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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Two-Legged Equity Bull Market

    For the past several years, the brightest spot in global equity markets has been the US, and in particular tech and consumer stocks. This is changing, and we now have a "two-legged" equity bull market led both by US tech stocks and by a resurgent Asia. In our review of global investment conditions Louis explains why this is so, and argues none of the obvious land mines is likely to go off at any time soon.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Difference A Couple Of Years Makes

    In August 2015 the offshore renminbi fell -4.5% against the US dollar, unleashing a global panic as investors fretted that another big deflationary downdraft beckoned. Fast forward to August 2017 and the renminbi rose a little over 2.07%, making it the world’s best performing major currency—it even outstripped rises in the euro and Scandinavian currencies.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tremors On The North Korean Border

    Yanmei Xie reports from China’s border with North Korea, where local residents and officials were left largely unshaken yesterday by the earth tremors from Kim Jong Un’s latest and biggest test of a nuclear bomb. Despite imposing some trade sanctions on its troublesome neighbor, Beijing has no desire to back the North Korean regime into a corner.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Prices Set To Slowly Cool

    Housing prices have had a wild ride in China this year, but with sales now cooling, prices are also losing steam. In this piece, Rosealea argues that the coming correction in housing prices will be a moderate one—probably about half of the 10% nationwide decline in 2014—as inventories are still low and policies are not particularly tight.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deteriorating Market Signals?

    We have a rule of thumb at Gavekal that when the S&P 500 equal-weighted outperforms the “S&P 500 index”, our equity clients are cheery since beating the benchmark is fairly easy. At such times, clients will typically take more risk. The reverse is, of course, true: outperformance by the S&P 500 makes for grumpy clients, tougher meetings, and less appetite for risk-taking. In the latter case, there is a tendency for investors to rush...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Mortgages Take A Bite Out Of Consumption

    Despite the recovering economy, household consumption in China has slowed this year rather than accelerated. As Ernan explains in this piece, the culprit is the surge in mortgage debt, which has meant a sharp increase in the burden of mortgage payments on household budgets. While income growth is solid, less of the gains are available to spend.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Unicom’s Mixed-Ownership Mixup

    China Unicom says its US$11.6bn share placement will bring it ten new strategic shareholders, including the nation's biggest internet firms. State media are touting the deal as a triumph of the "mixed ownership" reform for state enterprises, but it looks more like a bailout timed to score political points ahead of this fall's Party Congress.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Electric Passenger-Car Acid Test

    China's industrial planners have a clear goal for electric cars: they want China to be the world's biggest market, and the global technological leader, by 2025. The first goal is already in the bag, thanks to massive subsidies and orchestrated purchases by city governments. Gaining technological leadership will be a much tougher slog.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The China Inc. Annual Report 2017

    This chartbook outlines the recent core trends in China’s corporate sector. There has been a major rebound in revenues and profits, but most firms are using this to repair balance sheets rather than boost capex. So leverage is down and debt servicing ability is up. But the profit cycle is now likely at its peak, as is firms’ ability to deleverage.

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    Gavekal Research

    Carthago Delenda Est

    Global geopolitics is characterized by the “land-based” empire of China challenging the dominant “maritime” empire of the United States according to Louis and Charles. What they cannot figure out is the seemingly contradictory responses of Washington to this well telegraphed challenge. In this piece they examine pressing challenges to American power and explore the investment consequences, which may come home to roost far quicker than most...

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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Slow Exit From Reflation

    China’s first monthly data for the second half of 2017 showed growth momentum softening. While reflation peaked in the first half of 2017, the story is still that the exit from reflation will be very slow and gradual. Economic policy will be largely on hold in this period: tightening has peaked, but the switch to easing is still a long way away.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Limits Of Magical Thinking

    A persistent American fantasy of hardliners is that threats of force will magically cause other countries to abandon their interests and cave in to US demands. The current occupant of the White House is taking this magical thinking to new heights in his approach to Asia. But thankfully, despite the dire headlines, the real-world impact is small.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Important Change And Its Natural Hedge

    I don’t usually quote mass murderers, but when I do, I usually fall back on Lenin’s quip that “there are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen”. Lenin was referring to the Russian Revolution which took place a hundred years ago and to this day still casts a long shadow. To some extent, the Russian Revolution, itself a bastard child of the first world war, crystallized the end of an era for Europe. Thereafter the world’s...

    8
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lull In The Tourism Boom

    Chinese outbound tourism is having a rough 2017: growth in international travelers is down to about 6%, from 20%-plus growth in earlier years. So has something fundamental in the Chinese tourism story changed, or is this just a blip? In this piece, Ernan argues this slowdown is largely temporary, caused by events in key destinations in Asia.

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    Gavekal Research

    Fade The Latest Commodity Rally

    China’s property market is once again running hotter than expected, pushing prices of iron, steel and coal up by 15%-40% over recent weeks. But the gradual downward trend in property has not changed. And with high prices and government intervention both stimulating more commodity supply, the potential for further price gains is limited.

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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 Dragonomics

    Taking Stock Of The Investment Cycle

    Investment drives China’s growth, but the state of the investment cycle is now being obscured rather than revealed by the most closely followed indicator of capital spending, fixed-asset investment. In this piece, Andrew updates his model of monthly real growth in gross fixed capital formation, and draws three conclusions from its signals.

    0
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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...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Reasserting Control Over Outbound Investment

    The flow of cross-border M&A from China is reviving as the crackdown on capital flight eases. But as Yanmei argues, the flow of deals is unlikely to repeat the stunning growth surge in 2016, as the government has now reasserted its control over outward direct investment. This environment will likely be friendlier to state firms than private ones.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: New Investment Opportunities In China

    China’s onshore financial markets are opening up. Admittedly, neither last month’s inclusion of Chinese A-shares in MSCI’s benchmark indexes, nor this month’s opening of the Bond Connect scheme, will change the world immediately. But together they signal that Beijing is serious about opening its capital markets to foreign investors.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Signs China’s Tightening Has Peaked

    Official statements following the conclusion of Beijing’s National Financial Work Conference signal that the recent tightening cycle has now peaked and that market interest rates are likely to fall from current levels, argues Chen Long. The story remains that while Chinese reflation has peaked, the ensuing slowdown will be moderate and gradual.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Regional Bottom Line For Growth

    China’s 2016 stimulus likely provided enough momentum to ensure GDP growth in 2017 will meet the 6.5% target. But on closer examination the stimulus looks as much a rescue operation for troubled regions as a shift in national policy. This interpretation implies that the political drivers of Chinese policymaking are different from what most commentators believe.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research July Call

    Recent efforts to open up China's stock and bond markets have granted deeper access for foreign investors. In Tuesday's conference call Thomas Gatley outlined what MSCI's decision to include A-shares in its indexes means for investors, while Chen Long argued that the next great bond bull market may happen in China.

    0
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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,...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Peak In Home Appliances

    When you buy a house, you also buy things to go in it—yet the rebound in housing sales over the past 18 months has not done much for sales of major home appliances. As Ernan explains in this piece, Chinese demand for washing machines, refrigerators and televisions has now more or less peaked. The main exception is the humble air conditioner.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Government Becomes A Home Buyer

    It’s no secret that managing the housing market is a core part of China’s economic policy. But as Rosealea explains in this piece, government’s role in supporting housing sales is now even greater than most realize. The government is buying millions of unsold housing units directly from developers, and the scale of the program is only increasing.

    2
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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...

    3
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: The China Markets Opportunity

    The doors to China’s capital markets are opening wider, with MSCI adding A-shares to its indexes, and the Bond Connect program launching in Hong Kong. In this Strategy Monthly, Thomas Gatley and Chen Long explain how foreign investors should position themselves in Chinese bonds and equities in light of these new market-opening measures.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: Surviving The Financial Crackdown

    In our latest quarterly chartbook, Chen Long assesses the effects of Chinese regulators’ surprising crackdown on the financial sector. Interbank rates and bond yields have jumped, but credit growth has slowed only modestly. While growth has clearly peaked and will slow further in the rest of 2017, a gradual slowdown still looks quite achievable.

    0
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Empty Promises Of SOE Reform

    At the close of 2016, Xi Jinping’s government vowed to speed up economic reform, and declared “breakthroughs” would be made in overhauling state-owned enterprises. Half a year on, these bold claims have not been matched by actions. The numerous reform trials can give the impression of activity, but real change remains a distant prospect.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Slow Motion Game Changer

    After three years of teasing, MSCI has agreed to include Chinese domestically-listed stocks, or A-shares, in its main equity indexes. Yet, hopes that MSCI inclusion will quickly spur huge capital inflows and a sustained domestic bull market, are almost certainly wide of the mark.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Central Pillar For Housing Sales

    China’s housing market is proving quite resilient this year, with sales growth perking up in May. In this piece, Rosealea argues the current sales recovery is broad-based: growth is strong in both central and coastal provinces. While restrictions on speculative purchases are spreading to some smaller cities, this should have only a moderate impact.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Retreat From Steady Employment

    China’s troubled industrial sector shed 2.3mn jobs in 2016—but these losses were swamped by millions more new jobs created in services. The real issue in the labor market today is not how many jobs are being destroyed, but the quality of the jobs being created. Most new jobs are in small businesses that offer lower wages and less security.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Back To Sanity In Japan

    I know, or I believe I know, that over thelong term equity returns follow one thing only: corporate earnings. As an example, look at Japan. If I rebase both the Topix price index and corporate earnings to 100 in 1978, I find that today the market is at at 385, and earnings are at... 385. Spot on!

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: China In The Asia-Pacific

    China is attempting to become Asia’s new leader. The high costs of confronting it mean that the US’s regional influence is likely to dwindle. But widespread distrust of China means that many countries will continue to prefer investment from the EU, US and Japan. This issue of China Economic Quarterly investigates China’s role in the Asia-Pacific.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    US-China Power Shift: Not So Fast

    Do Donald Trump’s miscues ensure the eclipse of Pax Americana by a rising China? Not yet.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    After The Pivot, It’s Bye-Bye Asia

    With the costs and risks of confronting China growing by the day, the most likely scenario for the Asia-Pacific is one of steadily dwindling US influence. This is good news for Beijing and its claim to regional leadership.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    High-Speed Rail Blues

    While China’s trade with Southeast Asia flourishes, a lack of experience has left its investment in the region lagging far behind. For now, Southeast Asian countries will continue to work with Japanese, EU and US institutions—regardless of how attractive China’s initial bids are.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Regulatory Storm

    The past few months saw a flurry of regulatory measures to tackle risks in the financial system. Beijing is trying to avoid a credit crunch, but the effect on the economy will depend on how far these measures are implemented.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Export Upgrade Challenge

    Shifting China’s industrial production from low-margin assembly to high-value, technology-intensive goods has long been the Holy Grail for planners. Export data show a lot of progress, but also an enduringly high reliance on foreign components, technology and management.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Still Holding High Mao’s Banner

    Within China’s increasingly restrictive political landscape, neo-Maoists continue to thrive. Tolerated for now as Xi’s ideological allies, they could turn into his fiercest opposition should he surprisingly uphold his Third Plenum pledge to give a “decisive role” to the market.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The East Is Rising … Isn’t It?

    Will the Asia-Pacific region will shape global politics and economics in the 21st Century, as the West’s centuries-long domination of world affairs draws to a close, or will unseen threats in Asia, from economic stagnation to political unrest and growing military tensions, throw a spanner in the works? Tom Miller reviews two books that each present their case.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs And A Chill Trade Wind

    The Asian trade cycle, having perked up notably since mid-2016, shows worrying signs of rolling over. Korean export growth in May halved from a month earlier, while Taiwan has seen the same measure steadily slow since February. Today, China reported a reduction in export growth to single digit levels, while import demand growth for May fell to 15% YoY, compared to 38% in February. To an extent, this can all be explained by flattering base...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Belt And Road To Leadership

    China’s Belt and Road Initiative elicits widespread skepticism and concern, while the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership is often seen as a poor cousin of the aborted Trans-Pacific Partnership. But they are currently the only credible plans for greater Asian integration.

    0
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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

    What Is The Signal In The Renminbi’s Surprising Strength?

    Over the past week and a half, the renminbi has appreciated 1.1% against the US dollar in the onshore market, and 1.5% offshore, where the PBOC has also engineered a spike in short-term interest rates. It seems China wants to send a signal about the renminbi, but markets are having trouble decoding what it is. Andrew outlines three possible strategies the central bank may be following.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Leadership Scenarios For The Party Congress

    The key event in China’s political calendar is now just a few months away. The 19th Party Congress will reveal who will join top leader Xi Jinping in the ruling Politburo Standing Committee, and in the process provide clues to China’s political future. In this piece, Yanmei outlines different possible scenarios and explains their implications.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Decoding The HK Dollar’s Signals

    When Moody’s downgraded China’s credit rating this week, it also downgraded Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is fiscally autonomous, and has seen no rapid build-up in leverage comparable to the mainland, Moody’s still downgraded the territory from Aa1 to Aa2. In explanation, the agency cited Hong Kong’s “tightening economic, financial and political linkages with the mainland,” which it warned “risk introducing more direct contagion channels”...

    0
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