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E.g., 12-12-2017
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Sweat The Euro

    In response to a stronger euro, the European Central Bank yesterday cut its inflation forecasts. Since the ECB’s monetary policy mandate is entirely focused on consumer prices, the disinflationary impact of a stronger currency leaves policymakers with a conundrum: do they go ahead and taper asset purchases as expected, or instead hold back, figuring that the currency markets are doing the “tightening” job for them?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The New Economy Takes The Baton

    Second-quarter earnings for Chinese listed companies showed heavy industry still enjoying strong profit growth, but the more important trend is the consistent rise in profits in the “new economy.” As industrial reflation gradually cools, Thomas argues, these consumer, healthcare, and technology firms are set to outperform.

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    Gavekal Research

    What Next From Washington?

    Despite all the bickering in Washington, kicking cans is still a bipartisan sport. Yesterday, President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats in a deal to temporarily raise the debt limit and fund the government for three more months. Republican leaders wanted to kick the can further down the road, but will accept the president’s lead. With the issue temporarily parked, Trump jumped on Air Force One and in North Dakota today he is expected to...

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    Gavekal Research

    A New World Order In The Making

    It’s all too easy to laugh at the BRICS group, a motley crew of five developing nations with little in common other than the fact that they’re (mostly) big and not yet rich. The term has been mocked as a “Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept”. So why do the BRICS themselves take it so seriously?

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    Gavekal Research

    Algo Trading: A Great Opportunity For The Human Brain

    The rise and rise in money management of computerized trading systems which seek out and exploit correlations among assets and markets can have some curious side effects. One of them is that the rise of the machines, far from rendering the human brain obsolete, can throw up some wonderful investment opportunities for those surviving managers who prefer to rely on solid economic principles and good old fashioned common sense.

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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Two-Legged Equity Bull Market

    For the past several years, the brightest spot in global equity markets has been the US, and in particular tech and consumer stocks. This is changing, and we now have a "two-legged" equity bull market led both by US tech stocks and by a resurgent Asia. In our review of global investment conditions Louis explains why this is so, and argues none of the obvious land mines is likely to go off at any time soon.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Difference A Couple Of Years Makes

    In August 2015 the offshore renminbi fell -4.5% against the US dollar, unleashing a global panic as investors fretted that another big deflationary downdraft beckoned. Fast forward to August 2017 and the renminbi rose a little over 2.07%, making it the world’s best performing major currency—it even outstripped rises in the euro and Scandinavian currencies.

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    Gavekal Research

    Tremors On The North Korean Border

    Yanmei Xie reports from China’s border with North Korea, where local residents and officials were left largely unshaken yesterday by the earth tremors from Kim Jong Un’s latest and biggest test of a nuclear bomb. Despite imposing some trade sanctions on its troublesome neighbor, Beijing has no desire to back the North Korean regime into a corner.

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    Gavekal Research

    Macron Goes To Work On Reform

    The moment of truth is approaching for French president Emmanuel Macron. Four months after he pledged an early reform of France’s overly rigid labor market he is pushing ahead. On Thursday the French government unveiled proposals to the lighten the regulatory burden on employers and clear away the legal uncertainties that have long deterred businesses from hiring.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Prices Set To Slowly Cool

    Housing prices have had a wild ride in China this year, but with sales now cooling, prices are also losing steam. In this piece, Rosealea argues that the coming correction in housing prices will be a moderate one—probably about half of the 10% nationwide decline in 2014—as inventories are still low and policies are not particularly tight.

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    Gavekal Research

    Deteriorating Market Signals?

    We have a rule of thumb at Gavekal that when the S&P 500 equal-weighted outperforms the “S&P 500 index”, our equity clients are cheery since beating the benchmark is fairly easy. At such times, clients will typically take more risk. The reverse is, of course, true: outperformance by the S&P 500 makes for grumpy clients, tougher meetings, and less appetite for risk-taking. In the latter case, there is a tendency for investors to rush...

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    Gavekal Research

    Good News At The NIPA Coal Face

    The so-called NIPA data (national income and product accounts) offers a cleansed account of US profitability as the effects of inflation and currency moves are stripped out. Thus, while nominal profits reported by S&P 500 companies have rebounded since early 2016, no such signal has emerged from the NIPA numbers—until now. This matters as in late-cycle situations it is common for my preferred inflation-adjusted version of NIPA profits to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Korean Rage And European Angst

    When North Korea fired off another ballistic missile yesterday morning the immediate response of investors in the most directly affected neighboring economies was to shrug. Curiously it took far-away Europe to get in a flap, with the euro soaring and equities falling. Granted, currency players were also reacting to the Texas flooding, especially as London was closed for a public holiday on Monday. Yet it was strange for the region least...

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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Feeling Insecure — Japan’s Food Problem

    Japan’s late conversion to the cause of free trade owes a lot to the recognition that continued trade protection is no longer sustainable in what historically has been one of Japan’s most rigorously defended domestic sectors: agriculture. Demographics and changing diets mean Japan’s food self-sufficiency rate has fallen to 38%, the lowest among developed economies.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Mortgages Take A Bite Out Of Consumption

    Despite the recovering economy, household consumption in China has slowed this year rather than accelerated. As Ernan explains in this piece, the culprit is the surge in mortgage debt, which has meant a sharp increase in the burden of mortgage payments on household budgets. While income growth is solid, less of the gains are available to spend.

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    Gavekal Research

    Behind Japan’s Free Trade Drive

    When in January Donald Trump’s administration announced that the US was withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pundits around the world lost no time in declaring Barack Obama’s flagship trade agreement dead in the water. They were premature. In a 180 degree policy U-turn, Japan stepped forward to provide leadership by stressing the attractiveness of access to its own home market.

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    Gavekal Research

    Not That Canadian

    The US and Canadian economies share many similarities due to their geographical proximity, similar level of development and Anglo-Saxon traditions of common law and open political dialogue. So it is curious that each economy’s labor market dynamics are strikingly different. This observation has more than hypothetical significance as workers become hard to find at the right price in late-cycle America.

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    Gavekal Research

    Bank Deregulation Is Not The Answer

    Janet Yellen nailed her regulatory colors to the mast on Friday. In her speech on financial stability at Jackson Hole, the Federal Reserve chair made plain her opposition to any wholesale roll-back of financial regulations introduced in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. She didn’t mention by name the Financial Choice Act, the attempt currently before Congress to scrap key provisions of the post-crisis Dodd-Frank regulations. But she did address...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Unicom’s Mixed-Ownership Mixup

    China Unicom says its US$11.6bn share placement will bring it ten new strategic shareholders, including the nation's biggest internet firms. State media are touting the deal as a triumph of the "mixed ownership" reform for state enterprises, but it looks more like a bailout timed to score political points ahead of this fall's Party Congress.

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    Gavekal Research

    Why Lower Forever Is Good News For Investors In Big Oil

    Suppose you are convinced, as I am, that oil prices will fall to near-zero by the middle of this century, for the reasons I outlined last week. If so, then among the best investments of the coming decades will be the equity of giant international oil companies such as BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, ENI and Total.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Better Tool Required

    Having long advocated that equity managers hedge their portfolios with a US long-bond, I mostly run at a 50:50 weighting. Still, the aim must be to adopt a rules-based mechanism for sliding the bond-equity mix (say between 60:40 and 40:60) and also the average duration of the fixed income piece. I can satisfy this aim by combining market-based measures with my recent valuation work.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good Governance, Poor Performance

    Japan has embraced the idea that better corporate governance leads to superior stock price performance. In 2014 the stock exchange launched the JPX-Nikkei 400 good governance index in an attempt to get Japan Inc. to raise its governance game. There’s just one problem: the index has consistently underperformed the broader market.

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    Gavekal Research

    Irving Fisher And Japan

    Few papers written by defunct economists have had as much influence on my way of looking at markets as Irving Fisher’s seminal 1933 article The Debt-Deflation Theory Of Great Depressions. In it, Fisher hypothesized the patterns that great depressions go through. In a nutshell, great depressions go through four phases.

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    Gavekal Research

    From A Newly-Minted Gold Bug

    Gold, as we know, is and always has been a hedge against the silliness of central bankers and governments. So when from 2012 onwards the world’s central banks decided to throw all caution to the winds, logically one would have expected gold and gold miners to rise strongly.But instead of going up, both gold and gold miners went down big time, while the price of most other assets went up.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Electric Passenger-Car Acid Test

    China's industrial planners have a clear goal for electric cars: they want China to be the world's biggest market, and the global technological leader, by 2025. The first goal is already in the bag, thanks to massive subsidies and orchestrated purchases by city governments. Gaining technological leadership will be a much tougher slog.

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    Gavekal Research

    Despite Draghi, Flows Favor The Euro

    All eyes will be on Mario Draghi this week. Last Thursday’s release of minutes from July’s European Central Bank monetary policy meeting highlighted policymakers’ unease at the strength of the euro. The suspicion now is that the ECB president may attempt to talk down the euro when he stands up to make his lunchtime speech this Friday at Jackson Hole. Yet even if Draghi does play down the prospect of an early or rapid ECB exit from either...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Oily Slope Of Hope

    As Louis often points out, a highly-touted stock that fails to rise on good news is often riding for a fall. The best example of such a “tired bull” at present is not the much-despised US equity market, which has continued making higher highs and higher lows since February 2016, despite a pretty terrible news flow. It is crude oil.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    In Work But Out Of Pocket

    Data released yesterday showed that the UK’s unemployment rate fell to 4.4% in the second quarter, its lowest since the second quarter of 1975 (when Britons voted by a 34pp margin in favor of membership of the precursor to the European Union). Yet despite the lowest unemployment in generations, wage growth in the UK remains for the most part missing in action. Workers’ total earnings rose by a muted 2.1% in 2Q. With CPI inflation running at a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It Is Not Slack Weighing On Wages

    How can a labor market be very tight, yet have barely any wage growth? In today’s daily Nick tackled this for the UK and found a mix of universal and idiosyncratic causes. For the US and Japan a frequent refrain is that official data hugely understates the potential size of the workforce and so a ready source of “slack”. Will and Udith beg to differ.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The China Inc. Annual Report 2017

    This chartbook outlines the recent core trends in China’s corporate sector. There has been a major rebound in revenues and profits, but most firms are using this to repair balance sheets rather than boost capex. So leverage is down and debt servicing ability is up. But the profit cycle is now likely at its peak, as is firms’ ability to deleverage.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strangulation Of Enterprise

    Zero interest rates have made a great many people a great deal richer. But paradoxically they have strangled wealth creation. The reason for this is that enterprise is overwhelmingly a phenomenon found among smaller companies. Among big companies it is a rare and ailing quality. Quite simply, the overriding goal of every big company is to transform itself into a monopoly, so it can move away from having to earn its profits towards collecting...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Carthago Delenda Est

    Global geopolitics is characterized by the “land-based” empire of China challenging the dominant “maritime” empire of the United States according to Louis and Charles. What they cannot figure out is the seemingly contradictory responses of Washington to this well telegraphed challenge. In this piece they examine pressing challenges to American power and explore the investment consequences, which may come home to roost far quicker than most...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Testing Europe’s Escape Velocity

    The eurozone has exited the emergency room and is looking to sustain a recovery that takes it back to rude health. T Last year’s Chinese stimulus helped spur the latest eurozone pickup and the worry is that recent weakness in both Chinese and German trade data points to an external weakening. So could a stronger euro and slowing China spark another setback?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Slow Exit From Reflation

    China’s first monthly data for the second half of 2017 showed growth momentum softening. While reflation peaked in the first half of 2017, the story is still that the exit from reflation will be very slow and gradual. Economic policy will be largely on hold in this period: tightening has peaked, but the switch to easing is still a long way away.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Limits Of Magical Thinking

    A persistent American fantasy of hardliners is that threats of force will magically cause other countries to abandon their interests and cave in to US demands. The current occupant of the White House is taking this magical thinking to new heights in his approach to Asia. But thankfully, despite the dire headlines, the real-world impact is small.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The US Property Engine Fire Up?

    Two years ago banks started to make it harder for US construction firms to borrow and soon after activity began to fizzle. While blame has been pinned on skilled worker shortages and rising costs of both land and materials, KX and Will think financing was the key issue. The good news is that banks seem to be again loosening their purse strings.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Resurgence Of Walmart Man

    In July 2014, I wrote a piece looking at the fallout from poorer Americans getting poorer (see Poverty Matters For Capitalists). My basic point was that the consumer price index understated the loss of real income being suffered by non-supervisory workers. I showed this using my Walmart index, which is weighted 50% food, 30% shelter and 20% rent to reflect this group’s true consumption basket. Three years ago this population cohort faced a...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Finding Outperformance In Japan

    On Monday, the cabinet office in Tokyo is expected to announce that Japan’s economy grew at an annualized rate of around 2.5% in the second quarter. If it does, it will mark Japan’s sixth consecutive quarter of economic expansion, the longest period of uninterrupted growth since the mid-2000s, when prime minister Junichiro Koizumi was in power.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research August Call

    In this week's call Tom Miller and Udith Sikand presented their view on India's macroeconomic situation and opportunities for foreign investors. Tom outlined the broad macro fundamentals and assessed the Modi government's progress in reforming the economy. Udith presented the investment consequences, expecting a capex revival to begin as soon as next year.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Important Change And Its Natural Hedge

    I don’t usually quote mass murderers, but when I do, I usually fall back on Lenin’s quip that “there are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen”. Lenin was referring to the Russian Revolution which took place a hundred years ago and to this day still casts a long shadow. To some extent, the Russian Revolution, itself a bastard child of the first world war, crystallized the end of an era for Europe. Thereafter the world’s...

    8
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Oil Import Deregulation Put On Hold

    China’s market for gasoline, diesel and other oil products has gotten increasingly competitive since the government started allowing private-sector refiners to import their own crude oil. But the government has now put additional liberalization on hold, which will halt gains for independent refiners and benefit big state enterprises.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Love The Economy, Hate Economists

    Charles is proud of his data-driven approach to economic analysis and is not impressed with the methods applied by much of the modern economics profession. More to the point, he thinks that most modern economic remedies have negatively impacted the growth outlook and dulled investment performance.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Whale Breaking Surface?

    Charles has often said that the impact of a market shock shows up with the same sort of delay as the effects of dynamite fishing. First the small fry float to the top, then the mid-size fish. Only later does the dead whale break surface. With that analogy in mind, Louis has long maintained that investors will not be able to call the end of the oil price slump with any confidence until they have seen major bankruptcies and/or consolidation among...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing’s New Renminbi Strategy

    Since 2016 China has pursued an opportunistic currency strategy, taking advantage of periods of US dollar weakness to steer a depreciation of the renminbi’s trade-weighted exchange rate. But over the last couple of months that policy has shifted, as it looks as if the authorities are satisfied with the renminbi’s current trade-weighted value.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Leading Europe Into Reflation

    The Czech National Bank has become the first central bank in Europe to raise interest rates in this cycle. Yesterday the CNB lifted its policy rate from 0.05% to 0.25%, its first rate hike since 2008. Where the Czechs are leading, others, including the European Central Bank, will follow—but in the case of the ECB, likely not for another two years or more.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Brexit Talks Don’t Matter

    The details of the Brexit talks between the British government and Brussels are far less important, argues Charles in this paper, than the blow Britain’s referendum vote has dealt to the technocratic principles which underpin the European Union’s power structure. The pillars of the temple are crumbling, and sooner or later the edifice must fall.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Energy Stocks, If Only As A Hedge

    A quick glance at our Gavekal TrackMacro application illustrates how the global equity environment remains benign: modest but accelerating growth, low inflation, solid corporate profits and low interest rates. In such an environment, why not load up on equities? Investors have clearly done just that in recent quarters. As one seasoned client put it in a recent meeting: “If central banks are not going to raise rates with German consumer...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lull In The Tourism Boom

    Chinese outbound tourism is having a rough 2017: growth in international travelers is down to about 6%, from 20%-plus growth in earlier years. So has something fundamental in the Chinese tourism story changed, or is this just a blip? In this piece, Ernan argues this slowdown is largely temporary, caused by events in key destinations in Asia.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Building A Bond Valuation Tool

    The “golden rule” of French Nobel laureate Maurice Allais states that over the long run, long term government bond yields always converge with the nominal structural growth rate of the economy. In this paper Charles sets out to build a government bond market valuation tool based on the Allais postulate.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Misleading Signal In US Auto Sales

    Trying to tease economic trends out of recent US data releases is a frustrating business. Take yesterday’s figures. Although the ISM manufacturing PMI ticked down a shade in July to come in a fraction below expectations, at 56.3 the number remained firmly in expansionary territory. On the other hand, two classic cyclical indicators of US economic health—construction spending and automobile sales—both came in weak.

    0
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