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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The BoE’s Positive Thinking

    Yesterday the Bank of England rolled out the artillery it plans to deploy against the UK’s fast-materializing post-referendum slowdown. Yet for all the effect they are likely to have, the Bank’s big guns might as well be peashooters. Although the Bank’s new forecasts suggest the UK is heading for a period of stagnation, rather than outright economic contraction, all the latest forward-looking indicators point to a severe recession starting in...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Great Leap Forward

    India, finally, is on course to become a genuine economic power. Calling it a “Treaty of Rome” moment goes too far, but India’s Goods and Services Tax could prove nearly as significant as the agreement that created the European common market. India has been a strong political state for nearly 70 years, but its fragmented economy prevents goods and many services from moving freely within its borders. The GST promises to create a genuinely common...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Better Indicator Of Investment

    Growth in fixed-asset investment is now the lowest it has been in the 12-year history of the data. But FAI is a very messy indicator, and increasingly inconsistent with the national accounts. Out of frustration, I have built a simple model to track investment growth in national-accounts terms—gross fixed capital formation—on a monthly basis.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Throes Of The JGB Market

    While the Japanese government was rolling out its latest stimulus package yesterday—with a headline value of ¥28trn, but only ¥4.6trn of additional fiscal spending this year—investor attention was fixated on the spasms in the JGB market. Having touched a record low of -0.3% last Wednesday, the yield on 10-year JGBs leapt 28bp in just five trading days to hit a four and a half month high of -0.02% yesterday morning. On one level the spike in...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Toynbee’s Europe

    In A Study of History the great Arnold Toynbee explained that the role of “elites” in any society is to handle challenges that allow the group to survive and move on to the next phase of their shared journey. If bad solutions are offered up then problems will intensify and pressure will arise for a change in the elite. This can happen in various ways: through elections in a best case scenario, a change of regime as with France’s forth Republic...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Temptation Of Early Retirement

    China's workers retire young—at age 54 on average, a decade earlier than in many European welfare states. The central government is now pushing hard to extend retirement ages to keep pension costs under control. But local governments are resisting, hoping to keep using early retirement to manage redundant workers in excess-capacity industries.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Baleful Influence of Inventories

    The reason US second quarter GDP growth was so disappointing at 1.2% QoQ annualized was a deep contraction in US business inventories, which knocked -1.16pp off the quarterly growth figure. In itself, a fall in inventories need not be such a bad thing for longer term growth. If inventories get run down because companies are unable to keep up with a surge in demand, then a fall in inventories can foreshadow increased investment to expand business...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Recession Or Stagnation?

    On Friday US GDP data for 2Q16 was released showing an expansion that looks ever more anemic and unconvincing. Is this just the new normal in an era of stagnant global growth or is the US more perilously poised? To answer that question, imagine the US economy having two parts in the shape of “consumer GDP”, which represents about three quarters of activity, and the remainder being the non-consumer “production” portion.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Shall We Dance?

    In a world in which the Fed shows no inclination to get ahead of the curve on inflation and in which both the ECB and the BoJ are in full quantitative easing mode, investors everywhere are on the hunt for yield. But the chase is a nervous one. Investors are all too aware that equities and bonds are sending conflicting signals, and that the favorable trends that have lifted most assets over the last six months could be disrupted by a sudden spike...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Cracks Begin To Appear

    Backward-looking data has held up surprisingly well in the UK since June’s Brexit vote. It is not that second quarter GDP growth came in ahead of expectations at 0.6% QoQ; only one week of 2Q fell after the referendum. However, despite dire warnings of the damage June’s “Leave” vote would inflict on the UK’s all-important property market, home prices proved remarkably resilient in July. The Nationwide house price index rose 0.5% MoM, an...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    There’s No Need To Fear A Tighter Fed

    While the US Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged yesterday as expected, it did revise its statement to sound marginally more hawkish. Most notably, it added the line, “Near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished,” while tweaking its language to reflect recent relatively solid data releases. The market took the announcement in its stride. The S&P 500 ended the day little changed. Yields on 10-year treasuries fell...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The EM Equity Question

    Despite this year’s strong run-up, there remain good reasons to stick with emerging market assets. The twin impact of collapsed borrowing costs amid a renewed global hunt for yield, and greatly reduced exchange rate volatility has been the ideal environment for EM yield curve flattening trades.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Profits Follow Housing Up, And Down

    China’s industrial profits bounced back to 6.2% growth in the first half, a stronger than expected recovery. The drivers are a boom in metals driven by the housing rebound, and continued gains in consumer sectors. But the metals boom is a temporary one, so after a couple more quarters of gains, a renewed down-cycle is likely in early 2017.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    One Certainty In An Uncertain World

    In an uncertain world, in which Brexit, the US presidential elections, the future of the eurozone, are all strewn with wild cards whose potential impact is impossible to quantify, investors are left grasping for certainties. One is that whatever happens in the near term, the European Central Bank will continue to buy financial assets, including corporate debt.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Way Ahead For Italian Banks

    On Friday, the European Banking Authority will publish the results of its 2016 stress tests. Although 51 banks from across the European Union have been tested, attention will focus most closely on the results of the five Italian banks covered. With Italy’s banking system widely identified as the most likely locus of a new eurozone crisis, bankers, politicians and investors are all hoping for the “best” likely result. This would see all the banks...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump And The Prisoner’s Dilemma

    Let us assume that Mervyn King is right and the week-to-week strategy of major central banks has become to stop equity markets within their jurisdiction from going down. And let us further assume that markets are fully convinced of central bankers’ resolve to achieve this end. In the case of US equities, which sit at the center of the global system, such a proposition logically means that their price has two components: (i) the “intrinsic value...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Iron Ore’s Battle Of Attrition Is Over

    China’s iron ore imports jumped in early 2016, finally validating global mining companies’ strategy to gain market share. As low prices continue to force domestic mines to close, iron ore imports still have a few quarters of growth ahead. But with import penetration already over 80%, there is not much market share left for global miners to grab.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Flow Through To EM Equities

    These are strange times for investors with bond yields in big developed markets plumbing new depths on dark concerns about never ending deflation and stagnation. Yet in a clearly related development, US equities are making new highs while corporate- and emerging market-bonds continue to rally.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    US REITs And The Rush For Yield

    One of the side effects of negative interest rates and central bank asset purchases in the eurozone and Japan has been a reach for yield which has seen foreign investors rush into relatively high-yielding US assets, compressing yields and spreads to an extent that appears at odds with the late-cycle stage of the US economy. Earlier this month the 10-year US treasury yield set a new low of 1.36%, while US Baa-rated corporate bond yields fell to...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Constraints Of ECB Stimulus

    Already fragile, eurozone confidence has taken a further beating in the last four weeks. In one of the first data releases since last month’s Brexit vote, the ZEW index of German economic sentiment plunged to -6.8 yesterday from 19.2 in June, its steepest fall since 2012. With growth in the eurozone’s principal economic driver likely to soften as confidence deteriorates, expectations are mounting that the European Central Bank will respond by...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Mixed Progress On Excess Capacity

    Domestic coal output has declined sharply this year, but steel production has been flat. This pattern reinforces the point that excess capacity only shuts when forced to by low prices—and steel prices were high because of the stimulus. While both excess capacity sectors will continue to contract, trade tensions are unlikely to vanish quickly.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tools, Jewels And P/E Ratios

    There are two basic reasons why an asset has value and this understanding should be foundational knowledge for anyone running a portfolio. They can be prized for their efficiency (a tool) or desired because of their scarcity (a jewel). Investors preferences for jewels versus tools will shift through time, but what does not change is the fact that scarcity cannot lead to economic growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Growth Trade-Off Gets Harder

    China’s better-than-expected economic data for the second quarter underscore just how effective a jolt of stimulus to housing and construction can be. But housing is already cooling, and the rest of the economy will soon follow suit. The froth in housing prices will continue to limit the government’s ability to pump up growth to meet its targets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Brexit Still May Not Happen

    With a newly installed British prime minister gravely intoning that “Brexit means Brexit” and having just appointed a cabal of Brexiters to run the UK’s exit strategy from the European Union, it would look to be game-over. Anatole would beg to differ and explains why there remains a strong likelihood that the UK government will change tack in the face of different circumstances than prevailed at the time of last month’s referendum.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The JGB Endgame Approaches

    Over the last couple of weeks, the world’s attention has been focused by turns on British politics, Italy’s banking crisis, the US presidential race and most recently, last night’s ghastly events in Nice. It is little surprise then, that a series of three stories from Japan (or perhaps just two and a half) has passed largely under the radar. Taken together, however, these developments bear heavily on the future of the Japanese government bond...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Post-Brexit Rally: Head Fake Or Game-Changer?

    Let’s face it, few expected the rally in global risk assets of the past ten days. Even investors who, like Charles, believed that Brexit was a fundamentally positive development did not expect positivity to erupt quite so suddenly. Yet, here we are, with the Nikkei up 10% since its post-Brexit low, the S&P 500 breaking out to new highs and the Shanghai benchmark above 3,000. Will it last?

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Weak Links In The Financial System

    Where are the risks in the Chinese financial system? Two weak links deserve particular attention: the rapid expansion of small and regional banks with unstable funding, and the increasing complexity of credit creation. Neither threatens an immediate systemic crisis, but they do mean that the risk of ugly financial accidents is rising.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Consumer Alone Can’t Avert A US Recession

    With a strong US job market auguring well for income growth, and healthy household balance sheets, many believe the growth of consumer demand will outweigh dismal exports and weakening capital spending, staving off recession. But close inspection of historical data shows the US can tip into recession even though consumption remains broadly stable.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Storm Brews In The South China Sea

    Beijing declared it “null and void,” but the verdict of the international tribunal in The Hague is clear: there is no legal basis for China’s maritime claim over the South China Sea. Beijing now faces a choice: does it find a face-saving way of lowering tensions, or does it risk military conflict by actively asserting its territorial interests? It is quite possible that Beijing does yet not know itself, and will wait to respond to international...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Can ‘Make In India’ Work?

    In September 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched an initiative to transform India from an industrial laggard into a global manufacturing hub. The “Make in India” plan is sorely needed: in 2014, India’s merchandise exports accounted for a paltry 1.7% share of the global total. That was on a par with Taiwan, whose population is smaller than Delhi’s. India relies heavily on imports of consumer goods, especially from China, and runs a large...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fundamental Assault On Freedom

    Of all basic freedoms, one of the most fundamental of all is the freedom of the individual to organize his or her relationship with time. The way we order our affairs with respect to the all too brief time allocated to us on this earth is a profound right that we all should be allowed to exercise unhindered. In short, everyone should be free to choose whether to be an ant or a grasshopper.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Monetary Move

    Shinzo Abe was today scheduled to meet with Ben Bernanke, the chief architect of unconventional monetary policy responses following the 2008 crisis, with the issue of Japan’s adoption of so called helicopter money expected to top the agenda. In this piece Joyce asks would Japan do it and more importantly could money drops make any difference in the land of the stagnant price index.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Behind The Jobs Target

    China’s leaders may have missed their GDP growth targets for the last couple of years, but they are still beating their targets for job growth. Yet the statistic used for this target gives a very misleading picture of the labor market. It’s better to instead watch surveys of households and employers, which capture the real, deteriorating trend.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Politics Trumps Jobs

    So, it was a false alarm. By that I do not mean the Brexit vote, which remains, for reasons explained at the end of this note, the biggest threat to the world economy and to risk assets since the global financial crisis. The false alarm was the brief panic about a US recession caused by the slump in employment growth reported last month. As I said at the time there were four possible explanations for the shockingly weak May payrolls (see...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Ignore Japan’s Banks At Your Peril

    Any investors contemplating adding to their Japanese equity exposure following Shinzo Abe’s weekend election victory and the subsequent market rally should look closely at the performance of Japanese bank shares. Their signal, argues Joyce, is anything but encouraging.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Renminbi Falls; No One Cares

    This week the renminbi slipped to its lowest level against the dollar since 2010. Yet this decline had little impact on global markets, a sharp contrast to the convulsions caused by previous drops. In the absence of a radical shift in currency policy or accelerating capital flight, China’s gradual depreciation is a non-story for most investors.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Sterling’s Automatic Stabilizer

    As international investors question the ability of a post-Brexit UK to attract the capital inflows needed to finance its hefty current account deficit, the pound is tumbling. Yesterday cable briefly dipped below US$1.28, its lowest since the summer of 1985 just ahead of the Plaza Accord to weaken the super-strong US dollar. And many analysts believe the pound’s fall has further to run, with several houses targeting exchange rates of US$1.20, US$...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The Russian Bear Turn Into A Bull?

    This month Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company delivered two 100-seater passenger airplanes to the regional Irish carrier CityJet, and has orders for 13 more over the next year. The news caught our eye as it is the first time the Russian plane maker has broken into the European aviation market. As economists rather than aviation experts, it got us wondering whether Russia is finally curing itself of a decade-long bout of “Dutch disease” as...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Caution Of Chinese Corporations

    China’s rising corporate debt is now driven more by banks pumping out credit than by reckless firm behavior. Chinese companies are increasingly risk-averse: happy to borrow from banks, but preferring to sit on the cash not spend it. This behavior is a big reason why monetary policy is becoming less effective at stimulating demand.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Options For Italy

    In the wake of the Brexit vote, investors fearful of contagion have woken to the slow-burn banking crisis in Italy. It should have been news to no one that Italy’s banks are sitting on non-performing loans. Yet with the sector index down -30%, banks are suddenly front and center in investors’ minds as the next source of European uncertainty.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    US Bonds As A Hedge: It’s Complicated

    F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that the test of a first rate intellect was being able to hold two opposing ideas, yet still function. The same could be said of any investor who aspires to follow a rules-based portfolio management strategy. Inevitably, such rigor occasionally requires messy compromises with reality as is now the case in the US bond market. Such is my dilemma as I try to broadly follow three rules:

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    US Auto Sales: Shifting Down A Gear

    At first sight it was worrying last week when June’s number for US automobile sales came in at a disappointing 16.7mn annualized, well below the street’s expectations of 17.3mn. Auto sales are closely followed as a leading indicator of both US consumption growth and the overall business cycle, so at this stage in the cycle, when consumption is the only remaining driver of US economic growth, the undershoot was especially troubling. Worse,...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Natural Gas Glut

    China’s natural gas demand is likely to rise by 7-9% annually for the rest of the decade, half the 15% pace of 2003-14. That is still a pretty decent pace of growth—but well below what the government planned for. Having signed contracts and built pipelines on the basis of ambitious forecasts, China’s challenge is now dealing with a glut of gas.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Italian Problem

    The British were recently asked if they wanted to leave the European Union and to the establishment’s horror, they chose to do just that. Italy will host Europe’s next big referendum in November with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatening to resign if his package of constitutional reforms isnot passed. Such a dénouement in Europe’s most indebted big economy would trigger a political crisis and require fresh elections. The issue with referendums...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Conference Call: Investment Scenarios After Brexit

    Gavekal partners Anatole Kaletsky, Charles Gave and Louis-Vincent Gave detail their investment scenarios following last week’s Brexit vote.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Positioning For Uncertain Times

    Regular readers will know that Gavekal is a broad church. And while the church choir only occasionally sings in perfect unison, the different singers can often hit harmonies that are all the more powerful for being unexpected. This may be one of those occasions. Yesterday, Anatole, Charles and Louis took part in a conference call in which they laid out their different views of Brexit and what it will mean for the economy and markets of the UK,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Life After The Brexit Vote

    The world is now a considerably more uncertain place than a month ago. Following the UK’s referendum vote in favor of Brexit, a near-term recession in the UK is more likely than not, the European Union faces the possibility of a renewed economic slowdown, and investors find themselves forced to reassess the probability that Donald Trump will win November’s US presidential election. In this edition of the Gavekal Monthly, our analysts set out to...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Boring Infrastructure Bank

    The creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank promised to reshape the world’s economic architecture, and greatly worried the US. Yet now that the AIIB is a reality, it is not challenging the existing Bretton Woods institutions. It is on course to resemble them—and cooperate with them. In fact, the AIIB has become just a bit boring.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Enemy Of My Enemy Is My Friend

    The British prime minister was not the only one thwarted by a vote last week. Despite Narendra Modi’s personal efforts and heavyweight backing from Washington, India failed in its attempt to join the 48-country Nuclear Suppliers Group. It was a bruising setback for Modi, who has spent two years energetically trying to boost India’s global clout. Yet the result itself was less significant than the US support for India in the face of Chinese...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards A Fiscal Union By Stealth

    Unlike most fish, sharks possess no swim bladder, which means they rely on dynamic lift to maintain their buoyancy. If they stop moving forwards, they sink. In that much, at least, Europe resembles a shark. Following the UK’s Brexit vote, if the EU does not press forward with closer union, it risks sinking under the weight of the forces dragging it into the abyss.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    History Moves Again, Again

    Back in September 1989 as it became clear that big forces were shaking up the Cold War status quo, I wrote a research piece that aimed to place these convulsions in a broader context. It borrowed from a core idea of the great historian Arnold J. Toynbee that a driving force of history is what he dubbed “missionary ideas”, which tend to find their inspiration in religion (see History Moves Again). In the post-enlightenment era there have been...

    28
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: The Limits Of Stimulus

    In our latest quarterly overview of China’s economy, Chen Long assesses the outlook after the stimulus of early 2016 and the Brexit vote. The property and credit cycles are turning as policymakers grow cautious, though private investment has benefited little. Still, deflation is easing, capital outflows are moderating and exports are improving.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    What Constitutes A Certain Investment In Today’s Market?

    What concerns investors most in these tricky post-Brexit times is the sheer uncertainty of it all. No matter whether the “Leave” camp can work out a non-ruinous strategy for Britain to exit the European Union or “Remain” can exercise some kind of parliamentary blocking action against this “terrible mistake”, there is agreement that things will get messier before the picture clears. Even if the UK-EU “divorce” proves a rational end to a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Coping With Brexhaustion

    Among all the different questions investors have had to confront in the past 72 hours, only one really matters: have we just witnessed a “Lehman moment”? At the risk of sounding like a Jesuit priest, I will answer this vital question with a bunch more questions. The first is: have the financial market’s core beliefs now been shattered?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Everything Just Changed

    There are moments in history when the impossible becomes inevitable without ever passing through improbable. The period after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was such a time. Last night’s unexpected repudiation by British voters of 40 years of European Union membership is another. The outcome of the referendum is a shock fully comparable to the Lehman collapse. Rarely, if ever, has a G7 currency fallen by -10% in a single trading session, as the...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe: Ready To Be Reborn From Its Own Ashes?

    Over the past decade, global investors would have been wise to largely ignore eurozone equities. Their underperformance has not been constant, but intermittent policy-driven rallies have become weaker and shallower. Eurozone stocks outperformed for two years after Mario Draghi’s 2012 promise to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, yet by the time the European Central Bank got around to launching its asset-buying program in 2015 the benefit...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Tax Receipts And US Recessions

    When kicking-off two days of Congressional testimony yesterday, Janet Yellen acted to sooth market nerves by declaring the US economy to be in reasonable health, while sounding sufficiently concerned about apparent labor market weakness to hose down worries of an imminent rate raise. To my mind, this is all noise for the simple reason that the question is no longer whether the US faces a recession in the future but more precisely if such a...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Household Savings: A Permanently High Plateau?

    China’s famously high household savings rate is still stuck in the stratosphere: it has hovered around 37-38% of income since 2008. So have the drivers of savings not changed at all in recent years? Far from it. High savings were mainly caused by China’s massive housing boom, and now that the boom is over, savings rates will be grinding lower.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Never Mind The Brexit, Look At Eurozone Mid-Caps

    Recent releases of hard and soft macro-economic data point to a cyclical eurozone recovery whose domestic drivers are increasingly robust. On the back of stronger consumption and investment, GDP growth was just revised up to 0.6% QoQ for 1Q16. Unemployment continues to fall and, after a weak start to the year, economic sentiment indicators have rebounded—the ZEW released yesterday for June leapt to 20.2 from 16.8 in May. This improvement is...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Brexit Tail Wags The Dog

    If anyone still doubted the claim expressed here on May 25 that politics is now driving global financial markets far more than economics (see The Brexit Vote As Harbinger Of A Populist Age, Or Not), those doubts should have been dispelled by Monday’s trading. From the moment that currency trading started in the New Zealand morning, through the Nikkei and Hang Seng openings in Asia, to the main forex business in London and finally the stock...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Does China’s Propaganda Ministry Do All Day?

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

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: The State Sector’s New Clothes

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

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

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    State Enterprise Reform: Missing In Action

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Return Of The Line Ministries

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Stability Above All

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Long March To Europe

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Hope And Hard Work On A Shanghai Street

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Making Sense Of The Economic Policy Mess

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

    0
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    India’s Reform Agenda After Rajan

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

    2
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    Japan As Safe Haven

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

    0
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    Beyond Brexit, A More Hawkish Fed

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

    0
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    Populism And A New Financial Crisis

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

    7
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    A-Shares: The Food Is Terrible, And Such Small Portions

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

    0
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    Never Do On Monday What You Wish You’d Done On Friday

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

    1
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    Boomerang Kids Won’t Come Back To Hurt US Housing

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

    0
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    Fear Not Brexit

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

    8
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Capex Lacks All Conviction

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

    0
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    The ECB Embraces Total QE

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

    0
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    The French Investment Pick-Up

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

    2
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    South China Sea Risks

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

    5
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    The Outlook For The US$ Vs The Euro

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

    5
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    Another Take On The Payrolls

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Housing Cycle Is Aging Rapidly

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

    0
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    The Dissonance In Jobs

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

    0
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    The New Material

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

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Fast Is China’s Debt Really Growing?

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

    14
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    Thinking Dark Thoughts

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

    1
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    On Populism

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

    7
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    Japan: Twice Bitten, Thrice Shy

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

    0
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    A Backdoor Resolution For Greece, And The Eurozone

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

    2
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    Reduced Chance Of Renminbi Storms

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

    2
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    The Gavekal Monthly: Risks For Equities—Populism And The Dollar

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Risk In The Service Sector's Rise

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

    0
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    Much Ado About Nothing Much

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

    3
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    Wicksell’s Portfolio

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

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Knell For The French Left

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

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Geopolitical Risk In Asia?

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

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Despite The Bounce, Housing Has Peaked

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

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