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    Gavekal Research

    Gold Signals A System Failure

    To make the point that gold is the only monetary asset that is not someone else’s liability, John Pierpont Morgan used to say that “gold is money, the rest is credit”. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that this quip corresponds to reality—the implication is that the relationship between the gold price and the credit system must be full of information.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Paris Project In A Keynesian Time

    Some time ago, I had gathered a team in Paris to develop a new venture that would apply macro research analysis to portfolio construction in a systematic way. Things are progressing well and I wanted to update readers on the initiative. The common thread is a rejection of forecasting and a reliance on market prices and economic data.

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    Gavekal Research

    Please, Your Majesty, Do Nothing

    Western democracies in the early 1990s stood unchallenged in the battle of big ideas. Alas, everything that has gone wrong in western economies over the last decade or so stems from the lessons that the technocracy took from this victory. Charles considers the mistakes and examines the investment consequences that must now follow.

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    Gavekal Research

    Legal Is Not The Same As Legitimate

    Democracy is in trouble. Everywhere the cause is the same: a massive conflict between legitimacy and legality. For the last 100 years or more, the split between left and right left anchored the legitimacy of any democratic government. Unfortunately, over the last couple of decades or so, the left has betrayed the people, while the right has betrayed the nation.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Industrial Disease (II)

    Last week, Charles examined the decline of the US industrial sector, introducing his “industrial Wicksellian spread” as an indicator of environmental conditions for industry. Now he looks at the probable causes of industrial deterioration, explains why neither monetary nor fiscal policy can help, and uses his toolkit to draw some important conclusions for portfolio investors.

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    Gavekal Research

    Reexamining The US Recession Indicator

    I may opine across many topics when writing these missives, but all said and done, I am a rules-based investor. In late 2016 my US recession indicator told me that the US economy was likely to face a recession, yet no such thing happened. As a result, I started to look for an explanation, and only now do I feel that a clear answer is coming into view.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Industrial Disease (I)

    Something ails the industrial sector. Since the 2008 crisis, the growth of US industrial production has failed to keep pace with the growth of the overall US economy. In this paper, Charles examines the industrial sector’s malaise using tools derived from the theories of 19th century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. His conclusions are disturbing.

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    Strategy Monthly: The Message From Bonds

    Record low bond yields point to a deflationary catastrophe in the making. Yet growth data in the world’s two biggest economies remain decent. Could investors be reacting to a rupture in the international order? Gavekal analysts are not persuaded by such arguments and offer four alternative explanations for the “bond bubble”.

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    Gavekal Research

    German Banks And The Dollar

    I am certainly no technical analyst, but I do have a good memory. The story of major financial crises can be told with reference to the US dollar’s movements against the euro (and its antecedents). It now looks to have reached a significant juncture, especially with Italy moving toward another period of political instability.

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    Gavekal Research

    Panic Stations

    I always try to be a rules-driven investor. And when the US stock market is down -3% in a day, taking it to -6% from its peak in three weeks, when 10-year US treasury yields have halved in nine months to just 1.55%, and when gold is up 20% in three months, it is a good time to review those rules to see what they can tell me. The answer is: quite a lot.

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    Gavekal Research

    Joining The US Recession Camp

    To listen to current commentary, you would think that US capitalism faced a Marxist end-of-times reckoning. Hence, it is noteworthy that the share of sales going to profits is now falling, while that going to labor is rising. Yet the latest US GDP report is still alarming for what it tells us about the state of the economy.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Spiral Of Eurozone Banks

    For months Charles has told anyone who will listen that the real threat to global markets is the slow-motion implosion of the eurozone’s banking system. Each time the region's equity has hit a critical threshold an intervention has caused it to bounce off and delay the reckoning. The size of these rebounds has waned and this time there may be no respite.

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    Gavekal Research

    What Sterling’s Move Tells Us

    The sterling exchange rate is going down and the usual suspects say this is bad news. But the exchange rate is merely a price that helps allocate capital between the economy’s internal and external sectors, and so set the purchasing power of rentiers and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs do best when the currency is undervalued, while rentiers and consumers win out when it is overvalued.

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    Gavekal Research

    Darwin Or Keynes?

    Keynes advised that at the outset of a recession, policymakers should drive down market interest rates in order to borrow from future demand. Today’s central bankers have adopted this approach as permanent policy. Unfortunately, permanent Keynesianism fatally interferes with the economic Darwinism of creative destruction that propels growth in a capitalist system—with dire consequences.

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    Gavekal Research

    Brexit And The UK Trade Deficit

    The UK has long run a large goods trade deficit with its main trading partners. However, Charles argues that this ”deficit” should really be seen as two different deficits; one is with the world excluding the eurozone, and the other with the eurozone itself. Splitting them makes sense as they have different origins and react to different forces.

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    Gavekal Research

    Anti-Fragile Assets As A Diversifier

    Last July Charles wrote a piece warning of a recession in the non-US OECD economies during 2019. Today, he runs an update on that thesis and seeks to refine his safety-first portfolio using assets which contain “anti-fragile” properties.

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    Gavekal Research

    Betting Against The Gods Is Now Impossible

    Recently I made my usual remark to a European client about the stupidity of negative interest rates. My host told me a sobering story. He manages a pension fund and received a call by a regulator who said funds shouldn't hold too much cash because it's risky. Rather, they should buy long-dated bonds, regardless of the fact they're sure to lose money.

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    Gavekal Research

    What Gold Is Telling Us

    Over the last few weeks long bond yields collapsed, which in turn led to a collapse in something called “inflation expectations”. Now, inflation expectations are a very useful indicator built by very clever PhDs. The main purpose of this indicator appears to be to persuade investors that they should buy bonds just when they really should be selling them.

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    Gavekal Research

    Worrying About Bond Yields

    Germany yesterday sold medium-dated bunds at a record -24bp, while treasury yields are back near three year lows. In yesterday’s Daily, Louis outlined reasons for the surge in US bond prices, and argued that a reversal could occur if the US dollar weakens more. Today want to ask how such a shift in the rates environment will impact economic growth and equities.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Italy And Europe's Banking Problem

    The eurozone's main banking index is back at a key threshold that over recent decades has seen large-scale intervention by global central banks. For Charles, the root of the problem lies in the deteriorating Italian economy. In this video interview, he explains this dependence and argues that this time there may be no explicit support coming for the banking sector.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Malthusian Constraint

    Over the last few years, Gavekal has put considerable time and effort into researching portfolio construction in the hope of making the process a little more scientific. This research has led to some interesting results, and suggests some powerful investment themes for the future.

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    Gavekal Research

    Yes, We Are In A Bear Market

    In late 2017, Charles argued that global equity markets looked to be topping out, and it was time to adopt a more conservative strategy. As things turned out, the global equity benchmark hit a peak in late January of 2018, and has not retraced that level. He now argues that global equities have likely entered a bear market cycle.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble Unseen

    The world and its dog are suddenly worried that the growing US-China trade war may be the event that sparks the next panic. Might I suggest that the looming iceberg that could yet sink the good ship Global Growth may not lie in the obvious spot where spy glasses are focused.The real menace may still lie in the European banking system.

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    Gavekal Research

    Monopsonies, Protectionism And ROIC

    It is extremely unfashionable to say so, but Donald Trump’s campaign to bring manufacturing industries back to the US by slapping tariffs on goods imports may not be quite the act of economic illiteracy most professional practitioners of the dismal science would have you believe. On the contrary, it could well be positive for US growth, living standards, and market outperformance.

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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call May 2019

    Investor concern this week is centered on the US-China trade negotiations, but Charles Gave and Louis Gave wonder if investors aren’t missing another risk, namely, that the world might be shifting from a deflationary to an inflationary environment. In our monthly Conference Call yesterday, they outlined arguments for why this may be the case, and what it would mean for portfolio construction.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Reverse-Engineered US Inflation Indicator

    In the Strategy Monthly I presented a fairly simple rule to show whether an economy is in the top, or the bottom half of the Four Quadrants framework. To show that the rule worked, I laid out relationships between the "rule" and a range of other useful indications of a price environment shift. Here, I capture all of these relationships in a simple, revised decision rule.

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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation And The Gold Fix

    When the market rate of interest for a long period has been held abnormally low relative to returns on invested capital, financial engineering takes off with huge debt issuance, making a chaotic denouement of the credit cycle unavoidable. To prepare for such an event, an equity portfolio hedged with gold can reduce volatility and raise returns.

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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: The Inflation Shift And Portfolio Construction

    Despite inflation remaining muted, Wednesday saw the Federal Reserve stand pat on interest rates. Having switched to an overly dovish stance early this year, Fed Chairman Jay Powell remains wary of changing tack and easing policy as he worries about inflationary pressure bubbling up from an economy that looks to be fully occupied. For his part, Charles is less nuanced and believes the US will shortly flip over into an environment where inflation...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Financial Asset Valuations Stretched Every Which Way

    Charles dusts off his equity and bond valuation models for the US and is disturbed to see that for only the fourth time since the mid-1980s both asset classes are simultaneously overvalued. In this piece, he asks: what gives?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    And The Brexit Winner Is...

    With the Brexit deadline in the rear view mirror, Britain's leave voters have are left with the impression that they have been taken for a ride by the UK’s political class, and in particular by their representatives in parliament. So who is the real sovereign power in the UK? The people or parliament? Charles sees three possible outcomes.

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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — March 2019

    Cedric Gemehl examined the possibility of a European rebound; Charles Gave argued the world is splitting into three distinct monetary zones; Tom Miller presented on the state of the US-China trade talks and the health of the Chinese economy; Anatole Kaletsky examined the risks to the bull market, and arrived at a bullish conclusion.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond The Yield Curve Inversion

    The current yield curve inversion and softness in growth data are curious developments, given that the four prices that matter most for the global economy—long bond yields, corporate credit spreads, the oil price, and the value of the US dollar—are all relatively favorable. Louis and Charles weigh five different explanations for what may be going on—from bullish to highly bearish—and examine the investment implications.

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    Gavekal Research

    Vox Clamantis In Deserto

    Some say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Others regard repeating the same mistake over and over again, and expecting the results to change, to be the very definition of insanity. I fear that the majority of “respectable economists” (meaning they always side with the consensus) inhabit the first of the two camps.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Locus Of Capital Destruction

    Germany is going through one of its periodic bouts of angst as its industrial economy faces up to cyclical headwinds, unwanted structural change and the threat of protectionism. I too have concerns about the fate of corporate Germany, but would approach the problem from the perspective of an equity investor.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Modern, Not About Money, And Not Really Much Of A Theory

    Charles has had enough of all the talk going round about Modern Monetary Theory. In this forceful polemic he lets fly with both barrels at the proponents of MMT, arguing that they have no knowledge of financial history, little understanding of the nature of money, and are clueless about what constitutes a theory.

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    Gavekal Research

    Keynes Is Dead; This Is The Long Run

    “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is,” Yogi Berra said. Take cutting interest rates as an example. According to Keynesian theory, reducing interest rates is a way to borrow from future demand in order to prevent a recession today.The theory is sound, but then comes the practice. And in Europe today, we are in practice up to our necks.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Back To The Barbarous Relic

    Going back to the mid-1980s, I have worked on the assumption that the US economy has been in the “deflationary” lower half of my four quadrants framework. My fear is that we may be moving into the inflationary top quadrants. If so, this means that in the bust phase of the cycle equities will have a positive correlation with bonds, and those bonds will offer much lower returns

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    Gavekal Research

    Portfolio Construction In A Malthusian World

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

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    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call February 2019

    In the call yesterday, Charles Gave and Cedric Gemehl presented their views on the economic and political situation in Europe. Cedric outlined key risks facing Europe’s economy. If the worst is avoided, he thinks Europe could get a soft landing. Charles took a different view, arguing that the eurozone was now an irretrievably diverging system.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Vital Portfolio Construction Lesson

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

    2
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    The Recession Of 2019: Revisited

    Six months ago Charles posited the idea of a global recession starting in and around March 2019. He revisits that idea in this piece and concludes that there is clear evidence of the global system suffering a marked slowdown. Here, he seeks to identify the source of the problem by a process of elimination (spoiler alert, the problem isn’t China).

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    Musings On Brexit

    With the UK’s elite intent on frustrating the democratically-expressed will of the British people to quit the EU, the lesson for the rest of the continent is that there can be no legal or peaceful exit from the technocratic super-state. As Charles argues here, this increases the probability of disorderly exits in the future, and therefore greatly heightens European political risk.

    8
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    A Silly Recommendation

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Sober End To The Year

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Perhaps The Most Important Chart I have Ever Published

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

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call December 2018

    In the final Gavekal Research Conference Call of the year, Louis-Vincent Gave, Anatole Kaletsky and Charles Gave shared their perspectives on a year which has been challenging for all asset classes, and offered their thoughts on what could be in store for investors in 2019.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Understanding The Next Bear Market

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

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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Gilets Jaunes

    France’s yellow vest protest movement may have been the first since 1789 not to stem from left-wing origins, argues Charles. Instead, it reflected a great uprising by the forgotten people of middle France who have had enough of being the piggy bank that funds the lives of an urban elite which has rigged the system to its favor.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Conflict Between Liquidity And Growth

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

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — October 2018

    At Gavekal’s seminar in London last month Charles Gave and Anatole Kaletsky presented on whether the world is breaking up into three different monetary zones, and whether this is a correction to, or an end to, the long-running global bull market. Micahel Clendenin of Gavekal RedTech explained how they conduct research on the Chinese technology and internet sector.

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