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E.g., 05-05-2021
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan’s Big Bets

    Yoshihide Suga’s stodgy record does not suggest he is in the mold of relative political mavericks, yet in recent days, he has taken some punchy policy decisions that signal he is not just a caretaker but has serious political ambitions. Global investors who overlooked Japan in recent years due to the lack of a compelling narrative may want to pay attention.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Fighting Europe’s Headwinds

    Last Thursday, Nick Andrews and I argued that Europe’s economic recovery is set to defy dire predictions. The fly in the ointment, we argued, was a weakening in Europe’s hitherto robust manufacturing sector. Such concerns deepened on Friday, as more evidence emerged of slowing industrial activity. So does this headwind need to be taken more seriously?

    0
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    India’s Outbreak

    A year ago, the world’s media were focusing on heaps of bad Covid news in the US and Europe. Unsurprisingly, global risk assets did not like it: equities collapsed, the WTI oil price fell into negative territory, and OECD government bond yields fell to new lows. Fast forward a year, and the reporting from India is even more apocalyptic, yet, markets are brushing off the bad news.

    0
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    The Case Against TIPS, From An Inflation Worrier

    Jerome Powell made it clear on Wednesday that the Federal Reserve is not even ready to talk about tapering its asset purchases. Understandably, most questions from journalists ran something like: “Why so, given the strong economic data?”. When it comes to inflation, there is a similar disconnect between the Fed and the bond market, with big implications for investors.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe Surprising On the Upside

    Europe may not yet have the pandemic in the rear-view mirror but infection rates in most countries are falling, vaccinations are surprising on the upside and a full opening of most services this summer seems likely. Since expectations for the eurozone remain constrained, there is a good chance that its yield curves soon steepen and the single currency strengthens.

    0
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    A Renter’s Housing Market?

    When GDP for 1Q21 is released on Thursday, the US economy will be shown to be booming. An exception to this cheery trend is the US residential property market, which, having led the recovery, now looks pretty anemic. The worry is that a pronounced housing downturn could even choke off the broader recovery.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Two EM Headwinds Intensify

    Emerging market investors face two worrying developments. First, there is the risk that India’s new wave of infections could be repeated in other developing countries struggling to vaccinate their populations. Second, there are concerns that the brightest spot in EMs—Asian electronics exports—is now jeopardized by the worsening shortage in semiconductors.

    2
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    Taxing Capital

    Next week Joe Biden will set out plans to double the rate of capital gains tax for Americans making over US$1mn a year. The president’s proposal is the latest element of his initiative to levy higher taxes, from one direction or another, on the elusive earnings of multinational corporations and wealthy individuals in order to help fund higher government spending. Whatever the political merits of Biden’s plan, his multi-pronged approach will be...

    13
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    Discontinuity Risk In A Bipolar World

    For the first time in generations, the world now has two economic poles—the US and China. And they are following diametrically opposed monetary and fiscal policies. US policy is as Keynesian as you can get, while China has read the book on Wicksell and is turning restrictive. This divergence is the single most important challenge investors face today.

    3
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    Trading The Vaccination S-Curve

    Vaccination programs around the world have gotten off the ground at widely varying speeds. But everywhere they tend to follow a similar S-curve trajectory. While most countries are still in the early stages of their vaccination programs, a very few are in their late stages, where the S-curves begin to flatten. Their experience provides an investible roadmap.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    1994 All Over Again?

    Consider a flash back to 1994, when financial markets were mostly driven by what happened in the US, Europe and Japan. Europe was unable to tighten monetary policy while Japan was in a debt-driven deflationary bust. The US raised interest rates and sparked a seven-year bull market in the US dollar. Today, it is China which surprises everyone with a tightening.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Doom Loop? What Doom Loop?

    Ahead of the European Central Bank’s meeting this Thursday, there has been the usual chatter about what the ECB can do to alleviate stresses in the eurozone’s financial markets. This is unsurprising, given that Covid infection rates remain stubbornly high in several of the bloc’s leading economies, and that peripheral spreads have widened in recent weeks, with the Italian 10-year spread over bunds increasing by some 10bp.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    This Summer’s Driving Season

    After four weeks of trading sideways around the US$60/bbl price point, the WTI crude oil price popped higher this week following a bigger-than-expected draw on US inventories. This lends fresh urgency to one of the more important near-term questions investors are facing: how busy will this year’s US summer driving season be?

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Huarong Haircut

    In the last two weeks, the bonds of Huarong Asset Management have slumped -30% or more in price in the offshore market, as investors fear either a default or a vicious restructuring which will force them to take painful losses. Wei and Xiaoxi assess the fine political line that China’s authorities must walk to assess the likely extent of the eventual haircut.

    0
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    US Inflation Not Just A base Effect

    Even adjusting for base effects, US consumer price inflation is accelerating. This is not surprising, as expansionary factors like fast money supply growth and strong demand are driving up prices. In this context, it is also not surprising that real assets (equities, commodities, TIPS) have outpaced nominal assets (cash, nominal bonds). But how long-lasting will inflation’s rise prove to be, and when will the Federal Reserve start to normalize...

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    The Ant And The Grasshoppers

    In the last few days, Chinese policymakers have stepped up the campaign to rein in their domestic tech giants, slapping Alibaba with fines of US$2.75bn and forcing the restructuring of Alibaba spin-off Ant Financial. Their action is in stark contrast to the inaction of regulators in western countries. But this is hardly the only contrast between China and the west.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Living In A Stock Picker’s Market

    When only one major factor affects equities, correlations rise. At such points, the name of the game is not to pick the best stocks, but to get the ebb and flow of that key factor right. At other times, multiple factors are in play and these affect different stocks differently; in such periods, picking winners is vital. For most of last year, the US market was macro-dominated as the Covid-induced economic collapse caused equity correlations to...

    2
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    The Eurozone’s Sub-Surface Slack

    At first glance, with the unemployment rate down from a peak of 8.7% last September, it looks as if the degree of slack in the eurozone’s labor market may be small by historical standards. However, a look at the level of employment (including employees and self-employed) shows that employment is down by 3.1mn compared with the pre-pandemic baseline.

    0
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    Living With The Next Covid Wave

    Global markets are looking ahead to a post-pandemic world, but Covid-19 is still very much with us. Globally, new infection rates have risen sharply since late February, reversing their earlier decline. In the last few weeks, the US has experienced an alarming uptick in infections. The European Union is struggling to contain its latest Covid wave, which in several major countries compares with November’s for severity. And across the developing...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    When Do We Begin To Worry About Cost Pressures?

    For the last 13 months or so, ever since the Covid pandemic started to grip, the broad US equity market has been driven above all by fears and hopes for top-line revenue growth. Last spring, as investors anticipated a collapse in revenues, the market collapsed. Policy support halted the slide, and over recent months, as investors have looked forward to the end of the pandemic and a rebound in revenues, the broad market has scaled new highs.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bond Wolf?

    For the past two months, financial analysts all over the world have been obsessed by two closely related questions: (i) How much further will US bond yields rise, and how fast? (ii) Will rising bond yields kill the bull markets in global equities and other risk assets?

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Costs Of Biden’s Spending Plan

    On Wednesday, Joe Biden unveiled an ambitious US$2trn program of public infrastructure investment, to be funded by corporate tax hikes. In a nutshell, the plan is a proposal to transfer wealth from the broad US market to sectors favored by the government. The sectors that benefit from this largesse stand to enjoy a multi-year boom, with the cost to be borne by the rest of the market. However, the extent of this cost should not be exaggerated....

    2
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    Who Will Buy India Now?

    On Tuesday, the US dollar index hit a five-month high and treasury yields maintained their relentless march higher. On the same day, the Indian rupee—this year’s best performing emerging market currency—plunged to a one-month low. A mix of tighter financial conditions and a worsening Covid-19 situation has investors reassessing the surprising notion of India as an EM haven. They are right to do so, for the macro tailwinds driving the rupee’s...

    0
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    Yield Differentials Matter—For Now

    As the first quarter draws to a close, the US dollar has confounded December’s bearish consensus expectations by generating a positive total return versus the euro of 3.8%. As Louis and Will and KX explained last week, in retrospect the US dollar’s performance over the last three months is not that surprising. The question now is: how long will these near-term factors persist?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Like A Hell-Broth Boil And Bubble

    Last week began with a -15% fall in the Turkish lira in Asian trading on Monday morning. This week started with a -16% fall in the share price of Nomura in Asian trading on Monday morning. It would be easy to dismiss the two events as entirely unrelated. At first glance they have nothing in common, but in this piece Tom takes a closer look.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Rewind To Look Ahead

    There has hardly been a single piece of news in the last three months that could have been construed as euro-bullish. And yes, the euro has weakened. But given the newsflow, it is remarkable that the euro is not down a whole lot more. So, considering the newsflow and the 200bp spread between 10 year treasuries and bunds, why hasn’t the US dollar rallied more?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Future’s Clear, The Future’s Green

    Europe’s Green parties used to be denigrated by their political opponents as “watermelons”: green environmentalists on the surface, red hard-leftists beneath. In Germany, this attempt to marginalize the Greens by associating them with the discredited revolutionary socialists of 50 years ago failed dismally. Having established their credibility in regional politics, notably in Germany’s third richest state of Baden-Württemberg, where they have...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Short And Long For The US Dollar

    After ending 2020 amid heavily negative sentiment, the US dollar has confounded near-term bears by edging higher year-to-date. The DXY dollar index has gained 2.75%, clawing back just over a third of its -7.5% decline in 2020. Perhaps this should not be too surprising. First, by the end of 2020, the US dollar was no longer blatantly overvalued. Second, the DXY found support at 90, its low of early 2018. Third, the near-term outlook for nominal...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strengthening Case For Value

    In the last two weeks, US value stocks have given up some of the outperformance relative to growth that they racked up over the previous five. So has value’s spurt of outperformance now run its course, leaving the S&P 500 value index’s 11pp of outperformance relative to growth since the beginning of February as just a counter-trend blip against a backdrop of more than a decade’s underperformance? Or are the relative gains in value since the...

    0
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    The Extent Of Turkish Contagion Risk

    After four and a half months in which Turkish central bank governor Naci Ağbal had raised policy rates and restored a measure of confidence in the Turkish lira, on Saturday Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan fired Agbal and replaced him with a loyalist who has echoed the president’s conviction that higher interest rates lead to higher inflation.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Weak Links No Longer

    Once upon a time, a steep rise in US yields coupled with capital outflows—like those we’ve seen in recent weeks—would have led to intense financial stresses in Asian emerging markets. Weak-link economies with fragile fiscal positions and precarious external balances would have been vulnerable to abrupt sell-offs and destabilizing currency depreciation. As sentiment swung risk-off, investors would have gotten badly trampled in the rush for the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Markets After The Fed

    The Federal Reserve saw no need to ease monetary policy any further at its March meeting which concluded Wednesday. That’s no surprise. Policy is already extremely easy, and growth and inflation are already looking up. Indeed, the Fed has pumped so much money into the system that the one policy change it felt compelled to make was to increase counterparty limits on its reverse repo facility from US$30bn to US$80bn in response to concerns that...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Attack Of The Drones

    Military technology is a lynchpin of the geopolitical balance. And the superiority of US weaponry has been one of the principal factors underpinning the US dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. However, recent events raise important questions about whether the US can retain this superiority.

    19
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    How Bad Is Europe’s Vaccine Problem?

    The Covid news from Europe only seems to lurch from bad to worse. The suspension by several European Union countries of distribution of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine over possible side-effects threatens to disrupt the EU’s vaccination programs and damage public confidence in vaccines in general. So how bad are things likely to get?

    3
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    When Currencies Misbehave

    In recent days, investors have had to absorb a series of troubling headlines from Europe, yet news that should be either bearish for the euro or bullish for the dollar failed to keep the euro from gaining last week. Meanwhile, the yen continues to grind lower. Why is that, and what does the inability of the dollar to rally tell us about the future?

    6
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    The Yield Curve Control That Dare Not Speak Its Name

    A year ago today, European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde said “we are not here to close spreads”. With a fair amount of water having flowed under the bridge since then, the spread between 10-year Italian BTP’s and bunds has fallen from 261bp to just 94bp. So when on the anniversary of that proclamation, she said the “ECB is not doing yield curve control”, one could be forgiven for demurring.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Stop Worrying About Bond Yields And Buy Equities

    Is it time to buy or sell global equities? I think investors should be adding exposure for four broad reasons. As argued in February, during the last mini-correction the global bull market that began on March 20, 2020, is still in its early stages and the cyclical economic problems that usually provoke bear markets are not yet on the horizon.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Updating The Malthusian Constraint

    In June 2019, I argued that big shifts in the US economy and financial markets largely result from changes in the relative price of energy. If oil prices are rising faster than nominal GDP, this points to energy shortages and more of the economy’s value-added going as the “miners’ rent”. This situation points to rising inflation and contracting price/earnings ratios.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bursting Of The Electric Car Bubble, And Consequences

    A friend recently sent me the following quote from the Barrow Hanley small-cap manager, Jim McClure: “Should an investment narrative become particularly disputed, the best course of action is to identify the camp that is more emotional, and bet heavily against them”. This was good advice a few years back when anti-Tesla/anti-Elon Musk sentiment was rampant. And it would have been good advice again in early January, when the pendulum had swung...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Missing Target

    For four decades, every five-year plan has included a target for average GDP growth. The latest plan, presented last Friday, did not. This points to China's leadership having a more complex view of development goals argues Andrew. These now include a range of metrics including technological capability, national security, financial stability and living standards.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bond Vigilantes Keep Fighting The Fed

    Jerome Powell tried to calm the bond market yesterday by repeating that it’s likely to be a while before policy normalization begins. Growth and inflation indicators are up, but the Fed expects much of this to be “transitory”. In short, Powell remains a steadfast dove. So why are bond yields, real and nominal, still ticking higher?

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Enduring Cognitive Dissonance

    As yields continue to test new highs, Jay Powell is set to deliver a speech today reasserting the Federal Reserve’s view that inflation can push above its 2% target due to base effects and pent-up demand without monetary tightening being needed. This could offer temporary relief to equity investors, but resulting uncertainty in the bond market is likely to ensure an unstable trading environment.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Problem With Europe’s Inflation

    Later this year, eurozone consumer price inflation should hit its highest level in more than a decade. We found out on Tuesday that February’s consumer prices rose by 0.9% year-on-year, and more price hikes are in the works. Alas, this is not the type of inflation that the European Central Bank has been seeking to engineer for the best part of a decade.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Oil-US Dollar Interaction

    The past year has seen two important developments in the oil industry. Firstly, US oil production has rolled over by between -2mn and -2.5mn bpd and there are reasons to think this situation lasts until next year. Secondly, oil prices, which were in a clear bear market between late 2018 and early 2020 are now in a bull market. Hence, as US oil production falls and oil prices rise, energy may again become a major contributor to the US trade...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Chips And Cross-Straits Tensions

    Taiwan’s position at the core of the global semiconductor industry has never looked more secure: it is now the undisputed leader in advanced chip manufacturing. But does that success increase the risk of military aggression from China? In fact not. As Dan argues in this piece, semiconductors are not a plausible trigger for a hot conflict.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Productive Bubbles And Unproductive Bubbles

    There are two kinds of bubbles: bubbles in productive assets like railways, and broadband lines, and bubbles in scarcity assets like tulips and gold. In turn, these bubbles can be funded through equity, or by debt. The best kind of bubble is in productive assets, funded by equity and the worst kind is in unproductive assets, funded by debt, especially if the leverage is hidden.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    What I’ve Given Up For Lent

    For Lent this year I decided to give up investing in gold miners. My priest said this was like giving up broccoli; for Lent you are meant to forgo something that feels good. I replied that the Church banned self-flagellation in the 14th century; by giving up gold, I would free my mind for higher purposes. I still ended up with three “Hail Marys” and three “Our Fathers” for penance.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Markets And Rising Yields

    As 10-year US treasury yields have pushed higher, investors have begun to reassess their enthusiasm for emerging market assets. Historically, rising US yields has seldom been accompanied by emerging market outperformance. Yet rising US yields are not necessarily negative for EMs, and there are reasons to think this time may well be different, at least for some EMs.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It’s A Policy-Driven Market

    US bond yields are rising as the growth outlook is boosted by the vaccine roll-out and sustained monetary and fiscal stimulus. US value stocks and the sectors hit by Covid restrictions are ripping. Growth investors, in contrast, are spooked about this situation, as much of their worth comes from earnings discounted far into the future. The investors' reactions to Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell’s Congressional testimony on Tuesday reminded...

    0
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    No Exit

    “We are not here to close spreads,” proclaimed European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde last March. “This is not the function or the mission of the ECB.” After the market took her at her word, Lagarde hastily back-tracked, and the ECB duly spent the following months doing exactly what Lagarde had said it would not.

    3
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