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    Gavekal Research

    Hidden Leverage In Hong Kong

    Last month, for the first time in 12 years, Hong Kong banks raised their prime lending rates. This increase, coming at a time when the Hong Kong government has pledged to boost housing supply, has prompted fears that rising mortgage rates and falling home prices could expose a dangerous accumulation of hidden leverage in the local property market.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call October 2018

    In this month’s Research Conference Call Louis-Vincent Gave examined the present bad tidings from markets and asked whether the global bull market faces a denouement. Anatole Kaletsky argued that this sell-off will likely prove to be a temporary setback for emerging markets and that the global bull market may have further to run. However, he warned that the outcome will depend heavily on where the oil price goes from here.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bonds' Failure To Rally

    Given all the bad news for markets this year, one would be forgiven for thinking that US treasuries and German bunds would have been a good investment. But even as emerging markets have sold off and the US dollar has risen against almost every emerging market currency out there, US treasuries (and to a lesser extent bunds) have been an absolute dog of an investment.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Building The Northern Powerhouse

    After a decade of splurging on infrastructure projects, China’s local governments are now having to cut back. But Beijing has continued to pour money into centrally supported initiatives, particularly Xi Jinping’s pet project for developing the region surrounding Beijing. In this piece, Tom reports on how this northern megaproject is progressing.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The EM Value Question

    After a grim seven-month sell-off, it is natural to ask whether emerging markets now offer attractive value. Since its January peak, the MSCI emerging markets index has fallen -22%. The corollary has been a deep derating, which has left EM equities trading below their long term mean P/E ratios. However, a healthy dose of caution is warranted.

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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing Is Aiming At Stabilization, Not Stimulus

    On Sunday the PBOC announced that it will cut the bank reserve requirement by 100bp, its third cut since April. While the authorities are accelerating the pace of monetary easing, and are prepared to tolerate greater exchange rate volatility as a consequence, Beijing’s easing measures are aimed at stabilizing the domestic economy, not stimulating activity in response to a trade-war-induced slump.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Are We Still In A Bull Market?

    At the start of the year, markets seemed poised for a rotation out of US equities into non-US assets. In fact, US equities and cash are the only assets to have delivered positive returns this year. Louis examines the reasons why and concludes that portfolio managers should stay defensive, while looking for buying opportunities in oversold emerging markets, and in European assets in non-euro countries such as the UK, Sweden and Switzerland.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Demographics Are Shaping China's Future

    Where is China heading as it undergoes demographic change of unprecedented speed and scale? In this chartbook, Ernan offers a comprehensive guide to the unfolding transformation of the nation’s population, focusing on changes in family-planning policy, the implications of an aging society, and the shifting patterns of migration.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Catching Up In Chips

    Technology is at the heart of China’s trade conflict with the US, and no technology is more critical than semiconductors. So as the US moves to block its access to technology, China is doubling down on its drive to build up a domestic semiconductor industry. In this piece, Dan lays out the reasons why China’s drive will eventually succeed.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Art Of (Trade) War

    Donald Trump’s trade war against China demonstrates that the Washington consensus is dead and buried. This suggests that the world will split into three monetary zones, each with its own anchor currency and risk-free asset class. As a result, the close relationship between the renminbi and the US dollar is a thing of the past and China’s vast current account surplus will become unsustainable. Charles examines what all this means for investment...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: Staying Calm In The Trade War

    Where does China stand as the trade conflict with the US mounts? While stock markets have tanked, the economy has not. In this concise chartbook, Chen Long presents the major macro and market indicators to explain why growth is holding up and why the government is not yet unleashing a major stimulus.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Does Beijing Really Manage The RMB Against A Basket?

    Possibly the only easy thing about studying China is that Chinese policymakers tend to “say what they do and do what they say”. Take the Chinese exchange rate as an example. From 1998 to 2005, the renminbi’s exchange rate was fixed at CNY8.28 to the US dollar. Then, in 2005, investors were told that the renminbi would be allowed to appreciate gradually and with a controlled daily volatility. When the financial crisis hit, the Chinese exchange...

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    Gavekal Research

    Back To A Three-Figure Oil Price

    Oil broke higher on Monday, with the price of Brent decisively breaching US$80/bbl, a level it had repeatedly tested since early May, when the US administration announced it would reimpose sanctions on Iranian exports. The immediate trigger for the break-out was the decision at the weekend by the Opec cartel plus Russia not to increase their formal output target in the near term. At first glance, the market response might appear an over-reaction...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Backlash Against The War On Air Pollution

    Steel prices are high thanks to a tough government plan to reduce smog by shutting down metals production—but the rise in prices has recently started to reverse as uncertainty over these policies increases. Rosealea reports on the steel industry’s new pushback against strict output curbs, and why these controls are likely to become more flexible.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Dissolution Of Chimerica

    The economies of the US and China are by far the world’s largest. Such has been their importance and dependence that the composite phrase “Chimerica” emerged to describe both the integration of supply chains and corporate profitability as well as cultural connections. Today, the single most important question may be: is the foundation on which this Chimerica pillar rested now crumbling?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The China Inc. Annual Report 2018

    In this chartbook, Thomas outlines the key trends in the fundamentals of China’s corporate sector. Growth in sales and profits has stayed stronger for longer, but is driven mainly by high materials prices. A rebound in capex is starting to fade. Deleveraging continues but more slowly, and may not last much longer as profits cool and debt rises.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Pragmatism Will Prevail On Iranian Oil

    The US is preparing to re-impose sanctions on Iran, threatening to punish any country that continues to buy its oil. China has struck a defiant tone, and many analysts expect Chinese oil companies to ignore the US sanctions. But in this piece, Yanmei argues that Chinese importers have little choice but to sharply reduce their purchases from Iran.

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    Gavekal Research

    Digging In For A War Of Attrition

    Donald Trump’s administration has upped the ante in its trade war with China, imposing tariffs on an additional US$200bn of Chinese imports. The tariffs will take effect on September 24 at a rate of 10%, rising to 25% at the beginning of 2019 unless some kind of a deal can be worked out with Beijing. The chances of a deal are vanishingly small.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Economy On The Eve Of Trade War

    The number eight is traditionally a lucky number for Chinese. Exporters could be forgiven for not believing in that tradition: 2018 looks like it will join 1998 and 2008 as a year in which exports suffer a major shock. In this piece, Andrew evaluates the state of the economy as the US prepares more tariffs, and how China can manage the impact.

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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call September 2018

    In this month’s research call, Will Denyer explains why he is still recommending a 75% equity exposure in a dedicated US portfolio. His call is based on an asset allocation method with three key components, namely, Wicksellian spreads, relative valuation tools, and a duration tool which shows how to divide a fixed income portfolio between bonds and cash.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A New Tool For Infrastructure Funding

    China’s government is worried about slowing growth, but also does not want to give up on financial de-risking. To balance these priorities, it has devised a new tool: “special-purpose” bonds issued by local governments. In this piece, Chen Long explains how this new way of funding infrastructure will work, and how much stimulus it can deliver.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Asia And The Emergence Of A New Monetary Zone

    Having broadly developed as an integrated whole over the last 30 years, Charles thinks the world economy is now splitting into three big groups—North America, Europe and Asia. In this piece he considers Asia whose economies are increasingly coalescing around the renminbi and suggests a new-fangled balanced portfolio approach for maximizing risk-adjusted returns.

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    Gavekal Research

    Why The US Cannot Win A Trade War

    The US has made a fundamental policy mistake in pursuing a trade war against China. A Keynesian macroeconomic analysis shows that the US will likely be worst affected by the conflict, while China should escape unscathed and several other emerging markets could be clear gainers. This sell-off may be an ideal opportunity to "buy the dip" in EMs

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    Gavekal Research

    The Exit From A Liquidity Squeeze

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. By the same token, if central bank reserves are shrinking, the US dollar is rising, and emerging market currencies are cratering, we probably face a liquidity squeeze. None of this should be surprising, as the drains on US dollar liquidity have come from all directions this year.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Property Slowdown That Wasn't

    While China’s government is talking tough about containing its frothy property market, the market does not appear to be listening. Housing sales are still growing, price rises are accelerating and construction activity is robust. In this piece, Rosealea explains why property has outperformed, and updates her outlook for the rest of 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Getting It Wrong

    Louis went into 2018 with a set of assumptions about how growth and markets around the world would play out. It hasn’t exactly worked out as expected and in this mea culpa he seeks to understand how he got it wrong and what comes next. He concludes that a key driver of the changed investment environment was not so much the strength of the US dollar but China’s decision to allow a renminbi devaluation.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Choosing The Trajectory For Household Debt

    Regulators and investors are getting more concerned about China’s household debt after its sharp rise in recent years. In this piece, Chen Long breaks down the rise in leverage and explores the policy options. It would be plausible and prudent for China to now slow the buildup of household debt—but this may not mesh with the easing of policy.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Simple Guide To US Asset Allocation

    We synthesize four years of work on asset allocation and present a model portfolio built around analysis of the cost of and return on capital; the real rate of return on equities, bonds and cash; and the ideal duration of fixed-income holdings. Today we recommend that US portfolios hold 75% in equities, 25% in cash, and shun bonds.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    An Overdue Tax Cut For Households

    Facing trade conflict with the US and a slowdown in credit growth, China is under pressure to use fiscal policy more aggressively to support the economy. On Friday, the National People’s Congress delivered on at least part of the solution, passing a large cut in personal income taxes. In this piece, Ernan explains the impact of this tax cut.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tail Risks That Worry Me

    Yesterday I made the case that emerging markets should be superior performers in a global bull market, which I characterized as the most hated in history. What that analysis left out was the relative prospects of the other big blocks in the global equity universe; namely, Europe and Japan. My core point yesterday was that trade wars do more harm to economies that close their markets than those countries which supply them, and on this score...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Misunderstanding Today’s EMs

    Suppose that, like me, you think the global equity bull market has a few more years to run and hence the sell-off which culminated with Turkish debt being downgraded two weeks ago was a merely a correction. Where are the best opportunities to “buy the dip”? The answer depends on whether you also share my view about the underlying causes of this year’s market setbacks.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Consumer Soldiers On

    Consumer spending has been the ballast of China's economy over the past six years. But this year its resilience has been questioned, thanks to a sharp fall-off in automobile sales and reported growth rates in retail sales that appeared to bear no relationship to the underlying data. Ernan finds that household spending is actually holding up well.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Retail Sales Data Enigma, Explained

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Winter Air Pollution War (Part 2)

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

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Clogging China’s Cash Pipeline To Silicon Valley

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trouble With Monopsonies II: Joan Robinson Versus David Ricardo

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

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    A Step Back From War On All Fronts

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

    6
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Military Embrace Brings Risks For Technology

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Assess The Stresses On EMs

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

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Show Me The Stimulus

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

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Turkey Is A Big Fish, But No Whale

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

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Softening Up On SOE Deleveraging

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fire Testing Of Asian Junk

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Biggest Question Of The Day

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

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    No Good Choices For China

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

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Will Mergers Become A New Front In The Trade War?

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Will Halt The Renminbi’s Fall?

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

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Inventories Hit Bottom

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Stemming The Tide Of Bond Defaults

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Don't Fixate On Fixed-Asset Investment

    If you believe China’s official statistics on fixed-asset investment, then capital spending is now collapsing across the country. But you probably shouldn’t believe those numbers, for reasons that Andrew explains in this piece. True growth in investment spending will slow in 2018, but much less catastrophically than the headline data suggest.

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