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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Restructuring Of Retail

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Why US Long Rates Aren’t Going Up

    The behavior of US long rates presents something of a puzzle just now. The US economy is humming along nicely for this late in the cycle, and is even booming following last year’s tax cuts. Inflation is ticking higher. And short rates are rising. As a result, I would normally expect long rates to be climbing towards the top of the reasonable valuation band dictated by my bond market model (seeBond Market Risks). But they are doing no such thing...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Empire Strikes Back?

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

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Trade War Escalates. What’s Next?

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

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Parsing The Slowdown In Credit Growth

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe Through Rose-Tinted Specs

    If the European Central Bank had a dot plot, on Thursday it would have shifted downwards. The ECB’s dovishness stood in contrast with the Federal Reserve, which just a day earlier moved its own dot plot projection of future interest rates upwards. If the market retained confidence in Europe’s relative growth and returns, this divergence of rate expectations probably would not matter greatly. But with European growth softening, and political risk...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Terms Of Betrayal

    Will the Brexit agony never end? Theresa May managed this week to remove troublesome amendments attached by the House of Lords to her legislation for taking Britain out of the European Union. But she was immediately in even deeper political trouble. These problems show just why I have been advising clients to avoid any big bets in sterling assets, whether long or short.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Fed Really Going To Cause A Crisis?

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

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Way Ahead For North Korea

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Cyclical Blues

    When they meet on Thursday, European Central Bank policymakers face a dilemma. As wage and price pressures rise across the eurozone, they are expected to outline an exit from quantitative easing policies. At the same time, growth indicators are weakening, raising the specter of a eurozone recovery (again) being cut off in its infancy. The essential point is whether Europe’s turnaround has become self-sustaining. We think the answer to that...

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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call June 2018

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

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    Gavekal Research

    The Moment Of Truth For Emerging Markets

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

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The 5G Dream Will Not Be Denied

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Video: When To Buy US Bonds

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

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    Gavekal Research

    In Sweeps The Monsoon

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

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    Gavekal Research

    When To Buy US Bonds?

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

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is A Crisis Brewing Over Taiwan?

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

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    Gavekal Research

    A Revolution In Switzerland?

    This weekend the people of Switzerland vote in a referendum that could upend their country’s monetary system in ways never seen before. If the “Vollgeld” initiative is approved, it will be a major event in world economic history. And even if rejected, the growing groundswell in favor of similar proposals elsewhere in the world means it is worth paying attention to.

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    Gavekal Research

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

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

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    Gavekal Research

    America First, The Rest Of The World Second

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Going Underground (And Overground) In Delhi And Beyond

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

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    Gavekal Research

    A War On All Fronts

    I have previously argued that Trump Administration trade policy—and specifically policy on China—should be understood as a volatile reaction among four forces: the president, the trade warriors, the national security hawks, and the business community. While all four forces are still hard at work, it’s clear that President Trump has the upper hand—as a result of which the US now seems committed to waging trade war on all fronts.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Marshals Over Markets: China Tightens Cybersecurity

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Not Letting A Good Crisis Go To Waste

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

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    Gavekal Research

    The Hurdles For US Profits

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Dollar + Oil + Political Risk = ?

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Malaysia's Old Man In A Hurry

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Whether To Buy Italy (And The Euro)

    On Wednesday, Louis argued that the Italian president’s rejection of a proposed coalition finance minister was “worse than a crime, a mistake”. Anatole and Cedric are not so sure. In this paper they examine the two conditions—one political, one financial—that will signal a major buying opportunity in Italy.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Comes Off The Boil

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Worse Than A Crime

    On hearing that Napoleon Bonaparte had ordered the execution of a Bourbon-family duke, the arch realpolitik practitioner Charles Maurice de Talleyrand reputedly exclaimed: “This is worse than a crime. It’s a mistake”. Fast forward a few centuries and it’s not hard to imagine what Talleyrand would make of Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella. In a move that will likely spur fresh elections and put Euroskeptic parties firmly in the ascendancy,...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Incredible Shrinking Krona

    With the US dollar pushing towards its 2017 high, it may be time to scout out value in the currency markets. One option is the Swedish krona, which is down -7.2% against the dollar this year, making it the worst performing G10 currency. Three weeks ago Charles argued that the krona was so cheap that Swedish assets offered a “heads I win, tails I don’t lose” type of trade. I don’t disagree, yet in the intervening period, the krona has...

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    Gavekal Research

    What Bothers Me About The Eurozone

    With Italy facing a constitutional crisis and likely fresh elections within months, attention is set to again focus on Europe’s single currency system. One effect of the euro is that it distorts self-correcting price adjustments, which regulate normal market-based economies. Understanding this dynamic is crucial, argues Charles, if equity investors are not to be pulled into value-traps, of the type which are now presenting themselves.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Tightening Is Back

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Italian And Turkish Troubles

    On the face of it, the collapse on Sunday evening of attempts in Italy to form a coalition government comprising the populist and Euroskeptic Five Star and Lega parties should be good news for European assets and the euro, at least in the short term. On Friday, fears of a populist government in Rome, coupled with the prospect of a no confidence motion and general election in Spain undermined both the euro and peripheral debt. Also down were...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Behind The Resilient Renminbi

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Does The Dollar's Run-Up Have Legs?

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    My Kind Of Safe Haven

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

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Urbanization Without Migration

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Structural Change, Or A Return To The Mean?

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

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    A Decision Tree For Emerging Markets

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    India Macro Update: Summer Market Blues

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Giuseppe Who?

    The leaders of Italy’s Five Star and Lega political parties on Monday nominated little-known law professor Giuseppe Conte to be the country’s next prime minister. Assuming president Sergio Matarella accepts their choice, Conte will be tasked with leading a coalition government whose disparate members have little in common except populism, euroskepticism, and expansionary fiscal plans.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Resurgence Of Political Risk

    Political risk is now the main driving force of financial markets. In 2017 investors learned—or thought they had learned—that political upheavals just create noise, with no lasting effect on market trends that are set by economic fundamentals. But in 2018 this relationship has been reversed. Wherever we look today—at oil prices, global trade flows or conditions in Europe—politics seems to overwhelm economic fundamentals and set the market trends.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A UK Consumer Reckoning

    This week saw the release of moderately good news for the Brexit-bound UK economy, as wages rose the most in almost three years. With inflation moderating, real incomes have edged higher, giving hope that consumption can again fire up growth. The problem is that the UK—like the US—increasingly displays late cycle characteristics, as shown by a tight labor market and falling profit growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil As A Party Spoiler

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

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    An Attractive But Troublesome Market

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Hong Kong Peg Under Pressure

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Phase Of Eurozone Reform

    During last year’s French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron opened a debate by asking “what do we want to do with the euro?” His answer was more political integration and burden sharing. Those plans must get traction at the June 28-29 meeting of European Union leaders if they are not to be crowded out by a likely messy end to the Brexit process and next year’s European Parliament elections. Right now, this seems a long shot and attention...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond Japan’s 1Q GDP Contraction

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

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bond Yields Have Further To Fall

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

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