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    Gavekal Research

    The Corporate Bond Play

    With high-yield and investment grade spreads having shrunk to historically low levels, US corporate bonds are hardly cheap. Yet the combination of favorable tax policy and fiscal incontinence recommends them to any US bond portfolio. As the US economy is likely in the dog days of this cycle, the tricky question is what duration investors should focus on.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Does India Have No Clothes?

    Given its size and comparative advantages, India should have more than a hundred million people working in the garment industry. Bad policies and missed opportunities means it has about half that number. The government has big plans to fix this situation and Tom recently spent time meeting with textile entrepreneurs in and around Delhi to see if this is changing. This is his report card.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Cold Weather, Hot Data

    China’s first data release of 2018 delivered a couple of surprises, with a big jump in industrial value-added and a pickup in real-estate investment. But neither amounts to a convincing signal that the economy is actually re-accelerating. The most likely outcome is still a moderate growth slowdown driven by a shallow downcycle in property.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Legitimacy Versus Legality

    France’s top central banker yesterday called for the nations of the eurozone to cease bickering over ideological questions, and instead get things done. National leaders should stop wasting time on “theoretical debates” that pitted “risk reduction against risk sharing”, said Francois Villeroy de Galhau. They should, instead, tackle real problems like the half-built capital markets union. It was the authentic voice of the European technocracy and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fork In The Road For European Equities

    In the first half of last year making money in European stocks was easy as benchmarks steamed higher on hopes that less political risk would allow an economic surge into sunlit uplands. It has not exactly worked out that way. Such has been the loss of momentum that both the MSCI EMU and broader MSCI Europe indexes have plunged below their 200-day moving averages (just as worrying for tea leaf readers, the 50-day moving average for the narrower...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Stuck In The Middle-Income Trap

    Three years ago Malaysian prime minister Najib Tun Razak faced the kind of graft allegations that would ultimately defenestrate heads of government in Brazil and South Africa. His political fortunes were further imperiled by Malaysia’s highly trade-dependent economy staggering trough the 2014-15 commodity bust. Yet, remarkably, Najib survived and now seems set to be reelected at an upcoming general election. His Houdini-like escape is bad for...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A New Organization Chart

    China yesterday unveiled a sweeping plan to reorganize its central government. In this piece, Yanmei explains how Xi is streamlining administration and empowering new agencies to carry out his distinctive domestic-policy priorities of environmental protection, risk control, and poverty alleviation, as well as his assertive foreign policy.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Curious Case Of The HK Dollar

    One of the longest awaited adjustments in financial markets may finally be about to happen. Last year, betting that Hong Kong dollar interest rates would rise to converge with US dollar rates was reckoned to be among the surest trades in world markets. Yet the convergence never happened. Over the last 12 months, one-month Hong Kong dollar Hibor has consistently traded at a discount to one-month US dollar Libor of more than 30bp. And since the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Turning 90% Bullish

    Over the last three years, Will has developed his own version of Charles's Wicksellian framework to analyze the US economic cycle. His approach has been to gauge the difference between the private sector’s return on invested capital and its cost. In this candid report, he explains why he is overhauling his model and how this has substantially changed his recommendations.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Curiously Weak Dollar

    Since early February, global markets have had a volatile ride. The big exception has been the US dollar, which has stayed stoically range-bound. This is odd considering the Federal Reserve’s fairly hawkish outlook for monetary policy and the fact that imposing tariffs on metal imports should lessen the US trade deficit. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but the general Gavekal view on the US dollar has in recent times been fairly bearish (see...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Playing Russia’s Continued Recovery

    The result of this weekend’s Russian presidential election is not in doubt. But investors in Russia face considerable uncertainty. Despite monetary policy and exchange rate liberalization, Russia has made little progress towards the structural reforms needed to boost its potential growth rate above rock-bottom levels. Nevertheless, cyclical tailwinds mean there are still some attractive pockets of opportunity for international investors.

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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call March 2018

    In last week’s Research Conference Call Cedric Gemehl and Nick Andrews presented a thematic approach for playing the European growth story. Cedric explained why the major stock indexes fail to capture the geographical and sectoral potential in Europe, and Nick proposed specific investment themes that should allow investors to benefit from Europe’s continued expansion.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Zhou Xiaochuan’s Legacy

    Zhou Xiaochuan is expected to retire this month after 15 years heading the People’s Bank of China, during which he oversaw both major reforms and an explosion of debt. Chen Long argues that Zhou’s successor faces three main challenges: completing interest and exchange rate reform, managing financial risk, and adapting to a bigger global role.

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    Gavekal Research

    Trade Wars: The Phantom Menace?

    In the aftermath of the past week’s to-ing and fro-ing over steel and aluminum tariffs, there is one thing we can be certain of this year: we are going to see a lot more protectionist theatrics coming out of the White House. What is much less certain is how worried we should be.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Property Tax Is Back

    A property tax is back on the Chinese government’s agenda: after being postponed in 2017, the long-discussed tax was brought up again at this week’s legislative session. The draft law could come in 2018, with actual taxes being levied by late 2019 at the earliest. But Rosealea expects this to be largely a non-event for the property market.

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    Gavekal Research

    Making In Delhi

    Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative is supposed to transform India from an industrial laggard into a global manufacturing hub. Tom and Udith recently kicked the tires in the industrial heartlands surrounding Delhi and can confirm that China, for now, does not have serious competition. Yet they found some surprisingly encouraging developments that point to the policy in pockets displaying genuine success.

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    Gavekal Research

    What A Trade War Means For Europe

    The departure of free-trader Gary Cohn from the Trump administration has investors rightly concerned that a global trade war may loom. Markets rallied yesterday on reports that the US may carve out exclusions for its steel and aluminum tariffs, but President Donald Trump seems set to announce a punitive package as early as today. The European Union has taken a tough stance against the US threat, and yesterday added orange juice and peanut butter...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The New Challenger In Memory Chips

    China is making an expensive new push to crack the market for memory chips, now dominated by a South Korean-led oligopoly. In this piece, the first in an occasional series looking at China’s technological ambitions and the Made in China 2025 plan, Dan assesses whether and how China can succeed in this drive to gain semiconductor market share.

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    Gavekal Research

    Housing And The US Economy

    The last economic cycle in the US was marked by excesses in residential investment and a dearth of business investment, which proved negative for productivity growth. As the current cycle gets a pro-cyclical boost in its mature phase from last year’s tax reforms, that imbalance will be at least partially reversed.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Finest Hour

    At Gavekal, we have no house view, but in recent weeks something of a united front has formed among my erudite colleagues on the subject of Europe and her politics. Just to be sure that clients don’t conclude that we have all imbibed the Brussels-dispensed Kool Aid, let me offer my take on the situation and the implication for financial asset values.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Change And Stasis In Italy

    In Italy’s general election on Sunday, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement emerged as the largest single party in each chamber of parliament, and the populist Lega eclipsed Silvio Berlusconi’s Forze Italia to dominate the right of Italian politics. Following these changes, it is hard to see how any plausible combination of parties can secure a stable majority in both houses of parliament. As Cedric and Anatole explain, the most likely...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Meaning Of ‘High-Quality’ Growth

    According to Xi Jinping, China’s high-speed growth is over, and it is pursuing “high-quality” growth instead. With today’s publication of official targets for 2018, the real impact of that rhetorical change is getting clearer. In practice, the focus on “quality” will not end pressure to deliver economic growth, nor reduce government intervention.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Stop Worrying About EU Political Risk

    Is it time for investors to finally forget about “political risk” in the eurozone? Judging by the weekend’s events in Germany and Italy the answer is an emphatic “Yes”. The big event was the overwhelming vote by Germany’s Social Democratic Party to participate in a “grand coalition” with the center-right. This means that Angela Merkel will be reappointed for a fourth term as chancellor. Thus Germany will have a stable government with no serious...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Current Account, Trump’s Trade War And Equities

    US president Donald Trump’s announcement last week of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum are just the first salvo of a trade war aimed at reducing the US$566bn annual US trade deficit. Yet even far more extensive tariffs than those announced on Thursday will do nothing to narrow the US trade gap. As KX argues in this report, more powerful economic forces are working to widen the US trade and current account deficits over the coming...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Surviving China's Regulatory Storm

    Scarcely a week goes by without word of some new regulatory crackdown on China’s financial services industry. After years of financial liberalization, runaway growth in the shadow banking market, and rampant regulatory arbitrage, the authorities are now moving to unify a fragmented regulatory regime and contain the risks posed by excessive leverage and complexity. In this video interview, Chen Long makes sense of the about-face and explains what...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The First Casualty In Trump’s Trade War

    Donald Trump has finally delivered on his long-delayed promise of trade protectionism, and in the worst possible way. By promising to impose tariffs on metals imports (25% on steel, 10% on aluminum) on “national security” grounds, he addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, and creates a host of new ones. All this assumes, of course, that the tariffs are not watered down or more narrowly targeted when they are formally announced next week—a real...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Risk Of A US-China Economic Cold War?

    Donald Trump’s announcement of tariffs on US imports of steel and aluminum looks like the first salvo in a new trade war. But while Thursday’s measures will mostly affect America’s closest allies, behind the scenes the US administration appears to be preparing a more focused campaign directed against China. In this analysis, Arthur examines the political maneuvering over trade within the Trump team, explains why the hardliners are now in the...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Surprising Upside Of Yen Strength

    The best performing currency in the world so far this year is... the Japanese yen. Over the first two months of 2018, the yen has climbed 5.5% against the US dollar, remaining well bid even as the US dollar itself has found support in recent days. At the same time, the Japanese equity market has taken a beating, falling -4.3% in local currency terms over the year to date. As a result, even though Japanese stocks are still up in US dollar terms...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Trading On European Diversity

    The European economic recovery has matured into a sustained, broad-based expansion, and the risks from politics and ECB policy normalization are modest. But eurozone equity indexes have not done well. In relative terms, they started trading sideways after Macron's victory in the French election last May, and for the past several months they have underperformed. The fault lies in the indexes, not in Europe's corporate sector. The...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is Construction Preparing An Upside Surprise?

    Since markets reopened after the Chinese New Year holiday, the prices of commodities tied to China’s construction cycle have been picking up. This optimism could be justified: construction fundamentals are solid and policy interventions are mostly positive. In this piece, Rosealea explains the upside risks for construction activity in early 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dollar’s New Crush

    The foreign exchange market, I’ve often said, is a serial monogamist. There are multitudes of potential drivers out there. But the market likes to step out with just one at a time. Its relationships can last anywhere from a few quarters to a couple of years. But sooner or later, it gets bored and switches its affections. So, in 2005-07, the main driver was the growing US current account deficit and the perception that the US was flooding the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    India Macro Update: Politics Trumps Economics

    Indian growth in the fiscal year ending March 31 should top 7%, before accelerating to nearer 7.5% in FY18-19. Yet Indian equities failed to rebound with other emerging markets after this month’s correction, and the rout in bonds since last summer is continuing. In the latest edition of Gavekal’s India Macro Update Udith and Tom assess what this muddled picture means for investors.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Challenge Confronting Investors

    Few in the markets will be sorry to see the back of February. But as a tough month draws to a close, this seems a reasonable time to take stock and draw lessons for the future. It is perturbing that lesson Number One must be that there really was nowhere to hide. Geographical diversification served little purpose, as all markets fell and then rebounded in unison. The same held with sectors, for those that performed worst in 2017 (energy and...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    What Lies Beneath

    As liquidity in the global financial markets tightens, Louis turns to Gavekal’s longstanding dynamite fishing analogy in a speculative exercise that attempts to identify some of the “whales” that might just go belly up in the squeeze.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Emperor Xi Is Not So Far Away

    By removing term limits from his office of president, Xi Jinping has shown there are no constraints left on his political power. As he strengthens his grasp on the top of China’s political pyramid, he is also enforcing his will more effectively at the bottom. For better or for worse, he is moving China to a more centralized and top-down system.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Important Chart Today

    In a development uncomfortably reminiscent of the breakdown of the 1987 Louvre Accord, recent US dollar weakness has propelled a marked outperformance of Chinese government bonds in US dollar terms relative to treasuries. This potentially leaves Chinese policymakers facing a tricky choice: Will Beijing repeat the BoJ’s great mistake of the late 1980s, or will it prefer the Bundesbank’s hard line?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Eurozone Growth: Blip, Peak Or Plateau?

    European growth was always going to soften at some point; the question is whether this week’s squishy data releases reflect a fizzling out of the upswing, or merely an inevitable maturing of the cycle. The fact that the deterioration unfolded during a market dislocation that did not originate in Europe certainly gives succor to skeptics who see the single currency area as the soft underbelly of the current global synchronized upturn.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    After The Yellen And Bernanke Puts, The Pavlov Put

    Last Monday, I pointed to three reasons why the recent turmoil in global equities would probably prove nothing worse than a counter-trend “buy on dips” correction, rather than the start of a serious bear market. That's not to say that worries about inflation and overheating are unfounded. But investors are still quite relaxed about both growth and inflation, as evidenced by historically modest bond yields.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taming The Inflation Risk From Pork

    What are the odds that China has a surprise jump in inflation this year? In China, surges in the CPI are usually driven by food—particularly highly cyclical pork prices. But while food inflation is likely to turn positive this year, Ernan argues that the odds of an inflation spike are low, as farm consolidation has tamed the pork price cycle.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Notes On An Indian Scandal

    As most emerging equity markets have clawed back a good portion of the losses they suffered in early February’s risk-off, there has been one notable exception. Far from rebounding, Indian stocks have taken another leg down following revelations of a US$1.7bn fraud at Punjab National Bank, the country’s second-largest state-owned lender. The scale of the fraud—roughly twice the amount promised to the bank by the government in the first tranche of...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bond Market Risks

    Charles is bemused by the cacophony of commentary on the apparent bursting of a US government bond bubble. By his reckoning, treasuries are at about fair value. The same cannot be said for certain other big bond markets, where far bigger risks lurk. In this short piece, he updates his broad view on risks in the global bond market.

    12
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Local Infrastructure Feels The Chill

    China’s financial crackdown is now extending to the funding tricks that local governments use to pay for infrastructure projects, which have long been tolerated in the name of economic growth. This report explains why this crackdown will put more of a chill on infrastructure spending—but also why public-works investment is unlikely to collapse.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Gauging The Strength Of The Oil Bid

    It made headlines around the world earlier this month when the US government’s Energy Information Administration announced that US oil production had hit 10.25mn bpd in the last week of January. At that rate, the US was not just pumping more crude than at its previous production peak in 1970, it was very likely pumping more than Saudi Arabia, lifting the US into second place in the global production league table behind Russia.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call February 2018

    In last week’s Research Conference Call Andrew Batson outlined the risks—both downside and upside—to the Chinese economy in 2018. Yanmei Xie focused on the risk of overzealous implementation of policy. This is especially the case for environmental regulations, which gave Beijing an uncharacteristically smog-free winter, but at the cost of a natural gas shortage.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Play An EM Rebound

    On Thursday, my colleague Joyce Poon argued that strong global growth and favorable financial conditions should allow emerging markets to sustain their outperformance. In the immediate run-up to the recent global sell-off, Latin American markets like Brazil and Mexico had charged hardest on the back of higher commodity prices and an incipient global shift from growth stocks toward value plays. But once the dust settles and EMs get their mojo...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Very British Tightening

    Last week, the Bank of England upped its UK growth forecast and signaled that interest rates may be raised harder and faster than expected. This week, Theresa May’s government maintained its muddled passage towards a European Union exit, which has increasingly fretful multinationals warning that Britain’s economy could be headed for the rocks. Even, if like me, you think the UK will secure an eventual squishy-type deal with the EU that involves...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    CSI Wall Street (Part II)

    On Monday, in CSI Wall Street Anatole morphed into Sherlock Holmes to investigate the crime scene following the market correction. He concluded that: “There’s nothing to see here. Please move along.” And the markets promptly did. Over the past week, equities have rallied around the world while volatility has gradually ratcheted down. A few more weeks like the past one, and the market moves of late January and early February will quickly be...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs And The Global Cycle

    The market correction of the last two weeks has been centered on the US, but also hit emerging markets pretty hard. A year ago, I argued that the sustainability of the EM run-up depended on continued strong global growth, more oil price gains and a further fall in tail risks associated with the financial system. The issue is whether the newly volatile conditions in global markets are a game-changer for the emerging world. That conundrum depends...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deficits And Bondholders

    Economics 101 says that when there is more of something, then other things being equal its price should go down. That is worrying for US bond investors as US lawmakers last week passed a budget deal that may raise deficits by US$320bn over the next 10 years (any new infrastructure spending will be extra). Interestingly, and perhaps not entirely coincidentally, just as debt-fueled big-government becomes the new normal in Washington, November’s...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Freeze-Thaw Conditions In Korea

    It has been a week of confusing signals from the Korean peninsula. Even as North Korea has paraded its missiles, and the US and its allies have sworn to exert “maximum pressure” against Kim Jong-Un’s rogue regime, both sides have hinted at their readiness to return to the negotiating table. Yanmei cuts through the fog to assess the future trajectory of North Korean event risk.

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