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    Gavekal Research

    What Does China’s Propaganda Ministry Do All Day?

    When asked to speak about China at big investment conferences, I often kick-off by asking the audience “who here trusts Chinese data?” When no one raises their hand, my follow-up is generally “OK: 0 out of 250! That’s more than usual”. Beyond getting a cheap laugh, the point is to highlight how most foreign investors are suspicious, and often downright fearful, of China. Such distrust may stem from China being one of the few major economies to...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: The State Sector’s New Clothes

    In this issue of the CEQ, we take a close look at state-owned enterprises, which lie at the heart of Xi Jinping's strategy for restoring China to greatness. The goal of Xi’s recent policies is clear: to strengthen SOEs and make them more effective instruments of macro management at home, and more powerful agents of national interests abroad.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Villains Or Victims? The Role Of SOEs In China’s Economy

    State-owned enterprises are often blamed for China’s excess capacity, but private firms are the bigger culprits. The real problem is that the government now forces SOEs to act as economic stabilizers, at high cost. This makes them an ever-growing liability to the state.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    State Enterprise Reform: Missing In Action

    In 2013, the Third Plenum Decision promised bold reform of the SOEs, to diversify their shareholding and improve their financial performance. Nearly three years on, little remains of that agenda beyond a conflicting jumble of vague directives.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Return Of The Line Ministries

    In the 1990s, Zhu Rongji broke up state-owned conglomerates, to spur efficiency through competition. Now Xi Jinping’s SOE reform aims to bring those conglomerates back to life. The effort will be spearheaded by Xiao Yaqing, whose ambition to turn the state aluminum company into a global metals giant foundered, but who is now the bureaucrat in charge of all central SOEs.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Stability Above All

    The government seeks to keep both GDP growth and the exchange rate as steady as possible ahead of the Communist Party Congress scheduled for the fall of 2017. It may succeed, but probably at the cost of further delaying its structural reform program.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand

    China’s demand for oil—unlike its need for other commodities—will continue to grow, thanks mainly to greater use of automobiles. Imports, though, will be more volatile, and determined largely by how fast the country tries to fill its strategic reserves, and how quickly refiners adapt to changing consumption patterns.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Long March To Europe

    China’s investment in Europe is surging, as Chinese firms step up their M&A efforts and put more money into infrastructure ventures. European authorities must do a more active job of weighing the economic benefits of this investment against the political risks.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Hope And Hard Work On A Shanghai Street

    Accounts of economies are often bloodless affairs, so it is a relief when a writer comes along who can bring to life the people buried beneath the GDP statistics. Rob Schmitz has done just this in a small gem of a book that illuminates China’s economic transformations through portraits of the residents of his neighborhood.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Making Sense Of The Economic Policy Mess

    Xi Jinping’s economic policy seems like a mass of confusion. This is only because he has been coy about stating his true aim: to make the state sector as strong as possible.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Reform Agenda After Rajan

    Over the weekend, Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan announced he will not seek an extension of his three-year term, which ends in September. His unexpected decision will dampen sentiment in the near term, as it follows—and was perhaps even precipitated by—a high decibel campaign seeking his ouster by members of India’s ruling BJP. However, fears that the hard-won credibility of the RBI under Rajan will be undermined by the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan As Safe Haven

    Global markets are in a risk-off mood as investors scramble to find a sure thing in an uncertain world. The populist surge in Europe and the US is ending long held “certainties” about the developed democracies, while next week’s Brexit vote could set in train the European Union’s break-up. Ironically, as investors scramble for stable ground, Japan is proving an island of calm, at least for those with an eye to capital preservation. The yen has...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond Brexit, A More Hawkish Fed

    After the Federal Open Market Committee yesterday revised down both its growth forecast and its projection for the future trajectory of US interest rates, market expectations of rate hikes have collapsed. Fed fund futures are now pricing the probability of a July rate hike at just 6%, down from 16% immediately before the FOMC’s meeting. In reaction, the yield on 10-year treasuries has dipped further below the 1.6% mark to 1.56%, the lowest since...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Populism And A New Financial Crisis

    The febrile behavior of financial markets ahead of Britain’s EU referendum shows that the voting on June 23 will influence economic and political conditions around the world far more profoundly than Britain’s share of 4% in global GDP might suggest. This outsize impact has at least three explanations.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    A-Shares: The Food Is Terrible, And Such Small Portions

    The decision by MSCI not to include China’s onshore A-share market in its Emerging Markets index should have come as no surprise. Despite real progress, there are still regulatory roadblocks to inclusion that have yet to be dismantled. In any case, the resulting fund flows into the A-share market would be smaller than many observers expect.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Never Do On Monday What You Wish You’d Done On Friday

    The first rule of bear markets is never to do on Monday what you wish you had done on Friday. During bear markets, the constant stream of negative stories from the media leads to a build-up of anxiety among investors, anxiety that pours out first thing on Monday morning on trading floors everywhere.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Boomerang Kids Won’t Come Back To Hurt US Housing

    Hand-wringing features about “boomerang kids” have become a staple of the US media in recent years. Invariably they tell of a generation that left college with record student debts, only to find themselves looking for work in a depressed post-crisis employment market with little demand for newly-minted graduates. Unable to find jobs matching their qualifications, many ended up serving coffee in Starbucks, or doing other menial work on near-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Fear Not Brexit

    The UK political class is all in a flutter as the latest European Union referendum polls show an apparent rising tide of support for “Leave”. Having orchestrated the great and good into warning of catastrophe should a Brexit materialize, it would seem that “project fear” is not cutting through. I tend to have strong political convictions and perhaps for this reason I have a lousy record of guesstimating election outcomes. Since the UK referendum...

    8
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Capex Lacks All Conviction

    China’s latest debt-driven stimulus has stabilized growth, but the benefits have been narrow: outside infrastructure and real estate, private investment has not picked up at all. Total investment growth will be higher in 2016, but a renewed slowdown of capital spending in 2017 is very likely, as companies adjust to the end of the housing boom.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The ECB Embraces Total QE

    The European Central Bank pushed further into uncharted territory this week, when it made its first foray into the corporate bond market. Three months after announcing its new initiative, the ECB added the Corporate Sector Purchase Program, or CSPP, to its alphabet soup of monetary operations. Under the CSPP, the central bank will make purchases of investment grade non-bank corporate debt, to go with the sovereign debt, covered bonds and asset-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The French Investment Pick-Up

    France may be racked by strikes and edgy about terrorist threats as a major soccer tournament it is hosting kicks off today, but the eurozone’s second biggest economy has a decent story to tell. Consumer confidence is at a post-2007 high, recent GDP readings have surprised on the upside and even jobless claims hint at an improvement in the labor market (see Is France Getting Better?). All of this perhaps explains why French investment for 1Q16...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    South China Sea Risks

    In the next few weeks the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will likely rule in favor of the Philippines in its dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing’s reaction will show to what extent China is prepared to defy international law to defend what it claims are “core interests”.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Outlook For The US$ Vs The Euro

    When coming to investment decisions in the financial markets, I always try to be as “rules-based” as I possibly can. By that, I mean that I look as closely as I can at the available evidence to determine what has worked in the past—and what has not. This is difficult enough when analyzing the US bond market or the French stock market, but when it comes to exchange rates, the task reaches a whole new level of complexity. It is necessary to look...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Take On The Payrolls

    The last two days have seen my colleagues offer erudite commentary on the meaning of the US non-farm payroll report for May (see Thinking Dark Thoughts and The Dissonance In Jobs). I would simply observe that things take time to properly coalesce and the message from the US labor market is consistent with recessionary signals dating back to the 1960s.

    0
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dissonance In Jobs

    This week has seen Gavekal senior partners reach a rare consensus of sorts, with Anatole acknowledging that May’s “pig ugly” US payrolls report upped the chances of Charles’s US recession scenario playing out (see Thinking Dark Thoughts). For me, the report offers a classic mixed signal: on the one hand the slowdown in US employment growth could stem from firms dialing back hiring in anticipation of trouble ahead, or alternatively it could be...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Material

    The US$1.8trn global aviation sector shows no sign of slowing—last year passenger numbers rose by 6.5%. The race is on to deliver cheaper, more efficient aircraft. The big winners from this trend may be makers of composite carbon fiber. The market for carbon fiber used in aircraft is set to grow from US$17.3bn in 2014 to US$34.2bn by 2020.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Fast Is China’s Debt Really Growing?

    The latest debate about Chinese statistics centers on debt: are the figures capturing the size of the latest stimulus? Official credit growth is now 12-13%, but total credit is actually rising by 16-18% due to government debt and new forms of shadow finance. Yet regardless of the exact measure, China’s national leverage is still rising rapidly.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Thinking Dark Thoughts

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but there is no way of disguising that the US payrolls last Friday were pig-ugly. For those of us of the bullish persuasion, May’s job growth of only 38,000, the weakest monthly figure since the post-recession employment recovery began in October 2010, sent the first credible signal that Charles’s call for a US recession and full-scale equity bear market could be right after all.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    On Populism

    The ruling class, which over the last 20 years has done so much to manage our decline, has found a new enemy in the shape of political “populism.” While acknowledging that times have been tough, what so annoys this elite is the realization that “we the people” do not recognize that a complicated world is being run in our own best interests. For this reason it is no great surprise that such ingrates have been labelled populists.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan: Twice Bitten, Thrice Shy

    It was a case of twice bitten, thrice shy. This week Shinzo Abe announced he will postpone next April’s planned 2pp increase in Japan’s sales tax until October 2019—a step the prime minister had previously sworn he would only take in a Lehman-scale crisis. Despite Abe’s protestations to the contrary at last weekend’s G-7 meeting, the world economy is facing no such meltdown. Nevertheless, deferring the tax hike makes sense. Previous increases in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Backdoor Resolution For Greece, And The Eurozone

    A Greek crisis was avoided last week after European creditors agreed to a €10.3bn disbursement to Athens without the International Monetary Fund contributing funds. The idea is for the Europeans and the IMF to thrash out a compromise that grants Greece sufficient debt relief to make its program sustainable. On one level this mucky deal seemed just another case of the can being kicked down the road, yet on another there is now a “back door”...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Reduced Chance Of Renminbi Storms

    The recent strength of the dollar has pushed the renminbi back down to the lows of January. And the renminbi could make new lows if Fed rate hikes trigger a run-up in the dollar—a big if, with the dollar still stuck in a trading range. But such moves are unlikely to trigger anything like the global volatility caused by previous depreciations.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Risks For Equities—Populism And The Dollar

    Even as markets nudge higher, investors are unnerved by a rising tide of populist politics whose tangible expression will be tested on June 23, when UK voters must choose between Brexit or a less than perfect status quo inside the European Union. Investors are also concerned that the US dollar will strengthen further as the Federal Reserve mulls the question of whether to raise interest rates. In this monthly our writers weigh these big issues...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Risk In The Service Sector's Rise

    The rising share of services in China’s GDP is often touted as a positive change to a more sustainable structure. But this change is less positive than it appears, since the fastest-growing part of the service sector in recent years has been finance. The rapid financialization of the economy is a process that increases rather than reduces risk.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Much Ado About Nothing Much

    A quick glance through the financial media would lead the casual observer to conclude that the US currency has been, and remains, in a bull market. After all, with the Federal Reserve now supposedly back on a tightening track, how can the US dollar fail to rise? This almost universal belief makes the recent price action all the more interesting for, let’s face it, everything that could have gone right for the US dollar in the past year has gone...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Wicksell’s Portfolio

    Will has spent much of the last year developing a return-on-capital theory of US economic cycles with a particular focus on recession turning points. The logical extension of this work is to apply it to the task of portfolio construction and more particularly to the current US market situation.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Knell For The French Left

    To outside observers the latest round of strikes and demonstrations to sweep France must seem a case of déja vu all over again. For the fourth time in a little over 20 years, left wing trade unions have called mass walk-outs to protest against proposed government reforms of France’s notoriously rigid labor market. As before, the transport system has been thrown into chaos, with air traffic controllers en grève, and blockades of the country’s oil...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Geopolitical Risk In Asia?

    With the global economy in the doldrums and most asset markets stuck in neutral, the last thing that is needed is a trade war or an armed confrontation in the world’s most vibrant region, East Asia. The risk of either is low, but inching up.

    3
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Waiting For Another Tantrum

    One of the most powerful phenomena to hit markets can be the counter-trend reversal, especially when it is fueled by surprise and a big dollop of anxiety. Given the focus on the Fed’s upcoming policy decision, coming at a time when global bond yields are stuck at ultra-low levels, is another hissy fit possible?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Move In US High-Yield

    At the nadir of the market sell-off in February, the Federal Reserve offered more dovish than expected guidance on its monetary policy intentions and so backstopped the crumbling US high-yield bond market. Since then, high-yield bond prices have rallied back to their early-2015 level with the last month seeing a consolidation. Yet with the chances of a Fed rate hike in June on the up and the fundamentals of the US economy looking less than...

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    The Brexit Vote As Harbinger Of A Populist Age, Or Not

    The biggest threat to the world economy is no longer slumping industry in China, failing banks in Italy, unpredictable monetary policies or seesawing oil prices. All these familiar economic problems now pale compared with the political risks of Brexit, a Trump presidency and resurgent nationalism in Germany. Given the common underlying tensions driving political populism in the big advanced economies, Anatole argues that Britons will on June 23...

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    When Rules Are There To be Broken

    It has become an article of faith for Europe-watchers that the one thing holding together the single currency area is super easy monetary policy. Yet in light of Brussels deficit policing bureaucracy having recently been revealed as a toothless tiger, expansionary fiscal policy can perhaps be added to the list. It is hardly news that Europe is back-tracking from German-dictated austerity, but for the first time officials are openly admitting...

    3
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar—May 2016

    We are pleased to present audio from our seminar in New York earlier this week with Charles Gave, Will Denyer, Anatole Kaletsky and Arthur Kroeber

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Message From Gold And Silver

    A simple rule of thumb that we at Gavekal use is to categorize assets depending whether their value derives from scarcity or a productive capacity to generate positive cash flows. A good proxy for investors’ preference for scarcity over productive assets is the gold/silver ratio, which stands close to a 20 year high. The implication of this extreme positioning is that the end of the world really is nigh, or alternatively a pull–back in the ratio...

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    The Challenge For Equity Markets

    Given high valuations and a rock bottom risk-free rate, it is hard to see US equities moving higher without a pick-up in corporate earnings. Yet with the strong US dollar hurting exporters and domestic economic data coming in weak, US-based firms may struggle to deliver.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    A New Marginal Buyer Of Japanese Equities

    Thanks in part to erratic monetary policy moves, Japan has slid back to being an irrelevance for global investors. Perhaps that does not matter, as foreigners only account for about 30% of the market while Japan has a vibrant domestic equity scene. Yet, the fact remains that it generally takes fickle gaijin to get excited about Japanese equities for the market to break out—that was the story in 2012-15 as a 50% yen devaluation supercharged...

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The End Of The Migrant Miracle?

    China’s growth has long been driven by the shift of millions of people from low-paid farm work to better urban jobs. But latest survey of migrant workers shows the flood of rural labor slowing to a trickle. So is the migrant miracle ending? Not quite. Slower economic growth is curbing migration, but other causes of the slowdown are more benign.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Big Move In Oil

    With Brent crude approaching US$50 a barrel, analysts upgrading their bearish year-end forecasts and many hedge funds adding to already long energy positions, it seems a good time to re-examine the likelihood that US$50 or thereabouts will be a long-term ceiling for the price of oil. In December 2014, when we first proposed this view (see Oil: Lower For Longer and Will US$50 Be Oil’s Floor, Or Its Ceiling?) it provoked derision from bullish...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The German Consumer Lives

    By most measures, the eurozone remains unbalanced, with a competitive north eating the lunch of a productivity-challenged Latin periphery. Germany’s current account surplus stands at 8.6% of GDP and its banks are stuffed with excess deposits, suggesting that thrift remains the Teutonic economic passion of choice. Yet look closer at Germany and it is clear that domestic demand, not exports, is driving growth—household spending accounted for about...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Significant Step Forward

    When Narendra Modi took over as Indian leader nearly two years ago, he promised to deliver higher growth by making the world’s most bureaucratic large economy more business friendly. It has been a hard slog, with a slew of failures along the way: the BJP-led government’s attempts to push through tax, land and labor reforms have all been hobbled by opposition in parliament. But with the passing of a new bankruptcy code last week the fog of...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The US Credit Cycle?

    As a reflection of the US economy’s steady if unspectacular recovery, bank loan growth has averaged a solid 7.8% YoY since early 2015. The biggest recipients of this expansion have been commercial and industrial firms followed by real estate developers, with consumer lending sitting some way back. Since 3Q15, however, the Federal Reserve’s senior loan officer survey has signaled a sharp tightening in standards for both C&I and commercial...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Here Comes US Deflation

    Regular readers will be aware that I expect the next big move in prices to be down rather than up and that this shift will occur against the backdrop of a weakening US economy, possibly one that is contracting. Consider the chart below and my contention is that we may be close to that point.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No More Easing Likely

    The latest dump of monthly Chinese economic data was generally soft, but what grabbed headlines was an apparent sharp slowdown in broad credit growth. In fact, a closer inspection shows that the pace of credit expansion remained robust in April and the real issue looking forward is whether policymakers respond by dialing back stimulus policies.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Portfolio Construction For Fence-Sitters

    Just over six months ago, I published a Daily note in which I quoted the late American sage Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” My thesis was simple. At the time, the world had reached the point when—in a normal cycle—investors would tend to sell the US market, preferring instead to buy into non-US markets (see The Gavekal Ethos).

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Chinese Debt Resolution

    China’s chosen development approach of investment-led industrialization meant it was fated to face an eventual debt crisis. Like Taiwan 30 years ago, China has moved from an export-driven economy to one motored by domestically-focused investment spending. Its challenge has been to “rebalance” toward consumption and in the process stop an escalating build-up of debt which funds projects with ever lower returns. Yet so long as China has a...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Glory Days For Affluent Consumers

    While China’s economy is slowing, growth in some consumer markets is booming. The cause is what we call the “acceleration phenomenon” of rapid growth in affluent households, which is driving surging sales of goods and services they favor. The flipside of the affluent growth story, however, is that more mass-market consumer goods are slowing down.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth Slows, Affluence Accelerates

    The Chinese economy continues to slow, but the Chinese consumer is alive and kicking. The affluent population continues to grow much faster than either GDP or average household income, fueling rapid expansion in sales of SUVs, foreign travel and affordable luxuries like chocolate, yoghurt and coffee. At the same time, though, the shift into affluence means that growth in demand for more basic consumer goods is slowing from the rapid rates seen...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Risk On? Maybe Not

    Equity and oil prices have rallied in true risk-on fashion since the February 11 market trough, and are now back near their highs of late last year. Given this apparent rebound in risk appetite, one might have expected US government bonds to sell off in equally dramatic fashion, with yields climbing back to the 2.2-2.3% levels seen at the end of last year. Instead, there has been no rebound at all. Today, 10-year treasuries yield 1.75%, much the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Heading Passively To The Poorhouse

    It is astonishing the number of articles one can read all claiming to “show” that passive investments consistently outperform active money managers. Their conclusion is always the same: savers should invest in indexes or tracker funds rather than actively-managed funds, and that as a result they will be much better off. This claim has been repeated so often it has become received wisdom. Alas, in this case, as in so many others, the received...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Calm Before The European Storm

    A deal with Turkey to ease Europe’s refugee crisis is close to collapse, Greek bailout negotiations are set to test German political resolve and Britain’s referendum on European Union membership is too close to call. Europe’s “project” has been held together since 2012 by extraordinary monetary policy which has spurred a mild economic recovery, observable in the latest data. The concern now is that growing centrifugal forces—mostly political in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump And The Tree People

    Recently I reada bookcalled Je n’ai plus peur (I am not afraid any more)by the French writer Jean-Claude Guillebaud. I do not know Guillebaud personally, but even though he is very much on the left of the French political spectrum, I must confess that I have read all his books, and that I have always liked what he has to say.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is The Rumpus In The Bond Market Over?

    After a long rally, China’s onshore bond market has finally had a correction. Corporate bonds are experiencing a repricing of credit risk after a recent jump in defaults, and this could go on for a while. But the rise in government bond yields should be a buying opportunity, as China’s interest rates are still headed down over the medium term.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Disaster Averted Is Not Success

    This week Atlante, Italy’s new private sector bail-out fund, swung into action for the first time, supporting an equity issue by the troubled Banca Popolare di Vicenza. But although Atlante’s market debut could be said to have averted a potential systemic disaster, it was hardly the success either the politicians of Rome or the financiers of Milan had been hoping for.

    1
  • Gavekal Research

    Asia’s Best Market Reaches A Precipice

    The Philippines has since 2011 morphed into a balanced development story with growth averaging about 6% Growth has been underpinned by robust domestic demand, and it has also benefited from a long period of fairly trouble-free governance so when Filipinos go to the polls on Monday to elect a replacement for the President, much is at stake.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Peak Hubris?

    With a few notable exceptions, it’s been a tough few weeks for technology firms; the likes of Microsoft, Intel, Alphabet, TSMC, Sony, Panasonic, Fanuc, Murata and, of course, Apple all released weak earnings and guidance. Behind the disappointments sit different causes, ranging from weak capital spending across Asia (Fanuc), to a less eager Chinese consumer (Apple), to a still prudent Japanese consumer (Sony) and a stronger yen (Murata,...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    AMCs Are Back: More, Smaller, Shadier

    As the bad loans of China’s banks mount, many wonder how the government will deal with the problem. In the 1990s, four big asset management companies led the bank cleanup, and recently a new crop of smaller local AMCs has emerged. Yet these AMCs do not seem to be helping banks resolve bad loans, but instead are helping them hide problem debts.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    US Homebuilders Hit A Speed Bump

    Homebuilding has been a reliable contributor to US growth over recent years. Now tighter lending standards for new construction projects and commercial real estate loans are threatening a slowdown. But, as KX and Will argue, as long as mortgage rates remain low and demand robust, the sector should only hit a speed bump, not a wall.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of The Rally In Cyclicals

    By all accounts, 2016 has so far proved to be a challenging year for “market neutral” funds, and “smart beta” strategies, along with various quant funds. Before we have even reached the seasonally-challenging part of the year—sell in May and go away, and all that—a quick glance at year-to-date returns for “low volatility” hedge funds illustrates that the pain is pretty widespread. In a sense, this is surprising; after all, spreads are tighter...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Glass Half Full Or Glass Half Empty?

    The past month has seen the US dollar seemingly top out, the oil price settle into a trading range and China’s economic outlook stabilize. Emerging markets in particular have bolted higher despite weak global trade, an oversupplied commodity complex and worries about high levels of leverage. In this edition of The Gavekal Monthly we ask a pressing question for EM investors: is the glass now half full, or half empty?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The BoJ Ever Do The Right Thing?

    Another Bank of Japan meeting, another market slump. Yesterday saw investors mortified by a BoJ tease which came to nothing, while in January the same market response followed an activist move to charge a negative interest rate on a small part of banks’ reserves. In response to the disappointment the yen soared against the US dollar with its biggest daily move in seven years, while the ensuing six hours saw a 7% peak-to-trough move in Nikkei...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is France “Getting Better”?

    He was not quite Reaganesque in his cheery optimism, but in a recent primetime television appearance President Francois Hollande did declare to France that life was “getting better”. He could point to growth rising to 1.1% last year from a meagre 0.2% in 2014. Unfortunately, the French jobless total hit a new record of 3.6mn in February contributing to a public response of general derision, not to mention rioting at proposed labor market reforms...

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand (II)

    Stockpiling has become a key driver of China’s crude oil imports, as Beijing builds up its strategic petroleum reserve and as state-owned oil companies add to their own inventories. But constraints on the capacity to store these stockpiles mean that this boost to oil imports will likely stall within the next two to three years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Vertigo And The US Economy

    Regular readers will be familiar with my contention that persistently low interest rates lead not to economic growth and sunlit uplands, but instead to a structural decline in the growth rate and stagnation. Based on this analysis, I have for a while expected a US economic contraction. That one has not yet materialized means there is, however, an obligation to check whether I have been barking up the wrong tree.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    A European Sinner Repents

    When Brussels implemented new solvency rules for European insurance companies in 2014, it committed one of the five cardinal sins of government: over-regulation. Of course, stricter rules were always likely following the financial follies of the pre-crisis era, but when they drew up the new “Solvency II” regulations, the European Union’s generals were so focused on fighting the last war, they failed to realize the danger posed by their own...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Asian Plowshares Into Swords

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invested time and prestige in a failed bid to supply Australia with 12 new attack submarines and service them for the next 50 years. It was announced yesterday that the approximate US$38bn contract was scooped by a rival French bidder due to its technical competence, but also after a strong lobbying effort by China which does not want to see a resurgent Japanese defense sector. Canberra’s decision represents a...

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  • Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand (I)

    While China’s demand for coal and other basic commodities has gone into decline, its consumption of crude oil has continued to climb. Rosealea projects the GDP intensity of different oil products to conclude that China’s demand for crude oil is set to continue rising over the next five years, despite the slowdown in many sectors of the economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of Asian Equity Market Underperformance?

    With Asian equities having underperformed their global equivalents by almost 40% since 2011, the past five years have not been much fun for regional investors. Encouragingly, however, just as the panic over a possible China currency crisis and economic implosion reached its apex last summer, Asia’s underperformance seems to have abated. Over the following eight month period or so, Asian equities have held their own with a number posting decent...

    1
  • Gavekal Research

    Time To Bet On Sterling And Against Brexit

    If Britain votes to remain a member of the European Union, the moment when the tide turned against Brexit will probably be remembered as Barack Obama’s London press conference on Friday. With a single phrase Obama demolished the Brexiteers’ most powerful economic argument when he noted, with a friendly but remorseless grin, that if Britain chose to detach itself from Europe it would wait “at the back of the queue” for any special US trade deal....

    1
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time Alone Is Not Enough For The ECB

    Stung by attacks on his negative interest rate policy, Mario Draghi yesterday hit back at his critics in Berlin, and pleaded for patience. “Our policies work,” insisted the European Central Bank president. “Just give them time.” Draghi’s plea is unlikely to placate German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who earlier this month blamed negative rates and the harm they have inflicted on savers’ incomes for the success of right-wing populists in...

    2
  • Gavekal Research

    NIRP: Machiavellian Design Or A Policy Mistake?

    In order to make money, Starbucks has little choice but to sell coffee. Ford must sell cars if it hopes to stay open. And Lockheed Martin better get orders for bombs, missiles and planes if it is to remain relevant. But banks do not need to make loans (their stated purpose) in order to make payrolls and pay shareholders a dividend, at least at certain points in the cycle. When the yield curve is steep, banks can borrow money cheaply at the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Markets Reality Check

    Emerging market assets have enjoyed a powerful momentum-driven rally over the last two months. A more dovish stance from the US Federal Reserve, falling yields, acceptance that the US dollar is no longer strengthening, and a pick-up in commodity prices combined to quell the market’s worst fears and persuade investors that emerging markets were not in fact facing Armageddon. More recently last week’s release of relatively upbeat economic data...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Sum Of All Fears

    As “China implosion” and renminbi devaluation fears have faded, risk assets around the world have enjoyed a sustained a rally led by “China sensitive” assets such as commodities, Asian equities and emerging market high-yield debt. In short, all the assets that were priced for a scenario just short of Armageddon. But following this rebound, what next? The most obvious point is that, with the pick-up in fiscal stimulus, the rebound in construction...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Eurozone Reform Update 2016

    Last February we published a detailed score card of the structural reform efforts undertaken by Europe’s battered peripheral economies (see Assessing ‘Thatcherite-Keynesianism’). The last year has seen small improvements, but not enough change to warrant another box-ticking exercise. Our assessment in 2016 mostly focuses on the key relationship between the labor markets and national competitiveness. Inevitably such changes are slow moving and in...

    0
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    Rebalance Away From US Equities

    Yesterday the S&P 500 closed at a year-to-date high of 2,094, up 14.5% from its February 11 low. Now comes the real test of investor confidence. At its current level the index is just 1.7% below its all-time high, set on May 21 last year. Since then the market has tried and failed on four occasions to surpass that level, in June and July, and then following the summer’s sell-off, in November and December. With the market apparently poised...

    0
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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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Worth Buying This Japanese Dip

    Those with an active interest in Asian markets had much to process in early trading with shorts cheered by the hardly surprising news that Iran and Saudi Arabia could not agree on an oil production freeze, while longs could point to China whose 1Q15 GDP report on Friday seemed to confirm that the authorities will do whatever it takes to defend their near-term growth targets. But perhaps the bigger factor unnerving investors has been the fallout...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Jaws Begin To Close

    China’s growth divergence in 2015 was dramatic. But that divergence is narrowing in 2016, with industry picking up as services slow. While markets have welcomed the stabilization, it’s largely the result of short-term stimulus—and it’s also becoming harder to tell a positive story about the “good” growth drivers of services and consumption.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil’s Busted Flush

    Buoyant expectations that the world’s major oil producers could agree a production freeze when they meet in Doha on Sunday have helped push the price of crude to a four-month high this week. The international Brent blend benchmark reached just shy of US$45/bbl, up 66% from its late January low of US$27, with at least some brokerage houses predicting the price could breach US$50 in the event of a deal. Maybe—but forecasts that the crude price...

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    Is US Manufacturing A Leading Indicator?

    There is a commonly held belief that US manufacturing leads the rest of the economy, so it is surely a worry that factory output has been flat since late 2014. And yet the broad economy kept growing—with GDP up 2% YoY in 4Q15, consumption up 2.7% YoY, and home construction by almost 10%. One explanation for this apparent decoupling is the US’s shift to a more service-intensive “knowledge economy” which has rendered metal bashing and more...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The End Of Deflation Is Nigh

    China’s growth slowdown has been much worse in nominal terms than in real terms—and often, nominal matters more. So it is good news that both consumer and producer price indexes are picking up in early 2016. And even if commodity prices do no rally further, China’s GDP deflator is likely to turn positive by the second half of this year.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bright Spot Amid Japan’s Gloom

    The new narrative about Japan is straightforward: Japanese government bond yields will fall even further, the yen will strengthen, corporate earnings will collapse, stock prices will sink, and Mrs Watanabe will withdraw all her savings from the bank and stash them under her tatami. Over the last couple of months, international investors have positioned themselves accordingly. Yet anything more than a cursory visit to Japan quickly emphasizes...

    0
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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.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar Multimedia

    We are pleased to present recordings and slides from our Hong Kong seminar with Louis-Vincent Gave, Will Denyer and Andrew Batson. Louis examines an important recent development: the US dollar has stopped rising. Will diagnoses the health of the US economy in one chart. And Andrew discusses three scenarios for China: doom, boom and muddle-through.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Relief For European Banks

    Yesterday a consortium of Italy’s healthier banks and financial institutions agreed to put up €5.7bn to finance a private sector bailout fund for the country’s weaker banks. The deal, which was cobbled together by Italy’s Finance Ministry, is clearly intended to circumvent European Union rules limiting state aid to the banking sector. Details remain sketchy, however it is difficult to see how the agreement can restore confidence in Italy’s banks...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why India Can Move Faster

    India’s lack of efficient roads and railways lowers productivity, depresses aggregate demand, raises costs and stymies trade—all impediments to economic growth. The good news is that India’s latest infrastructure push, financed initially by public investment, is showing signs of traction. The latest government budget committed a hefty US$32bn to roads, rail and other infrastructure, a big increase within a broader environment of fiscal...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Paris Seminar—April 2016

    On April 12 Louis-Vincent Gave, Charles Gave and Jean-Jacques Netter held a seminar in Paris where they presented their latest macroeconomic and investment outlooks.

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