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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...

    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

    My Kind Of Safe Haven

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

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil As A Party Spoiler

    I have tended to see oil not so much as an asset in which to build a position as a party spoiler that can wreak havoc on a portfolio. Yesterday saw the price of Brent break above US$80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014 and the pain is visible in a range of emerging markets that run big external deficits. To be sure, most of my colleagues remain sanguine about EM prospects and do not expect a generalized crisis (see The Refuge In...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    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

    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.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Ready For A Further P/E Derating

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

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    On Protectionism

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Legitimacy Versus Legality

    France’s top central banker yesterday called for the nations of the eurozone to cease bickering over ideological questions, and instead get things done. National leaders should stop wasting time on “theoretical debates” that pitted “risk reduction against risk sharing”, said Francois Villeroy de Galhau. They should, instead, tackle real problems like the half-built capital markets union. It was the authentic voice of the European technocracy and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Finest Hour

    At Gavekal, we have no house view, but in recent weeks something of a united front has formed among my erudite colleagues on the subject of Europe and her politics. Just to be sure that clients don’t conclude that we have all imbibed the Brussels-dispensed Kool Aid, let me offer my take on the situation and the implication for financial asset values.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Nobody Rings A Bell At The Top Of A Market

    Let’s start with a hypothesis. For the purposes of this note, let’s assume that the bull market that started in the second half of 2011 ended in January 2018, and that a bear market is now under way. The obvious follow-on question is what variety of the Ursus genus is emerging from its lair.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Tax Reform, Capex And Financial Engineering

    The tax bill passed into US law last month is not short of critics. But for all the opprobrium it has attracted, the new law may help to repair some of the damage inflicted on the US economy over recent years by the Federal Reserve’s misguided interest rate policies. By favoring capital investment in the real economy over leveraged financial engineering, the new tax regime may yet prove broadly positive for Main Street—but at a considerable cost...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Indebted Country?

    One of the arguments long advanced by die-hard bears is that the US is “the most indebted country in the world”, and therefore heading irreversibly for economic disaster. Often they reach their conclusion by summing US current account deficits over the years, or by looking at how much US government debt is owned by foreigners. Sometimes they even dig a little deeper and unearth something called “the US net international investment position”,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    From A Ferrari To A Jeep

    When I turned 70 (I am still struggling with the fact that I now have a “7” handle), the Gavekal partners had the good idea of bringing into the firm some very bright “quants” and giving them a simple mandate: quantify and qualify the various investment rules that I have been using for decades (somewhat sporadically, and often with biases that I myself sometimes struggled to acknowledge).

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Investing For Constrained Insurers

    At Gavekal we have a sizable number of European Union insurance companies among our clients. Over the last three months, I have visited more than a few of them to outline my current investment recommendations, for example that investors should buy the Japanese stock market. Typically in these meetings, the investors have listened carefully and then regretfully shaken their heads, saying: “I’m afraid we can’t do it—for regulatory reasons”.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    A Turkish Vortex

    For a country that relies on the kindness of strangers to fund its economy, Turkey, under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been going out of its way to alienate allies and capital providers. Its relationship with the US has been on a downward trajectory for months and things are not much better with the European Union. This matters because the pieces are in place for a classic balance of payments and financial crisis in Turkey. This much is clear from...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Brexit, The Pound And UK Stocks

    When it comes to Brexit, I suspect that one of the few things about which Anatole and I agree is that the negotiations between London and Brussels have so far bordered on the farcical, and that the internal squabbling within the UK’s governing Conservative Party has hardly been conducive to raising the tone. Beyond that we part company. Anatole believes the Brexit talks are approaching a critical juncture for investors in UK assets—a view he...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Truth About Euro-Dollar

    At the time of writing, a five-year zero coupon treasury bond is priced at about 90 while a comparable German zero sells for 101.9. This absurdity reflects the fact that for all the talk of incipient European inflation, German five-year yields are still negative. Hence a fellow buying-to-hold such a German bond today is guaranteed to lose money, at least in euro terms.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Bitcoin And Money

    Philosophically, I have often argued that an asset’s value can derive from just two sources. It can be scarce like a jewel, or useful like a tool. It is customary to measure these values using “money”, which offers a unit of account, a medium of exchange and a store of value. When “national money” forms the backbone of a banking system, it is usually guaranteed by a central authority. Yet, the real question about money has always been whether it...

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