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    Gavekal Research

    An Upgrade For The Jeep Portfolio

    In the Covid-19 crisis, Charles’s “Jeep” portfolio, introduced at the end of 2017 and expounded on in mid-2019, has amply demonstrated its worth, outperforming a pure equity portfolio, but with much lower volatility. In this paper, Charles reviews the Jeep portfolio once again, upgrading its components to navigate a post-Covid world.

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    Gavekal Research

    Competing Reserves Of Value

    In order to function properly, any economic system must have one or more trusted reserves of value, so that participants can factor time into their calculations. In recent decades the world has offered investors three principal reserves of value:

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Please May I Have €10bn Too?

    Indulge me for a moment in a flight of fancy. Last week, the European Central Bank lent out €1.31trn to eurozone banks at a negative interest rate of -1%. Now, I am not a bank, but it is diverting to imagine that I might qualify for a small crumb of this funding, say a modest €10bn—because I know exactly what I would do with the money.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Webinar: Global Update (French), June 2020

    In yesterday's webinar for our Francophone audience, Charles and Louis Gave, Cedric Gemehl and Didier Darcet updated viewers on their views of asset markets and government responses to the economic calamity caused by Covid-19.

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    Gavekal Research

    Wicksell And The Market Logic Of A New Inflationary Era

    On Wednesday, Charles argued that policy responses to the Covid-19 crisis may be forcing the US economy into an inflationary boom. In this piece, he deploys the Shiller P/E as a tool for assessing US equities. He connects these findings with his tried-and-tested Wicksellian macro approach to reach a set of portfolio construction recommendations.

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    Gavekal Research

    Accelerating Into Inflation

    Long-time readers will be familiar with Gavekal’s Four Quadrants framework, which describes how the economy alternates between periods of inflation and deflation, and cycles from boom and bust and back again, and which we use to illustrate which asset classes investors should favor and when. Although this is one of Gavekal’s oldest frameworks, it provides an extremely useful way to think about how the macroeconomic environment is set to evolve...

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    Gavekal Research

    Webinar: Global Investment Roundtable, May 2020

    Yesterday Louis Gave, Charles Gave and Anatole Kaletsky joined Arthur Kroeber at the Global Investment Roundtable. They discussed different scenarios for how and when the world’s major economies can exit the Covid-19 crisis and what it means for investors.

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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong And The Ethic Of Responsibility

    German sociologist Max Weber made the distinction between the ethic of conviction, based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and the ethic of responsibility, based on consequentialist philosophy, a grandchild of Aristotelian logic. The distinction between the two may help investors to determine their response to developments in Hong Kong.

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    Gavekal Research

    Beware The Charm Of Monopolistic Tech

    An equally-weighted index of monopolistic "tech" companies is up by a whopping 26% in the last year, whereas an active manager running a portfolio with 30 or 40 stocks would be down about -7% over the same period. The difference in performance may be the "cost" of holding a diversified portfolio with lower risk than a concentrated portfolio.

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    Gavekal Research

    Japan's Stealth Bull Market

    In times of great market uncertainty, like today, investors should seek sanctuary in the stocks of companies that are cheap, enjoy positive cash flows, have plenty of cash on their books, and which are quoted in an undervalued currency. Today, Charles writes, the shares of non-financial companies in Japan fit the bill on all four counts.

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    Gavekal Research

    Sovereignty And That German Court Ruling

    Tuesday’s ruling by Germany’s constitutional court on the legitimacy of asset purchases by the European Central Bank hits at the heart of a political project whose ultimate aim has been usurp the sovereignty of historical states in favor of a new super state. I am no lawyer but I have studied political science and the issue now in play is of a fundamental nature.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Down -16% And Still 30% Overvalued

    It seems the world has entered a new era, in which the principal function of central banks is to try to prevent markets from going down. So, after the gold standard and the dollar standard, we now appear to have the S&P 500 standard, in which a desperate central bank tries to manage the financial markets.

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    Gavekal Research

    Webinar: Global Investment Roundtable, April 2020

    Markets are showing both signs of dislocation (in negative oil prices) and impressive stability (the S&P 500 is only down -4.1% over the previous 12 months). Is this stability a Federal Reserve-induced illusion? Are there more shocks to come? If so, where? In our monthly investment roundtable, Louis, Charles and Anatole discussed market scenarios for the months ahead.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Truth About Banks And Bonds

    As I elucidated last week Knut Wicksell’s key idea was that in any market economy there are not one, but two key interest rates, whose relative position drives the cycle. The theory makes good sense, but computing the two rates is tricky. My insight is that I don’t need to compute these two rates but instead measure the structural performance of bank equities in each market.

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    Gavekal Research

    Webinar: Investing In A Time Of Covid-19 (French)

    Charles Gave Louis Gave, and Cedric Gemehl, along with principal of Gavekal Intelligence Software Didier Darcet, participated in a French-speaking webinar. They discussed the global investment outlook in light of the latest Covid-19 tracking data, and how to invest in a world dominated by central banks.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On The Next Banking Crisis

    For Charles, the last 100 years has seen three standout banking crises; the 1930s depression in the US, Japan’s post-1990 bust and the slow-motion implosion of the eurozone, which has yet to see a denouement. In this piece, he dusts off one of his favorite frameworks for assessing economic cycles and asks what can be learned from these episodes.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Revenge Of The Little Grey Men

    There is a strange contradiction in most developed economic systems as they have been driven by freely assembling entrepreneurs who operate on the basis of money, which is the ultimate tool of state coercion. Charles is worried that the private, risk-taking element of our economies may be fully extinguished by responses to the Covid-19 crisis.

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    Gavekal Research

    Destroying The Economy To Save It

    Remember the American military officer in Vietnam who explained US tactics by saying “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it?” Well in the not too distant future, we may have to accept that our economic policymakers have adopted the same tactics in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

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    Gavekal Research

    Rearranging The Deckchairs For Profit

    When everything is falling apart around you, the urge to do something—anything—becomes irresistible. A good solution is to start rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may not change the bigger picture, but it keeps you busy and does no harm in the longer term. In this spirit, allow me to suggest a little rearrangement that should do no harm, and could even be very profitable.

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    Gavekal Research

    Breaking Down An International Liquidity Crisis

    These are hard times for the global system as big economies are effectively shuttered and risk appetite craters. The US dollar has surged and many leveraged countries face trouble servicing their debts. As these factors become self-reinforcing, Charles thinks it is worth standing back to assess what is causing what. He does this by explaining the dynamics of an international liquidity crisis and suggests specific investment strategies to handle...

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    Gavekal Research

    Webinar: Road To Recovery Or Road To Serfdom?

    To deal with the economic fallout from unprecedented lockdown measures aimed at halting the spread of Covid-19, governments and central banks in the US and Europe are pulling out all the stops to pop up financial systems and avoid economic collapse. Anatole Kaletsky and Charles Gave joined Louis Gave to discuss the long term consequences.

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    Gavekal Research

    When To Get Back Into The Market

    As usual in a market crash, there has been a lot of chatter over the last 10 days about whether the stock market has already formed a bottom, and if now is the time to get back in and pick up some “bargains at special prices”. Clearly what is needed is a decision rule to tell us whether the conditions are favorable yet or not. Happily, some of the research we have recently been doing at Gavekal Intelligence Software allows me to create just such...

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    What You See, And What You Don’t

    In economics there is what you see and what you don’t see, and “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” As the world economy suffers a spasm the likes of which has rarely been seen in peacetime, it may help to go back to first principles to figure out what we are not seeing about this crisis, and who is going to end up paying for it.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Money, Value And The Markets

    Above all, economics is the study of why goods and services have value and why these values are constantly changing. This study is greatly complicated by the fact that there are two different sources of value. In Gavekal-speak, we call these “scarcity” value (think jewels) and “efficiency” value (think tools). So the key question becomes not only “why do things have value?” but also “why do the relative values of scarcity and efficiency change...

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    Gavekal Research

    Capitalism And The Coronavirus

    There is an inevitability to the economic responses being adopted by governments around the world to the current crisis. The real problem is that they follow years of cosseting the financial system through policies intended to deny economic reality. The cumulative effect, Charles argues, is that by the time this crisis is fully digested we may be left with an economic system that is a pale shadow of a market economy.

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    Gavekal Research

    What I Know

    In fraught times, Charles has decided to keep it simple and focus only on what he knows. In this piece, he considers changing relationships between oil prices, long-bond rates, US equities and the dollar and offers various approaches that could help investors survive the bear market.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fragility Of A Complex World

    The question investors must confront is whether the global economy is a slow but resistant beast of burden, or a finely tuned machine which has now been thrown off its axis.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Velocity Of Money In The Time Of Covid-19

    Most serious investors know MV=PQ, where M is the money supply, V is the velocity of money, P is the general price level and Q is output. The typical approach is to wait for M, P and Q to be published and so derive V, which renders the equation a mere tautology. In contrast, Charles has long thought V to be an independent variable whose variations impact P and Q.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time And Risk

    The financial world is organized around two axes: time and risk. If some authority manipulates the time axis, the effect will be to compromise the risk axis. This is not an abstract formulation. It has the potential to threaten portfolios and the solvency of major institutions.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Utility Of A ‘Jeep’ Portfolio

    Back in December 2017 I published a warning for portfolio managers. Sometimes it makes sense to have a turbocharged portfolio, at others investors should seek out something more suited to rough going. Two years on, and with market volatility again on the up, this seems a good time to review how my Jeep portfolio has fared over the last two years.

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    Gavekal Research

    Chickens Coming Home To Roost

    French workers last weekend won a reprieve from the government’s plan to nudge the retirement age higher, but that does not mean they can breathe easy, thinking their financial futures are secured. With much of pension assets invested in government bonds, an interesting question is what the return will be of a 10-year constant duration OAT in the next decade.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Active Versus Passive

    Back in 2003, low interest rates were creating problems for pension funds and insurance companies which could not find enough high-quality bonds offering a decent interest rate. Not to worry, said Wall Street banks, which began to package up real estate-based bonds of varying quality; the best tranches got a triple-A stamp from the credit rating agencies, yet they miraculously offered a higher yield than other top-notch bonds. We all know how...

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    Gavekal Research

    Nonsense Anatole, Boris Deserves Three Cheers

    In 2017, as the Brexit negotiations between London and Brussels got going in earnest, I wrote a paper explaining why the European Commission’s officials and their counterparts across the continent were going to do everything in their power to make the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union as difficult as they possibly could (see May’s Misguided Brexit Speech). And over the next two years, they did just that.

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    Gavekal Research

    Seminar Series Multimedia — Fall 2019

    Partners and analysts present their core ideas for the big economic regions and global markets heading into the year-end and looking forward to 2020.

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    Gavekal Research

    The VIX, Fragility And Indexation

    At the same time as US stock markets ascended to all-time highs on Monday, the VIX volatility index fell to its lowest close in more than a year. In and of itself, this decline in the VIX should hardly be a great surprise given the Fed's liquidity expansion. But as part of a longer term pattern, this policy-driven decline in stock market volatility is deeply troubling.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Musings On Trump And Powell

    His detractors will never admit it, but Donald Trump has done much that is good for the US economy. Notably he has reduced corporate taxes and cut red tape, boosting returns on invested capital. But in calling on the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates further, he is not only making a big mistake, he is courting disaster—though not for the reason his critics believe.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Signal In International Liquidity

    Historically, few indicators have been as important for global markets as the amount of US dollar liquidity available outside the US. When this has turned down, trouble has reliably followed. This year, notes Charles, the indicator has again turned negative. But as he explains, all may not be lost.

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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.

    4
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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.

    8
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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.

    2
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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.

    0
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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.

    4
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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.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    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”.

    0
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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.

    9
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    2
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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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