling to keep going, battling to win. And isn’t that the American Way?”

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OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION

Since around first quarter 2018, the price trends in emerging marketplace stocks “in general” and emerging marketplace sovereign debt securities in general have made important highs and lows at roughly the same time. Thus, for example, around year-end 2018, prices (not yields) for sovereign emerging marketplace bonds attained important lows (yields had been rising) alongside troughs in emerging marketplace stocks. United States high-yield corporate bonds have moved in a similar pattern over that time span. Key commodity sectors such as the petroleum complex and base metals likewise have established important highs (lows) around the same time as those in emerging marketplace equities and sovereign debt. The timing of these assorted shifts of course is not always exactly the same, only approximately so. 

Unlike emerging marketplace stocks, during calendar 2018 and calendar 2019, America’s S+P 500 has marched to new highs. Despite this price divergence, many key turns in the interim trends for the S+P 500 occurred “around” the same time as those in emerging marketplace stocks, as well as in emerging sovereign marketplace debt (in both dollar-denominated and local currency arenas), US high-yield corporate bonds, and commodities. 

As the S+P 500 was sinking lower in late 2018, the Federal Reserve Board lifeguard jumped to the rescue and unveiled its monetary “patience” doctrine. It cut the Federal Funds rate three times during calendar 2019. Central banking allies such as the European Central Bank enhanced or maintained existing easy money schemes. Beginning around end-year 2018, this accommodative monetary policy (encouraged by widespread negative yields in advanced nation government debt domains), inspired waves of “investors” (speculators, traders) to hunt, more avidly than ever, for sufficient (good, reasonable, acceptable) “yields” (“returns”) in other provinces. These districts around the globe included emerging marketplace securities, high-yielding corporate debt, and even commodities. 

The exciting cryptocurrency frontier, which includes stars such as Bitcoin, attracts interest from assorted financial pioneers and the economic media (and even central bankers at times). In the opinion of some observers, Bitcoin belongs to some variety of “asset” class. In any case, since “around” first quarter 2018, despite Bitcoin’s wild price adventures, critical turns in its price action have occurred around the same time as in emerging marketplace securities, high-yield US business debt, commodities (petroleum and base metals), and even the S+P 500. 

During 2019, the S+P 500 continued its heavenly climb. Nevertheless, at various points during calendar 2019, emerging marketplace securities, US corporate debt, commodities, and Bitcoin established interim highs and began to retreat. For example, note Brent/North Sea crude oil’s 4/25/19 summit at $75.60 (S+P 500 interim top 5/1/19 at 2954). Thus the run-up in these asset prices which commenced around end calendar 2018/early calendar 2019 probably is over. 

Significantly, emerging marketplace stock, emerging marketplace sovereign debt securities, high-yield US corporate debt, and petroleum and base metals (still “trading together”) renewed their price declines in September 2019. Take a look at Bitcoin too. Given that global economic (and political) spheres intertwine, this pattern signals a top in the S+P 500 and the probability that the S+P 500 (and other advanced nation stock battlefields) will decline alongside (converge with ongoing bearish price patterns in) emerging marketplace securities and related domains such as commodities. 

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The United States dollar, as measured by its broad real effective exchange rate, has remained sufficiently strong to be a factor tending to undermine prices in dollar-denominated emerging marketplace sovereign debt securities as well as dollar-denominated emerging marketplace corporate debt instruments. Rising dollar-denominated yields, especially as the United States dollar generally has remained strong in recent months, tends to push emerging marketplace equity prices lower. Related to this, prices also gradually have fallen since early September 2019 in the US Treasury 10 year note (low yield 1.43 percent on 9/3/19). Also, US corporate earnings have been relatively flat for calendar 2019 year-on-year, suggesting that the joyous tax “reform” enacted at end calendar 2017 is losing power and thus the capability to propel the S+P 500 even higher. Even if America and China agree on a partial trade deal in the near future, will trade conflicts involving them and others disappear? 

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Emerging Markets, Commodities, Bitcoin, and the S+P 500- Travels and Signs (12-3-19)