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E.g., 21-02-2020
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    Gavekal Research

    Just When Things Were Looking Up

    It seems the European economy can’t catch a break. After a grim year in 2019, especially for the manufacturing sector, the old continent entered 2020 with reasons for cautious optimism. Survey-based indexes of business optimism appeared to bottom out late last year. Then the Wuhan coronavirus hit China.

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    Britain’s Soggy Prospects

    Despite a worsening coronavirus situation and worries that a Brexit bounce could be short-lived, the Bank of England defied the expectations of many by not cutting interest rates. The UK’s weak medium term growth outlook and difficult impending trade talks with the EU means that policy will remain dovish and sterling’s upside prospects are likely capped.

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    Playing The ECB Strategic Review

    When a government agency announces a “strategic review”, the presumption is that some knotty issue is being kicked into the long grass. That was the vibe yesterday when Christine Lagarde kicked off the European Central Bank’s year-long navel gazing exercise. In this case, however, investors would do well not to check out entirely from ECB watching.

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    The Long Slow Road To German Fiscal Expansion

    To read the media headlines, you would either think that Germany’s coalition government is on the brink of collapse, or that Europe’s largest economy is on the eve of a massive fiscal expansion. The headlines are exaggerated. Yes, at the weekend the coalition’s SPD partner did elect a duo of free-spending leftists as its new leaders. But the government is likely to survive intact for its remaining two years. And although political thought in...

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    Europe's Political Paralysis

    With the Spanish general election unlikely to produce a proper government, the country looks increasingly ungovernable. For an economy that weathered the financial crisis intact but has chronic productivity problems, this is a worry. However, the result of Europe’s fragmenting political landscape is long-term policy stasis rather than a near-term collapse of the single currency.

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    It's Not 2017 Again In Europe

    Yesterday saw a global risk-on move as investors cheered reports that a US-China trade deal may be in the offing. In Europe, this followed data releases that showed German factory orders picking up and PMIs stabilizing. On first blush, this looks reminiscent of 2017’s recovery. Alas, there are three key reasons to think a rerun may not materialize this time around.

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    A Swedish Canary In The Coal Mine

    Sweden’s Riksbank plans to raise its main policy rate to zero from -0.25%. A relieved governor, Stefan Ingves, said last week it would be a “bonus” to return to parity in December and warned against staying negative for too long. The Swedish recantation follows the European Central Bank’s controversial move last month to further cut rates to -0.5%. Investors should take note because the Swedish canary may be signaling a shift in attitudes to...

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    The German Spillover

    Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this year’s slump in manufacturing is how few negative spillover effects it has had on demand in the broader economy—until now. Services PMIs for both the eurozone as a whole and for Germany took a sharp turn south in September. In Germany, the deterioration is making a technical recession all but inevitable.

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    Up Against The Limit With The ECB

    German savers face “custody fees” when depositing big sums at the bank, or get clipped 50bp when buying a euro-denominated money market fund. Such outcomes explain why a growing number of economists oppose calls for the European Central Bank to cut rates further and restart quantitative easing when it meets tomorrow.

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    Germany’s Fiscal Firepower

    Uniquely among the world’s big economies, Germany runs a budget surplus, in accordance with the “debt brake” written into its constitution following the 2008-09 financial crisis. This means Berlin could, in theory, deploy considerable fiscal firepower even within the current rules, and a great deal more if it chose to bend or rewrite them.

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    What Germany Means For Europe

    Even before the US-China trade war escalated last week, Europe stood on shaky ground. We learnt yesterday that German industrial production for June fell -1.5%. Europe’s largest economy faces cyclical and structural challenges, and the question is whether it takes its neighbors down with it.

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    Sterling’s Information Void

    Since Boris Johnson became prime minister, the UK government’s promise of a “do or die” Brexit has caused sterling to slump -2.9% against the US dollar to about US$1.21. While the chances of Britain actually leaving the EU without a deal remain small, this outcome will remain unclear for some time. That presents risks, but great opportunities for those dealing in sterling.

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    Healthchecking Boris Johnson’s Britain

    On Wednesday, “colorful” former journalist, television comedian and London mayor Boris Johnson will achieve a long-held ambition when he moves into Number 10 Downing Street to replace the hapless Theresa May as the United Kingdom’s new prime minister. Judging from the headlines, Johnson is taking over an economy on the brink of a painful slowdown, if not already actually in recession.

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    The ECB After Draghi

    At the ECB's annual shindig in Portugal this week, two questions matter. Given negative interest rates and capital key constraints over asset purchases, how does the ECB fight the next downturn? And who will replace Mario Draghi? His successor must be politically cunning if they are to persuade Europe’s leaders that monetary policy is reaching its limits, and fiscal policy must take the strain.

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    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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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