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  • Gavekal Research

    Who Is The Marginal Buyer?

    Notwithstanding yesterday’s equity market rally (carried over into the Asian morning), the behavior of risk assets over the past month begs the question of whether a big financial actor is seriously “sick”. The constant plunge in commodities, the relentless rise in spreads and an inability of all major equity markets to hold on to a rally suggests that someone, somewhere, is just “puking” a massive portfolio (as AIG did in 2008).

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Overlooked Risk In Italy

    What is the biggest threat to European stability this year? The continent’s migrant crisis? The chance that the British will vote in a referendum to leave the European Union? Or the danger of contagion from China’s slowing economy and fragile financial markets? All of these do pose risks, but it is possible that the greatest threat to Europe this year could come from a different quarter altogether: Italy’s banking sector. At first the danger...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Here Comes Daddy Bear

    For the last few months I have been concerned that a bear market was likely to unfold. It is my considered opinion that we are now on such a trajectory. Of course the next question has to be what kind of bear market, for history suggests that such episodes come in two distinct extremes.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Debate Over Renminbi Policy

    One of the core tenets of Gavekal’s philosophy is that we embrace open debate. Rather than concealing the diversity of our analysis beneath a single suffocating “house view”, we strongly believe that conducting our —often animated—discussions about the big topics of the day out in the open adds value for our readers. And few of our recent debates have been as lively as the one over Beijing’s renminbi policy. Joyce’s view is that the Chinese...

    10
  • Gavekal Research

    Four Quadrants: The Growth Question

    Charles has been on a near 40 year quest to find a rules-based solution to the most basic of economic questions “what is the current situation?”. He has long used his Four Quadrants methodology which categorizes an economy as being in either an inflationary boom or bust, or alternatively a disinflationary boom or bust. In the first part of this series he proposed a framework to show whether the US was in the inflationary or disinflationary part...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Need To Fear For The HK Dollar

    In times as volatile as these, a currency move of 0.8% in a week hardly sounds remarkable. But when the currency is the Hong Kong dollar, people sit up and pay attention. As sentiment towards China’s renminbi has turned deeply bearish over the last few weeks, the Hong Kong dollar has moved away from the strong side of its HKD7.75-7.85 convertibility band against the US currency. In early trading on Wednesday, the Hong Kong dollar reached HKD7....

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Keep Calm And Rebalance Into Equities

    The investment environment has not fundamentally changed since December. Then as now, the situation neither justifies being “all in” nor “all out”. Since the economic situation is worsening, a balanced portfolio of some type makes sense—unless there's evidence of a looming US recession. In my view, that time has not yet come.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Two Speeds, Both Slower

    China’s “two-speed” economy coasted to a moderate slowdown in 2015, with rapid gains in services helping offset a downturn in industry. But industry will worsen further in 2016, and the recent strength in services will prove to be cyclical. We think this slowdown will be gradual, but are watching risks in the financial sector and the job market.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Turning Point For Excess Capacity

    2015 saw historic declines in China’s output of coal and steel—which are far from over. Falling commodity prices have brought the excess-capacity sectors to a turning point, finally forcing them to cut output. More producers will cut in 2016, at a pace similar to or faster than in 2015; the government is talking tough but prefers a gradual process.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Looking For The Bright Side

    By most measures, the first two weeks of 2016 have been the worst-ever start of the year for risk assets. With the MSCI All-Countries index down nearly -20% from last May’s high, we are now in a global bear market.

    1
  • Gavekal Research

    The Oil Market Confusion

    Enough is enough. The oil price collapse that began in the autumn of 2014 may have hit rock-bottom, at least for the time being. Having stayed stubbornly bearish ever since the oil market’s transition from a Saudi monopoly to a normal competitive pricing regime (see Oil: Lower For Longer) it is appropriate to regularly review our assumptions. After the huge price moves of the past two weeks, this review now suggests turning neutral or even...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    High Yield Worries

    Attention may have focused yesterday on the oil price collapse and its knock-on to US equities, but there was also grim price action in the sub-investment grade debt markets—the high yield master index fell back towards its December low, while the CCC-rated index breached that threshold. This pain can be attributed to worsening conditions in the energy sector, where the chance of large scale defaults increases with each lurch lower in the crude...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Retreating From An International Renminbi

    Behind the recent turbulence in markets lies an important shift in China’s longer-term currency strategy. The drive to internationalize the renminbi, which required keeping the currency strong, has run out of steam. Now that the central bank has gotten much of what it wanted, internationalization is no longer driving currency policy.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Unintended Consequences

    Forget the Brazilian real and the Chinese renminbi. The world’s worst performing major currency over the last month is actually the British pound, which has fallen a painful -4.95% against the US dollar since mid-December. The beating has been especially brutal in recent days. After data released yesterday showed British manufacturing output is still languishing not just below its 2008 level, but even below its 1997 level, sterling slumped...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Stronger Macro, Sinking Stocks

    The latest macro indicators leave little doubt about the general direction of the eurozone economy. Both hard and soft data suggest that growth re-accelerated from a meagre 0.3% QoQ (1.2% annualized) in 3Q15, probably to 0.4%-0.5% (1.6%-2.0% annualized) at the turn of the year. Eurozone unemployment declined to a four-year low in December, and the economic sentiment indicator compiled by the European Commission from business and consumer surveys...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Japan’s Building Boom For Real?

    As followers of our specialist Gavekal Japan Alpha service will know, something of a construction boom is emerging in Japan. At first glance this seems surprising, especially given that Japan is pedaling into some severe demographic headwinds. According to the 2010 national census, Japan’s population did grow between 2005 and 2010—but only by 0.2% over the five-year period, to reach 128mn. Over the coming decades, that anemic demographic growth...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China: Still Off Course

    We began 2016 thinking that China’s policymakers had learned some lessons from last year; obviously, last week’s mayhem proved us wrong. But the real problem with the missteps on the currency and the stock market is not that collapse is imminent. Rather, it is that the leadership is not setting a clear course toward a more market-driven economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It’s About The Dollar, Not The Renminbi

    In my 50 year career working in financial markets, I have never seen the money supply of one country move across the border to another country. Hence I must confess to being perplexed when reading recent commentary fretting about “capital flight” from China. Never mind that China’s highest denomination bill is RMB100, meaning that a fleet of trucks would be needed to move any meaningful sums into Hong Kong, but the country still has foreign...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Going Down With The Renminbi

    Emerging markets have faced significant headwinds ever since the “taper tantrum” of mid-2013 when investors began to factor in tightening moves by the Federal Reserve. Their headache got much worse last summer when China allowed a mini-devaluation of the renminbi, and 2016 is hardly starting well. The root problem is that most emerging markets are over-geared and need to ease policy if growth is to be kick-started. Unfortunately, easing is...

    4
  • Gavekal Research

    Four Quadrants: A Wicksellian Analysis

    In 1978, when still young and creative, I produced my first four quadrants chart. The idea was that there are four basic investment environments depending if economic activity is expanding or contracting, and whether prices are rising or falling. It was usually obvious which state we had just left—for example the UK having suffered an inflationary bust in 1977—but far harder to judge what state we had entered. Being able to make such a call in...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    US Risks

    While China grabs the headlines (Trading halted before 10am after a quick -7% drop, renminbi devaluation fears at fever pitch!...), we will leave those issues for a later report and focus on a question that looms larger for most investors: what is happening in the US economy, and what are the key risks facing the world’s biggest market in 2016?

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Clearing Up The Currency Confusion

    China’s currency has once again grabbed the spotlight. Big falls against the dollar have raised fears that China is embarking on a major competitive devaluation, or that it has lost control of the financial system. We do not think these fears are correct, but the central bank’s failure to explain a new currency policy is causing much turbulence.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: The Balance Of Risks

    The new year has been a wild ride so far, with sharp drops in the renminbi, Chinese stock markets, and oil prices leading global markets down. In our first Gavekal Monthly of 2016 we try to make sense of the risks facing investors today. As usual there are some strong differences of opinion: Anatole argues that developed economies are in decent shape, the dollar's rise will soon be over, and equities should post a better performance than...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Last Holdout Of US Value

    Some readers have expressed surprise at my contention that the US stock market is “not that expensive” as their direct experience suggests otherwise. The objection is reasonable, so I have conducted a review of my US equity valuation model. I like to compare equities to a long-dated US zero coupon bond because it has the same annual volatility as the US stock market. Hence, the chart below compares the S&P 500 with the price index of a zero...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Macro Questions For 2016

    For our first China research piece of the new year, we offer a guide to the economic outlook in the form of short answers to some big questions: Will China derail the global economy? Will the government step up policy easing? Will housing prices collapse? Will industrial profits recover? Will troubled companies lay off more workers?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Day One Carnage

    “Well, that was an oddly timed report,” one of our long-suffering clients remarked yesterday, with justice. Right after we pressed send on our outlook for the year ahead, assuring readers that China fears and commodity prices would not play as big a role in markets in 2016 as they did last year, the Shanghai index collapsed by -7%, and oil prices had a volatile ride thanks to growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Have we been proved...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    ASEAN Could Yet Matter

    Until the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s, Southeast Asia’s export-led development was driven by ethnically-Chinese entrepreneurs who ran dispersed production that mostly supplied the garment, electronics and consumer goods sectors. By the mid-2000s these relationships had greatly simplified, with the economies of the Association of South East Asian Nations either slotting into the Chinese manufacturing supply chain, or alternatively...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Forget About Oil And China, Look To The US In 2016

    On the whole, 2015 was a year for investors to forget. US bond and equity prices were both flat, equity gains in Europe were mostly wiped out (for US dollar investors) by the fall of the euro, and commodity plays and high-yield issues crumbled. China sparked a brief panic after a clumsy intervention to cushion a stock-market collapse and an unexpected currency devaluation, but by the end of the year the Shanghai index was still up nearly 5% in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New Economic Realities

    As we close the book on 2015, it is worth sifting through our research to find the patterns that are likely to influence events in 2016 and beyond. Three stand out.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Believe The Hype

    So far so good. Two hours’ trading, which was all the time New York markets had to react to the Federal Reserve rate hike, is hardly a significant sample, but the steadiness and consistency of that brief response must have left Janet Yellen satisfied. The most predictable and predicted event in financial history, turned out to be exactly that. The Fed did exactly what Yellen had suggested all year and what everyone by now expected—announcing a...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: A Cloudy Outlook For 2016

    Our latest quarterly overview of China’s economy outlines the prospects for 2016. Growth will slow further, as industry stays weak and the performance of services fades. More moves to support growth are also certain, with the focus switching to fiscal from monetary policy. Meanwhile, pressures on the financial system and labor market are rising.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The French Patient

    As a Frenchman visiting Italy last week, I had the strong sense that for the first time in decades France was lagging its transalpine neighbor. Italian business and consumer confidence has picked-up over the last two years, and unemployment has declined for four straight quarters. France, by contrast, is the only European country that saw rising unemployment during 2015. Political confidence has evaporated as reinforced by last weekend’s rather...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Year Of Peak Everything

    2015 should go down as a turning point in China's economic history: coal demand is having its biggest drop for 15 years, steel for 20, cement for 25. The previous declines in materials use were one-offs that were quickly forgotten in the ensuing boom; this time, they will be longer lasting.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Shudder In US Credit

    As oil prices tumble and the first US interest rate hike for eight years comes into view, bond investors in the high-yield segment are taking flight. The market was given a foretaste of what a disorderly unwinding of an over-bought US corporate bond market may look like late last week, when two high-yield bond funds suspended redemptions. The worry is that these tremors become an earthquake, making it more costly for all companies to refinance...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Clash Over Fossil Fuels

    Over the weekend in Paris, the leaders of 195 nations announced a landmark deal to address climate change that its more optimistic supporters say heralds “the end of the fossil fuel era.” But both market action and many government policies point in the opposite direction. Crude oil prices continue to tumble towards the US$30 mark, and coal prices have also collapsed—both moves that reflect abundant global supplies of fossil fuels. The Paris...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Finally Rolls Over

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Our 2015 Holiday Reading List

    As the long winter evenings draw in (at least in the northern hemisphere), what could be more pleasant than snuggling down with a good book? This year’s selection of works enjoyed by Gavekal staffers over the last 12 months is the usual eclectic mix. Louis sets the ball rolling with his review of Bill Browder’ gripping story of doing business in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Happy reading!

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Cure For Low Prices Is Low Prices

    What is the latest rout in commodity prices telling us? Certainly, China’s demand for many commodities is weak—but everyone knows this. The most important signal is rather on the supply side: low prices are finally pushing commodity producers to cut output. It is this restructuring that will eventually bring stability to commodity prices.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taiwan And China: Can The Uneasy Truce Last?

    After seven years of relative quiet, Taiwan is back in the spotlight. Next month’s elections are all but certain to bring the opposition DPP, which China dislikes, back to power. So could one of Asia’s oldest frozen conflicts start to heat up? In fact there are reasons to think that ties between Taipei and Beijing will not break down completely.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What A Brexit Means For Markets

    This week David Cameron has been on the road in Eastern Europe arguing that British voters will vote for “Brexit” unless it gets a new deal with the European Union. As polls suggest that Britons are pretty much split down the middle on the issue, the prospect of the UK bidding adieu to Brussels is getting more real by the day. Indeed, with the negotiation expected to reach a head early next year, the question of a British exit is likely to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    QSCB: The State Of The US Economy

    The US economy displays some worrying signs. Corporate profits have contracted, credit spreads have jumped and inventories are piling up. By the same token, the consumer looks in decent shape as wages rise, oil prices continue to fall and moderate household leverage provides a clear tail wind. So what gives?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What To Make Of Wider Credit Spreads

    US credit spreads are ticking up again, driving the Merrill Lynch US high yield index below its early October low yesterday and bringing total returns for the year to date to -3.4%. This renewed widening of spreads raises some important questions for asset allocators and economy watchers. Has the bond market got itself into an unwarranted flap, providing investors with a good opportunity to lock in some elevated yields? Or has the corporate debt...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: On The US Economy

    For a deeper dive, read the Quarterly Strategy Chartbook: The State Of The US Economy here.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Apex Of Market Stupidity

    In some 40 years of watching financial markets, my dominant emotion has been a mixture of curiosity, amusement and despair. It seems the stock market must have been invented to make the maximum number of people miserable for the greatest possible amount of time. The bond market, meanwhile, has just one goal in life: to make economists’ forecasts for interest rates look even more silly than their other predictions.

    8
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Cash Hogs On The Loose

    There are many privileges that come with being a state-owned enterprise in China. One of them, apparently, is the freedom to not pay your bills. We find that SOEs are delaying payments to their suppliers, in order to hoard the cash they need to pay their large debts. This does help SOEs avoid defaults, but at the expense of smaller private firms.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Inside The Fed’s Black Box

    Regular readers will know that we at Gavekal have spent a considerable amount of time over the last few years exploring Knut Wicksell’s concept of the “natural rate of interest”. We are not the only ones. The Federal Reserve too has recently been mulling over the great 19th century Swedish economist’s theories. According to the minutes of October’s Federal Open Market Committee meeting, policymakers were given “several briefings on the concept...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    A Year-Defining Week

    Four hugely important events occurred last week which between them have largely determined the course of the world economy in the year ahead: the strong US payrolls, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision not to reduce production, the European Central Bank’s escalation of monetary stimulus and the inclusion of the renmimbi in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights basket. While all these events were...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Chinese Consumer: Outlook & Trends

    As the downturn in China's investment-driven economy deepens, ever more hope is being placed on consumer spending. But the dynamics of Chinese household spending remain poorly understood. In this concise presentation, we outline the macro factors driving the growth of consumption, as well as the key structural changes.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: On Brexit

    Nick Andrews discusses the possibility of a "Brexit"

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Brazil’s Crisis: The Plot Thickens

    Brazil is in the midst of its worst crisis in a quarter century. The crisis was expected, given the poor quality of economic policy and the end of the commodity boom, but its depth and length were not. The recession began in the second quarter of 2014 and will last at least until mid-2016. Economic recovery, when it comes, will be modest and gradual, more L- than V-shaped. The crisis has been aggravated by political paralysis and a rising level...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    On Course Through The Squall

    The market reaction to the European Central Bank’s announcement yesterday of additional monetary easing—including a -10bp cut in the ECB’s deposit rate to -30bp and an extension of its €60bn a month program of bond purchases to at least March 2017—suggested that the central bank’s moves were a massive disappointment. Instead of letting off a firework, the ECB seems to have set fire to the house. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement,...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Finding The Missing Coal

    This year statisticians decided China has actually been using about 600mn more tons of coal than previously estimated. The news is a bit awkward for official pledges to cap coal consumption and carbon emissions. But actually these new figures only reinforce our conviction that China is already very close to its peak level of coal demand.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Not To Trust In Central Bankers

    More than ever investors are fixated with central bankers, whether it be the latest utterance of Janet Yellen or what Mario Draghi may announce later today. To my mind, there are bigger issues on the horizon.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Equities And The Euro

    It is likely that 2015 will be remembered as a strong year for eurozone equities. With only a few weeks of normal trading activity remaining, the MSCI EMU has delivered a solid 17% total return in local currency terms (the benchmark small and mid-cap index is up 24%). Still, we doubt that many investors will be celebrating a bumper year. The standard view was that the European Central Bank’s huge asset purchase program, which started in March,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Are Emerging Markets Cheap?

    On the face of it, the valuation of emerging markets looks compelling. After declining -30% from its 2011 high, the MSCI Emerging Markets index is now at a forward P/E ratio of 12, a third cheaper than the S&P 500. As a result, the valuation premium of developed over emerging equity markets is close to its highest in more than ten years. What’s more on average, emerging-market currencies are now below fair value against the US dollar,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: A Cloudy Currency Outlook

    The Gavekal Monthly outlines our highest conviction ideas and summarizes the key economic, market and thematic views held by the firm’s partners and analysts. This report is an attempt to answer a question that we are often asked, but find it hard to answer: "What does Gavekal think?".

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Now For The Renminbi?

    It’s official: the IMF has confirmed that the renminbi will join the SDR currency basket. Now that China has achieved this goal, attention will turn to the renminbi’s exchange-rate outlook. The reality, however, is that SDR inclusion is largely irrelevant to the trajectory of the exchange rate; what happens to the US dollar will be the key.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    When To Reduce The Volatility Of An Equity Portfolio

    Having worked as a money manager with mandates that allowed me the freedom to move at will between cash, bonds and equities, while still being measured against the world equity index, my key asset allocation decision was always when to reduce the portfolio’s volatility below that of the benchmark—and which tool to use in pursuit of this goal.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bringing The World To China's Doorstep

    Chinese consumers love global brands, but hate their high prices. So well-off Chinese have often shopped for them abroad rather than pay inflated domestic prices. These days, though, Chinese consumers can import foreign goods over the internet at much lower prices. This trend will wreak havoc on middlemen, but will also create new opportunities.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    No Savior On The New Silk Road

    Over the last year China has stepped up its efforts to build an informal empire in Asia. This “One Belt, One Road” initiative has the potential to boost regional development and strengthen China’s geopolitical heft. But in the shorter term, can Beijing’s grand plan absorb China’s industrial overcapacity and revive commodity demand? Sadly, no.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Lament For A Vanished Middle East

    It is desperately saddening to see the terrified population of the Middle East fleeing for refuge towards a Europe that has utterly forgotten what the region looked like just a few decades ago. Yet nobody can hope to understand the disaster that is unfolding if he knows nothing of the events that shaped the modern Middle East.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Osborne’s Masterful Tack

    “Since 2010, no economy in the G7 has grown faster than Britain,” boasted George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presenting his autumn public spending review yesterday. Indeed it is true that, according to the latest estimates, GDP in both Britain and the US has increased by exactly the same number, 12.4%, since the first quarter of 2010.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Poverty Still Matters For Capitalists

    Since 2000 the median US household income has fallen by -7% in real terms as living standards have declined for the poorest members of American society. As Charles explains in this follow-up to his July 2014 paper, Poverty Matters For Capitalists, this worsening impoverishment has been inflicted largely by monetary policy mistakes, and threatens to drag the entire US economy into recession.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The Squeeze On US Profits

    Forget yesterday’s upward revision in US third quarter GDP growth from 1.5% to 2.1%. The real news was the release of top-down domestic corporate profit data—and it was much less encouraging. Here is what we learned:

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Less Distorted Mirror

    China’s stock markets reflect its economy as in a funhouse mirror: consumer and service sectors shrink to midget proportions, while finance and industry swell to giant size. The process of correcting these distortions speeded up in 2015 as industry slumped and services held steady. Progress will likely slow some in 2016, but the trend is clear.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Financing Europe’s Soaring Defense Costs

    François Hollande has rightly made it clear that France is at war (see France Under Attack). And wars cost a lot of money, as keeping an army in the field and airplanes in the air is expensive. There is a reason for the military adage “amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics”. Moreover, fighting a terrorist organization involves both military costs and large domestic security costs. As such, the increase in security spending for the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Stepping Away From The Abyss

    Clients sometimes complain that while we like to cloak ourselves in a “free-market” mantle, we are seldom fussed that China’s growth model is government-controlled by acommunist party that jealously guards its political powers (see A Happy Apologist). To be fair, Gavekal writers have recently bemoaned the slowing pace of reform in China (see A Plan for Less Planning?), but over the years we have tended to justify our constructive view by arguing...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Stick With The Dollar

    With the US set to raise interest rates and the eurozone more likely to ease policy, a long-dollar, short-euro position has been an obvious bet. Yet as the DXY inches closer to its March high, the question is whether a breakout is feasible. After all, the long US dollar trade looks crowded, with the world and its dog convinced that Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi will soon be travelling quite different monetary pathways. Such a comfortable...

    1
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    Indonesia: After The Pain Trade

    Indonesian assets did well out of the late summer pain trade, with equities and rupiah bonds both rallying by around 20% in US dollar terms. Even more encouragingly, they have since held on to most of those gains as commodities have tested new lows. This is a signal that the rupiah has fallen enough over recent years to allow Indonesia’s economy to adjust to the end of the commodity boom. That makes the high yields on rupiah-denominated bonds...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Britisher At Heart

    On Monday, Anatole argued that a British exit from the European Union would rank as a foreign policy disaster of historic proportions (see Brexit: A Blunder To Rank With The Boston Tea Party). This is not the first time I have disagreed with my partner on UK matters, and it will likely not be the last. In recent years Anatole worried about the impact of public spending cuts being pushed through by the Conservative-led coalition government; I...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Breaking Down The Services Cycle

    With China’s industrial sector in a deep slowdown, the services sector has been generating most of the good economic news in 2015. But there is no economic law that makes services immune to the business cycle. Services have their own ups and downs, and while that cycle has helped growth this year, it will provide less of a boost in 2016.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Not So Bad In Japan

    Japan, as of Monday, was back in recession after GDP in 3Q15 shrank by -0.8% YoY, a second successive quarterly contraction. Such weakness supports a growing consensus that the economic renewal program of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—based on the idea that monetary easing would spur domestic reflation—is a busted flush. For the bears, the question is when, not if, Japan tilts back into full-blown deflation. We are not so sure about this view, and...

    0
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    Europe’s Equity Bet

    On the face of it, the opportunity in European equities is hardly exciting. US stocks may be close to their high while European equities languish 10% below their April peak, but on a valuation basis the two markets are similar. A comparison of their price-to-earnings ratios, both on a trailing and forward basis, sits near its historical average. Things, however, start to look more interesting when a cyclically-adjusted P/E ratio is applied—CAPE...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Wicksell And Capital Misallocation

    Accepted opinion among investors is that, when it eventually comes, the Federal Reserve’s first interest rate increase in almost nine and a half years will have been signaled so well in advance and will be so small—effectively from zero to 25bps—that it will have little or no effect on either the financial markets or the real economy. Unfortunately, given the monetary policy settings that have prevailed since 2010, I am not convinced the...

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Half-Hearted Rebalancing

    The risk for China’s relatively closed economy was never that it would suffer a standard emerging market solvency crisis. The real worry was that it would duck the hard decisions needed to navigate a transition from capital-intensive growth to a broader model of development. I have been cautiously optimistic over the last three years that Beijing would take the necessary medicine, but am coming to the conclusion that it is instead set on the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    France Under Attack

    In the worst days of the Northern Ireland troubles, British policymakers spoke of a “tolerable level of violence”. It was taken for granted that senseless and murderous acts would be committed, but what mattered was ensuring that these did not “get out of hand”.

    9
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Benefits Of Membership

    The renminbi’s path to becoming the fifth sovereign currency in the SDR is now clear, with IMF chief Christine Lagarde endorsing the move on Friday. This is a diplomatic coup for China and a victory for its central bank. But we do not see SDR inclusion as a game-changer for capital flows into China, though they will continue to rise.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Brexit: A Blunder To Rank With The Boston Tea Party

    Ask any divorced couple whether their relationship would have been different had they never married. Actually, don’t bother asking, since the answer is obvious. Strangely, most conservative politicians do not seem to understand this—and neither do 48% of British voters. That is the number, according to recent opinion polls, who want a divorce from the European Union.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Brace For Lower US Margins

    As the end of the 3Q15 US earnings season comes into view, what stands out is how little things have changed from the last quarter. Alas, corporate America’s financial performance is stabilizing at the weakest level seen since the 2008 crisis—with more than 90% of S&P 500 firms having reported, both revenue and profits came in about -4.5% lower compared with a year ago. This grim performance is partly explained by the ongoing bloodbath in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Happy Apologist

    At Gavekal the conversation with clients never stops and from time to time we like to offer up a taste of debates that strike us as interesting. Louis got into just such a discussion earlier this week with one of our smarter, free-market embracing US clients. The topic of discussion was China and why Louis is such an apologist for the Chinese Communist Party when he clearly has little time for governments meddling with markets elsewhere?

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Dead Cat Bounce Or Tiger’s Leap?

    With China’s stock market and currency both up from their lows, the “stabilization trade” looks to be firmly in effect. But while this stabilization is definitely warranted, it is mostly markets correcting their over-reaction to the August currency move. It has little to do with any broader stabilization of the real economy, which is still weak.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Drifting In The Mid-Atlantic

    On the one hand the United Kingdom looks to have similar dynamics to recovering European economies, where growth is picking up nicely even though deflationary pressure still looms—Britain’s headline CPI rate stands at -0.1% and real rates have swung positive from a low of -4.7%. Such a cautious view explains why the Bank of England offered a report last week whose dovishness surprised some. Yet, on the other hand mid-Atlantic Britain in many...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Catastrophe Of Negative Rates

    Yesterday both Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan and Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann broke ranks, daring to suggest that ultra-low interest rates may not be such a good thing after all. If rates were held too low for too long, warned Rajan, the risk of financial instability would be greatly heightened, a concern Weidmann shares. Unfortunately, that’s not the half of it.

    13
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    Gavekal Research

    The Limits Of Xi Jinping’s Grand Plan

    As China’s growth slowdown deepens, making even the government’s reduced growth target of 6.5% a year for the rest of this decade look less and less realistic, policymakers are increasingly pinning their hopes on Beijing’s much-touted “Belt and Road Initiative”. Not only do they hope that the plan to build new trading networks across Central Asia and the Indian Ocean will boost China’s flagging exports, but that the demand for commodities and...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Chinese Dream (I): The Empire Strikes Back

    Xi Jinping’s project of national rejuvenation needs to be taken seriously, with an understanding of the history from which it springs.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Never-Ending Slowdown

    Xi Jinping’s ambition to extend China’s global influence is obvious. Whether he can sustain the long-run economic growth needed to finance that ambition is less clear.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Chinese Dream (II): Great Leap Outward Along The New Silk Road

    The Belt-and-Road Initiative promises an infrastructure bonanza for Asia’s least-connected regions. How much it will extend China’s political influence is an open question.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Chinese Dream (III): Should We Fear It?

    As a ‘peace-loving’ China flaunts its military, political and economic might, Asia and the US puzzle over how to respond.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Financing China’s Global Dreams

    Beijing has promised to put a lot of money to work building infrastructure across Eurasia. But the actual amount of finance China is likely to mobilize in the next several years is much less than the extravagant headline figures. The biggest constraint on its ambitions to revive is not money, but finding viable projects are to finance.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China And Russia: Locked In Reluctant Embrace

    China’s economic activity is gradually reducing Russian influence in Central Asia. Despite that, shared authoritarian values keep the two countries closely aligned on many issues.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Instead Of A Balance Of Power, Create Better Rules Of The Game

    Critiques of Obama’s ‘rebalance to Asia’ miss the point. It is not about adjusting the balance of power in Asia, but about refining the rules of the international order that China is inexorably entering.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Should The US Respond To China’s Rise?

    The longstanding US approach to a rising China—economic engagement and military balancing—no longer works. More muscular balancing, and smarter engagement, is now required.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Two Cheers For Hypocrisy

    Are the world’s two biggest economies headed for a “Thucydides trap,” in which China’s determination to carve out a sphere of influence in Asia provokes an all-out effort by the US to maintain its primacy in the Pacific?

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: China Reshapes Asia

    In the last two years China has made a bold push to expand its influence in Asia, using both the carrot of well-funded infrastructure diplomacy and the stick of forceful assertion of territorial claims in the South and East China Seas. What explains this newly assertive foreign policy, and what are its effects likely to be? This special issue of the China Economic Quarterly tries to answer these questions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Preparing For Fed Lift-Off

    Now that Friday’s payroll figures have confirmed the US economy’s apparent slowdown as nothing more than a statistical blip, similar to the summer “soft-patches” of 2011 and 2012 and the winter weather hits of 2013 and 2014, the Federal Reserve is near-certain to start its tightening cycle on December 16—which was what Janet Yellen suggested all along. Apart from praising Yellen for consistency and foresight, instead of castigating her for...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Clearer Political Skies In Spain

    For the last three years Spain has been the poster child for the eurozone’s recovery. In its country report published yesterday, the European Commission described Spain’s growth as “robust, underpinned by sustained job creation, improved financing conditions, high confidence and low oil prices”. Yet not everything in the Spanish garden is rosy. The manufacturing PMI suggests the recovery is facing severe challenges, having slowed from a cyclical...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Justifying The Bond Bull Market

    China has enjoyed a great bull market in bonds in 2015, but concerns are also growing that credit risk is mispriced and that a new bubble is emerging. In this piece we review the big questions on the Chinese bond market and conclude it is not a bubble; short-term government bonds are attractive but the outlook for corporate bonds is less certain.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Good Enough In Turkey

    Investors have welcomed last weekend’s victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey’s elections, with the lira and equities both rallying strongly. After June’s inconclusive poll failed to produce a workable government, the concern was that a country with huge economic, security and strategic challenges would become ungovernable. In this context, the election result was the best that...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good Enough In Turkey

    Investors have welcomed last weekend’s victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) founded by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey’s elections, with the lira and equities both rallying strongly. After June’s inconclusive poll failed to produce a workable government, the concern was that a country with huge economic, security and strategic challenges would become ungovernable. In this context, the election result was the best that...

    0
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    The Fight Against Europe’s Inflation Skeptics

    In recent conversations with Europe-based clients we have been struck by a rising tide of “inflation skepticism”. While many investors back in 2009-2011 fretted that monetary activism must lead to spiraling inflation, many now believe the exact opposite. Their fear is that irrespective of central bank action, inflation is doomed to stay below target. In just a few years, inflation has stopped being commonly thought of as “always and everywhere a...

    0
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