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    Gavekal Research

    The Italian Domino Teeters

    My thesis has for a while been that we are living in an era characterized by the “little man” revolting against the global elite. I explained this idea in May using the perhaps apocryphal tale of a South Pacific island made up of home-loving tree dwellers and more adventurous boat travellers (see Trump And The Tree People). The point was that the normally laid back people of the trees were stirring from their torpor as shown by the Brexit vote...

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    Video: European Political Dominos

    In the aftermath of the Brexit vote and Donald Trump’s win in the US presidential election, attention has shifted to the eurozone with the assumption that more dominos must topple under the gathering populist political wave. In this video interview Nick considers the good, the bad and the ugly of the European political scene and offers pointers for navigating these risks.

    0
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    Investing By The (Wicksellian) Book

    As regular readers will know, I have spent much of the last 10 years studying, and attempting to enlarge upon, the work of the great 19th century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell. My mission has been two-fold: firstly to understand how Wicksell’s writings explain what we see happening in the global economy today, and secondly to translate his theories into practical tools to help investors make asset allocation decisions in the real world.

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    Gavekal Research

    When You Sleep With An Elephant

    It is always comforting to be back in familiar territory. In a long career in investment—45 years and counting—I have seen a few Mexican crises. All these years on, I have fond memories of the 1976 peso devaluation, and of the subsequent 1980 devaluation. I remember the 1982 debt crisis well, and the “década perdida”—the lost decade—which followed. Then came the hyperinflation of the early 1990s which led to the introduction in 1993 of the new...

    2
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    Sterling Sellers Look Flushed Out

    Here is a simple question: “Why has the pound fallen so far, so fast?”. My simple answer is that the City of London is the world’s dominant financial center, and so pretty much anyone who deals in global markets has a significant exposure to sterling. As a result, the near term movements of sterling are being dictated less by every twist and turn of the Brexit process, but rather by more prosaic financial transactions.

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    The Milton Friedman I Knew

    In the late 1970s, when beavering away at my own little research firm, I received a letter from a “senior research analyst” at the Hoover Institution, named Milton Friedman. In the letter Friedman wrote that he agreed with some of what I had written in a recent report, but other sections had problems. He had gotten the paper from one of my clients, and I’ll admit it sent me just a bit over the moon.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The British Pound: A Two Year View

    The British pound has been on a roller coaster ride to the point that on a purchasing power parity basis it is undervalued by about 10% against the euro and 17.5% versus the US dollar. As a result, sterling has been left 2% below its lower bound against the euro (in average standard deviation terms) and 9% versus the dollar on the same measure. Put another way, the pound is undervalued by more than one standard deviation against the euro and by...

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    Gavekal Research

    Watch Real Yields On Corporates

    There are increases in real rates, and there are increases in real rates. And by no means are they all equal in impact. In Tuesday’s Daily, Joyce and KX noted that global equity markets have been supported this year primarily by the world-wide decline in real bond yields. After bond markets approached over-bought territory over the summer, the sharp increase in real yields we have seen over the last couple of weeks naturally hit stock prices. If...

    0
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    I Must Admit That I’m Confused

    Friday saw the release of US jobs market data for August which had investors convinced of a continued “not too hot, not too cold” outlook for the world’s largest economy. This is at odds with the view that I have held for a while; namely, that the US has been on the brink of recession or may have even entered one. This prognosis was based on a hopefully not insubstantial analytical foundation, which may be worth reviewing.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Falling Natural Rate Is No Mystery

    As the high priests of global central banking congregate in Jackson Hole, much of the chatter ahead of the meeting has concentrated on the “mystifying” fall over recent years in the natural rate of interest, and possible reasons why it should have declined to such an extent. Having spent the last ten years attempting to apply the economic theories of the great 19th century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell, I have to say I am delighted with the...

    6
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    The Dollar And The Next Crisis

    For a third straight month in June, foreigners unloaded US bonds, with “official institutions” leading the way on net sales of US$33.5bn versus a small rise in buying by offshore private investors. The interesting thing is that foreign central banks have been lightening their US dollar reserves for a while, but the contraction has now intensified to -5.6% year-on-year. Previously, such a decline in foreign holdings of the global reserve currency...

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    The Euro And Mean Reversion

    Among my long-standing decision rules is one that generally proved reliable in the past. If two developed and open market economies trade freely with each other, then over the long run the return on invested capital in each economy will tend to be the same. In turn, this implies that over the long run, the ratio of total returns from each stock market will exhibit no trend in common currency terms. This makes intuitive sense—if one market...

    7
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    Recession Or Stagnation?

    On Friday US GDP data for 2Q16 was released showing an expansion that looks ever more anemic and unconvincing. Is this just the new normal in an era of stagnant global growth or is the US more perilously poised? To answer that question, imagine the US economy having two parts in the shape of “consumer GDP”, which represents about three quarters of activity, and the remainder being the non-consumer “production” portion.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump And The Prisoner’s Dilemma

    Let us assume that Mervyn King is right and the week-to-week strategy of major central banks has become to stop equity markets within their jurisdiction from going down. And let us further assume that markets are fully convinced of central bankers’ resolve to achieve this end. In the case of US equities, which sit at the center of the global system, such a proposition logically means that their price has two components: (i) the “intrinsic value...

    1
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    Tools, Jewels And P/E Ratios

    There are two basic reasons why an asset has value and this understanding should be foundational knowledge for anyone running a portfolio. They can be prized for their efficiency (a tool) or desired because of their scarcity (a jewel). Investors preferences for jewels versus tools will shift through time, but what does not change is the fact that scarcity cannot lead to economic growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fundamental Assault On Freedom

    Of all basic freedoms, one of the most fundamental of all is the freedom of the individual to organize his or her relationship with time. The way we order our affairs with respect to the all too brief time allocated to us on this earth is a profound right that we all should be allowed to exercise unhindered. In short, everyone should be free to choose whether to be an ant or a grasshopper.

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    Gavekal Research

    US Bonds As A Hedge: It’s Complicated

    F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that the test of a first rate intellect was being able to hold two opposing ideas, yet still function. The same could be said of any investor who aspires to follow a rules-based portfolio management strategy. Inevitably, such rigor occasionally requires messy compromises with reality as is now the case in the US bond market. Such is my dilemma as I try to broadly follow three rules:

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Italian Problem

    The British were recently asked if they wanted to leave the European Union and to the establishment’s horror, they chose to do just that. Italy will host Europe’s next big referendum in November with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatening to resign if his package of constitutional reforms isnot passed. Such a dénouement in Europe’s most indebted big economy would trigger a political crisis and require fresh elections. The issue with referendums...

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    Gavekal Research

    History Moves Again, Again

    Back in September 1989 as it became clear that big forces were shaking up the Cold War status quo, I wrote a research piece that aimed to place these convulsions in a broader context. It borrowed from a core idea of the great historian Arnold J. Toynbee that a driving force of history is what he dubbed “missionary ideas”, which tend to find their inspiration in religion (see History Moves Again). In the post-enlightenment era there have been...

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    Tax Receipts And US Recessions

    When kicking-off two days of Congressional testimony yesterday, Janet Yellen acted to sooth market nerves by declaring the US economy to be in reasonable health, while sounding sufficiently concerned about apparent labor market weakness to hose down worries of an imminent rate raise. To my mind, this is all noise for the simple reason that the question is no longer whether the US faces a recession in the future but more precisely if such a...

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