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    Gavekal Research

    The Signal In US Market Cap

    The ratio of US stock market capitalization to US gross domestic product has long been a favorite indicator for many investors. The great Warren Buffet himself endorsed it in 2001 as “probably the best single measure of where valuations stand.” But we think we can improve on it. Recent history has shown that it is more appropriate, and more useful, to value US stocks against global GDP. Looking at this measure today we find one more reason to...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Resolute US Motors On

    January saw the oil and gas industry fire more workers than in any period since the 2008 recession. Viewed in this context the overall pace of job growth in the US is remarkably robust. The January jobs report saw non-farm payrolls grow by 257,000, far ahead of the expected 228,000 and confirming 11 straight months of job gains above 200,000. It also reinforces the point that the energy sector is a fairly small part of the US economy, and the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: An Earnings Season Divided

    Having passed the halfway stage of the 4Q14 earnings season there is a hint of disappointment in the air. On a median basis, sales and earnings grew 4.0% YoY and 6.0% respectively, down from 5% and 10% in 3Q. Unsurprisingly, the misses have mostly come from energy firms and those players which rely on overseas markets, and so suffer from a strong US dollar.

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    Gavekal Research

    US Housing Gets Interesting Again

    You’d think the US housing market should be humming along nicely. Economic growth is decent even as worries of deflation in overseas markets help push long-dated bond yields to record lows, so cutting the cost of home finance. The collapse in oil prices has given households money to spend and pushed consumer confidence readings for January to a post-crisis high. Last week’s GDP report for 4Q14 showed personal consumption growing at an impressive...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Turning Cautious on US Equities

    Given their remarkable performance over the last four years, can US equities really continue to outperform global peers? Recent developments give cause for concern as market technicals look weak and earnings announcements for bellwether stocks have come in lackluster. Earlier this week Louis asked some basic questions about US equity market leadership (see Does It Still Make Sense To Overweight US Equities?). We share his concern not because we...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: What If The Fed Really Did Hike This Year?

    Since making its first rate cut in September 2007, the Federal Reserve has delivered seven years of the most intense monetary easing that modern economies have experienced. Now, the world must grapple with the exit strategy. To be sure, that moment of reckoning could be delayed by factors that include lower oil prices, a higher dollar and renewed risk of a Grexit. But, unlike a certain central bank from a country noted for its chocolate and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Australia, The Next Shoe To Drop

    Central bankers are ditching managerial gradualism in their monetary policy communication and are getting serious. Switzerland, Denmark, India and now Canada have all made surprise interest rate moves in recent days—okay, the European Central Bank continues to drip-feed its every thought to friendly journalists, but the sheer scale of the adjustment taking place in relative global prices means that policymakers must respond swiftly to events....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Positioning Prior To The ECB Decision

    With the European Central Bank set to make its big announcement on quantitative easing tomorrow, the market is already pricing in a game changer. This makes portfolio positioning today a difficult task. Lofty expectations have increased the odds of disappointment, and yet investors can be excused for not wanting to position themselves for a fight with the ECB—after all, it could actually decide to fire up its printing presses in earnest. We have...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Who Will Profit From Eurozone QE?

    Finally, the European Central Bank is expected to launch its first program of full-blown quantitative easing, buying sovereign bonds outright with freshly-printed euros. The announcement could come as soon as this Thursday’s policy meeting. But there are big questions still unanswered over how exactly to conduct QE in a currency union made up of supposedly independent countries and autonomous governments.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: The Economic Ripple Of Cheaper Oil

    Some worry that while US consumers are today benefitting from lower fuel costs, this will be trumped by mass layoffs as the shale energy boom goes bust. We don’t buy it. The shale boom is certainly going to bust, but the size of the US energy sector should not be over-estimated and nor should the positive effects that tend to follow oil price declines be underestimated.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil And US Contagion Risks

    Oil prices are 50% lower than last summer and it is not clear that the rout is over. Such a dramatic price adjustment in what is arguably the most essential commodity to modern life will inevitably shape the economic and investment landscape in 2015. In the case of the world’s largest oil consumer, our view has been that lower oil prices reinforce the case for a sustained US recovery. Our proviso to this fairly cheery prognosis is that the...

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    Gavekal Research

    Our Holiday Reading List

    For the third year we are publishing a year-end books round-up. The topics covered by the 17 books in our compendium include hardy Gavekal perennials such as economics, politics and the effect of technological transformation on modern life. In addition Charles considers ancient Rome’s decline due to its apparent embrace of socialism over liberalism. Louis kicks us off with a look at the roots of our most basic human urges.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Sources Of US Purchasing Power

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar December 2014 - Charles, Francois, Tom & Will

    We held our winter seminar in New York on December 5 with Charles, Francois, Tom and Will offering their views of the global economic pulse and recent market developments.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: US Capex Will Grow Despite Energy Sector Cuts

    The relentless decline of oil prices promises to be a key variable impacting economic activity in 2015. The positive implication for consumers is clear. The implication for capital spending growth is less obvious. Our view is that the outlook for overall US capital spending is bright, despite the likely collapse of oil-related capex. In fact, it may be brighter because of the collapse in oil prices.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: United States: Capital Spending Is Picking Up

    Corporate America has been extraordinarily profitable through the post-2009 recovery, with the latest earnings season once again surprising on the upside. Yet, economy watchers have been frustrated that companies have not used this profitability to fund a capital spending spree. Instead, they have opted to buy back shares and pursue mergers and acquisitions. Our view—considering the economic circumstances—is that this was rational behavior. But...

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    Gavekal Research

    Global Central Banks Are Driving Appetite For US Cyclicals

    The rebound in US equities since their mid-October trough has been impressive. After giving up almost all its year to date gains in just four weeks, the S&P 500 snapped back even more quickly, ending October at a new record high. Since then, it has extended its advance to notch up a YTD gain of 12%. Yet, until just a few days ago, the relative performance of sectors within the index indicated a degree of caution on the part of investors....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: To The Consumer Go The Spoils Of Shale

    The US shale energy revolution will continue to confer economic benefits, but a reordering of the main winners and losers is unfolding. With the WTI benchmark at $77/barrel and seemingly headed lower, the US shale oil drilling industry is set for a significant slowdown. That is bad news for the energy companies, equipment suppliers and those states with heavy exposure to the sector—all of which have had a great few years (see Is The Shale Boom...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Most Reliable Source Of Demand

    The strong third quarter growth in US gross domestic product announced yesterday—a 3.5% annualized rate—not only suggested that the American economy is on a sustainable upward trajectory; it also confirmed that the Federal Reserve’s decision to end quantitative easing is appropriate. Although the faster-than-expected headline growth figure was partly driven by government spending, the two key engines of the economy—business capital spending and...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Walking Without The QE Crutch

    After three rounds, six years and some US$3.7trn in asset purchases, the US Federal Reserve yesterday finally called time on its program of quantitative easing, and shifted its language on the US labor market from ultra-dovish to something slightly closer to neutral. Investors took the news in their stride, largely untroubled by the Fed’s confirmation that it is to take away what many had long regarded as an essential crutch for asset prices....

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Shale Boom Turning To Bust?

    America’s shale bonanza has been one of the great success stories of the last ten years. Since the mid-2000s, the US energy industry has transformed itself, as rising international energy prices and advances in horizontal drilling made it feasible to exploit vast hydrocarbon resources locked away in the shale beds which underlie much of the country east of the Rockies. As companies drilled new wells by the thousand, domestic production soared,...

    15
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    Gavekal Research

    Fed To The Rescue?

    “Lord, grant me chastity and continence, but not yet.” That prayer from a young Saint Augustine sprung to mind when listening to St. Louis’ Fed president, James Bullard, suggest yesterday that the Federal Reserve may extend its quantitative easing program beyond the planned end date on October 29. Bullard thinks the Fed should “invoke that clause about it being data dependent” and keep buying $15bn worth of treasuries and mortgage bonds, at...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (October 15): The Equity Rout

    Overview: François Chauchat asks whether a US recovery is enough to drive global equity markets or has the world changed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Domestic Plays Beat Multinationals

    The current sell-off has left few places to hide, but some areas have done worse than others. Small caps have underperformed large caps; cyclicals have fallen versus defensives; and foreign markets have done worse than the US (especially in US dollar terms). While our clients have surely given a lot of thought to these trends, today we suggest dividing the US equity market another way: between ‘domestics’ and ‘multinationals’.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Seek refuge In The US

    Markets have suffered a significant risk-off move in the last month. US equities have fallen as much as –3.8%; European stocks are down -6% in euro terms and –8% in US dollar terms, and government bonds have been bid up while credit spreads have widened. Readers are surely wondering what to do now: Buy the dip, or sell everything before this turns into a full-on bear market? Hold steady, or adjust portfolios? To answer these questions, we have...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Beware The Small Cap Energy Effect - Will Denyer & Tan Kai Xian

    The US hydrocarbon industry continues to suffer weak natural gas prices and must wait until 2016 before new LNG export terminals allow more gas to be shipped overseas. Hence, active production rigs in areas such as Texas and North Dakota are increasingly being used to extract oil. The expansion of US crude production has seen output reach 8.6mn barrels per day, back to levels seen in the 1980s; and the rig count continues to rise. But if this is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Can Working Women Revitalize Japan?

    In his reshuffle earlier this month, prime minister Shinzo Abe appointed five women to Japan’s cabinet. By more than doubling the number of senior ministerial posts held by women, Abe was hoping to lend some extra impetus to the ‘third arrow’ of his ‘Abenomics’ program to revitalize Japan’s economy. The first two arrows—fiscal and monetary stimuli—have succeeded in weakening the yen to a six year low against the US dollar, returning Japan to...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed And The Volatility Conundrum

    As investors digested the utterances from yesterday’s FOMC meeting, the broad US dollar index jumped a meaty 1%, gaining against every major currency. At first glance, such a volatile reaction seems odd. After all, the statement was an effective non-event—just another well telegraphed $10bn tapering of asset purchases, that leaves the Federal Reserve on course to end its quantitative easing program next month. If anything, this could have been...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Cutting Through The Noise: A New Inflation Indicator

    The outlook for US inflation and monetary policy was already cloudy, even before the Federal Reserve further muddied the waters yesterday with its conflicting signals. To help clients pierce through the haze, Will and KX have developed a new composite diffusion index to provide a reliable leading indicator of US consumer inflation, which they are publishing for the first time in today’s Chartbook. Based on five components from both the money and...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Maturing US Recovery, Policy & Markets

    World markets are jittery going into a two day Federal Reserve meeting on the “good-is-bad” concern that a sustained recovery will produce a faster than expected move toward monetary tightening. In this chartbook Will provides a comprehensive update of his US economic view and explains what these projections mean for policy setting. His bottom line is that the US economy looks more like it did in 2004 than in 2007. Hence, there is every reason...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Reaction To Fed Tightening

    Yields at the short end of the US bond market are creeping up as it looks increasingly likely that the Federal Reserve will hike rates next year, perhaps in the first half. Recent data showing a maturing US recovery support these moves (see yesterday’s Chartbook: The Maturing US Recovery, Policy & Markets).

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Cutting The Slack

    Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen opened her speech in Jackson Hole with the fairly obvious assertion that the labor market has made major improvements but has yet to recover fully. We agree. Our preferred cyclical labor market indicator, the employment-to-population ratio for core working ages 25-54, has risen to 76.6% from the trough of 74.8% in late 2010, but it is still way below its pre-crisis peak of 80.7%.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Consumer Lives, Really

    Even as US real wage growth has picked up over the last 18 months, consumption spending has been slow to respond. The relatively weak state of the US consumer, once the irresistible force pulling along the global economy, has emboldened those advocating a ‘secular stagnation’ thesis. But is this really a fair analysis? The answer has a particular relevance as central bankers gather for the Federal Reserve’s annual Jackson Hole shindig and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (20 August): Velocity Of Money

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment we focus on the velocity of money and the credit cycle in the major economic regions: Overview: Charles Gave notes with concern the downturn in the Gavekal Velocity Indicator. US: Will Denyer looks where the US is in the credit cycle and argues it looks more like 2004 than 2007. Europe: François Chauchat argues that contrary to popular belief Europe’s long credit crunch is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Is This 2004 Or 2007?

    The tide is coming in. The US business cycle is maturing from the recovery phase to the expansion phase. Credit is growing and money is flowing.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Fed's Balance Sheet: No Change Is A Big Change

    The largest balance sheet in the land will almost surely see a year of stability after the Federal Reserve’s latest round of QE purchases tapers off in October. But that stability will itself be a big change from recent years. It will be interesting to see how the market reacts.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Growth Engine Sparks Into Life

    Second quarter US GDP growth came in encouragingly strong at 4% quarter-on-quarter annualized, much better than the expected 3%. At the same time the 1Q number was revised up to -2.1%. That’s up from -2.9%, but it’s still a contraction; so a strong 2Q reading was crucial to show the previous GDP number was just a blip and not the start of a slide into recession. But looking past the headlines, was this really a strong report?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: No Longer Cheap, But Keep Reaching For Yield

    In 2012 and early 2013, it was easy to argue in favor of selling bonds and loading up on US equities on the basis of valuations alone. Equities were extremely cheap, bonds extremely expensive, and you would have been hard pressed to find standard metrics to indicate otherwise. Even Charles, who was anything but enthusiastic about the US policy mix, suggested overweighting equities and shunning bonds. Now the valuation call is no longer obvious,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Next Phase Of The Rally

    With US equities making new highs and another earnings season now under way, it is a good time to remember that to be sustainable, a bull market should rest on three pillars: liquidity, valuations, and growth. At any given point in time, however, just one of the pillars is likely to be doing most of the load-bearing. Consider the current bull market. At the outset, central bank liquidity played the key role. Then last year was largely about...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: The Inflation Rebound Is For Real

    US inflation measures have bounced back up near the Federal Reserve’s 2% target. This is not just noise. The rebound is evident not only in the volatile headline CPI, but also in the core and median metrics (see chart). Moreover, there is growing corroborating evidence of economic actors regaining pricing power.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Construction: Once More Into The Breach

    Having been a key driver of the US economic recovery, the residential property sector has had a tough year. Ructions in the bond market last summer forced up mortgage rates and gave a shock to both buyers and builders of property. And just as markets calmed down, severe winter weather meant that construction workers were more likely to break their tools than break ground on fresh projects. The onset of warmer weather has inevitably produced a...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Housing Will Support Growth Again - Will Denyer

    For the US economy to grow at a decent clip in the coming quarters two things are required from the housing market. The recovery in construction needs to be confirmed, and house prices must hold up.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Will The Fed Spoil The Party?

    With tapering set to consign quantitative easing to the history books before the end of this year, the burning question now is how long the US Federal Reserve will stick to its zero interest rate policy (ZIRP). The statement following this week’s two-day meeting is unlikely to tell us anything we don’t already know. But we will all listen to tomorrow’s press conference for any guidance on short term interest rate policy. The consensus is that...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Profits: Past The Peak Or Just A Blip?

    US statisticians recently provided a far more shocking view of the first quarter than the benign picture we got from the S&P500 earnings season, reinforcing concerns that the exceptional US profit story is peaking and that margins are finally going to mean revert.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The ECB's Real Deal

    The European Central Bank has broken with tradition and over-delivered. We had our doubts, but a complete package has arrived, that in the near term should be positive for risk assets and negative for the euro. Leading up to yesterday’s meeting; we said that the ECB needed to come up with a package that lowered short rates. It did. It also needed to provide liquidity operations that were sufficiently attractive for banks to actually use them....

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Unpicking The US Capital Spending Puzzle

    US statisticians told us yesterday that GDP, business investment, and corporate sales all dropped in 1Q14. Such weakness can be blamed on freak winter weather, but looking back to last fall, growth trends were not exactly stellar. The nagging issue for US economy watchers in recent times has been the sustained weakness in business investment. In the immediate aftermath of the 2008-09 slump capital spending (ex-housing) snapped back, raising...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (28 May 2014)

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    High Profit Margins Are Here To Stay

    Non-financial profit margins in the US stand at more than 6% today. By the standards of the last 40 years, this is a sky-high reading. But although high compared to recent historical levels, it is not unprecedented. Looking at the history books, we found that US companies enjoyed similarly fat margins in the 1960s. That caused us to wonder: what can this uncertain age possibly have in common with the go-go years of the 1960s? The answer is weak...

    19
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    Gavekal Research

    5C US: Hello Stagflation?

    Inflation’s back. In April US CPI rose to 2% YoY with both goods and services making a meaningful contribution. Manufacturers are starting to report higher output prices according to business surveys by the Philadelphia Fed and the NFIB, a small business representative body. After a weak GDP growth in 1Q14, mutterings of “stagflation” can be heard in the bear camp. But is this really what the data suggests?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Is In Sight For Zero US Rates

    US inflation is rebounding. Both goods and services prices increased in April, pushing the CPI up to 2% YoY after nearly a year below the Federal Reserve's target. Pressure is coming from housing rents and, lately, from the rebound in commodities. Businesses are also raising prices as wage growth squeezes margins, and better off consumers prove willing to pay more. This could be viewed as just the rebound in real activity and inflation that...

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