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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The world’s long-running economic crisis of course has not limited itself to either one nation or one region. However, at its outset in 2007, most did not anticipate the scope or length of the disaster. Weren’t potential risks to the international economy rather modest? Weren’t issues related to the United States real estate marketplace mostly relevant only to that domain and that nation, and likely to be restricted to them? Yet substantial debt and leverage (and other intertwined issues) and their consequences were not confined either to American territory or the real estate playground.

The recent Eurozone chapters of this terrible trouble supposedly started with so-called peripheral nations such as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland. Countries such as Greece indeed first captured headlines. However, that does not demonstrate that causes of Eurozone problems necessarily started only in them. In any event, “difficulties on the periphery” engulfed the rest of Europe and traveled around the globe.

Despite broad concerns regarding worldwide economic problems and risks, despite the widespread past and current fascination with the European scene, suppose one focuses on aspects of the American stage, beginning with some highlights involving the United States alongside Canada and Mexico in the foreign exchange context. This survey of America and its geographic neighbors underlines the weakness of the United States dollar and the size of America’s fiscal troubles. This suggests the merit of inquiring into US currency, stock, interest rate, and commodity marketplace past and future relationships in the context of Federal Reserve easing policies and America’s fiscal problems.

The broad real trade-weighted dollar probably will continue to weaken. The dangerous United States fiscal situation probably will not be genuinely fixed in the next several months. A full- fledged threat of a federal fiscal catastrophe likely will be necessary for sufficient progress in that sphere to occur. Though the United States is not the center of the universe, the effects of further dollar feebleness and the worsening of the country’s fiscal crisis will radiate worldwide.

The S+P 500 has made or soon will make a significant peak.

Thus the emerging (current) story and trend appears to be: weaker dollar (TWD), weaker S+P 500, and higher government rates (UST 10 year benchmark). This vision admittedly is dramatically different from the current popular faith in these marketplace relationships.

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American Marketplaces- At the Crossroads (10-15-12)
Charts- US Dollar v Canadian Dollar, Mexican Peso (10-15-12)

FED FIXATIONS: INTEREST RATES © Leo Haviland September 24, 2012

A key United States interest rate benchmark, the 10 year Treasury note, probably established a major bottom around 1.40 percent in late July 2012.

The Federal Reserve Board’s fixing of the Federal Funds rate at exceptionally low levels admittedly restrains ascents in US government yields. Its benevolent promise and determination to maintain the Funds rate almost flat on the ground until at least mid-2015 encourages faith that government yields generally will remain depressed. Also, heightened flight to quality fears and nervous leaps in recessionary worries may push the 10 year UST challenge back toward or even slightly beneath its July low. The Eurozone crisis, for example, has not disappeared. America’s 2013 federal “fiscal cliff” looms large on the horizon.

However, all else equal, a flood of money printing tends to increase inflation and thus interest rates. And all else equal, cracking or crumbling creditworthiness for a borrower- whether an individual, corporation, or government- tends to boost the interest rate charged that borrower. America nowadays confronts another round of Federal Reserve money printing and has made little headway in resolving its awesome fiscal problems.

The Federal Reserve’s long rumored (fervently hoped for) and recently decreed (9/13/12) third cascade of money printing, QE3, probably will be massive, perhaps over one trillion dollars. Over time, this deluge will help to boost US government (and other) interest rates.

Moreover, given a generous desire to avoid the fiscal cliff and a downturn, Congress probably will continue its huge deficit spending spree. Not only has America become habituated to deficit spending, debt (including personal debt), and assorted forms of entitlement. How many people volunteer nowadays to pay sufficiently more taxes to solve- or at least significantly reduce- near term (as well as long run) national fiscal troubles? For a debtor nation such as America, running substantial budget deficits alongside elevated (and thus expanding) government debt as a percentage of nominal GDP raises the risk of a severe fiscal trial. The arrival of this crisis probably will occur relatively soon rather than at some vague date many years down the road. In any event, this visit will tend to raise US government rates. The US may be an economic fortress, but that does not guarantee that its creditworthiness will be unquestioned or unchallenged. Witness Europe in recent years; also recollect the debt sagas of many emerging marketplaces.

What are key levels for the US Treasury 10 year note? Start at the low end and walk higher.

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Fed Fixations- Interest Rates (9-24-12)
US Treasury 10 Year Note Chart (9-24-12)


The long running bull march in the Japanese Yen from early summer 2007 to the current time generally coincides with a continuing worldwide economic crisis. The Yen’s robust strength mirrors the failure by central bankers and politicians around the globe to cure the lamentable financial ills. National policies often differ. The international guardians frequently coordinate their rescue and stimulus programs. Yet measures such as deficit spending, money printing, efforts to keep government interest rates near the floor, and struggles to maneuver currency rates merely have patched and postponed severe problems, not genuinely repaired them. Worrisome debt and leverage issues revealed in 2007-08 lurk on in various forms.

The rally in the Japanese Yen on an effective exchange rate basis since around July 2011 warns that an acceleration of the worldwide crisis, as in mid-2008, may be underway or very near to commencing. Significantly, the climb in the Yen cross rate versus the US dollar since mid- March 2012 also fits the ongoing international economic weakness story. Recall that as the world economy deteriorated more and more quickly around mid-2008, not only did the US dollar rally on a broad real trade-weighted basis, but also the dollar weakened relative to the Yen. The strong dollar equals weak stocks (and weak commodities in general), weak dollar equals strong equities (and bullish commodities) chant remains popular.

The world and perspectives on it are not immutable, so 2012 does not precisely duplicate 2008. Yet given the experience of 2008, what does a rally by the dollar in general, if accompanied by a rally in the Yen (effective exchange rate), and especially if the Yen also marched higher against the dollar on a cross basis, portend? This would hint that the disturbing international crisis is in the process of becoming more fearful. And since March 2012, that seems to be what has been happening.

The current dangerous situation in the ongoing worldwide economic crisis, if it further worsens (and it probably will worsen to some extent, even if the deterioration is not nearly as severe as in 2008), will be sufficiently severe to induce policy makers around the globe to take further substantial steps in their struggles to provide long-lasting remedies. Perhaps such actions by central bankers and political leaders may occur relatively soon. These may issue from individual nations in somewhat piecemeal fashion. Yet there is a substantial chance that intervention will be relatively coordinated, especially if an encore of second half 2008 looks more and more to be underway.

But in the meantime, for the near term, the Japanese Yen probably will keep rallying on an effective exchange rate basis; it probably will breach the 1/16/12 daily low of 187.5. The Yen likely will retest the Y75 level against the dollar. However, the US dollar (TWD) will remain fairly strong. The bear trend in worldwide equities and commodities in general therefore probably is not over. Renewed sustained weakness in both the Yen and the dollar would indicate an easing of the current stage of the global crisis.

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2008 Revisited- Japanese Yen Strength, Global Economic Weakness (6-4-12)


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?

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Commodity Playgrounds- Chasing Returns (2-21-12)