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)

MARKETPLACE RELATIONSHIPS: LIFE DURING WARTIME © Leo Haviland March 7, 2022

In Mario Vargas Llosa’s novel “The War of the End of the World” (Part III, chapter II), the Baron de Canabrava declares: “‘The times are out of joint…Even the most intelligent people are unable to make their way through the jungle we’re living in.’”

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CONCLUSION AND OVERVIEW

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine halted, but did not end, the major trend for rising yields in the United States Treasury marketplace which commenced in March 2020 and accelerated in early August 2021. Despite this “flight to quality” (safe haven) pause, the long run pattern for increasing UST rates eventually will resume. Substantial inflation in America and the OECD relative to recent interest rate levels as well as globally high government (and other) debt levels will propel UST rates upward. Previous essays pointed not only to rising rates for high-quality government debt outside of the United States, as in Germany. A pattern of higher yields in the United States corporate sector as well as in lower quality emerging marketplace sovereign debt appeared. Thus a long run rising yield environment is an international phenomenon.

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Convergence and divergence (lead/lag) patterns between marketplaces can change or transform, sometimes dramatically. Marketplace history does not necessarily repeat itself, either entirely or even partly. Marketplace history nevertheless provides guidance regarding the probabilities of future relationships.

“History on Stage: Marketplace Scenes” (8/9/17) and subsequent essays updating it (such as 3/9/21’s “Truth and Consequences: Rising American Interest Rates”, “Financial Marketplaces: Convergence and Divergence Stories” (4/6/21), “American Inflation and Interest Rates: Painting Pictures” (5/4/21), and “Paradise Lost: the Departure of Low Interest Rates” (2/9/22) emphasized: “Marketplace history need not repeat itself, either entirely or even partly. Yet many times over the past century, significantly increasing United States interest rates have preceded a noteworthy peak in key stock marketplace benchmarks such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S+P 500. The yield climb sometimes has occurred over a rather extended time span, and the arithmetical (basis point) change has not always been large.” The US Treasury marketplace has been an important standard for this analysis. The 10 year UST note is a key benchmark.

What about trends for the S+P 500 and other advanced nation stock battlegrounds? Quite some time prior to Russia’s 2/24/22 attack on Ukraine, rising interest rates and tumbling emerging equity marketplaces warned that the S+P 500 probably would fall significantly. “Emerging Marketplaces, Unveiling Dangers” (12/2/21) concluded that “the S+P 500 probably has established a notable top or soon will do so”. “Paradise Lost: the Departure of Low Interest Rates” (2/9/22) stated: “The S+P 500’s stellar high, 1/4/22’s 4819, probably was a major peak; if its future price surpasses that celestial height, it probably will not do so by much.” “The S+P 500 price probably will decline further and establish new lows beneath the January 2022 trough. The development of a bear trend (decline of at least 20 percent) also is probable.”

Significantly, the S+P 500’s 1/4/22 high at 4819 and its initial 12.4 percent correction to 1/24/22’s 4223 preceded Russia’s late February 2022 invasion by several weeks. Thus that attack did not initiate significant S+P 500 weakness. In addition to the rising yields (increasing inflation; as well as lofty debt levels and outlook) and feeble emerging stock marketplaces, arguably high valuations from the historic perspective for the S+P 500 also existed prior to the Russia/Ukraine war. The strong United States dollar prior to the attack also pointed to stock marketplace weakness. The US dollar remains robust. The vicious bull spike in petroleum, wheat, and many other commodities since the invasion further undermines the S+P 500 and related stock domains. Looking forward, the S+P 500 probably will continue to retreat.

As “Paradise Lost” stated, the UST 10 year note yield probably will climb to at least the 2.50 to 3.00 percent range, with a substantial likelihood of achieving a considerably higher summit. The Federal Reserve and other heroic central banking generals probably will not deploy substantial actions to rescue the S+P 500 unless it tumbles around twenty percent or more from a prior pinnacle.

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Marketplace Relationships- Life During Wartime (3-7-22)

RISING GLOBAL INTEREST RATES AND THE STOCK MARKETPLACE BATTLEFIELD © Leo Haviland October 5, 2021

In “Life During Wartime”, the Talking Heads sing: “This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco, this ain’t no fooling around.”

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CONCLUSION

Looking forward, United States Treasury yields probably will continue to rise. So will yields for government debt in Germany and other advanced nations. In general, yields of emerging market sovereign debt securities probably will keep climbing as well. US dollar-denominated corporate debt yields also will ascend. Substantial inflation and massive government debt are important variables for this rising interest rate outlook. Increasing yields for this array of debt securities around the globe probably have created (led to) an important top around early September 2021 for the American stock battlefield (S+P 500 high 9/2/21 at 4546) and related advanced nation and emerging marketplace stock arenas, or will soon do so. There is a significant probability that the S+P 500 and related equity domains have commenced or soon will begin bear trends.

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Rising Global Interest Rates and the Stock Marketplace Battlefield (10-5-21)

THE OIL BATTLEFIELD: EVOLUTION, RELATIONSHIPS, AND PRICES © Leo Haviland, April 10, 2017

In “Street Fighting Man”, The Rolling Stones sing:
“Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy”.

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OVERVIEW AND CONCLUSION

The continued determination of leading OPEC members (such as Saudi Arabia) and some key non-OPEC oil producing nations (such as Russia) to subdue their crude oil output will underpin petroleum prices. The Saudis and their allies will not readily sacrifice their long-sought production restraint agreement achieved with several important non-OPEC exporters in late 2016. Assuming supply discipline by key producers and moderate global economic growth, supply/demand estimates indicate that OECD (advanced nations such as the United States) industry inventories by the end of calendar 2018 will have declined to around “normal” levels in days coverage terms.

Even gigantic producers such as Saudi Arabia and Russia (for political as well as economic reasons) need to generate at least moderate income. Given its planned sale of shares in Aramco via an initial public offering, does Saudi Arabia want a renewed collapse in petroleum prices to $40 Brent/North Sea or less? Given its need for revenues, global political ambitions, and signs of domestic unrest, does Russia want petroleum prices to plummet sharply?

Other political worries help to bolster oil prices. Some (as usual) relate to the Middle East. North Korea’s nuclear program captures headlines. What if Venezuelan political turmoil results in a supply interruption?

However, current OECD petroleum industry inventories remain far above average. Even by end calendar 2017, they probably will be several days above normal. And end calendar 2018 obviously is a long time from now. Compliance with the OPEC/non-OPEC output guidelines by several individual countries has not been universal. And going forward, production discipline should not be taken for granted. Will Iraq and Iran moderate their production? What if Nigerian or Libyan production increases? Also, the net noncommercial position in the petroleum complex, which played a very important part in the explosive oil bull move in oil that began in first quarter 2016, is still quite high and vulnerable to liquidation.

History reveals that petroleum price levels and trends intertwine with currency, interest rate, stock and other commodity marketplaces (particularly base and precious metals) in a variety of ways. The current interrelationship between petroleum and these other arenas probably warns that it will be difficult for petroleum prices to sustain advances much above their first quarter 2017 highs.

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Using NYMEX crude oil (nearest futures continuation) as a benchmark, petroleum prices for the next several months likely will stay in a broad range. Major support exists at around $38.00/$42.00. Significant resistance exists between $52.00/$55.25.

However, assuming ordinary international economic growth, what if OPEC/non-OPEC production discipline continues for the next year and a half (or marketplace faith increases that such restraint will persist)? In this scenario, if (and this “if” is a very important if) no sustained significant weakness in global stock marketplaces (and intertwining/confirming patterns in the US dollar, interest rates, and metals) develops, then NYMEX crude oil prices probably will attack the $60.75/$65.00 range.

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The Oil Battlefield- Evolution, Relationships, and Prices (4-10-17)