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E.g., 20-09-2020
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    Gavekal Research

    Pained Tales From The Hills

    On Monday, for the first time since 1975, gunshots were fired on the disputed Himalayan border between India and China.Hundreds of incidents occur along the undemarcated Line of Actual Control every year, but this year’s skirmishes are the most dangerous for at least five decades.

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    A Little Battler Soars Too High

    A weak US dollar is generally a boon for both global growth and asset prices, yet its recent fall has ruffled feathers. So spare a thought for the Reserve Bank of Australia, which is not only presiding over the country’s first recession in 30 years but is getting no help from its “little battler” currency, which has rocketed 27% against the US dollar since its March low.

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    Japan Drifts Toward Change

    This week Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe went into hospital for medical tests, sparking fresh reports that he may soon step down on health grounds. Should Abe exit the scene it is unclear who will succeed him. If a leadership change becomes unavoidable, Abe will likely play a key role in anointing his successor, so there is unlikely to be a big shift in the “Abenomics” program anytime soon.

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    Emerging Markets And The Dollar

    A weakening US dollar is usually an unalloyed positive for emerging markets, so it is no surprise that their assets have rallied since the March 23 bottom in global markets—equities are up 45%, while bonds (both US dollar and local currency-based indexes) have gained 20%. Happy days indeed, but the next stage of the EM rally is likely to be more exacting for investors.

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    Testing The Boundaries Of QE

    One major emerging market central bank this week sailed boldly into waters others have so far feared to navigate, when Bank Indonesia agreed to buy IDR574trn (US$40bn or 3.6% of GDP) of government bonds in the primary market at below market interest rates, so beginning the direct monetary financing of the Indonesian government’s fiscal deficit.

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    A Rare Growth Story

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

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    The Threat From Turkey

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

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    Japan's Next Monetary Move

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

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    The Trouble With Eurozone Banks

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

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    Asia Goes Unconventional

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

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    The Dollar Squeeze Intensifies

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

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    Embrace The EM Rally, Selectively

    Washington and Tehran are dialing down the geopolitical tensions, at least for now. The US and China are about to sign a trade deal. Big central banks are spraying around liquidity. And the mighty US dollar is looking mortal. The fact that emerging markets have underperformed US equities the last five years surely points to a burst of catch-up growth? Yes and no.

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    Japan's Fiscal Engagement

    Japan's upward revision to GDP growth yesterday was taken as a bad omen. It suggests that shoppers went on a spree before the October 1 tax rise, and tougher times may follow. This explains why the government unfurled a big emergency fiscal stimulus last week. On the face of it, this should be negative for the yen, yet other forces are likely to keep the currency range-bound.

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    A Japanese Price Taker

    The yen has long been a fairly reliable indicator of global risk appetite. Over the summer, trade war fears pushed the yen up to ¥105 to the US dollar, before recent cheerier developments saw it weaken again. If the BoJ can deliver on its promise to match other central banks’ easing moves, that weakening trend could be worth following. Alas, the BoJ probably can’t.

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    India’s Laffer Curve Gamble

    India’s decision to cut its corporate tax rate from 30% to 22% has spurred a 7% surge in equities as investors bet on new capital spending reigniting a stalled growth cycle. The problem is that even if this fiscal easing spurs more business investment, the consumer side of India’s economy remains stuck in a low gear due to knottier problems.

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    The EM Oil Shock That Won't Be

    Three “master” prices tend to dictate price levels in most asset markets—US interest rates, the US dollar and energy prices. A synchronized fall in these three prices usually bodes well for emerging market assets, while a rise bodes ill. Since it is rare for all three master prices to move together, the challenge for investors is to figure out which way the cross currents are flowing. If one master price is making a big move, its effect can...

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    India's Frenetic Inertia

    They say the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that you have one. With its recent moves to shore up sagging growth, Narendra Modi’s new government has finally acknowledged that India’s economy is in trouble. But unless it quickly finds a coherent reform strategy, Modi’s second term could fizzle out into economic failure.

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    The Yen Dilemma

    Since the beginning of the month, the yen has been one of the few major currencies to strengthen against the US dollar. At the same time, Japanese government bonds have not escaped the global bond rally. This presents the BoJ’s chiefs, who for the last three years have been pursuing a policy of “quantitative easing with yield curve control”, with a problem.

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    No Time To Be Chicago Trained

    Technocrats globally are under the cosh from populist politicians who have tired of doing the sensible thing. In the developed world, checks and balances have insulated most big agencies, but the story is different in developing economies. The worry is that they are lurching off onto a development track that ends with fiscal blowouts and currency debasement.

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    Emerging Markets After The Trade War

    Emerging markets did nicely out of the rumor, less well from the fact. As hopes grew through June for some form of trade détente between the US and China, EM assets staged a broad rally. Similarly, EM currencies pushed broadly higher, on the back of a wider US dollar softness. Over the last week, however, EM equities and currencies have pulled back.

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