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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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    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

    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

    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

    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

    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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    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

    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

    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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    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

    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

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Dodging Late-Cycle Refinancing Risk

    By most generally accepted metrics, the US economy is in the late stages of its cycle and any further overheating raises the chances of a recession. The issue is really one of timing. Will Denyer’s Wicksellian model and my US business cycle indicator are both flashing orange rather than red, suggesting that the US is edging towards the recession frontier, but not yet at it. We have both advised investors to dial back on US risk, but are not much...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Contradictory Signals On US Corporate Credit Risk

    US high-yield spreads have widened by 39bp over the last three weeks. Nevertheless, by long term historical standards, they remain exceptionally tight, indicating that the bond market is pricing in remarkably little US corporate credit risk. That message is at odds with the tale being told by the US equity market, which is signaling that corporate credit risk is on the rise. Only one of them can be correct. There are good reasons to think it may...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Equities When The Dollar Declines

    The US dollar has strengthened over the last couple of months. But the relative maturity of the US cycle, the US dollar’s overvaluation, and the prospect for changes in monetary policy stances outside the US all argue for US dollar depreciation over the medium term. Against this bearish backdrop, KX examines the characteristics of equities that tend to outperform when the US currency is depreciating.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Unconvincing Pick-Up In US GDP

    US third quarter GDP growth came in on Friday at 3% QoQ annualized, much higher than the expected 2.6% rate. The strength of the headline number sparked optimism that the US economy had successfully shrugged off any negative impact from hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and certainly did nothing to discourage equity investors, as both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rode buoyant earnings to new highs.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Equity Exposure For The Late Cycle

    The US equity bull run continues even as the US economy issues an increasing number of late cycle indicators. For investors who want to maintain exposure to the stock market but are getting nervous that the economy may soon turn down, KX examines the characteristics that allow stocks to outperform in the late stages of the cycle.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Back Away From Buyback Plays

    From a cyclical peak of US$161bn in 1Q16, US corporate share buybacks fell to US$120bn in 2Q17. But although buyback activity is down, it is not out. In the past few weeks companies including Walmart, HP and Allergan have announced new share repurchase programs. The question for investors is whether they should chase these buyback plays.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Count On A Miracle

    Do animal spirits in the US live after all? As profits have picked up, firms’ capital spending has rebounded from contraction territory in 2015-16 to a perky 6.7% QoQ rise in 2Q17. A range of business surveys suggest the trend was sustained through the third quarter. Much is at stake, for if capital spending can break out of its post-2008 range, it is just possible that a productivity surge can follow, lifting underlying economic growth. KX...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Portfolio For The Monetary Cycle

    Every US recession since the 1960s has been preceded by the combination of a fall in true money supply growth relative to real GDP growth, and a fall in the unemployment rate below NAIRU. In this paper, KX constructs a model portfolio which reduces exposure to risky assets in response to these signals, and finds that it offers investors superior risk-adjusted returns.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Story With US Inflation

    While hardly ranking as a hawk, Janet Yellen yesterday restated her view that inflation remains a worry. The Federal Open Market Committee as a whole may have last week nudged its 2017/18 inflation forecasts lower, but Yellen continues to argue that weak pricing pressures are transitory. The corollary is that the Fed should stick with its gradual monetary tightening plan. This places her slightly at odds with policymakers like Charles Evans, who...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Any US Profits Rebound Lacks Legs

    US equities have rallied to new highs on a favorable liquidity tide, buoyed by hopes for coordinated global growth. But they have also been given a leg-up by an apparently improved US profits outlook, as shown in the second quarter national accounts data. There are, however, compelling reasons to think that an uptick in profit margins cannot last. As 59% of value added by US non-financial corporates went to their workers in 2Q17, these center on...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not That Canadian

    The US and Canadian economies share many similarities due to their geographical proximity, similar level of development and Anglo-Saxon traditions of common law and open political dialogue. So it is curious that each economy’s labor market dynamics are strikingly different. This observation has more than hypothetical significance as workers become hard to find at the right price in late-cycle America.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Bank Deregulation Is Not The Answer

    Janet Yellen nailed her regulatory colors to the mast on Friday. In her speech on financial stability at Jackson Hole, the Federal Reserve chair made plain her opposition to any wholesale roll-back of financial regulations introduced in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis. She didn’t mention by name the Financial Choice Act, the attempt currently before Congress to scrap key provisions of the post-crisis Dodd-Frank regulations. But she did address...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The US Property Engine Fire Up?

    Two years ago banks started to make it harder for US construction firms to borrow and soon after activity began to fizzle. While blame has been pinned on skilled worker shortages and rising costs of both land and materials, KX and Will think financing was the key issue. The good news is that banks seem to be again loosening their purse strings.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Misleading Signal In US Auto Sales

    Trying to tease economic trends out of recent US data releases is a frustrating business. Take yesterday’s figures. Although the ISM manufacturing PMI ticked down a shade in July to come in a fraction below expectations, at 56.3 the number remained firmly in expansionary territory. On the other hand, two classic cyclical indicators of US economic health—construction spending and automobile sales—both came in weak.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Bear Flattening Ahead

    The miniscule change of wording in yesterday’s Federal Reserve statement appears to confirm that the Fed will go ahead and begin to shrink its balance sheet from September. June’s statement said balance sheet normalization would begin “this year”, implying the process would start by December at the latest. Yesterday’s statement altered that to “relatively soon”—and relatively sooner than December suggests September, as the only other meeting...

    0
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    The Eurozone Is Now So Far Behind The US, It’s In Front

    Among the many tricky tasks facing investors is to determine the relative positions of the US and eurozone economies in their respective business cycles. Over the preceding two cycles—the ones that peaked in 2000/01 and 2005/06—the two economies moved broadly in phase, with the eurozone lagging the US by around one year. Estimates from the International Monetary Fund and OECD suggest that that relative position is largely unchanged, with the...

    2
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    Liquidity: More Bad News Than Good

    Gavekal has long maintained that bull markets rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. Now with the Fed set to tighten further in an environment of weak bank credit growth, KX and Will warn that the liquidity pillar which has done so much to support the current bull market in US equities is looking increasingly shaky. That is especially ominous, given that valuations are no longer cheap and catch-up growth is played out for this...

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    Gavekal Research

    Watch US-Eurozone Rate Differentials

    Interest rate differentials between the US and eurozone are wide by historical standards. This is no surprise. The US has enjoyed uninterrupted growth (at least in year-on-year terms) since 2010, and today the Federal Reserve stands as the most hawkish big central bank in town. In contrast, the eurozone slumped back into recession in 2012, and the European Central Bank remains in full-blown easing mode. As a result, interest rate differentials...

    2
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    The State Of US Inflation

    In her testimony to Congress yesterday, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen attributed the weakness of US inflation to temporary factors. As a result, the Fed remains focused on tightening policy. However, given that US inflation has consistently undershot the Fed’s target, any further decline will raise concerns that the US business cycle is rolling over.

    0
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    The Payrolls Paradox: Tight Labor But Weak Wage Growth

    As usual the market focused closely on the headline number in last Friday’s employment report, which saw non-farm payrolls come in at a stronger than expected 220,000 in June. As usual, we caution against reading too much into any one month’s figures, for the reasons Anatole has explained so elegantly (see Beyond The March Payrolls Soft Patch). Instead we prefer to take a step back and to attempt to answer the two big questions currently hanging...

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    What Could Turn Around The US Business Cycle? Hint: Not Much

    As often happens, US data is sending mixed messages. Yesterday’s ADP report showed weak job growth in June, despite the latest ISM service sector PMI being decidedly perky. Investing according to the latest high-frequency growth data is a good way to get whiplash. Instead, let’s take a step back and review the US economy’s overall positioning.

    0
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    A Late-Cycle Signal From US Factories

    Determining the exact extent of the US output gap at any point in time is immensely difficult, if not impossible. Earlier this month, KX suggested monitoring four indicators: the gap between actual unemployment and the “natural” rate; real corporate profits; profit margins, and the change of US CPI inflation. Today he adds another indicator to that list: the ratio of factory order backlogs to new orders. By this measure too, the US is running...

    0
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    Calm Sailing For A Reason

    Those with a constructive view of quiescent asset markets say low volatility is justified by the stable economic situation. Others mutter of a looming “Minsky moment”. KX does not rule out a sharp rise in near-term volatility, but says the secular trend is down.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Mind The (Output) Gap

    The US economy is offering up conflicting signals. Recent manufacturing survey data has been soft, auto sales have slowed and the rate of job creation has markedly reduced. At the same time, inflation expectations have dipped after their bolt upwards earlier this year. Yet, redirect the gaze and the same US economy shows distinct signs of waddling towards a late cycle denouement with the labor market, in particular, looking tight. Put another...

    2
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    Longer For A Reason

    Could this be the US economic expansion without end? Almost certainly not, but it is starting to break some serious records for longevity. Yet as the expansion gets longer in the tooth, the obvious question is whether it simply withers due to old age. Like Janet Yellen, KX is suspicious of such a deterministic arguments and in this piece says there are very good reasons for economic cycles to be getting longer.

    2
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    Don’t Sweat An Impeachment

    After weeks of ignoring ever wackier White House shenanigans, investors yesterday focused on US political risk. The revelation of memos that seem to offer prima facie evidence of the president obstructing justice means the chance of an impeachment has jumped from improbable to possible. As the government’s investigative machinery cranked up a notch yesterday, US equities experienced their worst day since last September and treasury yields fell...

    2
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    The Headwinds To US Housebuilding

    US home prices are on the up, having climbed 6% over the 12 months to February. Yet housebuilding has failed to keep pace with the rise in prices. Although construction has made a positive contribution to GDP growth over the last couple of quarters, activity has built from a very low base. Housing starts in March were an annualized 1.215mn, with a consensus forecast for April of 1.25mn. Both figures are well below the long term pre-crisis US...

    2
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    Behind Weak US Wage Growth

    After seven steady years of decline, the US unemployment rate fell further in April to a 10-year low of 4.4%—the same as in May 2007 immediately before the onset of the credit crunch. At the same time, the number of job openings has exceeded its 2001 high, emphasizing the increasing tightness of the US labor market. Yet despite this tightening, increases in wage growth have been remarkably modest for this late stage of the cycle.

    8
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    Don’t Bet On Another Bond Bubble

    Recent days have not been good for US treasury bears betting on higher yields. First, Donald Trump’s much hyped tax reform plan proved thin on detail and lacking in credibility. Then Friday’s weak US GDP release for 1Q17 showed an economy facing a notable softening in consumption demand. The one factor offering succor to treasury shorts has been reduced political risk in Europe after a centrist made it through to the second round of France’s...

    0
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    Watch US Money Supply Growth

    Every US recession in the last 50 years has been preceded by a steep fall in true money supply growth, or an outright contraction. So it is worrying that true money supply growth has recently slumped to its lowest since 2008. In this paper KX investigates whether we could be witnessing a false signal, and finds few reasons to be cheerful.

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    US Auto Sales Hit Their Speed Limit

    US auto sales leveled off 18 months ago, and growth has been stalled ever since. Now with interest rates rising and lenders tightening standards on auto loans, KX sees additional reasons to believe that sales have reached their speed limit. Happily, the problems are largely sector-specific, not indicative of general weakness in US consumer demand.

    0
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    After The Health Care Reform Failure

    The Republican drive to repeal and replace Obamacare failed ignominiously on Friday. Together, President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan were unable to muster enough support to pass the new health care bill through the House of Representatives. Bowing to reality, they pulled the vote. If there is a positive element to this failure, it is that both the administration and Congress will now shift their focus to tax reform. However, the...

    2
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    The Risk Picture Diminishes

    Yesterday’s 25bp rate rise from the US Federal Reserve was universally expected. The relative dovishness of Fed officials was not. With headline CPI inflation in the US running at a brisk 2.7% in February, ahead of the meeting at least some market participants had been pricing in four rate hikes this year. But after the latest dot plot signaled that policymakers continue to see only three hikes—including yesterday’s—in 2017, those expectations...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Bet on US Manufacturing

    The Federal Reserve seems convinced that strong survey readings point to a strengthening US economy that is becoming self-sustaining. This is the reason that investors are betting with increasing confidence on a series of interest rate increases this year. KX is not convinced that such assumptions are built on solid ground.

    0
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    Calling Time On Bank Outperformance

    Tomorrow Donald Trump is scheduled to address a joint session of the US Congress. Although expected to be long on characteristic bombast, the president’s speech is likely to be short on hard details about his core policies. That shouldn’t be too surprising. Drawing up tax reform and infrastructure spending plans and squaring them away with the Republican majority in Congress will take many months. However, without concrete information to sustain...

    0
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    Are Border Adjustments Protectionist?

    The introduction of border adjustments into the US tax code is by far the most controversial part of the House Republicans’ “blueprint” for tax reform—with good reason. This reform alone would be a game-changer, with many winners and losers. This is why, like all major tax reforms, it faces an uphill battle to become law, and why it may never happen. But the same was said of a Donald Trump presidency, and of Brexit. So, investors still need to...

    5
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    US Inflation: The End Of The Affair

    If there is one consensus view about US markets it is that inflation is ticking up, a tightening cycle is underway and the dollar will again rise. As markets are made at the margin, any hit to these beliefs could push investors into a sharp repositioning. Within Gavekal there is disagreement on this score, with Anatole arguing that US inflation and bond yields are on an upward trend, Charles taking the opposite view and Louis stating that US...

    0
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    Less Than It Seems: US Financial Deregulation

    US bank stocks rallied strongly on Friday on Donald Trump’s promise to tear up much of the Dodd-Frank 2010 financial regulation act. But steering a new act through Congress will not be easy. And while proposals now on the table greatly simplify the existing rules, they do not amount to the wholesale easing of regulations that would be needed to drive a rapid acceleration of bank lending.

    0
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    Border Tax Adjustments In Context

    US president Donald Trump moved a step closer to realizing his “America first” trade policy yesterday, promising a 20% tax on imports from Mexico. However, rather than an outright tariff on imports, it is looking increasingly likely that the new levy will come in the form of a border tax adjustment, as envisaged by the House Republican majority as part of a wider US tax reform program. In theory, border tax adjustments should be trade-neutral,...

    2
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    Do We Need To Worry About The Shrinking US Monetary Base?

    The US monetary base is shrinking, and with Fed officials talking about winding down their bond holdings, it is only natural for equity investors to be concerned. However, as KX explains, the contraction in base money is a technical effect of recent regulatory changes, and the Fed is not yet running down its assets.

    0
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    Tax Reform And The Dollar: It’s Not So Straightforward

    Tax reform is high on the agenda both for US president-elect Donald Trump and for the new session of Congress that began earlier this month. Among the reform proposals that could most affect investors are those advanced by the House Republicans, which many commentators have argued could cause a substantial exchange rate appreciation of the US dollar. In theory—all else being equal—this would be true. But our examination of current exchange rate...

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    The US Equity Dilemma

    On the first trading day of the year, we learnt that the Trump trade remains very much alive. The S&P 500 rose 0.8%, 10-year treasury yields inched up 1.3bp and the DXY US dollar index climbed 0.4%. While investors seem focused on the positive ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency, the year ahead is full of uncertainty—with changes in store for fiscal, monetary, regulatory and trade policies, all of which will occur in the context of a...

    0
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    The Post-Fed Risk Of Sector Rotation

    As expected, the US Federal Reserve went ahead and raised its benchmark interest rate by 25bp yesterday. Less widely expected was the positive tone of the Fed’s comments on the economic outlook, and its slightly more hawkish view on the trajectory of rates, with policymakers now projecting three rate increases next year rather than two. Fed chair Janet Yellen described the changes as “tiny”. But the market reaction—10-year treasury yields rose...

    0
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    Cash Repatriation Won’t Trigger A New Buyback Boom

    With the incoming US administration promising big tax breaks on the repatriation of corporate cash piles held overseas, Wall Street is confidently predicting a renewed equity market buyback boom in 2017. On first hearing, this sounds like a reasonable expectation. For one thing, in recent years US companies have consistently chosen to plough their retained earnings—and a sizable amount of debt—into share buybacks, rather than into investment in...

    0
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    Riding The US Monetary Cycle

    In market conditions that abound with conflicting signals, KX argues that investors should keep a close eye on an adjusted measure of real US money supply growth as an early warning signal of recession, and suggests how a tool based on this measure could make a useful allocation tool for equity managers.

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    A Cautionary Note On US Housing

    After months of anemic activity, US homebuilding picked up in October. This is a welcome development, given that residential construction is a key leading indicator for the overall economy, and that lately it has been close to sending a recession signal (see On The Brink Of Recession). However, the magnitude of the improvement should not be overstated. While housing starts did post the biggest monthly increase since 1982, this is a volatile...

    0
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    The End Of The Goldilocks Scenario?

    Over the last seven years global investors have benefited greatly from a combination of moderate growth and non-threatening inflation, allowing for constantly loose monetary policy. Yet for the US, we are increasingly concerned that, one way or another, this “Goldilocks scenario” is about to come to an end. Here’s why:

    4
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    The Strange Case Of The US Trade Deficit

    The last three years saw the US dollar move from being an undervalued currency to an overvalued one, and yet the US trade balance has barely budged. This contrasts sharply with past periods of dollar strength which produced huge US trade deficits that were a boon to global exporters, and also to financial markets which got a liquidity boost. The fear for emerging economies in particular is that this relationship has broken down and a reliable...

    3
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    The Rising Odds Of A US Recession

    We are on recession watch after yesterday’s release of September’s NFIB small business optimism survey. It was not the headline number which got us worried—that ticked down from 94.4 to 94.1. Rather, it was the significant drop in the job openings component—from 30 to 24, or from a cyclical high to the lowest level in 15 months. This suggests that demand for US labor may be rolling over, which is concerning indeed.

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    Tan Kai Xian & Leonor du Jeu: The US Trade Deficit Conundrum

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    Emerging From The Soft Patch

    Three weeks ago we asked whether the uniform weakness in US data—across manufacturing, services and home construction—signaled the start of a recession or merely a summer soft patch. At the time we concluded that what we were seeing was yet another soft patch. Thankfully, the latest round of data releases appears to confirm that conclusion, with the US economy now emerging from its summer doldrums.

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