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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Mortgages Take A Bite Out Of Consumption

    Despite the recovering economy, household consumption in China has slowed this year rather than accelerated. As Ernan explains in this piece, the culprit is the surge in mortgage debt, which has meant a sharp increase in the burden of mortgage payments on household budgets. While income growth is solid, less of the gains are available to spend.

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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Slow Exit From Reflation

    China’s first monthly data for the second half of 2017 showed growth momentum softening. While reflation peaked in the first half of 2017, the story is still that the exit from reflation will be very slow and gradual. Economic policy will be largely on hold in this period: tightening has peaked, but the switch to easing is still a long way away.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Government Becomes A Home Buyer

    It’s no secret that managing the housing market is a core part of China’s economic policy. But as Rosealea explains in this piece, government’s role in supporting housing sales is now even greater than most realize. The government is buying millions of unsold housing units directly from developers, and the scale of the program is only increasing.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Central Pillar For Housing Sales

    China’s housing market is proving quite resilient this year, with sales growth perking up in May. In this piece, Rosealea argues the current sales recovery is broad-based: growth is strong in both central and coastal provinces. While restrictions on speculative purchases are spreading to some smaller cities, this should have only a moderate impact.

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    Gavekal Research

    Figuring Out Where The Ball Will Be

    Rugby players fall into one of two categories: the forwards, who typically go where the ball is (and in the process put their heads in places most sane people wouldn’t put their feet), and the backs, who try to go where the ball will be, which enables them to look good and keep their kit clean, but earns them the scorn of the forwards. Peter FitzSimons, the first Aussie to play for a French club (Brive), once remarked: “Come the revolution, the...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Long Can The Construction Rebound Last?

    Chinese growth prospects look quite good in 2017, thanks to the recovery in construction, but how long can it last? In this piece, Rosealea unpacks the inventory dynamics behind the rebound. Given the strong start to 2017, it now looks like low inventories can support growth in construction not just in 2017, but also well into 2018.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Healthcare—Crisis Or Opportunity?

    China’s growing economy has brought its people longer lives, but also a new set of health problems. Though the government is trying to improve coverage, change is happening slowly. So there is a growing opportunity for private companies to fill the gap. This issue of China Economic Quarterly investigates the nation’s health problems, and solutions.

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    Gavekal Research

    On Borrowed Time In Hong Kong

    Last month, home prices in Hong Kong’s secondary market climbed to a record high, up more than 150% from the depths of the financial crisis. At the same time, Hong Kong’s stock market has been among the world’s strongest major markets so far this year, comfortably outperforming the S&P 500. The buoyancy of Hong Kong assets owes more than a little to investor enthusiasm for the global reflation trade, and to inflows of Chinese money. But more...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is It Finally Time For The Property Tax?

    After more than a decade of debate, could China finally be ready to start imposing a property tax? In this piece, Rosealea argues that political will and technical preparations point to progress toward a tax in 2017. While some fear the impact on prices, the gradual rollout of a narrowly focused tax should be mostly a non-event for markets.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lost Promise Of Urbanization

    China’s government has been ramping up its focus on urbanization and rural land issues, promoting new policies as breakthroughs that will keep driving growth for decades to come. But for all the rhetoric, the new policies are not fundamentally liberalizing. And the incentives they create could slow rather than accelerate rural-urban migration.

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    Gavekal Research

    Drawing Meaning From 2016, And A Roadmap For 2017

    Having experienced a rough 2016, the temptation for most investors is to clean the slate and start again. Unfortunately, life in financial markets does not allow for such neat endings. In one of his biggest reports in years, Louis argues that after such a complex and tumultuous year, it is essential for investors to draw a breath and derive some understanding of what just happened. Only then should they try to sketch out future scenarios.

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    Gavekal Research

    Is China Ready For A Trade Shock From Trump?

    China reported an acceleration in its economic growth on Friday, just hours before Donald Trump was sworn in as US president. But growth could take a hit if Trump makes radical changes to tax and trade policy. And while China has plenty of weapons to fight a trade war, those measures are unlikely to completely offset a sudden shock to its exports.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Our Top 12 Questions For 2017

    For our first Monthly of the year, we depart from our normal format to offer our thoughts on the dozen most important questions investors must face this year. Not surprisingly, the issues that rose to the top were the impact of the new Trump administration's policies on the dollar and US bond yields, and whether the eurozone will spend the year tearing itself apart. Also,oil prices, the risk of financial implosion in China, and where to...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Macro Questions For 2017

    For our first China research piece of the new year, we offer a guide to the economic outlook in the form of short answers to some big questions: Will China be as boring as consensus forecast imply? Will the central bank hike interest rates? Will the housing market correct sharply? Will it be a good year for Chinese equities? Will the labor market hold up?

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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of The Housing-Commodity Nexus

    Early sales data confirm that China’s property cycle took another step down in November. Yet no one seems to have told the commodity markets: even as property sales have cooled off, prices have heated up, with domestic futures for steel, copper, and coal jumping 20-40% in November. In this piece, Rosealea explains how to read these mixed signals.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Don't Blame The Property Speculators

    Is a love of speculation sapping firms’ appetite for real investment? As Chinese companies slow spending on fixed assets, they are buying more investment properties—sparking concern about a “hollowing out” of the economy. Thomas says the blame is misplaced; property speculation is an effect not a cause of firms slowing capex as the economy cools.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The New Reality Of Housing Prices

    The wild ride of Chinese housing prices is a sign of how the housing market has become more speculative and policy-driven as fundamental demand has peaked. Policies intended to help small cities have only made prices in the largest cities frothier. Rosealea thinks this policy-driven volatility in prices will continue even as the cycle turns down.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Equality Engine Is Stalling

    For all its leaders’ talk of a “new normal,” China has not weaned itself off the “old normal” of housing and investment-led growth. That model was in fact a powerful engine for reducing regional inequality, so it has much political support. The engine has now stalled—but rather than swap in a new one, the government keeps revving the old one.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Big Fish Eat The Little Fish

    China’s housing sales may have plateaued, but the largest real-estate companies still have plenty of room to grow by consolidating an enormous and fragmented market. A multiyear boom in M&A has strengthened the market position of the largest developers, who are still easily raising huge sums from capital markets that can fund future deals.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Takes A Breather; More Stress On The Way

    July was a weak month for China’s economy, as investment, industrial production and retail sales all slowed. An important exception was the property market, where sales ticked up and buyer sentiment seems strong. Nonetheless, housing activity will continue to slow over the rest of the year, if at a gentler pace than the plunge in May and June.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Housing Cycle Is Aging Rapidly

    The latest up-cycle in China’s housing sales has probably reached its peak. Major cities saw a marked step-down in sales growth in May, and absent major new stimulus national data will follow suit. Housing sales are still on pace for full-year growth of over 10%, but will slow to single digits later in 2016, and 2017 will see a deeper correction.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Despite The Bounce, Housing Has Peaked

    The rebound in China’s housing sales early this year raises the obvious question of whether we were too quick to proclaim the peak in housing demand. Housing sales in 2016 are indeed on track to surpass 2013, but this is a stimulus-driven bounce. The long-term trend still points to a 10-20% decline in annual construction volume by 2025.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Migrant Housing Solution

    In hundreds of smaller cities around China, rows of apartment blocks lie unsold. Can this inventory ever be absorbed? The government hopes migrant workers, long too poor to urban property, will be part of the solution. On a recent trip to southwest China, I did find signs that migrants are becoming a factor at the low end of the housing market.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Long Can This Keep Going On?

    Has China salvaged growth only by inflating a housing bubble? How much tolerance the government has for a surge in housing prices and mortgage debt is a crucial question for judging how long the new construction cycle can last. History suggests the price gains are now strong enough for the government to start cooling things down at the margin.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Regional Guide To The Property Recovery

    The rebound in real-estate investment is behind China’s growth stabilization, but flies in the face of still-high inventories of unsold housing. The regional pattern is very mixed: some genuine improvement, and a lot of government stimulus. Construction in 2016 will be better than expected, but the lack of destocking will drag on future growth.

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    Gavekal Research

    From Black Hole To Muddling-Through

    Over the past few months, sentiment towards China has shifted dramatically. Fears that China was a black hole at the heart of the global financial system have morphed into mild optimism, as growth indicators have stabilized. There remain plenty of longer-term problems, but muddling through rather than collapse is the likely scenario for 2016.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Turn Too Soon

    The biggest surprise in China’s latest data was the rally in property: housing sales surged and real estate investment picked up in the first two months of 2016. But this improvement is unlikely to be sustained: the turn in property has come far earlier than fundamentals warrant, and suggests the government does not have a firm grip on the market.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Embracing Housing Debt

    China’s latest wave of supportive policies for the housing market won’t generate a huge bounce, but they do show the government is happy to use easy credit to keep housing sales going. Helping the market digest the oversupply of new housing is clearly a major priority. But the consequences will be rising household leverage and frothy prices.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Finally Rolls Over

    One of the world’s great bull markets may finally be rolling over. In the 12 years to August 2015, Hong Kong’s residential property prices climbed 557%, with most of the increase occurring since the 2008 financial crisis as prices surged on the back of plentiful liquidity and ultra-low mortgage rates. Now evidence is mounting that the market has peaked. Over the last three months, secondary market prices have slipped by -5%. With the US Federal...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Housing Recovery Is Fading

    One of the few recent bright spots in China’s economy has been the recovery in housing sales. Unfortunately, a number of indicators show that recovery losing steam: gains in sales and prices will slow in coming months. This turn in the cycle reinforces our view that construction activity will be weak in 2016, and that more rate cuts will come, says Rosealea.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing & Construction Review 2015

    Our annual overview of China’s housing and construction markets summarizes the short- and long-term outlook for these crucial economic drivers. In this concise chartbook, Rosealea explains the structural challenge from stagnant demand, the new focus of housing policy, and the role of inventories in shaping the construction cycle.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    When Will Construction Rebound?

    Given the huge role that real estate plays in China’s economy, we can’t expect growth to rebound much until construction recovers. In this piece we propose scenarios for how this could happen, focusing on the inventory cycle. We conclude that construction starts will decline again in 2016, with a cyclical rebound not arriving until 2017 or 2018.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Spreading The Urban Wealth

    President Xi Jinping is promoting a plan for integrating Beijing and Tianjin with poorer Hebei province, ev even declaring it a national strategy to drive future growth. If successful, the plan will spread some of the resources in central Beijing more evenly around the region. This in turn will push up property prices in suburbs and smaller cities.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taking The Pulse Of The Construction Cycle

    China’s housing-driven industrial cycle is stuck in low gear, but has not worsened dramatically. What is getting worse are the parts of the economy that had been doing better earlier in the year: exports, consumer spending and finance. The result will be headline GDP growth that (finally) falls below 7% in the third quarter.

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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Bull Market Over? (I)

    Is the bull market in equities over? As our readers might imagine, this is a question we have been asked more than once over the past few weeks. Notwithstanding the bounce of the last two days, the simple fact that clients are wondering about the answer is troubling in itself. Their doubts are embodied by three ominous developments:

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    Gavekal Research

    The RMB, The HKD And A Flood Of Cash

    If nothing else, yesterday’s announcement that China spent US$94bn of its foreign reserves in August to prevent the renminbi from falling against the US dollar should convince the doubters that China has no intention of being a mercantilist “currency warrior”. As a result, any bearish case against the renminbi should not rest on the government’s intentions—in spending its US$94bn, the People’s Bank of China has made it clear that it will hold a...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing: From Suppression To Support

    After two rounds of relaxing housing policies, China’s authorities have almost run out of ammunition within the existing policy framework. As a result, the authorities are eyeing new tools to support demand: a greatly expanded market in mortgage-backed securities and a housing policy bank to help finance home purchases.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Inventories Still Weigh On Housing

    Many Chinese cities are still working off the overbuilding of recent years, so developers have little reason to start new housing. Until this is resolved, improving housing sales will do little to boost the economy. This excess supply will continue to weigh on construction for at least another year.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Turning Cautious On Land Reform

    The Chinese leadership’s recent enthusiasm for “modern agriculture” featuring large, mechanized farms has waned in recent months, as abuses mount and efficiency gains fail to appear. The evolution of land reform policy is thus an excellent lesson in how reformist ambitions do not always survive an encounter with China’s messy reality.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Responds To Treatment

    Although China’s economic data for April were generally mediocre, property was a bright spot. National property sales rebounded to a 7% YoY gain, after 1% decline in March, marking the first positive growth in 15 months. The latest interest rate cut is likely to further fuel the recovery, and indeed preliminary data point to continued sales gains in May. Broad-based monetary easing has proved a more effective remedy for weak housing demand than...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Is Still Too Big To Let Go

    While the share of China’s economy driven directly and indirectly by real estate and construction has declined over the past three years, it is still substantial at roughly one-third. This means that the government cannot afford to be relaxed about the housing market as fundamental demand starts a long-term decline.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Developers Fatten Up For The Long Winter

    China’s beleaguered property developers are finding their way to a new strategy. While the real-estate boom of the past decade rewarded those who could build the most the fastest, the structural slowdown in housing demand that is now underway (see Housing’s Next Decade) calls for a different approach. Consolidation not expansion is the order of the day: in 2014, developers sharply increased their spending on mergers and acquisitions, even as...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Managing The Disappointment In Housing

    China’s housing market has gotten off to a very bad start for the year, with housing sales falling 18% YoY in January and February, the worst decline since 2009. The terrible data are another reminder that we have entered a structural downward trend in housing demand, which means that sales are more likely to undershoot than to overshoot. But the negative trend also means that previous government concerns about overheating housing prices and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Property's Supply-Side Correction Continues

    Over the past few months, the long-running decline in China’s housing sales has clearly bottomed and started to improve. December’s sales decline was just 4% YoY, compared to the 16% drop in July. But while this kind of improvement in previous cycles would have translated into a similar turnaround in construction activity, that has not been forthcoming this time.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Hong Kong's Pro-Cyclical Property Roller Coaster

    Nowhere is the US Federal Reserve’s eventual decision to raise interest rates awaited with greater trepidation than in Hong Kong’s property market. The territory’s currency board link to the US dollar means that Hong Kong had no choice but to import US interest rates when the Fed cut its own benchmark short term rate to zero at the end of 2008. With safe haven funds flooding into the city’s financial system, Hong Kong banks cut their residential...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China: More Pain Than Gain

    China is in for a rough year. The economy is in its most fragile state since 1998, at the nadir of the Asian financial crisis. Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of just 6.1% in the last quarter of 2014, and most key indicators suggest that the first half of 2015 is unlikely to be much better. Industrial profits are weakening sharply, which is likely to dampen wage growth and consumption—the two bright spots over the last couple...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Pain Than Gain

    China is in for a rough year. The economy is in its most fragile state since 1998, at the nadir of the Asian financial crisis. Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of just 6.1% in the last quarter of 2014, and most key indicators suggest that the first half of 2015 is unlikely to be much better. Industrial profits are weakening sharply, which is likely to dampen wage growth and consumption—the two bright spots over the last couple...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: The Xi Jinping Scorecard

    How is Xi Jinping doing? A year after the landmark Third Plenum at which China's leader laid out his vision for reforming China, this issue of the CEQ takes a close look at the progress of the reform program. Our expert contributors assess the achievements and the shortfalls, the winners and the losers.

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