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E.g., 29-07-2017
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    Gavekal Research

    An Interesting Configuration

    When the market is suffering from doubts, it pays to start with the facts. And clearly the market is having a few doubts right now. After setting the latest in a series of record highs in intraday trading yesterday, US equities succumbed to the jitters. In the space of an hour, the S&P500 fell -1% and the Nasdaq -2%, as investors questioned the underpinnings of the current run-up in stocks. So, let’s begin with some facts:

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    Gavekal Research

    US Bear Flattening Ahead

    The miniscule change of wording in yesterday’s Federal Reserve statement appears to confirm that the Fed will go ahead and begin to shrink its balance sheet from September. June’s statement said balance sheet normalization would begin “this year”, implying the process would start by December at the latest. Yesterday’s statement altered that to “relatively soon”—and relatively sooner than December suggests September, as the only other meeting...

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    Gavekal Research

    When Smoking Pays

    Baseball cards, Beanie Babies, bitcoins... For the last eight years, governments have regarded them as much the same sort of thing, taking a broadly tolerant attitude to the proliferation of crypto-currencies. Not anymore. Yesterday the US SEC declared that blockchain-based digital tokens such as bitcoin are in fact securities and thus subject to the full panoply of SEC regulation.

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    Gavekal Research

    Big Tech Is Not Standard Oil

    Back in May, Louis warned that the regulatory knives were coming out for Big Tech. In the worst case scenario for the dominant technology giants that have done so much to drive the stock market to new highs, Louis argued that they could even face the same treatment that Standard Oil received at the hands of the US government in 1911. Investors were forcibly reminded of this tightening regulatory squeeze yesterday when Google parent Alphabet...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Eurozone Is Now So Far Behind The US, It’s In Front

    Among the many tricky tasks facing investors is to determine the relative positions of the US and eurozone economies in their respective business cycles. Over the preceding two cycles—the ones that peaked in 2000/01 and 2005/06—the two economies moved broadly in phase, with the eurozone lagging the US by around one year. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund and OECD suggest that that relative position is largely unchanged, with the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Value Creation In A Capitalist World

    In a capitalist economy there are three different kinds of value creation: the Schumpeterian, the Ricardian, and the Malthusian. And the companies in each of these value creation segments swing through very different cycles. In this short paper, Charles outlines how each segment works, explains where they are in their cycles, and suggests how investors can build appropriately hedged portfolios.

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    Gavekal Research

    Life’s Certainties And The Euro

    There are very few certainties in life. Death, taxes, US consumers living beyond their means, and Italian central bankers talking down their currency are pretty much the only things I have learnt in my career to be inevitable. Sure enough, Mario Draghi came out yesterday doing his best to sound as dovish as he possibly could. That did not stop the euro from surging past its ceiling of US$1.15 to reach US$1.1620.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Reading Trump’s Trade Signals

    Donald Trump came into office six months ago today promising to rip up the rules of global trade in order to put America’s narrow interests first and cut its trade deficit. So far, though, his administration’s trade policies have been more smoke than substance. Global trade volume has accelerated smartly since the US election. Threats of a trade war with the main target, China, fizzled in the face of US business interests, Beijing’s ability to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Liquidity: More Bad News Than Good

    Gavekal has long maintained that bull markets rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. Now with the Fed set to tighten further in an environment of weak bank credit growth, KX and Will warn that the liquidity pillar which has done so much to support the current bull market in US equities is looking increasingly shaky. That is especially ominous, given that valuations are no longer cheap and catch-up growth is played out for this...

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    Gavekal Research

    Watch US-Eurozone Rate Differentials

    Interest rate differentials between the US and eurozone are wide by historical standards. This is no surprise. The US has enjoyed uninterrupted growth (at least in year-on-year terms) since 2010, and today the Federal Reserve stands as the most hawkish big central bank in town. In contrast, the eurozone slumped back into recession in 2012, and the European Central Bank remains in full-blown easing mode. As a result, interest rate differentials...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Lost Decade

    Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis, and the developed world’s GDP per capita still lingers 20-25% below its pre-crisis long term trend. Were there no good economic policies to deal with the aftermath? Far from it, argues Anatole, but four features of post-crisis politics and ideology blocked constructive policy responses.

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    Gavekal Research

    The State Of US Inflation

    In her testimony to Congress yesterday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen attributed the weakness of US inflation to temporary factors. As a result, the Fed remains focused on tightening policy. However, given that US inflation has consistently undershot the Fed’s target, any further decline will raise concerns that the US business cycle is rolling over.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Wile E. Coyote Moment

    Sometimes financial markets can look a lot like Wile E. Coyote. So intent was the old Looney Tunes character on chasing the Road Runner, that he somehow never realized when he had shot over the cliff’s edge. For a few moments he would continue in thin air, legs a blur, supported by momentum and incomprehension. Only when he looked down... In much the same way, financial markets often continue their trend after the underlying conditions change,...

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    Gavekal Research

    What Could Turn Around The US Business Cycle? Hint: Not Much

    As often happens, US data is sending mixed messages. Yesterday’s ADP report showed weak job growth in June, despite the latest ISM service sector PMI being decidedly perky. Investing according to the latest high-frequency growth data is a good way to get whiplash. Instead, let’s take a step back and review the US economy’s overall positioning.

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    Gavekal Research

    Should Investors Chase Defense Stocks?

    Aside from health care, the other “Trump trade” that has worked wonders since November 9 has been defense stocks. After all, with the Dow Jones sector index up some 22% in the period, what’s not to like? On taking office, Donald Trump cranked up military spending, and during his state visit to Saudi Arabia in May secured weapon sales worth US$110bn. On Friday—just hours before Xi Jinping took the stage in Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th...

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    Gavekal Research

    Trump And Xi: The End Of The Bromance?

    Last week Washington soured its relationship with China by imposing sanctions on some Chinese companies and individuals that do business with North Korea and announcing a big arms sale package for Taiwan. Rumors also continue to percolate that Trump is preparing for more aggressive trade action. Arthur discusses whether it is time to worry.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Late-Cycle Signal From US Factories

    Determining the exact extent of the US output gap at any point in time is immensely difficult, if not impossible. Earlier this month, KX suggested monitoring four indicators: the gap between actual unemployment and the “natural” rate; real corporate profits; profit margins, and the change of US CPI inflation. Today he adds another indicator to that list: the ratio of factory order backlogs to new orders. By this measure too, the US is running...

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    Gavekal Research

    When Central Bankers Attempt To Change Direction

    In recent days , central bankers in the US and Europe have been signaling how much they want to end unconventional monetary policies and revert to a more normal monetary model that does not put asset prices at the heart of the system. It is a laudable aim. But, warns Charles in this piece, central bankers have seldom managed to transition from one monetary regime to another without causing convulsions in the financial markets. This time, the...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Change In The Investment Environment?

    A couple of weeks ago, Louis asked if the downside breakout in bond yields (touching 2.10%) could foster a stable investment environment. At the time he foresaw three possible scenarios. After yesterday's hawkish pronouncements by multiple central banks, he is not so sure and is focusing on a narrower range of possibilities which may herald a new investment environment.

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    Gavekal Research

    Not Getting Paid To Take Credit Risk

    When things cannot get any better, they rarely do. Credit spreads for both high-yield and investment-grade corporate bonds are back near lows last seen just before the onset of previous financial busts. Will the calm soon give way to another perfect storm? Worryingly, corporate fundamentals are already deteriorating.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Calm Sailing For A Reason

    Those with a constructive view of quiescent asset markets say low volatility is justified by the stable economic situation. Others mutter of a looming “Minsky moment”. KX does not rule out a sharp rise in near-term volatility, but says the secular trend is down.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Should Investors Chase Health Care Stocks?

    Years ago, when Charles attempted to retire, my mother promptly decided that retirement was the “worst of both worlds”: more husband and less money. She quickly put the kibosh on the idea. The US government is a little more complicated to run than the Gave household, yet health care policy also offers a “worst of both worlds” outcome—profligate spending and rising bureaucracy (from government interference) and eye-watering prices (from the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Keeping It Simple

    Three prices have a disproportionate impact on global financial prices: the oil price, the price of the US dollar, and US interest rates. Often the rest is just noise. In the long term, it is shifts in these three prices that drive economic cycles and determine the performance of almost any investment strategy. Take this year as an example. The investment environment has been dominated by:

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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed's Balance Sheet Contraction

    As universally expected, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by another 25bp yesterday. It also published details about its plan to start shrinking its balance sheet before the end of this year. While this too was widely expected, there remain plenty of questions about how the markets will respond. With no precedents for the Fed’s impending move to contract its bloated balance sheet, no one can be entirely confident how the market will...

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    Gavekal Research

    Small Caps, Big Caps And US Corporate Spreads

    The performance of large-capitalization US stocks relative to small caps is sending an important signal about US corporate yield spreads. In this short piece, Charles decodes the message, and advises corporate bond investors to begin seeking safety in treasuries.

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    Gavekal Research

    Mind The (Output) Gap

    The US economy is offering up conflicting signals. Recent manufacturing survey data has been soft, auto sales have slowed and the rate of job creation has markedly reduced. At the same time, inflation expectations have dipped after their bolt upwards earlier this year. Yet, redirect the gaze and the same US economy shows distinct signs of waddling towards a late cycle denouement with the labor market, in particular, looking tight. Put another...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research June Call

    Anatole Kaletsky responded to the British Conservative Party’s shock loss of their electoral majority by arguing that the UK is now likely to end up with a soft Brexit and may even end up rejoining the European Union. Louis Gave looked across recent market moves and argued that the case for emerging markets remains exceptionally strong.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Policy & Productivity: How To Make America Great Again

    A critical and much-debated question about the US economy is whether it is permanently stuck in a “new normal” of 2-2.5% annual growth—about a point below the 3.2% average growth rate in 1970-2000—or if it can regain its previous luster. Will assesses arguments from both the upbeat techno-optimists and the grizzled growth skeptics and updates his own view based on US policymaking in the age of Trump.

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    Gavekal Research

    Figuring Out Where The Ball Will Be

    Rugby players fall into one of two categories: the forwards, who typically go where the ball is (and in the process put their heads in places most sane people wouldn’t put their feet), and the backs, who try to go where the ball will be, which enables them to look good and keep their kit clean, but earns them the scorn of the forwards. Peter FitzSimons, the first Aussie to play for a French club (Brive), once remarked: “Come the revolution, the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Getting By Without Friends

    After a week spent in Europe antagonizing fellow democratic leaders, conspicuously failing to reaffirm the US’s commitment to defend its NATO allies, and driving Angela Merkel into an uncharacteristically histrionic speech about Europe’s need to go it alone on security policy, Trump came home and announced he is pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Building A Globally Diversified Portfolio

    Successful money management is more about avoiding losers than picking winners. The winners of the last decade have mainly been large-cap US equities; this increases the odds that they will underperform in coming years. In this edition of the Strategy Monthly Louis Gave recommends a rotation into eurozone equities, and EM stocks and yield plays (especially in Asia).

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    Gavekal Research

    My Whole Career In One Chart

    My career in financial markets started in January 1971, half a year before Richard Nixon changed the basis of the post-WWII financial order by ending gold convertibility for US dollars. Hence, I thought that readers may be interested in a chart below that tells a simple story of those years, while also offering an asset allocation tool that for me has proven invaluable. In short, it is the story of running a balanced portfolio.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Déjà Vu All Over Again

    Three months ago, I took over the management of our global equities managed accounts and our global equities fund (GAVPLAT:ID for those who care to follow its progress). And so, like every equity manager out there, I was forced to confront the single most important question in the markets today: Does one buy into the “hot” tech stocks that keep on pushing higher? Or does one give the Amazons, Facebooks, Googles and Alibabas of this world a wide...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Still No Real Recovery In US Profits

    After a very strong corporate earnings season, Friday delivered the first estimate of profits as tallied by the US national income and product accounts, or NIPA. Unfortunately, the NIPA data pours cold water over the notion that the US is seeing a real, widespread recovery in profitability. The nonfinancial corporate sector of the US economy (not exactly a niche segment) is experiencing nothing of the sort. Instead, real profitability continues...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Buy The Smartphone Hype

    As Apple prepares to launch its anniversary iPhone and Samsung unveils models that don’t blow up, technology equities in the US and Asia have soared on hopes for a new smartphone cycle. After 2016 saw high-end smartphone sales fall, investors are betting that consumers respond to gee-whizz gadgetry by replacing their devices more often. We are not so sure.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    ECB Normalization And Why Not To Worry About It

    The US Federal Reserve will almost certainly announce the second of this year’s rate hikes at its next policy meeting on June 14. The week before, on June 8, the European Central Bank will probably state for the first time in years that the risks to the eurozone are now balanced “symmetrically” instead of tilting unequivocally downwards. If they were brave they might even echo Benoit Coeuré, the French governing board member who in an interview...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Brazil: Better Than Last Time Around

    A year after Dilma Rousseff’s ouster, Brazil again faces political tumult. Impeachment calls have come thick and fast following the release last week of an incriminating taped conversation between President Michel Temer and a businessman. The worry is that a fragile coalition of interests that has been inching Brazil toward meaningful economic reform falls apart, sparking renewed market panic. Such fears are overstated as this time, both left...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Longer For A Reason

    Could this be the US economic expansion without end? Almost certainly not, but it is starting to break some serious records for longevity. Yet as the expansion gets longer in the tooth, the obvious question is whether it simply withers due to old age. Like Janet Yellen, KX is suspicious of such a deterministic arguments and in this piece says there are very good reasons for economic cycles to be getting longer.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Sweat An Impeachment

    After weeks of ignoring ever wackier White House shenanigans, investors yesterday focused on US political risk. The revelation of memos that seem to offer prima facie evidence of the president obstructing justice means the chance of an impeachment has jumped from improbable to possible. As the government’s investigative machinery cranked up a notch yesterday, US equities experienced their worst day since last September and treasury yields fell...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    What Trump Will And Won’t Do

    After President Trump’s shock firing of his top law enforcement official, this week has seen the White House scramble to keep some semblance of control over the news agenda. This means that an administration that was already dialing back the radical parts of its reform agenda will have even less room to drive change.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Headwinds To US Housebuilding

    US home prices are on the up, having climbed 6% over the 12 months to February. Yet housebuilding has failed to keep pace with the rise in prices. Although construction has made a positive contribution to GDP growth over the last couple of quarters, activity has built from a very low base. Housing starts in March were an annualized 1.215mn, with a consensus forecast for April of 1.25mn. Both figures are well below the long term pre-crisis US...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind Weak US Wage Growth

    After seven steady years of decline, the US unemployment rate fell further in April to a 10-year low of 4.4%—the same as in May 2007 immediately before the onset of the credit crunch. At the same time, the number of job openings has exceeded its 2001 high, emphasizing the increasing tightness of the US labor market. Yet despite this tightening, increases in wage growth have been remarkably modest for this late stage of the cycle.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Upside Of The Commodity Downside

    Once again, commodity prices are taking a beating. Since Wednesday the price of Brent blend crude oil has slumped by 7%. Over the last two months copper has slipped 8%, and iron ore futures traded in China are down a precipitous 30%. Coming on top of data that showed the US economy grew by a meager annualized 0.7% in the first quarter, and the recent tightening in China’s credit conditions, the latest slide in commodity prices has been...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Underperformance Of Energy Stocks

    Charles likes to say that good money management often involves taking a few key decisions and sitting on them for a decade. In 1982, for example, the avoidance of energy and material stocks ensured almost 10 years of outperformance. In 1990, avoiding Japan paid off for two decades. In 2000, sidestepping TMT and underweighting the US dollar worked for almost a decade. In 2006, avoiding financials also paid off for a decade, as did underweighting...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Global Goldilocks And The Two Bears

    Markets seem convinced that a Global Goldilocks scenario of “just right” growth and rising corporate earnings is unfolding. This is plausible, but a careful review of the US economy suggests that two far more bearish outcomes are also possible. Will Denyer reviews the case for all three scenarios and recommends reducing risk exposure, especially in the US.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Bet On Another Bond Bubble

    Recent days have not been good for US treasury bears betting on higher yields. First, Donald Trump’s much hyped tax reform plan proved thin on detail and lacking in credibility. Then Friday’s weak US GDP release for 1Q17 showed an economy facing a notable softening in consumption demand. The one factor offering succor to treasury shorts has been reduced political risk in Europe after a centrist made it through to the second round of France’s...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Taxing Times In The US

    The big news this week is the lack of news. Tectonic changes—that inspired both hope and fear—now look less likely to materialize. The first round result in France’s presidential election suggests that the centrist, pro-euro Emmanuel Macron will be the next head of state, rather than the disruptive Marine Le Pen—no révolution in Europe. Then yesterday Donald Trump revealed his much anticipated tax plan. It only served to show how little progress...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Kim Problem

    Last weekend's extreme tension on the Korean peninsula is just the latest episode to severely test Beijing’s patience with North Korea. Yet even as elements of the Chinese leadership tire of Kim Jong Un’s grandstanding, China remains unlikely to make a bold move that threatens the regime. Despite acute US pressure, China will seek to preserve the status quo.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Whether Or Not To Underweight The US

    Charles has been shifting his asset allocation recommendations in recent weeks away from US assets in favor of foreign alternatives. This was squarely valuation-based as his models show the US dollar, corporate bonds and equities to be overvalued. Here, he road tests this view by incorporating non-valuation-based macroeconomic factors into the analysis.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Consequences Of Trump’s Syrian Strike

    In his 1992 book Give War a Chance, P.J. O’Rourke remarked that “wherever there’s injustice, oppression and suffering, America will show up six months late and bomb the country next to where it’s happening”. Now, in fairness to Donald Trump, the bombing of assorted Middle Eastern countries by the US armed forces did not just start this past weekend. Nonetheless, by launching his cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase, Trump has now waded into the...

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