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    Gavekal Research

    A Healthy Debt-Free Diet

    The pendulum seemed to swing against private companies in China following the global financial crisis in 2008, as the massive stimulus program handed state-owned enterprises the leading role in supporting the economy. The trend of funneling funds and projects to state firms was so pronounced that it sparked a national debate over whether the private sector is being forced into a “retreat” from the center of the economic stage.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Chilled, Fracked, Or Piped?

    The new investment in aspiring US gas exporter Cheniere Energy, which plans to open its first liquefied natural gas terminal in 2015, will bring cheap US gas one step closer to ravenous Asian consumers. Cheniere’s Sabine Pass project, which has already signed contracts for the majority of its output, now looks nearly certain to succeed, after the infusion of US$468m in capital from Temasek Holdings and private equity firm RRJ Capital. Others may...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Future Of Infrastructure Investment

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Spurs For A Reluctant Horse

    All major indicators of China’s economy slowed further in April, dashing hopes that the signs of improvement in March meant an early recovery from the current downturn. The relatively weak first quarter now looks likely to be followed by a weak second quarter, though we expect more counter-cyclical policy moves to steady growth by the second half of 2012.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Very Messy Bunch Of Tea Leaves

    Chinese politics, very unexpectedly, has gotten exciting. Few of our readers will now need an introduction to the tale of ousted Communist Party leader Bo Xilai and his wife’s alleged involvement with the death of a British businessman. Bo had been considered a rising political star by many, but his attempts to build a regional power base in the inland metropolis of Chongqing were also viewed with suspicion. When one of Bo’s henchmen flirted...

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    Gavekal Research

    Will India Be The Next China?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Wages Just Keep On Rising

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    Gavekal Research

    A Visible Chinese Recovery

    The maxim of "sell in May and go away" has worked well in the past two years, and many investors are likely planning to revisit this strategy for a third year. After all, we have had soft economic data around the world, from weak exports in Asia to record unemployment in Europe, and there are quite a few uncertainties on the horizon, from fiscal cliffs in the US to Debt Traps in Europe. However, against these murky seas, we see high...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Macro Chartbook May 2012

    China may have already seen the worst of this cyclical downturn.

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    Fathom China

    Profile: Yurun Food: How Piggy Gets To Market

    In an increasingly carnivorous nation, you would expect China’s biggest private pork producer, China Yurun Food Group, to be in hog heaven. Instead, a series of food-safety and other scandals have left consumers afraid to buy Yurun’s meat and investors afraid to buy its stock. Given that Yurun’s marketing message has always emphasized that its sausages and meat cuts are safer than unbranded meat, the company’s safety problems will remain hard to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Equities: Value Does Matter!

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    Gavekal Research

    Why Has Gold Failed To Move Higher?

    We at GaveKal have never really been full-paid up members of the buried kruggerrand investment society. In fact, what we have written on gold over the years hardly covers us in glory. To put it bluntly, we have mostly missed the massive gold bull market. And not because we didn’t see the expansion in central bank balance sheets (that one has been hard to miss). Nor because we were turned off by the zeal of most gold bulls, who tend to display a...

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    Gavekal Research

    Unregulated Finance Moves Out Of The Shadows

    China’s dodgy markets for informal lending have been a source of worry for investors and, increasingly, regulators. As so-called “shadow finance” surged in 2010 and 2011 amid tight quotas on traditional bank lending, many worried that it was a new source of risk for an already-strained banking system. A crisis in the underground lending capital of Wenzhou helped spark a regulatory crackdown that sharply curbed growth in shadow finance last year...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Pink Capitalists In Bloom

    For years, China’s vibrant private sector firms have faced all sorts of discrimination: difficulty getting bank loans, high interest rates on the loans that are available, extortion by corrupt officials, outright nationalization, bans from investing in certain sectors, and rapacious competition from subsidized state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Despite all this, the private sector has steadily increased its share of economic output. But many...

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    Gavekal Research

    The GK Asian Allocation Indicator

    Asia presents the global investor with a painful paradox. The world’s fastest growing region scores well on most economic indicators and yet Asian equity market volatility continues to be deadly. Despite out-performing over the last decade, Asian markets have not decoupled from their OECD brethren. Moreover, external shocks hit Asian equities harder as shown by their lagging performance over the last 12 months due to concerns about a Euro-zone...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Public Sector Reform And Housing Prices

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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Exports' Second Wave

    As any casual visitor to the “Made in China” aisles in Walmart or Carrefour can attest, China’s prosperity has relied heavily on the export of cheap consumer goods to rich countries. But the image of China’s exporters as a phalanx of sweatshops churning out T-shirts and toys for American and European shoppers is outdated. Most of the growth in Chinese exports now comes from industrial goods—earth movers, telecoms network gear, construction...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Foxconn's Journey to the West

    For nearly a decade, we have heard predictions that higher costs on China’s eastern seaboard would push exporters to cheaper climes, whether abroad or further inland. That has not happened: China’s export heartlands along the coast are shipping more goods than ever, give or take the odd consumer hiccup in Europe. Exporters continue to value easy access to efficient ports and developed supply chains. Yet since last summer, exports from three of...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Chinese Exports' Second Wave

    As any casual visitor to the “Made in China” aisles in Walmart or Carrefour can attest, China’s prosperity has relied heavily on the export of cheap consumer goods to rich countries. But the image of China’s exporters as a phalanx of sweatshops churning out T-shirts and toys for American and European shoppers is outdated. Most of the growth in Chinese exports now comes from industrial goods—earth movers, telecoms network gear, construction...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    RMB Policy & Dim Sum Bonds

    The widening of the daily trading band for the renminbi, announced over the weekend by the People’s Bank of China, sends a strong signal of short- and medium-term policy priorities for the Chinese government. The widening of the band from ±0.5% to ±1% is yet another step showing an entrenched commitment to financial liberalization and ultimately capital account convertibility. For currency traders, it reinforces our view that the RMB is on...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - RMB Trading Band And Commodity Demand

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Soft Landing In Sight

    China’s headline GDP growth of 8.1% YoY in the first quarter of 2012, down from 8.9% in the last quarter of 2011, was lower than market forecasts, though close to our own more modest expectations. In QoQ terms, annualized real growth probably slowed to 6-7% in the first quarter from around 9% in the final two quarters of 2011. On either metric, this was China’s weakest GDP growth since the depths of the global financial crisis in late 2008-early...

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    Gavekal Research

    Developer Results Mask Risks

    Considering the negativity surrounding the Chinese property sector, listed developers have just posted a surprisingly strong set of results. Sales are up, profits are strong (both in RMB and margin terms) and balance sheets remain solid. The decent numbers partly reflect most transactions having been negotiated 1-2 years ago under far easier market conditions. However, such a benign environment is unlikely to be quickly reproduced given the...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Study In Constrasts: The BoJ & PBoC

    In early February the Bank of Japan promised a monetary expansion, while China vowed that its tightening regime was far from over. But of course, equity investors do not always get what they are promised. It now looks like the roles have been reversed.

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    Gavekal Research

    Winners And Losers In Transitional China

    Once again, China’s economy and markets are a study in contradictions. As tomorrow’s Q1 GDP report will likely show, growth is slowing from the torrid pace of recent years, but at the margin much recent economic news has been better than expected. The dramatic growth collapse long predicted by gloomsters such as Jim Chanos has failed to materialize. A friend who recently made the rounds of China forecasters found that despite their violent...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Shift In Wind Power Policy

    Prospects for renewable energy worldwide have gotten much darker over the past two years. Prices of solar cells have plunged as European demand flat-lines, while the US boom in cheap natural gas has weakened the economic rationale for wind power. China’s own boom in wind power construction has slowed considerably, as policymakers question why so much of the new capacity has yet to be actually connected to the grid and supplying power.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Cost Challenge For Industry

    China’s industrial sector had a rough start to 2012, with margins getting squeezed and total profits falling 5.2%, the first decline since 2009. This is hardly a surprise given the slowdown in domestic and external demand. But demand is slowing, not falling off a cliff, and much of the challenge that industrial companies face is due to stubbornly rising costs. While we expect revenue and profit growth to improve later this year as the economy...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Inflation, Growth Fears And Capital Flows

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Back To The Future For China's Commodity Demand

    Does history hold the key to understanding the future of China’s demand for commodities? The enormous impact that China has had on global markets for raw materials is perhaps without precedent. But while China’s size and political culture have few international parallels, its economic development has largely followed a path blazed by other Asian economies. During their rapid industrialization, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan all had similar...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Trade Structure Review 2012

    Our annual chartbook outlines the key features of China’s changing trade patterns. The main findings include:

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    Gavekal Research

    Cloud Cover For Taiwan Tech

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Electricity: Lost in Transmission

    The ability to consistently deliver affordable and mostly reliable power has been an essential component of China’s industrial boom. In one of the most impressive infrastructure build-outs in history, China nearly tripled its installed electricity generation capacity over the last decade, to 1,056 gigawatts in 2011. By 2013 China’s installed base of power generation will overtake America’s to become the world’s biggest.

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    Gavekal Research

    Regime Change Threat For HK Developers

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Smoother Sailing Ahead For China's Generators

    2011 was by any account an annus horribilis for the companies that generate China’s electricity. Facing higher costs for coal, their main fuel, and a rising burden of debt, combined profits for the sector fell 21% to Rmb71 bn. That is the same amount of money the sector made in 2005, even though revenues have roughly tripled since then. China’s largest listed generator, Huaneng Power International, saw its net profit for 2011 plummet 65% to just...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Rich Banks, Poor Shareholders

    Judging by their profit statements, Chinese banks are flourishing: net profit at the “big five” banks that control nearly two-thirds of the nation’s deposits rose by 19-30% last year. ICBC earned US$32bn, or about $5bn more than JPMorgan Chase. All this despite worries about competition from the irrepressible “shadow finance” sector (see The Shadow Knows...) and a mountain of non-performing loans from the 2009-10 lending spree. Reported NPL...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    At Last, Momentum For Hukou Reform

    On March 1, 2010, 13 newspapers in big cities appealed to the government to speed up reform of the country’s household registration system, known as hukou. “China has suffered under the hukou system for so long!” they cried in an unprecedented joint editorial. “We believe people are born to be free and should have the right to migrate freely, but citizens are burdened by outdated policies born in the era of the planned economy!” Their appeal...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Downturn In Corporate Profits

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    Gavekal Research

    Property And Populism In Hong Kong

    It is very rare that the US has a presidential election without at least one candidate calling for a “flat tax” system, which has worked so successfully in places like Hong Kong. Now ironically, Hong Kong has itself just held an election for the highest office in its land, and the question is whether the winner and new Chief Executive, CY Leung, will set in motion policy changes that ultimately undermine the city’s ability to operate on a flat-...

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    Gavekal Research

    Our Indicator For Asian Currencies

    As our regular readers know, we fully expect a structural appreciation of the Asian exchange rates. They are still cheap, the region’s economies are growing and Asian fiscal positions remain very healthy. However, as the experience of recent years has shown, this journey will not be made in a straight line. Asian currencies fell precipitously during the Global Financial Crisis, only to bounce back spiritedly shortly afterwards. From trough to...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Strapped In

    It is well known that China is moving up the value chain in manufacturing, and that labor-intensive low-end assembly work is in decline. Eventually clothes and toys and sneakers and other such consumer goods will no longer have the ubiquitous “made in China” stamp, just as the once-ubiquitous “made in Taiwan” or “made in Hong Kong” label faded a few generations earlier. Yet discussions with mainland-based manufacturers always offer a reminder...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Regime Change For The Renminbi

    When China decided to take the RMB off its de facto USD peg in mid-2010, it put in place a remarkably stable currency policy. While the exchange rate was, deliberately, quite volatile over the short term, the underlying trend of appreciation against the USD has been steady—until now. Since the beginning of this year, the trend rate of appreciation against the USD has fallen significantly below 5% for the first time since the new regime came into...

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    Gavekal Research

    Inside A North Korean "SEZ"

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Much Does China Need Exports?

    Exports have been mostly a blessing for China, but occasionally a curse. The financial crisis in late 2008 showed its vulnerability to a fall in global demand, and since then China’s leadership has talked instead of relying on domestic demand. But China is still the world’s largest merchandise exporter, and the export sector is not going away. Its strength and vulnerability pose two interrelated questions: 1) how much more can exports drive...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Harsh Words For Housing

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    Gavekal Research

    RMB Rising: Lessons From History

    The push to increase the international use of the renminbi is one of the most visible ways in which China’s global role has expanded since the 2008 financial crisis. It is almost certainly the case that the principal motive for RMB internationalization is to undermine capital controls and hence to force the pace of domestic financial reform. There is scant evidence that Beijing has much appetite for the risks and complications that come with a...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strong Dollar And Asia

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    Gavekal Research

    Energy Intensity Will Get Back On Track

    China’s industrial machine is still powering onward, as is its appetite for energy. To slow the pace of the carbon emissions and pollution that accompany energy use, China’s government has pledged annual reductions in energy intensity, or the energy per dollar of GDP. But after nearly achieving its target of a 20% reduction in energy intensity from 2006-2010, China fell far short of its target of a 3.5% reduction in 2011.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China's Path To Reform

    The almost unimaginable economic transformation of China in the past 30 years relied less on a grand plan than on a pragmatic willingness to experiment in the pursuit of broad goals. Many reforms progressed not because of the brilliance of leaders but because an original reform hit a bottleneck, which another reform was required to break. This process is known in China as “crossing the river by feeling the stones.”

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    Gavekal Research

    Weeks When Decades Happen

    Talking about the Russian Revolution, Lenin once said that “there are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.” The last quarter of 2001 looks in retrospect like one of those exciting periods: three events occurred which set in motion the main economic trends of the ensuing decade. Successful investors latched on to at least one of these trends.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China's Overpriced Loans

    Chinese loan growth was unexpectedly weak in the first two months of 2012. Some reports suggest this is because banks face a liquidity constraint, and that the People’s Bank of China will solve the problem by cutting banks’ required reserve ratios. But there is another side to the story: loan demand is falling because market interest rates have risen sharply, even as the expected return on capital (represented by GDP growth) has slowed. What we...

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