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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Manufacturing And Recessions

    I know that metal bashing and the business of making things comprises a declining part of economic activity in most industrialized economies. Yet as economist Brian Reading used to say in the 1980s, GDP may be getting lighter, but manufacturing continues to have a heavy influence.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Gauging The Chances Of A US Recession

    A successful investment strategy requires an early warning system to monitor risks in key markets. Right now, I am most worried about a possible recession in the global system’s most important economy, namely the United States. Any evidence of an impending US recession will surely spark a collapse in investor confidence as it becomes clear that central bankers are not, in fact, the omnipotent creatures of their billing. I am especially...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Efficiency, Capital And Bond Market Spreads

    In the “good old days” much of the capital deployed in financial markets was devoted to making markets work better. Until the mid-1980s investment banks were often partnerships whose capital was directly owned by the partners. On occasions when a disorderly market emerged that capital was “put to work”, sometimes for just a few minutes—profitability was very high. Such capital was often “owned” by a family such as the Rothschilds, Barings or...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Protect And Survive

    Bond yields keep rising, emerging markets are softening and key cyclical stocks have taken a bath. The more I look at the global situation the more I am convinced that both economies and markets are reaching a point of transition. And as that old sage Yogi Berra said: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards A US Recession?

    Yesterday the Federal Reserve minutes showed policymakers to be nervous about the outlook for US growth, and so more likely to extend the zero interest rate policy. I would, of course, argue that this is to confuse cause and effect, as US economic weakness in fact stems directly from ZIRP (see The Untimely Demise Of US Productivity). But what concerns me today is less whether a quarter point rise in policy rates happens next month or in...

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    The Untimely Demise Of US Productivity

    Let’s start with a statement of fact: since 2002 the growth of US productivity, measured as non-farm output per hour worked, has collapsed. Outside of recession periods, this is the first time since the 1950s that the four-year moving average of the annual rate of change in productivity has fallen so low. This matters because without a rise in productivity, the US economy will struggle to boost its citizens’ standard of living, whether measured...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Bull Market, What Bull Market?

    Underweighting US equities has become a consensual position and yet the market continues to flirt with new highs. So what gives? My approach has always been to rely on decision rules built on historical data analysis. When enough of these rules signal a “buy” or “sell”, I make a move (for a good example of this approach see Managing Equities In A Strong Dollar World). My esteemed colleague Anatole has been arguing for a while that the S&P500...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    When Bond Markets Become Silly

    Investors are understandably spooked by recent bond market ructions given a backdrop of weakening growth in major economies, and continued accommodative central bank policy. Francois argued yesterday that this “tantrum” was partly technical, but also the result of markets looking through to higher inflation expectations due to an apparently better economic outlook (see Tantrum II And European Portfolios). I agree with him that markets are being...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Liberties Of England, And What They Mean For Europe

    When the Conservative-led government of the last parliament started to show that it was serious about deficit-reduction and lessening the role of the state in the British economy, I turned very bullish on UK financial assets (see A Supply-Sider’s View Of The UK for a detailed exposition of this view). Perhaps unsurprisingly over the last five years the UK mid-cap index has outperformed the German and French equivalents. I admit to having had a...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: The Real Message From Labor

    So how are we to understand the less than thrilling message emanating from the labor markets of the main economies. Is this evidence of some unescapable “secular stagnation”, or is something else going on?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Post-Volatility World

    These are words that I utter with the utmost caution—this time, it really is different. I refer not to central bankers’ scurrilous efforts at monetary debasement, nor the spineless diplomacy of European political leaders, or even the cult of celebrity in the age of social media. In some guise, we have seen all of this before. No, dear reader, for something genuinely new to the modern experience, consider the right hand side of the chart below...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Why The Coming Collapse Of World Trade Should Be Celebrated

    Sustained economic growth has always gone hand-in-hand with a big rise in communications infrastructure. To explain why, assume that a country has two cities, named A and B. At the point that a modern communication infrastructure is built (road, trains, internet) then, in each case, a single line of communication is needed. Three cities implies the need for three lines; a fourth city means six lines. Ultimately, if all the cities are to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Small Is Beautiful

    At the end of the 1980s the world changed, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of China’s renaissance. The next two and a half decades were marked by a mass movement towards globalization. We now have a long enough history to determine who were the winners over those 25 years. The answer is very simple: small countries.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Of Central Bankers, Monkeys And John Law

    A revealing experiment involved monkeys being placed in a cage with a pile of nuts stashed on an upper level. Their efforts to snaffle the food caused them to be doused in water, blasted with a siren and startled by an electric shock. After a number of attempts the monkeys gave up. Later, a second group of monkeys were introduced—the new entrants made a beeline for the goodies, but were quickly beaten back by the chastened first group of monkeys...

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    How Indexation Killed Growth

    Indexing, as I have written before, is a form of socialism, since capital is allocated not as it should be—according to its marginal return—but rather according to swings in the market capitalization of the underlying assets. It is hard to think of a more stupid way to allocate this scarce resource.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Three Brothers In Arms: Wicksell, Schumpeter And Fisher

    I am often asked which of the great economists best understood the link between the economy and financial markets. Passing judgment on such giants may be presumptuous, but practical men and women of finance may want to consider being slaves to the following propagators of ideas:

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    Trying To Measure The US Dollar Short Position

    It seems to be conventional wisdom that the long-dollar trade has become worryingly “crowded”. That was certainly the message after last week’s none too startling language tweak by the Federal Reserve produced a frantic dash out of the unit. But as ever, there is what you see, and what you don’t. In this case, what is obscured may be of far greater significance than what is visible in plain sight. Here is why:

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar March 2015 - Anatole, François, Andrew & Charles

    We held our main spring seminar in London on March 17 with Anatole, François, Andrew and Charles offering their views of the global economic pulse and recent market and central bank developments.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Going Long The Yen

    If I held a decision making role within the Japanese policy apparatus, I would do everything in my power to spur a yen appreciation. Here is why:

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Hidden Tax On Savings

    Frederic Bastiat, the great 19th century French liberal thinker, observed that mediocre economists spend plenty of time talking up the immediate beneficial impact of their measures, but usually ignore the less obvious long term effects. He summarized this view with the pithy observation: “In economics, there is what you see and there is what you don’t.”

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