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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Is Deflation Japan’s Disease, Or Just A Symptom?

    For a generation the words “Japan” and “deflation” have been inseparable in the minds of economists. The association is so entrenched that it is universally taken for granted that the central aim of Japanese economic policy must be to defeat deflation and, by extension, that any inflation must be a good thing. The result is the massive monetary expansion being undertaken by the Bank of Japan.

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    Growth & Markets Monthly (July 2015)

    With the drama in Athens casting a pall over markets, what is the message from the Gavekal dashboard of economic and risk indicators? Overall, reasonably positive. Our main growth indicator suggests that the momentum of economic activity should pick up in the second half of the year. If correct, this would mark a repeat of the pattern seen in the last few years. Still, given the uncertainty associated with the Greek situation, there has been a...

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    Gavekal Research

    Japan’s Sustainable Bull Market

    Plenty of old hands who thrived in Japan’s 1980s bubble era spent the next 25 years watching a structural bear market unfold and are starting to opine that history may repeat itself. With due respect to this grizzled breed, we are skeptical about historical comparisons and reckon that the combined drivers of the modern Japanese market offer a rare opportunity. Ironically, one of the biggest factors supporting Japanese equity values is that...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (July 01): Manufacturing Machinations

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that the manufacturing sector remains the last bastion of proper economic data in the US, and the message being sent is not good. United States: Tan Kai Xian somewhat demurs from Charles and argues that the US manufacturing sector is unlikely to be the fountainhead of the next US recession. Europe: Central Europe has emerged as the manufacturing powerhouse of Europe at the expense of France and the southern...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: “Make In India”, But For Who?

    Last year Indian prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled his “Make in India” initiative in an attempt to replicate the successes of the tried and tested East Asian development model in which economies pursue export-led manufacturing growth. To boost the share of manufacturing in output—currently at 16%—and its contribution to employment—around 12%, mostly in the “informal” sector—Modi outlined a number of key policies. But while developing...

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    Gavekal Research

    Buy India On Bank Reform

    In recent months India has offered investors incrementally bad news due to bad monsoon rains, the government suffering a series of political missteps and a tougher external financing environment as higher US interest rates are contemplated. Moreover, the gradual rise in the oil price has diminished the growth-boosting dividend that India won in the second half of last year. So it was pleasing to get some “good India” news yesterday with the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Still A Lonely Power

    China, the political scientist David Shambaugh declared last year, is a “lonely power”—lacking close friends and possessing no allies. That is something that Xi Jinping’s “proactive” foreign policy aims to change. His New Silk Road vision—now officially termed the “Belt and Road Initiative”—is to forge a “community of shared destiny,” in which Asia’s prosperity is tied to China’s rise. Rather than building formal alliances, Beijing’s goal is to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Yen In The Hands Of Foreigners

    Having traded in a tight range since late last year, the Japanese yen made a technical breakout last week, weakening beyond ¥125 to the dollar for the first time since 2002. While Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda came out to jaw-bone against more falls, higher volatility is a worry for investors who have grown used to making Japanese equity gains in US dollar terms. We would stick with Japanese stocks which continue to benefit from strong...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Thinking Big About China

    There are two big facts about China today. One: its economy is slowing, and will almost certainly continue to do so for the next couple of years. Two: under its forceful president Xi Jinping, it is making a big push on many fronts to increase its influence around the world. The question is which of these facts deserves more attention.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Spat In The Spratlys

    It is typhoon season once again in the South China Sea. Last May, China ignited a storm of violent protest across Vietnam when it started drilling for oil off the Vietnamese coast. This year the squall is further south in the disputed waters of the Spratly Islands, where the US has demanded that China halt its land reclamation efforts. Ordered to leave the area by the Chinese military last week, a US Navy surveillance aircraft ignored the...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (3 June): Shifting Capital Flows

    Overview: Louis Gave traces China’s rejection of planned economy shibboleths over the last 30 years and contends that Beijing is charging full tilt toward the final frontier: the liberalization of capital itself. United States: With the strength of the US dollar favoring imports over US-made goods, the US current account balance is set to deteriorate. This, argues Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian, will mean a bigger supply of US dollar liquidity in...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: A Buffer Against Future Taper Tantrums

    Asia’s fragmented financial markets have grown a great deal more inter-connected since the currency crisis of the late 1990s. Even so, regional financial integration still lags far behind real sector integration. According to International Monetary Fund data, intra-regional shipments now make up the lion’s share of Asia’s cross-border trade. In contrast, even though their share has doubled over the last ten years, intra-Asian equity flows make...

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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (June 2015)

    This month saw a clear deterioration of our growth indicators. The pattern of the last few years with a weaker than expected first half of the year appears to be holding up. The question is whether 2015 will see the habitual pick-up in the second half of the year? On the inflation front, things remain quiet. US breakeven inflation rates, which looked as if they may have been breaking upwards last month, are now heading south again. Given the...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: First You Get The Money

    In Scarface, Al Pacino observes “First, you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women”. To some extent, this sums up the challenge facing China’s leadership. Indeed, the lesson the Party learnt once Deng Xiaoping took over from the power-mad Mao Zedong was that ceding control over a part of the economy delivered more power internationally as booming growth made China a more credible regional, then global, power.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Question Of When, Not If

    The cacophony emanating from China can be disorientating. On the one hand, China’s domestic stock markets are in the throes of a vigorous bull run. Locally-listed equities are up 140% in the last 12 months, with repeated government support measures and rising openness to international fund flows sustaining the momentum. On the other hand, China’s economic growth continues to slow, while the geopolitical drumbeat is increasingly daunting. With...

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    Gavekal Research

    Why Germany Is Not Turning Japanese

    Germany has economic problems that most countries would die for—low unemployment and steadily rising real wages mean that policymakers must respond to bottlenecks such as labor shortages (see Germany Normalizes). The longer-term worry is that these “gaps” will become permanent as high-growth Germany must also grapple with Japanese-style demographics. The fear is that its post-2010 expansion could be a swan song before the structural growth...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (20 May): Assessing Oil's Comeback

    Overview: In light of the rebound in oil prices Anatole Kaletsky questions his own view that the oil market is becoming driven by “marginal cost producers”, rather than classic monopoly dynamics.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Phase Of Japan’s Bull Market

    Japanese equities continue to benefit from a situation where corporate growth is decent, but the outlook is not so hot as to spur central bank tightening (see A Japanese Goldilocks). The Nikkei 225 is again close to its peak in 2000, despite the yen having pretty much flat-lined against the dollar since late last year. Still, is this really sustainable considering that Japan remains highly dependent on external demand and the kicker from the...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Dissonance In Markets

    Perhaps the biggest challenge confronting investors today is the disconnect between financial markets and economic data. Indeed, despite weak readings from the growth locomotives of the global economy (China and the US), recent weeks have seen bonds selling off, commodities going on a tear, and deep cyclical equities experiencing huge rebounds. In short, while economic data is pointing towards a mediocre global growth outlook, markets are...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Regime Change In The Oil Market Only Just Starting

    Since late last year, when the battle for oil market share broke out between OPEC and the US frackers, we have argued that this is not just a contest between rival groups of producers, but between distinct pricing regimes, based on very different economic principles (see Will US$50 Be Oil’s Floor, Or Its Ceiling? and The Macro Dividend From Oil).

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Malaysia Will Manage To Contain The Pain

    Unlike many oil and commodity-dependent emerging economies that have seen growth collapse, Malaysia looks to be doing just fine—its economy grew at 5.6% YoY in 1Q15, roughly in line with its post-2009 average. Hence, even as the Malaysian ringgit continues to track the oil price lower, an argument can be made that the markets have got it wrong.

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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar May 2015 - Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will

    We held our US spring seminar in New York on May 11, with Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will offering their views on the most important developments in the global economy.

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    Gavekal Research

    Why Asia Should Suck Up Tantrum II

    Asian currencies took a hit yesterday as the ongoing global bond market sell-off forced capital outflow. Yet unlike the “taper tantrum” of two years ago, the region has navigated this sell-off with limited collateral damage—emerging Asia’s benchmark bond index has fallen by -3% in the last two weeks compared with a -19% peak-to-trough slump in 2013. In this piece we are not going to opine on the outlook for global bond markets as our last two...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Sino-Indian Powerhouse?

    Next week the leaders of the world’s two biggest emerging economies will meet for talks in Beijing. Together, China and India have a population of 2.6bn—36% of the global total—and a GDP exceeding US$12trn. They share a border nearly 4,000km long. Yet China trades more with Thailand than with its most populous neighbor, and there are eight times as many flights between Beijing and Bangkok per week as there are between Beijing and Delhi. The weak...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Brazil Trumps India

    The last year has been tough for emerging market investors—a recent survey showed that only 20% of actively managed EM funds beat their benchmark compared to an average 60-70% over the past five years. Recent weeks have not provided much respite with out-of-favor, commodity-rich markets like Russia and Brazil going on a tear, while much loved darlings such as India have taken a pounding.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Embrace The Asian Deflation

    The specter of deflation continues to threaten big chunks of the global economy and the alarm has even spread to China after the GDP deflator was revealed to have slipped into negative territory in 1Q14. Our starting point is that deflation does not have to be some grizzly beast that must end with soup kitchens, for as Charles has forcefully argued, periods of falling prices have in the past been associated with rapid capital formation and...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (6 May): The Weakness In Wages

    Overview: Charles Gave wonders why in spite of policymakers having the best of intentions, their efforts have caused declining productivity, lower median incomes and fewer quality jobs. United States: The labor market is no longer a clear indicator of the US economic cycle, says Will Denyer, who looks for new insights into what variables may guide the Fed in its policymaking. Europe: Although jobless numbers have fallen across much of the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (May 2015)

    While our growth readings ticked higher last month, the big shift came with a sharp rise in our risk appetite indicators. We also note an easing of deflationary pressure with the US breakeven inflation level registering a nine-month high. On the liquidity side, the European Central Bank has cranked up its expansionary efforts and its balance sheet is rising at 16% YoY. Taken together, these moves have benefited equity markets (notwithstanding...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The World's Most Crowded Trade

    Markets are made at the margin. As a result, the key driver of prices for a given asset is the question of where the marginal buyer (or seller) comes from. This is why very crowded trades can prove dangerous: by the time every one and their dog is convinced that (i) the euro can only go down (early 2015), (ii) being short long-dated bonds is the single best trade out there (early 2014), (iii) underweighting European equities is the easiest path...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Japan’s Wageless Recovery

    Unlike the countries of the eurozone, which are plagued by persistently high unemployment, Japan is suffering from a labor shortage. Yet despite the dearth of workers, economic recovery has not fed through into wage rises—a cause of much frustration in Tokyo.

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    Gavekal Research

    Whither US Manufacturing

    US economic data has started to surprise on the downside, and much of this can be attributed to the manufacturing sector. This is worrying since the sector often leads the general economy. Hence, the $64,000 question is whether we should be bracing for an unscripted recession? Our answer is no, but investors should underweight the US manufacturing sector. In the near term, price adjustments, largely stemming from the energy and commodity price...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Maritime Silk Road Or “String Of Pearls”?

    China’s strategic expansion into the Indian Ocean is causing jitters in both Washington and Delhi. This week Xi Jinping pledged to finance a whopping US$46bn of investments in Pakistan, a large chunk of which will fund a 3,000km “economic corridor” from the Arabian Sea to northwest China. The route will begin at Gwadar, a Chinese-run port near the Iranian border, which Indian security experts fear will become a strategic base for the Chinese...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (22 April): Global Trade

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that an era of globalization and expanding world trade is coming to an end. On balance, he says this is no bad thing. United States: The negative impact of the strong dollar on US exporters will become clear once disruption from the early year port strikes on the US West Coast clear up according to Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian. Europe: Europe’s huge trade surplus is purely a German issue. François-Xavier Chauchat...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards A Real Japanese Shake-Up

    International investors, otherwise disposed to embrace Japan’s re-rating story, face a real dilemma. Almost 30 months after Shinzo Abe launched his bold reflationary experiment, Japan’s equity market has more than doubled in value and the yen (on a trade-weighted basis) has devalued by -30%. And yet, throughout this period, economic growth has continued to disappoint. With two significant reforms in the offing, we reckon that could be about to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Why The Coming Collapse Of World Trade Should Be Celebrated

    Sustained economic growth has always gone hand-in-hand with a big rise in communications infrastructure. To explain why, assume that a country has two cities, named A and B. At the point that a modern communication infrastructure is built (road, trains, internet) then, in each case, a single line of communication is needed. Three cities implies the need for three lines; a fourth city means six lines. Ultimately, if all the cities are to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Deflationary Rebalancing

    Take a look at Asia’s trade data, and you soon notice a striking divergence: export volumes and prices are heading in different directions. In the past, whenever external demand picked up, Asia’s exporters always enjoyed a beta-bounce on the back of rising pricing power. This time around, however, things are different. Despite the ongoing recovery in the US and the recent upturn in Europe, Asian exporters have found themselves forced to make...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Small Is Beautiful

    At the end of the 1980s the world changed, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of China’s renaissance. The next two and a half decades were marked by a mass movement towards globalization. We now have a long enough history to determine who were the winners over those 25 years. The answer is very simple: small countries.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Perils Of Leadership

    Around 50 countries have signed up to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. A year ago, when Beijing began to draw up plans for a new multilateral lender, no one could have guessed that it would cause such a global stir. We first wrote about China’s attempt to provide an alternative to the US-dominated system of global development finance last June (see [China] A Chinese Bretton Woods?). But it is too early to conclude that the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (8 April): The Outlook For Bank Earnings

    Overview: With banks’ earnings squeezed on one side by flat yield curves, and on the other by tech companies encroaching on their traditional consumer-facing business lines, Louis wonders where the banking sector will generate future earnings growth United States: Doing More With A Flatter Yield Curve: Now consumers have deleveraged, and with strengthening demand set to drive a pick-up in corporate investment, Will argues that earnings growth...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Thai Decision Rule Signals Time To Buy - Joyce Poon & Udith Sikand

    It would take a courageous investor to buy wholeheartedly into Thailand’s equity market just now. The country’s ruling generals may have lifted martial law last week, almost a year after seizing power, but local analysts dismiss the move as a cosmetic attempt to persuade Thailand’s Western allies that things are returning to normal. In reality, they report, the government is actually seeking to tighten its control in the face of undiminished...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    One Belt, One Road, One Grand Strategy

    In what can only be described as a triumph for Chinese financial diplomacy, some 48 countries had defied US disapproval to sign up for Beijing’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by yesterday’s deadline. The applicants included not only Europe’s big four economies, but staunch US allies such as Saudi Arabia, geopolitical rivals like India, and even Taiwan, which China does not recognize as a separate country.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Capturing Beta From India’s Laggard Banks

    The stars could hardly be aligned more propitiously for India’s economy. The falls in oil and other commodity prices have helped to correct the external deficit and have paved the way for the Reserve Bank of India to continue its monetary easing cycle. On the fiscal side, in February Narendra Modi’s government underscored its pledge to prioritize investment when it proposed a 25% YoY increase in capital expenditure in its first full year budget...

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    Gavekal Research

    Where Has The Modi Magic Gone?

    India has fallen out of favor with investors lately. Over the last four weeks, the Nifty stock index has dropped 4.6%, a fall that included eight consecutive sessions of declines, the market’s longest losing streak in more than 18 months. Investors blamed the collapse of lofty valuations following poor earnings results, with the fall exacerbated by rising tensions in the Middle East. But critics of India’s government say the problems go deeper....

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Exogenous vs Endogenous Shocks

    Markets can be hit either by endogenous shocks (they collapse suddenly because of the build-up of internal excesses—think the 2000 tech bubble, the 2008 US mortgage crisis, or the 2011-12 eurozone crisis) or by exogenous shocks (9/11 in the US, or the price of oil shooting up from US$100/bbl to US$150/bbl in 2008 following the Sichuan earthquake and preceding the Beijing Olympics). This raises the question how investors should view...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Divergence In Market Action

    After yesterday’s trading action, the S&P 500 is now broadly flat for the year so far, and stands at the same level as on November 21. Interestingly, over the past 26 days since February 17, the US index has not managed to string together two consecutive days of gains. In other words, US equities are now adding more volatility and less returns to portfolios. That’s hardly the combination that most investors are looking for. In contrast, the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (25 March): Where To Find Value

    Overview: Louis deconstructs the cycle across different regions to work out what investment strategies should work best, and where. North America: David Hay argues that the Canadian dollar may be nearing its trough, and if so, that Canadian REITs offer compelling value. Europe: Turkish assets have suffered recently. But with cheaper oil and a recovery in European demand emerging, Cedric makes the case for an impending rebound. China: With yields...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Japan Finally Gets Religion

    Japan has been tough on value investors. With no catalysts to unleash shareholder value, investors have typically found themselves sitting on their portfolios waiting for the Grim Reaper. Time and again activist funds have tried to release locked-up value, only to be blocked at every turn by intransigent management and unsympathetic regulators. Now the market is watching with considerable interest to see how Daniel Loeb’s Third Point Management...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    All 21st Century Roads Lead To...

    With trillions of US dollars’ worth of transactions every day, the G7 foreign exchange markets are supposed to be the most liquid, least prone to manipulation, markets out there. Even so, the five day rate of change of the EUR-US$ exchange rate has lately fluctuated in the +5% to -3% range usually only seen at times of deep market crisis. As a result, most investors, or companies looking at their budgets and sales projections for the second...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Three Regions, Three Strategies

    Fundamentally, there are three ways to make money in financial markets: Momentum trades: ideally buying high and selling higher. Return to the mean trades: ideally buying low and selling higher. Carry trades: borrowing short to lend long.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar March 2015 - Anatole, François, Andrew & Charles

    We held our main spring seminar in London on March 17 with Anatole, François, Andrew and Charles offering their views of the global economic pulse and recent market and central bank developments.

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