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    Gavekal Research

    Is This What Capital Flight Looks Like?

    The bearish scenario for Hong Kong was that a combination of protests and Beijing’s heavy hand would trigger the flight of capital—financial and human—jeopardizing the peg and the financial system. Yet despite months of protests, and Beijing’s subsequent clampdown, the financial elements of this doomsday scenario have completely failed to materialize.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The Bull Run In Chinese Stocks

    Chinese equity markets are bounding higher on ebullient animal spirits. The CSI 300 index is up some 12.5% YTD in renminbi terms Monday morning. While the sequential rebound in profits from the first quarter’s dire situation has been heartening, the prospects for year-on-year earnings growth cannot justify this exuberance.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Run With The Herd?

    When a herd of cattle is being hunted by a pack of wolves, the worst thing any cow or bull can do is show individualism and originality by running off in a different direction from the rest of the herd. In financial markets, “the trend is your friend” expresses the same evolutionary logic. Are markets now displaying non-rational herd behavior?

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Rising US Covid Risk

    In the coming weeks, the headlines about Covid-19 in the US are all but certain to get much worse as case numbers rocket in many southern and western states. Higher case numbers will be accompanied by more hospitalizations, stories of overloaded hospital systems and (probably) rising death tolls.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Competing Reserves Of Value

    In order to function properly, any economic system must have one or more trusted reserves of value, so that participants can factor time into their calculations. In recent decades the world has offered investors three principal reserves of value:

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    A Rare Growth Story

    Economic good news stories are almost as rare as hens’ teeth these days—almost, but not quite. On Tuesday Vietnam’s General Statistics Office released its advanced 2Q20 GDP estimate showing 0.36% YoY growth, meaning Vietnam is likely to be one of the very few countries in the world to register any growth at all during the second quarter.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    From Bullish To Neutral

    There has been a lot of talk about how the rally in US markets has been driven entirely by irrational sentiment. We disagree, and have since late March argued that the rebound in risk assets was rational. Our assessment rested on four financial and economic pillars. Today a reexamination of these pillars suggests a moderation of our bullish stance.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What's US$1.6trn More Or Less?

    As three months ago, the prime case for holding US risk assets is the liquidity support provided by policymakers. But while liquidity conditions remain extraordinarily easy, and will continue to do so as long as inflation expectations remain depressed, in one respect at least the potential of surplus liquidity to push asset markets higher may have been exaggerated.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Please May I Have €10bn Too?

    Indulge me for a moment in a flight of fancy. Last week, the European Central Bank lent out €1.31trn to eurozone banks at a negative interest rate of -1%. Now, I am not a bank, but it is diverting to imagine that I might qualify for a small crumb of this funding, say a modest €10bn—because I know exactly what I would do with the money.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Approaches A Cliff Edge

    As the US starts to resume normal economic activity, a concern is that fiscal support is ended too early and the recovery is snuffed out. While European economies have extended many of their job protection schemes, the US faces a cliff edge at the end of July. If incomes suddenly crater, the worry is that spending plunges and the recovery takes on the feared W-shape.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Club Med’s Cruel Summer

    France, Italy and Spain suffered the deepest contractions in their economic activity in the first quarter and through April. Yet government programs have successfully supported both business cash flows and household incomes. Beyond the immediate bounce-back from lockdown, however, their economic trajectories are set to diverge.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China Legislates For Hong Kong

    The summary of Hong Kong’s national security law released on Saturday is a tough read for advocates of a common law system. It represents a hybrid of China’s and Hong Kong’s legal systems that effectively ends the separation of powers between the executive and judiciary. How quickly the city changes as a result depends on the severity of enforcement.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    From A Tax To A Subsidy

    There will be some hard bargaining ahead when the European Union’s 27 heads of government meet by video conference Friday in an attempt to thrash out details of the bloc’s proposed €750bn recovery fund. German chancellor Angela Merkel is urging a quick deal. But with the “frugal four” countries led by Dutch premier Mark Rutte holding out for strict conditions, a final agreement could yet take several months, with the fund unlikely to start...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Market’s Perception Of Scarcity

    It is a long-running trope of Gavekal’s research that assets can have value either as tools or as jewels. Tools have efficiency value and jewels have scarcity value. The rule that seemed to govern the relative performance of these over the last 50 or so years appears to have broken down. Louis wonders if this is because investors have reversed their perceptions of what is "scarce" and what is "abundant".

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Consumer Has Legs

    Another day, another upside surprise from the US data. For investors, the key question is whether this recovery will continue, or whether May’s bounce-back in consumption will prove a one-off flash in the pan, extinguished by a second wave of infections and long term unemployment. Happily, there are good reasons to expect the consumption recovery to have legs.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    A Dismal Best Case

    The crowds that Monday swarmed British shops, allowed to open for the first time in 12 weeks, at first sight bodes well for a V-shaped recovery. Yet despite plentiful accumulated savings and considerable pent-up demand, the UK’s consumption-driven economy faces formidable post-lockdown headwinds, with consequences for equities and sterling.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Rotating Into US Small Caps

    Despite some states seeing a worrying rise in Covid-19 cases, a US economic recovery is gaining strength as lockdowns are lifted. Barring unforeseen setbacks, there are reasons to think that the US recovery sustains itself and the equity rally continues. There is, however, a solid macro argument for rotating to a different class of US stocks.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Froth Comes Off

    Recent weeks saw telltale signs of markets getting silly: firms with no sales reaching U$26bn valuations; airline-focused exchange traded funds jumping from US$50mn in size in January to US$1.5bn, and bankrupt firms becoming five and 10 baggers. This kind of activity may lead to one of three conclusions.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Derating Of The Dollar

    In the last four weeks as market participants have reassessed relative risk premiums, they have found it increasingly easy to identify currencies which at the margin are looking more attractive than the US dollar. As a result, the dollar has weakened both against developed world and emerging market currencies. This weakness is acquiring momentum, and may have further to run.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Accelerating Into Inflation

    Long-time readers will be familiar with Gavekal’s Four Quadrants framework, which describes how the economy alternates between periods of inflation and deflation, and cycles from boom and bust and back again, and which we use to illustrate which asset classes investors should favor and when. Although this is one of Gavekal’s oldest frameworks, it provides an extremely useful way to think about how the macroeconomic environment is set to evolve...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fed Reality Check

    Ahead of the FOMC meeting that concludes Wednesday, there has been a growing volume of chatter that the Federal Reserve is moving to scale back its easing measures. The talk has been further amplified by May’s surprisingly strong employment report, with some commentators even warning of an imminent taper tantrum in the markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What US Payrolls Do And Do Not Mean

    May’s US payrolls report clearly came as a shock to many. Non-farm jobs climbed 2.51mn month-on-month, and the unemployment rate fell to 13.3%. Wrong-footed by the stronger-than-expected figures, investors rushed to bid up US equities. But while the payrolls are good news at the margin, it should not be taken as a reason to rush into equities.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Big Guns

    If the worry was that European Central Bank activism was threatened by German judicial chastisement, Christine Lagarde yesterday showed no sign of being cowed. The Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program was topped up to an almost bazooka-qualifying €1.35trn from €750bn and extended a further six months to June 2021. The move added fuel to the rally in euro assets. Rightly so.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe Flexes Its Fiscal Muscles

    Another day, another big fiscal expansion from Germany. Yesterday, Berlin outlined a €130bn stimulus package, representing 3.8% of GDP. If there was any doubt, Europe has clearly ditched its decade-long infatuation with austerity and is back in the Keynesian camp. This situation is bullish for eurozone stocks and in time could yet spur a long-forgotten problem—inflation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    To Rotate, Or Not To Rotate?

    This week readers have heard a variety of views from Gavekal partners on the outlook for equity markets. What is not in doubt is that since hitting a peak on February 20, US growth stocks have outperformed value plays by a whopping 17%. Wherever one stands on the macro situation, there certainly seems to be an argument for rotating.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For Commodities

    For most of the last decade, we have been in a period of low investment in the commodity sector. Yet, over the next 20 years the global population will grow by almost 2bn—a 25% increase. Migration into cities will continue, with the world’s urban population growing by almost 50%, creating enormous demand for infrastructure.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    As The World Reopens

    A few weeks ago, I outlined three scenarios that could unfold as the world reopened for business. Since then, it looks like the market is starting to tentatively position scenario #3 in which the world economy rips and inflation rises due to pent-up demand, budget deficits, low oil prices and money printing. This makes sense, but the rotation may soon face a number of challenges.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Renminbi As Collateral Damage

    The rise in US-China tensions over the past week is taking a toll on China’s currency, which has weakened to CNY7.15 to the dollar from around CNY7.10, approaching its lows of last September. This has raised a worrying question: is China about to use currency depreciation as a weapon in its widening dispute with the US?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It’s Looking Hamiltonian

    It wasn’t quite the dawn of a new epoch, but the European Commission’s plan to boost its seven-year budget with €750bn of borrowing certainly ranks as a moment for the European Union. The plan needs unanimous backing from all member states and is far from a done deal. Yet it is likely to pass and in so doing it will change the nature of financial risk in Europe.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Return Of TINA

    All bull markets start as unloved beasts, but the one that began in US equities on March 23 has been especially despised. The news in the intervening two months has been dreadful, and it is still not really clear who is doing the buying, and why. So in seeking to understand if a market that is up 33% from its bottom can go further, KX considers four possible drivers.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong And The Ethic Of Responsibility

    German sociologist Max Weber made the distinction between the ethic of conviction, based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and the ethic of responsibility, based on consequentialist philosophy, a grandchild of Aristotelian logic. The distinction between the two may help investors to determine their response to developments in Hong Kong.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    The Death Of Old Hong Kong

    On Monday morning, the streets around Gavekal’s offices in Hong Kong’s Wan Chai district teemed with harried commuters rather than baton-charging police and political protesters. Unfortunately, uncertainty about Hong Kong’s future as a free society will linger longer than the tear gas that had drenched the area a few hours earlier. There is now a fair chance that China’s imposition of a new national security law in Hong Kong will cause a chain...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Boris Will Pile Pelion On Ossa

    No country has matched Britain’s dismal combination of currency and equity losses so far this year. Making matters worse for Britain than other DMs is Boris Johnson's refusal to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond December, precisely the time when the Covid-19 recession might otherwise be expected to start lifting.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Saudi's Peso Problem

    Two weeks ago in early May, the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency issued an unusual statement. Sama, it insisted, is committed to maintaining the Saudi riyal’s exchange rate peg at SAR3.75 to the US dollar, and has the resources to do so. Stress signals don’t come much clearer.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beware The Charm Of Monopolistic Tech

    An equally-weighted index of monopolistic "tech" companies is up by a whopping 26% in the last year, whereas an active manager running a portfolio with 30 or 40 stocks would be down about -7% over the same period. The difference in performance may be the "cost" of holding a diversified portfolio with lower risk than a concentrated portfolio.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Hamiltonian Moment

    If there was a rational explanation for Monday’s global risk-on rally, it would be the genuinely exciting news from Europe. It is possible—just possible—that the Franco-German proposal for a €500bn coronavirus Recovery Fund announced yesterday will turn out to be the most important historic consequence of the coronavirus.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    A US Full-Court Press Against China

    The US-China relationship has deteriorated rapidly, and the main reason seems to be that Donald Trump has decided that a “tough on China” approach should be central to his reelection campaign. Acrimony between the two countries is likely to get much worse between now and November, and US actions are starting to spread from technology to finance.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Phase Two Beckons

    Europeans have spent big to freeze their economies as if held in suspended animation since mid-March. On the whole, this plan is working quite well but EU member states must now agree to a post-pandemic plan for demand stimulus if they are to avoid an all-too-predictable double-dip downturn. They will get a shot next week, when the blueprint for a “recovery fund” is unveiled.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The World Has Changed, Quick! Buy More Of The Same

    As countries around the world, and some US states, are starting to emerge from their enforced Covid-19 hibernation, investors have to choose between one of three potential outcomes. Either the virus re-emerges and causes new lockdowns, the post-Covid-19 world is not growth friendly, or pent-up demand and supportive policies leads to global growth ripping.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Chinese Bond Rally Is Not Over Yet

    China’s bond market is selling off on rising optimism about the nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 lockdown. But Wei argues that this rise in bond yields looks like a false alarm: China’s economy is not about to begin a V-shaped recovery and its central bank is not yet finished with monetary easing. The bond bull market still has some way to run.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Brazil's Burning House

    As President Jair Bolsonaro fuels anti-lockdown protests, Brazil is having a rough Covid-19 crisis. Its public health response has been weak and investors are horrified at the economic costs of such bungling. Fortunately, Brazil’s federal structure does mean the country can handle the crisis in spite of weak central leadership.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Breasting The Trough

    The apparent divergence between the stock market and economic reality continues to widen. Equity investors are focusing on the expected effects of the Federal Reserve’s massive liquidity injections once states emerge from lockdown. The risk to this rosy view is that the easing of restrictions could cause an infection increase so severe that new lockdowns are imposed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Sovereignty And That German Court Ruling

    Tuesday’s ruling by Germany’s constitutional court on the legitimacy of asset purchases by the European Central Bank hits at the heart of a political project whose ultimate aim has been usurp the sovereignty of historical states in favor of a new super state. I am no lawyer but I have studied political science and the issue now in play is of a fundamental nature.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Threat From Turkey

    Turkey increasingly looks like a basket case that may spark a broader move out of emerging markets. Despite its efforts to squeeze short-sellers by stopping banks from swapping currency with foreign counterparties, the lira is hitting new lows against the US dollar. Efforts to sustain the lira with foreign currency borrowed from Turkey's dollarized banking system can't go on indefinitely.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    ‘No Limits’ Now ‘No, Limits’

    Markets have largely taken in their stride Tuesday’s decision by the German Constitutional Court that the European Central Bank exceeded its mandate by launching quantitative easing in 2015. The euro's move against the US dollar and the 10bp uptick in Italian 10-year yields were modest by the standards of recent volatility. This may be overly complacent.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Labor And The New Economy

    US states are moving to end stay-at-home orders and slowly resume activity. With some 30mn workers having been laid off, they will do so in an economy that has been profoundly changed by Covid-19. At a macro level, a fairly swift recovery is likely. Yet it will be a painful exercise as structural changes wrought by the pandemic upend the US labor market.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Down -16% And Still 30% Overvalued

    It seems the world has entered a new era, in which the principal function of central banks is to try to prevent markets from going down. So, after the gold standard and the dollar standard, we now appear to have the S&P 500 standard, in which a desperate central bank tries to manage the financial markets.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    The Truth About Banks And Bonds

    As I elucidated last week Knut Wicksell’s key idea was that in any market economy there are not one, but two key interest rates, whose relative position drives the cycle. The theory makes good sense, but computing the two rates is tricky. My insight is that I don’t need to compute these two rates but instead measure the structural performance of bank equities in each market.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    The Queen’s Head Remains The Better Long-Term Bet

    In hard times, a nation often feeds off the blood spilled by its martyrs and is re-energized. Undeniably, we now face an unprecedented crisis that is producing heroes and martyrs, especially among healthcare workers who have acted with devotion and honor. But has this created national unity?

    15
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy’s Debt Sustainability Question

    In the short term, Italy’s sovereign spreads are unlikely to be greatly troubled by the decision late Tuesday from Fitch to downgrade the country’s debt rating. In the longer term, however, in the absence of some form of eurozone fiscal union, Italy will remain caught in a vicious debt trap, which must call its continued membership of the single currency into question.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan's Next Monetary Move

    Yesterday, the Bank of Japan attempted to pull another rabbit out of the hat by announcing plans to turbo-charge its already aggressive monetary easing program, ostensibly to help deliver its fiscal stimulus package without roiling the JGB market. Look closer though, and it appears the BoJ’s real goal is to stop the yen from succumbing to fundamental pressures by appreciating.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Short, Medium And Long Term Outlook

    At the end of March, just after the collapse of global stock markets and non-dollar currencies had reached its climax, I argued that it was too early to buy equities but probably a good time to sell US dollars. The first of these ideas turned out to be wrong, the second irrelevant. But far from admitting defeat, I think it is worth doubling down on both these recommendations.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble With Eurozone Banks

    European leaders trod a fine line on Thursday, opening the way for a hefty “recovery refund”, but not committing to one and not saying how the money may be spent. Eurozone capital markets—except for bank stocks—have been fairly calm, and so do not need a hasty bailout. That exception, however, is a problem that may end up consuming a big part of any rescue fund.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Whale Watching In The Gulf

    Gavekal’s dynamite fishing analogy maintains that the biggest impact of a market shock only shows up after a delay, much like the effects of an underwater explosion. First the small fry float to the top, then the mid-size fish. Only much later does the dead whale break surface. After the oil price shock investors are asking if the Saudi riyal's peg to the US dollar could be that whale.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fiscal Fix

    Barely a month after launching a US$2trn rescue package, the US is poised to release yet more fiscal stimulus to tackle the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. The Senate has passed legislation to top up funding for a small business loan program and the House should follow suit on Thursday. Will this latest cash injection be enough to stop massive bankruptcies? Probably, but the program will remain a messy work in progress in need of more...

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Of Cows And Negative Oil

    A friend has a sizable dairy farm in France. He usually sells his cows’ milk to local makers of yogurt and cheese for anywhere between €250 and €350 per 1,000 liters. Today, with most local cheesemakers shut down, buyers are offering just €1 per 1,000 liters for his milk. It could be worse, though. He could be in oil.

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    A Modest Proposal For Europe

    A month ago, with the world economy just beginning its lockdown, I presented a modest proposal which seemed impossibly far-fetched to the point of madness. Four days later, the British government announced almost exactly those policies. This week a different crisis is looming: an intensified rerun of the 2012 euro crisis. So here is another modest proposal.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Asia Goes Unconventional

    China just unveiled a -6.8% year-on-year fall in 1Q20 output and the ricochet effect is being felt beyond its borders. Neighboring economies face shrunken demand and are being forced to ditch fiscal rectitude and other economic orthodoxies. In some cases, monetary responses look a lot like quantitative easing. These emerging economies’ capacity for such action varies greatly.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    When Dead Cats Bounce

    The S&P 500 has now rallied 24% in a little over three weeks, making back almost half of its losses over the previous four weeks. The vigor of this rebound even as corporate earnings are collapsing naturally raises the question whether the market has really formed a bottom, or whether we are seeing a classic bear market rally, as Anatole has argued.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Heading In The Right Direction, Slowly

    The Covid-19 epidemic now seems firmly under control in most major economies, and the direction of the disease data is consistently positive. From an infection-control perspective, the outlook is much more positive than when we did our last major review. The path to economic recovery, however, still looks slow and rocky.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    An Anti-Fragile Beauty Contest

    Following the 2008 crisis, the S&P 500 bottomed on March 9 2009. Since then, an investor in physical gold would have gained 82.2% while an investor in 10-year US treasuries would have made gains of 65.6% (with coupons re-invested). But with both assets testing their pre-crisis highs, there are several reasons to believe that gold is now set to outperform structurally.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    This Is Not A New Monetary Era

    Central banks across the developed world are cranking up their printing presses to buy huge amounts of public debt that is being issued to support companies and individuals. The worry is that this causes high inflation down the track, or that it means the fiscal and monetary management functions of governmens are merging. The way I approach this issue is through two simple questions.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Destroying The Economy To Save It

    Remember the American military officer in Vietnam who explained US tactics by saying “it became necessary to destroy the town to save it?” Well in the not too distant future, we may have to accept that our economic policymakers have adopted the same tactics in the battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Rearranging The Deckchairs For Profit

    When everything is falling apart around you, the urge to do something—anything—becomes irresistible. A good solution is to start rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It may not change the bigger picture, but it keeps you busy and does no harm in the longer term. In this spirit, allow me to suggest a little rearrangement that should do no harm, and could even be very profitable.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Atlantic Divide

    Second order economic effects from the Covid-19 outbreak are ripping through industrialized economies, with soaring unemployment, shuttered industries and a fall in corporate profits. While China has eschewed large-scale government support, Europe and the US have adopted massive fiscal and monetary responses. These Western initiatives do, however, differ in key respects and when lockdowns finally end, one or other approach will likely have...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Truth In Trump’s Tweets

    Oil market pundits were quick to dismiss Donald Trump’s tweeted claim Thursday that Saudi Arabia and Russia are ready to agree crude production cuts of 10-15mn bpd as “absurd” and “incredible”. But oil production cuts of the magnitude flagged by Trump are certainly in the pipeline—whether as the result of a new Opec+ agreement or not.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    When To Get Back Into The Market

    As usual in a market crash, there has been a lot of chatter over the last 10 days about whether the stock market has already formed a bottom, and if now is the time to get back in and pick up some “bargains at special prices”. Clearly what is needed is a decision rule to tell us whether the conditions are favorable yet or not. Happily, some of the research we have recently been doing at Gavekal Intelligence Software allows me to create just such...

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Crisis, Another Euro-Fudge

    “Europe will be forged in crises, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted in those crises,” wrote European Union “father” Jean Monnet in his 1976 memoirs. Today Europe is once again facing a crisis. And once again the solution adopted by Europe’s fractious leaders is likely to be a short term fudge that defers hard decision-making to another day.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Equities As A Safe Haven

    Chinese equities are likely to outperform in the short term as the global outbreak worsens and China adds more detail to its latest set of stimulus measures announced on Friday. However, once the outbreak shows signs of peaking in the US and Europe, Thomas argues that China is expected to return to its status as a relative underperformer.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Too Early To Buy Equities, But Time To Sell Dollars

    After the biggest weekly gain in the Dow and with the US government having just approved the biggest-ever fiscal stimulus, how should investors react? While unrepentantly bullish in the long term, Anatole still believes that it is too early to buy equities. But for two other asset classes conditions do seem to be more propitious to call a bottom.

    3
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    What You See, And What You Don’t

    In economics there is what you see and what you don’t see, and “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” As the world economy suffers a spasm the likes of which has rarely been seen in peacetime, it may help to go back to first principles to figure out what we are not seeing about this crisis, and who is going to end up paying for it.

    2
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    The Case For Corporate Bonds

    Although the US spread of Covid-19 continues to accelerate, in the near term markets have been encouraged by promises of heavy fiscal support for the US economy and the Federal Reserve’s plans to take risk off private sector balance sheets, including by buying corporate debt. Is now the time to increase exposure to risk assets?

    4
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    Why Europe Can Survive The Storm

    Economic activity indexes in Europe have collapsed to never-before-seen levels, yet markets have rallied as investors have become persuaded that policy responses are enough to avoid a full blown euro crisis from unfolding. Europe for once appears to be more decisive in managing a crisis situation than the US and it is possible it may manage a swifter pick-up once the public health situation stabilizes.

    1
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    The Importance Of The Fed’s Big Guns

    On Monday, the US Federal Reserve rolled out some of its heaviest artillery. In a move reminiscent of the moves in March 2009 which finally succeeded in stabilizing markets, it both relaxed accounting rules for banks and launched a whole suite of programs designed to take risk off private sector balance sheets, including by buying corporate bonds.

    0
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    Lockdowns Loom; What’s The Exit Strategy?

    We are heading into another difficult week. Covid-19 case numbers and fatalities outside China continue to grow rapidly. Social lockdowns are spreading to more US states and European countries. In the short run, fiscal support is on the way. Longer term, governments will have to start asking the uncomfortable question of when the economic pain outweighs the public health gain.

    1
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    Money, Value And The Markets

    Above all, economics is the study of why goods and services have value and why these values are constantly changing. This study is greatly complicated by the fact that there are two different sources of value. In Gavekal-speak, we call these “scarcity” value (think jewels) and “efficiency” value (think tools). So the key question becomes not only “why do things have value?” but also “why do the relative values of scarcity and efficiency change...

    0
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    The Dollar Squeeze Intensifies

    Policymakers in the world’s biggest economic blocks are responding to the current crisis with fiscal and monetary “shock and awe”. Yet even as the much maligned European Central Bank joined the asset purchase party, markets have continued to crater. For all the coordinated economic responses to the coronavirus pandemic, there has been no serious effort to free up the offshore market for US dollars.

    10
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    Fiscal Intubation

    “This is not a time for ideology or orthodoxy,” said UK chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday. Policymakers across Europe and in the US agree. They have now thrown orthodoxy out of the window in an all-out attempt to support economies hammered by Covid-19 countermeasures. In the US, the administration announced fiscal support worth as much as US$1.2trn, or 6% of GDP, complete with the immediate mail-out of a US$1,000 check to each and every member...

    2
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    Solvency Crisis Or Liquidity Crisis?

    Collapsing equity markets, rising bond yields, widening spreads, falling gold—in recent days, there have been few places to hide. When markets act so sick, it usually pays to take a deep breath (in a socially distant manner) and ponder whether we are facing a solvency crisis, or a liquidity crisis.

    0
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    A Modest Proposal To Avert Economic Catastrophe

    Contrary to initial expectations, the spread of the coronavirus around the world is not following the relatively benign trajectories experienced in China outside of Hubei, and in Korea, Singapore and the rest of Asia. Instead, across Europe—and likely in the US—the spread increasingly resembles the path it took in Hubei. This threatens both medical and economic disasters.

    4
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    The Conditions Needed For A Bottom

    Financial markets are now in full-blown panic mode. For investors, the key question is: What will it take for markets to form a bottom, and when will this happen? No one can answer with any precision. However, it is possible to discern the broad conditions needed to allow the markets to find a bottom. We are nowhere near them yet.

    0
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    Europe In The Eye Of The Storm

    After the US slapped a 30-day travel ban on visitors from Continental Europe the world’s three biggest economic areas are now effectively cut off from most human contact. As China sees its infection rate level off, the growth dynamic of this pandemic has shifted to Europe. Economic effects will depend on government responses.

    0
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    Another View Of The Bond Bubble

    How should we think about the unstoppable journey of all OECD bond yields towards zero, including 10-year, 50-year and even 100-year maturities from governments not noted for multi-generational predictability, such as Italy, Greece, Austria and post-Brexit Britain? On Monday Louis offered two explanations. Today, Anatole presents a third.

    1
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    Six Degrees Of Uncertainty

    World markets are in full-on panic mode, thanks to a cloud of unknowing that has settled over two topics of broad importance: the spread and economic impact of the coronavirus, and the outcome of the oil-price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The topics are related, and so we are grappling with the problem of pricing epidemic-related uncertainty.

    0
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    A Hand Grenade In A Bloodbath

    If you ever wondered what would happen if someone lobbed a hand grenade into a bloodbath, now you know. Markets were always going to be shaky on Monday, as it became increasingly clear that the US is set to see a sharp rise in recorded coronavirus cases. Then, on Friday Russia walked out of the Opec+ oil producers’ cartel, initiating an all-out price war in the oil market.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Unfolding Rotation

    Last Friday, the markets rallied hard into the close as investors anticipated a coordinated policy move over the weekend. With policy responses in the rear view mirror, this weekend will likely prove different. Markets will continue to be choppy in the immediate future. Even so, amid all the volatility, some interesting developments are emerging.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The A-Share Rebound

    Although China is ground zero for the coronavirus outbreak, its onshore stock markets are the world’s best performing major markets so far this year by a considerable margin. For the most part this is due to mood-enhancing domestic policy support, which is likely to continue to counteract the catastrophic near term earnings outlook.

    0
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    How To Ride The Liquidity Wave

    On Tuesday the US Federal Reserve made good on its promise to counter the “evolving risks to economic activity” posed by the coronavirus, cutting its key policy rate. Monetary easing will neither cure the virus nor fix disrupted supply chains, but it will provide cheap funds for companies while they weather the storm.

    1
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    Buy The Dip, Or Sell The Rally?

    When the market falls -10% in a week, and then rallies 5% in a day, investors face a question: Do I buy the dip, or sell the rally? An investor selling the rally would in essence be making a bet that the negative impact of the coronavirus will outweigh the central bank support and G7 finance ministry action that has been promised.

    0
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    When To Catch A Falling Knife

    Now that the Federal Reserve has hit the panic button, is it time to try to catch the falling knife on Wall Street? Technical analysis and investor sentiment suggest that equity prices may still have somewhat further to fall before they find a sustainable floor, even if the viral threat is probably overstated and stimulus by major governments will eventually outweigh the temporary economic collapse.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Last Shall Be First

    Just a week ago, the S&P 500, Nikkei 225 and Eurostoxx 50 were all looking healthy. But over the past week, every major market has fallen by anywhere from -6% to -12%. This is highly unusual. The S&P 500 has only fallen by -10% or more four times in its post-1945 history. Each of these drops ended up having hugely important investment ramifications.

    6
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    The Fragility Of A Complex World

    The question investors must confront is whether the global economy is a slow but resistant beast of burden, or a finely tuned machine which has now been thrown off its axis.

    0
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    The Velocity Of Money In The Time Of Covid-19

    Most serious investors know MV=PQ, where M is the money supply, V is the velocity of money, P is the general price level and Q is output. The typical approach is to wait for M, P and Q to be published and so derive V, which renders the equation a mere tautology. In contrast, Charles has long thought V to be an independent variable whose variations impact P and Q.

    0
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    Doing On Monday What We Wish We’d Done On Friday

    Monday was the epitome of Charles’s observation that in a down-market, the temptation to sell on Monday what you wish you’d sold on Friday can become overwhelming. As markets sold off on Monday following a weekend of bad news, the following developments seemed especially relevant.

    0
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    Far From Priced In

    Asian markets switched to risk-off mode Monday as investors reacted to further coronavirus news outside of China. Yet in onshore markets, investors are optimistic that the economy will quickly normalize as the spread of the virus comes under control, and that the central bank will provide policy easing. Neither belief looks well-founded at the moment.

    0
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    What Will End The US Dollar’s Run?

    Among the confounding effects of the coronavirus has been its impact on foreign exchange markets. The last few weeks have seen heavy flows into the US dollar, on the grounds that the US economy is relatively insulated from the ill-effects of the outbreak. As fears have grown of a dismal first quarter for the eurozone on diminished external demand (see Just When Things Were Looking Up), the euro has slumped to a near three-year low against the US...

    1
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    The Problem In US Equities

    As US equities power to new highs, investors have brushed off geopolitical ructions and fears of a global pandemic. It is less clear that weak earnings are incidental to the US bull market. With 420 firms in the S&P 500 having reported for 4Q19, earnings are only up 1.6% on the previous year.

    4
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    Time And Risk

    The financial world is organized around two axes: time and risk. If some authority manipulates the time axis, the effect will be to compromise the risk axis. This is not an abstract formulation. It has the potential to threaten portfolios and the solvency of major institutions.

    1
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    A Surfeit Of Money

    The fruits of the US Federal Reserve’s swing to monetary easing are ripening. In the last couple of months the about-turn in monetary direction has triggered a dramatic rebound in aggregate US money supply growth, which is outpacing GDP growth. This suggests excess cash may be piling up. If so, the excess is likely to further bid up US asset prices.

    4
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    The Risk Of Falling Behind The Epidemic Curve

    China’s government was slow off the mark in responding to the initial outbreak of the new coronavirus. Although the government is now fully mobilized to fight the outbreak, it risks falling behind the curve again—this time in responding to the economic damage wrought by its extended shutdown of normal life and business activity.

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