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    Gavekal Research

    Why US Long Rates Aren’t Going Up

    The behavior of US long rates presents something of a puzzle just now. The US economy is humming along nicely for this late in the cycle, and is even booming following last year’s tax cuts. Inflation is ticking higher. And short rates are rising. As a result, I would normally expect long rates to be climbing towards the top of the reasonable valuation band dictated by my bond market model (seeBond Market Risks). But they are doing no such thing...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe Through Rose-Tinted Specs

    If the European Central Bank had a dot plot, on Thursday it would have shifted downwards. The ECB’s dovishness stood in contrast with the Federal Reserve, which just a day earlier moved its own dot plot projection of future interest rates upwards. If the market retained confidence in Europe’s relative growth and returns, this divergence of rate expectations probably would not matter greatly. But with European growth softening, and political risk...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Terms Of Betrayal

    Will the Brexit agony never end? Theresa May managed this week to remove troublesome amendments attached by the House of Lords to her legislation for taking Britain out of the European Union. But she was immediately in even deeper political trouble. These problems show just why I have been advising clients to avoid any big bets in sterling assets, whether long or short.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Cyclical Blues

    When they meet on Thursday, European Central Bank policymakers face a dilemma. As wage and price pressures rise across the eurozone, they are expected to outline an exit from quantitative easing policies. At the same time, growth indicators are weakening, raising the specter of a eurozone recovery (again) being cut off in its infancy. The essential point is whether Europe’s turnaround has become self-sustaining. We think the answer to that...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Revolution In Switzerland?

    This weekend the people of Switzerland vote in a referendum that could upend their country’s monetary system in ways never seen before. If the “Vollgeld” initiative is approved, it will be a major event in world economic history. And even if rejected, the growing groundswell in favor of similar proposals elsewhere in the world means it is worth paying attention to.

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    Gavekal Research

    A War On All Fronts

    I have previously argued that Trump Administration trade policy—and specifically policy on China—should be understood as a volatile reaction among four forces: the president, the trade warriors, the national security hawks, and the business community. While all four forces are still hard at work, it’s clear that President Trump has the upper hand—as a result of which the US now seems committed to waging trade war on all fronts.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Whether To Buy Italy (And The Euro)

    On Wednesday, Louis argued that the Italian president’s rejection of a proposed coalition finance minister was “worse than a crime, a mistake”. Anatole and Cedric are not so sure. In this paper they examine the two conditions—one political, one financial—that will signal a major buying opportunity in Italy.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Worse Than A Crime

    On hearing that Napoleon Bonaparte had ordered the execution of a Bourbon-family duke, the arch realpolitik practitioner Charles Maurice de Talleyrand reputedly exclaimed: “This is worse than a crime. It’s a mistake”. Fast forward a few centuries and it’s not hard to imagine what Talleyrand would make of Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella. In a move that will likely spur fresh elections and put Euroskeptic parties firmly in the ascendancy,...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Incredible Shrinking Krona

    With the US dollar pushing towards its 2017 high, it may be time to scout out value in the currency markets. One option is the Swedish krona, which is down -7.2% against the dollar this year, making it the worst performing G10 currency. Three weeks ago Charles argued that the krona was so cheap that Swedish assets offered a “heads I win, tails I don’t lose” type of trade. I don’t disagree, yet in the intervening period, the krona has...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Bothers Me About The Eurozone

    With Italy facing a constitutional crisis and likely fresh elections within months, attention is set to again focus on Europe’s single currency system. One effect of the euro is that it distorts self-correcting price adjustments, which regulate normal market-based economies. Understanding this dynamic is crucial, argues Charles, if equity investors are not to be pulled into value-traps, of the type which are now presenting themselves.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Italian And Turkish Troubles

    On the face of it, the collapse on Sunday evening of attempts in Italy to form a coalition government comprising the populist and Euroskeptic Five Star and Lega parties should be good news for European assets and the euro, at least in the short term. On Friday, fears of a populist government in Rome, coupled with the prospect of a no confidence motion and general election in Spain undermined both the euro and peripheral debt. Also down were...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    My Kind Of Safe Haven

    Long and sometimes bitter experience of financial markets has taught me that when the organically-produced fertilizer hits the rotary ventilation device, a few assets go up in price, while the vast majority go down. The first list is a short one, but on it you will always find the Swiss franc. Historically, the problem with this Swiss-franc-as-safe-haven idea was that the gnomes’ currency usually tends to be something of a collector’s item....

    3
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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.

    0
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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 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...

    0
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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.

    0
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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

    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

    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 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 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

    La France En Grève

    Once again, French public sector workers are en grève—on strike. In the last couple of weeks, railway workers, air traffic controllers and teachers (and their students) have walked out in protest against Emmanuel Macron’s structural reforms. Inevitably such broad opposition to official policy has prompted memories of 1995, and even 1968. But as Cedric explains, times have moved on, and today the public is more ready than ever before to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    After Constructive Engagement

    Separating signal from noise in the ongoing US-China trade dispute continues to be a thankless task. Trade war fears rose late last week thanks to an offhand threat from President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on another US$100bn of imports from China. They ebbed early this week when Trump reversed course and said a deal was likely soon, and Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a speech promising a reduction in automobile tariffs and market...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Reasons To Buy The Dip

    After spending many years as Gavekal’s equity permabull, I joined Charles and Louis last December in warning of the risks to what was then a roaring, and accelerating, bull market. But my way of thinking about these risks was rooted in a different analytical framework, and so I have come to a different conclusion about how investors should respond to this latest sell-off (for Louis’ take, see Following Yesterday’s Pullback). With the lows of mid...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Ready For A Further P/E Derating

    I see but through a glass darkly. Sometimes, however there are glimmers of light. Four months ago, in early December, I examined the signals being broadcast by the various investment rules I have long followed and concluded that: “While global markets have been stable for the past 18 months, we may soon be entering a period of greater instability.”

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Following Yesterday’s Pullback

    Two weeks ago I looked back at Enron’s collapse in 2001 and asked whether a crash-and-burn at Tesla or Uber would be this cycle’s catalyst for a fundamental re-assessment of business models. But perhaps my sights were set too low, as this roll-over was triggered not by a cash-burning profligate flaming out, but by turmoil engulfing the Facebook gorilla, and by extension the likes of Google and Snap, which rely on “the user being the product”.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Navigating In Choppy Waters

    With its latest sell-off, the S&P 500 capped two months of volatility by moving officially into correction territory: down -10% from its January high, and below its 200-day moving average for the first time in two years. Is this the end of the long US equity bull market? In this edition of our Strategy Monthly, we offer three perspectives on how investors should position themselves in these more volatile times.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Protectionism

    As the US toughens up its negotiating stance on trade, it seems that ghosts from the Great Depression haunt the land. The men of Davos can be heard to intone gravely that President Donald Trump is aping Herbert Hoover, and as in the 1930s, the global economy may go into a tailspin. I am struck that our cherished elites have discovered a form of government intervention that they do not like, especially given their support for so many other “...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Farewell My Lovely Bull Market

    No doubt market pundits will go on discussing the trigger of last week’s sell-off in equity markets and debating its implications ad nauseam. But whatever the proximate cause of the latest risk-off, it is looking increasingly as if the uncomplicated, low volatility bull-market-in-everything that prevailed through much of last year is now no more than a pleasant memory. With markets apparently intent on retesting the lows set in early February,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — March 2018

    In our seminar in London this week Charles pondered the investment consequences of the US moving back into an inflationary period. Tom discussed Chinese politics in light of Xi Jinping’s elevation. Cedric presented on how investors can best benefit from the diversity of the European economy. Anatole explained why the long-running global bull market is likely to continue, but also where the risks are buried.

    0
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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

    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.

    0
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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 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 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

    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 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

    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

    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 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

    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

    Five Ways To Play European Equities

    After a traumatic couple of weeks in the equity markets, Nick and Cedric take this opportunity to revisit their longstanding advice that investors should overweight European mid-caps exposed to the eurozone’s cyclical upturn. As they explain in this report, that call still holds, and they suggest three sectors where investors should look to buy the dip, and two that portfolio managers would do well to avoid.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The Market’s Inability To Rally

    “A week is a long time in politics”, Harold Wilson was said to have once quipped to a young aide. The former British prime minister should have tried working in the US equity market. In recent days, it has sometimes felt as if time stood still. So what should we make of stocks’ inability to mount a rally after they again closed on their lows?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of Germany’s ‘Nein’ Policy?

    On the face of it, yesterday’s coalition deal between Angela Merkel’s center -right grouping and the Social Democratic Party differed little from that agreed last month. In addition to domestic stimulus measures it backed more European integration. Yet look closer and the German political landscape may just have been roiled by an earthquake, for while Merkel should stay chancellor the new man at the finance ministry is set to be Olaf Scholz, the...

    3
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