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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Markets And Energy

    We all know, don’t we, what defining characteristics the emerging markets have in common? Of course we do. Emerging markets are developing countries on course to become advanced economies, typically with the assistance of powerful demographic tailwinds. But although they enjoy rapid growth over the long term, their institutional architecture is still under construction. As a result, emerging equity markets are more volatile than those of the...

    0
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    A Japanese Sandwich

    Shinzo Abe played a fair amount of golf with Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago, but unlike other US allies he got no trade concessions. The talk is again of the Japanese prime minister being a busted flush who may have to resign. Last month, I said such an outcome should not derail Japan’s recovery and corporate prospects (see Abenomics After Abe). The same logic applies to fears of escalating US-China trade tensions upending Japan’s recovery.

    0
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    The Message From Credit Markets

    Over the last three weeks US high yield credit spreads have collapsed by 100bp—a tightening that far exceeds the 10bp narrowing in investment grade spreads over the same period. Coming after a marked widening in the Libor-OIS and Ted spreads over February and March, this fall in credit spreads is clearly encouraging. It supports our contention that the widening of Libor spreads was an idiosyncratic anomaly, and nothing investors should be overly...

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    A First Step Towards Easing

    The Chinese central bank is no longer in full policy tightening mode. That’s good news for Chinese bank shares. Shortly after government statisticians released economic data for the first quarter on Tuesday, the People’s Bank Of China announced a 100bp reduction in bank reserve requirement ratios. For big banks, this reduces the proportion of their deposits they are required to lodge as reserves at the central bank from 17% to 16%. In gross...

    0
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    Learning To Love The Loonie

    There are plenty of reasons to dislike the Canadian dollar: disappointing economic data, a frothy real estate market, over-exposed banks, the fact that the Canadian team failed to get either the men’s or the women’s ice hockey gold at the winter Olympics, and a prime minister who dresses up like the Thompson twins when he travels to foreign countries.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    No Time To Give Up On Europe

    Even as winter descended in January, the economic climate seemed decidedly balmy. Eurozone growth for 4Q17 came in at 2.7% YoY, while the year’s first PMI peaked at a post-2006 high of 58.8. Investors liked the idea of deflation finally being slain and a possible earlier-than-expected normalization of monetary policy. Alas the fun didn’t last as a series of data disappointments punctured an equity rally that had been led by financials. My bet is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Different Analytical Approach

    I have read with great interest the arguments put forward here by Anatole that equities are in a “structural” bull market. Having listened closely to his presentation at Gavekal’s London seminar, I now understand where our main point of difference lies. Anatole argues that we are in a bull market that began in 2013 when US stocks broke above their long-established trading range and which continues to this day (see This Is (Still) Not Peak: It’s...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Future Of Facebook

    For someone infamous for his social awkwardness, Mark Zuckerberg acquitted himself relatively well in his two days of testimony before US Congressional committees. Certainly investors thought so. After sliding -14.5% over February and March, shares in Facebook rallied 5.3% over two sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday. The short term market reaction notwithstanding, Zuckerberg’s public grilling clearly signals that the user-as-product, advertising-...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    US Budget Deficits And Long Term Interest Rates

    On Monday the Congressional Budget Office published its latest projections for the US economy and government finances, incorporating for the first time the effects of December’s tax cuts. With government revenues set to fall from 17.3% of GDP last year to less than 17% over the next five years, and spending expected to grow from 20.8% to more than 22%, the CBO projects that the US budget deficit will expand from 3.5% of GDP last year to more...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    After Constructive Engagement

    Separating signal from noise in the ongoing US-China trade dispute continues to be a thankless task. Trade war fears rose late last week thanks to an offhand threat from President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on another US$100bn of imports from China. They ebbed early this week when Trump reversed course and said a deal was likely soon, and Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a speech promising a reduction in automobile tariffs and market...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Source Of Market Risk

    Believe it or not, there was good news, as well as bad, from the US markets last Friday. The bad news was obviously Donald Trump’s threat to escalate the trade war with China and the equally aggressive response from Beijing. The good news was the fall in March’s US payrolls growth to just 103,000 from February’s upwardly-revised 326,000. This slowdown has eliminated, at least until after the summer, the risk of an unexpected Federal Reserve...

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    Gavekal Research

    Why To Buy India’s Battered Banks

    India’s central bank surveyed the landscape and yesterday painted an upbeat picture. It argued that the investment cycle may be turning, while inflation, the sub-continent’s constant bugbear, is becalmed. With Indian equities off -6% in 2018, this would seem a decent reentry point. The problem is public sector banks, for even as a US$32bn recapitalization is rolled out and bad debt is cleaned up, investors remain spooked by an outlandish scandal.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Reasons To Buy The Dip

    After spending many years as Gavekal’s equity permabull, I joined Charles and Louis last December in warning of the risks to what was then a roaring, and accelerating, bull market. But my way of thinking about these risks was rooted in a different analytical framework, and so I have come to a different conclusion about how investors should respond to this latest sell-off (for Louis’ take, see Following Yesterday’s Pullback). With the lows of mid...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Ready For A Further P/E Derating

    I see but through a glass darkly. Sometimes, however there are glimmers of light. Four months ago, in early December, I examined the signals being broadcast by the various investment rules I have long followed and concluded that: “While global markets have been stable for the past 18 months, we may soon be entering a period of greater instability.”

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    Gavekal Research

    Following Yesterday’s Pullback

    Two weeks ago I looked back at Enron’s collapse in 2001 and asked whether a crash-and-burn at Tesla or Uber would be this cycle’s catalyst for a fundamental re-assessment of business models. But perhaps my sights were set too low, as this roll-over was triggered not by a cash-burning profligate flaming out, but by turmoil engulfing the Facebook gorilla, and by extension the likes of Google and Snap, which rely on “the user being the product”.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Abenomics After Abe

    It’s been a rough few weeks, both for Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and for the Japanese stock market. Reelected just five months ago, Abe is facing growing demands for his resignation after an influence-peddling scandal that has been bubbling away for the last year boiled over with leaks about an official cover-up. In response, Abe’s approval rating has slumped towards 30%, traditionally a level from which Japanese prime ministers struggle...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Protectionism

    As the US toughens up its negotiating stance on trade, it seems that ghosts from the Great Depression haunt the land. The men of Davos can be heard to intone gravely that President Donald Trump is aping Herbert Hoover, and as in the 1930s, the global economy may go into a tailspin. I am struck that our cherished elites have discovered a form of government intervention that they do not like, especially given their support for so many other “...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Aren’t Bond Investors Panicking?

    Once again, the volatility that rocked global financial markets in recent days was at least as interesting for what it didn’t tell us as what it did. Amid growing protectionism, rising rates and fiscal irresponsibility in the US government, the biggest and most important financial market of all—the US treasury market—isn’t bothered.

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    Gavekal Research

    Farewell My Lovely Bull Market

    No doubt market pundits will go on discussing the trigger of last week’s sell-off in equity markets and debating its implications ad nauseam. But whatever the proximate cause of the latest risk-off, it is looking increasingly as if the uncomplicated, low volatility bull-market-in-everything that prevailed through much of last year is now no more than a pleasant memory. With markets apparently intent on retesting the lows set in early February,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Trade Wars: Advantage China

    In the US-China trade war, China is skillfully playing Go while the US is playing tic-tac-toe, badly. Arthur analyses the announcement of US$60bn worth of tariffs by the US on Chinese imports and finds the US flailing without a firm strategy. But behind the news, a dangerous consensus has emerged among America’s elites which holds that China’s rise comes at the US’s expense, and must be checked.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Focus On Corporate Yields, Not Policy Rates

    There were no big surprises at yesterday’s Federal Reserve meeting, but in offering a slightly more hawkish tone, policymakers have amped up market anxiety. I must admit to not being in this crowd, for the perhaps heretical observation that the future of this bull market may not be decided at the Fed.

    13
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Wade Into Treasuries

    Leading up to today’s Federal Reserve meeting, long-dated treasuries have slipped back into their trading range. There are two reasons to think this offers a good opportunity to “buy the dip”. First, global growth has eased off as shown by our diffusion index of OECD leading indicators, which tends to lead year-on-year changes in 10-year treasury yields by about four months. Second, investors overreacted to January’s spike in US wage growth data...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Giving Up Value Investing For Lent

    A client recently told me that he had wanted to give up “value investing” for Lent. Unfortunately, his priest pointed out that this was like forgoing boiled spinach as Lent commemorates Christ’s 40 days in the desert and requires doing without something that feels good: think of giving up Amazon, Nvidia or Tencent (at least until this week) for energy stocks, Japan and emerging market financials. Our client chose self-flagellation and stuck with...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Economic Team

    China’s top economic team for the next five years was released this morning, and the theme seems to be “steady as she goes”, with a vote of confidence for experts in their fields. Chen Long has looked at the list, which includes a new PBOC governor, and offers his take on what this means for financial policy in the years ahead.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Corporate Bond Play

    With high-yield and investment grade spreads having shrunk to historically low levels, US corporate bonds are hardly cheap. Yet the combination of favorable tax policy and fiscal incontinence recommends them to any US bond portfolio. As the US economy is likely in the dog days of this cycle, the tricky question is what duration investors should focus on.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Legitimacy Versus Legality

    France’s top central banker yesterday called for the nations of the eurozone to cease bickering over ideological questions, and instead get things done. National leaders should stop wasting time on “theoretical debates” that pitted “risk reduction against risk sharing”, said Francois Villeroy de Galhau. They should, instead, tackle real problems like the half-built capital markets union. It was the authentic voice of the European technocracy and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fork In The Road For European Equities

    In the first half of last year making money in European stocks was easy as benchmarks steamed higher on hopes that less political risk would allow an economic surge into sunlit uplands. It has not exactly worked out that way. Such has been the loss of momentum that both the MSCI EMU and broader MSCI Europe indexes have plunged below their 200-day moving averages (just as worrying for tea leaf readers, the 50-day moving average for the narrower...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Curious Case Of The HK Dollar

    One of the longest awaited adjustments in financial markets may finally be about to happen. Last year, betting that Hong Kong dollar interest rates would rise to converge with US dollar rates was reckoned to be among the surest trades in world markets. Yet the convergence never happened. Over the last 12 months, one-month Hong Kong dollar Hibor has consistently traded at a discount to one-month US dollar Libor of more than 30bp. And since the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Curiously Weak Dollar

    Since early February, global markets have had a volatile ride. The big exception has been the US dollar, which has stayed stoically range-bound. This is odd considering the Federal Reserve’s fairly hawkish outlook for monetary policy and the fact that imposing tariffs on metal imports should lessen the US trade deficit. Not to pat ourselves on the back, but the general Gavekal view on the US dollar has in recent times been fairly bearish (see...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Trade Wars: The Phantom Menace?

    In the aftermath of the past week’s to-ing and fro-ing over steel and aluminum tariffs, there is one thing we can be certain of this year: we are going to see a lot more protectionist theatrics coming out of the White House. What is much less certain is how worried we should be.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What A Trade War Means For Europe

    The departure of free-trader Gary Cohn from the Trump administration has investors rightly concerned that a global trade war may loom. Markets rallied yesterday on reports that the US may carve out exclusions for its steel and aluminum tariffs, but President Donald Trump seems set to announce a punitive package as early as today. The European Union has taken a tough stance against the US threat, and yesterday added orange juice and peanut butter...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Housing And The US Economy

    The last economic cycle in the US was marked by excesses in residential investment and a dearth of business investment, which proved negative for productivity growth. As the current cycle gets a pro-cyclical boost in its mature phase from last year’s tax reforms, that imbalance will be at least partially reversed.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Finest Hour

    At Gavekal, we have no house view, but in recent weeks something of a united front has formed among my erudite colleagues on the subject of Europe and her politics. Just to be sure that clients don’t conclude that we have all imbibed the Brussels-dispensed Kool Aid, let me offer my take on the situation and the implication for financial asset values.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Stop Worrying About EU Political Risk

    Is it time for investors to finally forget about “political risk” in the eurozone? Judging by the weekend’s events in Germany and Italy the answer is an emphatic “Yes”. The big event was the overwhelming vote by Germany’s Social Democratic Party to participate in a “grand coalition” with the center-right. This means that Angela Merkel will be reappointed for a fourth term as chancellor. Thus Germany will have a stable government with no serious...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The First Casualty In Trump’s Trade War

    Donald Trump has finally delivered on his long-delayed promise of trade protectionism, and in the worst possible way. By promising to impose tariffs on metals imports (25% on steel, 10% on aluminum) on “national security” grounds, he addresses a problem that doesn’t exist, and creates a host of new ones. All this assumes, of course, that the tariffs are not watered down or more narrowly targeted when they are formally announced next week—a real...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Surprising Upside Of Yen Strength

    The best performing currency in the world so far this year is... the Japanese yen. Over the first two months of 2018, the yen has climbed 5.5% against the US dollar, remaining well bid even as the US dollar itself has found support in recent days. At the same time, the Japanese equity market has taken a beating, falling -4.3% in local currency terms over the year to date. As a result, even though Japanese stocks are still up in US dollar terms...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dollar’s New Crush

    The foreign exchange market, I’ve often said, is a serial monogamist. There are multitudes of potential drivers out there. But the market likes to step out with just one at a time. Its relationships can last anywhere from a few quarters to a couple of years. But sooner or later, it gets bored and switches its affections. So, in 2005-07, the main driver was the growing US current account deficit and the perception that the US was flooding the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Challenge Confronting Investors

    Few in the markets will be sorry to see the back of February. But as a tough month draws to a close, this seems a reasonable time to take stock and draw lessons for the future. It is perturbing that lesson Number One must be that there really was nowhere to hide. Geographical diversification served little purpose, as all markets fell and then rebounded in unison. The same held with sectors, for those that performed worst in 2017 (energy and...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Emperor Xi Is Not So Far Away

    By removing term limits from his office of president, Xi Jinping has shown there are no constraints left on his political power. As he strengthens his grasp on the top of China’s political pyramid, he is also enforcing his will more effectively at the bottom. For better or for worse, he is moving China to a more centralized and top-down system.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Eurozone Growth: Blip, Peak Or Plateau?

    European growth was always going to soften at some point; the question is whether this week’s squishy data releases reflect a fizzling out of the upswing, or merely an inevitable maturing of the cycle. The fact that the deterioration unfolded during a market dislocation that did not originate in Europe certainly gives succor to skeptics who see the single currency area as the soft underbelly of the current global synchronized upturn.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    After The Yellen And Bernanke Puts, The Pavlov Put

    Last Monday, I pointed to three reasons why the recent turmoil in global equities would probably prove nothing worse than a counter-trend “buy on dips” correction, rather than the start of a serious bear market. That's not to say that worries about inflation and overheating are unfounded. But investors are still quite relaxed about both growth and inflation, as evidenced by historically modest bond yields.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Notes On An Indian Scandal

    As most emerging equity markets have clawed back a good portion of the losses they suffered in early February’s risk-off, there has been one notable exception. Far from rebounding, Indian stocks have taken another leg down following revelations of a US$1.7bn fraud at Punjab National Bank, the country’s second-largest state-owned lender. The scale of the fraud—roughly twice the amount promised to the bank by the government in the first tranche of...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Gauging The Strength Of The Oil Bid

    It made headlines around the world earlier this month when the US government’s Energy Information Administration announced that US oil production had hit 10.25mn bpd in the last week of January. At that rate, the US was not just pumping more crude than at its previous production peak in 1970, it was very likely pumping more than Saudi Arabia, lifting the US into second place in the global production league table behind Russia.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Play An EM Rebound

    On Thursday, my colleague Joyce Poon argued that strong global growth and favorable financial conditions should allow emerging markets to sustain their outperformance. In the immediate run-up to the recent global sell-off, Latin American markets like Brazil and Mexico had charged hardest on the back of higher commodity prices and an incipient global shift from growth stocks toward value plays. But once the dust settles and EMs get their mojo...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Very British Tightening

    Last week, the Bank of England upped its UK growth forecast and signaled that interest rates may be raised harder and faster than expected. This week, Theresa May’s government maintained its muddled passage towards a European Union exit, which has increasingly fretful multinationals warning that Britain’s economy could be headed for the rocks. Even, if like me, you think the UK will secure an eventual squishy-type deal with the EU that involves...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs And The Global Cycle

    The market correction of the last two weeks has been centered on the US, but also hit emerging markets pretty hard. A year ago, I argued that the sustainability of the EM run-up depended on continued strong global growth, more oil price gains and a further fall in tail risks associated with the financial system. The issue is whether the newly volatile conditions in global markets are a game-changer for the emerging world. That conundrum depends...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deficits And Bondholders

    Economics 101 says that when there is more of something, then other things being equal its price should go down. That is worrying for US bond investors as US lawmakers last week passed a budget deal that may raise deficits by US$320bn over the next 10 years (any new infrastructure spending will be extra). Interestingly, and perhaps not entirely coincidentally, just as debt-fueled big-government becomes the new normal in Washington, November’s...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Equities: Marching To A Different Drum

    Though onshore Chinese stocks did not escape the rout of global markets in recent weeks, the real trigger for the meltdown onshore was heightened investor anxiety over Beijing’s financial regulations. Thomas and Ernan reckon that after the dust settles, benign fundamentals and attractive valuations should set the market back on its upward track.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    CSI Wall Street

    Bear market massacre or harmless buy-the-dip correction? Financial investigators have spent the weekend sifting through, dismantling and reassembling dozens of clues to determine the true nature of the shocking crime committed on Wall Street last week, as stock prices suddenly went down instead of up. But amid the righteous indignation inspired by this offence against morality and natural law, possibly the most important forensic evidence has...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The Market’s Inability To Rally

    “A week is a long time in politics”, Harold Wilson was said to have once quipped to a young aide. The former British prime minister should have tried working in the US equity market. In recent days, it has sometimes felt as if time stood still. So what should we make of stocks’ inability to mount a rally after they again closed on their lows?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of Germany’s ‘Nein’ Policy?

    On the face of it, yesterday’s coalition deal between Angela Merkel’s center -right grouping and the Social Democratic Party differed little from that agreed last month. In addition to domestic stimulus measures it backed more European integration. Yet look closer and the German political landscape may just have been roiled by an earthquake, for while Merkel should stay chancellor the new man at the finance ministry is set to be Olaf Scholz, the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Nobody Rings A Bell At The Top Of A Market

    Let’s start with a hypothesis. For the purposes of this note, let’s assume that the bull market that started in the second half of 2011 ended in January 2018, and that a bear market is now under way. The obvious follow-on question is what variety of the Ursus genus is emerging from its lair.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Parsing The Market Sell-Off

    One of the first things Charles taught me is that in a bear market you should never do on the Monday what you wish you had done on the Friday. As bad news piles up, investors brood, sleep poorly, snap at their spouses or children, and go in first thing Monday morning and start to liquidate positions. Undeniably the picture for the now rather stretched equity bull market has been deteriorating for a while, with spiking bond yields, creeping...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Good News Is Bad News?

    The US posted a solid employment report on Friday, and the markets didn’t like it one bit. Some 200,000 jobs were added in January, better than the expected 180,000 and prior month gain of 160,000. But what really spooked investors was the faster than expected pickup in wage growth to 2.9% YoY. On the face of it, this is good for economic growth (certainly in nominal terms) and top-line corporate revenues. The worry is that without productivity...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Very Indian Budget

    New Delhi swung into election mode yesterday, a full 15 months before the election. Finance minister Arun Jaitley pledged his budget for 2018-19 would build a “New India,” but it was really a populist ploy to buy votes. After a tough economic year and a disappointing election result in Modi’s home state of Gujarat, the ruling BJP needed to shore up its core support.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Sustainable Rise In US Inflation

    In her valedictory meeting yesterday, Janet Yellen presided over a slight tightening of language to indicate that the Federal Reserve’s official inflation target of 2% should be hit some time this year. Investors were not surprised as break-even inflation rates have risen to 2% from about 1.8% late last year, while the chance of four rate hikes materializing in 2018 is now priced at 22%. The fly in the ointment is still sluggish wage growth,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Relief At Hand For UK Consumers

    “I can’t stand London,” one US economist who last year relocated to the UK capital recently complained to Gavekal. “It’s grey and miserable, and all anyone ever talks about is Brexit.” It’s easy to sympathize. Political infighting over the Brexit process dominates UK headlines. However, there are growing reasons to feel more positive about the outlook for UK consumers.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Real Yields, The Euro And The Dollar

    The global bear market in bonds growls on. Yesterday the yield on 10-year US treasuries climbed to a new 45-month high at 2.7%. Even more striking, the yield on five-year German bunds rose to zero for the first time since November 2015, marking the beginning of the end of an era for eurozone negative yields as market expectations grow that the ECB will reduce its monetary accommodation sooner rather than later.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Outlook For US Growth And Prices

    The first estimate for real US GDP growth clocked in at 2.6% for the fourth quarter, bringing full-year 2017 growth to 2.5%. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve forecast the same rate of growth for 2018, together with a moderate pick-up in consumer inflation from 1.7% to 1.9%. At Gavekal we try to avoid making such specific numerical forecasts; as the great Danish physicist Niels Bohr used to say, “It’s very hard to make predictions, especially...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The US-China Economic Rivalry Is About To Heat Up

    Economic conflict between the US and China was the dog that didn’t bark in 2017. This year it has begun to bark loudly and will soon bite deeply. The short-term macroeconomic consequences will be modest, beyond putting more downward pressure on the dollar. But the potential long-run impact on trade and investment flows, and on power relations in the Asia-Pacific, could be large.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Mnuchin’s Weak Dollar

    If Robert Rubin were dead, he would be turning in his grave. Speaking in Davos yesterday, US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin shook markets by declaring: “A weaker dollar is good for us.” His remark broke the precedent set by Rubin in 1995 and adhered to by Treasury secretaries ever since, of insisting: “A strong dollar is in the best interest of the US.”

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Overbought But Still Undervalued

    Chinese stock markets are on a tear, with large cap A-shares up 8.9% and Hong Kong-listed H-shares up a thumping 16.3% year-to-date. After such a rapid rise, the markets are vulnerable to a near-term pull-back. But Chen Long explains that economic fundamentals, valuations and flows all suggest the bull market still has further to run.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Keep Duration Short

    Washington may have temporarily sorted out its spending plans, but the bigger news for investors is the apparent breakout in 10-year treasury yields. The benchmark-of-benchmarks has risen to 2.65%, exceeding highs recorded in the months right after the Republicans’ election wins in November 2016. This can be ascribed to strong global growth, higher commodity prices, US tax cuts and tighter monetary policy. Hence, with US long-rates now offering...

    13
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    The German Coalition And Europe

    Late Sunday, party delegates of Germany’s social democrat SPD voted 362 to 279 to begin formal coalition talks with chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU/CSU conservatives. Hurdles still remain, but our base case is that the weekend’s vote paves the way for the formation of a Grand Coalition by April. After months without a stable government, any reduction in uncertainty will naturally be positive for markets. But for investors, the most significant...

    0
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    Taxes And Yields

    US equity markets have started 2018 committed to the idea that Goldilocks is alive and well. Although no clear picture has emerged of its impact, the passage of the most significant tax reform since the 1980s has had S&P 500 firms opining publicly that they hope to invest more and treat staff better. The corollary is that this cycle might be getting a second wind. The fear is inflation, as shown by yesterday’s move in treasury yields to...

    0
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    From Recovery To Expansion

    Perception is a funny thing. Yesterday President Emmanuel Macron pitched up in London and wowed the British by loaning them a 70 meter piece of embroidered propaganda that celebrates their conquest 950 years ago. By contrast, the last French president to visit Britain had a pint of warm beer with David Cameron in a pub and no one noticed. A similarly discombobulated dynamic can be seen in European equity markets, where years of pessimism have...

    0
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    Stick With Dollar Depreciation Plays

    The last year has seen a rare outbreak of consensus at Gavekal. Since last January partners and analysts have been almost universally bearish on the US dollar. In that time, the DXY dollar index has slumped some -12% from its heavily overvalued level at the beginning of 2017. Now the first 12 trading days of 2018 have seen the DXY slide -1.9%, breaching September’s support level to sink to its lowest since the end of 2014. This latest...

    4
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    The Five Big Bond Market Questions

    With 10-year US treasury yields near the point of breaking out above their 2017 high of 2.6%, financial commentators around the world have suddenly become obsessed with a single question: Have bonds finally entered a bear market, after the multi-decade bull trend that started back in October 1981, when the 10-year yield peaked at 15.8%?

    0
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    Sunshine (For China) In Korea

    Sunshine has dispelled the clouds of war on the Korean Peninsula, at least for now. News headlines are cautiously celebrating the de-escalation of tensions leading up to the South Korean Winter Olympics. This amounts to a quiet victory for China's diplomacy, despite its being which was outwardly rejected by both Pyongyang and Washington.

    1
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    Don’t Fear The End Of The Bond Bull Market

    Bond bears have been given succor in the opening days of 2018. First the Bank of Japan trimmed buying of long-dated Japanese government bonds, indirectly causing 10-year treasury yields to surge to 2.6%. Then European Central Bank policymakers were yesterday shown to be bulled up on the state of the eurozone recovery. On the face of it, central banks seem to be whistling a very different tune. In fact, it is investors who have caught up with...

    1
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    US Inflation Expectations: Further To Run To Catch-Up

    Over the last six weeks, market inflation expectations have undergone a signal shift to the upside. The US five-year break-even inflation rate has climbed from below 1.7% in early December to 1.95% this week. In other words, market expectations for US inflation, which had long remained markedly subdued, have now played catch-up with the Federal Reserve’s own projections, which see core PCE inflation rising to 1.9% this year and 2% in 2019....

    3
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    Worry Not About Asian Currencies

    Asian central banks have in recent weeks taken actions or sent signals that seemingly aim to weaken their currencies. The worry is that a source of return which contributed to last year's outperformance has been lost and exchange rate declines may presage an inflationary breakout. Such a tightening scenario may materialize down the road, but it is far from being a concern.

    0
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    Indian Politics And The Cycle

    Despite its soaring equity markets, India had a sticky year in 2017. Quarterly GDP growth dipped below 6% in the summer, laid low by disruptive reforms, bad debt, anemic credit and weak private investment (see India’s Economic Funk). The outlook for 2018 is healthier: the twin shocks from demonetization and the introduction of a goods and sales tax have largely dissipated, consumption has rebounded, and manufacturing is accelerating. Feeble...

    0
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    Dare To Dabble In US High Yield

    Last week US high yield spreads narrowed to within a whisker of their cycle low, bringing them within striking distance of their 2007 low. When things cannot get much better, they seldom do. However, this may be one of those rare historical occasions when things do indeed go from good to even better. The US tax changes that went into effect last week have the potential to drive credit spreads to record depths.

    0
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    One More Cheerful Year In China

    A key driver of the synchronized global economic pickup and attendant rally in risk assets has been China’s shift from deflation to reflation. In 2018, a key question is whether China can sustain growth while containing financial risk. Arthur thinks it can easily do so, and in this paper outlines the reasons why.

    0
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    Tax Reform, Capex And Financial Engineering

    The tax bill passed into US law last month is not short of critics. But for all the opprobrium it has attracted, the new law may help to repair some of the damage inflicted on the US economy over recent years by the Federal Reserve’s misguided interest rate policies. By favoring capital investment in the real economy over leveraged financial engineering, the new tax regime may yet prove broadly positive for Main Street—but at a considerable cost...

    0
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    The Drains On Liquidity

    For ease of math, assume that the world consumes 100mn barrels of oil a day. Then further assume an inventory across the system equal to about 100-days’ usage (in pipelines, ships and refineries). Thus, when the price of oil rises by US$10/bbl in three months—as occurred in 4Q17—a “liquidity drain” of about US$100bn is created.

    4
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    The Big Questions For 2018

    Many of the important questions confronting investors at the beginning of 2018 are the same as they were 12 months ago. And in most cases I would suggest the same answers. This may seem boring or stubborn, but it is quite reasonable in the middle of a long term economic expansion and structural bull market.

    1
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    The Most Indebted Country?

    One of the arguments long advanced by die-hard bears is that the US is “the most indebted country in the world”, and therefore heading irreversibly for economic disaster. Often they reach their conclusion by summing US current account deficits over the years, or by looking at how much US government debt is owned by foreigners. Sometimes they even dig a little deeper and unearth something called “the US net international investment position”,...

    1
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    The Persistence Of European Political Risk

    This was supposed to be the year that European political risk was laid to rest by the spring defeats of populist Euro-skeptic parties in the Dutch and French elections. But as 2017 draws to a close, anyone glancing at the headlines from Europe is likely to come away with the impression that reports of the demise of political risk were ludicrously premature. A rundown of this week’s news, from today’s regional election in Catalonia, through...

    2
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    US Tax; Not What You Expect

    With the Senate having voted its approval, Republicans are set to tomorrow finalize the biggest shake up in the US tax code since the 1980s. A common refrain among analysts is that the bill should propel equity prices higher, but do precious little for economic growth. We wonder if the reverse may unfold.

    0
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    Cui Bono?

    Today, with European growth humming along and Beijing having (again) shown an ability to keep China’s economy on a sustained expansion path, no one seems fazed about a possible economic downturn. Apart from the UK (where the obsession is Brexit), concern centers on geopolitical risks. Yet depending on their region, investors are worrying about very different things.

    2
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    Where Has Eurozone Inflation Gone?

    The eurozone’s recovery continues, but all is not proceeding quite as expected. At its meeting last week, the European Central Bank’s governing council raised its forecasts for eurozone growth over the next two years to reflect the single currency area’s strengthening cyclical upswing. But while growth is accelerating, inflation remains largely missing in action, with the ECB last week revising down its forecasts for core inflation.

    0
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    No Full English Brexit In The EU’s Roach Motel

    Full English Brexit is off the menu. When Theresa May rushed into the Café Berlaymont at 6:00am last Friday, all that was left on the menu was an over-priced double espresso with a side of Irish bacon. When she returned to Brussels yesterday, after losing a crucial parliamentary vote on her Brexit policy, the only new item on the menu was a large slice of humble pie.

    2
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    There Is Now An Alternative

    There were no surprises yesterday, either in the Federal Reserve’s rate hike, or in its forecasts for next year. With the labor market set to “remain strong”, the unemployment rate likely to inch down to 3.9%—full employment—and growth forecast to get a modest boost from tax cuts to 2.5%, the dot plot projects three 25bp hikes in 2018.

    0
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    An Original Sinner Repents

    Two weeks ago, state-backed toll road operator Jasa Marga became the first Indonesian corporate to issue a “komodo” bond—a rupiah-denominated global bond. Seen in isolation, the three-year IDR4tn (US$295mn) issue yielding 7.5% might appear little more than a novelty. However, Udith thinks it could hold more significance.

    2
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    Bitcoin: Money Or Bust

    The definitive characteristic of money is that it is a common medium of exchange. A good becomes money when people within a community begin to accept it, not for consumption nor to produce other goods, but for its expected use in indirect exchange. The chosen money may have non-monetary uses, as gold does, but this is not a requirement for its acceptance. This brings me to bitcoin. Crypto-currencies such as Bitcoin have no non-monetary use. That...

    18
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    The Bitcoin Bubble Changes Shape

    All the talk about crypto-currencies, initial coin offerings, distributed ledgers etc. feels a lot like discussions on carnal knowledge in a high school boys’ locker room. Everyone is talking about it. Yet almost everyone’s experience is extremely limited. And it is likely to stay that way for the time being, because for all the talk, very few of those doing the chattering are actually getting any action. So what is there left to say about the...

    7
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    Towards ECB Stealth Tightening?

    As the eurozone’s economy picks up, the European Central Bank finds itself facing a dilemma. In order not to freak out financial markets and push long-dated yields sharply higher, which could threaten to trigger a new financial crisis, it has promised to continue its quantitative easing program of asset purchases until at least September 2018, and not to raise policy rates until well after the end of those purchases. Yet as inflationary...

    4
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    Avoiding Equity Duration Risk

    Last week, Louis argued persuasively that investors should shorten portfolio duration in response to the prospect of further central bank monetary tightening, the potential threat of rising inflation in 2018, and the stretched valuations of long-dated assets (see Have We Just Glimpsed Growth Stocks’ Achilles’ Heel?). This goes not just for fixed income investors, but equity investors too.

    0
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    Asia’s Triple Merit Scenario Lives

    Last week, the Bank of Korea raised its benchmark interest rate for the first time in six years and other Asian central banks seem likely to follow suit. This is not especially surprising given the ongoing global expansion and tightening moves by the Federal Reserve, which have narrowed short-rate differentials for Asian currencies. The worry, as elucidated by Anatole last week, is that such an expansionary scenario threatens the delicate “not...

    1
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    Turning The Page On The Eurocrisis

    You can be forgiven for having missed yesterday’s not so momentous news that Portugal’s finance minister Mario Centeno is taking over the presidency of the Eurogroup of finance ministers. Yet, look a little closer and this switch may, in fact, signify the end of the eurocrisis and a move onto the next phase of eurozone development.

    3
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    From A Ferrari To A Jeep

    When I turned 70 (I am still struggling with the fact that I now have a “7” handle), the Gavekal partners had the good idea of bringing into the firm some very bright “quants” and giving them a simple mandate: quantify and qualify the various investment rules that I have been using for decades (somewhat sporadically, and often with biases that I myself sometimes struggled to acknowledge).

    0
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    Equities, The Yen And The BoJ’s Exit

    Last month Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda participated in an ECB panel on the importance of communications as a tool of monetary policy. He seems to have taken the message to heart. In the couple of weeks since, scarcely a day has gone by without Kuroda or one of his colleagues on the BoJ’s policy board talking publicly about the “reversal rate”, hinting heavily that the central bank is looking to dial back its ultra-accommodative stance.

    0
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    Have We Just Glimpsed Growth Stocks’ Achilles’ Heel?

    The best scene in HBO’s hit show “Silicon Valley” had brash billionaire Russ Hanneman explain to start-up CEO Richard Hendricks that the first goal of his tech firm should be to avoid booking sales: “If you show revenue, people will ask ‘how much?’ and it will never be enough” (see clip). This scene crystallizes the observation that in recent years investors have been rewarded in spades for loading up on “long-dated assets”. And it has been a...

    4
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    Behind Eurozone Credit Growth

    The eurozone credit cycle is accelerating. Data released yesterday showed loans to non-financial companies grew at 2.9% YoY in October, the fastest rate since June 2009, while loans to households were up 2.7% YoY for the third month running. The pick-up in lending to private businesses bodes well for eurozone growth and markets next year, with respondents to the European Central Bank’s bank lending survey indicating that investment and...

    0
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    A Regime Change For Oil?

    Every US or global recession in the past 50 years has been preceded by a doubling or more of oil prices, but not every doubling of oil prices has been followed by recession. While even US$70/bbl probably does not pose a serious risk to the world economy, any rise above US$70 could spark a combination of inflationary pressure and reduced demand that proves lethal to global financial conditions and growth.

    0
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    The Bull Market And The Yield Curve

    Keeping up with a runaway bull is no easy task. Which may explain why so many investors remain unenthusiastic participants: the market is old and increasingly unattractive, but holding back could cost them their careers. Yet, the upward march of global equity markets continues relentlessly (for reasons reviewed in recent articles. Today, some 84% of markets around the world are up over the past 12 months in local currency terms. Historically,...

    2
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    Don’t Panic Over Chinese Equities

    The A-share equity market suffered its biggest one-day sell-off this year yesterday. But Chen Long argues that conditions in fact still remain benign for Chinese equity investors. The earnings outlook is favorable, the market is cheap by global standards, and international investors are beginning to trim their longstanding underweight.

    0
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    Fake Brexit? Or No Brexit?

    The British economy since the Brexit referendum is often likened to the suicide jumper who leaps off a 20-storey building, shouting “so far, so good” as he falls past the 10th floor. This comparison is unfair to suicides. The real message about economic performance from the government’s annual budget statement yesterday was “so far, so bad”. While a minority of economists and investors—plus a large majority of Conservative politicians—share...

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