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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FINANCIAL BATTLEGROUNDS: AN AGE OF ANXIETY (CONTINUED) © Leo Haviland November 1, 2023

W.H. Auden’s poem “The Age of Anxiety” asserts: “When the historical process breaks down and armies organize with their embossed debates the ensuing void which they can never consecrate, when necessity is associated with horror and freedom with boredom, then it looks good to the bar business.” (Part One, Prologue). And the character Rosetta states (Part One): “Numbers and nightmares have news value.”

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FINANCIAL AGITATION

Financial marketplaces and other cultural battlegrounds always include and reflect diverse and contending perspectives and actions. They also inescapably involve values and emotions. In culture, values and emotions permeate viewpoints, thought processes, and behavior. 

Within and regarding the competitive interest rate, stock, foreign exchange, and commodity arenas (and other economic fields), marketplace perspectives (outlooks; orientations), arguments, and conclusions are always subjective, matters of opinion. So are the selection and assessment of variables (facts, factors, evidence, information). Although agreement often is widespread, so is disagreement. Views compete. After all, marketplaces have bulls and bears, long and medium and short term traders, various advocates of fundamental and technical methods, and so forth. Opinions regarding history, probability, and causation differ. Hence prices and price relationships fluctuate, sometimes dramatically. In addition, rhetoric aims to persuade audiences (including oneself) that a given goal, view, or action is good (or “reasonable”, “rational”, prudent, wise; or better than alternatives), less good, neutral, or bad. In cultural fields, this uncertainty of viewpoint and the differences in behavior create agitation, though levels of excitement/emotion (relative calmness) differ. Anxiety can vary in intensity for a given individual or an “overall” community over time, or between a person and group at any given time. 

For some marketplace participants, apparent cascades of diverse and often changing information can increase agitation (anxiety). “How does one keep up with it all? Information sure travels fast these days.” Perceptions (faith) that “the world” (or some part of it) has become more complex can boost anxiety (tension). 

Trading risks and uncertainty of outcome generate agitation and anxiety; enthusiasm, greed, fear, and hope abound. Investors and other courageous trading warriors fervently battle to win the valued (good) American Dream cultural goals of wealth and financial security. Making money and achieving wealth (financial security) makes many people happy and feel successful. Making and having sufficient money is a means to the “good life” and a “better life”. Marketplace playgrounds can be exciting and entertaining too! In quests to make money and avoid losing it, many devoted fortune seekers compare their performance with that of others, which enhances ongoing inevitable passions. 

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In general, large armies of securities “investors” and other owners in stock and interest rate realms (especially in stocks) love high and rising prices and hate low and falling ones. After all, those security assets represent big money (trillions of dollars and other currencies). Wall Street’s key role in capital formation and investment (wealth management) encourages it to promote bullish outlooks in securities marketplaces (particularly in stocks). Consequently, a significant price decline (and of course especially a sustained one) in both equity and interest rate arenas is especially agitating (in the sense of being upsetting, a source of unhappiness) to securities owners in America (and around the globe) and their Wall Street, financial media, and political comrades. Substantial wealth destruction due to bloody securities price declines also can damage economic growth, perhaps helping to produce a recession. What if house prices also slump? 

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Rising United States interest rates have helped to propel (lead) the S+P 500 lower. The S+P 500 currently is attempting to hold support at around a ten percent decline from its late July 2023 peak. However, long run American stock marketplace history indicates that large and scary falls occur; the average percentage retreat from the peak to the trough is roughly 33.9 percent. The average duration of the descent from the summit to the bottom runs approximately 14.2 months. Marketplace history of course does not have to repeat itself. However, as a bear marketplace trend for the S+P 500 probably commenced in late July 2023, and as the decline thus far only has been 10.9 percent over three months, its bear campaign has quite a bit more distance and time to travel downhill. 

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Some would argue that the financial (economic), political, and social worlds, both in America and around the globe, are especially agitated (anxious) nowadays. In any case, “the cultural situation” does not appear peaceful in many respects. 

Since “economic”, “political”, and “social” fields are entirely cultural (subjective), they are not objectively (scientifically) different territories. In any case, culture wars across economic, political, and social dimensions in America arguably are diverse and intense at present and likely to remain so for quite some time. All else equal, this suggests that the resulting agitation and anxiety make it challenging for American politicians to adequately resolve their differences and solve important problems (such as those relating to government spending). This is particularly true as the nation’s 2024 election approaches. Cultural wars thereby significantly influence interest rate, stock, and other financial marketplaces. 

Cultural feuds also exist in other leading nations. Moreover, especially in today’s globalized and multipolar world, cultural hostilities can and do cross national boundaries, which in turn can directly affect financial marketplaces, which increase anxiety (agitation) regarding and within them. Picture the rich versus poor divide, democracy versus authoritarianism, capitalism (free markets) against socialism, and religious differences. Those wars of course can be military, as the violent Russia/Ukraine and Hamas/Israel situations demonstrate.

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Financial Battlegrounds- an Age of Anxiety (Continued) (11-1-23)