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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Retail Sales Data Enigma, Explained

    This technical note explains why the retail sales growth numbers reported by the National Bureau of Statistics are so much higher than the growth rates one can calculate by comparing this year's sales values with last year's. This is not an effort to cover up bad economic performance by fudging statistics, but the opposite.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Last Place In The FX Beauty Contest

    In mid-August, the US dollar hit a 12-month high against developed country currencies, and a multi-year high against emerging market currencies. Two weeks on, the burning question for investors is whether those highs represent a turning point, whether the dollar strength that prevailed from mid-April to mid-August has now played out, and whether the US currency is about to resume the softening trend that predominated through 2017. As always,...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Misery Loves Company

    These days you are about as likely to encounter a happy active manager as a flying unicorn. Between the massive outperformance of a few, highly priced, stocks (Amazon, Netflix, Microsoft etc.), the continued compression of fees, the increased burden of regulations, front-running by algos and dark-pools, the fact that fewer and fewer marketmakers actually make markets... pick any topic, and the chances are it will be a sore point.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Winter Air Pollution War (Part 2)

    North China is gearing up for big cuts in heavy industry output this winter, in a repeat effort to clean up the skies over Beijing. This campaign will, by constraining supply and raising costs, exert steady upward pressure on metals prices. In the long run, it will encourage producers to move to other regions, redrawing China’s industrial map.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Teflon Don Or Teflon Dow?

    US equities have undeniably been the place to be in the post-2008 decade. As that divergence has gone into hyper-drive in the last three months, one might have expected events roiling the Trump presidency this week to spark a correction. Yet yesterday saw US equities end broadly flat for the day. So is this a case of Teflon Don or Teflon Dow?

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Hated Bull Market In History

    Anatole reviews the state of the US bull market and concludes that it still has legs. He does, however, warn that portfolio strategies which worked well during the disinflationary era since the mid-1980s are unlikely to play well in this bull market’s later stage.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Clogging China’s Cash Pipeline To Silicon Valley

    In the past years, billions of dollars of Chinese venture capital have poured into US tech firms. This is alarming to the US Defense Department, which believes these investments could lead to a flow of critical technology back to China, eroding the American advantage in fields such as artificial intelligence, robotics, and autonomous vehicles.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Sound, Fury, Fear And Markets

    Regardless of political affiliation, there seems to be a consensus that yesterday was a bad day for the Trump administration. It is almost impossible to predict the chain of events that will unfold in the coming days and weeks, but the political fallout from Paul Manafort’s fraud conviction and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea will be unabashedly ugly. Whether this latest twist in the drama gripping Washington has broader ramifications for markets is...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Trouble With Monopsonies II: Joan Robinson Versus David Ricardo

    Among the discussion topics at this week’s Jackson Hole meeting of world central bankers will be whether the market power of giant corporations is so great it allows them to hold down workers’ wages at the global level. Charles has no doubt, arguing in this paper that the development of platform companies into labor monopsonies accounts for what has been misunderstood as “secular stagnation”.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    A Step Back From War On All Fronts

    Events of the past few weeks have lowered the risk of the worst-case scenario of a trade-war-on-all-fronts that Arthur laid out earlier this summer. But although officials in both the US and China are eyeing a truce, no bilateral deal can be nailed down until the two countries’ presidents meet in November, after the US midterm elections. That leaves time for the Trump administration’s trade hawks to regain the upper hand.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    A Benign View Of US Inflation

    With US inflation now running above the Federal Reserve’s long term target rate, and the US labor market almost as tight as at any time since the turn of the century, the question for investors is not whether inflation will continue to push higher, but how fast it will rise. The distinction is important. Headline CPI inflation came in at a six-and-a-half-year high of 2.9% in July. And in June the overall and core PCE measures that the Fed...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Meaning Of A Flat Yield Curve

    Every US recession since the mid-1950s has been preceded by a flat or inverted yield curve. The fact that the curve is now fairly pancake-like in form and the Federal Reserve is ratcheting up interest rates has investors on edge. On balance, I conclude that the time is right to get out of US banks, but not to be rushing the exits of the US equity market.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Military Embrace Brings Risks For Technology

    China’s government is making a determined effort to co-opt private technology companies to help modernize its military. The pressure to support this drive, known as “military-civil fusion,” creates new political risks for tech companies and their investors: they could face more Chinese government interference and a political backlash from abroad.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Assess The Stresses On EMs

    Emerging market equities are officially in a bear market, with the MSCI EM index down -20% from its January peak. EM-related commodities are also hurting, notably copper which has fallen -18% since June. The central question now is whether one should steer clear of all EM assets, because the rout is general and likely to get worse; or if one should keep an eye out for buying opportunities here and there. With some trepidation, we advise the...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Indian Tourists Are The New Chinese

    Some 25mn Indians traveled abroad last year, making sub-continent tourists increasingly important for a range of major destinations. They may not yet rival Chinese travellers who are by far the biggest group of globe-trotters, but in this piece Tom argues that is only a matter of time. Already, it is cheaper for Indians to travel to a range of overseas destinations than within India itself and the middle class increasingly has the travel bug.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Than Collateral Damage

    Among the collateral casualties of Turkey’s lira crisis have been European bank shares. Over the last week, as the lira plunged, the SX7E index—the EuroSTOXX banking index—slumped -7% on fears about banks’ exposure to Turkish borrowers. But Turkey is not the only concern weighing on European bank stocks. The sell-off over the last week is just the latest in a series of downlegs that together have seen the SX7E fall -19.7% over the last six...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Show Me The Stimulus

    China's data releases for July showed that the easing measures of the last few months have yet to have an impact on the real economy, with industrial value-added, fixed-asset investment and retail sales all slowing. Further monetary easing measures will follow. But as Long argues, they are unlikely to lead to a major increase in credit growth. Instead any stimulus efforts are likely to be financed by an increase in local government bond...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Italy The Whale?

    Markets have an end-of-an era feeling to them as the US’s exit from easy money causes the dollar to rise, emerging markets to crater and strongmen to cry blue murder . Louis yesterday concluded that we are not yet seeing the kind of event that marks a cycle’s denouement. I agree but wonder if we did just glimpse a big beast breaking the surface in the shape of Italy, which judging by yesterday’s 12bp rise in BTP yields may already be in play.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Turkey Is A Big Fish, But No Whale

    The meltdown unfolding in Turkey is not a surprise (see A Turkish Vortex). However, it does raise the question of where we go from here, and whether the Turkish crisis is a symptom of a change in the investment environment.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    I Didn’t See It Coming

    As a rules-based investor, I got jumpy late last year when key indicators like my velocity indicator began to flash red. In January, I advised investors to reduce portfolio volatility by holding yen cash, short-dated treasuries and even Chinese bonds. Through to about April, this positioning worked fine as markets had a rocky period. Since April, however, the picture has changed in ways I did not expect.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Softening Up On SOE Deleveraging

    China this year ordered central SOEs to bring down their asset-liability ratio down by 2pp by 2020. That might sound like a modest change, but it means doing much more deleveraging in the next two years than in the last two. With policymakers now starting to ease policy, this aggressive hard target for deleveraging will likely become a soft one.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Illusory Rally

    Which is the best-performing stock market in Asia so far this year? If you look at the headline equity indexes, the answer is India. On Thursday morning, the Bombay Stock Exchange’s Sensex 30 index hit yet another record high, up 11.6% year to date in local currency terms, and up 4% in US dollar terms. At first glance this outperformance might suggest that India, with its low dependence on foreign trade and manageable level of external debt, is...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    More Underperformance Ahead For US Bank Shares

    It’s been a tough few months for investors in US bank shares. Since late February banks have underperformed the broader S&P 500 index, in large part on fears that the flattening trend in the US yield curve will compress bank net interest margins and depress earnings. Yet viewed on a longer time horizon, things look different. From the fourth quarter of 2015 until the first quarter of this year (the latest data point), bank net interest...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Assets And Albatrosses On The Maritime Silk Road

    China is going port-crazy in Southeast Asia. Chinese firms are now engaged in building 15 port projects in the region, at a total cost of more than US$50bn. Will these bricks in the Maritime Silk Road prove to be valuable assets, or financial black holes? In our new DeepChina report, Lance Noble and Tom Miller find the answer is: some of both.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fire Testing Of Asian Junk

    The strong US dollar, rising oil prices and a gathering trade war have sent capital fleeing from emerging markets. Asian high-yield debt has taken a hit with the benchmark (JP Morgan) index down -3% this year, sparking worries of a self-feeding cycle that ends with a debt crisis. We have taken a fairly constructive view on emerging economies due to their generally non-threatening macro-fundamentals. Hence, with EM asset prices stabilizing it is...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Biggest Question Of The Day

    Should we take Donald Trump literally when he says he wants to eliminate the US trade deficit? In this paper, Louis examines the different ways the US might hope to cut its trade deficit, including its bilateral deficit with China, and explores why the outlook for risk assets depends enormously on the US administration's real aims in launching its international trade war.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    When Non Means Non

    The UK government is on the offensive trying to sell a “Chequers” plan that would leave it with a semi-detached trading and administrative relationship with the European Union. The negotiating position, has won few plaudits at home, and over the last week got a courteous, but non-committal response on the continent. Cedric is doubtful that the intended "divide and conquer" approach will bear fruit.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Good Choices For China

    China wants to show that it will stand up to US threats to escalate the trade war. Yet Yanmei argues that it has few attractive policy choices. It can neither back down from the confrontation nor retaliate enough to deter the US. With little prospect of a negotiated solution in the near term, Beijing is focused on stabilizing the domestic economy.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Weighing The Forces Driving The US$

    Where is the US dollar going next? After weakening markedly against other developed economy currencies at the beginning of the year, the US dollar staged a vigorous rebound in April and May. Since then, the DXY US dollar index has essentially tracked sideways. Of course, trying to forecast the US dollar’s moves is frequently a thankless task. Nevertheless, it is important to examine both the bullish and bearish forces at work and to weigh their...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Will Mergers Become A New Front In The Trade War?

    On July 25, Qualcomm canceled its US$44bn acquisition of NXP Semiconductors after it failed to get approval from Beijing before its self-imposed deadline. In this piece, Matt assesses the big question this failure raises: has China decided to use its merger-review process to punish US companies for the tariffs imposed by the Trump administration?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bullish Logic Of Trump’s U-Turns

    The news on Wednesday that Donald Trump’s administration is considering imposing tariffs of 25%—rather than 10%—on an additional US$200bn of Chinese goods might appear to be an aggressive escalation of its trade conflict with China. But there is a high probability the proposed tariffs will never be implemented. Trump has a track record of talking tough, only to back down before it comes to the crunch; a pattern of behavior that may help to...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    US Housing Gets Vertiginous

    There is a lot to like about US housing. Vacancy rates are low, as are inventories of unsold homes. The labor market is tight and wages are steadily rising. At this point of the cycle there has usually been substantial over-building, but not this time. While supply has increased, housing starts have yet to exceed my estimate of the structural rate of household formation. Yet despite these decent enough fundamentals, valuations look stretched and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Towards A Global Liquidity Crisis?

    In our latest outlook for global investment strategy, Charles Gave warns that the world may be heading into a dollar liquidity squeeze. There have been seven such scarce-dollar episodes since 1971, and every one produced some big financial accidents. The basic symptom today is that the US is heading into an inflationary boom, while the rest of the world is seeing slower economic growth and weaker asset prices. Investors must be defensive; but...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Will Halt The Renminbi’s Fall?

    The momentum for a weaker renminbi is considerable, with the US ratcheting up its trade war with China and the Chinese government moving to easier fiscal and monetary policies. But Chen Long argues that the renminbi’s downside from current levels may prove limited even though the central bank is unlikely to intervene as much as it did in 2015-16.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Lessons From The Tech Sell-Off

    Last week’s technology sector jitters have continued into the this week, with the FANG+ index now down -9% from last Wednesday’s close. Amid the general pull-back, two spectacular high-profile face-plants have really stood out: within one trading session, Facebook and Twitter both shed a fifth of their values. Awkwardly, these severe sell-offs unfolded on what was pretty mundane news: disappointing revenue guidance for Facebook, and...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    When To Buy US Equities?

    Last month, Will and KX asked When To Buy US Bonds? This month, they turn their attention to US equities and devise a portfolio asset allocation model that advocates overweighting stocks against bonds when returns on invested capital and earnings yields exceed corporate funding costs. Back-testing gives an impressive historical outperformance at a reduced volatility relative to the S&P 500. But just as important is what the model has to say...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good News Really Is Good News

    The US economic engine is humming, and corporate earnings continue to beat expectations. Data released on Friday showed real GDP grew at an annualized 4.1% in the second quarter. And with just over half the S&P 500’s constituents having reported for 2Q, 83% have exceeded earnings expectations. Yet investors are unimpressed. The US stock market has so far failed to regain its January pre-VIX-spike high, and despite Friday’s strong GDP print,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    No Exit From Brexit

    On Friday, Anatole set out his view that a second Brexit referendum is likely, and that in all probability it will reverse the original 2016 vote. Exercising his right to reply, today Charles explains why no second referendum is possible, why a no-deal, hard Brexit is increasingly likely, and why this will present a great buying opportunity in UK assets.

    15
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    Gavekal Research

    Stabilizing, Not Slumping

    After a rocky first half of the year, in which a clutch of key indicators deteriorated steeply, recent signs indicate that eurozone growth is stabilizing rather than rolling over. Without doubt, there are still formidable downside risks. However, on balance the latest batches of data point to a continuation of above-potential growth, albeit in a lower gear than in 2017.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Arithmetic Of Brexit

    If a country votes to make two plus two equal five, that “democratic decision” will eventually be overwritten by the rules of arithmetic. Anatole reckons this is what’s playing out in Britain, as Theresa May’s government struggles to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic Brexit plan. If the situation persists, the only alternative will be another referendum—only this time the choice would be between remain and a far less attractive, but...

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    No Cause For Celebration

    The US-EU trade truce announced by President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday is good news for the world economy. Yet it is still far too early to write off global macro risk from a generalized trade war. US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports remain in place, as do the EU’s retaliatory tariffs on US goods; and the threat of American levies on US$335bn in car and car part imports has been...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Inventories Hit Bottom

    The long decline in China’s housing inventories—the key factor driving the recovery in construction—now seems to have ended. After falling in 2015, 2016 and 2017, housing inventories are now on pace to end 2018 slightly higher. In this piece, Rosealea explains why this change will not spell the end of the construction cycle just yet.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bank Of Japan's Choices

    Global bond markets have been jolted this week by an unusual source: the Bank of Japan. Reports that the BoJ is considering making unspecified tweaks to its policy stance triggered a 5bp spike in the 10-year Japanese government bond yield on Monday, and were blamed for an 8bp rise in the 10-year US treasury yield. BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda promptly denied the stories, insisting he knew “absolutely nothing” about the matter. And the central...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Stemming The Tide Of Bond Defaults

    As China’s government shifts economic policy more explicitly into easing mode, will it relieve the growing strains in the corporate bond market? In this piece, Chen Long diagnoses the underlying causes of a recent wave of defaults that have spooked investors, and explains how the government is changing policy to ease that financial stress.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    An Indian Quagmire

    India has won kudos for adopting a modern bankruptcy law that makes it easier for big lenders to clean house on a bad debt problem that has festered since the early 2000s. The problem is that an approach which would garner broad support on Wall Street and then be executed through fairly efficient courts in New York and Delaware, has in India run into the sand of murky politics and bureaucratic sloth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Understanding India’s Bad Loan Problem

    India has won kudos for adopting a modern bankruptcy law that makes it easier for big lenders to clean house on a bad debt problem that has festered since the early 2000s. In this video interview Udith discusses how the new bankruptcy law has worked in practice, and whether it will be enough to solve Indian banks' bad debt problem.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Destination Escalation

    Will we see any break in the escalation of Trump’s trade wars this year—either because one of the targets capitulates and tries to strike a deal with the US, or because blowback within the US against the negative impact of trade wars gets strong enough that Trump needs to beat a tactical retreat? The answer is a firm no, on both counts.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    What US Auto Tariffs Would Mean For Europe

    Last week’s public hearings in Washington heard a chorus of industry opposition to the US administration’s proposed import tariffs on cars and car parts. But in Europe at least, markets appear to be coming around to the view that the tariffs will go ahead regardless. After Friday’s fall, the auto and auto parts sub-index of the Stoxx 600 has slumped -15% since late May when the US Commerce Department announced its Section 232 investigation,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Tri-Polar Disorder

    Having been at odds with each other for at least three years, the empire is striking back against an upstart member. The European Union on Thursday said it will sue Hungary for its unfair treatment of asylum seekers. A few years ago, such a stand-off would have been assumed to have only one outcome: a win for the dispensers of patronage in Brussels. That is no longer the case and this tells us much about how the EU’s traditional power brokers—...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Fair Weather Friend, Or Safe Port In A Storm?

    On Thursday morning in Asia, the Japanese yen was trading at ¥112.7 to the US dollar. At that level the yen is down -7.2% from its late March high, a fall which has erased all its first quarter gains and left the currency exactly flat year-to-date. At first glance this fall might seem surprising, given the degree of nervousness in global markets and the yen’s reputation as a safe haven currency, not to mention its undervaluation relative to...

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