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    Gavekal Research

    Portfolio Construction In A Malthusian World

    The two key questions posed by economics are: why do things have “value” and—over time—how does that “value” change? Thomas Malthus showed why people value things that are scarce, like jewels or a Monet painting Alternatively, David Ricardo and Joseph Schumpeter, showed why its worth owning something that is useful—a “tool” from which goods and services can be made and sold at a price that exceeds their cost of production.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Vital Portfolio Construction Lesson

    I am a rules-based investor, and over the years few financial relationships have been more useful to me in reading the economic cycle than the yield spread between long-dated US corporate bonds and 30-year US treasuries. Going back to the late 1970s, no US bear market has unfolded with key spread being below 200bp. It is now 210bp.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Silly Recommendation

    The euro just celebrated its 20th anniversary to scant fanfare. Hardly surprising, given that it caused a Greek depression, decline in Italy’s private sector GDP and a German current account surplus that has exported deflationary pressure to Europe and beyond. Against this grim backdrop, today’s note will consider whether now is the time to buy eurozone financials.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Sober End To The Year

    For investors around the world, 2018 proved to be “challenging”. Yet to Gavekal’s clients, hopefully the year’s difficulties did not come as a surprise. Just over 12 months ago, early in December 2017, I published a paper entitled From A Ferrari To A Jeep advising investors to reduce the volatility of their portfolios.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Perhaps The Most Important Chart I have Ever Published

    In my Wicksellian world, when the “market rate of interest” (cost of capital) moves above the “natural rate of interest” (return on capital) a recession usually follows. Italy offers an interesting case in point as it has spent so much time since the euro’s launch operating below this critical threshold.

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    Gavekal Research

    Understanding The Next Bear Market

    My career in financial markets began in January 1971, which means I’ve seen a few bull and bear markets. A common trait of bear markets is that as the big decline starts, most investors have no idea why asset prices are falling. At some point, perhaps much later, the root cause of the marauding bear becomes clear and this revelation triggers the final phase of the sell-off. Hence, in light of the recent pull-backs, readers may like to consider...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Conflict Between Liquidity And Growth

    In recent days my colleagues Anatole Kaletsky and Arthur Kroeber have debated the strained relationship between China and the US, and what it may mean for emerging markets. I agree that this standoff matters greatly for the world, but I’m not convinced it’s the main issue driving markets and therefore a resolution—or not—at the G20 next weekend may end up as a damp squib for investors. A range of issues have me concerned, from widening credit...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    A More Timely Wicksellian Tool

    According to my Wicksellian analysis of the US, when the market rate of interest moves above the natural rate (essentially the structural growth rate of corporate profits), then a recession is coming, and investors should exit US equities and load up on treasuries. I now propose an updated and more timely proxy for the "Wicksellian market rate".

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    World Trade And A Troubling Signal

    As Donald Trump has ramped up tariffs on US imports from China, investors have understandably grown anxious about the impact on world trade. Few significant effects have shown up in the data so far. Nevertheless the outlook is alarming—although not necessarily in the way many might think.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Why I Love The Euro

    By now surely almost everyone, except perhaps Jacques Delors and Jean-Claude Trichet, must accept that the euro is the greatest monetary mistake governments have imposed on their unsuspecting populations since then Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill took Britain back onto the gold standard in 1925.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy’s Inevitable Endgame

    Just over a year ago, with the optimism towards eurozone stock markets, and Italy in particular, riding high, I wrote a paper expressing the view that none of the eurozone’s underlying problems, nor Italy’s, had been solved. One year later, the situation is now looking very dangerous indeed.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards US Goods Price Deflation

    Emerging economies have spent the last three or four months squirming under the weight of a strong dollar. The effect of such currency strength is now showing up in the US itself, with the price of both consumer goods and imports softening. This deflationary pressure may end up impacting real interest rates, and hence the relative attractiveness of US bonds and equities.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Italy The Whale?

    Markets have an end-of-an era feeling to them as the US’s exit from easy money causes the dollar to rise, emerging markets to crater and strongmen to cry blue murder . Louis yesterday concluded that we are not yet seeing the kind of event that marks a cycle’s denouement. I agree but wonder if we did just glimpse a big beast breaking the surface in the shape of Italy, which judging by yesterday’s 12bp rise in BTP yields may already be in play.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    I Didn’t See It Coming

    As a rules-based investor, I got jumpy late last year when key indicators like my velocity indicator began to flash red. In January, I advised investors to reduce portfolio volatility by holding yen cash, short-dated treasuries and even Chinese bonds. Through to about April, this positioning worked fine as markets had a rocky period. Since April, however, the picture has changed in ways I did not expect.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump, And The US Dollar As The World's Reserve Currency

    For the 70 years since the launch of the Marshall Plan, the US dollar has reigned unchallenged as the world’s reserve currency. I have written extensively about the characteristics of the world monetary system that has grown up based on the US dollar. But I do not remember ever having written on the costs the US must bear to sustain what Jacques Rueff termed its “imperial privilege” as issuer of the global reserve currency.

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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

    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

    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 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....

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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...

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