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 TRAVELS: POTENTIAL BUMPS IN THE ROAD ©Leo Haviland April 2, 2024

The Federal Reserve Chairman (Jerome Powell) recently stated that the path to the Fed’s two percent inflation target was “sometimes bumpy”. (Remarks at the 3/29/24 “Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy Conference”, San Francisco Fed; see Financial Times, 3/30/24, p1)

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STARTING POINTS

Since around end December 2023, global inflationary forces probably have become stronger (or at least more firmly entrenched). Note the increase in the United States Treasury 10 year note yield and prices for commodities “in general” since then. Recent consumer price index measures, despite having fallen from their peaks, remain fairly distant from the Federal Reserve Board’s targets. The Fed therefore will find it difficult to reduce its Federal Funds policy rate nearly as much as many marketplace participants hope. The US dollar has remained strong, appreciating slightly since year end 2023; this suggests that American interest rate yields probably will remain rather high. America’s substantial national debt problems remain unsolved (as does China’s), with little prospect of progress anytime soon. Ongoing large federal government budget deficits and high and growing debt as a percentage of GDP tend to boost interest rate yields higher. 

Many times over the past century, significantly increasing United States interest rate yields have preceded a major peak, or at least a noteworthy top, in key stock marketplace benchmarks such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S+P 500. Marketplace opinions regarding substantial growth in US corporate earnings prospects for calendar years 2024 and 2025 look very optimistic. Whereas the S+P 500’s towering bull move carried into March 2024, US existing single-family home prices remain beneath their June 2023 peak. 

The US national political scene in general and election season 2024 in particular add to financial marketplace risks. 

Bitcoin and gold trends offer insight into patterns and prospects for other marketplaces, including the S+P 500. 

US INFLATION AND INTEREST RATES: RISKY BUSINESS

In the classic American film, “All About Eve” (Joseph Mankiewicz, director), the actress Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) declares: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” 

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The Wall Street securities investment communities and their political and media allies have applauded lower United States inflation rates. Widespread faith exists that the trusty Federal Reserve will achieve its two percent inflation target fairly soon. Stock owners have been especially enthusiastic as the S+P 500 has flown to new highs in the hopes of further drops in key inflation measures and notable cuts by the Federal Reserve in the Fed Funds rate. 

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Marketplace Travels- Potential Bumps in the Road (4-2-24)

LONG RUN HISTORICAL ENTANGLEMENT: US INTEREST RATE AND STOCK TRENDS © Leo Haviland July 6, 2023

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” “Requiem for a Nun” (Act 1, Scene 3), by William Faulkner

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

Many times over the past century, significantly increasing United States interest rates have preceded a major peak, or at least a noteworthy top, 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. The arithmetical (basis point) change has not always been large. Sometimes the yield advance has extended past the time of the stock pinnacle. 

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The US Treasury 10 year note yield established a major bottom at .31 percent on 3/9/20. Its sustained yield increase thereafter, and especially from 8/4/21’s 1.13 percent, helped lead to the major high in the S+P 500 on 1/4/22 at 4819. After an extended span of engaging in yield repression (and money printing), the Federal Reserve finally recognized that inflation was not a temporary or transitory phenomenon and began raising rates. The timing of a critical interim UST 10 year note yield high, 6/14/22’s 3.50 percent, extended well the stock marketplace peak, as did the UST’s second summit at 4.34 percent on 10/21/22. Arguably, an only gradual reduction of yield repression while immersed in an inflationary environment was one factor for the extensive duration of the yield increase after the S+P 500’s January 2022 crest. In any event, the S+P 500 tumbled sharply in its bear trend, reaching a major bottom on 10/13/22 at 3492, close in time the UST’s high (as well as the autumn 2022 peak in the US dollar). For a bear trend from the long run historical perspective, that nine and one-half months and 27.5 percent decline in the S+P 500 was modest in time and distance terms. 

The S+P 500’s rally since October 2022’s valley has carried it to within about 7.5 percent of its glorious January 2022 summit. Given the historic pattern in which UST yield increases “lead” to peaks in key American stock benchmarks such as the S+P 500, do signs of a noteworthy rising yield trend exist on the interest rate front? Yes. 

First, the UST 10 year note made several interim lows around 3.30 percent in first half 2023, with yields escalating moderately from 4/6/23’s 3.25 percent. The subsequent UST 10 year high since then is 7/6/23’s 4.08 percent (as of 1200 noon EST on 7/6/23). In addition, the existence of only a modest yield decline from October 2022’s 4.34pc high indicates that the pattern of rising UST 10 year note (and other UST) yields which emerged in March 2020 and accelerated thereafter probably remains intact. Also, core inflation remains persistently above the targets of the Fed and other central bankers. US unemployment remains low. The Fed and other leading central bank luminaries have hinted strongly at further increases in policy rates, and they appear determined (in the absence of an economic crisis) to maintain their tightening schemes for an extended time period. Such boosts in the Federal Funds level (and thus in short term UST instruments) probably will push the UST 10 year yield higher. Moreover, monumental long run federal debt problems confront America; all else equal, huge credit demand tends to boost interest rates. 

In addition, the UST 10 year note’s major yield bottom in March 2020 began from a peak around fifteen percent almost 40 years before, in 1981. That seemingly ancient UST yield history does not mandate the development of a substantial yield increase over a very long time span for the ensuing vista commencing in 2020. However, by comparison, a yield increase of about four percent in about two and one-half years, from March 2020 to October 2022, is moderate but not extraordinary, especially given the Fed’s yield repression history (and related money printing) and the developing (and current) inflationary situation. From this perspective, an eventual climb in the UST 10 year note yield above October 2022’s 4.34 percent high is probable. 

Therefore, the pattern of rising UST 10 year note yields likely is leading to another peak in the S+P 500. This stock marketplace peak probably will occur relatively soon, probably within the next few weeks or months. However, even if the S+P 500 continues to climb, it probably will not exceed its January 2022 peak by much if at all. 

Why might the S+P 500 remain fairly strong in the near term? First, the UST 10 year yield increase since April 2023 has been only moderate. Moreover, in America, and in general for other advanced nations, government yields relative to consumer price inflation remain low or negative. Also, US corporate earnings optimism for 4Q2023 and thereafter is strong. In addition, we live in a nominal world, and quoted stock prices obviously belong in that realm. Real GDP growth can be disappointing. However, all else equal, rising nominal GDP, increasing money supply, and higher nominal prices for goods and services in general will tend to be reflected in higher nominal corporate earnings and stock prices. Stock share buybacks have been substantial. US consumer confidence is fairly high (June 2023 at 109.7, 1985=100; Conference Board). Sales prices of existing single-family homes, after peaking in June 2022, have rallied since January 2023 (National Association of Realtors). 

The UST 10 year yield currently is challenging 3/2/23’s 4.09 percent interim high. That perhaps will be sufficient to notably weaken the S+P 500. However, the UST 10 year note yield probably will need to approach or exceed 10/21/22’s 4.34 percent top to induce a very substantial fall in the S+P 500.

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Long Run Historical Entanglement- US Interest Rate and Stock Trends (7-6-23)-1

WALL STREET MARKETPLACES: FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS © Leo Haviland December 5, 2022

In the classic American film, “All About Eve” (Joseph Mankiewicz, director), the actress Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) declares: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

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OVERVIEW

In general, from around the beginning of calendar 2022 until mid-October, as American and other key global government interest rates continued to rise (enlist the United States Treasury note as a benchmark), the S+P 500 (and other advanced nation and emerging marketplace stock playgrounds) declined. Growing fears regarding substantial and persistent consumer price (and other) inflation by the Federal Reserve and its central banking allies and the linked policy response of raising Federal Funds and similar rates played key roles in the yield climbs and stock price falls. Bear trends for other “search for yield” assets such as corporate bonds and United States dollar-denominated emerging marketplace corporate debt converged with those of the S+P 500 and emerging marketplace stocks. Commodities “in general” (“overall”) of course do not always trade “together” in the same direction around the same time as the S+P 500. Nevertheless, in broad brush terms since around late first quarter 2022, their downward price and time trends converged. A very strong US dollar encouraged the relationships of higher US Treasury yields, descending stock prices, and eroding prices for commodities “in general”.

However, the US 10 year note yield achieved an important high on 10/21/22 at 4.34 percent. Using the Federal Reserve Board’s nominal Broad Dollar Index as a weathervane, the dollar peaked at 128.6 on 9/27/22 and 10/19/22. The S+P 500 established a trough in its bear trend with 10/13/22’s 3492. Based on the S+P GSCI, commodities in general attained an important low on 9/28/22 at 591.8, holding at 591.1 on 11/28/22. Note the roughly similar times (and thus the convergence) of these marketplace turns, which thereafter reversed, at least temporarily, the preceding substantial trends.

What key changes in central bank policy and marketplace inflation yardsticks encouraged the recent slump in the UST 10 year yield, the depreciation in the US dollar, and the jump in the S+P 500 and the prices of related hunt for yield (adequate return) battlefields? First, various members of the Federal Reserve leadership hinted that future rate increases would slow in extent (be fifty basis points or less rather than 75bp). See the Financial Times summary of officials leaning that way (11/12-13/22, p2). The Fed probably will tolerate a brief recession to defeat inflation, but it (and of course the general public and politicians) likely would hate a severe one. In today’s international and intertwined economy, further substantial price falls (beneath October 2022 lows) in the stock and corporate debt arenas (and other search for yield interest rate territories), and even greater weakness than has thus far appeared in home prices, plus a “too strong” US dollar, are a recipe for a fairly severe recession. Hence the Fed’s recent rhetorical murmurings aim to stabilize marketplaces (and encourage consumer and business confidence and spending) and avoid a substantial GDP drop.

Second, US consumer price inflation for October 2022 stood at “only” 7.7 percent year-on-year. This rate fell short of expectations for that month and declined from heights exceeding eight percent in the several preceding months. This sparked hopes that American (and maybe even global) inflation would continue to decline even more in the future, and that the Federal Reserve and other central bank guardians would engage in less fierce tightening trends.

Of course the Fed policy hints and US consumer inflation statistics do not stand apart from other variables. Might China ease its restrictive Covid-fighting policy, thus enabling the country’s GDP to expand more rapidly?

Trends for commodities in general (employ an index such as the broad S+P GSCI) and the petroleum complex in particular sometimes have diverged substantially for a while from that of the S+P 500. After all, petroleum, wheat, and base metals have their own supply/demand and inventory situations. The broad S+P GSCI has battled to stabilize during autumn 2022 in response to the determined effort by OPEC+ to rally petroleum prices via production cuts. And over the long run, the S+P 500 and commodities tend to trade together. OPEC+’s ability to successfully defend a Brent/North Sea crude oil price around 83 dollars per barrel (nearest futures continuation) depends substantially on interest rate and stock levels and trends, as well as the extent of US dollar strength.

The “too strong” US dollar during calendar 2022 encouraged price declines in assorted search for yield asset classes, including emerging marketplace stocks and debt instruments as well as commodities. The depreciation of the US dollar in the past couple of months thus interrelated with (confirmed) the price rallies in the S+P 500 and other marketplaces. Yet the Federal Reserve probably will remain sufficiently enthusiastic in comparison with other central banks in its fight against inflation, which should tend to keep the dollar strong, even if it stays beneath its calendar 2022 high.

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Investors in (and other owners of) stocks and other search for yield realms and their financial and media friends joyously applauded recent price rallies. However, to what extent will these bullish moves persist?

US consumer price and other key global inflation indicators remain very high relative to current central bank policy rates. Not only does the US CPI-U all items year-on-year percentage increase of 7.7 percent for October 2022 substantially exceed UST 10 year yields over four percent, but so does October 2022’s 6.3 percent year-on-year increase in the CPI-U less food and energy.

Imagine consumer price inflation staying at only 4.5 percent. To give investors a 50 basis point return relative to inflation, the UST 10 year should yield five percent. Thus the Fed will continue to push rates higher in its serious war against excessive inflation, and eventually the rising UST yield pattern probably will reappear eventually, persisting until there are signs of much lower inflation or a notable recession.

Although marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, history reveals that significant climbs in key US interest rate signposts (such as the UST 10 year) tend to precede substantial falls in US stock benchmarks such as the S+P 500. Thus the S+P 500 probably will resume its decline, although it will be difficult for it to breach its October 2022 depth by much in the absence of a sustained global recession. So a return to rising UST rates, all else equal, probably will keep the dollar fairly powerful from the long run historic perspective, although the dollar will find it challenging to surpass its recent high by much (if at all) for very long.

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Wall Street Marketplaces- Fasten Your Seat Belts (12-5-22)

HISTORY ON STAGE: MARKETPLACE SCENES © Leo Haviland, August 9, 2017

“People think of history in the long term, but history, in fact, is a very sudden thing.” Philip Roth’s novel, “American Pastoral”

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OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION

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. Sometimes the yield advance has extended past the time of the stock pinnacle.

The US Treasury 10 year note’s 7/6/16 major bottom at 1.32 percent probably ushered in an extended period of rising rates, which probably will connect with (lead to) a peak in the DJIA and S+P 500. This subsequent upward yield shift is only partly on stage, and so far its entrance has been modest. Despite the massive amount of money printing in recent years by the central banking fraternity, the ultimate extent of the rate increase may not be massive. The yield repression (and quantitative easing) era that began during the dark ages of the global economic disaster has not exited. The heavy hand of central bank yield repression (manipulation) not only was extraordinary, but still looms large.

Yet the Federal Reserve has started to raise the Federal Funds rate modestly and given orations about normalizing policy further by reducing the size of its bloated balance sheet. In recent months, monetary tightening talk relating to some other central banks such as the European Central Bank has increased. Moreover, marketplace “tantrums” involving tumbling equities can result from various intertwined causes, not just central bank wordplay and behavior. Yet worries about a “taper tantrum” involving falling stocks as a result of “tightening” of (reduced laxity in) central bank policy schemes nevertheless also have escalated.

Thus in the current marketplace horizon, not only the reality of somewhat higher government rates, but also (alternatively) the widespread perception of an emerging substantial threat of such (or further) yield climbs (whether induced by central bank policy shifts or otherwise), eventually can help to push stock marketplace benchmarks downhill.

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Lead/lag (convergence/divergence) relationships between marketplace arenas are not written in stone. What role does the broad real trade-weighted US dollar play? History unveils that sometimes a rising TWD accompanies rising stocks, but sometimes it links with falling stocks. Sometimes TWD depreciation connects with climbing stocks, sometimes with slumping equity signposts.

In the current marketplace theater, audiences nevertheless should monitor the broad real trade-weighted US dollar (“TWD”; Federal Reserve, H.10; March 1973=100; monthly average) closely. The TWD provides further insight regarding probabilities of the S+P 500 (and DJIA; and other advanced nation and emerging equity marketplace) trends. Increasing UST yields do not always (necessarily) mandate appreciation of the TWD. The steady depreciation of the broad real-trade weighted United States dollar since around first quarter 2017 currently entangles with the modest ascent in US 10 year Treasury note rates that began in early July 2016.

Given global central bank yield repression (and other easy money policies), arithmetic moves in the UST 10 year government note (and in short term rates) may appear (at least initially) to be rather minor. Also, rising American interest rates (or fears of this) may not be the only source for a stock marketplace tumble. A weakening TWD can assist US stock marketplace weakness, particularly if other factors exist (such as fiscal/budget or other debt troubles, severe cultural divisions, significant political quarrels, and issues regarding the quality of Presidential leadership). The TWD made a major high in December 2016/January 2017 around 102.8. It currently is around 96.8, a 5.8 percent decline. Though this depreciation is not massive, it is significant. Around 96.0 is crucial support; a sustained breach under this level probably will encourage weakness in the S+P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average.

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History on Stage- Marketplace Scenes (8-9-17)