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    Gavekal Research

    Taxes And Yields

    US equity markets have started 2018 committed to the idea that Goldilocks is alive and well. Although no clear picture has emerged of its impact, the passage of the most significant tax reform since the 1980s has had S&P 500 firms opining publicly that they hope to invest more and treat staff better. The corollary is that this cycle might be getting a second wind. The fear is inflation, as shown by yesterday’s move in treasury yields to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call January 2018

    In Gavekal’s monthly research call yesterday, Louis Gave reviewed evidence that the investment environment is experiencing a once-in-a-generation shift from a deflationary environment to one that is broadly inflationary. Anatole Kaletsky argued that this metamorphosis will likely be an orderly affair. Arthur Kroeber updated his view on China’s likely impact on global commodity markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Stick With Dollar Depreciation Plays

    The last year has seen a rare outbreak of consensus at Gavekal. Since last January partners and analysts have been almost universally bearish on the US dollar. In that time, the DXY dollar index has slumped some -12% from its heavily overvalued level at the beginning of 2017. Now the first 12 trading days of 2018 have seen the DXY slide -1.9%, breaching September’s support level to sink to its lowest since the end of 2014. This latest...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Yield Curve As A Duration Guide

    With US stock markets scaling new heights, there are multiple reasons why nervous equity investors might want to reduce portfolio risk. The usual way to do this would be by increasing allocations to long-duration treasury debt. But with long-dated yields now rising, what duration of treasuries should investors hold? And when and how should they adjust duration?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Five Big Bond Market Questions

    With 10-year US treasury yields near the point of breaking out above their 2017 high of 2.6%, financial commentators around the world have suddenly become obsessed with a single question: Have bonds finally entered a bear market, after the multi-decade bull trend that started back in October 1981, when the 10-year yield peaked at 15.8%?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Sunshine (For China) In Korea

    Sunshine has dispelled the clouds of war on the Korean Peninsula, at least for now. News headlines are cautiously celebrating the de-escalation of tensions leading up to the South Korean Winter Olympics. Behind the scenes, it appears that China's freeze-for-freeze diplomacy which was outwardly rejected by both Pyongyang and Washington, is in fact taking shape.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Fear The End Of The Bond Bull Market

    Bond bears have been given succor in the opening days of 2018. First the Bank of Japan trimmed buying of long-dated Japanese government bonds, indirectly causing 10-year treasury yields to surge to 2.6%. Then European Central Bank policymakers were yesterday shown to be bulled up on the state of the eurozone recovery. On the face of it, central banks seem to be whistling a very different tune. In fact, it is investors who have caught up with...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    US Inflation Expectations: Further To Run To Catch-Up

    Over the last six weeks, market inflation expectations have undergone a signal shift to the upside. The US five-year break-even inflation rate has climbed from below 1.7% in early December to 1.95% this week. In other words, market expectations for US inflation, which had long remained markedly subdued, have now played catch-up with the Federal Reserve’s own projections, which see core PCE inflation rising to 1.9% this year and 2% in 2019....

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Everything Looks Fine, But…

    The year has opened with growth expectations and risk appetites at their highest levels in years. The consensus is probably right that it will be a good year for economies and stock markets. The main thing to watch out for is a faster-than-expected withdrawal of QE and low-interest rate policies by the ECB and the BOJ, which could send US bond yields sharply higher.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Dare To Dabble In US High Yield

    Last week US high yield spreads narrowed to within a whisker of their cycle low, bringing them within striking distance of their 2007 low. When things cannot get much better, they seldom do. However, this may be one of those rare historical occasions when things do indeed go from good to even better. The US tax changes that went into effect last week have the potential to drive credit spreads to record depths.

    0
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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 Drains On Liquidity

    For ease of math, assume that the world consumes 100mn barrels of oil a day. Then further assume an inventory across the system equal to about 100-days’ usage (in pipelines, ships and refineries). Thus, when the price of oil rises by US$10/bbl in three months—as occurred in 4Q17—a “liquidity drain” of about US$100bn is created.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Big Questions For 2018

    Many of the important questions confronting investors at the beginning of 2018 are the same as they were 12 months ago. And in most cases I would suggest the same answers. This may seem boring or stubborn, but it is quite reasonable in the middle of a long term economic expansion and structural bull market.

    1
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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

    US Tax; Not What You Expect

    With the Senate having voted its approval, Republicans are set to tomorrow finalize the biggest shake up in the US tax code since the 1980s. A common refrain among analysts is that the bill should propel equity prices higher, but do precious little for economic growth. We wonder if the reverse may unfold.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Cui Bono?

    Today, with European growth humming along and Beijing having (again) shown an ability to keep China’s economy on a sustained expansion path, no one seems fazed about a possible economic downturn. Apart from the UK (where the obsession is Brexit), concern centers on geopolitical risks. Yet depending on their region, investors are worrying about very different things.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Questions For The Coming Year

    The apparent glide path into year-end suggests that 2018 should offer up more of the same seen in 2017. Louis does not rule out a continuation of this “Goldilocks” scenario, but worries that global inflation could be brewing in unexpected quarters at a time when frenzied trading in speculative assets such as bitcoin produces countervailing responses from policymakers. In this wide-ranging tour across the investment landscape he asks whether, in...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research December Call

    In Gavekal Research’s monthly conference call yesterday Anatole Kaletsky outlined five reasons why investors can be optimistic that the current bull market will continue for years to come. His bullishness is moderated by three broad risks.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    There Is Now An Alternative

    There were no surprises yesterday, either in the Federal Reserve’s rate hike, or in its forecasts for next year. With the labor market set to “remain strong”, the unemployment rate likely to inch down to 3.9%—full employment—and growth forecast to get a modest boost from tax cuts to 2.5%, the dot plot projects three 25bp hikes in 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: China 20/20

    In this final issue of China Economic Quarterly, an all-star cast of contributors takes a look back at how the country has changed since 1997, and a look forward at how China, and its global impact, might evolve in the next couple of decades. The basic lesson is that it has never paid to underestimate China’s growth potential and capacity for change.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Pax Americana-Sinica

    China’s rise is making it increasingly costly for the US to uphold Pax Americana in Asia. China wants to replace it, but scant regional enthusiasm means Pax Sinica is some way off. For the next two decades, an uneasy truce should hold in Asia.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bitcoin Bubble Changes Shape

    All the talk about crypto-currencies, initial coin offerings, distributed ledgers etc. feels a lot like discussions on carnal knowledge in a high school boys’ locker room. Everyone is talking about it. Yet almost everyone’s experience is extremely limited. And it is likely to stay that way for the time being, because for all the talk, very few of those doing the chattering are actually getting any action. So what is there left to say about the...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Our 2017 Holiday Reading List

    History, far from being over, looms large in this year’s Gavekal holiday reading list. From failing empires in the Middle East to Europe’s ceaseless struggle for dominance and Asia’s inability to bury ghosts, our writers consider how the past is shaping our future. As befits a research firm, we have lots of economics with a tour of the stagnation debate and an assessment of the threats and benefits offered by artificial intelligence. We consider...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Avoiding Equity Duration Risk

    Last week, Louis argued persuasively that investors should shorten portfolio duration in response to the prospect of further central bank monetary tightening, the potential threat of rising inflation in 2018, and the stretched valuations of long-dated assets (see Have We Just Glimpsed Growth Stocks’ Achilles’ Heel?). This goes not just for fixed income investors, but equity investors too.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What the US Yield Curve Really Says

    Since 1968, the US economy has suffered seven recessions, each preceded by an inversion of the yield curve. It thus makes sense to ask if such an upending of the link between time and interest is necessary for a recession to occur. A follow-on question might be whether a recession cannot happen so long as the yield curve shape is “normal”. With the US yield curve flattening by the day Charles seeks to answer these questions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Positioning For US Tax Reform

    What’s not to like about tax cuts? Quite a lot as it turns out. Although the final shape of US tax reform has yet to be settled, there are enough common points between the House and Senate bills to allow Will and KX to conclude that the likely tax cuts will prove inflationary, and could prompt a more aggressive stance from the Fed. Despite some undoubtedly positive macro outcomes, the implications for investors are not exactly bullish.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: The Long Cycle Continues

    As equity markets everywhere continue to trade higher, money managers are getting increasingly nervous about how long the rally can last. In December’s Strategy Monthly, Anatole argues that we are still only half-way through a secular bull market that can last through the end of the decade. With further US rate hikes on the cards, barring any nasty surprises non-US markets are likely to outperform going forward. The only fly in the ointment is...

    0
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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

    Goldilocks And The Ten Grizzly Bears

    Over the last fortnight, Anatole has written lengthy pieces on why he remains structurally bullish and how investors should play this trend. Today, he takes a realistic look at factors that could disrupt his generally upbeat assessment of the global economy and markets. This piece is a journey into Anatole’s darker side.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Have We Just Glimpsed Growth Stocks’ Achilles’ Heel?

    The best scene in HBO’s hit show “Silicon Valley” had brash billionaire Russ Hanneman explain to start-up CEO Richard Hendricks that the first goal of his tech firm should be to avoid booking sales: “If you show revenue, people will ask ‘how much?’ and it will never be enough” (see clip). This scene crystallizes the observation that in recent years investors have been rewarded in spades for loading up on “long-dated assets”. And it has been a...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    What Retail Apocalypse?

    With so much US retail activity going online, a CNN headline over the weekend asked if this “Black Friday” might be the last. That is good news for the newly-minted US$100bn man at Amazon and bad news for old-style chains like JC Penney, Sears, and Kmart, which face constant downsizing pressure. But what about more broadly for the economy?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bull Market And The Yield Curve

    Keeping up with a runaway bull is no easy task. Which may explain why so many investors remain unenthusiastic participants: the market is old and increasingly unattractive, but holding back could cost them their careers. Yet, the upward march of global equity markets continues relentlessly (for reasons reviewed in recent articles. Today, some 84% of markets around the world are up over the past 12 months in local currency terms. Historically,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar — November 2017

    At Gavekal's November seminar in New York Louis Gave, Arthur Kroeber, Cedric Gemehl and Anatole Kaletsky presented their macro outlooks and investment recommendations.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Dodging Late-Cycle Refinancing Risk

    By most generally accepted metrics, the US economy is in the late stages of its cycle and any further overheating raises the chances of a recession. The issue is really one of timing. Will Denyer’s Wicksellian model and my US business cycle indicator are both flashing orange rather than red, suggesting that the US is edging towards the recession frontier, but not yet at it. We have both advised investors to dial back on US risk, but are not much...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Asset Allocation For The Global Bull Market

    On Monday Anatole outlined his fundamental reasons to believe that the world is enjoying a global bull market that still has years to run. Today he reviews the investment recommendations that flow from his thesis, and examines how investors can best play the unprecedented divergence of the US business cycle from the cycles in Europe and the emerging markets.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Living With A Nuclear North Korea

    A special envoy of Chinese president Xi Jinping will head to North Korea in what is being billed as a gesture of solidarity and friendship between the two countries’ communist parties. Coming just days after Donald Trump’s visit to the region, the move appears to give the lie to Trump’s assertion that he successfully convinced Xi to “use his great economic influence” to press North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    This Is (Still) Not A Peak: It’s A Global Bull Market

    It was almost five years ago that Anatole started to shout loudly that the US equity market had achieved a clear breakout from its more than decade long bear market trading range. His advice has been to stick with the trend. In light of this year’s near across-the-board upward moves in risk assets globally, it would be tempting to back away from this positioning. However, in this piece he argues that the bull market is now going global and so it...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research November Call

    In our monthly research conference call yesterday, Will Denyer outlined his case that demographic factors explain much of the decline in interest rates over the last 30 or so years. His point is that we are nearing a turning point in the global demand-supply relationship for loanable funds and the overall direction of interest rates should be higher.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Contradictory Signals On US Corporate Credit Risk

    US high-yield spreads have widened by 39bp over the last three weeks. Nevertheless, by long term historical standards, they remain exceptionally tight, indicating that the bond market is pricing in remarkably little US corporate credit risk. That message is at odds with the tale being told by the US equity market, which is signaling that corporate credit risk is on the rise. Only one of them can be correct. There are good reasons to think it may...

    4
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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

    A Brave New, New World?

    The traffic has been one-way. Since mid-August, the Philly semiconductors index is up 23%, the Nikkei 225 by 18%, the S&P energy index by 14% and the S&P materials index by 10%. In other words, all “deep-cyclicals” and “price monetizers” are ripping higher. So what to make of this?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    All Pomp, No Circumstance

    President Trump’s 12-day trek through Asia promises much pomp and little circumstance. Since his administration has no strategic vision for the region and has chosen to abandon many of the tools of diplomacy in favor of overblown rhetoric and empty threats, there is little chance of material progress on any important economic or security issues.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Investment Environment

    House Republicans put forward their tax reform bill and Jerome Powell was put up to replace Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve. On the face of it, this all seems like good news for markets. US firms may soon get a permanent tax cut on domestic earnings and mostly keep Uncle Sam away from their foreign earnings, while the prospect of a Taylor-rule adjustment to interest rates has been dodged as Powell seems set to maintain a path of gradual...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    A Different Order Of Political Risk

    Investors in big technology companies, both US and Chinese, are waking up to political risk. In Washington yesterday, senators hauled lawyers for Facebook, Google and Twitter over the coals for carrying foreign-funded political advertisements during the 2016 presidential election campaign in contravention of US law. Meanwhile in China, the government is demanding representation on the boards of big internet companies, including Tencent, Alibaba...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: How Much Longer For Low Rates?

    For decades fixed income and equity markets have enjoyed a secular bull market, propelled higher by low real long term interest rates, depressed by a glut of global savings. In this Strategy Monthly, Will Denyer updates his Capital Provider Ratio, a powerful demographic tool which indicates that the growth of global excess savings has peaked, and that the glut will soon begin to dry up, with far-reaching consequences for global asset markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    False Dawn For The Dollar — And Oil

    Last week the US dollar broke out of its summer trading range and hit its strongest level against the euro and the yen since July. The Brent oil price broke through US$60/bbl to a two-year high. And even sterling seemed to be on the verge of strengthening beyond its post-French election trading range against the euro. How should investors respond to all these breakouts?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Unconvincing Pick-Up In US GDP

    US third quarter GDP growth came in on Friday at 3% QoQ annualized, much higher than the expected 2.6% rate. The strength of the headline number sparked optimism that the US economy had successfully shrugged off any negative impact from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and certainly did nothing to discourage equity investors, as both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rode buoyant earnings to new highs.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Equity Exposure For The Late Cycle

    The US equity bull run continues even as the US economy issues an increasing number of late cycle indicators. For investors who want to maintain exposure to the stock market but are getting nervous that the economy may soon turn down, KX examines the characteristics that allow stocks to outperform in the late stages of the cycle.

    2
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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...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Back Away From Buyback Plays

    From a cyclical peak of US$161bn in 1Q16, US corporate share buybacks fell to US$120bn in 2Q17. But although buyback activity is down, it is not out. In the past few weeks companies including Walmart, HP and Allergan have announced new share repurchase programs. The question for investors is whether they should chase these buyback plays.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Experiences, Not Things

    It is a core Gavekal belief that good money management is more about “avoiding losers” than “picking winners”. Yet sell-side research focuses almost entirely on identifying winners. This leaves an avenue for a small, independent firm like ours to lean the other way and help clients identify “losers”.

    27
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Which Messenger To Believe?

    After Louis wrote up today’s Daily on the strange dichotomy between strong growth and moribund yields, we sat down to quiz him further on how this contradiction gets resolved. In this short video, he explains why the bond market is the thing that will probably have to give.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Growth And Yield Dichotomy

    Of the 45 economies tracked by the OECD, all 45 are expanding, and 33 are seeing an acceleration in their rates of growth.Simply put, both official economic data and market prices are pointing the way towards economic growth—which probably explains why a “data-dependent” Federal Reserve is intent on tightening monetary policy.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Savings Glut’s Long Life And Slow Death

    Slow-moving demographic trends have a big impact on asset prices. For the last 35 years, the age structure of the world’s population has created a global savings glut which has propelled secular bull markets in both equities and bonds. Now that demographic tailwind is fading. In a few years it is likely to reverse. In this paper Will introduces a new measure, the Capital Providers Ratio, which relates the impending demographic shifts to the...

    22
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    Gavekal Research

    MV=PQ And Fed Policy

    It’s probably not advisable for the chairman of a macroeconomic research firm to admit this, but the Federal Reserve has me thoroughly confused. My analysis of the likely outcome from a particular central bank policy is often wrong, but I generally have a fairly clear idea of the objective. In the case of Janet Yellen’s Fed, which is preparing to exit its quantitative easing program, I don’t really understand its ultimate aim.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Count On A Miracle

    Do animal spirits in the US live after all? As profits have picked up, firms’ capital spending has rebounded from contraction territory in 2015-16 to a perky 6.7% QoQ rise in 2Q17. A range of business surveys suggest the trend was sustained through the third quarter. Much is at stake, for if capital spending can break out of its post-2008 range, it is just possible that a productivity surge can follow, lifting underlying economic growth. KX...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Portfolio For The Monetary Cycle

    Every US recession since the 1960s has been preceded by the combination of a fall in true money supply growth relative to real GDP growth, and a fall in the unemployment rate below NAIRU. In this paper, KX constructs a model portfolio which reduces exposure to risky assets in response to these signals, and finds that it offers investors superior risk-adjusted returns.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    An Odd Bull Market

    When supermarket checkout clerks lecture their customers on the merits of leveraged ETFs, investors can be forgiven for thinking the bull market has finally passed its “shoeshine boy” moment. But although there is no shortage of late cycle indicators out there, Louis argues that for several reasons, the current run-up may still have further to go.

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    The Cycle And The Structure

    This bull market has been driven not by conviction, but a belief that in a zero-interest world there is no alternative to equities. Yet with global growth picking up in a seemingly coordinated fashion, commodity prices rising and bond yields firming up, does that condition still hold? Louis thinks that many investors’ “barbell” strategies could be extremely vulnerable to a change in the investment environment that may now be unfolding.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Return Of Alpha?

    This week’s obsession seems to be whether the big reflation trade is back on, heralding a shift in the investment environment. Louis will address this question in a piece to be sent later today, but it is worth noting another important morphing of the investment milieu: that actively managed funds are handily outperforming passive index funds.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    No Closer To Effective Tax Reform

    The much-anticipated US tax reform plan from “the big six” (officials from the administration, House and Senate) has landed. What a disappointment it is. The ball has barely been pushed forward at all. It thus seems unlikely the US will get major tax reform. And if it does, it is likely to be much less effective than the plans previously proposed by the House Republicans.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Story With US Inflation

    While hardly ranking as a hawk, Janet Yellen yesterday restated her view that inflation remains a worry. The Federal Open Market Committee as a whole may have last week nudged its 2017/18 inflation forecasts lower, but Yellen continues to argue that weak pricing pressures are transitory. The corollary is that the Fed should stick with its gradual monetary tightening plan. This places her slightly at odds with policymakers like Charles Evans, who...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    EM Can Handle Fed Fallout

    Yesterday, the “world’s central bank” confirmed that it will reverse its quantitative easing policy and likely raise interest rates in December and then three times in 2018. On the same day, the benchmark emerging market index nudged higher and is only a whisker off a six year high. Ordinarily, Federal Reserve tightening is terrible news for EMs, especially for those economies with the temerity to simultaneously try policy easing. Yet this is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    QT And The Treasury Quandary

    The Federal Reserve has confirmed that quantitative tightening will begin next month as it gradually lowers its holding of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. For investors, the question is whether they should “fight the Fed” by owning assets that are now out of favor with the central bank. I would argue that such a formulation is wrong and these are good times to be mitigating risk by picking up treasuries, probably of shorter duration.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Reviewing My Calls

    Over the years my research has focused on broad concepts which have been applied in many situations and lots of reports. These include ideas such as the disruptive power of platform companies, assets whose value comes from scarcity rather than efficiency, or the effect of firms running on Schumpeterian, Malthusian or Ricardian principles. Once in a while, however, I do get specific and make investment calls. Having had a little time this week, I...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Any US Profits Rebound Lacks Legs

    US equities have rallied to new highs on a favorable liquidity tide, buoyed by hopes for coordinated global growth. But they have also been given a leg-up by an apparently improved US profits outlook, as shown in the second quarter national accounts data. There are, however, compelling reasons to think that an uptick in profit margins cannot last. As 59% of value added by US non-financial corporates went to their workers in 2Q17, these center on...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Beijing’s Bid To Make US Rail Great Again

    CRRC is winning contract after contract in the US light rail market, slowly squeezing out traditional competitors. Its secret? The promise of direct investment and job creation.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: The Financial Labyrinth

    Is China’s financial system going to collapse? The speed of credit growth, the proliferation of financial institutions and financial products, and the chaotic and fragmentary data all make it reasonable to fret that China is on the verge of catastrophe. This issue of the CEQ is our attempt to bring clarity to this mystifying landscape.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Disasters, Bond Yields And The Dollar

    In the past few weeks the US administration cut a deal with opposition Democrats to keep the government open, increasing the likelihood of a budget deficit expansion, and a string of natural disasters have roiled North America. In turn, these events seem to have triggered a sell-off in the US dollar and a global bond rally. Louis outlines two scenarios for where things could go from here.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Robots Everywhere, But The Statistics

    It is hard to open a business magazine these days without finding some grave prediction about machines eating the jobs of middle class professionals from Pittsburgh to Paris. Yet for all the agonizing about mechanized baristas in every neighborhood coffee shop, killer robots and subversive AI algorithms, it is not clear that machines are taking over. Dan runs the numbers in this piece and reaches some sobering conclusions.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research September Call

    In yesterday’s monthly call Louis Gave presented his view on the global investment outlook for the rest of the year. He argued that the key story so far in 2017 has been the strong performance of Asian equities, which has added a second leg to a bull market led by US technology and consumer stocks. The question is whether this can last.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Next From Washington?

    Despite all the bickering in Washington, kicking cans is still a bipartisan sport. Yesterday, President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats in a deal to temporarily raise the debt limit and fund the government for three more months. Republican leaders wanted to kick the can further down the road, but will accept the president’s lead. With the issue temporarily parked, Trump jumped on Air Force One and in North Dakota today he is expected to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A New World Order In The Making

    It’s all too easy to laugh at the BRICS group, a motley crew of five developing nations with little in common other than the fact that they’re (mostly) big and not yet rich. The term has been mocked as a “Bloody Ridiculous Investment Concept”. So why do the BRICS themselves take it so seriously?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Two-Legged Equity Bull Market

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deteriorating Market Signals?

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

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Good News At The NIPA Coal Face

    The so-called NIPA data (national income and product accounts) offers a cleansed account of US profitability as the effects of inflation and currency moves are stripped out. Thus, while nominal profits reported by S&P 500 companies have rebounded since early 2016, no such signal has emerged from the NIPA numbers—until now. This matters as in late-cycle situations it is common for my preferred inflation-adjusted version of NIPA profits to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not That Canadian

    The US and Canadian economies share many similarities due to their geographical proximity, similar level of development and Anglo-Saxon traditions of common law and open political dialogue. So it is curious that each economy’s labor market dynamics are strikingly different. This observation has more than hypothetical significance as workers become hard to find at the right price in late-cycle America.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Bank Deregulation Is Not The Answer

    Janet Yellen nailed her regulatory colors to the mast on Friday. In her speech on financial stability at Jackson Hole, the Federal Reserve chair made plain her opposition to any wholesale roll-back of financial regulations introduced in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. She didn’t mention by name the Financial Choice Act, the attempt currently before Congress to scrap key provisions of the post-crisis Dodd-Frank regulations. But she did address...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Lower Forever Is Good News For Investors In Big Oil

    Suppose you are convinced, as I am, that oil prices will fall to near-zero by the middle of this century, for the reasons I outlined last week. If so, then among the best investments of the coming decades will be the equity of giant international oil companies such as BP, Shell, Exxon, Chevron, ENI and Total.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    A Better Tool Required

    Having long advocated that equity managers hedge their portfolios with a US long-bond, I mostly run at a 50:50 weighting. Still, the aim must be to adopt a rules-based mechanism for sliding the bond-equity mix (say between 60:40 and 40:60) and also the average duration of the fixed income piece. I can satisfy this aim by combining market-based measures with my recent valuation work.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    From A Newly-Minted Gold Bug

    Gold, as we know, is and always has been a hedge against the silliness of central bankers and governments. So when from 2012 onwards the world’s central banks decided to throw all caution to the winds, logically one would have expected gold and gold miners to rise strongly.But instead of going up, both gold and gold miners went down big time, while the price of most other assets went up.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    It Is Not Slack Weighing On Wages

    How can a labor market be very tight, yet have barely any wage growth? In today’s daily Nick tackled this for the UK and found a mix of universal and idiosyncratic causes. For the US and Japan a frequent refrain is that official data hugely understates the potential size of the workforce and so a ready source of “slack”. Will and Udith beg to differ.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Carthago Delenda Est

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Limits Of Magical Thinking

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

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The US Property Engine Fire Up?

    Two years ago banks started to make it harder for US construction firms to borrow and soon after activity began to fizzle. While blame has been pinned on skilled worker shortages and rising costs of both land and materials, KX and Will think financing was the key issue. The good news is that banks seem to be again loosening their purse strings.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Resurgence Of Walmart Man

    In July 2014, I wrote a piece looking at the fallout from poorer Americans getting poorer (see Poverty Matters For Capitalists). My basic point was that the consumer price index understated the loss of real income being suffered by non-supervisory workers. I showed this using my Walmart index, which is weighted 50% food, 30% shelter and 20% rent to reflect this group’s true consumption basket. Three years ago this population cohort faced a...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Important Change And Its Natural Hedge

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

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Whale Breaking Surface?

    Charles has often said that the impact of a market shock shows up with the same sort of delay as the effects of dynamite fishing. First the small fry float to the top, then the mid-size fish. Only later does the dead whale break surface. With that analogy in mind, Louis has long maintained that investors will not be able to call the end of the oil price slump with any confidence until they have seen major bankruptcies and/or consolidation among...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Energy Stocks, If Only As A Hedge

    A quick glance at our Gavekal TrackMacro application illustrates how the global equity environment remains benign: modest but accelerating growth, low inflation, solid corporate profits and low interest rates. In such an environment, why not load up on equities? Investors have clearly done just that in recent quarters. As one seasoned client put it in a recent meeting: “If central banks are not going to raise rates with German consumer...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Building A Bond Valuation Tool

    The “golden rule” of French Nobel laureate Maurice Allais states that over the long run, long term government bond yields always converge with the nominal structural growth rate of the economy. In this paper Charles sets out to build a government bond market valuation tool based on the Allais postulate.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Misleading Signal In US Auto Sales

    Trying to tease economic trends out of recent US data releases is a frustrating business. Take yesterday’s figures. Although the ISM manufacturing PMI ticked down a shade in July to come in a fraction below expectations, at 56.3 the number remained firmly in expansionary territory. On the other hand, two classic cyclical indicators of US economic health—construction spending and automobile sales—both came in weak.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    An Interesting Configuration

    When the market is suffering from doubts, it pays to start with the facts. And clearly the market is having a few doubts right now. After setting the latest in a series of record highs in intraday trading yesterday, US equities succumbed to the jitters. In the space of an hour, the S&P500 fell -1% and the Nasdaq -2%, as investors questioned the underpinnings of the current run-up in stocks. So, let’s begin with some facts:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Bear Flattening Ahead

    The miniscule change of wording in yesterday’s Federal Reserve statement appears to confirm that the Fed will go ahead and begin to shrink its balance sheet from September. June’s statement said balance sheet normalization would begin “this year”, implying the process would start by December at the latest. Yesterday’s statement altered that to “relatively soon”—and relatively sooner than December suggests September, as the only other meeting...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    When Smoking Pays

    Baseball cards, Beanie Babies, bitcoins... For the last eight years, governments have regarded them as much the same sort of thing, taking a broadly tolerant attitude to the proliferation of crypto-currencies. Not anymore. Yesterday the US SEC declared that blockchain-based digital tokens such as bitcoin are in fact securities and thus subject to the full panoply of SEC regulation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Big Tech Is Not Standard Oil

    Back in May, Louis warned that the regulatory knives were coming out for Big Tech. In the worst case scenario for the dominant technology giants that have done so much to drive the stock market to new highs, Louis argued that they could even face the same treatment that Standard Oil received at the hands of the US government in 1911. Investors were forcibly reminded of this tightening regulatory squeeze yesterday when Google parent Alphabet...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Eurozone Is Now So Far Behind The US, It’s In Front

    Among the many tricky tasks facing investors is to determine the relative positions of the US and eurozone economies in their respective business cycles. Over the preceding two cycles—the ones that peaked in 2000/01 and 2005/06—the two economies moved broadly in phase, with the eurozone lagging the US by around one year. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund and OECD suggest that that relative position is largely unchanged, with the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Life’s Certainties And The Euro

    There are very few certainties in life. Death, taxes, US consumers living beyond their means, and Italian central bankers talking down their currency are pretty much the only things I have learnt in my career to be inevitable. Sure enough, Mario Draghi came out yesterday doing his best to sound as dovish as he possibly could. That did not stop the euro from surging past its ceiling of US$1.15 to reach US$1.1620.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Value Creation In A Capitalist World

    In a capitalist economy there are three different kinds of value creation: the Schumpeterian, the Ricardian, and the Malthusian. And the companies in each of these value creation segments swing through very different cycles. In this short paper, Charles outlines how each segment works, explains where they are in their cycles, and suggests how investors can build appropriately hedged portfolios.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Reading Trump’s Trade Signals

    Donald Trump came into office six months ago today promising to rip up the rules of global trade in order to put America’s narrow interests first and cut its trade deficit. So far, though, his administration’s trade policies have been more smoke than substance. Global trade volume has accelerated smartly since the US election. Threats of a trade war with the main target, China, fizzled in the face of US business interests, Beijing’s ability to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Liquidity: More Bad News Than Good

    Gavekal has long maintained that bull markets rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. Now with the Fed set to tighten further in an environment of weak bank credit growth, KX and Will warn that the liquidity pillar which has done so much to support the current bull market in US equities is looking increasingly shaky. That is especially ominous, given that valuations are no longer cheap and catch-up growth is played out for this...

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