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E.g., 18-11-2017
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Slack In The Eurozone?

    It is a core contention of the bullish view on Europe espoused by Anatole and Cedric that the eurozone’s recovery is running four or five years behind the US economic cycle and that there is still plenty of slack left in the eurozone economy. But is there really as much as the bulls believe?

    0
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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

    Too Much Forward Guidance?

    It should be an ideal environment for equity investors. Europe yesterday published stronger than expected growth figures for the third quarter, with German GDP expanding 2.8% YoY, and even laggard Italy growing 1.8%. That performance raises the possibility of faster earnings growth even as the European Central Bank is proposing to stretch out its stimulative asset purchases through the third quarter of next year and keep interest rates in...

    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

    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...

    2
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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...

    0
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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.

    3
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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

    The Pain In Spain

    To date, the situation in Catalonia reminds that a political imbroglio does not have to morph into an economic crisis. It all depends on the context. Recent data shows that Spain’s economy has broadly shrugged off the secession drama being played out in Barcelona and Madrid.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Keep Calm And Suck It Up

    The Bank of England is expected to turn tail today by raising interest rates for the first time in a decade. What follows is a particular worry for homeowners, who since 2008 have seen interest payments on mortgages fall by as much as -95% due to 550bp of rate cuts. After all, the specter of a disorderly Brexit looms, businesses are threatening to move out of the UK and economic growth has slowed to a miserly 1.5%. I am relaxed about this...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Debating The Eurozone Recovery

    Over the last two years, Nick and Cedric have held similar views about the eurozone’s economic situation. In recent months, however, they have started to diverge on whether this framework still describes Europe’s situation. The upshot is that while Cedric is bulled up, Nick has begun to think the recovery is running out of road.

    2
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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

    Tapering Without The Tantrum

    Mario Draghi yesterday confirmed the European Central Bank’s decision to opt for a “slower for longer” approach to winding down its quantitative easing program of asset purchases. His announcement outlined a threefold approach to ECB tapering:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Curious Case Of European Optimism

    This weekend saw Madrid announce emergency measures over Catalonia, upping the chance of a declaration of independence being made in Barcelona. Yet despite the worst Spanish political crisis since the 80s, markets have mostly shrugged. After eight years viewing all glasses as half-empty, investors in eurozone assets have since the Brexit vote seemingly turned into congenital optimists.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The (Austrian) Empire Strikes Back

    The weekend’s news hardly bolsters confidence that Europe’s technocrats are in competent command of the continent’s political situation. In Spain, hundreds of thousands took to the street to protest central government rule over Catalonia. Meanwhile in unofficial referendums, millions of citizens in two of Italy’s wealthiest regions voted overwhelmingly in favor of greater political and fiscal autonomy from Rome.

    6
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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

    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

    Why A Jamaican Outcome Is Best

    Electoral math says there is little alternative in Germany to a “Jamaica coalition” and Angela Merkel has made it clear this is her plan. Investors are unimpressed and have pushed the euro lower on worries that a government comprised of Christian Democrats, Liberals and Greens augurs a more nativist Germany that will turn away from its European partners, and in particular a certain eager beaver in Paris. My initial reaction to the election...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Play A Vertiginous Europe

    Led by Germany, the latest hard European economic data yesterday came in strong pretty much across the board. And with Catalonia’s regional government seemingly stepping back from the brink in its stand-off with Madrid, the euro managed to move higher. So how best to play the European economic recovery—from the inside or the outside?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Buying The British Bluff

    You have to admire the British for the hand they are playing with Brussels over Brexit negotiations. Press attention may be focused on infighting within the governing Conservative Party, but the key losers in this game of bluff are European Union negotiators, who face the technocratic horror of not knowing who is calling the shots back in London. Far from leaving the British team emasculated, this stance allows it to effectively duck out of...

    10
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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 Trouble With Eurozone ROEs

    Economic sentiment in the eurozone is riding high, probably too high. The European Commission’s industrial and consumer confidence indexes are each close to the peaks they recorded in 2000 and 2007. Such high levels suggest overconfidence rather than rational expectations. Moreover, as far as investors are concerned, there are good reasons to be skeptical about the potential of European equity markets to outperform—largely to do with the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Rather Lame US Dollar Rally

    The year is far from over but when the time does come to close the books, it seems likely that the sudden weakness of the US dollar this year will count as one of 2017’s biggest surprises. Most investors started the year with a distinct bullish bias on the dollar, and a consequent bearish bias against emerging markets (an outlook we did not share, see for example our January 19 piece Trump’s Declarations On The Dollar). However, instead of...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Catalan Question And The Future Of Europe

    Yesterday the world was treated to the unedifying sight of the national police of a democratic state using violence in an attempt to prevent peaceful crowds of citizens from voting. If any investors still believed that the electoral defeat of the far right earlier this year in the Netherlands and the election of Emmanuel Macron in France had resolved the structural forces working to fragment the European Union, yesterday’s footage from the...

    5
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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

    The German Election And Macron's Speech

    Somewhat incongruously, French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday delivered a grand new vision of a federalist European Union less than 48 hours after German voters had offered two fingers up to such solutions. Louis applauds Macron for focusing on the logic demanded by the single currency system, but wonders if he may be whistling in the wind as Berlin turns its head eastward.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Better Than It Looks In Germany

    Headline writers seem unsure whether to laud Angela Merkel for winning a likely fourth term as German chancellor, or dub her a lame duck amid a fractured political landscape. With the Social Democratic Party (SPD) polling just 20%, it is clear that the implosion of center-left continental parties continues apace, while the stellar performance of an avowedly far-right party shows that populism remains a potent force. My bet, however, is that the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    May’s Misguided Brexit Speech

    Listening to Theresa May’s speech last week in Florence, Charles thought the British prime minister sounded like an unfaithful wife attempting to achieve an amicable separation from the husband she cuckolded. Her approach is mistaken. May’s interlocutors in Brussels cannot be mollified with promises of continued affection. They are ideologues, and they are out to punish the UK for daring to challenge their ideology.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Winners And Losers From The German Election

    Whatever the result of Germany’s election on Monday morning, the leaders of the Christian Democratic Union will start preparing for the post-Merkel era. Which is why this German election matters. Indeed, there is a significant spread of potential outcomes, which have different implications for both the European economy and investors in European assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bond Markets Don’t Speak Catalan

    This week has seen the Spanish government arrest Catalan public officials and take control of the region’s public finances in response to an independence plebiscite that it says is illegal. Cedric concedes that the row is messy and won’t be quickly resolved, but says that it is highly unlikely to result in a genuine political crisis that derails the Spanish economic recovery.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Sterling And The Brexit Soup

    Anyone who doubts that interest rate expectations are the main driving force of currency movements, got a wake-up call last week, when sterling surged from US$1.32 to US$1.36 in response to the Bank of England’s bluntly hawkish statement that “there may need to be some [upward] adjustment of interest rates in the coming months”. Nevertheless, I remain a denier.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Somewhat Changed Germany

    After recent high-drama elections in the US, France and Britain, Germany’s national democratic exercise has been a relative snooze-fest. On Sunday, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union grouping should comfortably win the biggest slice of the vote and the coalition building will start. There are, however, reasons to think that Merkel could attempt to strike out on her own.

    6
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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

    A Very British Zombie Apocalypse

    After the Bank of England signaled its intent to raise interest rates yesterday, sterling jumped more than 1% against the US dollar and the international FTSE 100 index fell similarly. With the UK’s latest inflation reading rising to 2.9% and unemployment hitting a post-1975 low of 4.3%, it is increasingly hard to justify leaving the policy lending rate at 0.25%. One argument for deferring hikes is the UK’s lack of wage growth, but such thinking...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    2002 All Over Again For Europe?

    The eurozone’s recovery is speeding up despite the unresolved “original sin” of lumping a single currency on to a heterogeneous economy. Yesterday Charles argued that this conceit meant the next big move for Europe would be back toward crisis, and among other things investors should avoid eurozone banks. I would not dispute this basic analysis, but take a different view on timing.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy: The Bear Case

    No chain is stronger than its weakest link, and the eurozone’s weakest link is Italy. Growth has picked up over the last two years, but as Charles demonstrates in this paper, the Italian economy is uncompetitive both within the eurozone and on the global stage. With the rise in the euro exacerbating the problem, and the prospect of ECB tapering threatening to push up Rome’s funding costs, Italy risks falling once again into a debt trap.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Time For A Eurozone Reality Check

    A new wave of optimism is sweeping across the eurozone. Disconcerted by the single currency area’s new-found economic buoyancy, confirmed euroskeptic Charles reviews the structural trends at work in the eurozone to determine whether it is finally time to throw in the towel on his longstanding euro-pessimism.

    7
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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

    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

    Macron Goes To Work On Reform

    The moment of truth is approaching for French president Emmanuel Macron. Four months after he pledged an early reform of France’s overly rigid labor market he is pushing ahead. On Thursday the French government unveiled proposals to the lighten the regulatory burden on employers and clear away the legal uncertainties that have long deterred businesses from hiring.

    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

    Korean Rage And European Angst

    When North Korea fired off another ballistic missile yesterday morning the immediate response of investors in the most directly affected neighboring economies was to shrug. Curiously it took far-away Europe to get in a flap, with the euro soaring and equities falling. Granted, currency players were also reacting to the Texas flooding, especially as London was closed for a public holiday on Monday. Yet it was strange for the region least...

    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

    Despite Draghi, Flows Favor The Euro

    All eyes will be on Mario Draghi this week. Last Thursday’s release of minutes from July’s European Central Bank monetary policy meeting highlighted policymakers’ unease at the strength of the euro. The suspicion now is that the ECB president may attempt to talk down the euro when he stands up to make his lunchtime speech this Friday at Jackson Hole. Yet even if Draghi does play down the prospect of an early or rapid ECB exit from either...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    In Work But Out Of Pocket

    Data released yesterday showed that the UK’s unemployment rate fell to 4.4% in the second quarter, its lowest since the second quarter of 1975 (when Britons voted by a 34pp margin in favor of membership of the precursor to the European Union). Yet despite the lowest unemployment in generations, wage growth in the UK remains for the most part missing in action. Workers’ total earnings rose by a muted 2.1% in 2Q. With CPI inflation running at a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strangulation Of Enterprise

    Zero interest rates have made a great many people a great deal richer. But paradoxically they have strangled wealth creation. The reason for this is that enterprise is overwhelmingly a phenomenon found among smaller companies. Among big companies it is a rare and ailing quality. Quite simply, the overriding goal of every big company is to transform itself into a monopoly, so it can move away from having to earn its profits towards collecting...

    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

    Testing Europe’s Escape Velocity

    The eurozone has exited the emergency room and is looking to sustain a recovery that takes it back to rude health. T Last year’s Chinese stimulus helped spur the latest eurozone pickup and the worry is that recent weakness in both Chinese and German trade data points to an external weakening. So could a stronger euro and slowing China spark another setback?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Love The Economy, Hate Economists

    Charles is proud of his data-driven approach to economic analysis and is not impressed with the methods applied by much of the modern economics profession. More to the point, he thinks that most modern economic remedies have negatively impacted the growth outlook and dulled investment performance.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Leading Europe Into Reflation

    The Czech National Bank has become the first central bank in Europe to raise interest rates in this cycle. Yesterday the CNB lifted its policy rate from 0.05% to 0.25%, its first rate hike since 2008. Where the Czechs are leading, others, including the European Central Bank, will follow—but in the case of the ECB, likely not for another two years or more.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Brexit Talks Don’t Matter

    The details of the Brexit talks between the British government and Brussels are far less important, argues Charles in this paper, than the blow Britain’s referendum vote has dealt to the technocratic principles which underpin the European Union’s power structure. The pillars of the temple are crumbling, and sooner or later the edifice must fall.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Get Selective Over Eurozone Stocks

    Emmanuel Macron’s political honeymoon proved short-lived, but the new French president’s honeymoon with eurozone equity investors was over before it began. In a classic case of buy the rumor sell the fact, the euro Stoxx index peaked on May 5, the last trading day before the second round of the French presidential election. That run-up had been driven by receding fears of deflation, as investors embraced the idea of eurozone reflation, coupled...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Battle Of Brexit Is Over

    Judging by statements made by two of the most fervent Europhobes in Theresa May’s cabinet, Soft Brexit has emerged the victor over Hard Brexit. While this means the UK's exit will be postponed during a transition period, and possibly beyond, Anatole argues this comes with its own drawbacks and risks. Things are likely to get worse before they get better.

    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

    Draghi Can’t Lean Against The Euro’s Rise

    After the euro broke out of its three-year trading range last week, it is reasonable to assume that the European Central Bank would much rather see a big correction than a further move to the upside. But central bankers can’t always get what they want—and their powers to control the currency markets are much more limited than generally assumed by day traders and media headline writers.

    1
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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

    Watch US-Eurozone Rate Differentials

    Interest rate differentials between the US and eurozone are wide by historical standards. This is no surprise. The US has enjoyed uninterrupted growth (at least in year-on-year terms) since 2010, and today the Federal Reserve stands as the most hawkish big central bank in town. In contrast, the eurozone slumped back into recession in 2012, and the European Central Bank remains in full-blown easing mode. As a result, interest rate differentials...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Who’s Afraid Of The ECB?

    Mario Draghi’s hint last month that the European Central Bank’s bond buying may not continue forever unleashed a storm of panic among the perma-bears who still dominate the media and market commentariat. But its actual effect on markets themselves has so far been close to minimal. So should investors worry—or relax—about a repeat of the “taper tantrum” in May 2013, when Ben Bernanke first hinted that the Federal Reserve would eventually start to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Lost Decade

    Next month will mark the tenth anniversary of the Global Financial Crisis, and the developed world’s GDP per capita still lingers 20-25% below its pre-crisis long term trend. Were there no good economic policies to deal with the aftermath? Far from it, argues Anatole, but four features of post-crisis politics and ideology blocked constructive policy responses.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of Mario Draghi

    Mario Draghi got people scratching their heads last month. “As the economy continues to recover, a constant policy stance will become more accommodative,” declared the European Central Bank president. “The central bank can accompany the recovery by adjusting the parameters of its policy instruments—not in order to tighten the policy stance, but to keep it broadly unchanged.”

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Wile E. Coyote Moment

    Sometimes financial markets can look a lot like Wile E. Coyote. So intent was the old Looney Tunes character on chasing the Road Runner, that he somehow never realized when he had shot over the cliff’s edge. For a few moments he would continue in thin air, legs a blur, supported by momentum and incomprehension. Only when he looked down... In much the same way, financial markets often continue their trend after the underlying conditions change,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On The Demise Of Populism

    Anyone who bought European equities in the wake of Emmanuel Macron’s impressive win in the French presidential election is down a few percent in euro terms and underperforming global equities by about 1%. Charles are Louis are not convinced that this can be explained away by the markets taking a “breather” after a big run up. They smell darker forces at work.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Give Up On Eurozone Equities

    When a market fails to rally further on successive rounds of good news, investors can be forgiven for feeling a tad nervous about the outlook. It is little surprise, therefore, that many portfolio managers are expressing skepticism about the near-term sustainability of the bull market in eurozone equities. Since the election of Emmanuel Macron as French president two months ago, the macro headlines from the single currency area have been...

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    Video: A Cure For The Italian Malaise

    Italy’s economy is enjoying a cyclical upswing, and a long-delayed banking clean-up is finally under way. But while both these developments are welcome, they are not sufficient to change the underlying picture. Nick argues there is little chance that the general election due to be held by May 2018 will produce a government strong enough to press ahead with reform.

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    Sweden’s Secret Sauce

    Sweden is a high-growth economy with competitive firms in everything from retailing to metal bashing to software. Yet, there is a time to be in Sweden—or at least overweight—and there are times to be out. Sweden and the US had two of the 20th century’s best performing equity markets and I will simplify this decision by measuring their relative attractiveness. Spoiler alert: this report has a positive recommendation.

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    The Real Macron

    On Monday Emmanuel Macron launched what is being dubbed an imperial presidency. He offered a neo-Gaullist vision of a strong leader nurturing a troubled nation’s recovery. Yet he also unfurled an electoral reform program aiming to break the old political duopoly. The worry is that Macron uses up his political capital and economic reform stalls.

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    Should Investors Chase Defense Stocks?

    Aside from health care, the other “Trump trade” that has worked wonders since November 9 has been defense stocks. After all, with the Dow Jones sector index up some 22% in the period, what’s not to like? On taking office, Donald Trump cranked up military spending, and during his state visit to Saudi Arabia in May secured weapon sales worth US$110bn. On Friday—just hours before Xi Jinping took the stage in Hong Kong to celebrate the 20th...

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    Draghi’s Two Ps And The Euro

    When choosing three adjectives to describe the ECB’s evolving monetary policy stance, Mario Draghi this week alighted on confidence, persistence and prudence. Yet judging by the big reaction in currency and bond markets, traders ignored the two Ps and heard only about Draghi’s confidence in Europe’s strengthening recovery. Markets treated the speech as a unambiguous signal that the ECB is turning more hawkish.

    2
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    When Central Bankers Attempt To Change Direction

    In recent days , central bankers in the US and Europe have been signaling how much they want to end unconventional monetary policies and revert to a more normal monetary model that does not put asset prices at the heart of the system. It is a laudable aim. But, warns Charles in this piece, central bankers have seldom managed to transition from one monetary regime to another without causing convulsions in the financial markets. This time, the...

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    A Change In The Investment Environment?

    A couple of weeks ago, Louis asked if the downside breakout in bond yields (touching 2.10%) could foster a stable investment environment. At the time he foresaw three possible scenarios. After yesterday's hawkish pronouncements by multiple central banks, he is not so sure and is focusing on a narrower range of possibilities which may herald a new investment environment.

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    Common Sense Prevails In Italy

    The European Union authorities bowed to the inevitable yesterday. They agreed to let Rome spend as much as €17bn in Italian taxpayers’ cash to prevent losses among the senior bondholders and depositors in two Italian regional banks that the European Central Bank declared on Friday to be failing.

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    A Hard Road Ahead For Italy’s Banks

    The eurozone’s rising tide is floating Italy’s boat. Earlier this month, the national statistics agency revised the country’s first quarter growth up from 0.2% on the previous quarter to 0.4%, marking nine consecutive quarters of economic expansion. This equals the longest stretch of continuous growth since the mid-1990s. What’s more, with unemployment down steeply to a five-year low of 11.1% in April and the composite PMI at a buoyant 55.2, the...

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    A British Rebalancing?

    Last week the Bank of England left interest rates unchanged, but three out of eight policymakers voted for a hike. In the past any weakness in UK consumption has been met with a soothing monetary response. The fact that the consumer looks increasingly forlorn, yet the BoE is hanging tough suggests the game has changed.

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    The French Reset

    French voters have handed President Emmanuel Macron a clear parliamentary majority after his La République en Marche party yesterday secured an estimated 360 out of 577 seats. He will also get support from many of the 170 or so Republican and Socialist party deputies who were just elected. After a record low turnout, critics may question his moral authority, but there is no doubting that Macron is now the master of French politics. Hence, he is...

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    May Day For Hard Brexit

    After the Conservative government of UK prime minister Theresa May lost its parliamentary majority in last week's general election, Anatole argues that the "hard Brexit" strategy formerly pursued by May no longer looks politically viable. That means a Norwegian-style soft Brexit is more likely, which makes sterling assets look relatively attractive.

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    Goldilocks Beds Down

    Headline attention today is clearly focused on the car-crash general election result for UK prime minister Theresa May. At the time of writing, it was still unclear whether May would be able to form a viable government after the vote. Unsurprisingly, the uncertainty triggered a steep 1.6% sell-off in sterling (see Trading The UK Election).

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    Figuring Out Where The Ball Will Be

    Rugby players fall into one of two categories: the forwards, who typically go where the ball is (and in the process put their heads in places most sane people wouldn’t put their feet), and the backs, who try to go where the ball will be, which enables them to look good and keep their kit clean, but earns them the scorn of the forwards. Peter FitzSimons, the first Aussie to play for a French club (Brive), once remarked: “Come the revolution, the...

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    The UK’s Pre-Election Wobble

    In mid-April, when UK prime minister Theresa May took the decision to call a general election for June 8, she did so because she was confident her Conservative party would be returned to government with a massively increased parliamentary majority. Six weeks later, and with just one week of campaigning still to go, that confidence is a distant memory.

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    German Ordo-liberalism vs French Keynesianism

    So I hear that happy days have returned to Europe’s single currency area as shown by improved purchasing manager readings. With German firms especially upbeat and a reassuring new fellow occupying the Élysée Palace, I understand that Berlin will soon roll over and allow a juicy fiscal expansion in return for France making its job market less rigid. I tend to be skeptical about such road-to-Damascus conversions.

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    ECB Normalization And Why Not To Worry About It

    The US Federal Reserve will almost certainly announce the second of this year’s rate hikes at its next policy meeting on June 14. The week before, on June 8, the European Central Bank will probably state for the first time in years that the risks to the eurozone are now balanced “symmetrically” instead of tilting unequivocally downwards. If they were brave they might even echo Benoit Coeuré, the French governing board member who in an interview...

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    A Less Flexible Britain

    Yesterday saw the release of robust UK retail sales data for April that reversed a weakening trend and pointed to still strong consumers. So it was notable that on a day that confirmed British economic resilience despite attendant uncertainties, Prime Minister Theresa May effectively renounced free market policies that long have been core tenants of the Conservative Party credo.

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    What Germany Wants

    What does Germany want? That was a question we asked in January as sabre rattling by the new US president unnerved Europe’s instinctive mercantilist. Our answer was that Germany was at a cross-roads in its modern history and could either double down on a narrow pursuit of surpluses, or instead embrace its European Union members with a fresh push to federalism. Monday’s meeting between Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel confirmed that the latter...

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    Back To The Future

    Back in 1947, war was over but a ruined European economy needed full-scale reconstruction: the Marshall Plan. As I look at the way China is wooing its neighbors through its Belt and Road strategy and other economic and financial linkages, the approach looks like a remarkably effective “copy-and-paste” operation.

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    Why A Brexit Deal May Not Be So Hard

    European Union membership entails four core freedoms—goods, services, capital and people. To keep the first three, but not the last one as the UK wants has been dubbed “having one’s cake and eating it”. The UK also wants to be exempt from the European Court of Justice’s control and to exit the EU customs union, opening the way for free trade agreements to be made elsewhere. The assumption is that these demands will ensure the UK ends up with a “...

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    Video: How Brexit May Work

    The consensus is for a tortuous few years of negotiations between the UK and the European Union over the terms of Brexit and any subsequent free trade agreement. Following up on today’s Daily, Nick argues in this video interview that a deal may be easier than most people think. Moreover, the template for an FTA may already be in place.

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    Macron And A New Europe

    With the populist, anti-EU tide now clearly reversing, first in Holland, then last night in France and finally in September’s German elections, investors can put to rest their worries about a breakup of the euro or the European Union and focus instead on the continent’s economic and financial fundamentals. These fundamentals have been steadily improving since the European Central Bank began its enormous bond purchase program in March 2015.

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    So It’s Macron. What Next?

    The French presidential election did not play out as Charles had expected. With Emmanuel Macron having achieved a decisive victory, he concedes that the En Marche! Party is likely to carry the momentum into next month’s parliamentary elections. What this means for investors is that France is likely to be politically stable in the coming few years and will not be the focal point of eurozone ructions.

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    Macron And French Optionality

    For investors, the great benefit of Emmanuel Macron is that even if his big plans for change fizzle a nice cyclical economic recovery will almost certainly play out. If the president-elect defies the stereotypical view of France as being basically unreformable, the kicker is huge optionality built into asset values that have non-challenging valuations. Either way, Cedric argues that France represents a stand-out investment opportunity.

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    A New Franco-German Axis

    For the last decade, pretty much every politician who counted in France has spoken of the European Union in scathing terms. That is likely to change on Sunday if the pro-integrationist Emmanuel Macron confirms poll forecasts and scores a resounding win in the French presidential election. His upbeat belief in federal solutions to Europe’s structural problems will not just change the discourse, but according to Nick could renew the Franco-German...

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    A Positive Cycle For Eurozone Earnings

    For many investors, last night’s televised debate will have removed any lingering fears about French political risk, freeing them to focus on the eurozone earnings picture—which is increasingly rosy. The majority of pundits awarded the debate on points to centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron. Their verdict was that the performance of far-right Euroskeptic Marine Le Pen was insufficiently “presidential” to sway undecided voters. As a result,...

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    The Flip Side Of A Hard Brexit

    The pound has rallied strongly since Theresa May announced an early UK general election on April 18 and may soon break through US$1.30, opening the way for a rise back to levels not seen since last summer. This move has mostly been driven by politics in France, rather than Britain, but this may be about to change.

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    An Alternative Explanation For The French Split

    One of the more interesting thinkers about the current political scene in France is Christophe Guilluy, an urban geographer and author of The Twilight of Elite France. His basic insight about French cities and by extension the structure of the French economy starts with the observation that most urban areas are divided into three concentric circles which contain very different social classes. Charles likes the argument which clearly illuminates...

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    The Underperformance Of Energy Stocks

    Charles likes to say that good money management often involves taking a few key decisions and sitting on them for a decade. In 1982, for example, the avoidance of energy and material stocks ensured almost 10 years of outperformance. In 1990, avoiding Japan paid off for two decades. In 2000, sidestepping TMT and underweighting the US dollar worked for almost a decade. In 2006, avoiding financials also paid off for a decade, as did underweighting...

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    Video: The French Election And Beyond

    In these video interviews Cedric looks at likely scenarios in the second round of the French presidential election, while Nick considers the potential for a renewed Franco-German axis as the driver of progress in the European Union.

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    Europe’s Road To Reflation

    With fears of a political upset laid to rest, the European reflation trade is in full swing. The flash eurozone composite PMI hit a six-year high last week, French manufacturing confidence is at its highest since June 2011, and the European Central Bank’s bank lending survey published yesterday showed that banks are continuing to relax credit standards as demand for borrowing grows. With employment growth lifting domestic demand and external...

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    Stop Worrying And Buy Europe

    The market reaction made good sense, assuming that the opinion polls—which turned out to be uncannily accurate in the first round of the French election—prove right again and Emmanuel Macron wins by a landslide on May 7. The polls may, of course, be completely wrong and Marine Le Pen may become the next President of France, but for this to happen the polling error would have to be many times larger than it was in the case of Brexit or Trump.

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    Takeaways From France’s First Round

    For once the opinion pollsters got things right. Although the candidates of France’s traditionally dominant left and right wing parties were both eliminated in yesterday’s first round presidential election, the political center held. Independent Europhile centrist Emmanuel Macron emerged with the largest share—23.9%—of the vote, for a second round face-off against nationalist Euroskeptic Marine Le Pen, who captured 21.4%.

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