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  • Gavekal Research

    Updating The US Recession Indicator

    In January last year I penned a piece whose simple thesis was clear from the title (see Towards An OECD Recession In 2015). The idea was that each time the rentier owner of capital made more money than the entrepreneur (on a worldwide basis) in the previous 12 months, a recession in the OECD materialized some time in the next 12 months. Returns for the rentier were computed using the 12-month total return of 10-year treasuries and those for...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    European Disunion

    The grand old men who conceived of a united states of Europe knew that a successful single currency demanded a modern federation with integrated monetary, fiscal and political institutions. Such a leap into the unknown was politically impossible in the 1990s, and their assumption (and perhaps hope) was that the less than optimal eurozone would suffer periodic crises, so creating the conditions for reform and a centralization of powers. Since the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar—April 2016

    London Seminar—April 2016

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Yen And Japanese Equities

    It is hard not to feel a smidgen of sympathy for Haruhiko Kuroda. In the last 18 months, the Bank of Japan governor has deployed a whole battery of heavy artillery, stepping up his asset purchases to ¥80trn a year, extending them to cover exchange-traded funds and real estate investment trusts, and pushing short term interest rates into negative territory. As well as supporting asset markets, much of this effort was aimed at driving the yen...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Debt Swaps Are No Panacea For China

    To help troubled borrowers, China’s government is embracing debt-for-equity swaps. But while such swaps will reduce the burden on indebted companies and avoid an abrupt deleveraging, they will also load more stress onto bank balance sheets. Beijing will still eventually have to come up with a workable plan to recapitalize banks; this is not it.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Slowdown In Services

    Both the main leading indicators of activity in the US services sector—the ISM services PMI and the Markit services PMI—staged modest rebounds in March. But on the face of it, the pick-up in the headline numbers offers little encouragement for investors. At 54.5 for the ISM and 51.3 for Markit, both measures remain substantially below their 2015 averages of 57.2 and 55.9 respectively. Considering that services make up 70% to 80% of the US...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why US Imports Are Disappointing

    Given the strength of the dollar, it is not surprising that 2015 generally saw US exports contracting, US imports growing, and the trade balance widening. What is more perplexing is that import growth has started to look shaky in the first part of this year. What gives?

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - Powerhouse, Menace, Or The Next Japan?

    Two popular narratives about China are that it will either reform its economy and become the next superpower, or fall victim to a dramatic financial crisis. There is a third and perhaps more likely scenario: gradual stagnation, along the lines of 1990s Japan.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - China's Impending Minsky Moment

    The Chinese authorities have given up even trying to geta handle on the country’s spiralling debt problem.This means that a financial crisis and severe growth downturn are likely by 2020.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - The Fall Of Productivity And The Rise Of Debt

    Productivity of capital is falling, and debt is rising. Does this mean China is headed for low-growth, high-debt stagnation? Not necessarily. Economy-wide returns on capital remain solid; the biggest problems are an inefficient state enterprise sector, and excessive infrastructure debt. Strong state enterprise reforms could enable growth to stabilize at a high level.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Fade The Emerging Market Rally

    In defiance of conventional wisdom the oil price has tumbled -10% in the last two weeks despite a weak US dollar. For emerging markets investors, the breakdown of this correlation raises tricky questions.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - Excess Capacity, Zombie Companies, And Debt Deflation

    The story goes that excess capacity and debt-ridden ‘zombie companies’ will drag down China’s economy. But the problems are mainly confined to steel, coal, and other construction-related industries—and are less dire than in the 1990s. A long, slow restructuring is possible, though perhaps not ideal.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - What We Learned From The Stock Market Crash

    The mess that are China’s stock markets cost securities regulator Xiao Gang his job in early 2016. Sacking him was the easy task. The real work remains to be done if the country’s financial markets are ever to fulfil a real role as an allocator of capital.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - The End Of Non-Interference

    China’s Strong Arm: Protecting Citizens and Assets Abroad by Jonas Parello-Plesner and Mathieu Duchâtel (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2015)

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Avoiding The Japan Trap

    Growth is slowing, debt is rising, and the government is openly talking about "zombie companies" in key industries. This is China today, but there are also echoes of 1990s Japan. This issue of the CEQ examines the similarities and differences, and handicaps China’s chances of dodging a Japanese scenario of low-growth, high-debt stagnation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For Sterling

    What was the weakest major currency in the world in the first quarter? It was not the Brazilian real nor the Australian dollar nor any of the other usual suspects among the emerging market and commodity currencies. That accolade went to the British pound, which managed to depreciate by -4%, from US$1.48 to US$1.42, even while the dollar itself fell another -5% on its trade-weighted index.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Marginal Analysis In Capital Markets

    At the end of the 19th century, a revolution hit economics with the arrival of what is called “marginal analysis”. The idea was simple: prices were not determined by average demand meeting average supply, but by the marginal demand meeting the marginal supply; and the resulting price was used to determine the value of all the products or assets concerned. As long as nobody interfered with this price, it guaranteed a proper allocation of scarce...

    5
  • Gavekal Research

    Things Fall Apart

    Over the past century periods of social breakdown have swung the pendulum of power from markets to governments and back. Each crisis ended with a transformation in economic and political thinking. Today, voter anger is a response to the 2008 breakdown of deregulated capitalism. This time, argues Anatole, politicians must reconsider the market fundamentalism that has prevailed in recent decades and design a new system of checks and balances to...

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: The Dollar Weakens; Time To Buy Jewels?

    The big change over the last month is that the US dollar is now falling on a year-on-year basis. This weakness reflects a more abundant international supply of dollars as the US trade balance, ex-China and ex-oil, has swung back into the red after six years in surplus. In this edition of The Gavekal Monthly, Louis outlines why, in such a plentiful-dollar environment, investors should consider prioritizing “jewels” over “tools”.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Big Is The Zombie Army?

    China’s economy is reportedly being dragged down by an army of “zombie” companies—unprofitable firms clinging to life through subsidies. In fact, the data show only about 10% of Chinese firms are truly financially troubled. “Zombies” look less like a huge systemic problem and more like a normal effect of the downturn in housing and heavy industry.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Beef In Japan’s Budget Bowl

    At ¥97trn, the 2016/17 budget passed by the Japanese parliament on Tuesday was the country’s biggest ever, with accelerating spending increases for welfare, pensions, healthcare, and defense. Yet no one expects Tuesday’s budget to be the end of this year’s fiscal story. Greater than expected increases in tax revenues both from corporations and individuals mean the budget’s reliance on funding from Japanese government bond issuance fell to 35.6...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The China Factor In The Fed’s Equation

    Janet Yellen yesterday confirmed that uncertainty over the global outlook was why the Federal Reserve scaled back expected interest rate hikes. But just what happened in the world to change her mind? Rather than slightly weaker global growth prospects, market turbulence is the more likely culprit—in particular the stress over China’s currency.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bridging India’s Financing Gap

    India’s shoddy infrastructure is the stuff of legend. Ranked 87th in the World Economic Forum’s infrastructure quality index, much of it would not look out of place in sub-Saharan Africa. Mumbai’s rickety old airport, famous for its frequent delays and scuttling rats, once told visitors everything they needed to know. Yet the city’s sleek and airy new terminal presents a fresh image: five times bigger than the old airport, it is clean, efficient...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Returns On Capital Are Deteriorating

    The rate of return on capital invested in the US has taken another step down. While not terribly surprising, this does bring the world’s largest economy one step closer to the next recession and a full-scale bear market. Nevertheless, the day of reckoning remains some way off; the current cycle is not about to reach the end of its road just yet.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: Of Stimulus And Stability

    Our quarterly overview of China’s economy reviews the eventful start to 2016 and reassesses the outlook. The renminbi has returned to relative stability, property is picking up again, and stimulus is continuing. But growth is still reliant on state spending, national leverage is still rising, and services and consumption are set to weaken.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    No Worries From China's Rebalancing?

    For a country that gained so much from China’s commodity boom, Australia seems quite sanguine about the bust. Mining investment may be falling, but optimism on tourism is rising. So has Australia already switched from the old commodity-driven to the new consumer-driven China? And will this rebalancing also be painless for the rest of the world?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Housing: From Great To Good

    The US housing recovery properly kickedoff in 2011 as a confluence of benign factors converged to favor the sector. Yet while housing continues to provide a much-needed positive contribution to US economic growth, recent data points to reduced momentum. After a weak January, homes sales for February, released yesterday, ticked a little higher. Yet over the last year, sales have been choppy and generally flat. The NAHB index also shows...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Reflation Trade

    Yesterday’s awful events in Brussels offer a stark reminder of our personal vulnerability in an unstable world and our hearts go out to the victims. They also reinforce liberal Europe’s vulnerability to hate-based ideology and highly motivated terrorists. However, we at Gavekal are economic analysts rather than geopolitical experts, and today want to focus on a more constructive view of Europe—namely, its equity market. After a knee-jerk sell-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed’s Price Keeping Operation

    The US equity market is a constant source of surprise, but what really amazes Charles is any suggestion that it is “trying to tell us something”. Between algorithms, indexation, regulations, exchange traded funds, structured products, trackers, negative interest rates and of course massive central bank intervention, “Mr. Market” probably has little to say, save that he is hopelessly lost.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Trends From The Five-Year Plan

    What to make of China’s five-year plan? The 13th and most recent plan has lost some uniqueness: it is now just one of Xi Jinping’s many long-term plans, strategies and initiatives. So figuring out what is new and important can be even more challenging. To cut through the clutter, we highlight five important trends for next five years.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Dollar Liquidity And Its Dependents

    One of our long-standing rules of thumb has been that a deteriorating US trade balance is good news for the rest of the world, and especially for emerging markets. It is thus a positive sign that the ex-energy, ex-China trade balance shifted from surplus to a deficit in 2015, sending US$150bn to the world outside of China and the oil exporters. The overall trade balance is likely to continue worsening through late 2017, thanks to the lagged...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    We Are Killing The Wrong Pig

    Lord Keynes, who was a lot smarter than most Keynesians, argued strongly in favor of the euthanasia of the rentier. I see the logic. The rentier has almost by definition a huge preference for liquidity (to use the Keynesian terminology), which leads automatically to a very low velocity of money, and from there to recession. So the idea is to force the rentier into a lower preference for liquidity, which should lead to a higher velocity of money....

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Road To Reflation

    For the last ten years or so, ever since the Hartz reforms to the German labor market, Germany has been by far the biggest driver of overall eurozone growth. Indeed, for much of 2012, Germany was the only driver of eurozone growth. This has not been a healthy phenomenon. With German savings rates high, and domestic consumption sluggish, much of Germany’s own growth was propelled by its net exports of goods to the rest of the world beyond the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed Is Falling Behind The Curve

    The Federal Reserve surprised no one yesterday when it decided to remain on hold. But the downward shift in its projection of year-end inflation from 1.6% to 1.2%—and the consequent revision of its dot plot to show two, rather than four, rate hikes in 2016—should have raised a few eyebrows. By adopting such a dovish stance, the Fed is in increasing danger of falling behind the curve on inflation, which in turn implies that the risk of sharper...

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    The Bloodhound And The Swedish Economist

    After more than 10 years of researching the theories of 19th century radical bourgeois economist Knut Wicksell, Charles concludes that Keynesian monetary policy, which holds market interests down relative to the “natural rate”, leads to slower growth, a more volatile economy, less reliable price signals, and falling P/E ratios. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the US is facing today.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Buying: It’s A Good Time To Sell

    A flurry of big cross-border mergers and acquisitions by Chinese companies has left many people scratching their heads. Announced Chinese international acquisitions are on track to exceed US$100bn in the first quarter—almost as much as in the whole of 2015. What is driving this torrent of cash?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Upside In India

    The biggest immediate problem is that corporate India is not investing. Private businesses are over-leveraged and economic demand is weak. Hamstrung by US$130bn of bad loans, India’s state banks aren’t lending. The government has made little headway on the long-running debate over how to clean up their overstretched balance sheets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Super Mario: Hero To Zero To Hero

    As markets plunged following Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting, it seemed as if Super Mario had turned into Dumb Draghi.But by Friday morning Draghi had again gone from Zero to Hero, with risk-on assets racing ahead in virtually every market around the world.

    2
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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.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Road

    The European Central Bank pulled the trigger but the bazooka misfired. European stocks peaked half an hour after yesterday’s new easing measures were announced, but investors quickly focused on the broader significance of the action.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What To Make Of Industrial Layoffs

    When China’s labor minister said the troubled coal and steel industries could shed 1.8mn jobs, the news provoked a lot of excited commentary. But this is not 1998 all over again. The government’s layoff plan does not mean China is about to be swamped by a wave of unemployed workers, nor that officials are “getting serious” about excess capacity.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Yen And Hard Truths

    The renewed “risk-on” moves of recent weeks has seen a vicious rebound in commodity prices, renewed stability in credit markets and, notably, a decline in the euro, which has fallen back to its early year level against the US dollar. The big outlier in these moves is the Japanese yen, which has become the new strong man of the currency world.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Charles Discussing His Recession Indicator

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Draghi’s Difficulty

    When the European Central Bank’s governing council meets tomorrow, Mario Draghi and his colleagues will find themselves facing a dilemma. With growth sluggish, and inflation elusive, the consensus expects the ECB to ease its already ultra-loose monetary policy further. Likely steps include cutting the central bank deposit rate by 10bps to -40bps, increasing bond purchases to €70bn a month from €60bn, and extending the program of purchases beyond...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Diagnostic Tool For Bear Markets

    One of the most vexing moments in a money manager’s career comes when one of the team—usually the young intern—asks the question: “So, are we in a bear market or not?” Immediately, everybody on the investment committee jumps into the discussion, and without fail everyone has a strong opinion on the matter. A vigorous debate ensues, and when everything is said and done, a lot more has been said than done—and neither the intern nor anyone else on...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Parsing The Decline In China’s Reserves

    After falling by almost US$300bn in the three months to January, China’s foreign reserves showed signs of stabilizing in February. The slower pace of decline is certainly welcome news for the central bank. But the reduced stress owes a lot to recent dollar weakness, and it is too early to say Beijing is fully in control of its new currency regime.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The State Of US Profits

    With the US earnings season for 4Q15 done and dusted it is clear that the glory days of this cycle are long gone: aggregate sales for S&P 500 firms fell -4.0% YoY, profits tumbled -7.5% and margins for the period (not the trailing measure) compressed by -2.2pp to 6.5%. The big drivers of profits were (i) the oil price collapse, (ii) the strong US dollar and its crimping of exporters, and (iii) the tendency for rising wages to erode margins....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Reality Check In Brazil

    After a year of terrible news, Brazilian markets rallied last week on the surprise news that former president Lula Ignacio da Silva had been forcibly hauled in for questioning by investigators plumbing a vast and fetid corruption scandal. On the hope that Lula’s brief detention presaged his arrest and the fall of his hand-picked successor, the widely despised president Dilma Rousseff, equities gained 8% in two days and the beaten-down real...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Papering Over The Credibility Gap

    The aura of technocratic competence that once surrounded China’s leadership is tarnished these days. A recent burst of transparency from top officials has not done much to change that. The bigger problem is that the government has locked itself into a growth target that is not credible, which makes all economic policy less credible.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Dissolving The People

    Populist movements are being greeted with horror by political elites across the Western world. For Charles this is not surprising for such movements threaten the self-perpetuating and self-interested economic structures which our elites have constructed.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Yet The Buy Of A Lifetime

    With emerging market equities up 13% over the last three weeks, and outstripping developed markets over the year to date, the notion is gaining traction that after four years of underperformance emerging markets are now “the buy of a lifetime”. Investors should be cautious. While it is indeed possible that emerging markets could continue to rally over the next few months as the US dollar tops out and commodity prices stabilize, the longer term...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Where Is The Value In A-Shares?

    With the Shanghai market down by nearly half from its peak, are Chinese A-shares starting to get cheap? Unfortunately no: most stocks other than banks are still highly valued. But technology and healthcare firms, many of which trade in Shenzhen, are still good growth stories, and are cheaper relative to the market than they have been for years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Back To Climbing The Wall Of Worry

    Just three weeks ago markets were in full-blown panic mode. The S&P 500 was down -10% YTD, 10-year treasury yields were down to just 1.6%, and credit spreads were close to their cyclical highs. Dark clouds seemed to be rolling in on every front—from China, Brazil, Europe, banks, and the energy sector, all compounded by fears the Federal Reserve had made a grievous policy error. Since then, the skies haven’t exactly cleared, yet the S&P...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Too Quiet On The Southern Front

    Since the euro crisis kicked off six years ago, policy decisions affecting banks have had two main goals. Whether it be monetary policy, the 2014 asset quality review or moves toward both a banking and capital markets union, the objective has been to boost confidence in the system and reduce the fragmentation of credit markets. A -20% fall in eurozone bank shares YTD on concerns about the impact of negative interest rates shows that the first...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Sweden And The NIRP Trap

    Swedish GDP growth for 4Q15 was just reported at 4.5% YoY, the fastest pace since 2011 and the tenth straight quarterly gain. This makes Sweden by far the best performing developed economy in the post-2008 period. So given that it led the way with negative interest rates, an interesting question is whether the Swedish experience represents a vindication for NIRP.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Keeping Control Of The Interbank Market

    When the central bank cut reserve requirements this week, in its first policy move in four months, confusion resulted. Analysts wondered whether the PBOC’s main priority is supporting the currency or stimulating the economy, and which tools it wants to use. We think its top priority now is maintaining low and stable interbank interest rates.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Avoidance Of Debt Traps

    Yesterday saw Asia’s two big emerging economies adjust economic settings to deal with their respective debt problems. China cut the required reserve ratio that banks must hold by 50bp and India’s government rolled out a cautious budget. Both countries' actions, while different in nature, reflect sensible responses to testing circumstances.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself

    February saw some stability return to markets as investors got more comfortable with China’s currency policy and became less convinced that the Federal Reserve made a fatal mistake in December by raising interest rates. In this edition of the Gavekal Monthly Anatole assesses the big worries for global investors, while other writers focus on the burning currency questions in the major economic regions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: On Wicksellian Theory

    0
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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
  • Gavekal Research

    A New Forex Driver?

    Foreign exchange markets are serial monogamists. The currency exchange rate between two economies can be driven by factors such as differences in their respective interest rates, monetary policies, purchasing parity levels, return on invested capital, current account deficits, trade balances and inflation rates. But at any point in time, only one single factor is likely to be the primary driver of performance, which is why currency markets tend...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: On India's Growth

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New European Crisis, Same Problem

    Almost every year since 2008 has been marked by a “crisis” in Europe. Last year’s big headache centered on Grexit, 2014 saw Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine and this year the worry is Brexit and a collapse of the Schengen open border system. European stocks are down -13% YTD and 10 year bunds yield 0.15%, a decline of 48bp. But are these falls justified given that the bigger concern in global markets is centered on emerging economies and a possible...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Rush As China’s Bond Market Opens

    The opening of China’s domestic bond market to global investors announced yesterday is a milestone event, which will lead, over time, to a large influx of foreign capital. But in the near term, policy uncertainty and concerns about the currency outlook are likely to outweigh high Chinese yields, so the impact on capital flows will be modest.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Seeing The Chinese Forest, Not The Trees

    I do not know as much as I should about China, but I would beg readers’ indulgence as I have some general knowledge of how economies work, and some particular insights into economic history. My fairly unoriginal starting point is that the first phase of China’s development, starting in about 1990, required a focus on building infrastructure and this caused particular rules to be adopted. Since the essential roads, bridges, power plants and...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    No More Curve To Roll Down

    Since the Bank of Japan introduced a negative deposit rate on January 30, Japanese bank shares have collapsed, falling -21% in yen terms and -15% in US dollars. The first question to ask is this: why were Japanese bank shares derated so dramatically after the policy change? Here are a few explanations, which are not mutually exclusive:

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    More Power To India

    India’s economic expansion is being retarded by an impaired banking system whose non-performing loan ratio, depending on your methodology, is as high as 12%. The biggest contributor to this bad debt mound is the country’s power sector which accounts for about 10% of bank credit (INR6trn) and 20% of “stressed” loans. The irony is that fast growing India—which currently uses about 1010kWh of power per head versus a global average of about 3000kWh—...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Housing And Deflation

    As regular readers will know, I have been warning for some months that the US economy is on the verge of a deflationary bust, which is by far the most dangerous part of any economic cycle (see Four Quadrants: The Growth Question or The Typology Of A Deflationary Bust). So the question readers are probably asking now is this: did the January data released last Friday, which showed US consumer price index inflation accelerating to 1.4% with core...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Deflation Deferred

    In the context of weak earnings, weak growth and weak inflation numbers, Beijing delivers another blow to confidence by devaluing its currency. Markets swiftly drive down the prices of equities, commodities and high-risk bonds. Anyone still expecting the US Federal Reserve to follow through with rate hikes must be completely out-of-touch with reality...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Doubting Debt Deflation

    After four years of declines in the PPI, there are growing concerns that China has a structural deflation problem. And when debts are high, deflation can make that burden even heavier. Indeed, China’s commodity producers have been experiencing a debt-deflation cycle for years. But this dynamic is not spreading to the rest of the economy.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Brexit Won't Happen

    Among the multiple existential challenges facing the European Union this year—refugees, populist politics, German-inspired austerity, government bankruptcy in Greece and perhaps Portugal—one crisis is well on its way to resolution. Britain will not vote to leave the EU.

    24
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Chasing The Recession In Shaanxi

    We all know that big swaths of China are suffering, especially areas dependent on the declining coal and steel industries. Matt spent his Chinese New Year break in a poor county of Shaanxi province to see what things are like on the ground. He did not find what he expected: conditions are neither as dire as he feared nor as good as he hoped.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Down The Negative Rate Rabbit Hole

    “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice remarked on falling down the rabbit hole and entering Wonderland. Released yesterday, the minutes of the European Central Bank’s January meeting strongly hinted at further monetary easing measures when the governing council next meets in March. Already committed to €60bn in asset purchases per month until March 2017 and charging a negative interest rate of -0.3%, the ECB now looks likely to push its deposit...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dollar That Didn’t Bark

    Sherlock Holmes would have loved it. In trying to unravel the unsolved mystery of how US$20trn suddenly vanished from the vaults of international investors in early 2016, the most intriguing clue was the dog that didn’t bark. When the Federal Reserve started its hiking cycle back on December 16, 2015, a rampantly-rising US dollar was generally considered to be among the biggest risks to the global financial outlook. Two months later, the dollar...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is It Supply Side Or Demand Side?

    The signals from Chinese policymakers are mixed. In recent months official rhetoric has taken a harsh turn, with praise for deleveraging and calls for money-losing “zombie” companies to be shut down. At the same time, officials are promising yet more infrastructure spending, and new data show a record surge in bank loans in January. So which is it?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan’s Point Of No Return

    On January 29 the BoJ destabilized Japan's market equilibrium with a poorly communicated shift to negative interest rates. The message received by the market was that Governor Haruhiko Kuroda was making a desperate gamble with the suggestion that the BoJ’s quantitative-easing strategy had run up against key limits.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Two Cheers For India

    The end of China’s investment boom means the global economy is seeking a new driver of growth. India’s economy outpaced China’s last year, making it the world’s fastest-growing large economy. Tom and Udith analyze what India must do to fulfill its potential

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Having Your Cake, And Eating It

    Is the world really facing a 2008-style economic and market meltdown all over again? If it is, then the prescription for investors is clear: load up on long-dated US treasuries in expectation of a continued slide in yields, leaven your portfolio with exposure to gold, and prepare for the apocalypse. But what if the end of days is not imminent? In that case, investors face a trickier call.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Elijah And The Prophets Of Baal

    As central banks in Europe and Japan push interest rates more deeply negative in an attempt to reflate their struggling economies, it is astonishing that no central bankers seem to have considered that far from staving off deflation as intended, their low rate policies have achieved the exact opposite, bringing the world to the brink of the very deflationary bust they have been trying to avert. For economists steeped in the academic orthodoxies...

    8
  • Gavekal Research

    Crisis? What Crisis?

    Two weeks ago I published an article dissenting from the near-universal view among my Gavekal colleagues, and also probably among our clients, that the global equity markets had entered a severe bear market (see Is Wall Street In A “Bear Market”?). Since I expressed this relatively optimistic view on January 27, the S&P 500 has fallen another -2.7%, the world MSCI-ex US by -3% and the Nikkei by a whopping -8.5% in yen terms. It may therefore...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Good Are Those Service Jobs?

    China’s housing-led slowdown is clearly taking a toll on jobs, with troubled industrial firms laying off millions of workers. Offsetting these losses is the very rapid pace of job creation by the service sector, a fact the government regularly trumpets. But a closer look reveals that most new service jobs are at low-paying small businesses.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Of Policy Credibility

    Abenomics was always a confidence game. Now it seems that confidence has crumbled. Far from reinforcing investors’ belief in the power of policy to boost markets and revitalize Japan’s economy, the central bank’s decision at the end of January to cut interest rates into negative territory has backfired in spectacular fashion. As the yield on 10-year Japanese government bonds has collapsed—even turning negative on Tuesday—stocks in Japanese banks...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Banking Rout

    Following yesterday’s rout in European banking stocks, there is one thing that we can say for certain: the proximal cause of the sell-off had nothing to do with China. With Chinese markets closed for the lunar new year holiday, beleaguered investors in Europe had been hoping for a little breathing space this week. In the event, the sell-off in European bank shares only intensified, with the Euro Stoxx banks index sliding -6.4% on Monday,...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Cleanup

    The last year has been both the best of times and the worst of times for the world’s fastest growing emerging market. India has gotten inflation under control and reaped a nice dividend from the oil price collapse, resulting in a much improved external position. The pro-growth majority government of Narendra Modi has not delivered “big bang” reforms, but has been generally competent and cut red tape. All of this marks India out as a “survivor”...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    QSCB: How To Adapt To A Slow-Growth Future

    Growth in the world’s two biggest economies is settling at much lower rates than investors are used to. We predictably struggle to find a neat consensus on what the current macro environment means for asset allocators, but Charles, Louis and Anatole all offer specific portfolio advice.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No More Shock Absorbers?

    Things have come to a pretty pass when the heads of two of the world’s three leading central banks come out with all guns blazing in an attempt to persuade markets that they will do whatever it takes and more to ease policy—and their currencies promptly strengthen by two big figures. Yet that is exactly what has happened this week. On Monday Mario Draghi dropped a heavy hint that the European Central Bank is preparing to push interest rates even...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Capital Flows And The Currency Endgame

    Concerns are rising about China’s big capital outflows, which topped US$700bn in 2015. Yet our analysis shows that China is not experiencing massive capital flight. Unfortunately, this does not matter much to markets. The real problem is that China’s currency regime is losing credibility, and outflows erode its ability to steady the renminbi.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Tools Or Jewels?

    An asset can have value for reasons of scarcity (a jewel, or gold), or because it is useful and productive, and so over time generates positive cash flows (a tool). In the long run, tools tend to go up more in value than jewels like gold. Tools also have a terrific advantage in that projecting their future productivity and discounting their future cash-flows allows them to be objectively valued. By contrast, valuing jewels like gold is a...

    13
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Say Goodbye To Coal Imports

    China’s coal imports dropped a stunning 30% in 2015—and all signs indicate more declines are coming. Imported coal is taking the brunt of the adjustment in the nation’s energy demand, as the domestic transportation bottlenecks that made imports attractive have eased. We think China will stop being a major net importer of coal in about two years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Is Yen Weakness ‘Good’ But Renminbi Weakness ‘Bad’?

    When the yen falls, global markets think it is A Good Thing, and risk appetite increases. But market moves early in January demonstrated that the opposite applies to China: when the renminbi falls, markets think that is A Bad Thing, and risk appetite vanishes. So why do investors like a weak yen but fear a weak renminbi?

    1
  • Gavekal Research

    Red Herrings, Margin Calls And Heart Attacks

    Most recent commentary we have read suggests that January’s turmoil can be blamed on either the slowdown in China or the fear of an impending US recession. But let us suggest an alternative: these are red herrings which only distract from the real analytical challenges faced by investors.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Symptoms Of Dysfunction

    If bank shares are the canary in the global economic coalmine, they are currently singing a very alarming tune. In Japan bank shares have cratered -10% since Friday’s decision by the central bank to move to negative interest rates, even though the new -0.1% rate will only apply on the margin to additional deposits at the Bank of Japan. Elsewhere, in Europe, the banking component of the Euro Stoxx index has slumped -16.8% year-to-date, while the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Enter Ursus Magnus?

    January was a hair raising month for investors with a deeply worrying combination of falling oil prices, plunging equities and soaring yields for sub investment grade debt. In this edition of the Gavekal Monthly we seek some answers to the “what next” question, kicking off with Charles and Anatole who take very different views on whether a bear market is upon us.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bank Of Japan Surprises

    The Bank of Japan just got all European in its battle against deflationary forces by adopting a negative interest rate policy. By changing its main interest rate for the first time in five years the BoJ genuinely surprised the market; some form of easing was expected given the recent strength in the yen and growth worries, but only a week ago Governor Haruhiko Kuroda ruled out the negative rate option.

    18
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    Gavekal Research

    Learning To Love A Weak Ruble

    The oil price may have bounced in recent days and with it the ruble, but Russia’s financial situation looks increasingly perilous. The economy is struggling through a second year of recession and Russian corporates must roll over US$120bn of foreign currency debt by mid-2017. Moreover Russia’s central bank seems to have embraced a policy of benign neglect toward the ruble as it tries to preserve a reduced pile of foreign exchange reserves.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Anatomy Of The Bear

    I wish I shared Anatole’s degree of conviction. In yesterday’s Daily he set out his belief that the current sell-off in financial markets is not the start of “a structural ‘bear market’, still less a structural Ursus Magnus likely to last for many years” (see Is Wall Street In A ‘Bear Market’). I am not so sure. I suspect that what we are witnessing may indeed be the emergence of an Ursus Magnus, the sort of bear market so deep and prolonged...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Wall Street In A “Bear Market”?

    Charles has boldly defined a serious bear market as a downtrend in which investors who buy at the top do not recover their money for four years or more. By contrast, he dismissed a -15% to -20% decline lasting less than 18 months as a mere bear cub that could equally well be described as a “pause that refreshes”. In my view the present decline it looks rather more like “cub” than an Ursus Magnus.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Another Grim Year For Profits

    For Chinese industry, 2015 was a year of unrelieved pain—and there is little prospect of any turnaround in 2016. Although demand for consumer goods is solid, the heavy industry sector is just clinging on until the construction cycle picks up. Our base case is for a 1% decline in industrial profits this year.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Buy The BoJ Bluster

    Haruhiko Kuroda, the Bank of Japan Governor, has presided over a pick-up in domestic demand and seems loath to have it extinguished by a global growth scare. Last week he hinted that he was ready to do more, and subsequent press leaks point to a further expansion of his quantitative easing program. One reason to think a big bazooka may be rolled out at Thursday’s policy-setting meeting is that a month ago the BoJ mildly expanded its QE operation...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Choose, PBOC

    Some calm has returned to China’s exchange-rate market—but for how long? For the past two weeks, the renminbi’s value has been relatively stable against both the US dollar and its official trade-weighted basket. But questions about the future trajectory of the renminbi have not gone away. Despite the central bank’s massive recent interventions, many market participants view the current “peg to a basket” as a temporary tool that will, at some...

    5
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