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E.g., 07-12-2019
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    The Gavekal Monthly: What Price On A Trump Victory?

    Markets seem sanguine about the prospect of a Donald Trump victory in next month's US presidential election—too sanguine. Expert opinion gives Hillary Clinton a 75% chance of winning. But remember that four months ago in the UK, expert opinion discounted polls showing a strong chance of Brexit, and the experts were proved wrong. And the consequences of a Trump win are so huge and potentially destabilizing that even a 25% chance means...

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    Wicksell's Guide To A Better Portfolio

    With the recent US economic data worryingly soft, and with no convincing drivers of earnings growth to be seen, how should investors position their portfolios? Will and KX set out their methodology for structuring a dynamic Wicksellian portfolio to generate superior returns at reduced levels of volatility, and determine the optimum allocation mix for the current troubled environment.

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    Don’t Count On US Profits Riding To The Rescue

    A funny thing happened to US equities once the dust cleared after the late June sell-off that was sparked by the UK’s Brexit vote. As yields of most income earning assets fell on hopes of yet more central bank easing, equity investors discarded growth concerns and engineered a multiple expansion which drove the market to new vertigo-inducing highs (see Real Yields In The Driving Seat). The big question now is whether a profits boost can keep the...

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    Will & KX: Soft Growth And Volatile Markets

    Will and KX present the quick view on the US economy and financial markets

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    Knowing Whether To Buy The Dip

    With all the current focus on the Federal Reserve and markets, it’s easy to overlook the increasingly ugly state of the underlying US economy. Throughout the long post-2009 recovery, when any one driver of US growth showed signs of stalling, the others continued ticking over nicely, which meant overall growth averaged out around 2%. Recent data releases signal that has now changed. Although none of our key indicators has shown a dramatic...

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    Real Yields In The Driving Seat

    Notwithstanding yesterday’s bounce, the stock market is a nervous place just now. After riding a post-Brexit rebound that saw both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite scale record highs on minimal volatility, investors are increasingly wondering about the extent of the potential near term downside, not just in the US but around the world

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    The Gavekal Monthly: How Long Can The Rally Last?

    Investors enjoyed a surprisingly upbeat summer with the World MSCI close to an all-time high and emerging markets continuing to benefit disproportionately. Yet with the Federal Reserve sounding increasingly hawkish, earnings looking soft and political uncertainty remaining the order of the day, this Gavekal Monthly focuses on threats to the current benign market mood.

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    The Return Of US Fiscal Policy

    More than three years after the world fretted about the US economy falling off a “fiscal cliff”, there is suddenly much talk of government spending being used to gin up growth. Whatever their many differences, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favour a fiscal expansion, with a focus on upgrading the US’s aging infrastructure stock. At the same time Federal Reserve officials, led by Janet Yellen and John Williams, are arguing for more fiscal...

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    The Fed’s Hawkish Stance

    For those who thought Janet Yellen a dyed-in-the-wool dove, her Jackson Hole speech on Friday gave pause as she endorsed fellow policymakers’ recent statements that the US economy was strong enough to warrant interest rate rises. Markets quickly adjusted. The implication for global asset markets is not altogether encouraging.

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    The Next EM Yield Play?

    With global growth having stabilized and central banks remaining in super-easy mode, the dash for yield is making emerging markets ever more interesting. In recent months a number of our Hong Kong-based writers have advised investors to play this trend through bonds not equities, with Udith chiming in on Monday (see Indonesia: Bet On Stability Not Growth). The question for those who expect this “not too hot, not too cold” phase to persist is...

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    Cheap For A Reason

    By most measures, US equities are not cheap. Yet many investors remain overweight, believing that in a world of ultra-low interest rates and negative bond yields, equity valuations should be higher because future cash flows are now discounted at a much lower rate than in the past. At first glance, the equity risk premium—the expected return on stocks over and above the risk-free rate—appears to support this belief. At more than one standard...

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    Beware The “High Dividend” Lure

    Investors have been piling into US high dividend plays as they offer decent income and a “margin of safety” in an increasingly expensive equity market that, despite soft earnings, continues to make new highs. The chase for yield has been boosted by global central banks’ easing measures which have helped drive bond yields to pifflingly low levels; at the same time the S&P 1500 dividend yield has stayed steady this year at about 2%. Yet any...

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    The Caveat In US Payrolls

    Notions of a US growth scare were apparently banished on Friday with a bullish payroll report for July helping drive US equities to a new high and causing the dollar to rally strongly. Some 255,000 jobs were added—far better than the expected 185,000—while a cycle-high average hourly earnings gain of 2.6% YoY points to strong domestic demand. So how to square this data with the far less cheery 2Q16 GDP report, released last week, which showed...

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    Video: Risks In US High Dividend Stocks

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    The Baleful Influence of Inventories

    The reason US second quarter GDP growth was so disappointing at 1.2% QoQ annualized was a deep contraction in US business inventories, which knocked -1.16pp off the quarterly growth figure. In itself, a fall in inventories need not be such a bad thing for longer term growth. If inventories get run down because companies are unable to keep up with a surge in demand, then a fall in inventories can foreshadow increased investment to expand business...

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    The Gavekal Monthly: Shall We Dance?

    In a world in which the Fed shows no inclination to get ahead of the curve on inflation and in which both the ECB and the BoJ are in full quantitative easing mode, investors everywhere are on the hunt for yield. But the chase is a nervous one. Investors are all too aware that equities and bonds are sending conflicting signals, and that the favorable trends that have lifted most assets over the last six months could be disrupted by a sudden spike...

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    There’s No Need To Fear A Tighter Fed

    While the US Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged yesterday as expected, it did revise its statement to sound marginally more hawkish. Most notably, it added the line, “Near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished,” while tweaking its language to reflect recent relatively solid data releases. The market took the announcement in its stride. The S&P 500 ended the day little changed. Yields on 10-year treasuries fell...

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    US REITs And The Rush For Yield

    One of the side effects of negative interest rates and central bank asset purchases in the eurozone and Japan has been a reach for yield which has seen foreign investors rush into relatively high-yielding US assets, compressing yields and spreads to an extent that appears at odds with the late-cycle stage of the US economy. Earlier this month the 10-year US treasury yield set a new low of 1.36%, while US Baa-rated corporate bond yields fell to...

    2
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    The Consumer Alone Can’t Avert A US Recession

    With a strong US job market auguring well for income growth, and healthy household balance sheets, many believe the growth of consumer demand will outweigh dismal exports and weakening capital spending, staving off recession. But close inspection of historical data shows the US can tip into recession even though consumption remains broadly stable.

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    US Auto Sales: Shifting Down A Gear

    At first sight it was worrying last week when June’s number for US automobile sales came in at a disappointing 16.7mn annualized, well below the street’s expectations of 17.3mn. Auto sales are closely followed as a leading indicator of both US consumption growth and the overall business cycle, so at this stage in the cycle, when consumption is the only remaining driver of US economic growth, the undershoot was especially troubling. Worse,...

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    Beyond Brexit, A More Hawkish Fed

    After the Federal Open Market Committee yesterday revised down both its growth forecast and its projection for the future trajectory of US interest rates, market expectations of rate hikes have collapsed. Fed fund futures are now pricing the probability of a July rate hike at just 6%, down from 16% immediately before the FOMC’s meeting. In reaction, the yield on 10-year treasuries has dipped further below the 1.6% mark to 1.56%, the lowest since...

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    Boomerang Kids Won’t Come Back To Hurt US Housing

    Hand-wringing features about “boomerang kids” have become a staple of the US media in recent years. Invariably they tell of a generation that left college with record student debts, only to find themselves looking for work in a depressed post-crisis employment market with little demand for newly-minted graduates. Unable to find jobs matching their qualifications, many ended up serving coffee in Starbucks, or doing other menial work on near-...

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    The Dissonance In Jobs

    This week has seen Gavekal senior partners reach a rare consensus of sorts, with Anatole acknowledging that May’s “pig ugly” US payrolls report upped the chances of Charles’s US recession scenario playing out (see Thinking Dark Thoughts). For me, the report offers a classic mixed signal: on the one hand the slowdown in US employment growth could stem from firms dialing back hiring in anticipation of trouble ahead, or alternatively it could be...

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    The Gavekal Monthly: Risks For Equities—Populism And The Dollar

    Even as markets nudge higher, investors are unnerved by a rising tide of populist politics whose tangible expression will be tested on June 23, when UK voters must choose between Brexit or a less than perfect status quo inside the European Union. Investors are also concerned that the US dollar will strengthen further as the Federal Reserve mulls the question of whether to raise interest rates. In this monthly our writers weigh these big issues...

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    The Next Move In US High-Yield

    At the nadir of the market sell-off in February, the Federal Reserve offered more dovish than expected guidance on its monetary policy intentions and so backstopped the crumbling US high-yield bond market. Since then, high-yield bond prices have rallied back to their early-2015 level with the last month seeing a consolidation. Yet with the chances of a Fed rate hike in June on the up and the fundamentals of the US economy looking less than...

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    The End Of The US Credit Cycle?

    As a reflection of the US economy’s steady if unspectacular recovery, bank loan growth has averaged a solid 7.8% YoY since early 2015. The biggest recipients of this expansion have been commercial and industrial firms followed by real estate developers, with consumer lending sitting some way back. Since 3Q15, however, the Federal Reserve’s senior loan officer survey has signaled a sharp tightening in standards for both C&I and commercial...

    2
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    Risk On? Maybe Not

    Equity and oil prices have rallied in true risk-on fashion since the February 11 market trough, and are now back near their highs of late last year. Given this apparent rebound in risk appetite, one might have expected US government bonds to sell off in equally dramatic fashion, with yields climbing back to the 2.2-2.3% levels seen at the end of last year. Instead, there has been no rebound at all. Today, 10-year treasuries yield 1.75%, much the...

    0
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    US Homebuilders Hit A Speed Bump

    Homebuilding has been a reliable contributor to US growth over recent years. Now tighter lending standards for new construction projects and commercial real estate loans are threatening a slowdown. But, as KX and Will argue, as long as mortgage rates remain low and demand robust, the sector should only hit a speed bump, not a wall.

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    Is US Manufacturing A Leading Indicator?

    There is a commonly held belief that US manufacturing leads the rest of the economy, so it is surely a worry that factory output has been flat since late 2014. And yet the broad economy kept growing—with GDP up 2% YoY in 4Q15, consumption up 2.7% YoY, and home construction by almost 10%. One explanation for this apparent decoupling is the US’s shift to a more service-intensive “knowledge economy” which has rendered metal bashing and more...

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    The Slowdown In Services

    Both the main leading indicators of activity in the US services sector—the ISM services PMI and the Markit services PMI—staged modest rebounds in March. But on the face of it, the pick-up in the headline numbers offers little encouragement for investors. At 54.5 for the ISM and 51.3 for Markit, both measures remain substantially below their 2015 averages of 57.2 and 55.9 respectively. Considering that services make up 70% to 80% of the US...

    0
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    Why US Imports Are Disappointing

    Given the strength of the dollar, it is not surprising that 2015 generally saw US exports contracting, US imports growing, and the trade balance widening. What is more perplexing is that import growth has started to look shaky in the first part of this year. What gives?

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    US Housing: From Great To Good

    The US housing recovery properly kickedoff in 2011 as a confluence of benign factors converged to favor the sector. Yet while housing continues to provide a much-needed positive contribution to US economic growth, recent data points to reduced momentum. After a weak January, homes sales for February, released yesterday, ticked a little higher. Yet over the last year, sales have been choppy and generally flat. The NAHB index also shows...

    2
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    The Fed Is Falling Behind The Curve

    The Federal Reserve surprised no one yesterday when it decided to remain on hold. But the downward shift in its projection of year-end inflation from 1.6% to 1.2%—and the consequent revision of its dot plot to show two, rather than four, rate hikes in 2016—should have raised a few eyebrows. By adopting such a dovish stance, the Fed is in increasing danger of falling behind the curve on inflation, which in turn implies that the risk of sharper...

    0
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    The State Of US Profits

    With the US earnings season for 4Q15 done and dusted it is clear that the glory days of this cycle are long gone: aggregate sales for S&P 500 firms fell -4.0% YoY, profits tumbled -7.5% and margins for the period (not the trailing measure) compressed by -2.2pp to 6.5%. The big drivers of profits were (i) the oil price collapse, (ii) the strong US dollar and its crimping of exporters, and (iii) the tendency for rising wages to erode margins....

    0
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    Back To Climbing The Wall Of Worry

    Just three weeks ago markets were in full-blown panic mode. The S&P 500 was down -10% YTD, 10-year treasury yields were down to just 1.6%, and credit spreads were close to their cyclical highs. Dark clouds seemed to be rolling in on every front—from China, Brazil, Europe, banks, and the energy sector, all compounded by fears the Federal Reserve had made a grievous policy error. Since then, the skies haven’t exactly cleared, yet the S&P...

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    The Gavekal Monthly: Enter Ursus Magnus?

    January was a hair raising month for investors with a deeply worrying combination of falling oil prices, plunging equities and soaring yields for sub investment grade debt. In this edition of the Gavekal Monthly we seek some answers to the “what next” question, kicking off with Charles and Anatole who take very different views on whether a bear market is upon us.

    0
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    High Yield Worries

    Attention may have focused yesterday on the oil price collapse and its knock-on to US equities, but there was also grim price action in the sub-investment grade debt markets—the high yield master index fell back towards its December low, while the CCC-rated index breached that threshold. This pain can be attributed to worsening conditions in the energy sector, where the chance of large scale defaults increases with each lurch lower in the crude...

    2
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    The Gavekal Monthly: The Balance Of Risks

    The new year has been a wild ride so far, with sharp drops in the renminbi, Chinese stock markets, and oil prices leading global markets down. In our first Gavekal Monthly of 2016 we try to make sense of the risks facing investors today. As usual there are some strong differences of opinion: Anatole argues that developed economies are in decent shape, the dollar's rise will soon be over, and equities should post a better performance than...

    0
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    The Shudder In US Credit

    As oil prices tumble and the first US interest rate hike for eight years comes into view, bond investors in the high-yield segment are taking flight. The market was given a foretaste of what a disorderly unwinding of an over-bought US corporate bond market may look like late last week, when two high-yield bond funds suspended redemptions. The worry is that these tremors become an earthquake, making it more costly for all companies to refinance...

    4
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    What To Make Of Wider Credit Spreads

    US credit spreads are ticking up again, driving the Merrill Lynch US high yield index below its early October low yesterday and bringing total returns for the year to date to -3.4%. This renewed widening of spreads raises some important questions for asset allocators and economy watchers. Has the bond market got itself into an unwarranted flap, providing investors with a good opportunity to lock in some elevated yields? Or has the corporate debt...

    0
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    The Gavekal Monthly: A Cloudy Currency Outlook

    The Gavekal Monthly outlines our highest conviction ideas and summarizes the key economic, market and thematic views held by the firm’s partners and analysts. This report is an attempt to answer a question that we are often asked, but find it hard to answer: "What does Gavekal think?".

    0
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    Brace For Lower US Margins

    As the end of the 3Q15 US earnings season comes into view, what stands out is how little things have changed from the last quarter. Alas, corporate America’s financial performance is stabilizing at the weakest level seen since the 2008 crisis—with more than 90% of S&P 500 firms having reported, both revenue and profits came in about -4.5% lower compared with a year ago. This grim performance is partly explained by the ongoing bloodbath in...

    0
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    The US Inventory Problem

    The US business inventory-to-sales ratio (in real terms) is one of our key recession indicators. We have been uneasy ever since it broke to a new cyclical high in May. Since then it has continued to inch higher, and in September, the latest data-point available for the total business sector, it reached a level typically seen only in recessions. Even more worrying, the rise in the inventory-to-sales ratio cannot be blamed on the travails of the...

    0
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    The Gavekal Monthly: A Possible Return Of US Inflation

    The Gavekal Monthly outlines our highest conviction ideas and summarizes the key economic, market and thematic views held by the firm’s partners and analysts. This report is an attempt to answer a question that we are often asked, but find it hard to answer: "What does Gavekal think?".

    0
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    Positioning For A Hawkish Fed

    What have we learned from the world’s largest economy in recent days? It would seem that a fairly hawkish Federal Reserve is ready to raise interest rates in December, while for all its dysfunction Washington has done a deal to keep the US government running for the next two years without threats of a debt default. Considering that two months ago the concern was that the global economy was about to tip into a China-induced death spiral, this...

    0
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    The Ominous Signal In Inventories

    One of the characteristics of a recession is an overhang in inventories, which must then be sold off or written down before growth can recover. The overhang results from overproduction during the final stages of the preceding boom, an unexpected collapse in demand, or both.

    0
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    Position For A Pick-Up In US Inflation

    Everyone agrees that US inflation, if not actually dead, is unlikely to gain a new lease on life any time soon. With oil prices down -48% over the last 12 months and the US dollar up 11%, inflation as measured by personal consumption expenditure is just 0.3%, while core inflation (ex-food and energy) is down to 1.3% year-on-year. What’s more, investors expect no acceleration in price rises over the medium term. The implied breakeven inflation...

    0
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    Does Slower Job Growth Signal A Coming US Recession?

    There’s no getting away from it: last week’s US employment report was unequivocally weak. According to the latest estimates, the US added only around 140,000 jobs in each of August and September—a marked slowdown from the average growth rate of 260,000 in 2014. So what is going on? There are three possibilities:

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