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    Gavekal Research

    A Structural Change, Or A Return To The Mean?

    Chinese government bond prices have markedly outperformed treasuries for more than a year. This trend could be explained merely by cyclical factors, or that the Chinese fixed income market is going through a structural rerating, driven in part by the internationalization of the renminbi and the inclusion of Chinese government bonds in major benchmarks.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Decision Tree For Emerging Markets

    Over the last five weeks, something unusual has been going on in global financial markets: the US dollar has been strengthening, and at the same time the price of oil has been going up. If prolonged, such a simultaneous rise in two of the world’s most important prices will threaten to inflict a vicious double blow on emerging market economies and asset prices. To be clear: the bigger influence would be the US dollar. But the simultaneous...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    India Macro Update: Summer Market Blues

    Indian growth is picking up nicely just as the external financing environment gets tougher, with a strengthening US dollar, raising yields and most importantly, a sharply rising oil price. In their regular quarterly review, Udith and Tom argue that India can weather the storm, but global investors would do well to back away from the market.

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    Gavekal Research

    Giuseppe Who?

    The leaders of Italy’s Five Star and Lega political parties on Monday nominated little-known law professor Giuseppe Conte to be the country’s next prime minister. Assuming president Sergio Matarella accepts their choice, Conte will be tasked with leading a coalition government whose disparate members have little in common except populism, euroskepticism, and expansionary fiscal plans.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Resurgence Of Political Risk

    Political risk is now the main driving force of financial markets. In 2017 investors learned—or thought they had learned—that political upheavals just create noise, with no lasting effect on market trends that are set by economic fundamentals. But in 2018 this relationship has been reversed. Wherever we look today—at oil prices, global trade flows or conditions in Europe—politics seems to overwhelm economic fundamentals and set the market trends.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A UK Consumer Reckoning

    This week saw the release of moderately good news for the Brexit-bound UK economy, as wages rose the most in almost three years. With inflation moderating, real incomes have edged higher, giving hope that consumption can again fire up growth. The problem is that the UK—like the US—increasingly displays late cycle characteristics, as shown by a tight labor market and falling profit growth.

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    Gavekal Research

    Oil As A Party Spoiler

    I have tended to see oil not so much as an asset in which to build a position as a party spoiler that can wreak havoc on a portfolio. Yesterday saw the price of Brent break above US$80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014 and the pain is visible in a range of emerging markets that run big external deficits. To be sure, most of my colleagues remain sanguine about EM prospects and do not expect a generalized crisis (see The Refuge In...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    An Attractive But Troublesome Market

    From June 1, China’s domestically-listed A-shares will be included in the MSCI Emerging Markets index, bringing the onshore market to the attention of many global investors for the first time. In this piece, Thomas examines recent developments in the A-share market, and outlines the promises and pitfalls of investing under China’s “regulatory firestorm”.

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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Hong Kong Peg Under Pressure

    The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has again been intervening in the foreign exchange market after it stepped in last month when the Hong Kong dollar fell to its weakest in 35 years. So far the HKMA has bought HKD62bn, selling almost US$8bn to defend the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the US dollar. In this video interview, Tom Holland explains what’s going on, and why there is zero risk Hong Kong will be forced to devalue its currency.

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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond Japan’s 1Q GDP Contraction

    Japan’s longest run of growth since the 1980s has come to an end. After eight consecutive quarters of growth, data released on Wednesday morning showed that the Japanese economy contracted in the first quarter. For investors, the question is whether this contraction will prove a short-lived blip, or whether it marks a decisive turn for the worse in both Japan’s macro-environment and equity market.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Phase Of Eurozone Reform

    During last year’s French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron opened a debate by asking “what do we want to do with the euro?” His answer was more political integration and burden sharing. Those plans must get traction at the June 28-29 meeting of European Union leaders if they are not to be crowded out by a likely messy end to the Brexit process and next year’s European Parliament elections. Right now, this seems a long shot and attention...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bond Yields Have Further To Fall

    After a sharp decline in March and April, Chinese onshore bond yields have bounced back over the past three weeks. But based on the latest economic data and policy signals, Chen Long thinks that bond yields have further to fall. Growth is continuing to slow, and the central bank seems comfortable with a slightly more accommodative stance.

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    Gavekal Research

    Playing A Flatter US Yield Curve

    The US yield curve could invert towards the end of this year or early in 2019, the head of the St. Louis Federal Reserve said on Monday. For investors it’s a troubling thought. Over the last 50 years, whenever the US yield curve has inverted, a recession has typically followed within a year or two. Yet although the current flattening of the curve is set to continue, the process will be gradual, which means inversion and an ensuing recession...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Refuge In Emerging Markets

    The year started in such promising form for emerging markets. Unfortunately, the initial promise failed to outlive January. Since early February’s mini-panic, emerging market assets have taken a beating, hammered by the triple whammy of a stronger US dollar, higher US yields, and rising oil prices—a combination that’s typically adverse for global growth, and so deeply negative for emerging markets. The strain has shown up first among “weak links...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Outcomes In Italy

    Political uncertainty isn’t always bad news. It is now 10 weeks since Italian voters went to the polls in a general election, and still Italy’s bickering political parties have not managed to form a stable coalition government. That hasn’t proved an obstacle for investors. Since the election, Italian equities have gained 9.7% in euro terms, 6.4% in US dollar terms, making Italy the world’s best performing major stock market over the year to date.

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    Gavekal Research

    Malaysia’s 92-Year-Old Populist

    It is surely the most remarkable political comeback of recent history. At the tender age of 92, former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad won a shock victory in Wednesday’s general election, ousting from power the coalition he himself headed for 22 of the 61 uninterrupted years it ruled the country—ever since independence in 1957.

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    Gavekal Research

    Hardly A Game Changer For Oil

    While nobody could have been surprised by the full-scale commercial warfare launched against Iran by President Trump yesterday, his announcement raised more questions than answers. The most important question is whether this action will make the world safer or further destabilize Middle Eastern and global geopolitics. The second question is whether the US enforcement of sanctions will really be as tough as Trump’s belligerent rhetoric and the...

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  • Gavekal Dragonomics

    What’s Really At Stake In The US-China Rivalry

    It is still possible that the US and China will strike a deal to avert threatened tariffs. But as Arthur argues in this piece, any deal will be mostly cosmetic. The tension between the two is not mainly about trade, but about China’s challenge to US global dominance. The US will almost certainly keep trying to counter China’s efforts to gain power.

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    Gavekal Research

    What—Me Worry?

    What should most worry investors about the state of the US economy today? The answer is: “Total absence of worry”. That was my clear conclusion after a week in Los Angeles hobnobbing with the thousands of CEOs, financiers, technologists and politicians at the Milken Global Conference. An intoxicating cocktail of tax cuts, deregulation and record profits has transformed the post-crisis normalization of business confidence into uncritical euphoria.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Illusion Of Liquidity, And Its Consequences

    A decade ago the US corporate bond market was about half as big as it is today, yet bond dealers held about six times more inventory than they do today. In our latest Loser Report which focuses on assets to avoid, Louis worries that the next big financial accident could happen in this aggressively priced arena.

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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Stop Thinking

    In a long career spent trying to formulate reliable investment rules, here is one I have found to work time and again without fail. If two assets show no historical trend, and if in the past their relative price has always reverted towards its historical mean, then when that relative price reaches two standard deviations away from its mean, it is time to stop thinking and just play the mean reversion. Now is one of those times.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs And The Oil Syndrome

    Having fallen more than -10% from their late January peak, emerging markets are looking shaky. Higher yields, a stronger US dollar and rising oil prices have all contributed to a tough environment. In the face of big current account deficits, Turkey and Argentina look properly imperiled, with some saying that their troubles point to a bigger problem for emerging economies. I disagree. Not all headwinds are created equal, and what matters for EMs...

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    Gavekal Research

    Next On The US-China Telenovela: Investment Curbs

    An unusually large group of senior American officials has landed in Beijing for two days of talks on the trade and technology dispute embroiling the US and China. There is no reason to think the mission will achieve much. And if it does manage to cobble together a temporary deal to forestall the tariffs the two countries have threatened against one another, it will do nothing to delay the next act in the drama: proposed restrictions on Chinese...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Seizing The Moment For Artificial Intelligence

    As the US and China try to position themselves for technological leadership, both are now focusing on artificial intelligence. In this piece, Andrew answers the questions of the moment: What is artificial intelligence anyway? Why does China seem to be doing so well in artificial intelligence? And how should we think about this US-China rivalry?

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    Gavekal Research

    Fade The US Dollar Rally

    If a week is a long time in politics, then three months is an eternity in the foreign exchange market. Three months ago, sentiment towards the US dollar reached a nadir after US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed his desire for “a weaker US dollar”. Over the following weeks, the US currency duly weakened. But since mid-April the dollar has staged a rally, with the DXY index gaining 3.5% as the market has noted the increase in US long...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Living With US-China Strategic Rivalry

    A gaggle of US cabinet officials are in Beijing this week for talks aimed at lowering the temperature on US-China trade relations. While there may be an agreement to temporarily delay the huge tariffs each side has threatened to impose on the other, there is no chance of bridging the real rift between the two countries, which arises from China's technological and geopolitical ambitions. A trio of aggressive strategies launched by Xi Jinping...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Punishing People, Not Institutions

    The strategy behind China’s financial overhaul is becoming clear. It is helping banks by allowing an extended transition to a new set of rules. But prosecutions of executives are also ramping up. This is the opposite of what some Western countries did after the 2008 crisis: people, not institutions, are paying the price for financial risk-taking.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why A Curve Inversion Matters

    Investors are increasingly obsessed about the flattening of the US yield curve, leading to talk of the dreaded “I” word. This is not surprising as inversions have usually been followed by a US recession and attendant equity bear market.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The American Growth Dynamic

    It is clear from data released on Friday that the US economy remains set on an expansionary and inflationary trajectory. Growth in 1Q18 came in at a stronger-than-expected 2.3%, while the US employment cost index rose 2.8% YoY to a high for this cycle. Even as consumer spending comes off the boil, US firms, in what looks like a classic late-cycle pattern, are responding to bottlenecks by investing more in their capital stock. We continue to see...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Coiled Spring Currency

    There was a neat circularity to yesterday’s press briefing by Mario Draghi. The European Central Bank was happy to stick with its monetary accommodation as growth data had softened and the euro was pleasingly weaker. Hence, as German exporters go through one of their periodic bouts of angst and confidence readings pull back across the eurozone, the logic runs that the euro could now slide further. This would especially seem to be the case as...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Portfolio Construction In The Time Of An Inflationary Reserve Currency

    In today’s Daily, Charles argued that the key focus of economic conflict between the US and China may end up being over currencies rather than trade spats. He advised investors to monitor the price of treasuries as expressed in gold to see how that struggle is playing out. In this piece, he tells unconstrained investors how to hedge a portfolio in light of the US dollar being subject to inflationary policymaking. Spoiler alert: the answer also...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Upcoming Monetary War, With Gold As An Arbiter

    When President Trump was recently asked if he was starting a war in traded goods with China, he countered that the US had lost that struggle 20 years ago. As the US retains a comparative advantage in technology, such arguments have led some to conclude that the world’s two biggest economies will fight their next economic battle in this new theater. That may be true, but for me the real fight will be less about trade than a struggle for dominance...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Constructive Make-Believe On The Korean Peninsula

    With North Korea suddenly seeming happy to negotiate with its old adversaries, some analysts reckon the regime is buckling under US pressure. Yanmei says this is wishful thinking. Kim Jong-un probably believes he has achieved nuclear deterrence—and he is most unlikely to relinquish it. China and South Korea just want to avoid a US military strike.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Why India’s Growth Is Not Jobless

    India desperately needs to create jobs if it is not to squander what may be the biggest “demographic dividend” in economic history. On the face of things, it looks to be blowing that opportunity, as in recent years the size of the workforce has actually shrunk. In this piece, Tom argues that the raw data obscures a picture that while not ideal, is far better than it looks.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Still Bond Bears

    Matching its 2013 peak, the world’s most-watched interest rate—the US 10-year treasury yield—yesterday touched 3%. Concerns are now high that it will soon move higher, perhaps much higher. For perspective, the US 10-year hit 3.75% in 2011, 4% in 2010 and 5% in 2007. In this cycle, we think yields will break above 3% and then march upwards. In short, we remain bond bears and continue to recommend keeping duration short. Today, we want to...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Dangerous Dealing Along The Belt And Road

    In countries involved with China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, there is a growing realization of the risks to signing up for the scheme. As debt has mounted and fears of economic dependence have increased, a backlash has begun. But as Tom explains, the lure of easy Chinese capital is a dangerous habit that many countries will struggle to kick.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Policy And Productivity In The USA

    If President Trump is to accomplish his stated goal of renewing American economic greatness then an absolute requirement is for productivity growth to be pushed above its current miserable level of 1%. To an extent, the economic cycle is helping him, as a tightening jobs market is pushing up wages and creating incentives for firms to add labor-saving capital investments. I would also point to three structural developments, which, although not...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Markets And Energy

    We all know, don’t we, what defining characteristics the emerging markets have in common? Of course we do. Emerging markets are developing countries on course to become advanced economies, typically with the assistance of powerful demographic tailwinds. But although they enjoy rapid growth over the long term, their institutional architecture is still under construction. As a result, emerging equity markets are more volatile than those of the...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    New Jobless Rate, Same Old Problems

    China has moved to rid itself of a longstanding statistical embarrassment, replacing its discredited unemployment data with a new survey based on international standards. But as Ernan explains, the old problems have not gone away: the new jobless rate is still implausibly low and stable, and likely still subject to political manipulation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Japanese Sandwich

    Shinzo Abe played a fair amount of golf with Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, but unlike other US allies he got no trade concessions. The talk is again of the Japanese prime minister being a busted flush who may have to resign. Last month, I said such an outcome should not derail Japan’s recovery and corporate prospects (see Abenomics After Abe). The same logic applies to fears of escalating US-China trade tensions upending Japan’s recovery.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Message From Credit Markets

    Over the last three weeks US high yield credit spreads have collapsed by 100bp—a tightening that far exceeds the 10bp narrowing in investment grade spreads over the same period. Coming after a marked widening in the Libor-OIS and Ted spreads over February and March, this fall in credit spreads is clearly encouraging. It supports our contention that the widening of Libor spreads was an idiosyncratic anomaly, and nothing investors should be overly...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Dreaming Of A Better India

    In a year’s time, 900 million Indians will be eligible to go to the polls in India’s general election. Two-thirds of them are likely to cast a vote, including 200 million aged under 30. Youth politics in India matters as nowhere else: the world’s biggest democracy has nearly as many young voters as the rest put together. So what do young Indians want, and who will they vote for?

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Keeping Credit Growth On Track

    China’s central bank has tweaked monetary policy to soften the slowdown in credit growth. The RRR cut continues its strategy of managing liquidity to limit the economic impact of the campaign against financial risk. Other data for March still point to a moderate growth slowdown in 2018, particularly given the continued strength in property.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call April 2018

    During yesterday’s monthly call, Arthur Kroeber addressed rising geoeconomic and geopolitical tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. He argued that US moves against China ran far deeper than trade tariffs as actors across the political spectrum in Washington were intent on changing China’s basic economic model, something that Beijing will likely fiercely resist. Much of his focus was on the tech sector, which is front-and-center of...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A First Step Towards Easing

    The Chinese central bank is no longer in full policy tightening mode. That’s good news for Chinese bank shares. Shortly after government statisticians released economic data for the first quarter on Tuesday, the People’s Bank Of China announced a 100bp reduction in bank reserve requirement ratios. For big banks, this reduces the proportion of their deposits they are required to lodge as reserves at the central bank from 17% to 16%. In gross...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Learning To Love The Loonie

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Canadian dollar: disappointing economic data, a frothy real estate market, over-exposed banks, the fact that the Canadian team failed to get either the men’s or the women’s ice hockey gold at the winter Olympics, and a prime minister who dresses up like the Thompson twins when he travels to foreign countries.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    No Time To Give Up On Europe

    Even as winter descended in January, the economic climate seemed decidedly balmy. Eurozone growth for 4Q17 came in at 2.7% YoY, while the year’s first PMI peaked at a post-2006 high of 58.8. Investors liked the idea of deflation finally being slain and a possible earlier-than-expected normalization of monetary policy. Alas the fun didn’t last as a series of data disappointments punctured an equity rally that had been led by financials. My bet is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar — April 2018

    At Gavekal’s seminar in Hong Kong this week, Arthur Kroeber, Rosealea Yao and Nick Andrews presented their latest views on the brewing trade war between the US and China, Chinese growth and the property market outlook, and how to capture European growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Different Analytical Approach

    I have read with great interest the arguments put forward here by Anatole that equities are in a “structural” bull market. Having listened closely to his presentation at Gavekal’s London seminar, I now understand where our main point of difference lies. Anatole argues that we are in a bull market that began in 2013 when US stocks broke above their long-established trading range and which continues to this day (see This Is (Still) Not Peak: It’s...

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Changing Language On Leverage

    China’s policymakers have for the first time called for reducing the total debt-to-GDP ratio. This shift has raised worries that monetary policy could get tougher, on top of the tightening of financial regulation that is already underway. In this piece, Long explains that no shift in policy is imminent; if anything, easing is getting more likely.

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