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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MARKETPLACE TRAVELS: POTENTIAL BUMPS IN THE ROAD ©Leo Haviland April 2, 2024

The Federal Reserve Chairman (Jerome Powell) recently stated that the path to the Fed’s two percent inflation target was “sometimes bumpy”. (Remarks at the 3/29/24 “Macroeconomics and Monetary Policy Conference”, San Francisco Fed; see Financial Times, 3/30/24, p1)

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STARTING POINTS

Since around end December 2023, global inflationary forces probably have become stronger (or at least more firmly entrenched). Note the increase in the United States Treasury 10 year note yield and prices for commodities “in general” since then. Recent consumer price index measures, despite having fallen from their peaks, remain fairly distant from the Federal Reserve Board’s targets. The Fed therefore will find it difficult to reduce its Federal Funds policy rate nearly as much as many marketplace participants hope. The US dollar has remained strong, appreciating slightly since year end 2023; this suggests that American interest rate yields probably will remain rather high. America’s substantial national debt problems remain unsolved (as does China’s), with little prospect of progress anytime soon. Ongoing large federal government budget deficits and high and growing debt as a percentage of GDP tend to boost interest rate yields higher. 

Many times over the past century, significantly increasing United States interest rate yields have preceded a major peak, or at least a noteworthy top, in key stock marketplace benchmarks such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S+P 500. Marketplace opinions regarding substantial growth in US corporate earnings prospects for calendar years 2024 and 2025 look very optimistic. Whereas the S+P 500’s towering bull move carried into March 2024, US existing single-family home prices remain beneath their June 2023 peak. 

The US national political scene in general and election season 2024 in particular add to financial marketplace risks. 

Bitcoin and gold trends offer insight into patterns and prospects for other marketplaces, including the S+P 500. 

US INFLATION AND INTEREST RATES: RISKY BUSINESS

In the classic American film, “All About Eve” (Joseph Mankiewicz, director), the actress Margo Channing (played by Bette Davis) declares: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” 

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The Wall Street securities investment communities and their political and media allies have applauded lower United States inflation rates. Widespread faith exists that the trusty Federal Reserve will achieve its two percent inflation target fairly soon. Stock owners have been especially enthusiastic as the S+P 500 has flown to new highs in the hopes of further drops in key inflation measures and notable cuts by the Federal Reserve in the Fed Funds rate. 

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Marketplace Travels- Potential Bumps in the Road (4-2-24)

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)

AMERICAN INFLATION AND INTEREST RATES: PAINTING PICTURES © Leo Haviland May 4, 2021

“We hope you will enjoy the show”, sing The Beatles in “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

CONCLUSION

“Inflation” (deflation; stable prices) can appear in various diverse economic arenas. The United States consumer price index measure of course covers somewhat different ground from producer price yardsticks, and both of these weathervanes differ from asset price realms such as the S+P 500 and homes. However, these assorted inflation domains and phenomena influencing them in various ways are not entirely separate.

Despite its enthusiastic claims of surveying assorted inflation indicators and marketplaces, the beloved Federal Reserve Board focuses primarily on consumer-level inflation, as measured by indices such as personal consumption expenditure prices.

The US obviously is not an independent island in the interconnected global economy, though it plays a critical part. However, American “inflation” in the general sense of the term (and even if one excludes the asset price territory of the S+P 500 and homes) is more widespread and less well-anchored than the Fed and armies of its devoted followers (especially the investment fraternity and the financial advisors and media who assist it) believe. The ongoing long run trend for rising US Treasury yields (see the UST 10 year note rate) evidences this trend of sustained and increasing US inflation. Inflation will force the Fed to weaken its longstanding tenacious yield repression program.

Demand for credit relative to its supply of course affects US Treasury and other interest rate levels and trends. America’s federal debt situation of enormous budget deficits (massive spending) probably will continue to propel both inflation and UST yields higher.

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American Inflation and Interest Rates- Painting Pictures (5-4-21)

FINANCIAL MARKETPLACES: CONVERGENCE AND DIVERGENCE STORIES © Leo Haviland April 6, 2021

“Honest to goodness, the tears have been falling
All over this country’s face
It was better before, before they voted for What’s-His-Name
This was supposed to be the new world…
All we need is money
Just give us what you can spare”. X the Band’s 1983 song, “The New World”

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Financial observers often seek to ascertain a relationship between apparent trends involving stock, interest rate, currency, and commodity marketplaces. This involves subjective historical reviews as to the extent to which the price and time trends (patterns) of two or more marketplaces tend to converge or diverge. Some viewpoints may indicate that trends for a given marketplace tend to lead (or lag) those of another. For example, people investigate linkages between two United States technology stocks. Or, traders and analysts seek to establish the relationship (extent of convergence or divergence) between emerging marketplace stocks “in general” and the S+P 500.

The marketplace arenas studied are not necessarily the same. To what extent do significant increases in United States Treasury interest rates precede (lead to) eventual noteworthy declines in the S+P 500?

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Since cultural (subjective) perspectives, arguments, predictions, and actions regarding marketplace and other phenomena and their interrelations diverge (and converge) to various extents over time, emerging stock marketplaces “as a whole” and the S+P 500 do not necessarily trade identically or even very closely in price direction and timing terms. Of course marketplace history is not marketplace destiny, either completely or partially. Relationships within and between financial fields can shift or transform, sometimes dramatically. And these stock theaters have their own supply/demand situations and intertwine with other financial realms and assorted variables in diverse ways. However, over the past couple of decades, important price highs (and lows) and related trend shifts for the overall emerging stock marketplace and the S+P 500 have tended to occur at around the same time, sometimes within a few days, generally within a couple of months.

In first quarter 2020, prices for emerging stock marketplaces began to fall shortly before the S+P 500. They thereafter collapsed and reached a major bottom “together” in late March 2020. Over subsequent months, ferocious bull moves emerged in both districts.

However, since around early March 2021, prices for emerging stock marketplaces have diverged somewhat from the S+P 500. The emerging stock theater stands around seven percent beneath its mid-February 2021 top, whereas the S+P 500 has marched relentlessly to record heights. Will this divergence persist for an extended period?

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Financial Marketplaces- Convergence and Divergence Stories (4-6-21)