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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Shakespeare proclaims in “As You Like It” (Act II, Scene VII):
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players”.
THE 2016 WORLDWIDE ECONOMIC STAGE
As the 2016 international economic (and political) drama commences, the worldwide economy not only is sluggish, but also feebler than most forecasters assert. International real GDP, as well as that in the United States, has a notable chance of slowing down further than many expect (the International Monetary Fund predicts real global output will increase 3.6 percent in calendar 2016; “World Economic Outlook”, Chapter 1, Table 1.1).
The ability of the Federal Reserve Board, European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan, China’s central bank, and their friends to engineer their versions of desirable outcomes via highly accommodative policies has diminished. Beloved schemes such as quantitative easing (money printing) and yield repression and related rhetoric are becoming less influential. Ongoing significant political divisions and conflicts (America’s troubling carnival represents only one example) likely will make it challenging for political leaders to significantly promote substantial (adequate) growth.
The failure of longer term US government yields such as the UST 10 year note to rise substantially despite the Fed’s recent modest boost in the Federal Funds rate represents a noteworthy warning sign regarding American and global financial prospects. Note also very low sovereign yields in much of the Eurozone (picture Germany); Japanese government rates remain near the ground floor. However, yields of less creditworthy debt instruments, whether sovereign or corporate, probably will continue to climb in 2016, another ominous indication.
For the near term at least, the broad real trade-weighted US dollar probably will remain strong. Emerging marketplace equities and commodities “in general” likely will persist in bear trends. What does the rally of the dollar above its late August/September 2015 heights signal? What does the collapse of benchmark commodity indices such as the broad GSCI beneath their late August 2015 lows portend? These warn not only of worldwide economic weakness, but also of further declines in the S+P 500. Note that emerging marketplace stocks hover fairly closely to their 2015 depths. The S+P 500 probably will remain in a sideways to bearish trend.
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The Curtain Rises- 2016 Marketplace Theaters (1-4-16)
The United States Federal Reserve Board and its central banking allies have furiously battled the fierce financial forest fires of the ongoing worldwide economic crisis that emerged five years ago. As the disaster developed and traveled across the financial landscape, their accommodative approaches evolved. Although central bank methods have varied to some extent, they generally have included deluges of money printing and pinning nominal policy rates (Federal Funds and so forth) close to the ground. These central bank actions not only helped to spark and sustain economic recovery, but also bought politicians time to solve, or at least substantially mitigate, troubling fiscal deficit problems.
Nevertheless, debt levels and deficit spending in America and many other countries generally remain substantial. Efforts targeted to assist recovery partly explain the size of gaping fiscal deficits of recent years. Yet in America and many other nations, they arguably reflect and are structurally sustained by a culture of entitlement. This culture, although not universally shared, extends across the economic spectrum. In any event, government budget deficits in the United States are not a new phenomenon.
However, even without specifically concentrating on its long term fiscal challenges, the US probably is much closer these days to a big debt problem than many believe. Focusing on the near term US government deficit and debt situation in the context of several other nations highlights the danger.
Everyone knows of the Eurozone (Euro Area) crisis. America’s fiscal balances are much more in deficit over the 2008-2017 span than the overall Euro Area’s.
However, from the general government gross debt viewpoint, and especially with a view on 2012 and thereafter, the US problem looks at least as fearsome as the overall Eurozone difficulty. First, the US level exceeds the European height every year, from 2008 out to 2017. Second, the IMF indicates a fall for the Euro Area after 2013, but not for the US.
Inflation is not the only potential source of higher interest rates. The lesson of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis shows that government interest rates can climb sharply in crisis nations (Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, Italy) even if inflation is moderate. Ability to pay debts (and borrow money), not just inflation levels and trends, matters for interest rate levels (and sovereign credit spread differentials). A badly stretched debtor may have to pay up to find money, right? So rising government interest rates in some cases may reflect a dreadful debt crisis, not a sunny economic recovery.
Closely nearing or reaching a point of no return on the US fiscal front therefore probably would be reflected by a spike in UST yields. The 10 year US Treasury note offers a benchmark for US yield watchers. In recent years, rising government interest rates often have been roughly tied to ascending US stocks (S+P 500), not just an economic recovery. If US equity benchmarks such as the S+P 500 start to decline significantly, and roughly “alongside” the increase in yields (thereby breaking from the guideline UST/stock relationship of recent times), that probably would confirm the existence of a debt crisis.
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Financial Forest Fires- US Government Debt (8-15-12)
US Treasury 10 Year Note Chart (8-15-12)