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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“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)
Everyone knows that money shifts into, within, and between geographic regions and broad financial sectors (stocks, interest rates, foreign exchange, commodities, real estate) sometimes are substantial or even “dramatic”. Price movements and other statistics indicate this. However, seldom is it underlined how gigantic capital marketplaces are.
Would it matter much if American stocks weakened on a sustained basis around ten percent? Such an US equity decline is a noteworthy absolute sum and large from the GDP and net worth perspective as well. US stock marketplace capitalization at end 2010 was $17.3 trillion. Suppose one uses 2011 US GDP at around $15.1tr (Bureau of Economic Analysis; the 2010 level in the IMF table is $14.5tr). A ten percent equity dive equals about 11.5pc of GDP (1.73/15.1 trillion).
Take another view using Federal Reserve data. According to the Federal Reserve’s “Flow of Funds” (Z.1, Tables B.100.e and B.100; 12/8/11, next release 3/8/12) 2Q11’s equity shares for households (and nonprofit organizations) were about $19.2tr. A ten percent equity dive equals around 12.7pc of GDP (1.92/15.1). End February 2012 US stock valuations probably are roughly around that 2Q11 total. A ten pc slump in stocks (using US equities as the benchmark for all stock holdings by US households) of $1.92tr equals around 12.7pc of 2011 nominal GDP (1.92/15.1), or around 3.2 percent of 2Q11’s household net worth of just under $60 trillion (3Q11 $57.4tr is most recent Z.1 information). US end 3Q11 household net worth still remains beneath end 2007’s over $65.1tr.
With consumers around 70 percent of the US economy, the Fed’s assorted accommodative monetary policies during the ongoing worldwide economic crisis that emerged in 2007 have sought to boost (and sustain rallies in) equity prices.
However, what does the fairly strong TWD in 1Q09 versus its April 2008 trough alongside the absence of any significant increase in the percentage of worldwide US dollar holdings over that time span indicate? It strongly suggests that something more may have been going on in (“behind”) these official reserve patterns than the consequences of US dollar appreciation. A reasonable conjecture is that it reflects a determination by developing/emerging nations in general not to expand their exposure to the US dollar. Given the longer run trend of their declining US dollar claims, they even arguably are trying to reduce their US dollar claims regardless of dollar fluctuations.
Note the recent coincidence in time of a bottoming of yields in the “flight to quality” destination. Compare the 10 year government notes of the United States, Germany, and Japan. Recent UST 10 year note lows were 1.67pc on 9/23/11 and 1.79pc on 1/31/12. The Japanese JGB 10 year low was 1/16/12 at .94pc (compare JGB bottoms at .83pc 10/7/10, .44pc 6/11/03, and .72pc 10/2/98). The German 10 year government note valley at 1.64pc on 9/23/11 was the same day as the UST note one. It made another trough at 1.74pc on 1/13/12 (about the time of Japan’s mid January 2012 low), as well as one at end January (1.78pc on 1/31/12; compare US 10 year).
Suppose there is some inflation, and that low nominal yields result in very low real (or even negative) yields. In the absence of another round of flight to quality concerns, how eager will official and private players be to own (or at least to be substantial net purchasers going forward) of government debt of these nations?
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Cash and Capital Caches (3-6-12)