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    Gavekal Research

    Video: What's Up With The Pound

    Along with other second-tier currencies the British pound fell steeply between early and mid-March as investors dashed to get their hands on US dollar cash. That US dollar liquidity squeeze has now eased, and sterling has found a near-term bottom. But the outlook for the British currency remains clouded amid the UK’s coronavirus lockdown.

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    Why Europe Can Survive The Storm

    Economic activity indexes in Europe have collapsed to never-before-seen levels, yet markets have rallied as investors have become persuaded that policy responses are enough to avoid a full blown euro crisis from unfolding. Europe for once appears to be more decisive in managing a crisis situation than the US and it is possible it may manage a swifter pick-up once the public health situation stabilizes.

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    Video: Time For A Fiscal Union?

    The coronavirus pandemic, with its calls for a coordinated European Union-wide fiscal stimulus to counter the inevitable economic ill-effects, would appear to be the ideal opportunity to press forward with the next big step towards European integration by forging a eurozone fiscal union. But things are not so simple.

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    Europe In The Eye Of The Storm

    After the US slapped a 30-day travel ban on visitors from Continental Europe the world’s three biggest economic areas are now effectively cut off from most human contact. As China sees its infection rate level off, the growth dynamic of this pandemic has shifted to Europe. Economic effects will depend on government responses.

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    Video: What Can The ECB Do?

    This week the US federal Reserve cut interest rates to counter the effects of the coronavirus outbreak, and the European Central Bank promised to follow suit with “appropriate” measures of its own. But eurozone policy rates are already negative, which severely limits the scope for further cuts.

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    What Will End The US Dollar’s Run?

    Among the confounding effects of the coronavirus has been its impact on foreign exchange markets. The last few weeks have seen heavy flows into the US dollar, on the grounds that the US economy is relatively insulated from the ill-effects of the outbreak. As fears have grown of a dismal first quarter for the eurozone on diminished external demand (see Just When Things Were Looking Up), the euro has slumped to a near three-year low against the US...

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    Video: Will The Economic Contagion Hit Europe?

    Europe’s financial markets are sending mixed signals. On one hand, fears about the eurozone's exposure to China’s coronavirus-hit economy have pushed the euro to a 21-month low against the US dollar. On the other, euro-denominated stocks are hitting record highs. In this interview Nick examines the mixed message.

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    Paying Your Way In The UK

    A triumphant Boris Johnson is set on consolidating a new electoral coalition through big infrastructure projects that help “level up” forgotten regions, but he faces a weak economy and tough negotiations with the European Union over Britain's trading relationship. The worry is that investors begin to balk at funding a gaping current account deficit.

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    Just When Things Were Looking Up

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

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    Britain’s Soggy Prospects

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

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    Playing The ECB Strategic Review

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

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    The European Recovery Lives, Just

    On the face of it, Germany’s industrial slump is still worsening. The worry has been that a cratering of Europe’s industrial economy proves bad enough to reverse the “internal” recovery spurred by super-easy monetary policy. In fact, such a contagion is unlikely in 2020 and the eurozone should see overall growth stabilize at around its potential level.

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    The Long Slow Road To German Fiscal Expansion

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

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    Europe's Political Paralysis

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

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    It's Not 2017 Again In Europe

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

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    Video: In Search Of Policy Traction

    New European Central Bank boss Christine Lagarde has called on European governments to do more on the fiscal front to support eurozone growth. Only Germany has wiggle room within the EU fiscal straitjacket to launch a significant stimulus program. However, political resistance in Berlin to opening the spending taps remains formidable, and may be insurmountable.

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    A Swedish Canary In The Coal Mine

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

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    The German Spillover

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

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    Up Against The Limit With The ECB

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

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    Video: Italian Politics Favors Bonds

    Yesterday Italy’s new government took office, the 66th since 1946. Meanwhile, Italian bond yields have reached record lows. Nick attributes this to two factors. First the global bond rally. Second, the shifting winds of Italian politics away from the Euroskeptics to the Europhiles, which bodes well for Italian-European budget negotiations.

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    Strategy Monthly: The Message From Bonds

    Record low bond yields point to a deflationary catastrophe in the making. Yet growth data in the world’s two biggest economies remain decent. Could investors be reacting to a rupture in the international order? Gavekal analysts are not persuaded by such arguments and offer four alternative explanations for the “bond bubble”.

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    Germany’s Fiscal Firepower

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

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    What Germany Means For Europe

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

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    Video: Enter Boris

    In the last week or so, the pound has fallen sharply to a two-and-a-half-year low against the US dollar. That’s all down to the new British government, headed by Boris Johnson, and his "do or die" Brexit campaign. But when a deal is finally struck, Britain’s strong economic fundamentals mean it is well placed for a boost in growth, along with the pound.

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    Sterling’s Information Void

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

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    Healthchecking Boris Johnson’s Britain

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

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    The ECB After Draghi

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

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    The ECB Reloads

    The ECB may hope for the best, but it is preparing for the worst. As Mario Draghi prepares to hand over the ECB’s reins to an undecided successor, he seems to be restocking its armory.

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    A European Vortex

    There is a big disconnect between markets and reported data in the eurozone. Bund yields are within a whisker of all time lows, inflation expectations have cratered and the Eurostoxx banks index fell -12.5% in May. Yet at the same, Europe’s macro data, while not great, points to stabilization after a 16-month industrial downturn.

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    Harder Times For European Luxury

    It is conceivable that some European industries may benefit from the trans-Pacific economic cold war, picking up business lost to their US and Chinese competitors as a result of the worsening tensions. But one sector that will not benefit is the European equity investor’s favorite: luxury goods. European luxury goods companies now face tougher times ahead.

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    One Reduction Of Risk At The Margin

    By putting off for six months its decision whether or not to impose a 25% tariff on all imports of passenger cars and car parts on national security grounds, the US administration bowed to expedience on Wednesday. In theory, the threat of auto tariffs remains on the table. In practice, the six month delay has robbed the proposal of much of its credibility.

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    Video: Is The Worst Over For The Eurozone?

    Eurozone economic growth was modest in the first quarter of 2019, but it was still stronger than most economists had expected, with Germany avoiding a recession and Italy returning to growth. Meanwhile eurozone equity markets are up a respectable 13% over the year to date. Does this mean Europe is emerging from its economic soft patch?

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    The Message In Eurozone Money

    The advanced estimate of first quarter eurozone GDP released on Tuesday came as a pleasant surprise. Growth came in stronger than generally expected, while Italy emerged from recession. With the MSCI EMU equity index up almost 17% YTD in local currency terms, the question is whether growth can be sustained over the coming quarters.

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    Europe's China Syndrome

    Chinese premier Li Keqiang is in Brussels on Tuesday for the 21st EU-China summit, and the talks are likely to be testy. After much dithering and in response to much pressure from Washington, the EU has begun to take a more hardline posture towards China. The core EU countries share many of the concerns that motivate the US trade war with China.

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    Europe's Export Problem

    Europe is the world’s most export-dependent big economic region. In such a precious position, the effect of external weakness can be debilitating, as shown by the eurozone manufacturing PMI having just fallen to its lowest in nearly six years at 47.5. The question is whether any respite can be found in overseas markets.

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    Auf Wiedersehen, German Competitiveness

    Behind the factors that have caused Germany’s factory slowdown, deeper structural trends are eroding the competitiveness of German industry. The gains Germany made by deploying labor more effectively since the late 1990s have now run out, and that there are few signs Germany is well positioned to deploy capital more efficiently in the future.

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    Video: Europe's Response To China

    Europe has an ambivalent relationship with China that is increasingly under scrutiny. The European Commission recently labelled China a “systemic rival” and France and Germany want to create corporate champions to compete against Chinese state owned enterprises. Europe, however, is not singing from the same hymn sheet.

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    A New Era For European Banks

    European banking stocks have been battered for much of the last four years by negative interest rates and a Brussels plan to impose market discipline through shareholder bail-ins rather than public bail-outs. This approach is now in question as Germany embraces a new industrial strategy that will rely on strong state-backed banks taking political direction.

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    When You're In A Hole, Stop Digging

    The first law of holes states: when you are in one, stop digging. It’s sound advice, which central bankers would do well to heed. Unfortunately for Mario Draghi and his colleagues at the European Central Bank, things are not so simple. It is one of the quirks of negative interest rates that the longer rates remain in negative territory, the less accommodative policy becomes.

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    A Potential Lifeline For Europe's Banks

    As the members of the European Central Bank’s governing council prepare to meet in Frankfurt this Thursday, they face the unsettling possibility that their policy settings may risk compounding, rather than alleviating, the eurozone’s economic weaknesses.Unfortunately for members of the council who may be inclined to dither, doing nothing is not a viable option.

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    What Europe’s Political Ructions Mean

    European politics is again heating up. Yesterday saw the Spanish government fail to pass its budget in a move likely to spur fresh elections. Populists in Italy and yellow vests in France are keeping up their campaign of disruption. Given that few of these issues directly threaten the structures of the EU, the question for investors is: Does any of this matter?

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    The UK's Limits To Growth

    For the British economy, it has been a case of “mustn’t grumble” since the 2016 Brexit referendum. However, the effect of a weak fourth quarter GDP report was to debunk any illusion that Brexit uncertainty has been weathered. Such a reckoning was inevitable with or without Brexit, as the UK has in effect hit limits to its growth.

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    Strategy Monthly: Europe's Containable Risks

    As China slows and the US expansion limps into its dotage, a heavily export-dependent Europe looks vulnerable to another downturn. The latest growth numbers from Italy and Germany make for especially grim reading. Potential shocks loom in the shape of a hard Brexit, populist discontent in France and Italy and the threat of auto tariffs from the US.

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    Video: Skirting Recession In Europe?

    This week the IMF has cut its GDP forecasts for European economies exposed to a synchronous global growth slowdown. Nick gauges the probability that core eurozone economies will fall into recession, examines the scope for stimulative policy responses and explores what the slowdown means for Europe’s financial markets.

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    The Future Of Italian Yields

    Since it became clear Rome and Brussels were moving towards a compromise to end their budget stand-off, Italian assets have outperformed. The yield on 10-year BTPs has fallen, narrowing the spread over bunds. But investors should be wary of positioning for a continued contraction; in both the short and long term, Italy’s deficit and debt dynamics are unpromising.

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    Searching For A European Catalyst

    With 2019 not yet a week old, the eurozone is already looking uncomfortably like the odd man out. With the world’s big three economies heading more deeply into a synchronous slowdown, policymakers in the US and China are showing their readiness to alter course. European policymakers have displayed no comparable flexibility.

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    A New Engine Needed

    As the European Central Bank halts net new asset purchases and ends its balance sheet expansion, European equities are back at almost exactly the same level as in December 2014, on the eve of the ECB’s announcement of quantitative easing. Clearly, with extraordinary monetary stimulus no longer in the mix, European stocks will need a different driver if they are to make gains in 2019.

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    Winter For Eurozone Credit Growth

    A depressing autumn is turning into a dismal winter in the eurozone, as November’s deteriorating PMIs follow weak third quarter growth—and even a quarter-on-quarter contraction in Germany. Much of the softness can be attributed to poor external demand, especially from China and the emerging markets, and to the ongoing disruption to car sales caused by the introduction of new emissions tests. Together these have hammered European manufacturing,...

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    The Doom Loop Tightens

    The stand-off between Rome and Brussels over Italy’s 2019 budget claimed its first casualty on Monday. Italy’s major banks were forced to club together to support an emergency bond issue by Banca Carige, after the rise in Italian government bond yields triggered by the budget battle eroded the mid-sized lender’s capital base, pushing it to the brink of collapse.

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    Germany, And Europe, After Merkel

    All political careers end in failure. Doubtless Angela Merkel is already feeling the sting. Even as the long-serving German chancellor stands up on Tuesday to address the European parliament in Strasbourg, political observers and investors are looking beyond Merkel’s term in office to the identity of her successor. That is likely to be decided on December 7, when Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is set to elect a new party chairman, so...

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