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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Brace For US-China Trade Conflict

    Is Donald Trump backing down from his threat to get tough on China trade? It might seem so: after three weeks of rapid policy moves, his promised anti-China trade action is still missing. But it will not stay missing for long. Some US move against China trade looks inevitable in coming months, though the costs will be high and the benefits unclear.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Choosing Between Disadvantages

    It was a record that Germany would rather not have announced, at least not this week. Yesterday official data showed that Europe’s über exporter racked up a current account surplus in 2016 of US$281bn versus a mere US$210bn for China. With the US running by far the largest offsetting deficit, such data means that the temperature between Washington and Berlin is likely to get hotter.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Asian Dream

    China’s “Asian Dream” is to restore its position as the undisputed regional power. Trump’s decision to bin the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have anchored the US presence in Asia, brings China a step closer. While Trump’s sidekicks huff about wielding a bigger stick in the South China Sea, China is transforming the facts on the ground.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The US$10 Trillion Question

    Over the last seven years, emerging markets have been stuck in a trading range they show no sign of exiting. For this reason, in Asia at least, I have advised investors to adopt a market timing strategy based on return-to-the mean valuation measures (see Go Contrarian In Asia). The problem with this approach is that it works until it doesn’t. So what could cause a breakdown? Charles for one worries that the presence of a huge global US dollar...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Germany And The Greek Question

    Last month Cedric Gemehl and I argued that the new geopolitical back-drop offered by Donald Trump had changed the basic strategic equation for Germany. Berlin could respond by doubling down on its mercantilist impulses, or alternatively embrace its eurozone partners. An interesting test case of our hypothesis has just arisen: yes, the Greek problem is back on the agenda.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Win-Win Deal For Abe And Trump?

    This Friday Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will touch down in Washington for his second meeting with Donald Trump since the November 8 US election. The auspices hardly appear propitious. In the run-up to the meeting, the new US president has pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade deal built largely around the US-Japan economic axis. He has railed against Japan for deliberately undervaluing the yen. He has bemoaned...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Downside Of Dividends

    Dividends were long an afterthought for Chinese listed companies—but no more: most large firms now pay out more than 30% of their earnings to shareholders. Yet this change has been wrought by heavy-handed regulation, rather than improving governance. The resulting system distorts the signals to investors and the incentives of company managers.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The European Dream

    Back in 2002 I wrote a book, Lions Led By Donkeys, whose main point was that the euro’s adoption would kill the competitive and heterogeneous Europe that I so loved. It was prefaced by Milton Friedman who predicted that Europe was set to enter a period of rigor mortis. Fifteen years on and it is clear that Europe as a unitary concept is indeed dying.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Less Than It Seems: US Financial Deregulation

    US bank stocks rallied strongly on Friday on Donald Trump’s promise to tear up much of the Dodd-Frank 2010 financial regulation act. But steering a new act through Congress will not be easy. And while proposals now on the table greatly simplify the existing rules, they do not amount to the wholesale easing of regulations that would be needed to drive a rapid acceleration of bank lending.

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    Gavekal Research

    Golden Rule Says Extend Duration

    Great economists are seldom top flight mathematicians. One exception was Maurice Allais, who won the Nobel Prize in 1988 for his “rigorous mathematical formulations of market equilibrium and the efficiency properties of markets”. Among his findings was his so-called “golden rule”, which states that over the long run, long term government bond yields always converge with the structural growth rate of the economy.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is It Finally Time For The Property Tax?

    After more than a decade of debate, could China finally be ready to start imposing a property tax? In this piece, Rosealea argues that political will and technical preparations point to progress toward a tax in 2017. While some fear the impact on prices, the gradual rollout of a narrowly focused tax should be mostly a non-event for markets.

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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Budget: A Fine Balance

    After the fiasco that followed India’s move in November to scrap large denomination banknotes, yesterday’s budget was carefully calibrated to reassure jumpy markets. With the IMF estimating that the monetary bloodletting will drain 1pp off growth this fiscal year, doubts have resurfaced over India’s ability to realize its economic potential. The good news for nervous investors is that India remains wedded to fiscal responsibility. The bad news...

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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Beyond The Trump Rally

    We have revamped the format of our Monthly to make it a more useful guide to our key investment views. In this month's edition, Louis Gave looks beyond the temporary euphoria that gripped markets after Donald Trump's election and sketches out investment strategies for the coming year.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Eurozone Upturn Continues

    The data flow out of the eurozone—both forward and backward-looking—continues to paint a picture of accelerating activity, subdued core inflation, ongoing monetary accommodation, and—most notably for investors—improving corporate earnings.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lost Promise Of Urbanization

    China’s government has been ramping up its focus on urbanization and rural land issues, promoting new policies as breakthroughs that will keep driving growth for decades to come. But for all the rhetoric, the new policies are not fundamentally liberalizing. And the incentives they create could slow rather than accelerate rural-urban migration.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Political Risk In France

    There are many areas where Anatole and I agree to disagree. But one in which the two of us see eye to eye is the heightened influence political risk may have on markets this year. Consider France, where the political situation threatens to get complicated. The problem is not so much the presidential election, due to be held in two rounds in April and May, but the legislative elections set to be held a month later.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Points Of Agreement And Dissent

    Last week Louis laid out his roadmap for navigating financial markets in 2017. In this follow-up, Anatole picks up on five debating points, and details where and why he agrees or disagrees with Louis.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The “Experts” May Yet Be Right

    Last week Louis set out a comprehensive roadmap for 2017. I have just five points to add: two points of strong agreement (on Europe and the oil price); two of dissent (on US bonds and Britain); and one that echoes Louis’s uncertainty and anxiety, but for slightly different reasons (about the pressures on the US dollar and what they could mean for emerging markets). I will explore these specific issues of agreement and dissent in a lengthier...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Border Tax Adjustments In Context

    US president Donald Trump moved a step closer to realizing his “America first” trade policy yesterday, promising a 20% tax on imports from Mexico. However, rather than an outright tariff on imports, it is looking increasingly likely that the new levy will come in the form of a border tax adjustment, as envisaged by the House Republican majority as part of a wider US tax reform program. In theory, border tax adjustments should be trade-neutral,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Making Sense Of US Trade Tax Plans

    Yesterday Donald Trump met members of Congress to discuss a 20% tax on imports into the US. However, what is being proposed is not an outright tariff, but rather a system of “border tax adjustments”. Will explains what these are, how they will work, and what effect they will have on the US dollar and the real economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dow 20,000 Conundrum

    The Trump trade continues. Yesterday the Dow Jones Industrial Average passed the magical 20,000 mark for the first time, with the S&P 500 closing at a record high just a whisker short of 2,300. I hate to be the one to douse the market’s high spirits with a bucket of cold water (well, I don’t really hate it), but sober analysis suggests that the current Trump-propelled rally is a fad that may soon fade.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Very Marginal Tightening

    Monetary policy is getting interesting as the Chinese New Year holiday approaches. The central bank has injected huge amounts of liquidity to the market, but it has also made a rare move to raise the rates of its lending facilities. In this piece, Chen Long explains the PBOC’s moves and why they don’t signal a hike in benchmark interest rates.

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    Gavekal Research

    Drawing Meaning From 2016, And A Roadmap For 2017

    Having experienced a rough 2016, the temptation for most investors is to clean the slate and start again. Unfortunately, life in financial markets does not allow for such neat endings. In one of his biggest reports in years, Louis argues that after such a complex and tumultuous year, it is essential for investors to draw a breath and derive some understanding of what just happened. Only then should they try to sketch out future scenarios.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Return Of German Inflation

    Inflation is re-emerging in Germany, and a tightening labor market implies inflationary pressures will continue to mount in what could promise to become the great German reflation that many have long looked for to rebalance the eurozone economy. Yet rising inflation threatens to erode one of the central tenets of the German economic model.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Investment Backlash Begins

    Xi Jinping’s passionate defense of the globalized economy at Davos last week was, in reality, a sign that Beijing knows the tide is turning against it. The surge of Chinese outward direct investment in recent years has already sparked a backlash, and the political momentum for more restrictions on Chinese investment now looks unstoppable.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Do We Need To Worry About The Shrinking US Monetary Base?

    The US monetary base is shrinking, and with Fed officials talking about winding down their bond holdings, it is only natural for equity investors to be concerned. However, as KX explains, the contraction in base money is a technical effect of recent regulatory changes, and the Fed is not yet running down its assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump May Yet Learn To Like Border Adjustments

    Last week, Donald Trump dismissed border tax adjustments as “too complicated”. He may yet reconsider. If the newly-installed president has one dominant policy objective, it is to make the US more attractive as a destination for investment and as a location for manufacturing. Alongside deregulation and cutting the US corporate tax rate, imposing border tax adjustments along the lines proposed by the House Republicans is one of the simplest and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Is China Ready For A Trade Shock From Trump?

    China reported an acceleration in its economic growth on Friday, just hours before Donald Trump was sworn in as US president. But growth could take a hit if Trump makes radical changes to tax and trade policy. And while China has plenty of weapons to fight a trade war, those measures are unlikely to completely offset a sudden shock to its exports.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Germany’s Date With Destiny

    Germany, more than any other European economy, has relied on the US-dictated, rules-based international system to define its post-World War II identity. Germany’s highly specialized export-orientated economy has thrived within the World Trade Organization and its security has been ensured by the American nuclear umbrella. It is not clear whether Donald Trump’s recent broadside against Berlin reflects a permanent rupture in that order, but...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump’s Declarations On The Dollar

    Even more than getting it right on US interest rates, performance in 2017 will most likely be driven by getting the US dollar call right. And forming a view on the US dollar with any high degree of certainty is a challenge.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Dodging A Bullet In The Interbank Market

    In late December, China’s interbank market experienced its greatest turbulence since 2013. Though it was resolved quickly, the mini-crisis still offers some important lessons. Beijing’s technocrats did show good crisis management skills—but it’s also clear that weak links in the domestic financial system will continue to test those skills.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    On Being Wrong

    For much of the second half of 2015, Charles was concerned that the US economy was softening, and that it would tip into recession sometime in mid-2016. The feared recession never materialized. In this paper, Charles asks “why not?”, re-examining normally reliable indicators to work out where and why they went wrong.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    Hard Brexit Means Soft Sterling

    Since the June referendum the only real choice for Britain has been Hard Brexit or No Brexit. The No Brexit option disappeared as soon as Theresa May became prime minister under the slogan “Brexit means Brexit”. Barring some deus ex machina that swept May out of power, that left only one possibility: a rock-hard Brexit.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research January Call

    Charles Gave argued that Donald Trump’s protectionist policy could lead to a breakdown of the post-1971 fiat money system that is based on a US dollar standard. Will Denyer deconstructed the likely workings of a new trade taxation regime in the US and explained what that means for currencies. Arthur Kroeber outlined the likely Chinese response to a US trade broadside and argued that Beijing was decently well placed to weather the attack.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: A Coming US-China Trade War?

    In this video interview Arthur explains how a US-China trade war may play out and the implication for capital outflows from China

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's China Choice: Trade War Or New Deal?

    Once Donald Trump occupies the White House he is sure to launch salvos at China in the form of new tariffs, anti-dumping actions and the labeling of China as a currency manipulator. It is tough to predict exactly what these actions will entail going forward. What is certain is that the long-running US consensus on how to handle China has broken down.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Dissonance In US-China Relations

    Once Donald Trump occupies the White House he is sure to take aim at China in the form of new tariffs, anti-dumping actions and the labeling of the country as a currency manipulator. What is unclear is whether such actions reflect a tough negotiating stance, or instead a fundamental shift in the strategic equation. In this video interview, Arthur explains why the mixed messages coming out of Washington have the potential to spark a dangerous...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Political Fiction

    European economic indicators have turned up in recent months, causing many investors to conclude that the eurozone’s banishment in the desert of economic stagnation is over, and the promised land of a normal recovery beckons. I am not convinced and judging by recent moves in the bond market, I’m wondering if the next eurozone crisis is already upon us.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    After Reflation, Profits Still Decent

    The stimulus-driven rebound in housing sales and commodity prices lifted the profits of China’s industrial firms in 2016. With the cycle turning, profit growth is certain to weaken in 2017. But for most manufacturers—outside the volatile commodity complex—the end of reflation should see only a gradual slowdown and still decent profit growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tax Reform And The Dollar: It’s Not So Straightforward

    Tax reform is high on the agenda both for US president-elect Donald Trump and for the new session of Congress that began earlier this month. Among the reform proposals that could most affect investors are those advanced by the House Republicans, which many commentators have argued could cause a substantial exchange rate appreciation of the US dollar. In theory—all else being equal—this would be true. But our examination of current exchange rate...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Markets Trumped

    In yesterday’s Daily, Louis argued that despite the renewed strengthening of the US dollar over the last couple of months since the US election, there has been no generalized flight out of emerging markets. Sure, Turkey appears to be experiencing a classic emerging market currency crisis. But as Louis noted, the collapse of the lira has been driven by peculiarly Turkish factors. There is little or no risk of contagion spreading to the broader...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deconstructing Dollar Strength

    The trajectory of the US dollar is likely to be the single most important determinant of investors’ returns in 2017. Either the US currency will weaken, leading to a bull market in much of the rest of the world. Or it will strengthen, which will make markets life more difficult to navigate. Charles warns that we are approaching a tipping point.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    A Very Turkish Mess

    Get into a taxi in Rio de Janeiro, Jakarta or Cape Town, and ask for that day’s US dollar exchange rate, and the chances are that the driver will know the answer to within a decimal point. Try the same thing in Tokyo, London or Berlin and you will likely receive a blank stare. My anecdote reflects a simple reality: most people in emerging markets think in two currencies: their own and the US dollar. This highlights most emerging market consumers...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Dollar Standard

    Charles is encouraged by the broad thrust of Donald Trump’s economic program, but deeply worried that the US’s emerging protectionist agenda could wreck the dollar-based credit system that underpins global financial markets. The dollar-standard was always more vulnerable to a US action than foreigners losing confidence in it as a store of value.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Firing On Three Cylinders

    The upturn in the eurozone continues to gain momentum. The recovery in France which long has been among the European economy's laggards, coupled with brisk activity in Germany and Spain, suggests that the eurozone is now firing on three of its four main cylinders in a cyclical upswing that promises to become self-sustaining.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Half-Hearted Battle Against Air Pollution

    The return of severe smog to northern China since December has frightened families and raised more doubts about the government’s declared “war” on air pollution. So is the government losing the war? Or are they not even fighting it in the first place? In this piece, Rosealea explains the political and economic realities of air pollution in China.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Japanese Equities: More Where That Came From

    Japan is the top performer among developed world equity markets over the last six months, with the Nikkei 225 up 28% in local currency terms. Even in US dollar terms, the Japanese market has gained a robust 14%, enough to outperform an S&P 500 lent wings by the Trump trade. That strength is set to continue into 2017, with the Tokyo market remaining well bid on the back of a monetary policy stance that the Bank of Japan will find it hard—even...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Alchemist’s Apprentice

    If done right urbanization can be considered development alchemy as it transforms surplus rural labor and simple building materials into the “gold” of economic growth. India has lagged China’s embrace of city life over the last 30 years, but that is now changing and the result could be transformative for the Indian economy’s growth outlook.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What You Need To Know About The Party Congress

    In 2017, the Communist Party will hold its 19th Congress, an event that will set the political framework for Xi Jinping’s second term as China’s leader, and beyond. The big question for the Congress is how much Xi will be able to change the rules of elite politics to strengthen his own power. This piece offers a guide to those rules of the game.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Long Rates & The Velocity Of Money

    As Gavekal’s readers will be aware, much of my research is driven by a handful of powerful obsessions. Lately these have included my fixation with the euro as a weapon of mass destruction, and my determination to elucidate how the theories of the great 19th century economist Knut Wicksell apply to today’s economies and markets. In recent years these have, to some extent, displaced other pre-occupations, and I have done very little work on one of...

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