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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Consumer Defies Market Jitters

    Vexed US commentators have been on tenterhooks to see whether soft US growth data really could be blamed on the weather. The worry was that the winter shivers had obscured an underlying deterioration in the US outlook. In fact, an enlivened US consumer tells us that it was a temporary weather-related soft patch.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of Fed Talk & Actions

    Is the Federal Open Markets Committee playing games? Should we listen to what it says or watch what it does? Is it easing or tightening, dovish or hawkish? As the Fed moves from “all guns blazing” to a nuanced and gradual exit strategy, these questions are inevitable. We’ll do our best here to make sense of it all and chart the trajectory of US monetary policy.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Consumer Must Lead

    Back in the depths of winter when the polar vortex was causing daily life in the US to grind to a halt, we looked forward to March and April data and mused that the US economy might rebound like a coiled spring. The hope was that pent up demand would allow the US economy finally to achieve escape velocity. The alternative was another false dawn as companies and households remained hunkered down (see The Ides Of March). This week has seen the...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: What To Make Of The Surge In C&I Loans?

    In a surprising turn of events, US bank loan growth has bounced back, posting the strongest growth since 2008. After decelerating from annual growth rates of around 5% in 2012 to less than 2% last year, bank loans jumped in the first quarter of this year at an annualized rate of 9.3%. Leading the charge was a 17.5% annualized rise in commercial & industrial loans. Several clients have asked what we make of it.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Automobile? Not So Fast

    US auto sales have had a strong run and are nearly back on their pre-crisis trend. This is hardly surprising since Americans have long shown a willingness to scrimp on life’s essentials rather than give up their vehicles—through the 1930s depression they kept on driving even while relying on soup kitchens for nutrition. But how much juice is left in this purring engine of US consumption?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Fannie-ing The Flames Of A US Housing Downturn?

    The US housing recovery has had a rough run in the past nine months. First there was the taper tantrum, that drove up mortgage rates. Then the record cold winter interfered with sales and construction, highlighted once again by yesterday’s poor home sales data for February. Between the normalization of housing affordability and the extreme weather in January and February, we can expect housing construction to provide another negative...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: What If The Fed's BS Doesn't Shrink?

    The Federal Reserve’s publicly stated exit strategy has one element that is unsettling for any investor who cares to look that far ahead. The Fed calls this element a “normalization” but that mild word does little to mask the harsh reality: we are talking about the biggest contraction of a central bank balance sheet the world has ever seen.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Quarterly Strategy Chart Book - Weathering The EM Slowdown

    The emerging markets are the main contributors to global growth today, and without their momentum, the expansion in world GDP growth since 2008 would have sunk below 3% a year. Now, however, just as developed markets are finding their feet, the EM universe is stumbling.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It's All Good In America, And All Bad In China

    “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First by reflection, which is noblest. Second, by imitation, which is easiest. And third by experience, which is the bitterest.” - Confucius.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Balancing The Risks On Margin Debt

    US investors have leveraged up their portfolios like never before. Equity margin debt levels exceed the lofty peaks of the 2000 tech boom and the 2007 credit bubble. With more of the market posted as collateral, the risk is ever greater that moderate selloffs become exaggerated by margin calls and forced selling.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Future Of Money

    A month ago, Mt Gox was leading the charge as the biggest exchange for bitcoins, a hopeful new digital currency. Now it is the young currency’s biggest threat. The immediate question is, will bitcoin survive this heavy confidence blow? We should know in the coming weeks, but either way, the bigger question will remain: Does bitcoin, or any other digital currency, have what it takes to become a widely adopted money?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    No Building, No Tapering?

    The main message from the minutes of the January FOMC meeting was summed up yesterday by San Francisco Fed President John Williams, who said in a TV interview that the “hurdle is pretty high on changing the pace of the step-downs in our [asset] purchases.” But if the economic data does not improve soon, we might just find out how high is “pretty high.”

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: A Little Late For Early Cyclicals

    US consumer discretionary stocks are considered “early cyclicals” because they tend to outperform in the first two or three years of the cycle. This time around, the firms that make everything from iPhones to automobiles have outperformed for nearly five years! Are we really still in the early part of this cycle? Or are we starting to see signs of fatigue in an overextended rally? The sector is down –2.4% year to date, finally underperforming...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Continuity-Of Bad Policy

    It was a busy day on Capitol Hill yesterday. In a notable departure from the budget battles of recent years, the Republican-controlled House passed a clean debt ceiling bill to fund the Treasury for the next thirteen months (despite the fact that Paul Ryan voted against funding the budget he himself negotiated). Meanwhile, the House Financial Services Committee gave Janet Yellen her first opportunity as the new chair of the Federal Reserve to...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The ECB Readying For Stealth QE?

    The European Central Bank has a reputation for holding firepower until the eurozone is at the point of crisis. Although no crisis is apparent now, growing deflationary concerns compounded by volatile money market interest rates make today's ECB meeting worth watching.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: What Might Lead Yellen To Pause Tapering?

    As capital flees emerging markets, some foreign policymakers have begged the Federal Reserve to go easy with the tapering. Sorry guys. If Janet Yellen is anything like her predecessors such pleas will fall on deaf ears. (Just as foreign pleas a few years ago, to stop fueling global inflationary flames with the same QE programs, cut little mustard). But Yellen will be intently watching the bond market.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Yield Spread Matters For Profit Margins

    With US corporate profit margins at extreme highs, investors are on high alert for the dreaded “mean reversion.” One concern has been that after years of benefitting from extremely low interest rates, margins are going to fall as rates normalize. We don’t buy it.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deflation In 2014? Not In The US

    Curse words attract attention, as IMF managing director Christine Lagarde knows after dropping the D-bomb yesterday. Amidst her fairly balanced outlook for the global economy in 2014, it was her comments on deflation that attracted all the media attention:

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: What Is Normal In 2014?

    After years of extremes, we begin this year with many of our indicators back at normal levels. Perhaps most importantly, households have deleveraged. To be sure, income and wealth inequality remain an issue, but a steep decline in debt and a dramatic rebound in asset prices has put aggregate leverage on household balance sheets back to levels seen in the 1990s (see Is The Deleveraging Over?).

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    US Government Spending, Recent Past And Near Future

    The US looks to have reached a fiscal détente this week in the shape of a bipartisan mini-budget deal brokered by Paul Ryan and Patty Murray. The package will allow for a small rise in government spending next year, but its main effect will be to avert another Washington showdown and potential government closure for at least two years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Quarterly Strategy Chart Book - Look To Asia, Tapering Or Not

    In our previous Quarterly, we argued that investors should consider increasing their exposure to the emerging markets, and Asia in particular. The logic being that the taper tantrum sell-off in the summer was overly violent and that the valuation gap with the developed markets had grown too wide. Since then, our conviction on Asia has hardened. One reason for this is China, where a pretty decisive supply-side reform agenda has emerged in the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What More Can The ECB Do?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Good News Is Good News

    US growth data is looking up. Despite the government shutdown, manufacturing PMIs have now provided back-to-back positive surprises in both October and November. In fact, outside France and Spain, most PMIs around the globe are rising. But you wouldn’t know it by looking at your Bloomberg screens.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Profits: There Will Be No Revolution

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: A Shale Boost To Downstream Earnings

    So far it has been business as usual this earnings season, with companies managing to squeeze reasonably decent profits out of lackluster sales. In the few areas where we did see surprises, the shale gas revolution was a factor.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Can We Keep Climbing The Wall Of Worry?

    Data was mixed, Washington remained dysfunctional, but corporate earnings were decent and the Fed stayed incontinent. Despite this muddled state of affairs, equities made new highs. So it was another normal week in the US, but did we learn anything new?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How Slack Is The US Labor Market?

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Brace For US Disappointments

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Fed To Ease While Tightening

    While no major policy changes are expected at next week’s FOMC meeting, the market will leave no tea leaf unturned in the run-up. One action already garnering attention is the Federal Reserve’s testing of a new operation—the overnight fixed-rate reverse repo facility. This is an interesting new lever that the Fed may pull during its exit. It is worth understanding the context and rationale behind this new tool.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Thinking The Unthinkable

    Hitting the debt ceiling is unlikely, but quite possible. This raises the unthinkable prospect that the US might default on its debt, thereby removing the pillar upon which rests the modern global credit system, the current reserve currency, and arguably the whole fiat money system—namely, the full faith and credit of the US government.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is US Consumer Deleveraging Over?

    The Federal Reserve’s latest snapshot of US household balance sheets, contained in its Flow of Funds report, shows that net worth rose a further 1.8% in the second quarter. Meanwhile net household borrowing was flat. This is a continuation of a multi-year story. Through a combination of unprecedented debt reduction and a rebound in both equity and house prices, major progress has been made in the US household deleveraging story. In fact, we have...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: A Valuation Tool For Residential Construction

    One of the reasons the Federal Reserve delayed QE tapering last week was to allow more time to assess how the economy reacts to the rise in interest rates since May. The residential construction sector is an obvious area of focus. How will it do? My bet: OK.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Expectations All But Tapered

    Today is the big day when Ben Bernanke is expected to begin the process of finishing what he started. It has been a strange week in markets with Larry Summer’s surprise move putting attention back on the current Fed’s policy approach. Market reaction to Summers’ withdrawal from the Fed chairmanship race has been to assume that President Obama will now appoint a consensus candidate, most likely Janet Yellen (see Summer’s Officially Over)....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: America Is Ready And Willing For Tapering

    Next week Ben Bernanke is expected to announce that the US economy and its financial system are ready to tolerate a gradual tapering of the Federal Reserve’s bond purchase program. Encouragingly, the money markets, bond and equity markets, as well as business managers, all seem to agree. Confidence runs high.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Europe: Stealth Rate Hike Watch

    In January, when EMU banks began repaying the LTRO loans dished out in the heat of crisis, markets worried that this process effectively constituted a monetary tightening. We wrote at the time not to worry—repayments were a sign of health in the banking system, and with excess liquidity above €600bn, there was no danger of short rates going up (see that piece here). Indeed we recommended forgetting about the issue until excess liquidity fell...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Bond Sell-Off Has Not Overshot

    The great bond trade is now unwinding. And as is typical of bursting bubbles, there is potential for bonds to overshoot. But they have not done so yet.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Is Nigh

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Student Loans: Bubble, What Bubble? - Will Denyer & Tan Kai Xian

    Last Friday, the US enacted legislation that will peg the interest charges on student loans to 10-year treasury yields. The move headed off an automatic surge in loan rates and should ensure reasonably priced student finance for years to come. But even as Washington celebrated an outbreak of bipartisanship there were concerns that these latest reforms could wrongly incentivize young Americans to pursue higher education.

    19
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Disability And The US Job Market

    Global investors with an interest in Federal Reserve policy moves have rarely had to scrutinize the US labor market so closely. However, we wonder if a substantial part of the US employment picture is being overlooked by most observers. If so, the implication for future monetary policy decisions could be significant.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Taper Timing: What To Watch

    In case you hadn’t noticed, Ben Bernanke wants to dial back the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program later this year. This has focused intense scrutiny of the chairman’s every utterance, which is turning hard-nosed Fed-watchers into amateur psychologists. Some ask whether he will initiate a tapering of the program as a professional courtesy to his successor, while others opine on the legacy he may want to secure in the central banking...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Housing, Bonds & Ben Bernanke

    Ben Bernanke again tried to calm market nerves yesterday by stressing the conditionality of any tapering to the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing program. In particular, the Fed chairman pointed out that his committee “will be watching to see if the movement in mortgage rates has any material effect on housing.” This is important qualification since yesterday saw new data released which suggests the recent rise in prices and interest rates...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (17 July 2013)

    In the latest Five Corners biweekly review of global economics and investment:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Australia And The China Syndrome

    So for the satellite supplier economies to the Chinese juggernaut, is it simply a matter of following the leader? This morning it was announced that China’s economic growth duly slowed to an annual rate of 7.5% in 2Q13 from 7.7% in the previous period. Moreover, the latest credit data shows that China’s credit cycle has decisively turned, implying that last month’s interbank rate spike was no aberration. Dragonomics will publish a detailed look...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Control Engineers

    “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind,” so said Rudyard Kipling. When central bankers meet next month for the annual Jackson Hole shindig, they can ruminate on their success being increasingly dictated less by what they do, than what they say. Take the European Central Bank and Bank of England which in recent months have been fairly taciturn next to a loquacious Federal Reserve. Yet, by yesterday verbalizing forward...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (3 July 2013)

    In the latest Five Corners biweekly review of global economics and investment, Charles Gave expresses doubt about the supposed rebound in European industry, while Francois Chauchat looks at whether EMU peripheral bonds are a buy after recent sell-offs. We also have Will Denyer on US bonds/housing, Rosealea Yao on China's interbank drama and Cathy Holcombe on the rising emerging market middle classes. See more details below—and please click...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Will Higher Rates Kill US Housing?

    Both US house prices and interest rates have experienced big upward moves—raising the obvious question of whether a higher cost of money will derail the housing recovery. Our approach was to test affordability levels based on a range of higher interest rates. We found that the housing market can easily bear 10-year treasury yields at 3%, and may eventually bear higher rates than that, but the fast and easy gains are behind us.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    What's Wrong With An Optimistic Fed?

    The Federal Reserve made no policy changes yesterday—short rates remain near zero and quantitative easing continues at a fast clip of $85bn per month. The Fed did however adjust its economic projections, for the better—unemployment is expected to fall faster than previously thought, and inflation lower. Chairman Bernanke then spent an hour with reporters trying to clarify what this means for the future policy trajectory.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (19 June 2013)

    In the latest Five Corners biweekly review of global economics and investment:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Truth About US Rates

    Interest rates in the US are extraordinarily low. It is common to blame this situation on central bank manipulation, but Federal Reserve bond buying is only part of the story. The bigger reason for ultra-low rates is that bond markets are pricing in an assumption that the past five years of abnormally low nominal GDP growth will be repeated. We think this is unlikely: nominal GDP growth is picking up and bond yields will rise with it. The...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is It A Bond Bear Market?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (8 May 2013)

    In the latest Five Corners biweekly review of global economics and investment:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good, But Not Out Of The Woods Yet

    After weeks of relentlessly disappointing growth data, the US finally delivered a major positive release. Stronger-than-expected payroll numbers set off an equities rally and pushed up bond yields. This report comes as a relief —but we are not out of the woods yet.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (24 April 2013)

    Long-time GaveKal readers will recall a former publication called Five Corners, in which we presented a series of short takes on global economic and market developments. Today we re-launch Five Corners in a new format, which we hope will enable readers to keep closer track of our core views.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth Falters And GIPSI Bonds Rally?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New Century, New Structural Growth Rates

    In the second half of the last century, the US labor force was swelled by baby boomers and a surge of female participation. These major demographic forces shaped the economy and established growth expectations. But they have since changed dramatically. The structural growth rate of the labor force is now, and will continue to be, slow and steady. All else equal, this implies a slower and steadier structural growth rate of the economy.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (April 2013)

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    A First Non-Euro Currency Debate

    Last Thursday the Bank of Japan stunned investors with a muscular monetary response that aims to break a deflationary cycle that had seemed to condemn Japan to permanent economic decline. In this piece we debate what the new policy settings mean for investors and crucially, seek to answer the trillion-yen question of where the Japanese currency is headed.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Does Velocity Fall In Spring?

    Tolstoy said that “spring is the time of plans and projects.” Obviously, Tolstoy did not manage money as for the fourth year in a row, spring appears to be the time when US growth indicators roll over, the euro project threatens suicide, and investor risk appetite falls out of bed. To be honest, we are still scratching our heads for a solid explanation (and very much welcome comments from our wise readers). But below are a few possibilities to...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Bond Yields Are Falling

    So much for the great rotation out of bonds. With the lone exception of Italy, ten-year G7 government bond yields have dropped to new lows for the year. And the simple average yield for all G7 bonds just made a new all-time low of 1.92%. Perhaps most crucially, US treasury yields have skidded to 1.75%, decisively below the critical level of 1.84%—which served as a resistance last year and then, thus far this year, a support (see chart). We see...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Riding A Bull Market With No Conviction

    The Irish poet WB Yeats wrote, “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” We see something similar in equity markets. With the S&P 500 on Tuesday hitting a new all-time high, we clearly remain in bull market territory. Central bank easing measures such as that just announced by the Bank of Japan mean we could push higher. And yet we see plenty of evidence that these new peaks have come on the back of...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond The Sequester

    Newspaper headlines are focused on the sequester, but we are more interested in the recent positive developments in the private sector. After all, it is the private sector that truly drives the economy forward over the long run, not the government.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Is US Housing Cheap, Really?

    US homebuilder stocks were hit especially hard last week by the revelation that some Federal Reserve policymakers want an early end to quantitative easing. Such an investor response makes sense given that the US housing recovery has been fuelled by super low mortgage rates, so any “exit” from easy money must be a big negative. Follow this logic a little further and a thornier question is whether US housing, after an approximate 25% price decline...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed In The Red

    QE3 has been dubbed “QE Infinity” because it does not have an expiration date. But a growing constituency at the Federal Reserve now appears to be asking whether a third quantitative easing program was one too many. According to the minutes of January 29-30 FOMC meeting, released yesterday: “A number of participants stated that an ongoing evaluation of the efficacy, costs, and risks of asset purchases might well lead the Committee to taper or...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    US Consumers: Death By Taxes?

    A slew of tax increases went into effect in the United State on January 1st, raising concerns that the death of consumption will follow. Nearly all US consumers will be affected—either by the 2 percentage point increase in the payroll tax, the 4.6pp rise of the top marginal tax rate, the new Medicare surtax, higher capital gain and dividend taxes, etc. Without a doubt, this is a significant headwind for US consumption. But there are two major...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    US Dipping Into Recession? Not Yet

    US GDP just contracted for the first time since the 2007-09 recession. It was a mere –0.1% decline, but this is still rather unsettling given there is only one example to be found over the last 50 years, in 1977, when US GDP growth dipped below zero without marking the start of a recession. And yet markets shrugged off this shocking news—as they should have. Behind the poor headline number, the components indicate that underlying domestic growth...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Goldilocks LTRO Scenario?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Big Cap Effect Is Not About To Ebb

    Small firms, and very often newly formed endeavors, have long fuelled job growth in the US. Indeed, it has become axiomatic in public discourse that the business of America is small business. Hence, a reduction in the number of startups and the tendency for small firms to employ fewer workers has sparked a predictable blame game: those with a “declinist” view contend that the US is losing its innovative edge, mainstream economists point to...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    A Pulse From US Manufacturing

    Maybe the patient lives. 2013 has already started to deliver early indications that we are indeed at an inflection point in global growth. Canada reported yesterday that its Ivey PMI rebounded to an expansionary level of 52.8 in December, from 47.5; respondents to Germany’s IFO survey of business expectations (highly correlated to German exports) has risen for two straight months. And while less obvious, US data is also beginning to stir. Recent...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Seminars: Charles & Anatole Debate, Plus Francois, Will, Nate and Tom

    We sent a big gang to Boston and New York for our pre-Christmas seminars this year. Charles and Anatole debated on Keynesianism and the true scope of government participation in OECD economies. Francois explained his nearly singular view within GaveKal that European growth is set for take-off (at least in some parts). Will Denyer examined the shifting drivers of the US economy. Nate looked at why shale gas has not taken off in China, and Tom...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A New Threat To The US Recovery

    Improvements in the US domestic sector have raised hopes that the US will pull the global economy out of its current funk. But what if the cycle is working in reverse—with weakness beyond American shores feeding back to undermine the nascent recovery at home? After 37 straight months of growth, employment in US manufacturing contracted in November for the first time since 2009, according to ISM. This raises the concern that weak growth in the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Bernanke Turning Hawkish?

    Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke rattled markets yesterday when he explained why the potential growth rate of the US economy appears to have declined while the structural unemployment rate has risen. The initial reaction from equity markets was negative, for an obvious reason: If the chairman is now raising his target unemployment rate, this implies a shorter shelf-life for extremely easy monetary policies.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Tax Changes In A Brave New World

    It is a common complaint that US corporations are sitting on exceptional piles of cash, while the domestic economy experiences lackluster growth in capital spending and employment. With weak growth comes lower tax revenues. As such, policymakers are looking at new ways to raise revenues from corporates and from individuals (mostly the wealthiest). But we live in a “Brave New World” of global operations, fragmented supply chains, and light,...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Four More Years

    The American electorate may share the same national bed, but they have vastly different dreams. Our take on the election’s significance is similarly bifurcated—a cathartic political cleansing allowing for a deal on the fiscal cliff (Anatole) to disaster (Charles). Arthur asks whether the Republican Party can win nationally without reconciling itself to America’s changed demographics and the realities of the new knowledge-intense economy. Will...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    US Recovery Under New Leadership

    Friday’s 3Q GDP report tells a simple story about the US economy—namely that the recovery has come under new leadership. Step aside manufacturing and exports, enter US housing rebound.

    8
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    US Tech: The Modern Day Safe Haven

    3
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    The Fed's Money Tree

    QE3 has set off a debate not just over whether this is good or bad (most here agree it is bad) but on what are the short– vs long-term effects on economies as well as markets. Louis and Charles make the contrarian argument that open-ended and more aggressive quantitative easing will ultimately take away, rather than add, to global liquidity, and warn that investors should prepare for a dollar crisis further down the line. Anatole and Francois...

    8
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    More Liquidity May Burst The Dam

    Whatever else you may think of Ben Bernanke you cannot accuse him of obfuscation—QE3 was telegraphed in his Jackson Hole speech and yesterday the Federal Reserve delivered with a promise to buy $40bn of mortgage backed securities a month while allowing its curve-flattening treasury purchase program (Operation Twist) to expire as planned in December. The short term impact on risk assets is fairly clear; what worries us is the longer term...

    10
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    QE3: Now Or Later?

    4
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    US Housing: It's The Inventory Stupid

    Here’s a conundrum for any economy watcher. The US housing recovery has gathered steam during 2012, and yet the broad economy remains weak as was highlighted by Friday’s 2Q12 GDP release which put growth at a measly 1.5%. So what gives?

    6
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    The Next American Revolution

    Our little firm has spent much of the last decade telling investors to look east. Asia has thrived on the back of cheap labor which has cemented its status as an industrial powerhouse. But as countries such as China seek the good life, pushing incomes and consumption higher, other economies will be better placed to compete. We are increasingly convinced that the defining comparative advantage of the next decade will be having access to the...

    10
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    ZIRP Goes To Europe

    Central banks have set the bar high for what is now considered “major monetary easing”. A bread-and-butter 25bp rate cut no longer qualifies, at least not usually. But last week the ECB not only cut the rate at which it lends to banks by 25bp to 0.75%, it also chopped the rate it pays on deposits by 25bp—to zero. The move focused attention on Mario Draghi’s assertive approach to policy, especially amid signs that deposits are fleeing the ECB....

    3
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    No Environment For A Rerating

    8
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    A Big Week For US Growth Data

    This week will deliver some potential market-moving data releases from the world’s largest economy. The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing PMI is released today, the ISM non-manufacturing PMI and ADP’s private employment estimate Thursday, and official payrolls Friday. Unfortunately, a number of the early signs do not look good, especially in manufacturing.

    1
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    Oil And Equities Part Ways?

    Oil and equity prices have risen and fallen in tandem since the market recovery started in March 2009. This was based largely on changes to the growth outlook and risk appetites (with the turns often marked by monetary or fiscal policy changes). But these two markets have not always exhibited such a strong correlation. This leaves open the question of when this relationship might break down: was it June 2012? After all, oil is now down -12% MTD...

    0
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    Fed's Inflation Complacency Points To More Easing

    While we may not like it, the odds have risen that the Federal Reserve will provide additional monetary stimulus. This could take the form of longer rate guidance, an extension of Operation Twist, or even QE3, and could come as soon as next week’s FOMC meeting. The odds have risen for two reasons: 1) Vice Chair Janet Yellen says so, and 2) medium-term inflation expectations have slipped.

    1
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    Staring Into An Abyss, Tax Rises Stare Back

    0
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    Please-No More Liquidity Fixes--by Will Denyer

    As we hear talk of a global central bank coordinated action to solve Europe’s market malaise, we have to ask, to what purpose? Large liquidity injections once served to keep Europe’s financial system alive until the continent’s economies sputtered back to life. The problem is, this never happened. Now the ECB’s substantial liquidity programs instead serve the purpose of providing leaders more stall time before acting. The monetary union is...

    4
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    US Corporate Profits: On The Roof Or In The Stratosphere?

    One of the biggest weights on US equity prices is, ironically, record profits. Based on the maxim that nothing good lasts forever, the fear is that record margins will inevitably be taken down a peg. A popular way to illustrate the situation is to show corporate profits’ “share” of gross national income (product). As the red line in the first chart below shows, the corporate profits to GNI ratio has gone through the roof recently. Many...

    20
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    US GDP: Soft But Steady As She Goes

    Friday’s US GDP report offered bulls mild disappointment and raised concerns that the recovery is a sub-par affair. First quarter growth was 2.2% compared to expectations of 2.5% and a 3.0% expansion in the last quarter of 2011. The dull economic numbers contrasted sharply with what we are seeing in corporate earnings—75% of reported earnings thus far have beat expectations, with earnings up on average by 6.7% QoQ, or an annualized rate of +27...

    1
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    Fiscal Cliffs And Political Guardrails

    5
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    Markets Question Liquidity Flow

    The last few days remind us that markets are made at the margin. Central bankers are still far from being restrictive, or hawkish. But there has been a marginal shift in rhetoric from “aggressively dovish” to “reluctantly dovish”—for example, the ECB’s expressed concern about rising inflation after deciding to hold policy rates, while the Federal Reserve’s recent communiqué highlights growing reluctance within the FOMC for further monetary...

    0
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    New Century, New Labor Market

    Stronger employment numbers and a falling jobless rate over the past several months have spurred hopes that the US economy is finally on the path to a broad-based recovery. The latest good news came from payroll processor ADP, which estimates that 216,000 new private sector jobs were created in February, bringing the 4-month moving average to 220,000 jobs a month, the highest rate of this cycle. The strong employment numbers support our call...

    9
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    Sterilized QE?

    A WSJ article which quoted unnamed Fed officials as weighing another “novel bond-buying move” has unsurprisingly received a lot of attention. Any reader who glanced through our latest QSCB: The Global Bond Yield Conundrum, will know we think the US needs another round of QE like it needs a hole in the head. But the form of sterilization discussed in the WSJ article is actually long overdue, and could very well be implemented without further bond...

    2
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    QSCB: The Global Bond Yield Conundrum

    2
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    US Deleveraging: Still A Long Road Ahead

    It is three years since the nadir of the financial crisis that brought the US household credit boom to an abrupt stop. After the collapse in asset prices sent leverage ratios into the stratosphere in 2009, US consumers have been gradually reducing their debt; meanwhile the recovery in equity markets has done even more to bring leverage ratios back down. But US consumers have a lot more deleveraging to do. At best, household leverage is only...

    12
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    Less Gov't, More Private Growth

    8
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    The ECB’s 489 Billion Euro Christmas Gift

    After much anticipation, 523 banks tapped the ECB for €489bn of its new 3 year loans-significantly exceeding market expectations closer to €300bn. This confirms our initial take that this new facility, with longer duration loans and easier collateral requirements, is a major development. But what exactly does it accomplish?

    0
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    Daily - Further Signs of a "Two Speed" US Economy

    The latest data from the US is comforting in two ways. First, with the shadow that Europe’s unresolvable crisis is casting over the global economy, any offsetting role that the US can play is obviously welcome. Second, the jobs data from the US fit the pattern of a “two-tiered” economic recovery; in other words, one which is led by the non-leveraged sectors (see our latest monthly chart book, USA: A Two-Speed Economy). This is crucial because...

    0
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    Daily - US Swaplines: What a Difference a Few Basis Points Make

    It would be easy to write off this week’s news on USD swaplines as a bit of technical trickery aimed at boosting market sentiment without any real costs. In fact, the adjustment to the Fed’s swap facility changed the very nature of the program in a way that greatly enhances its significance in today’s global financial environment. At the prior cost of 100bp over OIS, the USD swaps were analogous to high-deductible, catastrophic insurance—only to...

    3
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    The ECB Is Already Doing QE, Its Own Way

    The current pleas for the ECB to start “quantitative easing” often miss one important detail: the ECB is already conducting QE, in every way but in name. The two core elements of what is commonly referred to as QE are: 1) the expansion of the asset side of a central bank’s balance sheet, well beyond what is required to simply target short-term policy rates and with the aim of easing credit conditions; and 2) the expansion of a central bank’s...

    1
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