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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In “Satisfaction”, The Rolling Stones sing: “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW
“Economic” confidence and satisfaction levels and trends interrelate with patterns of and anticipations regarding “economic” performance. These variables entangle with and influence price trends in stocks and other financial marketplaces. Thus consumer (Main Street) confidence and similar measures can confirm, lead (or lag), or be an omen for future movements in GDP, inflation, the S+P 500, interest rates, and so on.
Declines in American economic confidence in recent times confirm deterioration in the nation’s (and global) economic condition. The severity of those confidence slumps probably warns of further ongoing economic challenges in the future. These looming difficulties include not only the perpetuation of relatively high inflation for quite some time, but also slowing and perhaps even falling GDP growth. Since America is a leading economic nation in the intertwined global economy, what happens there substantially influences and reflects economic performance elsewhere.
Regarding and within cultural fields, definitions, propositions, interpretations, arguments, and conclusions are subjective (opinions). So-called “economic” (financial, commercial, business) arenas and analysis regarding them are not objective (scientific). In any case, as they are cultural phenomena, economic realms are not isolated from “political” and “social” ones. They interrelate with them, and sometimes very substantially.
Evidence of substantial (and in recent times, increasing) “overall” (including but not necessarily limited to political or economic) dissatisfaction within America are not unique to that country. However, since overall and political measures of declining confidence within and regarding the United States both include and extend beyond the economic battleground, at present they consequently probably corroborate current and herald upcoming economic troubles (economic weakness; still rather lofty inflation) for the US.
Marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, either entirely or even partly. Relationships between marketplaces and variables can change, sometimes dramatically. Nevertheless, keep in mind that if prices for assorted “search for yield (return)” marketplaces such as stocks (picture the S+P 500) and lower-grade debt can climb “together” (roughly around the same time), they also can retreat together.
“Runs for cover” in recent months increasingly have replaced “searches for yield” in the global securities playground by worried “investors” and other nervous owners. Price declines in American and other stock marketplaces have interrelated with higher yields for (price slumps in) corporate debt securities and emerging marketplace sovereign US dollar-denominated notes and bonds.
The devastating price collapse in Bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies surely has dismayed many yield-hunters on Main Street.
Declines in American confidence and satisfaction assist and confirm the price falls in recent months in the S+P 500 and other “search for yield” playgrounds such as corporate and low-grade sovereign debt. Thus confidence destruction has interrelated with capital destruction (loss of money) by “investors” and other owners) in stock and interest rate securities marketplaces. From the historical perspective, slumps in as well as very low levels for some of the confidence (“happiness”; optimism) indicators probably signal further price drops in the S+P 500 and interconnected search for yield marketplaces.
The beloved Federal Reserve and its central banking friends finally recognized that consumer price inflation is not a temporary or transitory phenomenon and have elected to raise policy rates (end, or at least reduce, yield repression) and shrink their bloated balance sheets. Yet inflation probably will not drop significantly for some time. Besides, how much faith exists that the Federal Reserve will (or can) control and even reduce consumer price inflation anytime soon? How much trust should we place in the Fed’s abilities? The Fed helped to create inflation (and not just in consumer prices, but also in assets) via its sustained massive money printing and ongoing yield repression, and the Fed did not quickly perceive the extent and durability of consumer price inflation.
Long run history shows that significantly rising American interest rates for benchmarks such as the US Treasury 10 year note lead to bear marketplaces in the S+P 500.The US stock marketplace has declined significantly since its January 2022 peak. Home price appreciation, a key factor pleasing many consumers, probably will decelerate, and perhaps even cease. The Ukraine/Russia war continues to drag on. Despite recent declines from lofty heights, prices for commodities in general remain elevated from the pre-war perspective. Global government debt is substantial, and fearsome long-run debt problems for America and many other countries beckon. American and international GDP growth has slowed. Stagflation and even recession fears have increased. The coronavirus problem, though less terrifying, has not disappeared.
Therefore many American Main Street confidence indicators probably will decline, or at least remain relatively weak, over at least the next several months.
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We Can't Get No Satisfaction- Cultural Trends and Financial Marketplaces (7-13-22)
In the movie, “The Hustler” (Robert Rossen, director), a character stresses: “Look, you wanna hustle pool, don’t you? This game isn’t like football. Nobody pays you for yardage. When you hustle you keep score real simple. The end of the game you count up your money. That’s how you find out who’s best. That’s the only way.”
During the era of sustained global yield repression engineered by America’s trusty Federal Reserve Board and its central banking comrades, “investors” and other traders generally have engaged in enthusiastic hunts for adequate return (“yield”) in assorted financial fields. These territories include United States and other stocks, US corporate bonds, lower-grade foreign dollar-denominated sovereign debt, and commodities “in general”.
Convergence and divergence (lead/lag) relationships between realms such as the S+P 500, American corporate debt, and the petroleum complex are a matter of subjective perspective. The connections and patterns are complex and not necessarily precise; they can shift or even transform. Nevertheless, within this accommodative policy yield environment, often involving monumental money printing (quantitative easing) strategies and other generous monetary schemes, price trends in the S+P 500 and these other marketplaces frequently have been similar. Prices in these benchmark stock indices, lower-grade interest rate instruments, and commodities often have risen (or fallen) at roughly the same time They have climbed in bull markets (and fallen in bear markets) “together”. For example, the magnificent bull moves for US stocks and these “related” financial areas peaked in early to mid-first quarter 2020. Their subsequent bloody bear crashes intertwined, ending at around the same time. The ensuing price rallies in these assorted key districts generally embarked around late March 2020, and their subsequent bullish patterns thereafter interrelated. The S+P 500’s attained its record high on 9/2/20 at 3588.
“Marketplace Maneuvers: Searching for Yield, Running for Cover” (9/7/20) concluded: “various phenomena indicate that these marketplaces are at or near important price highs and probably have started to or soon will decline together.” Noteworthy interconnected price falls followed the S+P 500’s September 2020 summit. Even if Congress answers widespread fervent prayers and enacts another large deficit spending (stimulus) package, the S+P 500’s 9/2/20 peak probably will not be broken by much, if at all.
What bearish factors did “Marketplace Maneuvers” identify? They include the probability of a feeble global recovery (the recovery will not be V-shaped), the persistence of the coronavirus problem for at least the next several months, and lofty American stock marketplace valuations (and the substantial risk of disappointing late 2020 and calendar 2021 corporate earnings). The Democrats probably will triumph in the 11/3/20 American national election, which portends a reversal of the corporate tax “reform” legislation as well as the enactment of increased taxes on high-earning individuals and the passage of capital gains taxes. Also on the US national political scene, fears are growing of a political crisis if President Trump disputes the November voting outcome.
Other warning signals of notable price falls in the S+P 500 and various related marketplaces are vulnerable US (and other) households (reduced consumer spending) and endangered small businesses, massive and rising government debt, a greater risk of rising US interest rates (at least in the corporate and low-quality sovereign landscapes) than many believe (even with ongoing Fed yield repression), and the weakness in the US dollar.
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Adventures in Marketland- Hunting for Return (10-6-20)
In the film “Wall Street” (Oliver Stone, director), Gordon Gekko claims: “It’s all about bucks, the rest is conversation.”
DOLLAR DEPRECIATION DANGERS
For many decades, the United States dollar has led the foreign exchange field as the key currency for global trade as well as financial reserves. Over that time span, the greenback’s predominance to a significant extent encouraged, sustained, and reflected widespread (although not unlimited) American and global faith in the wisdom and goodness of American cultural values and the persuasive and practical ability of the nation to be a (and sometimes the) critical guiding force in international affairs. Although the dollar obviously has had numerous extended periods of appreciation and depreciation since the free market currency dealing regime began in the early 1970s, the dollar’s crucial role in the increasingly intertwined global economic system has seldom been significantly questioned or challenged for over an extended period of time. For almost ten years, from its major bottom in July 2011 until April 2020, the overall trend of the dollar in general was bullish.
Therefore few gurus fear a significant depreciation in the US dollar from its relatively lofty April 2020 high. However, the probability of a noteworthy dollar slump is much greater than most believe.
An underlying factor promoting a dollar tumble is the gradually declining share of America as a percentage of world GDP. Also, both political parties, not just the current US Administration, and especially in the coronavirus era, probably want the dollar to weaken from its recent summit. The great majority of the country’s politicians preach their allegiance to a strong dollar, but they also endorse economic growth.
Two additional phenomena make the dollar particularly vulnerable nowadays. First, although many leading nations have increased their government debt burdens in recent years, America’s situation probably has worsened significantly more than most others in recent months. Moreover, America already faced widening federal budget deficits encouraged by the tax “reform” enacted at end 2017. Plus don’t overlook the ongoing ominous long run debt burden, looming from factors such as an aging population. How easily will America service its debt situation? And America’s corporate and individual indebtedness also is substantial.
Second, the intensity and breadth of America’s cultural divisions has increased in recent times, especially during the Trump era. American confidence in the nation’s overall direction has slumped in recent months. As US citizen faith in the country’s situation declines, so probably likewise will (or has) that of foreigners in regard to America.
Declining faith in American assets (and its cultural institutions and leadership) can inspire shifts away from such assets. American marketplaces will not be completely avoided given their importance, but players can diversify away from them to some extent. Not only Americans but also foreigners own massive sums of dollar-denominated assets (debt instruments, stock in public and private companies, real estate; dollar deposits). Such portfolio changes (especially given America’s slowly declining importance in the global economy) will tend to make the dollar feeble.
Suppose nations and corporations increasingly elect, whether for commercial or political reasons, to avoid using the dollar as the currency via which they transact business. That will injure the dollar.
A five percent fall in the “overall” dollar level from its April 2020 high may not make much difference in the near term for US stocks and debt securities. However, a roughly five percent dollar drop is a warning sign for them, and especially for stocks. All else equal, a weaker dollar tends to boost the nominal price of dollar-denominated assets such as stocks and commodities. But history shows that this relationship is not inevitable. Phenomena other than dollar depreciation influence US securities trends. Keep in view the considerations described above undermining the dollar, and thus the desire to hold dollar-denominated instruments.
Admittedly, strong American corporate earnings encourage buying (and holding) of US stocks. But the coronavirus situation and responses to it have devastated calendar 2020 earnings. Suppose that contrary to widespread hopes and predictions, calendar 2021 corporate earnings do not rebound significantly (sufficiently) from dismal 2020 depths. What if the prayed-for V-shaped economic recovery does not emerge? If corporate earnings remain relatively modest (or slide) going forward, and if the dollar continues to weaken from its April 2020 height, dollar depreciation probably will intertwine with an equity slump.
A sustained dollar tumble approaching ten percent (and especially a fall greater than ten percent) probably will help to push the S+P 500 and related stock prices quite a bit lower. Many equate strong (high; rising) United States stocks over the long run as a signal or proof of the triumphant progress of the American Dream’s economic, political, and social principles. Therefore a linked and sustained decline in both the dollar and American stocks probably would damage to some extent the persuasive rhetoric of the current version American Dream itself.
Even if US government debt yields in this scenario initially slump from around current low levels due to a renewed “flight to quality”, and even if the Federal Reserve and its central banking teammates maintain their quantitative easing and yield repression schemes, inflationary forces (encouraged by money printing; see the huge increase in America’s money supply) and heated demand for credit eventually can push government (and corporate) interest rates upward. On the US interest rate front, suppose foreigners become smaller buyers, or even net sellers, of US Treasury securities. Such overseas action would not be an endorsement of America. Due to yield repression, UST real returns currently are negative.
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Dollar Depreciation and the American Dream (8-11-20)