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    Gavekal Research

    The ECB Reloads

    The ECB may hope for the best, but it is preparing for the worst. As Mario Draghi prepares to hand over the ECB’s reins to an undecided successor, he seems to be restocking its armory.

    0
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    Recession Risk Mispriced

    US treasury yields are up from their 21-month low touched earlier this week, but the market is still priced for recession. Sure, the trade war uncertainty is negative for risk assets. But there are good reasons to believe that the US economy will continue to grow, albeit at a modest rate. As a result, piling into treasuries at current yields is a dangerous move.

    4
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    The Malthusian Constraint

    Over the last few years, Gavekal has put considerable time and effort into researching portfolio construction in the hope of making the process a little more scientific. This research has led to some interesting results, and suggests some powerful investment themes for the future.

    4
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    Trump's War And Our Problem

    In the seven decades after World War II, the most powerful nation in the world could be relied on to defend and promote free trade among nations. Then came President Donald. J Trump. Now it’s conceivable that Trump’s goal is to shake up the old rules-based system.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs Hit The Trade Wall

    It is not clear if the latest trade actions launched by the US against Mexico and India form part of coherent plan. Such moves do signal that the US-centered multilateral trading system is hanging by a thread. This upending of the post-WWII order is especially bad news for trade-dependent emerging economies.

    0
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    A European Vortex

    There is a big disconnect between markets and reported data in the eurozone. Bund yields are within a whisker of all time lows, inflation expectations have cratered and the Eurostoxx banks index fell -12.5% in May. Yet at the same, Europe’s macro data, while not great, points to stabilization after a 16-month industrial downturn.

    0
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    An Ugly Trade War And An Inverted Yield Curve

    Will a trade war boost US growth and inflation, or instead cause a deflationary recession? The bond market is basically saying that a trade war will dent US growth and force the Federal Reserve into easing. Bear with my two-handed explanation, but there are also good reasons why it could also boost nominal growth.

    6
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    Harder Times For European Luxury

    It is conceivable that some European industries may benefit from the trans-Pacific economic cold war, picking up business lost to their US and Chinese competitors as a result of the worsening tensions. But one sector that will not benefit is the European equity investor’s favorite: luxury goods. European luxury goods companies now face tougher times ahead.

    0
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    The Message In Market Dispersion

    Economic events create winners and losers. It is too early to say with confidence how the current US trade and technology confrontation with China will play out, or whether US tariffs on imported autos and the threatened retaliation will go into force. But it is possible to tell how great investors believe the potential disruption is likely to be.

    0
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    Parliament Of Losers

    For anyone who did not grow up in a Commonwealth country, one of the most perplexing things about the game of cricket is that matches can last for as long as five days, and at the end of it all still end up in a draw. Much the same can be said about European parliamentary elections: they take for ever, and it is often hard to identify a clear winner. Identifying losers, however, is simpler. And looking at Sunday night’s results there were both...

    3
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    A Change In The Market Mood

    Thursday was an ugly day for global equity markets, with losses that brought total returns on US equities almost back to their January 2018 level, and non-US equities to the brink of bear market territory. It is hard to shake the feeling that the investment environment has changed. What lessons should we draw from the tumultuous trading session?

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Don't Bet On A German Fiscal Boost

    On Wednesday the OECD added its voice to the chorus calling on the German finance ministry to open its fiscal tap and juice up economic growth with additional public spending on investment. Yet although the outlook for external demand is darkening, investors should not hold their breath for a sizable fiscal boost.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    May's Last Stand

    When something unexpected happens and the market moves against you, it is usually best to cut your losses. But sometimes it is worth indulging the contrarian instinct. This month most of the pound's gains in the first quarter have been given up and sterling’s position looks dicey. But sterling bulls should not cut their losses. In fact, they should consider doubling down.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble Unseen

    The world and its dog are suddenly worried that the growing US-China trade war may be the event that sparks the next panic. Might I suggest that the looming iceberg that could yet sink the good ship Global Growth may not lie in the obvious spot where spy glasses are focused.The real menace may still lie in the European banking system.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's Trade War Calculus

    Keeping track of all the pieces of the US-China confrontation has become a full-time job. But the chaos and uncertainty of the past couple of weeks has begun to resolve itself into fairly clear patterns, even if the outcomes remain in doubt. Three main conclusions emerge from last week’s activity, and none of them are particularly reassuring.

    10
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    Oil Market 1, Commentariat 0

    As if the macroeconomic impact of a full-blown US-China trade war weren’t enough to worry about, over the last couple of weeks investors have also had to contemplate the risk of a real shooting war between the US and Iran, the effect it would have on the price of oil and the threat that would pose to a fragile global economy and jittery world markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    One Reduction Of Risk At The Margin

    By putting off for six months its decision whether or not to impose a 25% tariff on all imports of passenger cars and car parts on national security grounds, the US administration bowed to expedience on Wednesday. In theory, the threat of auto tariffs remains on the table. In practice, the six month delay has robbed the proposal of much of its credibility.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Monopsonies, Protectionism And ROIC

    It is extremely unfashionable to say so, but Donald Trump’s campaign to bring manufacturing industries back to the US by slapping tariffs on goods imports may not be quite the act of economic illiteracy most professional practitioners of the dismal science would have you believe. On the contrary, it could well be positive for US growth, living standards, and market outperformance.

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing's Most Effective Trade Tool

    In response to the escalation of the US-China trade war, Chinese policymakers are likely to step up their easing measures. This should help support domestic demand. But as Chen Long argues in this piece, the effect of policy easing, coupled with the impact of increased tariffs on China’s exports, will add to downward pressure on the renminbi.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trade War Story Lines Harden

    The US-China trade war has three potential outcomes. First, we could see a step back from brinksmanship and a deal in the next few weeks. Second, the two sides could dig in for more protracted negotiations. Third, the talks could break down and the trade war become permanent. With the probability of each outcome less than 50%, the only certainty is continued uncertainty.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Better Time For A Trade War

    For equity investors, there is a never a good time to have a trade war. Nevertheless, if there must be one, the US stock market is now better placed to ride out a US-China tariff conflict than it was a year ago. That’s just as well. Chinese negotiator Liu He is set to arrive in Washington on Thursday for the latest round of trade talks which are going down to the wire.

    5
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    Gauging The EM Collateral Damage

    After Donald Trump’s weekend tweets, trade war is once again the center of attention for investors. The perceived probability of an escalation has risen sharply, and risk assets have sold off. Asian emerging markets have not escaped the rout, but it would be a mistake for investors to treat all Asian emerging markets equally.

    3
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    Series: The Case Of The Missing Inflation

    As the Federal Reserve launched the second round of its quantitative easing, the fear was that the Fed’s unorthodox monetary policy would ignite a new round of inflation throughout the world, with dramatic effects on asset prices. After all, most asset prices are driven by the interaction of inflation and economic activity. But inflation failed to materialize, and even fell from more than 3% globally in 2010 to negative territory in 2015. These...

    0
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    A Reverse-Engineered US Inflation Indicator

    In the Strategy Monthly I presented a fairly simple rule to show whether an economy is in the top, or the bottom half of the Four Quadrants framework. To show that the rule worked, I laid out relationships between the "rule" and a range of other useful indications of a price environment shift. Here, I capture all of these relationships in a simple, revised decision rule.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trade Deal Delayed, Not Yet Denied

    Any trade negotiator will tell you that the last yard is always the hardest. That is obvious now in the US-China trade talks, which were thrown into doubt by Donald Trump’s weekend tweets threatening to hike tariffs on US$200bn of imports from China from 10% to 25% this Friday if a deal is not done.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation And The Gold Fix

    When the market rate of interest for a long period has been held abnormally low relative to returns on invested capital, financial engineering takes off with huge debt issuance, making a chaotic denouement of the credit cycle unavoidable. To prepare for such an event, an equity portfolio hedged with gold can reduce volatility and raise returns.

    4
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    The Message In Eurozone Money

    The advanced estimate of first quarter eurozone GDP released on Tuesday came as a pleasant surprise. Growth came in stronger than generally expected, while Italy emerged from recession. With the MSCI EMU equity index up almost 17% YTD in local currency terms, the question is whether growth can be sustained over the coming quarters.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Look Through The Trade Data

    After rallying 10% in 1Q19, emerging market equities have hit an air pocket as investors worry about global growth. Given the link between EM profitability and global trade, data showing that activity shrank in both volume and value terms in the three months to February has raised concerns. It hasn’t helped that the Washington side of the US-China trade talks has amped up “no deal” rhetoric in what is slated to be the final run-in of the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The World's Biggest Bull Loses Steam

    China’s equity bull market has lost steam in the last 10 days after the Politburo adopted a less supportive tone following stronger than expected economic data in March. Even before the announcement, market ebullience had moderated. This is positive for China's stock market development, since it reduces the risk of an over-muscular regulatory reaction.

    0
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    Managing Today’s Biggest Risk

    The US first quarter GDP data released on Friday proved consistent with the picture of slower—but still positive—growth through 2019, and a continuation of the Goldilocks tailwind for asset markets. But after a strong run-up in equities this year, it might be time to ask what the greatest risk is to the current environment, and how to position for it.

    0
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    The Least Ugly Duckling

    In a year marked by unexpected US dollar strength, the renminbi is one of the few major currencies to be up against the dollar. The reason is simple enough: the resumption of trade talks between the US and China. Yet although a trade pact is now substantially priced in, there are reasons to believe the renminbi has further upside potential.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why The Bulls Are Back In Charge

    Now that the S&P 500 has hit a new all-time high and other stock markets have recovered most of the steep losses they suffered last summer, it seems a lifetime since the financial panics of 2018. Investors who bought the dip have enjoyed Wall Street’s strongest quarterly performance in this bull market. After being so well rewarded, how should bullish investors who kept the faith now respond?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    How Contagious Is The Health Care Downturn?

    On paper, this should have been a good year for health care stocks: global growth has disappointed, long term interest rates have fallen, the US yield curve for a brief while was inverted and a looming US-China trade deal should see China buy lots of health care gear and drugs from the US. Yet, even though the stars aligned, health care has been the worst performing major US equity sector this year. Notwithstanding a bounce yesterday, the sector...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Iran Waivers And The Oil Price Spike

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the US will not roll over waivers on its sanctions on Iranian oil exports when they expire in May. The question for investors is this: If Washington does make good on its threat, to what extent are other oil producers able and willing to increase output in order to make up any supply shortfall in global markets?

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation

    As the Federal Reserve launched the second round of its quantitative easing, the fear was that the unorthodox monetary policy would ignite a new round of inflation—even hyper-inflation—throughout the world, with dramatic effects on asset prices. But inflation failed to materialize, and now nobody seems to be worried about it anymore.

    5
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    Modi And The Markets

    Indian markets are pricing in a victory by the ruling BJP in this year’s general election, a six-week process of mindboggling complexity that started on April 11. But while this will be the most likely single outcome when results are announced on May 23, nothing is a foregone conclusion under India’s unpredictable first-past-the-post system.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Populist Challenge In Indonesia

    These are populist times. After the elections of Duterte in the Philippines, Trump in the US, Bolsonaro in Brazil, and the return to power last year of Mahathir Mohamad in Malaysia, investors would do well to take note of the last minute opinion poll gains made by another rabble-rousing populist seeking election to high office in Indonesia.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation Is The Real Risk

    Happy days seem to be here again as risk assets soar on a dovish Federal Reserve and better growth outlook. Yet, investors should take note. The Fed has three official mandates; namely, to keep inflation low and stable, keep unemployment down, and keep interest rates low and stable. Yet among those “equals”, the first is thought to be bearing down on inflation.

    5
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    Europe's Cruel Summer

    The eurozone is rapidly becoming the Errol Flynn of global economies: it just never fails to disappoint. From weak German PMIs, through falling French industrial production, to Italy slipping back into recession, it is hard to think of a single European data point over the past 12 months that gave any reason for cheer. Will things get better over the coming months?

    0
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    Brextension And The Gilt-Edged Opportunity

    The latest act of the Brexit tragicomedy has played as expected—and market reactions should follow, as the risk premium on sterling and UK assets is substantially reduced. The six and a half months remaining between now and the new Brexit deadline is plenty of time for Britain to decide between the three possible outcomes I have repeatedly discussed.

    10
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    A New Look At The Housing Market

    When the US slides into recession, it generally does so because of a contraction in investment, either in the corporate sector or in the housing market. Today, returns on capital invested in housing exceed the cost of capital, signalling a positive outlook for US residential investment, construction, house prices, and the shares of homebuilders.

    3
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    Europe's China Syndrome

    Chinese premier Li Keqiang is in Brussels on Tuesday for the 21st EU-China summit, and the talks are likely to be testy. After much dithering and in response to much pressure from Washington, the EU has begun to take a more hardline posture towards China. The core EU countries share many of the concerns that motivate the US trade war with China.

    0
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    And The Brexit Winner Is...

    With the Brexit deadline in the rear view mirror, Britain's leave voters have are left with the impression that they have been taken for a ride by the UK’s political class, and in particular by their representatives in parliament. So who is the real sovereign power in the UK? The people or parliament? Charles sees three possible outcomes.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Export Problem

    Europe is the world’s most export-dependent big economic region. In such a precious position, the effect of external weakness can be debilitating, as shown by the eurozone manufacturing PMI having just fallen to its lowest in nearly six years at 47.5. The question is whether any respite can be found in overseas markets.

    0
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    Last Lap For China's Bond Rally

    Starting from April, Chinese government and policy bank bonds are included in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate bond index. But index inclusion, while an important landmark, may not be the best guide to market timing. After a bull run that has lasted since the beginning of 2018, China’s bond market rally looks to be nearing an end.

    3
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    Play A Longer US Cycle With Small Caps

    After a wobble late last year, the US economy looks to be stabilizing. The Atlanta Fed has revised up its estimate for 1Q19 GDP growth to 2.1%, while more timely indicators such as mortgage applications, PMI readings and durable goods orders indicate a steadying of the ship.The question is how to play this development.

    0
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    Good News For Goldilocks

    Last Thursday, with the price of oil approaching a four-and-a-half month high, Donald Trump took to Twitter. “Price of Oil getting too high.” Trump’s tweet had little effect, with Brent crude hitting US$69/bbl on Monday. Prices are likely to continue to push higher over the coming months towards 2018's highs—a troubling prospect.

    0
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    A Tactical Opportunity In Turkey

    Turkey has long been a market to steer well clear of, with investment opportunities poisoned by toxic politics and an ever-depreciating local currency. However, with the US Federal Reserve adopting a more dovish stance and following the weekend’s municipal elections, Turkish lira assets may now offer an attractive tactical opportunity.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    A Week Is A Long Time

    Harold Wilson, the former British prime minister’s, quip that “a week is a long time in politics” has become an over-used cliche. Still, in the last week, there has been good reason to dust it off.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Among EMs, Favor North Asia

    With their high beta to global growth, emerging markets seldom outperform when investors begin to get nervous about the health of the global economy. So it is no surprise that the risk-off move of the last week has seen the Brazilian real and Argentinian peso each sold off by more than -5% against the US dollar, while the Turkish lira has been propped up only by a regulatory squeeze on liquidity. But the jitters have not affected all emerging...

    0
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    The Case For A Cyclical Pick-up In Europe

    As of last week, short positions in European equities were deemed to be the world’s most crowded trade and recent news has not lightened the market mood. The question is whether such information is in the price, for any marked improvement in cyclical conditions may spark a strong rally.

    4
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    The Hard Logic Of A Long Brexit Extension

    By removing the hard deadline for Brexit negotiations the EU has avoided the disaster of a 2008-style sudden stop in business with its second largest trading partner. This decision reinforces the bullish momentum for sterling, which remains undervalued especially against the US dollar. Ending the risk of a “No Deal” Brexit should also improve the dismal economic outlook and help stabilize political conditions in Europe as a whole.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Recession Warning, Or False Alarm?

    On Friday, the three-month to 10-year portion of the US treasury curve inverted for the first time this cycle, heightening investors’ fears of impending recession. But although every US recession of recent decades has been preceded by an inversion of the yield curve, not every inversion has been followed by a recession; there have been cases of false positives.

    6
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    Vox Clamantis In Deserto

    Some say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Others regard repeating the same mistake over and over again, and expecting the results to change, to be the very definition of insanity. I fear that the majority of “respectable economists” (meaning they always side with the consensus) inhabit the first of the two camps.

    4
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    Gather Round The Punch Bowl

    US monetary policy tightening is over, at least for now. While the Federal Reserve is not adding any more hooch to the punch bowl, chairman Jay Powell has promised to stop cutting his serving sizes. Although not much of a surprise, the Fed’s guidance is broadly positive for just about everything but US dollar cash—especially equities and real assets.

    0
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    Believe In The US Consumer, Still

    Just as the Federal Reserve eases up on monetary tightening and negotiators struggle to avert a trans-Pacific trade war, the US consumer is emerging as the next source of worry. Americans are deferring big-ticket purchases, consumer confidence readings have softened and retail sales growth has slowed. Suddenly, the picture looks similar to the 2015-16 soft patch, or worse still it resembles the phase leading up to the 2008 crisis, when an...

    0
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    A New Era For European Banks

    European banking stocks have been battered for much of the last four years by negative interest rates and a Brussels plan to impose market discipline through shareholder bail-ins rather than public bail-outs. This approach is now in question as Germany embraces a new industrial strategy that will rely on strong state-backed banks taking political direction.

    2
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    A Marxist Take On The Gilets Jaunes

    The "yellow jackets” still protesting in France have so far received only tepid support from the country's usually vocal trade unions. Similarly, left-wing parties have also been very slow to take to the street. This begs the question of what the oracle of the French intelligentsia, Karl Marx, would have made of this protest movement.

    10
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    The Trouble With Champions

    When last Sunday, Angela Merkel’s heir-apparent published an opinion piece on the EU’s future, she left the door open to an EU industrial strategy and competition policy focused on creating European champions intended to compete in global markets. Such a policy may be attractive to politicians, but it is less appealing to investors.

    0
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    The Central Banker Who Cried Wolf

    In January, the BoJ governor promised more monetary easing if that was what it took for inflation to reach 2%. Investors increasingly doubt the fortitude of Japan’s financial sector as it endures the pain inflicted by the world’s easiest central bank. If that suspicion grows, the variable of adjustment may be a rising yen, which would be a big headache for the BoJ.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Brexit Impasse

    Political commentators and European leaders are bewailing Britain’s descent into ungovernability after the UK parliament again rejected the new and supposedly improved Brexit deal. But markets reacted calmly. In fact, for investors, the seemingly chaotic Brexit saga is unfolding roughly along the bullish lines suggested here since early January.

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    The Locus Of Capital Destruction

    Germany is going through one of its periodic bouts of angst as its industrial economy faces up to cyclical headwinds, unwanted structural change and the threat of protectionism. I too have concerns about the fate of corporate Germany, but would approach the problem from the perspective of an equity investor.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Productivity To The Rescue, For Now

    On first reading, Friday’s US payroll report for February made grim reading for most investors. The screeching slowdown in non-farm hiring seemed to point to a US economy that is flirting with recession. To compound matters, wage growth seemes to point to a very tight labor market. On closer inspection, however, a less concerning picture is revealed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging

    The first law of holes states: when you are in one, stop digging. It’s sound advice, which central bankers would do well to heed. Unfortunately for Mario Draghi and his colleagues at the European Central Bank, things are not so simple. It is one of the quirks of negative interest rates that the longer rates remain in negative territory, the less accommodative policy becomes.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Keynes Is Dead; This Is The Long Run

    “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is,” Yogi Berra said. Take cutting interest rates as an example. According to Keynesian theory, reducing interest rates is a way to borrow from future demand in order to prevent a recession today.The theory is sound, but then comes the practice. And in Europe today, we are in practice up to our necks.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards A New Triple Merit Scenario

    Emerging market equities have benefited handsomely from the global risk-on move so far this year. With the prospect of a US-China tariff truce and the likelihood that China’s growth rate will stabilize in the coming months, EM may be on the cusp of a new “triple merit scenario” that could extend the equity rally through the rest of 2019.

    0
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    Stability, Beijing-Style

    After a decade of rapid growth in debt, China’s government claims to be pursuing a different course. At this year’s legislative session, leaders dialed back growth targets, and pledged to control leverage and instead use fiscal policy to steady growth. Neither pledge can be taken at face value: growth will stabilize this year, but leverage will expand.

    0
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    A Potential Lifeline For Europe's Banks

    As the members of the European Central Bank’s governing council prepare to meet in Frankfurt this Thursday, they face the unsettling possibility that their policy settings may risk compounding, rather than alleviating, the eurozone’s economic weaknesses.Unfortunately for members of the council who may be inclined to dither, doing nothing is not a viable option.

    1
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    Get Ready To Buy The Dip

    With the S&P 500 up a nifty 18% from its Christmas eve low, propelled by the Federal Reserve’s dovish turn and hopes of a US-China trade truce, it is natural to wonder if US stocks are due for a correction. The question for investors is whether they should fade the rally now before it is too late, or stay invested and look to buy the dip should a correction occur.

    0
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    Crisis And Opportunity In Kashmir

    India and Pakistan engaged in air-to-air combat yesterday, raising the prospect of war between the two nuclear powers. Markets fell only marginally but are vulnerable if the conflict escalates, which for the moment looks unlikely. If Modi keeps his nerve, the crisis could put the BJP on a sure path to victory in May’s general election, heralding a rally in Indian asset prices.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble With Price Level Targeting

    The Federal Reserve is talking about changing the way it targets inflation. Currently it tweaks policy in an attempt to zero in on a specific inflation rate: 2%. Under the framework it is discussing, instead it would aim to hit a price index level consistent with a particular long term average inflation rate. The distinction might sound subtle, but by targeting a price level, the Fed would compensate for any undershooting by attempting to...

    6
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    After A Trade Deal, Then What?

    So far, so predictable: President Donald Trump’s weekend tweets extending the deadline for US-China trade talks past March 1 made clear his intention to get a deal done, most likely in the second half of March when Xi Jinping pays a visit to Mar-a-Lago. A deal is now almost certain to happen; the live questions are what will be in it and what impact it will have.

    0
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    Back To The Barbarous Relic

    Going back to the mid-1980s, I have worked on the assumption that the US economy has been in the “deflationary” lower half of my four quadrants framework. My fear is that we may be moving into the inflationary top quadrants. If so, this means that in the bust phase of the cycle equities will have a positive correlation with bonds, and those bonds will offer much lower returns

    7
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    Time To Underweight Thailand

    In the two weeks since the announcement that a movie star princess would stand for prime minister in Thailand's March election—though her candidacy was swiftly shot down by the palace—investors have largely shrugged off fears of renewed upheavals. However, this is not just Thai politics as usual. It reopens old wounds and throws current alignments into doubt.

    0
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    A Catspaw, Not A Tailwind

    The publication of minutes from FOMC’s January meeting confirmed that the Fed has executed an about-turn in its policy stance and is now in dovish mode. More specifically, the minutes confirmed that the Fed is planning to halt the contraction of its balance sheet later this year, putting an early end to the quantitative tightening that began in October 2017.

    0
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    Three Odd Things

    Reserves held by foreign central banks at the Fed are shrinking, which implies there aren’t enough US dollars in the system. This would make sense: the Fed has been draining excess US dollars for the past couple of years. So with shrinking central bank reserves and a shrinking US monetary base, the US dollar should be going up, and most risk assets should be hurting. Oddly, this isn’t happening.

    4
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    The Biggest Investment Story Of 2019

    Now that stock markets around the world have recovered from the year-end panic of December 2018, it is worth returning to the question I posed here on the first trading day of 2019: was the disappointing performance of equities and other risk assets in 2018 the prelude to a deep and protracted bear market, or a contrarian opportunity to “buy the dip”?

    2
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    China’s Credit Cycle Turns

    China’s easing of monetary policy is finally showing some results, with total credit growth delivering a surprising rebound in January. This pick-up suggests that the credit cycle has now bottomed out. But, Chen Long argues, the rebound in credit growth is likely to prove moderate, and economic activity will take more time to stabilize.

    4
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    The QT Endgame

    A voting member of the FOMC said yesterday that the Federal Reserve should quit shrinking its balance sheet later this year. This was the clearest indication yet that the US central bank will end quantitative tightening one or two years sooner than the 2020-2021 estimate put forward by Chairman Jay Powell last July. I suspect Brainard will get her wish.

    2
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    What Europe’s Political Ructions Mean

    European politics is again heating up. Yesterday saw the Spanish government fail to pass its budget in a move likely to spur fresh elections. Populists in Italy and yellow vests in France are keeping up their campaign of disruption. Given that few of these issues directly threaten the structures of the EU, the question for investors is: Does any of this matter?

    0
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    Fear Not The ‘Earnings Recession’

    US earnings growth is clearly slowing. As global growth ebbs and the effect of last year’s US tax cut wears off, 1Q19 will be worse according to US analysts who in aggregate are predicting EPS to fall -1.4%. Some commentators are even declaring an “earnings recession.” Time to take profits for the year and run to the hills? I’d say “no”.

    5
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    The UK's Limits To Growth

    For the British economy, it has been a case of “mustn’t grumble” since the 2016 Brexit referendum. However, the effect of a weak fourth quarter GDP report was to debunk any illusion that Brexit uncertainty has been weathered. Such a reckoning was inevitable with or without Brexit, as the UK has in effect hit limits to its growth.

    0
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    Not Such An Ugly Duckling

    A spate of weak data releases last week confirmed Europe as the ugly duckling of key economic regions, and things may soon get worse. The worry is that a weakening external sector negatively impacts the domestic recovery through lower investment and job creation at a time when policymakers face both technical and political constraints.

    1
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    EM Balance Sheet Vs Income Statement

    Emerging market investors face a dilemma in 2019. Softer relative growth prospects in the US as the initial effects of 2018’s tax cuts wear off, coupled with the easing of the US dollar liquidity squeeze implied by a more dovish Federal Reserve and softer oil price, favor emerging market assets. The question is: how best to implement this view?

    0
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    Gaming Out Theresa May’s Gamble

    Given that the UK prime minister has apparently outfoxed her opponents, why has the pound fallen back below US$1.30? The obvious reason is that Theresa May’s unexpected wins in the UK parliament last week look to have increased the chances of a disorderly “no deal” rupture. In reality, however, the chances of “no deal” are no higher today than they were a week ago as the EU and UK opposition are yielding to May’s pressure.

    8
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    Portfolio Construction In A Malthusian World

    The two key questions posed by economics are: why do things have “value” and—over time—how does that “value” change? Thomas Malthus showed why people value things that are scarce, like jewels or a Monet painting Alternatively, David Ricardo and Joseph Schumpeter, showed why its worth owning something that is useful—a “tool” from which goods and services can be made and sold at a price that exceeds their cost of production.

    4
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    A Looser Fed And Tighter Banks

    News flow from the US and beyond over recent months has pointed to an easing of financial conditions. A notable exception has, however, emerged: US commercial banks have stopped loosening lending standards and have started to tighten them—just a touch. I remain constructive, but have gotten more cautious about US risk assets.

    0
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    The Politics Of Indian Largesse

    India aspires to be a US$10trn economy by 2030. It’s fine to dream, but first the ruling BJP must win a general election. After recent defeats in three state elections and a resurgent opposition, it faces a tough race. The interim budget on Friday responded to the Congress Party’s leftist populism while presenting a fiscal plan designed not to spook markets.

    2
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    A Vital Portfolio Construction Lesson

    I am a rules-based investor, and over the years few financial relationships have been more useful to me in reading the economic cycle than the yield spread between long-dated US corporate bonds and 30-year US treasuries. Going back to the late 1970s, no US bear market has unfolded with key spread being below 200bp. It is now 210bp.

    2
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    Fed To The Rescue

    It was no surprise on Wednesday that the US Federal Reserve promised to be “patient” about further interest hikes and flexible on the pace and extent of its balance sheet reduction. The Fed’s more dovish stance had been clearly signaled in a series of speeches ahead of yesterday’s policy meeting. As Fed chairman Jay Powell explained, with US inflation data subdued and other major economies slowing, it makes good sense for the Fed to take a “wait...

    0
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    Don't Fear Corporate Leverage (Yet)

    With Brexit, the US-China trade war and a synchronous global slowdown, these are anxious times for investors. But apparently, all these concerns pale in comparison with worries about US corporate leverage. According to a BofAML survey this month, corporate indebtedness is the biggest single worry among fund managers. We beg to differ.

    17
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    Gavekal Research

    A Huawei-Scale Problem

    The charges that US prosecutors have now filed against telecom equipment supplier Huawei are similar to those thrown at two other Chinese tech firms last year. The eventual outcome is likely to be similar: the imposition of export controls that will threaten Huawei’s survival and force it to accede to a restrictive deal with the US government.

    0
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    Favor Local Bonds Over EM Equities

    After a dismal year for emerging market assets in 2018, emerging markets have started 2019 on a positive note, with equities rising 6.5% and local currency bonds up 3% year-to-date. On Friday, Louis looked at shifts in the US dollar, long term US interest rates, credit spreads and the oil price, and concluded they favor emerging market assets through the rest of 2019. Broadly I agree, but I would take a slightly more nuanced stance. The shifts...

    0
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    The Four Prices That Matter

    It is Gavekal’s longstanding mission to develop simple principles that investors can use to navigate complicated financial markets. In this vein, one of our core tenets is that four prices matter more than all others, and together these determine the level of global economic activity and of investor risk appetite. Let us see where they stand as we head deeper into 2019.

    12
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    Germany's Industrial Slump

    With leading indicators in Germany pointing south, and a host of external macro factors looming, things are likely to get worse before they get better. However, much of the potential bad news is already priced into the German stock market. As a result, there is scope for a pick-up in German equities later in the year should the worst of investors’ macro fears fail to materialize.

    1
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    The Bull Case For US Housing

    As the US government shutdown drags on, US-China tariff talks stutter, the Chinese growth engine slows, global trade slumps and GDP forecasts get cut, the stream of macro-misery in recent days has seemed relentless. On Tuesday, the US National Association of Realtors added its voice to the dirge, reporting that sales volumes for existing homes fell -10% year-on-year to a three year low in December. With new home sales and construction equally...

    10
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    The Future Of Italian Yields

    Since it became clear Rome and Brussels were moving towards a compromise to end their budget stand-off, Italian assets have outperformed. The yield on 10-year BTPs has fallen, narrowing the spread over bunds. But investors should be wary of positioning for a continued contraction; in both the short and long term, Italy’s deficit and debt dynamics are unpromising.

    2
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    Time For US Curve Steepeners

    Despite the risk-on move of the last four weeks in the US, the two-year to five-year portion of the yield curve remains inverted. And as recent data releases pointing to a slowdown in growth, fears persist that the US economy is heading towards a recession. However, while US growth set to moderate, forecasts of recession are premature.

    0
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    Mexico 1, Brazil 0

    When Brazil met Mexico in last year’s football world cup, the Brazilian team walked away the victors by two goals to nil. In financial markets too, Brazil has lately been beating Mexico. In recent weeks each country has installed as its president a fiery populist—although they hail from different ends of the ideological spectrum. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro is an unabashed right-winger, while his Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or...

    8
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    Trump's Next Trade Target

    Just when the risk from trade politics seemed to be dying down, it’s getting complicated again. Trade talks between the United States and China are in full swing, but just as important are imminent negotiations between the US and the European Union, which are clouded by the US threat to impose tariffs on cars and car parts.

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