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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble With Trade Retaliation

    When this week US president Donald Trump threatened to slap tariffs on an additional US$200bn of imports from China, on top of the US$50bn already targeted, the Chinese government immediately promised to retaliate in full proportion. The trouble is that retaliating will be a lot more difficult and painful than Beijing’s counter-threats make it sound.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Brazil’s Year Of Living Messily

    After a couple of years of political stability and economic improvement, Brazil again looks like an emerging market in the cross-hairs. As measures of financial stress have risen sharply, its currency and stock market have plunged. The bet must be that Brazil muddles through, but a crisis this year cannot be ruled out.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Easing Won’t Help Chinese Equities

    When the White House rattled global markets earlier this week with its threat markedly to escalate the international trade war, mainland Chinese stock markets were hit the worst. That is not surprising, considering that the US administration’s threats were targeted specifically at imports from China. However, the fall in Chinese markets was so severe, and the subsequent recovery so anemic, in part because investors’ heightened fears over trade...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Investment Scenarios Ahead

    The interaction of three prices—the US dollar, long-dated US interest rates, and oil—tend to determine the behavior of most other asset values, and so far this year, all three have moved higher. Investors have adjusted to this new reality with some trepidation: among major markets, only the US (S&P 500) and Japan (Nikkei 225, barely) are up year-to-date in US dollar terms.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Restructuring Of Retail

    China’s rapid shift to online shopping is emptying malls and forcing retailers to close hundreds of stores. But at the same time, the big internet companies are investing billions to seek new growth from brick-and-mortar stores. In this piece, Ernan explains how Chinese retail is restructuring and where the growth opportunities are.

    0
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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

    The Empire Strikes Back?

    Over the last 70 years the global population has tripled. Yet in defiance of every Malthusian theory out there, the average citizen of the world has never known such a high level of material comfort as today. To start with the obvious, the world has almost entirely eradicated the famines that plagued entire regions just a few generations ago (this isn’t to deny the humanitarian catastrophes unfolding today in Yemen or Syria, but these are caused...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Trade War Escalates. What’s Next?

    With the imposition of tariffs on US$34bn of imports from China last Friday, the US has expanded the trade war it launched two weeks earlier with steel and aluminum tariffs, mostly on friendly countries. More are likely to come by the end of the year: additional tariffs on China, and possibly levies on imports of cars and car parts (which again would mainly hurt US allies). It is possible that the US could pull out of Nafta. How worried should...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Parsing The Slowdown In Credit Growth

    China’s credit growth slowed to a new low in May, but the deceleration in real economic activity remains a moderate one—although sharp contrasts are now appearing among different indicators. In this piece, Chen Long explains why credit growth is likely to continue to slow, and how that will affect different parts of the economy.

    0
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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

    Is The Fed Really Going To Cause A Crisis?

    Is a crisis in US dollar bond markets really inevitable if the Federal Reserve continues on its current tightening trajectory? Some think so, including Reserve Bank of India governor Urjit Patel, who this month expressed his fears in an op-ed in the Financial Times.

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Way Ahead For North Korea

    After the Trump-Kim summit, North Korea's commitment to denuclearization still remains a fiction. Future negotiations will be little more than an exercise in stringing along the US administration. While Washington and Pyongyang talk, Beijing and Seoul will continue to try to normalize the existence of a nuclear-armed North Korea and cement peace.

    0
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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

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call June 2018

    During Friday’s monthly call, Louis Gave addressed the direction of the US dollar and the impact of expanding US fiscal deficits. Anatole Kaletsky focused on the rise of populist politics, which remains his major concern. Charles Gave considered the impact of resurgent nationalism on the investment environment. There was also significant discussion of the oil price with Anatole and Louis taking differing positions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Moment Of Truth For Emerging Markets

    A strong US dollar, rising interest rates and higher oil prices are a toxic mix for emerging markets. A month ago it was only Turkey and Argentina that were looking really sick, punished by investors for their structural imbalances. But in recent weeks nervousness has engulfed the currencies of Indonesia, South Africa, India and—most notably—Brazil. This leaves the emerging markets facing a pivotal moment. Until now, the assets of those emerging...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The 5G Dream Will Not Be Denied

    Now that the US has backed away from putting crippling sanctions on Chinese telecom-equipment firm ZTE, China looks well-placed to achieve its dreams for 5G, the next wave of mobile technology. Huawei and ZTE may be effectively blocked from the US market, but they are well-placed to grab a significant share of the global market for 5G.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: When To Buy US Bonds

    With 10-year US treasury yields having failed so far to climb significantly above the 3% mark, investors are asking whether it is time to buy US long bonds. In this short video interview, Will presents a simple framework for approaching the bond market. With the yield curve flat by historical standards, and yields far below their natural ceiling set by returns on invested capital, investors should steer clear of long bonds.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    In Sweeps The Monsoon

    The summer monsoon lashed across southwest India yesterday, just a few hours after the central bank announced its first interest-rate hike in more than four years. With oil prices stoking inflation and foreign portfolio flows pouring out of the country, the Reserve Bank of India followed the lead of other emerging markets battling the global US dollar squeeze. Yet the darkest storm clouds are now political, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    When To Buy US Bonds?

    Since the early 1980s, buying and holding US long bonds has been a solid investment strategy. This macro environment was supported by a favorable demographic tailwind that ensured a bountiful supply of global savings. That situation is now changing, and as interest rates rise investors should not assume that yields will retrace as they did after the 2013 “taper tantrum”. In this piece Will and KX put their Wicksellian framework to work and...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is A Crisis Brewing Over Taiwan?

    Ominous clouds are gathering over Taiwan, as China steps up displays of military force and its campaign of international isolation. Could this escalate into a replay of the 1995-6 Taiwan Strait crisis, or something even worse? In this piece, Yanmei assesses the rising risks, but argues that military conflict is still a remote possibility.

    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.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    ‘Peak Politics’: Another Chance To Buy The Dip?

    In recent weeks, investors have been hit with multiple political shocks in the shape of Italian politics, American trade policy and global oil shenanigans. But even as President Donald Trump seems to escalate the American “trade war” and Italy’s new prime minister thumbs his nose at Brussels’ budget parsimony, Anatole asks if political risks have in fact peaked, offering a “buy the dip” opportunity.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    America First, The Rest Of The World Second

    Bears are stealthy creatures that rarely offer much warning of their arrival. Based on my experience in the financial wilderness, I have rarely recognized the clear manifestation of a bear market until I was caught firmly in its clutches. In the US today, excitement about President Trump’s daily activities means there is a lack of clear thinking about this market’s outlook. Similarly, a meme for many investors, including Gavekal colleagues, has...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Going Underground (And Overground) In Delhi And Beyond

    India is rapidly adding new urban metro systems, with ten already built, five under construction and 17 in the planning stages. Tom argues that it is following in China’s footsteps, but unlike China, foreign equipment suppliers and contractors look likely to be major beneficiaries of the Indian build-out.

    1
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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 Dragonomics

    Marshals Over Markets: China Tightens Cybersecurity

    Our first DeepChina report takes a close look at Beijing's efforts to exert tighter control over the internet, the flow of commercial data, and the security of its technological infrastructure. China ia nor alone in toughening regulation, but its efforts are far more expansive, and raise more serious concerns for multinational firms.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Letting A Good Crisis Go To Waste

    At the beginning of 2018, one of Gavekal’s big themes for the coming year was that the liquidity environment was deteriorating. Behind this we saw three causes: 1) the US Federal Reserve’s decision to shrink its balance sheet; 2) the growing toll of rising energy prices, and 3) the coming liquidity drain from runaway US government spending.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Hurdles For US Profits

    Corporate America shot the lights out in the first quarter as tax cuts helped S&P 500 earnings soar by 23%, while macro data released this week showed profits rising an aggregate 14% year-on-year, versus 4.8% in 2017. This week also saw good news for banks, as regulatory shackles were loosened. Yet investors who think US firms are headed back to the races must convince themselves that a series of late-cycle hurdles can be overcome.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Dollar + Oil + Political Risk = ?

    So far, 2018 has delivered a lot of volatility, and mediocre returns across almost all asset classes. Will the second half be any different? It's hard to sustain a high level of conviction given the resurgence of political risk. In the latest Strategy Monthly, we offer a way to think through investment decisions based on the direction of oil prices and the dollar.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Malaysia's Old Man In A Hurry

    In elections earlier this month, Mahathir Mohamad stunnned Malaysia, defeating the party he led for 20 years to become the country’s new prime minister. In this short video interview, Udith examines Mahathir’s policy platform, and asks whether the resurgent 92-year-old can really rejuvenate Malaysia’s economy.

    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 Dragonomics

    China Comes Off The Boil

    Chinese growth surprised on the upside in the early part of the year, but Andrew thinks that a gradual loss of altitude is now unfolding. This is mainly due to slowing property market activity, which increasingly displays late-cycle characteristics. This adjustment should not pose a major risk to other major economies, so long as other global factors do not become disruptive.

    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 Dragonomics

    Property Tightening Is Back

    Chinese government policy for the property market is turning tighter, a shift that will weigh on housing sales and construction activity in the rest of 2018. But Rosealea cautions against overreacting, arguing that the downcycle in property is still likely to be a shallow one, and that policy will loosen again once market conditions weaken.

    2
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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 Dragonomics

    Behind The Resilient Renminbi

    The US dollar is rising, so are US interest rates, and China’s current account balance is deteriorating. So the renminbi should be weakening, but it is not. In this piece, Chen Long argues that a recent pickup in capital flows is the cause of this strength, but suspects the central bank will not want to see much more sustained appreciation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Does The Dollar's Run-Up Have Legs?

    Being a US dollar bear has been a humbling experience over the last few weeks. The year started well enough for bears, with the DXY dollar index declining -4.2% over the first seven weeks. But since mid-April, the US currency has staged a rebound vigorous enough to leave the DXY up 1.95% year-to-date. This rally confronts investors with a baleful prospect: any further sustained appreciation of the US dollar will have a detrimental effect on...

    4
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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 Dragonomics

    Urbanization Without Migration

    The story of China’s urbanization has long been the migration of people from the country to the cities. Not anymore: as Ernan explains, rural migration has slowed sharply, and is being replaced by the reclassification of rural areas into urban ones. Policymakers now prefer this “local urbanization,” even though it delivers less income growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Structural Change, Or A Return To The Mean?

    Chinese government bond prices have markedly outperformed treasuries for more than a year. This trend could be explained merely by cyclical factors, or that the Chinese fixed income market is going through a structural rerating, driven in part by the internationalization of the renminbi and the inclusion of Chinese government bonds in major benchmarks.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    A Decision Tree For Emerging Markets

    Over the last five weeks, something unusual has been going on in global financial markets: the US dollar has been strengthening, and at the same time the price of oil has been going up. If prolonged, such a simultaneous rise in two of the world’s most important prices will threaten to inflict a vicious double blow on emerging market economies and asset prices. To be clear: the bigger influence would be the US dollar. But the simultaneous...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    India Macro Update: Summer Market Blues

    Indian growth is picking up nicely just as the external financing environment gets tougher, with a strengthening US dollar, raising yields and most importantly, a sharply rising oil price. In their regular quarterly review, Udith and Tom argue that India can weather the storm, but global investors would do well to back away from the market.

    0
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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 Dragonomics

    An Attractive But Troublesome Market

    From June 1, China’s domestically-listed A-shares will be included in the MSCI Emerging Markets index, bringing the onshore market to the attention of many global investors for the first time. In this piece, Thomas examines recent developments in the A-share market, and outlines the promises and pitfalls of investing under China’s “regulatory firestorm”.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Hong Kong Peg Under Pressure

    The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has again been intervening in the foreign exchange market after it stepped in last month when the Hong Kong dollar fell to its weakest in 35 years. So far the HKMA has bought HKD62bn, selling almost US$8bn to defend the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the US dollar. In this video interview, Tom Holland explains what’s going on, and why there is zero risk Hong Kong will be forced to devalue its currency.

    0
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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

    Beyond Japan’s 1Q GDP Contraction

    Japan’s longest run of growth since the 1980s has come to an end. After eight consecutive quarters of growth, data released on Wednesday morning showed that the Japanese economy contracted in the first quarter. For investors, the question is whether this contraction will prove a short-lived blip, or whether it marks a decisive turn for the worse in both Japan’s macro-environment and equity market.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bond Yields Have Further To Fall

    After a sharp decline in March and April, Chinese onshore bond yields have bounced back over the past three weeks. But based on the latest economic data and policy signals, Chen Long thinks that bond yields have further to fall. Growth is continuing to slow, and the central bank seems comfortable with a slightly more accommodative stance.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Playing A Flatter US Yield Curve

    The US yield curve could invert towards the end of this year or early in 2019, the head of the St. Louis Federal Reserve said on Monday. For investors it’s a troubling thought. Over the last 50 years, whenever the US yield curve has inverted, a recession has typically followed within a year or two. Yet although the current flattening of the curve is set to continue, the process will be gradual, which means inversion and an ensuing recession...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Refuge In Emerging Markets

    The year started in such promising form for emerging markets. Unfortunately, the initial promise failed to outlive January. Since early February’s mini-panic, emerging market assets have taken a beating, hammered by the triple whammy of a stronger US dollar, higher US yields, and rising oil prices—a combination that’s typically adverse for global growth, and so deeply negative for emerging markets. The strain has shown up first among “weak links...

    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

    Malaysia’s 92-Year-Old Populist

    It is surely the most remarkable political comeback of recent history. At the tender age of 92, former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad won a shock victory in Wednesday’s general election, ousting from power the coalition he himself headed for 22 of the 61 uninterrupted years it ruled the country—ever since independence in 1957.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Hardly A Game Changer For Oil

    While nobody could have been surprised by the full-scale commercial warfare launched against Iran by President Trump yesterday, his announcement raised more questions than answers. The most important question is whether this action will make the world safer or further destabilize Middle Eastern and global geopolitics. The second question is whether the US enforcement of sanctions will really be as tough as Trump’s belligerent rhetoric and the...

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  • Gavekal Dragonomics

    What’s Really At Stake In The US-China Rivalry

    It is still possible that the US and China will strike a deal to avert threatened tariffs. But as Arthur argues in this piece, any deal will be mostly cosmetic. The tension between the two is not mainly about trade, but about China’s challenge to US global dominance. The US will almost certainly keep trying to counter China’s efforts to gain power.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    What—Me Worry?

    What should most worry investors about the state of the US economy today? The answer is: “Total absence of worry”. That was my clear conclusion after a week in Los Angeles hobnobbing with the thousands of CEOs, financiers, technologists and politicians at the Milken Global Conference. An intoxicating cocktail of tax cuts, deregulation and record profits has transformed the post-crisis normalization of business confidence into uncritical euphoria.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Illusion Of Liquidity, And Its Consequences

    A decade ago the US corporate bond market was about half as big as it is today, yet bond dealers held about six times more inventory than they do today. In our latest Loser Report which focuses on assets to avoid, Louis worries that the next big financial accident could happen in this aggressively priced arena.

    8
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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

    EMs And The Oil Syndrome

    Having fallen more than -10% from their late January peak, emerging markets are looking shaky. Higher yields, a stronger US dollar and rising oil prices have all contributed to a tough environment. In the face of big current account deficits, Turkey and Argentina look properly imperiled, with some saying that their troubles point to a bigger problem for emerging economies. I disagree. Not all headwinds are created equal, and what matters for EMs...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Next On The US-China Telenovela: Investment Curbs

    An unusually large group of senior American officials has landed in Beijing for two days of talks on the trade and technology dispute embroiling the US and China. There is no reason to think the mission will achieve much. And if it does manage to cobble together a temporary deal to forestall the tariffs the two countries have threatened against one another, it will do nothing to delay the next act in the drama: proposed restrictions on Chinese...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Seizing The Moment For Artificial Intelligence

    As the US and China try to position themselves for technological leadership, both are now focusing on artificial intelligence. In this piece, Andrew answers the questions of the moment: What is artificial intelligence anyway? Why does China seem to be doing so well in artificial intelligence? And how should we think about this US-China rivalry?

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    Strategy Monthly: Living With US-China Strategic Rivalry

    A gaggle of US cabinet officials are in Beijing this week for talks aimed at lowering the temperature on US-China trade relations. While there may be an agreement to temporarily delay the huge tariffs each side has threatened to impose on the other, there is no chance of bridging the real rift between the two countries, which arises from China's technological and geopolitical ambitions. A trio of aggressive strategies launched by Xi Jinping...

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    Fade The US Dollar Rally

    If a week is a long time in politics, then three months is an eternity in the foreign exchange market. Three months ago, sentiment towards the US dollar reached a nadir after US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed his desire for “a weaker US dollar”. Over the following weeks, the US currency duly weakened. But since mid-April the dollar has staged a rally, with the DXY index gaining 3.5% as the market has noted the increase in US long...

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    Why A Curve Inversion Matters

    Investors are increasingly obsessed about the flattening of the US yield curve, leading to talk of the dreaded “I” word. This is not surprising as inversions have usually been followed by a US recession and attendant equity bear market.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Punishing People, Not Institutions

    The strategy behind China’s financial overhaul is becoming clear. It is helping banks by allowing an extended transition to a new set of rules. But prosecutions of executives are also ramping up. This is the opposite of what some Western countries did after the 2008 crisis: people, not institutions, are paying the price for financial risk-taking.

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    The American Growth Dynamic

    It is clear from data released on Friday that the US economy remains set on an expansionary and inflationary trajectory. Growth in 1Q18 came in at a stronger-than-expected 2.3%, while the US employment cost index rose 2.8% YoY to a high for this cycle. Even as consumer spending comes off the boil, US firms, in what looks like a classic late-cycle pattern, are responding to bottlenecks by investing more in their capital stock. We continue to see...

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    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...

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    Portfolio Construction In The Time Of An Inflationary Reserve Currency

    In today’s Daily, Charles argued that the key focus of economic conflict between the US and China may end up being over currencies rather than trade spats. He advised investors to monitor the price of treasuries as expressed in gold to see how that struggle is playing out. In this piece, he tells unconstrained investors how to hedge a portfolio in light of the US dollar being subject to inflationary policymaking. Spoiler alert: the answer also...

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    The Upcoming Monetary War, With Gold As An Arbiter

    When President Trump was recently asked if he was starting a war in traded goods with China, he countered that the US had lost that struggle 20 years ago. As the US retains a comparative advantage in technology, such arguments have led some to conclude that the world’s two biggest economies will fight their next economic battle in this new theater. That may be true, but for me the real fight will be less about trade than a struggle for dominance...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Constructive Make-Believe On The Korean Peninsula

    With North Korea suddenly seeming happy to negotiate with its old adversaries, some analysts reckon the regime is buckling under US pressure. Yanmei says this is wishful thinking. Kim Jong-un probably believes he has achieved nuclear deterrence—and he is most unlikely to relinquish it. China and South Korea just want to avoid a US military strike.

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    Why India’s Growth Is Not Jobless

    India desperately needs to create jobs if it is not to squander what may be the biggest “demographic dividend” in economic history. On the face of things, it looks to be blowing that opportunity, as in recent years the size of the workforce has actually shrunk. In this piece, Tom argues that the raw data obscures a picture that while not ideal, is far better than it looks.

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    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...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Dangerous Dealing Along The Belt And Road

    In countries involved with China’s Belt-and-Road Initiative, there is a growing realization of the risks to signing up for the scheme. As debt has mounted and fears of economic dependence have increased, a backlash has begun. But as Tom explains, the lure of easy Chinese capital is a dangerous habit that many countries will struggle to kick.

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    Policy And Productivity In The USA

    If President Trump is to accomplish his stated goal of renewing American economic greatness then an absolute requirement is for productivity growth to be pushed above its current miserable level of 1%. To an extent, the economic cycle is helping him, as a tightening jobs market is pushing up wages and creating incentives for firms to add labor-saving capital investments. I would also point to three structural developments, which, although not...

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    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...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    New Jobless Rate, Same Old Problems

    China has moved to rid itself of a longstanding statistical embarrassment, replacing its discredited unemployment data with a new survey based on international standards. But as Ernan explains, the old problems have not gone away: the new jobless rate is still implausibly low and stable, and likely still subject to political manipulation.

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    A Japanese Sandwich

    Shinzo Abe played a fair amount of golf with Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, but unlike other US allies he got no trade concessions. The talk is again of the Japanese prime minister being a busted flush who may have to resign. Last month, I said such an outcome should not derail Japan’s recovery and corporate prospects (see Abenomics After Abe). The same logic applies to fears of escalating US-China trade tensions upending Japan’s recovery.

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    The Message From Credit Markets

    Over the last three weeks US high yield credit spreads have collapsed by 100bp—a tightening that far exceeds the 10bp narrowing in investment grade spreads over the same period. Coming after a marked widening in the Libor-OIS and Ted spreads over February and March, this fall in credit spreads is clearly encouraging. It supports our contention that the widening of Libor spreads was an idiosyncratic anomaly, and nothing investors should be overly...

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    Dreaming Of A Better India

    In a year’s time, 900 million Indians will be eligible to go to the polls in India’s general election. Two-thirds of them are likely to cast a vote, including 200 million aged under 30. Youth politics in India matters as nowhere else: the world’s biggest democracy has nearly as many young voters as the rest put together. So what do young Indians want, and who will they vote for?

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    A First Step Towards Easing

    The Chinese central bank is no longer in full policy tightening mode. That’s good news for Chinese bank shares. Shortly after government statisticians released economic data for the first quarter on Tuesday, the People’s Bank Of China announced a 100bp reduction in bank reserve requirement ratios. For big banks, this reduces the proportion of their deposits they are required to lodge as reserves at the central bank from 17% to 16%. In gross...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Keeping Credit Growth On Track

    China’s central bank has tweaked monetary policy to soften the slowdown in credit growth. The RRR cut continues its strategy of managing liquidity to limit the economic impact of the campaign against financial risk. Other data for March still point to a moderate growth slowdown in 2018, particularly given the continued strength in property.

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    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call April 2018

    During yesterday’s monthly call, Arthur Kroeber addressed rising geoeconomic and geopolitical tensions between the world’s two biggest economies. He argued that US moves against China ran far deeper than trade tariffs as actors across the political spectrum in Washington were intent on changing China’s basic economic model, something that Beijing will likely fiercely resist. Much of his focus was on the tech sector, which is front-and-center of...

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    Learning To Love The Loonie

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Canadian dollar: disappointing economic data, a frothy real estate market, over-exposed banks, the fact that the Canadian team failed to get either the men’s or the women’s ice hockey gold at the winter Olympics, and a prime minister who dresses up like the Thompson twins when he travels to foreign countries.

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    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...

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    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.

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    A Different Analytical Approach

    I have read with great interest the arguments put forward here by Anatole that equities are in a “structural” bull market. Having listened closely to his presentation at Gavekal’s London seminar, I now understand where our main point of difference lies. Anatole argues that we are in a bull market that began in 2013 when US stocks broke above their long-established trading range and which continues to this day (see This Is (Still) Not Peak: It’s...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Changing Language On Leverage

    China’s policymakers have for the first time called for reducing the total debt-to-GDP ratio. This shift has raised worries that monetary policy could get tougher, on top of the tightening of financial regulation that is already underway. In this piece, Long explains that no shift in policy is imminent; if anything, easing is getting more likely.

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    The Future Of Facebook

    For someone infamous for his social awkwardness, Mark Zuckerberg acquitted himself relatively well in his two days of testimony before US Congressional committees. Certainly investors thought so. After sliding -14.5% over February and March, shares in Facebook rallied 5.3% over two sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. The short term market reaction notwithstanding, Zuckerberg’s public grilling clearly signals that the user-as-product, advertising-...

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What Inflation Means For Margins

    As China’s producer price inflation cools and its consumer price inflation picks up, one might expect corporate margins to be fattening, as cost pressures wane and pricing power strengthens. In fact, the opposite is true: margins have been fat, and are now getting tighter. In this piece, Thomas explains how inflation really affects margins.

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    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...

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    US Budget Deficits And Long Term Interest Rates

    On Monday the Congressional Budget Office published its latest projections for the US economy and government finances, incorporating for the first time the effects of December’s tax cuts. With government revenues set to fall from 17.3% of GDP last year to less than 17% over the next five years, and spending expected to grow from 20.8% to more than 22%, the CBO projects that the US budget deficit will expand from 3.5% of GDP last year to more...

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    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...

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    The New Source Of Market Risk

    Believe it or not, there was good news, as well as bad, from the US markets last Friday. The bad news was obviously Donald Trump’s threat to escalate the trade war with China and the equally aggressive response from Beijing. The good news was the fall in March’s US payrolls growth to just 103,000 from February’s upwardly-revised 326,000. This slowdown has eliminated, at least until after the summer, the risk of an unexpected Federal Reserve...

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    Why To Buy India’s Battered Banks

    India’s central bank surveyed the landscape and yesterday painted an upbeat picture. It argued that the investment cycle may be turning, while inflation, the sub-continent’s constant bugbear, is becalmed. With Indian equities off -6% in 2018, this would seem a decent reentry point. The problem is public sector banks, for even as a US$32bn recapitalization is rolled out and bad debt is cleaned up, investors remain spooked by an outlandish scandal.

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    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...

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