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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (June 17): Bond Market Shakeout

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that the lack of market-making capacity in the financial sector means that the next big market move could be highly disorderly. United States: 10-year Treasuries look overvalued on a fundamental basis, but don’t expect an immediate correction says Tan Kai Xian. Europe: German bond yields have had a roller coaster ride of late so François Chauchat checks in to reassess their valuation anchors. China: From a standing...

    0
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    5C Overview: Efficiency, Capital And Bond Market Spreads

    In the “good old days” much of the capital deployed in financial markets was devoted to making markets work better. Until the mid-1980s investment banks were often partnerships whose capital was directly owned by the partners. On occasions when a disorderly market emerged that capital was “put to work”, sometimes for just a few minutes—profitability was very high. Such capital was often “owned” by a family such as the Rothschilds, Barings or...

    0
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    5C Europe: A Quick Tour Of Bund Valuation Anchors

    With 10-year Bund yields collapsing to almost 0% and then surging to 1% in a few months, the German bond market seems to have lost its valuation anchor. The launch of a massive quantitative easing operation by the European Central Bank, and then the violent unwinding of positions by investors who had front-run this program explains most of these erratic moves. But, after the storm, are German bonds cheap or expensive? We make a quick tour of the...

    0
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    From Farce To Irrelevance

    The good news is that a Greek default, which has become more likely after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ provocative rejection of what he described as the “absurd” bailout offer by Greece’s creditors, no longer poses a serious threat to the rest of Europe. The bad news is that Tsipras does not seem to understand this. To judge by Tsipras’ belligerence, he firmly believes that Europe needs Greece as desperately as Greece needs Europe. This is the...

    3
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    Oil At Its Ceiling, Not Floor

    With oil prices rebounding strongly this week, despite the non-event of last Friday’s meeting of the Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries, it seems appropriate to re-examine the case for cheaper oil that we have been presenting since late last year. Specifically, our view in December that US$50/bbl was more likely to be a ceiling than a floor for the Brent oil price in the long term has been contradicted by market actions of recent...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Protect And Survive

    Bond yields keep rising, emerging markets are softening and key cyclical stocks have taken a bath. The more I look at the global situation the more I am convinced that both economies and markets are reaching a point of transition. And as that old sage Yogi Berra said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Other Reason To Avoid Turkey

    Investors had long priced in the risk that the ruling AK Party of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could win a two-thirds majority in last Sunday’s parliamentary election, a result that would have allowed the president to reinforce his constitutional powers at the expense of parliament. What they failed to price in was the risk that the AKP could fail even to win a simple majority. In the event, that is exactly what happened, leaving Turkey facing...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Throes Of The Bond Bubble

    What should we conclude from the jump in bond yields that has transfixed investors in every market around the world since late April, when a disappointing German auction started the sudden rout? The simplest answer, and probably the best one, is “not much”. Like the US taper tantrum of May 2013 and the brief bump in Japanese bond yields a few months earlier, when the Bank of Japan got serious about quantitative easing, the present market...

    1
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    The Eurozone Recovery Hardens

    On the one hand there is increasing optimism about the eurozone’s cyclical recovery and diminished concerns over sovereign risk linked to the Greek crisis. On the other hand, there are rising concerns about a stuttering US economic recovery, as shown by yesterday’s release of weak factory orders for April. Markets are playing catch-up to the shifting economic sands and risk calculus. Bund yields yesterday jumped 17bps to 0.71%—narrowing the...

    1
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    Five Corners (3 June): Shifting Capital Flows

    Overview: Louis Gave traces China’s rejection of planned economy shibboleths over the last 30 years and contends that Beijing is charging full tilt toward the final frontier: the liberalization of capital itself. United States: With the strength of the US dollar favoring imports over US-made goods, the US current account balance is set to deteriorate. This, argues Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian, will mean a bigger supply of US dollar liquidity in...

    0
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    A British-Style Recovery For France?

    France looks to have emerged from three years of stagnation after growing at a better than expected 0.6% QoQ in 1Q15. The improved mood can be seen in consumer confidence being up near a five year high. Given that the euro slid more than 20% against the dollar in the last year while Brent crude fell 40%, this should not really come as a huge surprise. Rather, the question is if these better numbers mean the French economy is about to stop...

    0
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    Greeks Inch Toward Surrender

    The Greek situation rumbles on without resolution after a weekend that saw more posturing, but no deal between Athens and the Brussels group. The message from European Union leaders is that Greece must bow, and while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras remains defiant, it was noteworthy that his interior minister indicated a willingness to cede ground on Syriza’s anti-austerity program. As this messy endgame plays out, the question facing jaded...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (June 2015)

    This month saw a clear deterioration of our growth indicators. The pattern of the last few years with a weaker than expected first half of the year appears to be holding up. The question is whether 2015 will see the habitual pick-up in the second half of the year? On the inflation front, things remain quiet. US breakeven inflation rates, which looked as if they may have been breaking upwards last month, are now heading south again. Given the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: The Euro Financial Spinning Top

    Read any “International Economics 101” text book and European economies are often still described as being less reliant on the financial sphere than their “Anglo-Saxon” counterparts. Such a view is in serious need of an update as capital flows have been at the heart of the eurozone system. Absent a fiscal union, and given still fairly low labor mobility, “financial velocity” has been essential to the sustenance of the single currency area. When...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Animal Spirits And The Revival Of European Finance

    Despite escalating worries over Grexit and a soft patch in US growth, the first quarter of 2015 saw a pleasing stabilization in the eurozone, driven by improved consumption (see More Air In The Reflation Balloon). The question is whether such green shoots can weather a more than 35% rebound in Brent crude since January, and a 4% rise in the euro since mid-March. The case for Europe being able to resist such headwinds relies in large part on a...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Return Of European Political Risk

    A surprising facet of the post-2010 euro crisis period has been the degree to which the political center in the European Union has held. Despite record unemployment in the struggling South, extremist movements have mostly been contained to the fringes. So it is ironic that just as the long anticipated cyclical recovery arrives, the political tide looks to be turning the other way. Voters in this weekend’s Spanish regional elections gave the...

    1
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    Why Germany Is Not Turning Japanese

    Germany has economic problems that most countries would die for—low unemployment and steadily rising real wages mean that policymakers must respond to bottlenecks such as labor shortages (see Germany Normalizes). The longer-term worry is that these “gaps” will become permanent as high-growth Germany must also grapple with Japanese-style demographics. The fear is that its post-2010 expansion could be a swan song before the structural growth...

    0
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    Five Corners (20 May): Assessing Oil's Comeback

    Overview: In light of the rebound in oil prices Anatole Kaletsky questions his own view that the oil market is becoming driven by “marginal cost producers”, rather than classic monopoly dynamics.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Untimely Demise Of US Productivity

    Let’s start with a statement of fact: since 2002 the growth of US productivity, measured as non-farm output per hour worked, has collapsed. Outside of recession periods, this is the first time since the 1950s that the four-year moving average of the annual rate of change in productivity has fallen so low. This matters because without a rise in productivity, the US economy will struggle to boost its citizens’ standard of living, whether measured...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dissonance In Markets

    Perhaps the biggest challenge confronting investors today is the disconnect between financial markets and economic data. Indeed, despite weak readings from the growth locomotives of the global economy (China and the US), recent weeks have seen bonds selling off, commodities going on a tear, and deep cyclical equities experiencing huge rebounds. In short, while economic data is pointing towards a mediocre global growth outlook, markets are...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Regime Change In The Oil Market Only Just Starting

    Since late last year, when the battle for oil market share broke out between OPEC and the US frackers, we have argued that this is not just a contest between rival groups of producers, but between distinct pricing regimes, based on very different economic principles (see Will US$50 Be Oil’s Floor, Or Its Ceiling? and The Macro Dividend From Oil).

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: Russia’s Diminished Pricing Power

    Is Russia a player to be reckoned with in the oil pricing game? Last year Russia accounted for 11.7% of global oil production, ranking below the US (12.6%) but above Saudi Arabia (10%). In theory this elevated position should lend Russia formidable pricing power. In practice, however, Russia lacks the flexibility to make the most of its market share, a failing it is unlikely to overcome in the next couple of years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Ruble Reconfigured

    Yesterday the Central Bank of Russia announced it had embarked on a program of foreign exchange purchases that will see it buy between US$100mn and US$200mn a day. It explained its move by saying the purchases are intended to replenish Russia’s foreign exchange reserves, depleted by last year’s currency market interventions. In effect, however, the central bank is serving the market with notice that it does not want the ruble to strengthen any...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Air In The Reflation Balloon

    If investors were wondering what triggered the recent spike in eurozone bond yields, perhaps an answer emerged in yesterday’s 1Q15 GDP report. A month ago the yield on bunds out to 9-year maturities were negative and the 10-year touched 0.05%, implying a lost decade of growth—today the curve is positive beyond the 4-year. The argument of our Paris-based team has been that the eurozone is at the start of a cyclical pickup aided by low oil prices...

    0
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    New York Seminar May 2015 - Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will

    We held our US spring seminar in New York on May 11, with Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will offering their views on the most important developments in the global economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    When Bond Markets Become Silly

    Investors are understandably spooked by recent bond market ructions given a backdrop of weakening growth in major economies, and continued accommodative central bank policy. Francois argued yesterday that this “tantrum” was partly technical, but also the result of markets looking through to higher inflation expectations due to an apparently better economic outlook (see Tantrum II And European Portfolios). I agree with him that markets are being...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Liberties Of England, And What They Mean For Europe

    When the Conservative-led government of the last parliament started to show that it was serious about deficit-reduction and lessening the role of the state in the British economy, I turned very bullish on UK financial assets (see A Supply-Sider’s View Of The UK for a detailed exposition of this view). Perhaps unsurprisingly over the last five years the UK mid-cap index has outperformed the German and French equivalents. I admit to having had a...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Tantrum II And European Portfolios

    The curious thing about the bond market tantrum of the last two weeks is that it happened despite big economies such as the US and China reporting weak growth. Moreover, the average bond yield across the G7 has bolted 50bp higher despite none of the G7 central banks announcing a meaningful shift in their monetary policy settings. To my mind, these violent market moves have three immediate drivers with a bigger secular factor lurking in the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The UK Drama Has Only Just Started

    Although the Tory victory came as a huge surprise, it changes very little about the UK's economic or financial prospects. In that sense the absence of any big reaction in the financial markets is understandable. The pound and the stock market would have fallen steeply in the event of a “hung parliament”—and, certainly, that is the outcome I expected (see The UK Cliffhanger). But now that the prospect of domestic political instability has...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    More Tantrum Than Crash

    Nothing lasts forever, not even bond market bubbles operating under the tutelage of ultra-dovish central banks. Despite the promise of limitless financial repression in the eurozone and Japan, bond-buyers look to be going on strike. Long-dated US yields have crept higher over the last month, while yesterday’s market action saw investors throw in the towel on the eurozone’s peripheral bond markets. We even got the odd sight of the Australian...

    1
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    Five Corners (6 May): The Weakness In Wages

    Overview: Charles Gave wonders why in spite of policymakers having the best of intentions, their efforts have caused declining productivity, lower median incomes and fewer quality jobs. United States: The labor market is no longer a clear indicator of the US economic cycle, says Will Denyer, who looks for new insights into what variables may guide the Fed in its policymaking. Europe: Although jobless numbers have fallen across much of the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The UK Cliffhanger

    Conventional assumptions about British elections say that the incumbent party of government generally enjoys a swing of one or two percentage points in the final period of campaigning. Like most electorates, once all the shouting is done, British voters typically focus on livelihood issues and tend toward “the devil they know”. In recent days the Conservative Party has seen the opinion polls move slightly in their favor, but nothing so...

    1
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    Growth & Markets Monthly (May 2015)

    While our growth readings ticked higher last month, the big shift came with a sharp rise in our risk appetite indicators. We also note an easing of deflationary pressure with the US breakeven inflation level registering a nine-month high. On the liquidity side, the European Central Bank has cranked up its expansionary efforts and its balance sheet is rising at 16% YoY. Taken together, these moves have benefited equity markets (notwithstanding...

    0
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    5C Overview: The Real Message From Labor

    So how are we to understand the less than thrilling message emanating from the labor markets of the main economies. Is this evidence of some unescapable “secular stagnation”, or is something else going on?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: Still Waiting For Pay Day

    Although it started from an extremely low base, the recovery of the eurozone’s job market since 2013 has been significant, with employment rising by almost 1% YoY in 4Q2014—the highest growth rate since 2008. Recent business surveys indicate that this trend has continued and even accelerated into 2015.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beware Of Crowds, And False Prices

    The world’s largest economy is on the cusp of a deflationary depression—at least according to yesterday’s US GDP report. Real growth was up a mere 0.2% annualized in the first quarter, while nominal growth was even lower, at just 0.1%, due to a -0.1% drop in prices. Yet the markets largely looked past this “shocking” report. There were some notable moves yesterday, but not because the market was pricing in economic disaster—far from it.

    6
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    Whither US Manufacturing

    US economic data has started to surprise on the downside, and much of this can be attributed to the manufacturing sector. This is worrying since the sector often leads the general economy. Hence, the $64,000 question is whether we should be bracing for an unscripted recession? Our answer is no, but investors should underweight the US manufacturing sector. In the near term, price adjustments, largely stemming from the energy and commodity price...

    3
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    Starving The Greeks Out

    After Friday’s near-total breakdown in the negotiations between Greece and the eurozone, it is clear that both sides need a Plan B. In the case of Greece the alternative to a negotiated solution has always been clear. It is to default on its debts to other European governments, thereby presenting those nations with a stark alternative: either expel Greece from the euro and risk contagion to Portugal, Spain and Italy, or offer Greece the money it...

    12
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    The Rebirth Of CEE Banking - Cedric Gemehl & Nick Andrews

    Who will benefit most from Europe’s extraordinary monetary easing? Will it be struggling giants such as Italy and France, or those lapping up liquidity on the fringes? Our contention is that Central and Eastern Europe is at the early stage of a “deflationary boom” while financial institutions have sufficiently recovered to transmit the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program into credit expansion.

    0
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    A Tactical Shift On Greece

    As angry rhetoric between Athens and eurozone finance ministers escalated last week, the drumroll towards Grexit appeared to be reaching a crescendo. But having raided the coffers of state enterprises this week, the Greek government can now pay its bills until June. No less significant was the move by the European Central Bank to prop up Greek banks in the face of deposit flight by upping its Emergency Liquidity Assistance limit by €1.5bn to €...

    3
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    Five Corners (22 April): Global Trade

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that an era of globalization and expanding world trade is coming to an end. On balance, he says this is no bad thing. United States: The negative impact of the strong dollar on US exporters will become clear once disruption from the early year port strikes on the US West Coast clear up according to Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian. Europe: Europe’s huge trade surplus is purely a German issue. François-Xavier Chauchat...

    0
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    A Post-Volatility World

    These are words that I utter with the utmost caution—this time, it really is different. I refer not to central bankers’ scurrilous efforts at monetary debasement, nor the spineless diplomacy of European political leaders, or even the cult of celebrity in the age of social media. In some guise, we have seen all of this before. No, dear reader, for something genuinely new to the modern experience, consider the right hand side of the chart below...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: The Euroglut Is All About Germany

    By depressing imports, the deflationary bust of 2011-2013 in the non-German areas of euro-land clearly contributed to the emergence of the eurozone’s monster €200bn trade surplus. But from a longer term perspective, there is no doubt that the “euroglut” has been and remains an overwhelmingly German story. Ex-Germany, the trade balance of the eurozone has only managed to recover to its pre-boom level of the early 2000s. In contrast, Germany’s...

    0
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    5C Overview: Why The Coming Collapse Of World Trade Should Be Celebrated

    Sustained economic growth has always gone hand-in-hand with a big rise in communications infrastructure. To explain why, assume that a country has two cities, named A and B. At the point that a modern communication infrastructure is built (road, trains, internet) then, in each case, a single line of communication is needed. Three cities implies the need for three lines; a fourth city means six lines. Ultimately, if all the cities are to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Small Is Beautiful

    At the end of the 1980s the world changed, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of China’s renaissance. The next two and a half decades were marked by a mass movement towards globalization. We now have a long enough history to determine who were the winners over those 25 years. The answer is very simple: small countries.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Of Central Bankers, Monkeys And John Law

    A revealing experiment involved monkeys being placed in a cage with a pile of nuts stashed on an upper level. Their efforts to snaffle the food caused them to be doused in water, blasted with a siren and startled by an electric shock. After a number of attempts the monkeys gave up. Later, a second group of monkeys were introduced—the new entrants made a beeline for the goodies, but were quickly beaten back by the chastened first group of monkeys...

    9
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    The Danger Of Grexit Complacence

    Grexit is growing more likely by the day. Yesterday Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, said in New York that financial markets had “priced in” all possible outcomes of Greece’s debt woes, arguing there is no risk of contagion to other eurozone members. At the same time, Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis is in Washington, where according to reports he is scheduled to meet Lee Buchheit, a senior lawyer who specializes in...

    0
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    Instability Lies Ahead For The UK

    What country faces the highest degree of political risk in Western Europe? And whose financial markets should therefore carry Europe’s biggest political discount? Six months ago, when we first argued that Britain was in danger of losing its safe haven status, both in the political sense and as a tax haven for international capital, this was still a matter of speculation. Now, with the May 7 election only three weeks away, our warnings about the...

    1
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    A Turning Point For Eurozone Bank Lending

    Is it too early to celebrate the green shoots of a eurozone recovery? Most recent data has been positive with retail sales expanding at the fastest rate since the early 2000s, PMIs signaling a broadening of growth to the struggling periphery and unemployment in most economies continuing to decline. Green shoots can easily wither in response to shocks or bad policy choices, but there is one good reason to think this recovery may have legs: bank...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Eurozone's Sustainable Recovery

    Eurozone retail sales registered their first month-on-month fall in five months in February, prompting fears that Europe’s consumer-driven revival may be faltering. Since last May the price of oil has fallen -32% in euro terms, lifting real wages by 2% and boosting consumer purchasing power across the eurozone. Over the last three months, however, oil has rebounded 22% from its January low, eroding some of the European consumer’s purchasing...

    0
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    Five Corners (8 April): The Outlook For Bank Earnings

    Overview: With banks’ earnings squeezed on one side by flat yield curves, and on the other by tech companies encroaching on their traditional consumer-facing business lines, Louis wonders where the banking sector will generate future earnings growth United States: Doing More With A Flatter Yield Curve: Now consumers have deleveraged, and with strengthening demand set to drive a pick-up in corporate investment, Will argues that earnings growth...

    0
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    Three Brothers In Arms: Wicksell, Schumpeter And Fisher

    I am often asked which of the great economists best understood the link between the economy and financial markets. Passing judgment on such giants may be presumptuous, but practical men and women of finance may want to consider being slaves to the following propagators of ideas:

    11
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    One Belt, One Road, One Grand Strategy

    In what can only be described as a triumph for Chinese financial diplomacy, some 48 countries had defied US disapproval to sign up for Beijing’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by yesterday’s deadline. The applicants included not only Europe’s big four economies, but staunch US allies such as Saudi Arabia, geopolitical rivals like India, and even Taiwan, which China does not recognize as a separate country.

    2
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    The Darkest Hour Before Euro Dawn

    Two weeks ago we suggested that the euro’s decline against the US dollar—probably the clearest consensus trade of 2015—could soon be over. As luck would have it, we published this article on the very day the euro rebounded from a 12-year low against the US dollar of US$1.05 (see Beware The Euro Consensus). Dumb luck of this kind is certainly not evidence of wisdom or special insight. But now that the modest bounce following the euro’s March 13...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: Primed For Earnings Growth At Last

    As the great Edward A. Murphy of the eponymous law would have predicted, almost everything that could go wrong for eurozone banks has gone wrong. Not only were they rocked to their foundations by a financial crisis that left most of them on the verge of bankruptcy, but in the aftermath they found themselves violently attacked by politicians of all stripes, and forced to endure huge tax hikes, swingeing fines—including from the US authorities—...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Exogenous vs Endogenous Shocks

    Markets can be hit either by endogenous shocks (they collapse suddenly because of the build-up of internal excesses—think the 2000 tech bubble, the 2008 US mortgage crisis, or the 2011-12 eurozone crisis) or by exogenous shocks (9/11 in the US, or the price of oil shooting up from US$100/bbl to US$150/bbl in 2008 following the Sichuan earthquake and preceding the Beijing Olympics). This raises the question how investors should view...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Road To Eurozone Rebalancing

    At a record 7.8% of gross domestic product, Germany is running the largest current account surplus in the world. To put that into perspective, in absolute terms Germany’s surplus over the last 12 months amounts to €218bn. In contrast, China’s current account surplus last year was a relatively modest €161bn. With the European Central Bank’s printing presses operating at full steam and depressing the euro’s exchange rate, Germany’s current account...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Divergence In Market Action

    After yesterday’s trading action, the S&P 500 is now broadly flat for the year so far, and stands at the same level as on November 21. Interestingly, over the past 26 days since February 17, the US index has not managed to string together two consecutive days of gains. In other words, US equities are now adding more volatility and less returns to portfolios. That’s hardly the combination that most investors are looking for. In contrast, the...

    3
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    Five Corners (25 March): Where To Find Value

    Overview: Louis deconstructs the cycle across different regions to work out what investment strategies should work best, and where. North America: David Hay argues that the Canadian dollar may be nearing its trough, and if so, that Canadian REITs offer compelling value. Europe: Turkish assets have suffered recently. But with cheaper oil and a recovery in European demand emerging, Cedric makes the case for an impending rebound. China: With yields...

    0
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    The Panicked Reach For Yield

    Traveling around Europe in recent weeks, we have been struck by how challenging most investors are finding the unprecedented situation created by the launch of the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program in the context of negative bond yields in the core eurozone countries. These difficulties stem mainly from the contradiction between investors’ urgent need to reach for yield and the reluctance of local regulators and risk managers...

    0
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    5C Europe: Fringe Benefits

    After a stellar performance in 2014, Turkish assets have recorded sizable losses since the middle of January. With a current account deficit running at 5.2% of GDP financed largely by volatile short term capital flows, Turkey has suffered along with other vulnerable emerging markets from a stronger US dollar and rising expectations that the US Federal Reserve will hike interest rates in June. The sell-off has been exacerbated by disappointing...

    0
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    5C Overview: Three Regions, Three Strategies

    Fundamentally, there are three ways to make money in financial markets: Momentum trades: ideally buying high and selling higher. Return to the mean trades: ideally buying low and selling higher. Carry trades: borrowing short to lend long.

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    All 21st Century Roads Lead To...

    With trillions of US dollars’ worth of transactions every day, the G7 foreign exchange markets are supposed to be the most liquid, least prone to manipulation, markets out there. Even so, the five day rate of change of the EUR-US$ exchange rate has lately fluctuated in the +5% to -3% range usually only seen at times of deep market crisis. As a result, most investors, or companies looking at their budgets and sales projections for the second...

    0
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    Trying To Measure The US Dollar Short Position

    It seems to be conventional wisdom that the long-dollar trade has become worryingly “crowded”. That was certainly the message after last week’s none too startling language tweak by the Federal Reserve produced a frantic dash out of the unit. But as ever, there is what you see, and what you don’t. In this case, what is obscured may be of far greater significance than what is visible in plain sight. Here is why:

    7
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    Much Ado About Sterling

    The budget delivered this week by George Osborne will not be enough to win the UK’s May 7 general election for the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Conservative Party. Instead all signs point to a hung parliament, with no one party holding enough seats to command a majority. Heightened political uncertainty in the run-up to the poll—and quite possibly in its immediate aftermath, given the horse-trading needed to form what is likely to prove an...

    0
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    London Seminar March 2015 - Anatole, François, Andrew & Charles

    We held our main spring seminar in London on March 17 with Anatole, François, Andrew and Charles offering their views of the global economic pulse and recent market and central bank developments.

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    Asia Is Not So Scary

    One reason we have received push-back on our call to overweight Asian equities has been the risks associated with a major US dollar spike. Asia has not racked up foreign currency debt at the rate seen in recent years since just before the region’s financial crisis in 1997. Still, we would argue that there are sufficient differences this time around to think that Asia can generate strong performance on lower volatility over the coming year.

    1
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    Who Gains When The Fed Hikes?

    The Fed has lost patience in words only, not in deeds. In its statement yesterday the Federal Open Market Committee dropped its linguistic backstop—the word “patient”—indicating that the first rate rise since 2006 could come as early as June (remember, Fed chair Janet Yellen defined “patience” as meaning there would be no rate hike for at least two meetings after the word’s use). But the underlying message the market took away yesterday is that...

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    Beware The Euro Consensus

    The US dollar is hitting new 12-year highs almost daily and the euro seems to be plunging inexorably to below parity. Recent events in the foreign exchange markets seem to have a fairly obvious explanation which most economists and policymakers accept and endorse. President Hollande, for one, has embraced the plunging euro: “It makes things nice and clear: one euro equals a dollar,” he told an audience of industrialists last week. But it is...

    1
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    The Euro’s Collapse And Consequences

    For years, euro-sceptics have argued that either the euro would have to be a structurally weak currency, or the likes of Italy, Portugal and even France would be unable to survive inside the financial strait-jacket. Clearly, the markets have now embraced this conclusion: notwithstanding yesterday’s counter-trend move, the euro has dropped -5.2% against the dollar this month with a YTD decline of -12.3%. Over the past 12 months the euro has shed...

    9
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    Catching The Krona

    A few months back Sweden looked to be sliding into a crippling deflation. This fear has receded with February inflation data swinging positive for the first time in seven months, following a higher-than-expected reading in January. As a result, yields on 10-year government bonds have risen from a record low 0.48% to 0.68%. Most important for the Swedish currency, the interbank rate has swung positive even though the central bank last month...

    2
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    Five Corners (11 March): Currency Wars

    Overview: Charles Gave wonders whether Japan might surprise by affecting an appreciation of the yen. United States: With the US dollar rampant, Will Denyer runs the numbers against the euro and yen and finds decisively in favor of the yen. Europe: Francois Chauchat argues that as a major trading currency, the euro was never going to be driven just by trade flows. However in the final analysis the strong external position of euroland will make...

    0
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    5C United States: A Crowded Trade, With Good Reason

    The dollar has had quite a run—with the DXY up 22% since July. This crowded trade is obviously vulnerable to pullbacks. But volatility aside, is there potential for the dollar to rally further in the medium term? The short answer is yes, especially against the euro. But if you want to be contrarian, we suggest going long yen. These calls are based on three factors: (i) relative monetary policy trajectories, (ii) the likely direction of fund...

    0
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    5C Europe: The Paradox Of The Euro

    It is an interesting paradox that the sharp decline of the euro since last summer occurred in the context of a “euroglut”—that is the eurozone’s current account surplus which reached €235bn in 2014. Over the last two years many analysts have argued that the euro could not fall meaningfully due to this huge savings surplus. An obvious comparison has been drawn with Japan’s experience in the 1990s and 2000s.

    1
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    In The ECB We Trust (Well, For Now)

    Ever since the European Central Bank announced its €60bn-a-month QE program in January the market has craved answers to some elementary questions. Specifically:

    1
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    Growth & Markets Monthly (March 2015)

    Our latest monthly report shows that the modest recovery in growth indicators, which started last month, has continued. Since central banks are engaged in aggressive easing action on a number of fronts, it would be surprising if this improvement does not continue. In addition, our velocity indicator has rallied and hovers at a six month high, which mirrors the low level of the VIX index. Such readings point to a “risk-on” environment, but we...

    0
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    Germany Normalizes

    Germany gets a bad rap for obsessively chasing export competitiveness to the detriment of its embattled eurozone partners. The relentless pursuit of current account surpluses—now at a record 7.5% of GDP—has caused domestic demand to lag and denied neighbors a source of demand, the opposite of what was intended with the eurozone construction. But this looks to be changing as German real wages grow at the fastest pace in more than 20 years. As...

    2
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    Not The Usual QE

    Now that the Greek drama is temporarily resolved, markets will start to focus on the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program, scheduled to kick off next month. In the lead up to the ECB’s ‘shock and awe’ announcement most economists became weary on the likely economic efficacy of the program. We would agree that QE is not the ideal tool to quickly revive growth in the eurozone; economic activity would have gotten a stronger boost...

    5
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    Five Corners (25 February): Global Property Wrap

    Overview: Property gets a bad rap from macro-economists as an “unproductive” asset. This mistakes its true value in modern economies, argues Anatole Kaletsky. United States: Despite recent soft housing data, the US housing market is ready to rip, say Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian. Europe: Francois Chauchat argues that Europe’s housing market may have entered a gently rising cycle for the first time since 2007. China: Property sales have picked...

    1
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    Nice Economy, Shame About The Politics

    While sterling is setting new post-2007 highs almost daily against the euro and on its trade-weighted index, economic optimism seems to outweigh political nervousness as Britain heads towards its most unpredictable election in living memory on May 7. But is Britain’s economic outlook really good enough to compensate for the political mess that almost everyone now expects?

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    5C Overview: The Importance Of Property

    Property, both residential and commercial, is the world’s oldest investment and, in the long run, the most reliable and profitable store of economic value. Like the world’s oldest profession, however, it operates in the financial shadows. Property lacks the transparency of mainstream asset classes such as equities, bonds and currencies, with no completely objective price benchmarks to measure returns reliably even in sophisticated markets such...

    3
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    5C Europe: The Green Shoots Of Recovery

    Until recently, the post-2008 trajectory of property prices in the eurozone could be summarized as (i) recovery in Germany, (ii) bust in previously hot markets such as Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy, and (iii) stability in most other countries, notably France and Belgium.

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    A Cosmetic Victory For The Reformers

    On the face of things, it looks as if last week brought two major victories for Europe’s structural reformers. On Friday Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis was forced to blink first and accept an extension of his country’s existing bailout package under austere terms dictated largely by the German Finance Ministry. Just two days earlier the French government resorted to presidential decree to force a package of structural reforms...

    0
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    Patience Is A Virtue

    The clichéd phrase “patience is a virtue” does not, strictly speaking, refer to the sort of patience promised by the Federal Reserve in its minutes last night. When Janet Yellen speaks of “patience”, she means a wait of at least three month before she does anything—however gentle—that could conceivably impede US economic growth. But the patience described by medieval Christian scholars as one of the “Seven Heavenly Virtues” was not the opposite...

    1
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    Toward System Failure

    As I see it, our obligation to clients at Gavekal Dragonomics is not to make forecasts (they never work) but to explain events and identify likely winners and losers. Such an approach implies that we live in a world where policymakers have a semblance of rationality. My concern is that the negative interest rates policies currently being embraced in Europe fly in the face of this requirement. The implication is that foundational principles of...

    7
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    The Risks Recede in Europe

    What is the opposite of a perfect storm? Whatever the term for a sudden confluence of three unexpected blessings—or for the simultaneous removal of three mortal perils—European markets are about to enjoy it.

    2
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    Assessing 'Thatcherite-Keynesianism'

    Talk of ‘Grexit’ again grips the eurozone. At stake is the legitimacy of a model of top-down economic management which uses bailout funds in a carrot-and-stick exercise to force through structural reform. The end game for Northern policymakers is to force the adoption of new practices and structures in the name of improved competitiveness. With the toughest fiscal constraints having been eased over the last year, this seems a good time to...

    0
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    Five Corners (11 February): The Earnings Squeeze

    Overview: Charles contrasts US companies' strong accounting profits with the less impressive numbers reported in the national accounts and asks some hard questions. United States: The latest earnings season revealed a tale of two markets with multinationals and energy firms lagging while domestics surge ahead. Will and KX ask whether this can last. Europe: François argues that if eurozone GDP growth picks up to the degree that the...

    0
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    Denmark's Dilemma

    Is something rotten in the state of Denmark? Following last month’s shock de-pegging of the Swiss franc, investors have increasingly targeted the Danish krone, challenging Copenhagen’s three-decade-old fixed exchange rate policy. This has set up a battle between the market on one side and the Danish central bank on the other.

    0
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    A Modest Proposal To Save The World

    The last few years have been some of the most intellectually interesting of my career as the post financial crisis period has seen policymakers test the limits of economic theory, and push well beyond. Inspired by their example, I would like to post my small contribution to the sum of new knowledge that this era of extremes has thrown up.

    6
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    5C Europe: What A Few Decimals Of GDP Growth Could Change

    In contrast with the IMF, the European Commission recently revised upwards its forecast for GDP growth in the euro zone for the next couple of years, on the back of lower oil prices and a lower euro. The EC now expects +1.3% real growth in 2015, versus +1.2% for the IMF, and +1.9% in 2016, versus +1.4% for the IMF. These numbers imply that the sequential growth rate would rise towards almost 2% by the end of this year according to the EC, while...

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    Greeks Gaming Themselves Out

    Yanis Varoufakis, the new Greek finance minister, is a professor of economics who specializes in game theory, but when it comes to negotiating strategy he has more to learn than to teach. Varoufakis’ idea of a winning strategy is to hold a gun to his own head and then demand a ransom for not pulling the trigger. Not surprisingly, this bluff has been called, first by the German government and now by the European Central Bank. As a result the...

    11
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    Greek Risk Is Not About Debt

    European markets staged a vigorous relief rally yesterday after Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis dropped his calls for a write-off of Greece’s public debt, proposing instead a package that would include the exchange of European Financial Stability Facility loans for growth-linked bonds. Yet contrary to what the Greek and German governments pretend and to what we read in the press, Greece’s public debt is not the real issue either for...

    0
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    Sweden: The Planets Are Aligning

    Asset allocation is—or at least should be—a process. Investors try to identify the favorable and unfavorable factors driving an asset’s performance, and monitor developments to identify where they stand in the investment cycle.

    2
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    Turning Cautious on US Equities

    Given their remarkable performance over the last four years, can US equities really continue to outperform global peers? Recent developments give cause for concern as market technicals look weak and earnings announcements for bellwether stocks have come in lackluster. Earlier this week Louis asked some basic questions about US equity market leadership (see Does It Still Make Sense To Overweight US Equities?). We share his concern not because we...

    4
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    Asia’s Encouraging Currency Stability

    Three months ago to the day, the US Federal Reserve ended its outright purchases of treasuries. Three months before that, the ECB instituted negative interest rates. And whether by coincidence or causation, most commodity prices chose the past six months to unravel. The combination of these events has led to some sharp exchange rate moves. Over the past three months, commodity currencies have been taken to the woodshed: the Russian ruble is down...

    0
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    Does It Still Make Sense To Overweight US Equities?

    Investment decisions are typically driven by the costs of five factors: land, labor, capital, energy and government. One of the key theses of Too Different for Comfort, the book I wrote a couple of years ago (available for free download here), was that in the years following the Asian Crisis of the late 1990s, Asia boasted one massive comparative advantage: a much cheaper cost of labor than anyone else. So for ten years, any new factory,...

    2
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    Five Corners (28 January): In Central Banks We Trust

    Overview: When central banks led a war on inflation in the late 1970s and 80s they kept on fighting long after the enemy was beaten into submission. They are likely to take the same approach of using overwhelming force in today’s fight against deflation, says Anatole. United States: The Swiss may have given forward guidance a bad name, but the Fed should be taken at its word, argues Will Denyer. Unlike Anatole, he thinks that interest rate...

    3
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    QE: Competitive Devaluation, Or Stealth Bank Recapitalization?

    The battle for morale is half the war. So it is likely to prove in the eurozone, where the impact of quantitative easing will hinge on how investors perceive the European Central Bank’s policy. If they regard it primarily as a competitive devaluation, which would be deeply deflationary for the world economy, then it will make good sense to remain long eurozone bonds and short the euro. On the other hand, if markets decide QE amounts to a...

    9
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    The Greek Endgame

    With most votes counted it looks as if the euro system has helped give birth to the continent’s very own Hugo Chavez, with the third largest party in Greece’s parliament being neo-Nazis. Nice work! With Spain going to the polls later this year and Italy never far from its next political imbroglio, Greece offers a glimpse of what Europe’s political future could look like. The question is whether the irresistible rise of Alexis Tsipras and his...

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