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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“Big boss man, can’t you hear me when I call?” “Big Boss Man” (Al Smith and Luther Dixon), performed by Elvis Presley, the Grateful Dead, and others
OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION
The United Kingdom’s recent shocking referendum vote to leave the European Union not only sparked ferocious marketplace fluctuations. It did not merely underscore ongoing and widespread unease regarding mediocre economic growth and insufficient inflation in many nations inside and outside of Europe.
Brexit also highlighted previously existing and growing fears among many global economic and political elites (“the establishment”) and their disciples about increasing “populism” and its potential consequences. These worries extend beyond the troubles of the European Union and the Eurozone and nervousness regarding their fracturing or break-up. The British departure outcome probably inflamed populist ambitions in other countries. In any case, substantial divisiveness and partisan fervor are not confined to Europe or the United States. See “America: a House Divided” (12/7/15).
The “establishment”, like “populism”, is diverse rather than monolithic. Even among the advanced OECD nations such as the United States and those seeking to emulate them, it is not the same everywhere. Mainstream political parties and their economic agendas are not precisely identical, even though such different groups (such as Democrats and Republicans) can belong to the same establishment. What is an establishment (or populist or other anti-establishment) view can change over time.
Different cultures of course will have leaders, but their particular “establishment” ideologies may be significantly and perhaps dramatically different. The current Chinese establishment’s guiding faith in part overlaps with (resembles) but nevertheless is not identical to the creed prevailing in the United States establishment. Or, compare a primitive rural culture and that of a modern Western industrial nation.
However, as a rough and admittedly simplified guideline, one can summarize the ruling Western economic ideology of the post-World War Two period. It is a “capitalism” that in principle generally adores free (open) markets for goods and services, free trade, and free movement of capital, as well as (subject to immigration concerns) fairly free movement of people. Such economic goals (and political and social gospels related to them) are labeled and valued as good and desirable by the so-called establishment. Often they are honored as being rational, reasonable, intelligent, sensible, and prudent. In the post-World War Two span, these good outcomes have intertwined with globalization, which the elites (power structure), likewise generally (on balance) bless. Therefore these authorities view populism, at least to the extent it endangers such good capitalism and the related “structure (arrangement) of things”, as generally bad (or less good; inferior).
The establishment responded to the British outcome with passionate rhetoric. The dangers of supposedly overly left-wing or right-wing movements, or excessively nationalistic or protectionist ones, or fringe or radical groups must be handled somehow, right? Or so such currently empowered elites advise audiences.
Leading central banks and regulators such as the European Central Bank, Federal Reserve Board, Bank of England, and International Monetary Fund of course stress their devotion to their assorted mandates. Indeed their noble quest to secure praiseworthy aims such as stable prices (sufficient inflation), maximum employment, and economic growth are on behalf of “all of us”. Yet such loosely-defined legislative directives in practice provide these economic high priests wide scope for their interpretation.
In practice, central bankers, even if widely-revered, generally reflect the key economic and political doctrines and ambitions of traditional (current establishment) leaders. And “populism”, though one cannot define it scientifically, though its historical and current international appearance is not everywhere the same, still can “shake the existing economic and political situation and its institutional structures up a lot”. And such resulting uncertainty and disruption (and especially big changes) on balance would be bad (or at least not very good), right? So the Brexit vote was a bad (undesirable and unfortunate) outcome. Populist pressure, especially if it involved challenging the independence of central banks, might even make it more difficult for central bankers to achieve their beloved mandates. Leading central banks nowadays consequently want to preserve the basic structure and trends of the post-World War Two world “order”, to preclude revolutionary or even mildly substantial changes in it.
Therefore, the British “Leave” vote and its aftermath probably will encourage various leading central banks such as the Fed, ECB, Bank of England, and their allies to battle even more fiercely than before against populist menaces. Continued sluggish growth (or a recession), rising unemployment, or a renewed sovereign or private sector debt crisis (whether in Europe or around the globe), would inflame populist ardor, particularly given anger over widespread economic inequality. The central banks therefore likely will sustain existing highly accommodative policies such as yield repression and money printing for longer than previously anticipated, perhaps expanding them “if necessary”.
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Populism and Central Banks (7-12-16)
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)
Not only does recent Middle East political turmoil flood the news. Actual supply interruptions, as well as conjectural ones, of course influence petroleum and other trading and hedging behavior.Increasing petroleum consumption in non-OECD (developing) nations, though it is challenging to measure, is a bullish factor. There’s probably been a shift within the petroleum industry from a rather confident “just-in-time” orientation to a more fearful “just-in case” bias regarding preferred levels of inventory holding. Moreover, keep in mind the continued bullish effects of the weak United States dollar, low policy interest rates in America and many other OECD nations, noteworthy quantitative easing (money printing), and the global economic recovery story in general and associated rallies in stock marketplaces. Moreover, to many soothsayers onWall Street and beyond, commodities (particularly petroleum) are a new asset class. This faith inspires “alternative investment” (buy and hold for the long run) in that universe, thus tightening petroleum free supply and pushing prices higher.
By around calendar 1996, US petroleum statistics suggest a move to lower inventory holdings in days coverage terms, probably at least due to widespread faith in the appropriateness of just-in-time inventory management.
So the longer that US (and OECD) holdings such as those of March 2011 remain high relative to the 1996-10 period, the more it seems that there has been a partial shift (by at least some industry members) to a just-in-case approach. Given what may happen in the oil world, why not hold a bit more around “than usual”. Players may grab an three or four days extra now relative to just-in-time needs, as versus say 10 or more days in the distant past.
Both the 2008 and 1987 eras hint that any major (final) high in the petroleum complex will be fairly near in time (within a few months, either before or after) one in United States equities.
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Inside the Petroleum Jungle (Desperate Housewives, Episode 10)