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    Gavekal Research

    The US Manufacturing Slump Abates

    US manufacturing output fell -1.5% year-on-year in October to mark its weakest month since December 2015. The worry is that a US manufacturing recession causes such a drag that even well-performing sectors like housing get sucked down as well. The good news is that these production numbers look like a nadir.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Looking Through To US Inflation

    In Congressional testimony yesterday, Jay Powell expressed optimism that US inflation will gradually rise toward the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%. If this is the case then it is reasonable to think that the US central bank could be done with rate cuts in this cycle but some way away from any rate hikes—this points to a Goldilocks of sorts.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Embrace The US Consumer

    Whether moving into a fixer-upper or a freshly finished McMansion, most homeowners will splurge on big ticket items to embellish their new abode. With the US housing market looking strong, investors should bet on consumer discretionary—it has the advantage of offering protection if long-dated bond yields move materially higher.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Towards A Dollar Decline

    The last five years have been an era of US dollar strength. That era may now be coming to an end. After the US Federal Reserve halted its balance sheet contraction and last month resumed buying T-bills at a rate of US$60bn a month, the Fed is now printing money faster than the other central banks. As a result, relative liquidity growth now favors US dollar weakness.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Playing The Un-inversion

    Having inverted over the summer, the US yield curve has steepened sharply. In the past such a move has often presaged recession—but not always. Twice since the 1960s an inversion and steepening was not followed by recession. Then, as now, the return on invested corporate capital was higher than the cost of that capital.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Culling The Pessimists

    A series of head-spinning flip-flops in the on-again-off-again trade war over the summer has caused US businesses to delay fresh investment. As a result, business surveys have been giving readings consistent with a US recession. Yet it seems likely that any damage wrought by the trade war remains ephemeral—at least hard data suggests this.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed Goes On The Offensive

    Grocery shoppers get perturbed when they buy produce labeled as “organic” but get something from the agro-industrial complex. Investors, on the other hand, should welcome the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet boost, that was described on Friday as nothing more than “organic” growth. As it turns out, this is a heavily engineered offering by the custodians of money.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Watching For Signs Of A US Spillover

    Is the rot spreading? In the eurozone, there are signs that this year’s slump in manufacturing may be beginning to spill over to weigh on activity in the broader economy. Plenty of observers believe the US economy is destined to follow a similar path. Their fears may yet be realized, but so far there is no evidence the US economy is heading that way.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Quantifying Trade War Risk

    Investors seem to have grown somewhat blasé about the US-China trade war lately. Over 12 months after the outbreak of hostilities, the S&P 500 is up 2.2% year-on-year. Part of the reason for this nonchalance appears to be a belief that US growth and domestic profits are invulnerable to any escalation of the conflict. This belief may be mistaken.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    What If The Fed Has Finished Cutting

    What happens to the US equity market if the Federal Reserve has already finished cutting interest rates? Last Friday, Will made the case for a rebound in US growth, but withheld judgement whether it would be driven by real growth or inflation. The prospect raises the very real possibility that the Fed may decide rates have been cut enough.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    US Banks To Shine Again

    Ahead of next week’s Federal Reserve meeting, US bank stocks look set to break out of their 21-month underperformance trend. Investors are betting on a 25bp rate cut, with at least one more to come before December. They are also cheering the rise in long rates globally over the last week or so, which has acted to steepen yield curves. Given that US consumers will benefit from even cheaper money and should brush off whatever the trade war throws...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tariffs Won't Trouble US Consumers

    As US growth has slowed this year, consumer spending has been the economy’s bright spot. Personal consumption expenditure was the principal contributor to growth in the second quarter and July. However, fears are growing that the US consumer will come under increasing pressure in the coming months as the latest round of tariffs go into effect.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Weathering Trump’s Trade War

    It may be the dog days of summer, but investors got a truckload of news this weekend that points to a bad situation getting worse. Given President Donald Trump’s escalation of tariffs and threat to bar US firms from operating in China, the worry is that his hardline stance spurs a US recession. KX and Will think this is unlikely.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Diminishing Market Impact Of Tariffs

    After the US imposed its first major round of tariffs on Chinese goods last September, the S&P 500 sold off by -20%. After the second round went into force, it fell -6.8%. And since President Trump announced a third round, it has sold off by -6.1%. It seems each successive escalation in the trade war is having a smaller impact on the US stock market.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Long Term Impact Of Trump’s Latest Tariffs

    Aftershocks from Donald Trump’s August 1 tweets promising new tariffs on US imports from China continued to reverberate through Asian markets on Monday morning. Most notably, China’s yuan fell by some -1.3%, with the USD-CNY exchange rate breezing unimpeded by the Chinese authorities through the CNY7.00 to the US dollar mark for the first time since early 2008. Equity markets in the region were also hard hit, with Japan down -2% and Hong Kong...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Focus On The Fed, Not On US Tariff Threats

    Trade war fears are once again front and center of investors' minds. But the reduced magnitude of pledged US tariffs indicates that Trump is anxious to avoid damaging the US economy and financial markets. This leaves the focus on the Fed, and how much it is likely to cut interest rates.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Unpicking US 2Q GDP

    Second quarter US GDP growth came in at 2.1%, slightly better than expectations. In itself, this headline figure is not especially illuminating. But dig deeper into the various components of 2Q growth, and there are reasons for moderate optimism about the trajectory of the US economy through the second half of 2019.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Future Of Big Tech

    Big Tech is in the US government’s cross-hairs. Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple face probes into their behavior, and legislation is in the works to clip their wings. The question for investors is: How serious will the stand-off with the government get and will a prolonged downturn in tech spark a broader decline in the US equity market?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Housing Points To Solid US Growth

    US mortgage applications fell in the week ended July 12, compared with the week before. But do not be misled by the latest week-on-week decline in this high frequency data series. In year-on-year terms, mortgage applications for home purchases have been rising consistently since the beginning of 2019, pointing to a rise in housing construction over the coming months.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why This Time Is Different

    The evolution of the yield curve over the last four months—an inversion after a series of Federal Reserve interest rate hikes, followed by a rapid steepening—has been characteristic of the early stages of the last four US recessions. However, investors worried that the US economy may already be in recession can relax.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Look For Just One-And-Done

    In Congressional testimony on Wednesday, Jay Powell cooed just like the dove investors want him to be. The Fed chairman dispelled any lingering doubts that either the end-June trade truce between the US and China or June’s strong US payrolls number will dissuade the Fed from cutting interest rates at the end of July.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Direction Of The Dollar

    The US dollar’s strength over the last year or so has been attributed in large part to expectations that the US administration would impose additional tariffs on imports from China. So, with those expectations on hold following last week’s agreement to resume trade negotiations, you might think the US dollar should be falling.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Focus Turns To The Fed

    After the de-escalation of the US-China economic cold war at the weekend’s G20 summit in Osaka, all eyes are now on the US Federal Reserve, following policymakers’ recent indications that they are ready to cut interest rates. It could be argued that the trade war ceasefire reduces economic risk, and therefore will leave the Fed less inclined to loosen policy. But the Fed’s primary focus is on inflation expectations, and the degree to which they...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Story Behind Low US Volatility

    When Donald Trump declared his trade war against China in the spring of 2018, investors could have been forgiven for expecting the resulting uncertainty and additional economic friction to add both to US equity market and GDP growth volatility. In fact, equity market volatility has generally been low, and US economic growth has remained stable.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don't Worry About The US Consumer

    There is a schizophrenic quality to commentary on the health of the US consumer. On the bright side, sentiment readings are cheery and the labor market is generally solid. Yet on the other hand, Cassandras point to rising credit card delinquency rates, and weakness in sales of autos and homes as early signals of a recession. So what gives?

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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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    Gavekal Research

    How Long Can Productivity Contain US Inflation Pressure?

    April’s US payrolls report showed job creation was stronger than expected and unemployment lower, yet wage pressures were softer. This suggests weaker unit labor costs will allow the Fed to remain dovish, at least for now. All else being equal this is positive for equity investors. The question is: How long can this benign combination persist?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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

    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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    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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    Gavekal Research

    The Mystery Of The Missing Stimulus

    Since late 2016, the US trade deficit has been widening. Usually, when the US trade deficit expands, the effect is stimulative for the rest of the world. However, this time around there have been no signs that non-US economies are enjoying a resulting pick-up. In this report, KX examines possible explanations for the failure of this longstanding relationship.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    A Good News Story From The US

    As the record government shutdown denies Americans vital services and federal workers paychecks, the US has hardly been putting its best foot forward. While we don't expect this political impasse to change the growth trajectory, it does weigh on the market mood. Against such a dour backdrop, we think a good news story from the US economy can be easily missed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Rollover In The US, Not Recession

    This week’s revenue forecast downgrades from Apple and Delta Air Lines and Thursday’s steep dive in the ISM manufacturing PMI only appeared to confirm what market participants already knew: US growth is rolling over. Yet despite the recent sell-off in equities and the further flattening of the US yield curve, we see no recession on the horizon.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Half Full Than Half Empty

    Despite dovish comments from the Federal Reserve about the future trajectory of interest rates, US equities fell further on Wednesday. The S&P 500 has now fallen -14% since early October. Meanwhile, 10-year treasury prices have risen almost 5%. Momentum traders will therefore find good reason to shun equities and add exposure to long-dated treasuries. We suggest doing the opposite.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Opportunities Beyond The Death Cross

    November’s payroll report gave investors in US equities reason to cheer on Friday as it suggested reduced inflationary pressure, yet they chose to focus on an escalating row over the fate of a top Chinese telecom executive that is intensifying trade tensions with China. A -2.3% fall in the S&P 500 had the technically-inclined scrambling to glean meaning from a “death cross” as the 50-day moving average fell below the 200-day level. We remain...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Christmas Comes Early

    The most cherished gifts often come in small packets, and investors duly cheered just two small words yesterday by the Federal Reserve chairman. In a speech, Jerome Powell said policy rates were “just below” the neutral level. That was a big change from a month earlier when he said they were “a long way from” the not-too-hot-not-too-cold level. This suggests that the pace of interest rate hikes may lessen, while on the same day data was released...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What If Oil Stays At US$50?

    Since early October, oil prices have plunged more than -30%, while the US equity benchmark is down -8%. You don’t have to be Inspector Clouseau to wonder if these moves are related. Since this oil sell-off has unfolded at a time when US economic growth is slowing, my bet is for a negative short-term effect, but a medium term outlook that is fairly cheery.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Drag Of US Housing

    Despite the overall US growth outlook remaining decent, markets have taken on an ugly tone, with US equities having given back their 2018 gains and credit spreads gapping wider. Adding to grim tidings, yesterday saw weak housing data released, which is a worry as the sector often leads the broader US economy.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Credit Availability As An Asset Allocation Tool

    US analyst KX bases his equity calls largely on a Wicksellian model that compares the cost of capital with the returns earned by the corporate sector. We remain comfortable that this “spread” remains favorable for US firms, and so recommend a roughly 70% allocation to equities. Yet even if credit is reasonably priced, there is the question of its availability. For this reason, we watch lending standard measures closely, and just got a benign...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Gridlock is Good

    The Democrats have wrested back control of the US House of Representatives, while Republicans have expanded their Senate majority. Hence, the US’s bicameral legislature is set for two years of gridlock. This was the most benign result possible from this midterm election. While largely expected, confirmation is probably positive for risk assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Hot, But Not Too Hot

    It remains unclear if the US is moderating its approach to trade war, but there are other factors to keep equity investors on edge. Friday’s US payroll report showed average hourly earnings rising to a cycle-high of 3.1%, confirming the picture of a tight labor market. Hence, with 10-year treasury yields just below their recent peak of 3.23%, the question is whether the US economy can weather a higher cost of capital. For now, I think the answer...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Macro And The Market

    Coming after another bruising week in the market, which saw the S&P 500 flirting with correction territory, down -9% from its late-September high, Friday’s third quarter US GDP report is heartening. Although 3Q’s quarter-on-quarter annualized growth rate of 3.5% was slower than the 4.2% rate recorded in 2Q, it was still strong relative to the expected 3.3% and compared with the US economy’s structural growth rate. While US growth will...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Equities In The Late Cycle (Revisited)

    The stock market volatility of the last week, triggered by fears over rising bond yields, emphasizes how participants now accept that the US economy is in the late phase of its cycle. KX argues this is not a reason to flee US equities, but it does demand a more discerning approach.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Rate Rises And The US Stock Market

    For the first time in the long post-2008 cycle, the US has a positive real interest rate. After Wednesday’s 25bp hike in US rates, at just short of 2.25%, the effective Fed funds rate will now exceed the Federal Reserve’s favored core PCE measure of inflation, which at the end of July stood at 2%. In theory, that could change later Thursday with the release of August PCE data. But with the dot plot suggesting another rate hike this year and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Message From US Housing Construction

    Wednesday saw a soft US housing data release for August, pointing to a coming weakening in residential construction. With the Fed raising rates and 10-year treasury yields well above 3%, equity investors may sniff late-cycle decay. KX shares such concerns, but advises investors to hold their noses for a while longer.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Signaling From US Autos

    Even as the US economy fires up on tax cuts and government spending, interest rate-sensitive sectors show signs of rolling over. First it was housing, and now auto sales have slid to the lower end of their range after steadily softening this year. Over the next year, the question is less whether autos can boost growth, as how much they will detract from it. The fact that the Trump administration is still considering significant tariffs on...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Simple Guide To US Asset Allocation

    We synthesize four years of work on asset allocation and present a model portfolio built around analysis of the cost of and return on capital; the real rate of return on equities, bonds and cash; and the ideal duration of fixed-income holdings. Today we recommend that US portfolios hold 75% in equities, 25% in cash, and shun bonds.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Benign View Of US Inflation

    With US inflation now running above the Federal Reserve’s long term target rate, and the US labor market almost as tight as at any time since the turn of the century, the question for investors is not whether inflation will continue to push higher, but how fast it will rise. The distinction is important. Headline CPI inflation came in at a six-and-a-half-year high of 2.9% in July. And in June the overall and core PCE measures that the Fed...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Underperformance Ahead For US Bank Shares

    It’s been a tough few months for investors in US bank shares. Since late February banks have underperformed the broader S&P 500 index, in large part on fears that the flattening trend in the US yield curve will compress bank net interest margins and depress earnings. Yet viewed on a longer time horizon, things look different. From the fourth quarter of 2015 until the first quarter of this year (the latest data point), bank net interest...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Weighing The Forces Driving The US$

    Where is the US dollar going next? After weakening markedly against other developed economy currencies at the beginning of the year, the US dollar staged a vigorous rebound in April and May. Since then, the DXY US dollar index has essentially tracked sideways. Of course, trying to forecast the US dollar’s moves is frequently a thankless task. Nevertheless, it is important to examine both the bullish and bearish forces at work and to weigh their...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    When To Buy US Equities?

    Last month, Will and KX asked When To Buy US Bonds? This month, they turn their attention to US equities and devise a portfolio asset allocation model that advocates overweighting stocks against bonds when returns on invested capital and earnings yields exceed corporate funding costs. Back-testing gives an impressive historical outperformance at a reduced volatility relative to the S&P 500. But just as important is what the model has to say...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Yield Curve As A Recession Signal

    Every time since the 1960s that the US yield has inverted, a recession has followed within 18 months to two years. So it is no surprise that the recent flattening of the curve, which has seen the 10-2-year treasury yield spread fall to just 25bp, is attracting attention. Many observers say the flattening reflects market expectations of weaker aggregate demand ahead. Some argue that the flattening of the curve itself may cause a recession, by...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Still Caught In The Cycle

    The June US labor market report released on Friday appears to bear out Federal Reserve chairman Jay Powell’s view, set out in a speech last month, that “there is a lot to like about low unemployment”. Although the headline payrolls number grew by an unexpectedly strong 213,000 month-on-month, the unemployment rate actually ticked higher from 3.8% to 4%, as greater numbers entered, or reentered, the labor market.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Better Fed Model

    The “Fed model” which values US equities relative to bonds is now more than 20 years old. In that time, it has become widely used and has attracted equally widespread criticism. In this paper Will and KX revise the original to iron out some of its flaws, and come up with an improved model which offers greatly superior risk-adjusted returns.

    6
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    The Trade War And The US Cycle

    How will the US administration’s trade disputes affect the US economic cycle? In the worst case scenario, if Donald Trump follows through on all his threats the disruption to global supply chains could be great enough to push the world economy into recession. At this point, the greatest impact flows from the high degree of uncertainty about future actions.

    0
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    The New Model Duration Rule

    Choosing the right level of duration for a bond portfolio is devilishly tough. It is doubly so when the global interest rate environment is shifting. For this reason KX is introducing a new top-down based duration management tool which encouragingly offers superior signaling and can be used across multiple developed economy bond markets.

    2
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    When To Buy US Bonds?

    Since the early 1980s, buying and holding US long bonds has been a solid investment strategy. This macro environment was supported by a favorable demographic tailwind that ensured a bountiful supply of global savings. That situation is now changing, and as interest rates rise investors should not assume that yields will retrace as they did after the 2013 “taper tantrum”. In this piece Will and KX put their Wicksellian framework to work and...

    0
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    The Hurdles For US Profits

    Corporate America shot the lights out in the first quarter as tax cuts helped S&P 500 earnings soar by 23%, while macro data released this week showed profits rising an aggregate 14% year-on-year, versus 4.8% in 2017. This week also saw good news for banks, as regulatory shackles were loosened. Yet investors who think US firms are headed back to the races must convince themselves that a series of late-cycle hurdles can be overcome.

    0
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    Does The Dollar's Run-Up Have Legs?

    Being a US dollar bear has been a humbling experience over the last few weeks. The year started well enough for bears, with the DXY dollar index declining -4.2% over the first seven weeks. But since mid-April, the US currency has staged a rebound vigorous enough to leave the DXY up 1.95% year-to-date. This rally confronts investors with a baleful prospect: any further sustained appreciation of the US dollar will have a detrimental effect on...

    4
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    Playing A Flatter US Yield Curve

    The US yield curve could invert towards the end of this year or early in 2019, the head of the St. Louis Federal Reserve said on Monday. For investors it’s a troubling thought. Over the last 50 years, whenever the US yield curve has inverted, a recession has typically followed within a year or two. Yet although the current flattening of the curve is set to continue, the process will be gradual, which means inversion and an ensuing recession...

    0
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    Fade The US Dollar Rally

    If a week is a long time in politics, then three months is an eternity in the foreign exchange market. Three months ago, sentiment towards the US dollar reached a nadir after US Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin expressed his desire for “a weaker US dollar”. Over the following weeks, the US currency duly weakened. But since mid-April the dollar has staged a rally, with the DXY index gaining 3.5% as the market has noted the increase in US long...

    1
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    The American Growth Dynamic

    It is clear from data released on Friday that the US economy remains set on an expansionary and inflationary trajectory. Growth in 1Q18 came in at a stronger-than-expected 2.3%, while the US employment cost index rose 2.8% YoY to a high for this cycle. Even as consumer spending comes off the boil, US firms, in what looks like a classic late-cycle pattern, are responding to bottlenecks by investing more in their capital stock. We continue to see...

    0
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    Still Bond Bears

    Matching its 2013 peak, the world’s most-watched interest rate—the US 10-year treasury yield—yesterday touched 3%. Concerns are now high that it will soon move higher, perhaps much higher. For perspective, the US 10-year hit 3.75% in 2011, 4% in 2010 and 5% in 2007. In this cycle, we think yields will break above 3% and then march upwards. In short, we remain bond bears and continue to recommend keeping duration short. Today, we want to...

    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...

    0
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    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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    US Auto Sales: No Longer A Growth Driver

    Strong US auto sales in March mask a stagnating longer term trend and rising auto loan delinquencies. Happily, as KX explains, neither has broader implications for overall US consumer demand. Although auto sales may no longer be contributing to US growth, rising bad loans in the sector do not prefigure a wider consumer credit crisis.

    0
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    Don’t Fret About Libor

    A disproportionate increase in Libor relative to other benchmark short term rates over recent months has got many observers flustered. In this concise paper, Will and KX dig down to the cause of the increase, and explain what it does and doesn’t mean for portfolio investors.

    0
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    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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    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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    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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    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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    The US Current Account, Trump’s Trade War And Equities

    US president Donald Trump’s announcement last week of tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum are just the first salvo of a trade war aimed at reducing the US$566bn annual US trade deficit. Yet even far more extensive tariffs than those announced on Thursday will do nothing to narrow the US trade gap. As KX argues in this report, more powerful economic forces are working to widen the US trade and current account deficits over the coming...

    2
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    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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    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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    Take Profits On US Homebuilders

    Our view that real growth in the US will remain supported this year at a similar level to 2017’s 2.5% rate is based on three main elements: rising business investment following December’s tax cuts; a moderation in consumption growth as labor market tightness slows job ceation, and a neutral to mildly positive view on residential investment (see The Outlook For US Growth And Prices). The third element—our neutral view on homebuilding—merits...

    0
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    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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    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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    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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    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 Yield Curve As A Duration Guide

    With US stock markets scaling new heights, there are multiple reasons why nervous equity investors might want to reduce portfolio risk. The usual way to do this would be by increasing allocations to long-duration treasury debt. But with long-dated yields now rising, what duration of treasuries should investors hold? And when and how should they adjust duration?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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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    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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    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Positioning For US Tax Reform

    What’s not to like about tax cuts? Quite a lot as it turns out. Although the final shape of US tax reform has yet to be settled, there are enough common points between the House and Senate bills to allow Will and KX to conclude that the likely tax cuts will prove inflationary, and could prompt a more aggressive stance from the Fed. Despite some undoubtedly positive macro outcomes, the implications for investors are not exactly bullish.

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