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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Prince sings in “Let’s Go Crazy”:
“Dearly beloved, we have gathered here today
To get through this thing called life.”
The Federal Reserve Board and its central banking comrades obviously are not omnipotent. They also are not scientifically objective in their definitions, perspectives, methods, arguments, and conclusions. Neither is the Fed (its policies) the only important variable influencing inflation levels and patterns in America and elsewhere. Many intertwined phenomena in the United States and around the globe, including massive government deficit spending, matter.
Yet given the Federal Reserve’s success with its yield repression strategy (and its quantitative easing/money printing scheme), many observers have great confidence in the central bank’s insight, foresight, and talent for creating and managing “good” United States (and global) economic outcomes. These desirable results include not only adequate US economic growth and stable prices, but also bullish stock marketplace (use the S+P 500 as the benchmark) and home price moves.
The Fed’s long-running marketplace maneuvers, and especially its yield repression policy, have helped to create a culture strongly oriented (married, metaphorically speaking) to the existence and persistence of low Federal Funds and United States Treasury rates. In general, stock owners and securities issuers (corporations and sovereigns), as well as Wall Street enterprises who serve and profit from them, love low interest rates.
“Inflation” (deflation; stable prices) appears in various diverse economic arenas. The Fed itself and the great majority of Fed watchers on Wall Street and Main Street believe the Fed will achieve its praiseworthy goal of stable prices. Thus inflation will not climb “too high” or go “out of control”. Similarly, benchmark US Treasury interest rates also will not increase “too much” (“too far”; or “too fast”).
Since the coronavirus pandemic emerged during first quarter 2020, as part of its highly accommodative monetary policy, the Federal Reserve has purchased a huge quantity of US Treasury securities (as well as agency mortgage-backed securities). This extraordinary and ongoing net acquisition program has assisted its effort to ensure low marketplace yields. But observers should examine the Fed’s UST purchasing process and its consequences in more depth. It has significantly increased the Fed’s already sizable percentage share of the outstanding marketable (and held by the public) UST world. This noteworthy jump in the Fed’s arithmetic and percentage market share holdings of UST probably therefore has decreased the “free supply” (readily available inventory) of UST. Despite accelerating US inflation in recent months, the large reduction in the free supply of marketable UST probably has helped to keep benchmark UST yields (such as for the 10 year UST note) low.
“American Inflation and Interest Rates: Painting Pictures” (5/4/21) stressed that American “inflation” in the general sense of the term (and even if one excludes the asset price territory of the S+P 500 and homes) is more widespread and less well-anchored than the Federal Reserve Board and armies of its devoted followers (especially investment sects and the financial advisors and media who assist them) believe.
Acceleration in assorted American inflation signposts has occurred in recent months. This probably shows that Fed programs have played, and continue to perform, a critical role in enabling US inflation to rise sharply. Though inflation in measures such as the Consumer Price Index is not yet “out of control”, the Fed at present has less control over this upward trend. Recent significant increases in key inflation benchmarks such as the CPI are not “transitory”. Despite the Fed’s dogmatic adherence to its yield repression approach, the Fed’s various current policies and its related rhetoric will find it very challenging to contain the increasing inflationary pressures.
Rising inflation will force the Fed to taper its ravenous US Treasury and mortgage securities buying program, and gradually abandon its longstanding tenacious yield repression strategy, sooner than it currently desires and plans. Despite the Fed’s yield repression, money printing, and wordplay (including forward guidance), America’s widespread, persistent, and growing inflation severely challenges faith in the Fed’s long run power to block significantly higher interest rates. The Federal Funds rate and UST yields (including those on the shorter end of the yield curve) probably will have to increase faster and further than the Fed shepherd currently wants and predicts. UST yields will resume their long run upward path. Sustained ascending American inflation has a strong likelihood of undermining and reversing bullish price trends in various “search for yield” marketplaces such as stocks.
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Financial Fireworks- Accelerating American Inflation (7-3-21)
“Crawlin’ from the wreckage, Crawlin’ from the wreckage
You’d think by now at least that half my brain would get the message…
Nothin’ ever happened ain’t happened before
I see it all through flashes of depression”. “Crawling from the Wreckage”, a Dave Edmunds song
“We’ve not seen anything of the sort before, that’s all. Personally, I find it interesting, yes, definitely interesting.” A character in Albert Camus’ novel “The Plague” (Part I)
Everyone knows that the coronavirus pandemic and political (medical) responses to it have wreaked widespread and deep economic carnage around the globe. The coronavirus of course was not the only bearish phenomenon preceding and influencing the disastrous economic situation. The ultimate extent of the damage and the timing and extent of the recovery remain conjectural.
Given the importance of the United States to the international economy, both Wall Street and Main Street spend much attention and energy focusing on America. Widely-watched American stock indices such as the S+P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average are benchmarks which to some extent probably reflect the overall health of and potential for the American economy. Thus in the current situation, levels and trends for these American equity marketplaces attract and sustain international fascination.
To many, the biological (medical) problem of the coronavirus makes it a poster child for the viewpoint that “this time is different” in its consequences for economic (financial, commercial) trends and outcomes. Obviously, disease playing a critical role in a terrible downturn is very rare. Yet economic history (including recessions and bear and bull trends in stock marketplaces) involves all sorts of “causes” with supply and demand consequences, so observers should not neglect or dismiss past periods as being unimportant to an analysis of the current economic situation. So arguably there are parallels between prior marketplace history and that of nowadays, even if “the past” did not involve a deadly virus.
Wall Street, politicians, and Main Street pray that the monumental monetary interventions by central banks such as the Federal Reserve and its partners (money printing and so forth) and dramatic fiscal actions not only will rescue the international economy from its current dire troubles (reduce the magnitude of a recession), but also will restore acceptable economic growth relatively quickly. The prior success in dealing with the appalling worldwide economic disaster of 2007-09 encourages widespread faith that these (and perhaps further) efforts and a “whatever it takes” policy attitude ultimately will succeed.
Recall the glorious bull move in the S+P 500, sparked by sustained monetary easing (money printing; yield repression) and deficit spending, which ran for over ten years since 3/6/09’s major bottom at 667. Perhaps US stocks over some long run horizon (or even sooner) even will achieve new record highs!
But maybe this time will be different for the global economy and stocks in comparison with the years following from the 2007-09 bloodbath. A satisfactory recovery (including moderate unemployment levels) may be very difficult to achieve anytime soon, even if more easing and deficit spending occur.
The S+P 500’s fearful collapse from 3394 on 2/19/20 to 3/23/20’s 2192 was 35.4 percent and lasted just over a month. Following its March low, the S+P 500 ferociously rallied 28.6 percent in two weeks to 2819 (4/9/20). A review of previous major bear trends for the US stock marketplace going back in time about 125 years does not show a single trend which ended in one month. Will this time be different?
Will the extraordinarily accommodative policies of the Federal Reserve and its central banking comrades (assisted by gargantuan global deficit spending) make this time different, so that the bear trend for American stocks which commenced in mid-February 2020 endures only one month? Or, will instead the 3/23/20 S+P 500 low eventually be broken?
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Crawling from the Wreckage- US Stocks (4-13-20)