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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: How Much Longer For Low Rates?

    For decades fixed income and equity markets have enjoyed a secular bull market, propelled higher by low real long term interest rates, depressed by a glut of global savings. In this Strategy Monthly, Will Denyer updates his Capital Provider Ratio, a powerful demographic tool which indicates that the growth of global excess savings has peaked, and that the glut will soon begin to dry up, with far-reaching consequences for global asset markets.

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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Demographics And The Savings Glut

    Slow-moving demographic trends have a big impact on asset prices. For the last 35 years, the age structure of the world’s population has created a global savings glut which has propelled secular bull markets in both equities and bonds. Now that demographic tailwind is fading. In a few years it is likely to reverse.

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  • Gavekal Research

    The Savings Glut’s Long Life And Slow Death

    Slow-moving demographic trends have a big impact on asset prices. For the last 35 years, the age structure of the world’s population has created a global savings glut which has propelled secular bull markets in both equities and bonds. Now that demographic tailwind is fading. In a few years it is likely to reverse. In this paper Will introduces a new measure, the Capital Providers Ratio, which relates the impending demographic shifts to the...

    22
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    Gavekal Research

    No Closer To Effective Tax Reform

    The much-anticipated US tax reform plan from “the big six” (officials from the administration, House and Senate) has landed. What a disappointment it is. The ball has barely been pushed forward at all. It thus seems unlikely the US will get major tax reform. And if it does, it is likely to be much less effective than the plans previously proposed by the House Republicans.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    QT And The Treasury Quandary

    The Federal Reserve has confirmed that quantitative tightening will begin next month as it gradually lowers its holding of treasuries and mortgage-backed securities. For investors, the question is whether they should “fight the Fed” by owning assets that are now out of favor with the central bank. I would argue that such a formulation is wrong and these are good times to be mitigating risk by picking up treasuries, probably of shorter duration.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    What Next From Washington?

    Despite all the bickering in Washington, kicking cans is still a bipartisan sport. Yesterday, President Donald Trump sided with the Democrats in a deal to temporarily raise the debt limit and fund the government for three more months. Republican leaders wanted to kick the can further down the road, but will accept the president’s lead. With the issue temporarily parked, Trump jumped on Air Force One and in North Dakota today he is expected to...

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    Gavekal Research

    Good News At The NIPA Coal Face

    The so-called NIPA data (national income and product accounts) offers a cleansed account of US profitability as the effects of inflation and currency moves are stripped out. Thus, while nominal profits reported by S&P 500 companies have rebounded since early 2016, no such signal has emerged from the NIPA numbers—until now. This matters as in late-cycle situations it is common for my preferred inflation-adjusted version of NIPA profits to...

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    Gavekal Research

    It Is Not Slack Weighing On Wages

    How can a labor market be very tight, yet have barely any wage growth? In today’s daily Nick tackled this for the UK and found a mix of universal and idiosyncratic causes. For the US and Japan a frequent refrain is that official data hugely understates the potential size of the workforce and so a ready source of “slack”. Will and Udith beg to differ.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The US Property Engine Fire Up?

    Two years ago banks started to make it harder for US construction firms to borrow and soon after activity began to fizzle. While blame has been pinned on skilled worker shortages and rising costs of both land and materials, KX and Will think financing was the key issue. The good news is that banks seem to be again loosening their purse strings.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Liquidity: More Bad News Than Good

    Gavekal has long maintained that bull markets rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. Now with the Fed set to tighten further in an environment of weak bank credit growth, KX and Will warn that the liquidity pillar which has done so much to support the current bull market in US equities is looking increasingly shaky. That is especially ominous, given that valuations are no longer cheap and catch-up growth is played out for this...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The Payrolls Paradox: Tight Labor But Weak Wage Growth

    As usual the market focused closely on the headline number in last Friday’s employment report, which saw non-farm payrolls come in at a stronger than expected 220,000 in June. As usual, we caution against reading too much into any one month’s figures, for the reasons Anatole has explained so elegantly (see Beyond The March Payrolls Soft Patch). Instead we prefer to take a step back and to attempt to answer the two big questions currently hanging...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    What Could Turn Around The US Business Cycle? Hint: Not Much

    As often happens, US data is sending mixed messages. Yesterday’s ADP report showed weak job growth in June, despite the latest ISM service sector PMI being decidedly perky. Investing according to the latest high-frequency growth data is a good way to get whiplash. Instead, let’s take a step back and review the US economy’s overall positioning.

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    Gavekal Research

    Not Getting Paid To Take Credit Risk

    When things cannot get any better, they rarely do. Credit spreads for both high-yield and investment-grade corporate bonds are back near lows last seen just before the onset of previous financial busts. Will the calm soon give way to another perfect storm? Worryingly, corporate fundamentals are already deteriorating.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed's Balance Sheet Contraction

    As universally expected, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates by another 25bp yesterday. It also published details about its plan to start shrinking its balance sheet before the end of this year. While this too was widely expected, there remain plenty of questions about how the markets will respond. With no precedents for the Fed’s impending move to contract its bloated balance sheet, no one can be entirely confident how the market will...

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    Gavekal Research

    Policy & Productivity: How To Make America Great Again

    A critical and much-debated question about the US economy is whether it is permanently stuck in a “new normal” of 2-2.5% annual growth—about a point below the 3.2% average growth rate in 1970-2000—or if it can regain its previous luster. Will assesses arguments from both the upbeat techno-optimists and the grizzled growth skeptics and updates his own view based on US policymaking in the age of Trump.

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    Gavekal Research

    Still No Real Recovery In US Profits

    After a very strong corporate earnings season, Friday delivered the first estimate of profits as tallied by the US national income and product accounts, or NIPA. Unfortunately, the NIPA data pours cold water over the notion that the US is seeing a real, widespread recovery in profitability. The nonfinancial corporate sector of the US economy (not exactly a niche segment) is experiencing nothing of the sort. Instead, real profitability continues...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    What The Fed Really, Really Means

    The Federal Open Market Committee has fired the starting gun on its plan to start shrinking the US central bank’s balance sheet before the year is out. The language was coy, but indicated a consensus that outright contraction will start so long as the trajectory of growth and the key policy interest rate matches the committee’s expectations.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Global Goldilocks And The Two Bears

    Markets seem convinced that a Global Goldilocks scenario of “just right” growth and rising corporate earnings is unfolding. This is plausible, but a careful review of the US economy suggests that two far more bearish outcomes are also possible. Will Denyer reviews the case for all three scenarios and recommends reducing risk exposure, especially in the US.

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    Gavekal Research

    Taxing Times In The US

    The big news this week is the lack of news. Tectonic changes—that inspired both hope and fear—now look less likely to materialize. The first round result in France’s presidential election suggests that the centrist, pro-euro Emmanuel Macron will be the next head of state, rather than the disruptive Marine Le Pen—no révolution in Europe. Then yesterday Donald Trump revealed his much anticipated tax plan. It only served to show how little progress...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Threats To The US Bull Market

    I have spent the last few weeks traveling around Europe telling clients to reduce risk exposure—at least to US equities, if not globally. I see four potential threats to the US bull market, and while none is certain, the odds are high that at least one of them spoils the party. Let’s review:

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — March 2017

    In Gavekal’s seminar in London last week Will Denyer, Charles Gave, Tom Miller and Anatole Kaletsky presented their macroeconomic outlooks and offered investors asset allocation advice.

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    Gavekal Research

    Will Washington Disappoint?

    Equity markets have pretty much straight lined higher since the US election on hopes for market-friendly tax cuts, health care reform, and broad deregulation. Worries about high import tariffs and other potential growth-sapping measures have been set to one side. In short, investors have been counting on “Trump without the bad stuff”. With the S&P 500 yesterday sliding -1.2%—the first fall of more than -1% since November’s election—they now...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Profit Illusion

    Inflation has a way of making things look better than they really are. This is especially true of corporate profits. After a dismal first half last year, S&P 500 companies reported an earnings recovery in 2H16. In the final quarter, they posted profit growth of 6% YoY (with or without financials). Alas, this recovery appears to be a mirage, caused by accelerating inflation. Using official flow of funds data for the domestic non-financial...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Are Border Adjustments Protectionist?

    The introduction of border adjustments into the US tax code is by far the most controversial part of the House Republicans’ “blueprint” for tax reform—with good reason. This reform alone would be a game-changer, with many winners and losers. This is why, like all major tax reforms, it faces an uphill battle to become law, and why it may never happen. But the same was said of a Donald Trump presidency, and of Brexit. So, investors still need to...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar — February 2017

    Gavekal’s global macroeconomic seminar in Hong Kong in February featured Anatole Kaletsky, Will Denyer and Louis-Vincent Gave. They presented on the global investment outlook under a Trump presidency, the decline in US productivity, and the sustainability of the "Trumpflation" rally.

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    Gavekal Research

    Border Tax Adjustments In Context

    US president Donald Trump moved a step closer to realizing his “America first” trade policy yesterday, promising a 20% tax on imports from Mexico. However, rather than an outright tariff on imports, it is looking increasingly likely that the new levy will come in the form of a border tax adjustment, as envisaged by the House Republican majority as part of a wider US tax reform program. In theory, border tax adjustments should be trade-neutral,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump May Yet Learn To Like Border Adjustments

    Last week, Donald Trump dismissed border tax adjustments as “too complicated”. He may yet reconsider. If the newly-installed president has one dominant policy objective, it is to make the US more attractive as a destination for investment and as a location for manufacturing. Alongside deregulation and cutting the US corporate tax rate, imposing border tax adjustments along the lines proposed by the House Republicans is one of the simplest and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research January Call

    Charles Gave argued that Donald Trump’s protectionist policy could lead to a breakdown of the post-1971 fiat money system that is based on a US dollar standard. Will Denyer deconstructed the likely workings of a new trade taxation regime in the US and explained what that means for currencies. Arthur Kroeber outlined the likely Chinese response to a US trade broadside and argued that Beijing was decently well placed to weather the attack.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tax Reform And The Dollar: It’s Not So Straightforward

    Tax reform is high on the agenda both for US president-elect Donald Trump and for the new session of Congress that began earlier this month. Among the reform proposals that could most affect investors are those advanced by the House Republicans, which many commentators have argued could cause a substantial exchange rate appreciation of the US dollar. In theory—all else being equal—this would be true. But our examination of current exchange rate...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Equity Dilemma

    On the first trading day of the year, we learnt that the Trump trade remains very much alive. The S&P 500 rose 0.8%, 10-year treasury yields inched up 1.3bp and the DXY US dollar index climbed 0.4%. While investors seem focused on the positive ramifications of a Donald Trump presidency, the year ahead is full of uncertainty—with changes in store for fiscal, monetary, regulatory and trade policies, all of which will occur in the context of a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Post-Fed Risk Of Sector Rotation

    As expected, the US Federal Reserve went ahead and raised its benchmark interest rate by 25bp yesterday. Less widely expected was the positive tone of the Fed’s comments on the economic outlook, and its slightly more hawkish view on the trajectory of rates, with policymakers now projecting three rate increases next year rather than two. Fed chair Janet Yellen described the changes as “tiny”. But the market reaction—10-year treasury yields rose...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Cash Repatriation Won’t Trigger A New Buyback Boom

    With the incoming US administration promising big tax breaks on the repatriation of corporate cash piles held overseas, Wall Street is confidently predicting a renewed equity market buyback boom in 2017. On first hearing, this sounds like a reasonable expectation. For one thing, in recent years US companies have consistently chosen to plough their retained earnings—and a sizable amount of debt—into share buybacks, rather than into investment in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Preparing For The Trumped-Up Economy

    Markets have been on a startling trajectory since Donald Trump upended investors’ assumptions with his win in the US presidential election. In this issue of the Monthly two Gavekal partners ask whether the macro environment really has fundamentally shifted due to the emerging policy platform of the president-elect.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Wicksellian Spread Update

    US economic growth and corporate profits both rebounded in the third quarter. Yesterday the Bureau of Economic Analysis revised its number for 3Q16 growth in gross domestic product up from 2.9% to 3.2% year-on-year. At the same time the BEA also released its first estimate of 3Q corporate profits, which at first glance also looked positive. For example, profits in the domestic non-financial sector jumped by an annualized 24% in 3Q, after falling...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Cautionary Note On US Housing

    After months of anemic activity, US homebuilding picked up in October. This is a welcome development, given that residential construction is a key leading indicator for the overall economy, and that lately it has been close to sending a recession signal (see On The Brink Of Recession). However, the magnitude of the improvement should not be overstated. While housing starts did post the biggest monthly increase since 1982, this is a volatile...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump’s Tax Plans And The Dollar

    Following last week’s US election result, the US dollar—as represented by the DXY index—has risen to test the upper bound of the range that has prevailed since the first quarter of 2015. At these levels the US currency looks overvalued, both in real effective exchange rate terms against other major currencies, and on a purchasing power parity basis. Yet it would be premature to bet against a break-out to the upside. Although the dollar’s REER is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump’s Bond Market Correction

    The new US leadership was always likely to inherit a bond market correction. Now, the Republicans’ clean sweep in winning control of the White House and both houses of Congress significantly increases the odds of a deep bond market sell-off. Which in turn will be likely to knock equities down a few notches.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Will Denyer: Assessing US Recession Risk

    Despite recent headline data releases being mildly encouraging, Will is worried that the US economy is limping toward recession territory. In this video interview he discusses his framework for assessing the US economy and proposes investment strategies to deal with what he sees as the two most likely scenarios; namely, an outright contraction or a mild growth pick-up associated with rising inflation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On The Brink Of Recession

    Full steam ahead, then? Friday’s release of the first GDP estimate for 3Q16 headline showed US growth rising to an annualized 2.9%, up from 1.4% in 2Q and 0.8% in 1Q. On the face of it, this reading points to the US economy emerging from yet another soft patch, and so backing away from the recession frontier. Not so fast. A close look at the underlying components of the GDP report reveals the US as being perilously close to that threshold.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Goldilocks Scenario?

    Over the last seven years global investors have benefited greatly from a combination of moderate growth and non-threatening inflation, allowing for constantly loose monetary policy. Yet for the US, we are increasingly concerned that, one way or another, this “Goldilocks scenario” is about to come to an end. Here’s why:

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    What Next For Libor Rates?

    The Federal Reserve has not hiked rates this year, but that has not stopped funding cost for US companies and foreign banks from rising. While risk-free rates have barely budged, 3-month LIBOR is up 30bp YTD from 0.6% to 0.9%. This widening of short-term credit spread stems from (i) stress in Europe’s banking sector, and (ii) fund flows ahead of a regulatory overhaul of US “prime” money market funds, which took effect on Friday (see Ripples In...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Rising Odds Of A US Recession

    We are on recession watch after yesterday’s release of September’s NFIB small business optimism survey. It was not the headline number which got us worried—that ticked down from 94.4 to 94.1. Rather, it was the significant drop in the job openings component—from 30 to 24, or from a cyclical high to the lowest level in 15 months. This suggests that demand for US labor may be rolling over, which is concerning indeed.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Will & KX: Soft Growth And Volatile Markets

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Wicksell’s Portfolio

    Will has spent much of the last year developing a return-on-capital theory of US economic cycles with a particular focus on recession turning points. The logical extension of this work is to apply it to the task of portfolio construction and more particularly to the current US market situation.

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Rebalance Away From US Equities

    Yesterday the S&P 500 closed at a year-to-date high of 2,094, up 14.5% from its February 11 low. Now comes the real test of investor confidence. At its current level the index is just 1.7% below its all-time high, set on May 21 last year. Since then the market has tried and failed on four occasions to surpass that level, in June and July, and then following the summer’s sell-off, in November and December. With the market apparently poised...

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