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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US PETROLEUM- TAKING STOCK © Leo Haviland, May 8, 2012

Crude oil streams and various refined products create an array of petroleum supply/demand pictures. Although America of course is not the entire oil universe, a survey of the recent overall United States petroleum inventory scene offers insight into the general petroleum price trend. Also recall the linkage in recent years of major trends between the S+P 500 and the petroleum complex (and commodities “in general”). This analysis of petroleum inventories in context underlines the current bearish trends in petroleum and the S+P 500.

At end March, US oil industry total inventory averages 50.3 days coverage (1996-2011, crude and products combined relative to total product supplied per day for that calendar month, Energy Information Administration inventory data; Strategic Petroleum Reserve stocks not included). End March 2012 days coverage climbed to 58.9 days supply. Not only did this soar more than eight days above average. It established a new record for that calendar month for the 1996- present era. Although the United States economy has been in a recovery for almost three years, these inventories broke beyond March 2009’s 58.2 day summit, achieved in the depths of the worldwide economic crisis and the month of the S+P 500’a major low (3/6/09 at 667).

These high supplies for March 2012 are not a one month aberration. Glance at the previous three months in historical context. From 1996 through end 2011, average total inventory for December is 50.2 days, January 51.0 days, and February 50.0 days. December 2011 ascended to a new record high for that calendar month; its 56.3 days of supply decisively beat 1998’s 55.4 days. What about January 2012? Not only is its 58.9 days coverage about eight days above average. They smash January 2010’s top of 56.8 days (compare January 2009’s lofty 55.8 days). February 2012’s 57.9 days coverage likewise significantly exceeds its calendar month average. Its huge days coverage decisively climbs over the previous stockpile record of 56.9 days achieved in February 2009.

As of 4/27/12 (weekly EIA data), US petroleum industry inventory slipped to around 56.9 days of supply (average daily total product supplied for the most recent four weeks). Total oil industry stocks nevertheless remain ample from the days coverage perspective. Although not a new end April record elevation (2009 was 58.8 days), it still vaults more than five days over end April’s 51.5 days coverage average.

On balance, just-in-case fears regarding petroleum inventory probably are diminishing, and will continue to do so for a while longer. A bear trend in petroleum prices probably also will interrelate with attitudes regarding just-in-case inventory management. If prices are dropping, why worry quite so much about supplies, right? ****

Analysis of NYMEX noncommercial petroleum positions indicates they probably reached a peak recently. Liquidation by net noncommercial longs probably has helped to move oil prices lower and probably will continue to do so.

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this market essay as a PDF file.
Petroleum- Taking Stock (5-8-12)
NYMEX Crude Oil (5-8-12)


The Federal Reserve and other central banking all-stars around the globe have teamed up. In varying fashions, and frequently led by the Fed, they vigorously practice accommodative strategies to tackle economic weakness and to spark and sustain economic recovery.

The Fed’s trusty playbook, for example, currently insists on the wisdom of keeping policy (Federal Funds) interest rates pinned to the floor. Much of the UST yield curve offers negative returns relative to inflation. The Fed thus deliberately encourages some American and other yield hunters to avoid, diversify away from, or leave US Treasury debt in search of better returns elsewhere. Many other central banks link arms with the Fed under the low interest rate banner.

Thus many players race into or cart more funds into other debt arenas.

Keep focusing primarily on America for a moment. Those yearning for return trot into domains beyond the interest rate one. If US government yields are going to stay at exceptionally low levels into 2014, why not give stocks an even closer look! Besides, even though not all equities pay dividends, some do. The unending search for yield (return) inspires pilgrims to venture into (or more robustly into) stock marketplaces (use the S+P 500 as a benchmark). Also, surely people have not forgotten the anthem that US stocks are an excellent long run investment.

What are investment, speculation, and gambling? In stocks, interest rates, real estate, and elsewhere, investment rhetoric encourages and often persuades people to embrace a given investment perspective and to act accordingly. Since investment generally is associated with notions such as reasonableness, prudence, and goodness, many people race to be investors (join some investment team) and wear the honored investment crown. And those promoting particular financial instruments compete fiercely to attach an investment label of some sort on what they want others to buy and hold. Thus in recent years, the commodity world has found numerous cheerleaders for concepts that commodities (“in general”) are (can be) an investment, an alternative investment, or an asset class. Think also of the potential diversification benefits for your portfolio of stocks and interest rate holdings. In any event, various assorted commodity investment advocates have won quite a few victories for their ownership cause.

Suppose groundskeeping central bankers mow down the yields of government securities to very low nominal levels (and especially suppose those returns are negative relative to inflation). Those central bankers thereby encourage “investors” in government debt (and those with deposits at bank and money market funds) to seek “investment” returns elsewhere. So why not entertain commodities as a marvelous investment buying opportunity?

FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW to download this market essay as a PDF file.
Commodity Playgrounds- Chasing Returns (2-21-12)