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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Washington, Iran And The Price Of Oil

    This week’s sacking of John Bolton as White House national security advisor triggered a fall in the price of oil as traders concluded the notorious war hawk’s departure paved the way for a relaxation of US sanctions on Iranian oil exports. That may be unlikely; US officials insist their policy of “maximum” pressure on Iran remains in force.

    0
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    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call September 2019

    In yesterday’s conference call, Anatole Kaletsky, Will Denyer and Louis-Vincent Gave outlined reasons for recent dramatic moves in bond markets and made arguments for what comes next. Anatole also addressed Brexit developments and Louis discussed the situation in Hong Kong.

    0
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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”.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Against Recession

    Earlier in August, Charles announced that he was reluctantly joining the US recession camp. His reasoning was based largely on his observation that the long run average growth rate of US corporate profits had fallen to a level that in recent decades has always indicated an economic downturn. I am more optimistic than Charles.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Looking Through The Bond Bubble

    As yields fall to record lows, bond markets seem priced for some sort of global economic calamity. With Europe in dire straits and the US-China trade war remaining live, there is certainly cause for worry. But when things look like they can’t get any worse, Will reckons, they often don’t. As the US growth outlook appears steady, equities and cash are the better bet.

    0
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    Weathering Trump’s Trade War

    It may be the dog days of summer, but investors got a truckload of news this weekend that points to a bad situation getting worse. Given President Donald Trump’s escalation of tariffs and threat to bar US firms from operating in China, the worry is that his hardline stance spurs a US recession. KX and Will think this is unlikely.

    3
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    Strategy Monthly: Focus On The Fed, Not On US Tariff Threats

    Trade war fears are once again front and center of investors' minds. But the reduced magnitude of pledged US tariffs indicates that Trump is anxious to avoid damaging the US economy and financial markets. This leaves the focus on the Fed, and how much it is likely to cut interest rates.

    0
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    What The Early End Of QT Means

    As expected, the Federal Reserve cut short term interest rates by 25bp on Wednesday. Less expected the Fed also halted its program of quantitative tightening, effective immediately. The decision to end the program early cancels an expected additional US$70bn contraction in the supply of money. This represents a significant easing.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Downward Revision In US Profits

    Alongside last Friday’s second quarter US GDP release, the BEA issued revisions which wiped out almost all the increase in pre-tax corporate profits since the end of 2016, and much of the post-tax increase. The revisions can be attributed almost entirely to weak top-line growth and rising wage costs. The good news is that the revisions do not sound a recession warning.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Unpicking US 2Q GDP

    Second quarter US GDP growth came in at 2.1%, slightly better than expectations. In itself, this headline figure is not especially illuminating. But dig deeper into the various components of 2Q growth, and there are reasons for moderate optimism about the trajectory of the US economy through the second half of 2019.

    4
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    Fiscal Crisis Averted, At A Cost To Liquidity

    On Monday, the White House and Congressional leaders reached a tentative agreement to raise US government spending caps and suspend the debt ceiling for two years. Assuming the deal is passed by Congress in the next few days, a fiscal crisis will be averted this year. But before investors breathe a sigh of relief and bet on a rally, it should be noted that one near term effect of the agreement could be an acute liquidity drain as the Treasury...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: What Is Libra, And Will It Work?

    Facebook will have an uphill battle trying to convince consumers to adopt its announced digital currency, libra. As it will be backed by a basket of assets denominated in different currencies, the prices of goods and services will be more volatile in libra than in existing local currencies, even in emerging markets. This volatility will deter consumers from making the switch.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Libra's Monetary Challenge

    Facebook has 2.7bn users and 90mn companies operating on its various platforms. Perhaps more than any other non-state player, it has the resources, reach and data trove to launch a global currency. Will is not convinced and tackles the issue by asking what benchmarks the new Libra currency will need to hit if it is to become a widely-used medium of exchange.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Play The Fed Tease

    After the Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting, chairman Jay Powell told the market what it wanted to hear. Policymakers see rising risks and stand ready to cut interest rates, but there is no reason to panic—just yet. Real growth is solid, which is good for earnings, but inflation pressures are muted, allowing the Fed to be more accommodative.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's War And Our Problem

    In the seven decades after World War II, the most powerful nation in the world could be relied on to defend and promote free trade among nations. Then came President Donald. J Trump. Now it’s conceivable that Trump’s goal is to shake up the old rules-based system.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    An Ugly Trade War And An Inverted Yield Curve

    Will a trade war boost US growth and inflation, or instead cause a deflationary recession? The bond market is basically saying that a trade war will dent US growth and force the Federal Reserve into easing. Bear with my two-handed explanation, but there are also good reasons why it could also boost nominal growth.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    How Long Can Productivity Contain US Inflation Pressure?

    April’s US payrolls report showed job creation was stronger than expected and unemployment lower, yet wage pressures were softer. This suggests weaker unit labor costs will allow the Fed to remain dovish, at least for now. All else being equal this is positive for equity investors. The question is: How long can this benign combination persist?

    0
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    Managing Today’s Biggest Risk

    The US first quarter GDP data released on Friday proved consistent with the picture of slower—but still positive—growth through 2019, and a continuation of the Goldilocks tailwind for asset markets. But after a strong run-up in equities this year, it might be time to ask what the greatest risk is to the current environment, and how to position for it.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation Is The Real Risk

    Happy days seem to be here again as risk assets soar on a dovish Federal Reserve and better growth outlook. Yet, investors should take note. The Fed has three official mandates; namely, to keep inflation low and stable, keep unemployment down, and keep interest rates low and stable. Yet among those “equals”, the first is thought to be bearing down on inflation.

    5
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    A New Look At The Housing Market

    When the US slides into recession, it generally does so because of a contraction in investment, either in the corporate sector or in the housing market. Today, returns on capital invested in housing exceed the cost of capital, signalling a positive outlook for US residential investment, construction, house prices, and the shares of homebuilders.

    3
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    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call April 2019

    In yesterday’s Gavekal Research Conference Call, Will Denyer and Udith Sikand addressed the changing US dollar liquidity environment, and its impact on markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A New Liquidity Environment

    The prospect of easier liquidity conditions helped make 1Q19 one of the best ever quarters for US equities. Confirmation of the Federal Reserve’s newly dovish policy stance means that US equities should continue to do well through 2019. Other big winners in this environment may be equities in northeast Asian emerging markets that do not rely on Chinese commodity demand.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Gather Round The Punch Bowl

    US monetary policy tightening is over, at least for now. While the Federal Reserve is not adding any more hooch to the punch bowl, chairman Jay Powell has promised to stop cutting his serving sizes. Although not much of a surprise, the Fed’s guidance is broadly positive for just about everything but US dollar cash—especially equities and real assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Fed's Potential Paradigm Shift

    The Federal Reserve is debating a fundamental shift in its inflation targeting. Right now it's targeting 2% inflation no matter what it has been in the past, a so-called "bygones" policy. In this video interview Will discusses the consequences of switching to price-level targeting, where the aim is to keep average inflation over time at 2%.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    An Investor's Rough Guide To Modern Monetary Theory

    Modern Monetary Theory—the idea that governments can spend as much as they want, free from funding constraints—is attracting more and more attention. Will examines the precepts of the theory, explores whether it really brings anything new to the table, and outlines some of the implications for investors should it ever be applied as practical policy.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Shifting Sands At The Fed

    The US Federal Reserve has said it is likely to end its process of balance sheet “normalization” sooner than previously planned. This sounds like an obscure monetary technicality, but it has important implications for investors. In this video interview Will explains why.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble With Price Level Targeting

    The Federal Reserve is talking about changing the way it targets inflation. Currently it tweaks policy in an attempt to zero in on a specific inflation rate: 2%. Under the framework it is discussing, instead it would aim to hit a price index level consistent with a particular long term average inflation rate. The distinction might sound subtle, but by targeting a price level, the Fed would compensate for any undershooting by attempting to...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The QT Endgame

    A voting member of the FOMC said yesterday that the Federal Reserve should quit shrinking its balance sheet later this year. This was the clearest indication yet that the US central bank will end quantitative tightening one or two years sooner than the 2020-2021 estimate put forward by Chairman Jay Powell last July. I suspect Brainard will get her wish.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Looser Fed And Tighter Banks

    News flow from the US and beyond over recent months has pointed to an easing of financial conditions. A notable exception has, however, emerged: US commercial banks have stopped loosening lending standards and have started to tighten them—just a touch. I remain constructive, but have gotten more cautious about US risk assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Conflicting Signals From The US Labor Market

    The US labor market is sending apparently contradictory signals. On one hand the unemployment rate ticked higher in January. On the other, job creation was much stronger than expected. Will looks behind the latest data points to examine the labor market’s underlying trends, and concludes they spell relatively bullish news for the US economy and risk assets over the coming months.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don't Fear Corporate Leverage (Yet)

    With Brexit, the US-China trade war and a synchronous global slowdown, these are anxious times for investors. But apparently, all these concerns pale in comparison with worries about US corporate leverage. According to a BofAML survey this month, corporate indebtedness is the biggest single worry among fund managers. We beg to differ.

    17
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bull Case For US Housing

    As the US government shutdown drags on, US-China tariff talks stutter, the Chinese growth engine slows, global trade slumps and GDP forecasts get cut, the stream of macro-misery in recent days has seemed relentless. On Tuesday, the US National Association of Realtors added its voice to the dirge, reporting that sales volumes for existing homes fell -10% year-on-year to a three year low in December. With new home sales and construction equally...

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Beyond The Government Shutdown

    As the US government shutdown threatens to enter its fifth week, Will looks back at previous shutdowns to weigh the likely impact on America’s economy and financial markets, against the backdrop of an aging economic cycle, flattening yield curve and tighter financial conditions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Good News Story From The US

    As the record government shutdown denies Americans vital services and federal workers paychecks, the US has hardly been putting its best foot forward. While we don't expect this political impasse to change the growth trajectory, it does weigh on the market mood. Against such a dour backdrop, we think a good news story from the US economy can be easily missed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Rollover In The US, Not Recession

    This week’s revenue forecast downgrades from Apple and Delta Air Lines and Thursday’s steep dive in the ISM manufacturing PMI only appeared to confirm what market participants already knew: US growth is rolling over. Yet despite the recent sell-off in equities and the further flattening of the US yield curve, we see no recession on the horizon.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Half Full Than Half Empty

    Despite dovish comments from the Federal Reserve about the future trajectory of interest rates, US equities fell further on Wednesday. The S&P 500 has now fallen -14% since early October. Meanwhile, 10-year treasury prices have risen almost 5%. Momentum traders will therefore find good reason to shun equities and add exposure to long-dated treasuries. We suggest doing the opposite.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Opportunities Beyond The Death Cross

    November’s payroll report gave investors in US equities reason to cheer on Friday as it suggested reduced inflationary pressure, yet they chose to focus on an escalating row over the fate of a top Chinese telecom executive that is intensifying trade tensions with China. A -2.3% fall in the S&P 500 had the technically-inclined scrambling to glean meaning from a “death cross” as the 50-day moving average fell below the 200-day level. We remain...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Sweat About The Yield Curve

    At least as interesting as the 1.1% rise in US equities on Monday, following the weekend’s news of a three-month US-China tariff truce, was the day’s decline in long-dated US treasury yields and the concomitant flattening of the US yield curve. But was this bond market action good news or bad for investors?

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Christmas Comes Early

    The most cherished gifts often come in small packets, and investors duly cheered just two small words yesterday by the Federal Reserve chairman. In a speech, Jerome Powell said policy rates were “just below” the neutral level. That was a big change from a month earlier when he said they were “a long way from” the not-too-hot-not-too-cold level. This suggests that the pace of interest rate hikes may lessen, while on the same day data was released...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Drag Of US Housing

    Despite the overall US growth outlook remaining decent, markets have taken on an ugly tone, with US equities having given back their 2018 gains and credit spreads gapping wider. Adding to grim tidings, yesterday saw weak housing data released, which is a worry as the sector often leads the broader US economy.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    GE Is More Fish Than Fowl

    There is suddenly a flood of commentary speculating that General Electric is a canary in the proverbial coal mine for the US corporate credit market. With investors focused on the troubled conglomerate’s underfunded pension scheme and ailing power business, GE has seen its credit rating downgraded and become a focal point for broader fears that US corporates have taken on too much debt and bought back too much equity. Without taking a view on GE...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar — November 2018

    At Gavekal’s seminar in Hong Kong this week, Yanmei Xie, Arthur Kroeber and Will Denyer presented their latest views on China's economy, trade war, and how to approach asset allocation in the US.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Gridlock is Good

    The Democrats have wrested back control of the US House of Representatives, while Republicans have expanded their Senate majority. Hence, the US’s bicameral legislature is set for two years of gridlock. This was the most benign result possible from this midterm election. While largely expected, confirmation is probably positive for risk assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Yes, We're Still In A Bull Market

    Anatole and Will believe that continued exposure to US equities makes sense, since underlying corporate profitability remains strong. So long as one avoids the most rate-sensitive sectors, US portfolios should be 70-75% in stocks, with the rest mainly in cash. Moreover, they argue that the period of EM underperformance is now done, and emerging markets are poised for a significant rally.

    0
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    US Macro And The Market

    Coming after another bruising week in the market, which saw the S&P 500 flirting with correction territory, down -9% from its late-September high, Friday’s third quarter US GDP report is heartening. Although 3Q’s quarter-on-quarter annualized growth rate of 3.5% was slower than the 4.2% rate recorded in 2Q, it was still strong relative to the expected 3.3% and compared with the US economy’s structural growth rate. While US growth will...

    0
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    Buy The Dip

    “Things are fine now, but they are going to get worse.” This is what I hear from commentators on US growth, from corporate managers talking about profit margins, and from Chinese exporters discussing the impact of the trade war. The same could be said of US financial conditions—they are fine now, but as interest rates rise they will deteriorate.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Rebalance Into Equities

    The S&P 500 is down almost -7% in six days, the biggest drawdown since the -10% decline in the first quarter. It is now below its 200-day moving average, for the first time since April 2nd. Will it bounce back, or is a US equity bear market now upon us? I would bet on the former, but not too aggressively.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Still Not Interested In US Bonds

    Wednesday saw the second biggest sell-off in US bonds since November 10, 2016, immediately after the US presidential election. The 10-year treasury yield jumped 11bp to 3.16%, its highest since 2011. However, investors should be wary of treating this as a buying opportunity, for a number of reasons.

    4
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    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call September 2018

    In this month’s research call, Will Denyer explains why he is still recommending a 75% equity exposure in a dedicated US portfolio. His call is based on an asset allocation method with three key components, namely, Wicksellian spreads, relative valuation tools, and a duration tool which shows how to divide a fixed income portfolio between bonds and cash.

    0
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    Strategy Monthly: A Simple Guide To US Asset Allocation

    We synthesize four years of work on asset allocation and present a model portfolio built around analysis of the cost of and return on capital; the real rate of return on equities, bonds and cash; and the ideal duration of fixed-income holdings. Today we recommend that US portfolios hold 75% in equities, 25% in cash, and shun bonds.

    0
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    The State Of The US Consumer

    Despite cyclical headwinds and the threat of a welfare-sapping trade war, the US consumer has stayed fairly upbeat. The worry has been that rising tariffs change that situation and hit growth. Hence, news of a trade deal between the US and Mexico is to be welcomed (Justin Trudeau may feel differently). Still, at the end of the day the effect will still be to push up costs that someone must cover. For this reason, as the economic cycle matures...

    0
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    Sound, Fury, Fear And Markets

    Regardless of political affiliation, there seems to be a consensus that yesterday was a bad day for the Trump administration. It is almost impossible to predict the chain of events that will unfold in the coming days and weeks, but the political fallout from Paul Manafort’s fraud conviction and Michael Cohen’s guilty plea will be unabashedly ugly. Whether this latest twist in the drama gripping Washington has broader ramifications for markets is...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Meaning Of A Flat Yield Curve

    Every US recession since the mid-1950s has been preceded by a flat or inverted yield curve. The fact that the curve is now fairly pancake-like in form and the Federal Reserve is ratcheting up interest rates has investors on edge. On balance, I conclude that the time is right to get out of US banks, but not to be rushing the exits of the US equity market.

    4
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    US Housing Gets Vertiginous

    There is a lot to like about US housing. Vacancy rates are low, as are inventories of unsold homes. The labor market is tight and wages are steadily rising. At this point of the cycle there has usually been substantial over-building, but not this time. While supply has increased, housing starts have yet to exceed my estimate of the structural rate of household formation. Yet despite these decent enough fundamentals, valuations look stretched and...

    0
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    When To Buy US Equities?

    Last month, Will and KX asked When To Buy US Bonds? This month, they turn their attention to US equities and devise a portfolio asset allocation model that advocates overweighting stocks against bonds when returns on invested capital and earnings yields exceed corporate funding costs. Back-testing gives an impressive historical outperformance at a reduced volatility relative to the S&P 500. But just as important is what the model has to say...

    0
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    Good News Really Is Good News

    The US economic engine is humming, and corporate earnings continue to beat expectations. Data released on Friday showed real GDP grew at an annualized 4.1% in the second quarter. And with just over half the S&P 500’s constituents having reported for 2Q, 83% have exceeded earnings expectations. Yet investors are unimpressed. The US stock market has so far failed to regain its January pre-VIX-spike high, and despite Friday’s strong GDP print,...

    2
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    The Yield Curve As A Recession Signal

    Every time since the 1960s that the US yield has inverted, a recession has followed within 18 months to two years. So it is no surprise that the recent flattening of the curve, which has seen the 10-2-year treasury yield spread fall to just 25bp, is attracting attention. Many observers say the flattening reflects market expectations of weaker aggregate demand ahead. Some argue that the flattening of the curve itself may cause a recession, by...

    0
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    A Better Fed Model

    The “Fed model” which values US equities relative to bonds is now more than 20 years old. In that time, it has become widely used and has attracted equally widespread criticism. In this paper Will and KX revise the original to iron out some of its flaws, and come up with an improved model which offers greatly superior risk-adjusted returns.

    6
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    The Trade War And The US Cycle

    How will the US administration’s trade disputes affect the US economic cycle? In the worst case scenario, if Donald Trump follows through on all his threats the disruption to global supply chains could be great enough to push the world economy into recession. At this point, the greatest impact flows from the high degree of uncertainty about future actions.

    0
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    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.

    5
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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.

    0
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    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...

    0
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    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.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The American Growth Dynamic

    It is clear from data released on Friday that the US economy remains set on an expansionary and inflationary trajectory. Growth in 1Q18 came in at a stronger-than-expected 2.3%, while the US employment cost index rose 2.8% YoY to a high for this cycle. Even as consumer spending comes off the boil, US firms, in what looks like a classic late-cycle pattern, are responding to bottlenecks by investing more in their capital stock. We continue to see...

    0
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    Still Bond Bears

    Matching its 2013 peak, the world’s most-watched interest rate—the US 10-year treasury yield—yesterday touched 3%. Concerns are now high that it will soon move higher, perhaps much higher. For perspective, the US 10-year hit 3.75% in 2011, 4% in 2010 and 5% in 2007. In this cycle, we think yields will break above 3% and then march upwards. In short, we remain bond bears and continue to recommend keeping duration short. Today, we want to...

    0
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    Policy And Productivity In The USA

    If President Trump is to accomplish his stated goal of renewing American economic greatness then an absolute requirement is for productivity growth to be pushed above its current miserable level of 1%. To an extent, the economic cycle is helping him, as a tightening jobs market is pushing up wages and creating incentives for firms to add labor-saving capital investments. I would also point to three structural developments, which, although not...

    1
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    The Message From Credit Markets

    Over the last three weeks US high yield credit spreads have collapsed by 100bp—a tightening that far exceeds the 10bp narrowing in investment grade spreads over the same period. Coming after a marked widening in the Libor-OIS and Ted spreads over February and March, this fall in credit spreads is clearly encouraging. It supports our contention that the widening of Libor spreads was an idiosyncratic anomaly, and nothing investors should be overly...

    0
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    Focus On Corporate Yields, Not Policy Rates

    There were no big surprises at yesterday’s Federal Reserve meeting, but in offering a slightly more hawkish tone, policymakers have amped up market anxiety. I must admit to not being in this crowd, for the perhaps heretical observation that the future of this bull market may not be decided at the Fed.

    13
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Wade Into Treasuries

    Leading up to today’s Federal Reserve meeting, long-dated treasuries have slipped back into their trading range. There are two reasons to think this offers a good opportunity to “buy the dip”. First, global growth has eased off as shown by our diffusion index of OECD leading indicators, which tends to lead year-on-year changes in 10-year treasury yields by about four months. Second, investors overreacted to January’s spike in US wage growth data...

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    Video: Fixing The Model

    Earlier this week Will issued a mea culpa report that explained why he was revising his Wicksellian asset allocation model and substantially changing his recommendations for the US market. In this video interview he explains the story behind this revision.

    0
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    Turning 90% Bullish

    Over the last three years, Will has developed his own version of Charles's Wicksellian framework to analyze the US economic cycle. His approach has been to gauge the difference between the private sector’s return on invested capital and its cost. In this candid report, he explains why he is overhauling his model and how this has substantially changed his recommendations.

    12
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    Housing And The US Economy

    The last economic cycle in the US was marked by excesses in residential investment and a dearth of business investment, which proved negative for productivity growth. As the current cycle gets a pro-cyclical boost in its mature phase from last year’s tax reforms, that imbalance will be at least partially reversed.

    2
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    Deficits And Bondholders

    Economics 101 says that when there is more of something, then other things being equal its price should go down. That is worrying for US bond investors as US lawmakers last week passed a budget deal that may raise deficits by US$320bn over the next 10 years (any new infrastructure spending will be extra). Interestingly, and perhaps not entirely coincidentally, just as debt-fueled big-government becomes the new normal in Washington, November’s...

    0
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    Good News Is Bad News?

    The US posted a solid employment report on Friday, and the markets didn’t like it one bit. Some 200,000 jobs were added in January, better than the expected 180,000 and prior month gain of 160,000. But what really spooked investors was the faster than expected pickup in wage growth to 2.9% YoY. On the face of it, this is good for economic growth (certainly in nominal terms) and top-line corporate revenues. The worry is that without productivity...

    2
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    Take Profits On US Homebuilders

    Our view that real growth in the US will remain supported this year at a similar level to 2017’s 2.5% rate is based on three main elements: rising business investment following December’s tax cuts; a moderation in consumption growth as labor market tightness slows job ceation, and a neutral to mildly positive view on residential investment (see The Outlook For US Growth And Prices). The third element—our neutral view on homebuilding—merits...

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    Video: Playing The US Growth Picture

    Will outlines his view that real growth in the US will remain stable this year and that inflation will pick up, and discusses what this means for asset prices and portfolio construction.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Outlook For US Growth And Prices

    The first estimate for real US GDP growth clocked in at 2.6% for the fourth quarter, bringing full-year 2017 growth to 2.5%. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve forecast the same rate of growth for 2018, together with a moderate pick-up in consumer inflation from 1.7% to 1.9%. At Gavekal we try to avoid making such specific numerical forecasts; as the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr used to say, “It’s very hard to make predictions, especially...

    0
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    Keep Duration Short

    Washington may have temporarily sorted out its spending plans, but the bigger news for investors is the apparent breakout in 10-year treasury yields. The benchmark-of-benchmarks has risen to 2.65%, exceeding highs recorded in the months right after the Republicans’ election wins in November 2016. This can be ascribed to strong global growth, higher commodity prices, US tax cuts and tighter monetary policy. Hence, with US long-rates now offering...

    13
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    Gavekal Research

    Dare To Dabble In US High Yield

    Last week US high yield spreads narrowed to within a whisker of their cycle low, bringing them within striking distance of their 2007 low. When things cannot get much better, they seldom do. However, this may be one of those rare historical occasions when things do indeed go from good to even better. The US tax changes that went into effect last week have the potential to drive credit spreads to record depths.

    0
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    US Tax; Not What You Expect

    With the Senate having voted its approval, Republicans are set to tomorrow finalize the biggest shake up in the US tax code since the 1980s. A common refrain among analysts is that the bill should propel equity prices higher, but do precious little for economic growth. We wonder if the reverse may unfold.

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    There Is Now An Alternative

    There were no surprises yesterday, either in the Federal Reserve’s rate hike, or in its forecasts for next year. With the labor market set to “remain strong”, the unemployment rate likely to inch down to 3.9%—full employment—and growth forecast to get a modest boost from tax cuts to 2.5%, the dot plot projects three 25bp hikes in 2018.

    0
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    Bitcoin: Money Or Bust

    The definitive characteristic of money is that it is a common medium of exchange. A good becomes money when people within a community begin to accept it, not for consumption nor to produce other goods, but for its expected use in indirect exchange. The chosen money may have non-monetary uses, as gold does, but this is not a requirement for its acceptance. This brings me to bitcoin. Crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have no non-monetary use. That...

    18
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    Gavekal Research

    Positioning For US Tax Reform

    What’s not to like about tax cuts? Quite a lot as it turns out. Although the final shape of US tax reform has yet to be settled, there are enough common points between the House and Senate bills to allow Will and KX to conclude that the likely tax cuts will prove inflationary, and could prompt a more aggressive stance from the Fed. Despite some undoubtedly positive macro outcomes, the implications for investors are not exactly bullish.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Investment Environment

    House Republicans put forward their tax reform bill and Jerome Powell was put up to replace Janet Yellen at the Federal Reserve. On the face of it, this all seems like good news for markets. US firms may soon get a permanent tax cut on domestic earnings and mostly keep Uncle Sam away from their foreign earnings, while the prospect of a Taylor-rule adjustment to interest rates has been dodged as Powell seems set to maintain a path of gradual...

    4
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    Strategy Monthly: How Much Longer For Low Rates?

    For decades fixed income and equity markets have enjoyed a secular bull market, propelled higher by low real long term interest rates, depressed by a glut of global savings. In this Strategy Monthly, Will Denyer updates his Capital Provider Ratio, a powerful demographic tool which indicates that the growth of global excess savings has peaked, and that the glut will soon begin to dry up, with far-reaching consequences for global asset markets.

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    Video: Demographics And The Savings Glut

    Slow-moving demographic trends have a big impact on asset prices. For the last 35 years, the age structure of the world’s population has created a global savings glut which has propelled secular bull markets in both equities and bonds. Now that demographic tailwind is fading. In a few years it is likely to reverse.

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    The Savings Glut’s Long Life And Slow Death

    Slow-moving demographic trends have a big impact on asset prices. For the last 35 years, the age structure of the world’s population has created a global savings glut which has propelled secular bull markets in both equities and bonds. Now that demographic tailwind is fading. In a few years it is likely to reverse. In this paper Will introduces a new measure, the Capital Providers Ratio, which relates the impending demographic shifts to the...

    22
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    Gavekal Research

    No Closer To Effective Tax Reform

    The much-anticipated US tax reform plan from “the big six” (officials from the administration, House and Senate) has landed. What a disappointment it is. The ball has barely been pushed forward at all. It thus seems unlikely the US will get major tax reform. And if it does, it is likely to be much less effective than the plans previously proposed by the House Republicans.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    QT And The Treasury Quandary

    The Federal Reserve has confirmed that quantitative tightening will begin next month as it gradually lowers its holding of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. For investors, the question is whether they should “fight the Fed” by owning assets that are now out of favor with the central bank. I would argue that such a formulation is wrong and these are good times to be mitigating risk by picking up treasuries, probably of shorter duration.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    What Next From Washington?

    Despite all the bickering in Washington, kicking cans is still a bipartisan sport. Yesterday, President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats in a deal to temporarily raise the debt limit and fund the government for three more months. Republican leaders wanted to kick the can further down the road, but will accept the president’s lead. With the issue temporarily parked, Trump jumped on Air Force One and in North Dakota today he is expected to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good News At The NIPA Coal Face

    The so-called NIPA data (national income and product accounts) offers a cleansed account of US profitability as the effects of inflation and currency moves are stripped out. Thus, while nominal profits reported by S&P 500 companies have rebounded since early 2016, no such signal has emerged from the NIPA numbers—until now. This matters as in late-cycle situations it is common for my preferred inflation-adjusted version of NIPA profits to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It Is Not Slack Weighing On Wages

    How can a labor market be very tight, yet have barely any wage growth? In today’s daily Nick tackled this for the UK and found a mix of universal and idiosyncratic causes. For the US and Japan a frequent refrain is that official data hugely understates the potential size of the workforce and so a ready source of “slack”. Will and Udith beg to differ.

    4
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    Can The US Property Engine Fire Up?

    Two years ago banks started to make it harder for US construction firms to borrow and soon after activity began to fizzle. While blame has been pinned on skilled worker shortages and rising costs of both land and materials, KX and Will think financing was the key issue. The good news is that banks seem to be again loosening their purse strings.

    2
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    Liquidity: More Bad News Than Good

    Gavekal has long maintained that bull markets rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. Now with the Fed set to tighten further in an environment of weak bank credit growth, KX and Will warn that the liquidity pillar which has done so much to support the current bull market in US equities is looking increasingly shaky. That is especially ominous, given that valuations are no longer cheap and catch-up growth is played out for this...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Payrolls Paradox: Tight Labor But Weak Wage Growth

    As usual the market focused closely on the headline number in last Friday’s employment report, which saw non-farm payrolls come in at a stronger than expected 220,000 in June. As usual, we caution against reading too much into any one month’s figures, for the reasons Anatole has explained so elegantly (see Beyond The March Payrolls Soft Patch). Instead we prefer to take a step back and to attempt to answer the two big questions currently hanging...

    5
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    What Could Turn Around The US Business Cycle? Hint: Not Much

    As often happens, US data is sending mixed messages. Yesterday’s ADP report showed weak job growth in June, despite the latest ISM service sector PMI being decidedly perky. Investing according to the latest high-frequency growth data is a good way to get whiplash. Instead, let’s take a step back and review the US economy’s overall positioning.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Getting Paid To Take Credit Risk

    When things cannot get any better, they rarely do. Credit spreads for both high-yield and investment-grade corporate bonds are back near lows last seen just before the onset of previous financial busts. Will the calm soon give way to another perfect storm? Worryingly, corporate fundamentals are already deteriorating.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed's Balance Sheet Contraction

    As universally expected, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by another 25bp yesterday. It also published details about its plan to start shrinking its balance sheet before the end of this year. While this too was widely expected, there remain plenty of questions about how the markets will respond. With no precedents for the Fed’s impending move to contract its bloated balance sheet, no one can be entirely confident how the market will...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Policy & Productivity: How To Make America Great Again

    A critical and much-debated question about the US economy is whether it is permanently stuck in a “new normal” of 2-2.5% annual growth—about a point below the 3.2% average growth rate in 1970-2000—or if it can regain its previous luster. Will assesses arguments from both the upbeat techno-optimists and the grizzled growth skeptics and updates his own view based on US policymaking in the age of Trump.

    5
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    Still No Real Recovery In US Profits

    After a very strong corporate earnings season, Friday delivered the first estimate of profits as tallied by the US national income and product accounts, or NIPA. Unfortunately, the NIPA data pours cold water over the notion that the US is seeing a real, widespread recovery in profitability. The nonfinancial corporate sector of the US economy (not exactly a niche segment) is experiencing nothing of the sort. Instead, real profitability continues...

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