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    Gavekal Research

    Don't Worry About The US Consumer

    There is a schizophrenic quality to commentary on the health of the US consumer. On the bright side, sentiment readings are cheery and the labor market is generally solid. Yet on the other hand, Cassandras point to rising credit card delinquency rates, and weakness in sales of autos and homes as early signals of a recession. So what gives?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Worrying About Bond Yields

    Germany yesterday sold medium-dated bunds at a record -24bp, while treasury yields are back near three year lows. In yesterday’s Daily, Louis outlined reasons for the surge in US bond prices, and argued that a reversal could occur if the US dollar weakens more. Today want to ask how such a shift in the rates environment will impact economic growth and equities.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Bull Markets Don't Die Of Old Age

    The US economic expansion is entering its 11th year, which makes some wonder whether the end of the business cycle is nigh. Anatole thinks that’s asking the wrong question, because bull markets don’t die of old age. They are, however, more susceptible to diseases of old age. He identifies three events that would cause an economy to keel over. Also on the docket is the seemingly contradictory signals sent by bullish US equity markets and bearish...

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    Gavekal Research

    Driving The Bond Bubble—The Sum Of All Fears

    For the past 30 odd years, President Donald Trump has opposed free trade and argued that foreign producers should face tariffs. Yet the market responds with shock each time the US threatens new tariffs. By the same token, almost every central banker today is saying they (i) want to see higher inflation, (ii) will stop at nothing until inflation picks up, and (iii) once inflation duly appears, they will likely let it ramp up. So how does the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Such A Dystopian Market

    Although Donald Trump's lifting his threat to impose new tariffs on Mexico was good news, raising the chance of a US-China trade climbdown, betting good money on the US president getting up on the right side of the bed is ill advised. So, to maintain our sanity we should focus on US economic data and monetary policy, which turned positive last week.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Recession Risk Mispriced

    US treasury yields are up from their 21-month low touched earlier this week, but the market is still priced for recession. Sure, the trade war uncertainty is negative for risk assets. But there are good reasons to believe that the US economy will continue to grow, albeit at a modest rate. As a result, piling into treasuries at current yields is a dangerous move.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's War And Our Problem

    In the seven decades after World War II, the most powerful nation in the world could be relied on to defend and promote free trade among nations. Then came President Donald. J Trump. Now it’s conceivable that Trump’s goal is to shake up the old rules-based system.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    EMs Hit The Trade Wall

    It is not clear if the latest trade actions launched by the US against Mexico and India form part of coherent plan. Such moves do signal that the US-centered multilateral trading system is hanging by a thread. This upending of the post-WWII order is especially bad news for trade-dependent emerging economies.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Who Suffers Most In A Long Trade War?

    Markets have started to price in a long US-China trade and tech war, and we agree. The odds now favor an indefinite conflict. Damage from the trade war will vary based on a country’s trade-dependency and policy space. Big problems could emerge in Europe and in EMs exposed to China’s supply chain.

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    Gavekal Research

    Yes, We Are In A Bear Market

    In late 2017, Charles argued that global equity markets looked to be topping out, and it was time to adopt a more conservative strategy. As things turned out, the global equity benchmark hit a peak in late January of 2018, and has not retraced that level. He now argues that global equities have likely entered a bear market cycle.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    An Ugly Trade War And An Inverted Yield Curve

    Will a trade war boost US growth and inflation, or instead cause a deflationary recession? The bond market is basically saying that a trade war will dent US growth and force the Federal Reserve into easing. Bear with my two-handed explanation, but there are also good reasons why it could also boost nominal growth.

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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — The US-China Trade And Technology Mess

    In yesterday's special Gavekal Research Conference call Gavekal's Arthur Kroeber and Dang Wang, along with Fathom China's Matt Forney, considered what the breakdown of the US-China trade talks means for the trajectory of the trade war, and what the blacklisting of Huawei means for the tech cold war.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China's Options In The Unfolding Trade War

    China is widely seen as having a pretty miserable hand in its trade stand-off with China. However, Louis is not convinced that China has so few options. Here he considers Beijing’s scope for retaliation, and so leverage, from using its financial clout to spook US capital markets to winding up Kim Jong-un to start causing trouble for the US and its allies.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Message In Market Dispersion

    Economic events create winners and losers. It is too early to say with confidence how the current US trade and technology confrontation with China will play out, or whether US tariffs on imported autos and the threatened retaliation will go into force. But it is possible to tell how great investors believe the potential disruption is likely to be.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Who Wants A New Long March?

    Since the collapse of the US-China trade talks, the public position of both sides has hardened. Top leader Xi Jinping’s call for a “new Long March” was widely taken as a sign he is ready for a protracted standoff with the US. But support for such a stance is not universal, as the surprising public comments of Huawei chairman Ren Zhengfei suggest.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Iran And The Oil Price

    Angry rhetoric between the US and Iran reached blood-curdling intensity after the US announced in late April that it wouldn't grant waivers for sanctions on Iran's oil exports. While this caused a short term spike in the oil price, it has since fallen about -8% from its high. Are oil traders too complacent about the risks, or does the market have it right?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Change In The Market Mood

    Thursday was an ugly day for global equity markets, with losses that brought total returns on US equities almost back to their January 2018 level, and non-US equities to the brink of bear market territory. It is hard to shake the feeling that the investment environment has changed. What lessons should we draw from the tumultuous trading session?

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    Gavekal Research

    Trade War: Back From The Dead

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Fate Of Huawei

    The US government has China’s most prominent technology firm in a stranglehold. The question now is whether the US government continues to strangle Huawei until it goes out of business, or chooses to eventually stop squeezing and allow a weakened Huawei to keep operating under some limitations. In this report, Dan explores the possible scenarios.

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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's Trade War Calculus

    Keeping track of all the pieces of the US-China confrontation has become a full-time job. But the chaos and uncertainty of the past couple of weeks has begun to resolve itself into fairly clear patterns, even if the outcomes remain in doubt. Three main conclusions emerge from last week’s activity, and none of them are particularly reassuring.

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    Gavekal Research

    One Reduction Of Risk At The Margin

    By putting off for six months its decision whether or not to impose a 25% tariff on all imports of passenger cars and car parts on national security grounds, the US administration bowed to expedience on Wednesday. In theory, the threat of auto tariffs remains on the table. In practice, the six month delay has robbed the proposal of much of its credibility.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation: The Changing Demographic Picture

    Demography, it is said, is destiny. If so, then the finger of destiny may be pointing at a more inflationary future for the world economy. Louis reviews the slow shifts in demographic profile which govern trends in consumption and savings, and so propel the forces of inflation and deflation over the very long term.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Monopsonies, Protectionism And ROIC

    It is extremely unfashionable to say so, but Donald Trump’s campaign to bring manufacturing industries back to the US by slapping tariffs on goods imports may not be quite the act of economic illiteracy most professional practitioners of the dismal science would have you believe. On the contrary, it could well be positive for US growth, living standards, and market outperformance.

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing's Most Effective Trade Tool

    In response to the escalation of the US-China trade war, Chinese policymakers are likely to step up their easing measures. This should help support domestic demand. But as Chen Long argues in this piece, the effect of policy easing, coupled with the impact of increased tariffs on China’s exports, will add to downward pressure on the renminbi.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trade War Story Lines Harden

    The US-China trade war has three potential outcomes. First, we could see a step back from brinksmanship and a deal in the next few weeks. Second, the two sides could dig in for more protracted negotiations. Third, the talks could break down and the trade war become permanent. With the probability of each outcome less than 50%, the only certainty is continued uncertainty.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Goldilocks And The Ten Bears (2019)

    Anatole returns to the framework he set out in November 2017, examining the 10 key risks that could threaten global markets over the next 18 months and which investors should monitor closely—and he comes to some surprising conclusions about the central locus of global dangers.

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    Gavekal Research

    The Motivation Behind Trump's Tweets

    Since becoming president, Donald Trump has made it clear that he sees the S&P 500 as the real-time judge of his White House performance. Why, then, did Trump on Sunday send a tweet alleging that China had backed off from agreed positions in the US-China trade talks, and in so doing rattle a market priced for Goldilocks?

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call May 2019

    Investor concern this week is centered on the US-China trade negotiations, but Charles Gave and Louis Gave wonder if investors aren’t missing another risk, namely, that the world might be shifting from a deflationary to an inflationary environment. In our monthly Conference Call yesterday, they outlined arguments for why this may be the case, and what it would mean for portfolio construction.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Better Time For A Trade War

    For equity investors, there is a never a good time to have a trade war. Nevertheless, if there must be one, the US stock market is now better placed to ride out a US-China tariff conflict than it was a year ago. That’s just as well. Chinese negotiator Liu He is set to arrive in Washington on Thursday for the latest round of trade talks which are going down to the wire.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Gauging The EM Collateral Damage

    After Donald Trump’s weekend tweets, trade war is once again the center of attention for investors. The perceived probability of an escalation has risen sharply, and risk assets have sold off. Asian emerging markets have not escaped the rout, but it would be a mistake for investors to treat all Asian emerging markets equally.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Series: The Case Of The Missing Inflation

    As the Federal Reserve launched the second round of its quantitative easing, the fear was that the Fed’s unorthodox monetary policy would ignite a new round of inflation throughout the world, with dramatic effects on asset prices. After all, most asset prices are driven by the interaction of inflation and economic activity. But inflation failed to materialize, and even fell from more than 3% globally in 2010 to negative territory in 2015. These...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Reverse-Engineered US Inflation Indicator

    In the Strategy Monthly I presented a fairly simple rule to show whether an economy is in the top, or the bottom half of the Four Quadrants framework. To show that the rule worked, I laid out relationships between the "rule" and a range of other useful indications of a price environment shift. Here, I capture all of these relationships in a simple, revised decision rule.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How Long Can Productivity Contain US Inflation Pressure?

    April’s US payrolls report showed job creation was stronger than expected and unemployment lower, yet wage pressures were softer. This suggests weaker unit labor costs will allow the Fed to remain dovish, at least for now. All else being equal this is positive for equity investors. The question is: How long can this benign combination persist?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trade Deal Delayed, Not Yet Denied

    Any trade negotiator will tell you that the last yard is always the hardest. That is obvious now in the US-China trade talks, which were thrown into doubt by Donald Trump’s weekend tweets threatening to hike tariffs on US$200bn of imports from China from 10% to 25% this Friday if a deal is not done.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation And The Gold Fix

    When the market rate of interest for a long period has been held abnormally low relative to returns on invested capital, financial engineering takes off with huge debt issuance, making a chaotic denouement of the credit cycle unavoidable. To prepare for such an event, an equity portfolio hedged with gold can reduce volatility and raise returns.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: The Inflation Shift And Portfolio Construction

    Despite inflation remaining muted, Wednesday saw the Federal Reserve stand pat on interest rates. Having switched to an overly dovish stance early this year, Fed Chairman Jay Powell remains wary of changing tack and easing policy as he worries about inflationary pressure bubbling up from an economy that looks to be fully occupied. For his part, Charles is less nuanced and believes the US will shortly flip over into an environment where inflation...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Managing Today’s Biggest Risk

    The US first quarter GDP data released on Friday proved consistent with the picture of slower—but still positive—growth through 2019, and a continuation of the Goldilocks tailwind for asset markets. But after a strong run-up in equities this year, it might be time to ask what the greatest risk is to the current environment, and how to position for it.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation: US Fiscal Policy

    The US seems set to run huge fiscal deficits for as far as the eye can see, and it is not clear who is going to fund this indulgence. In the fourth instalment of his “missing inflation” investigation Louis considers the options available to the US Treasury and concludes that hard funding choices will likely be ducked by whoever wins the 2020 election.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation: Chinese Monetary Policy

    China’s response to the Fed’s QEII program in 2010 was to tighten monetary policy, as it feared a spill-over effect into inflation. Since that point China has seen credit growth progressively slow, making it an inhibitor to any global rebound in inflation. This orientation by China is changing as the focus of policy shifts away from crimping the shadow finance sector.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Why The Bulls Are Back In Charge

    Now that the S&P 500 has hit a new all-time high and other stock markets have recovered most of the steep losses they suffered last summer, it seems a lifetime since the financial panics of 2018. Investors who bought the dip have enjoyed Wall Street’s strongest quarterly performance in this bull market. After being so well rewarded, how should bullish investors who kept the faith now respond?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    How Contagious Is The Health Care Downturn?

    On paper, this should have been a good year for health care stocks: global growth has disappointed, long term interest rates have fallen, the US yield curve for a brief while was inverted and a looming US-China trade deal should see China buy lots of health care gear and drugs from the US. Yet, even though the stars aligned, health care has been the worst performing major US equity sector this year. Notwithstanding a bounce yesterday, the sector...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Iran Waivers And The Oil Price Spike

    US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced that the US will not roll over waivers on its sanctions on Iranian oil exports when they expire in May. The question for investors is this: If Washington does make good on its threat, to what extent are other oil producers able and willing to increase output in order to make up any supply shortfall in global markets?

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation: Energy’s Impact

    When the Fed launched QE2 in 2010, there was widespread fear that a great inflation beckoned. It has not exactly worked out that way. Louis considers the role energy played in a decade of becalmed US consumer prices. Yet, with oil prices again rising, he asks whether the market has grown complacent in its analysis of the relationship between oil and inflation.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation

    As the Federal Reserve launched the second round of its quantitative easing, the fear was that the unorthodox monetary policy would ignite a new round of inflation—even hyper-inflation—throughout the world, with dramatic effects on asset prices. But inflation failed to materialize, and now nobody seems to be worried about it anymore.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    US Financial Asset Valuations Stretched Every Which Way

    Charles dusts off his equity and bond valuation models for the US and is disturbed to see that for only the fourth time since the mid-1980s both asset classes are simultaneously overvalued. In this piece, he asks: what gives?

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Inflation Is The Real Risk

    Happy days seem to be here again as risk assets soar on a dovish Federal Reserve and better growth outlook. Yet, investors should take note. The Fed has three official mandates; namely, to keep inflation low and stable, keep unemployment down, and keep interest rates low and stable. Yet among those “equals”, the first is thought to be bearing down on inflation.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    A New Look At The Housing Market

    When the US slides into recession, it generally does so because of a contraction in investment, either in the corporate sector or in the housing market. Today, returns on capital invested in housing exceed the cost of capital, signalling a positive outlook for US residential investment, construction, house prices, and the shares of homebuilders.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar — April 2019

    Louis Gave examined the reasons for equity markets' good performance amid a global trade slowdown; Thomas Gatley assessed the state of the Chinese economy and whether the current Chinese equity bull market still has legs; Udith Sikand reckoned it is time to be positive on emerging markets, especially EM Asia.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call April 2019

    In yesterday’s Gavekal Research Conference Call, Will Denyer and Udith Sikand addressed the changing US dollar liquidity environment, and its impact on markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Export Problem

    Europe is the world’s most export-dependent big economic region. In such a precious position, the effect of external weakness can be debilitating, as shown by the eurozone manufacturing PMI having just fallen to its lowest in nearly six years at 47.5. The question is whether any respite can be found in overseas markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Play A Longer US Cycle With Small Caps

    After a wobble late last year, the US economy looks to be stabilizing. The Atlanta Fed has revised up its estimate for 1Q19 GDP growth to 2.1%, while more timely indicators such as mortgage applications, PMI readings and durable goods orders indicate a steadying of the ship.The question is how to play this development.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — March 2019

    Cedric Gemehl examined the possibility of a European rebound; Charles Gave argued the world is splitting into three distinct monetary zones; Tom Miller presented on the state of the US-China trade talks and the health of the Chinese economy; Anatole Kaletsky examined the risks to the bull market, and arrived at a bullish conclusion.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Good News For Goldilocks

    Last Thursday, with the price of oil approaching a four-and-a-half month high, Donald Trump took to Twitter. “Price of Oil getting too high.” Trump’s tweet had little effect, with Brent crude hitting US$69/bbl on Monday. Prices are likely to continue to push higher over the coming months towards 2018's highs—a troubling prospect.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A New Liquidity Environment

    The prospect of easier liquidity conditions helped make 1Q19 one of the best ever quarters for US equities. Confirmation of the Federal Reserve’s newly dovish policy stance means that US equities should continue to do well through 2019. Other big winners in this environment may be equities in northeast Asian emerging markets that do not rely on Chinese commodity demand.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beyond The Yield Curve Inversion

    The current yield curve inversion and softness in growth data are curious developments, given that the four prices that matter most for the global economy—long bond yields, corporate credit spreads, the oil price, and the value of the US dollar—are all relatively favorable. Louis and Charles weigh five different explanations for what may be going on—from bullish to highly bearish—and examine the investment implications.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Week Is A Long Time

    Harold Wilson, the former British prime minister’s, quip that “a week is a long time in politics” has become an over-used cliche. Still, in the last week, there has been good reason to dust it off.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Europe's Response To China

    Europe has an ambivalent relationship with China that is increasingly under scrutiny. The European Commission recently labelled China a “systemic rival” and France and Germany want to create corporate champions to compete against Chinese state owned enterprises. Europe, however, is not singing from the same hymn sheet.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Recession Warning, Or False Alarm?

    On Friday, the three-month to 10-year portion of the US treasury curve inverted for the first time this cycle, heightening investors’ fears of impending recession. But although every US recession of recent decades has been preceded by an inversion of the yield curve, not every inversion has been followed by a recession; there have been cases of false positives.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Vox Clamantis In Deserto

    Some say, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Others regard repeating the same mistake over and over again, and expecting the results to change, to be the very definition of insanity. I fear that the majority of “respectable economists” (meaning they always side with the consensus) inhabit the first of the two camps.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Gather Round The Punch Bowl

    US monetary policy tightening is over, at least for now. While the Federal Reserve is not adding any more hooch to the punch bowl, chairman Jay Powell has promised to stop cutting his serving sizes. Although not much of a surprise, the Fed’s guidance is broadly positive for just about everything but US dollar cash—especially equities and real assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Believe In The US Consumer, Still

    Just as the Federal Reserve eases up on monetary tightening and negotiators struggle to avert a trans-Pacific trade war, the US consumer is emerging as the next source of worry. Americans are deferring big-ticket purchases, consumer confidence readings have softened and retail sales growth has slowed. Suddenly, the picture looks similar to the 2015-16 soft patch, or worse still it resembles the phase leading up to the 2008 crisis, when an...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The End Of China's ODI Party

    Beijing’s decision to use foreign acquisitions as a tool of state industrial policy has badly backfired. With advanced economies stiffening their resistance to Chinese investment, China’s decade-long outward direct investment spree looks spent. In this piece, Tom explains how the boom ended and where funds will flow in the future.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Fed's Potential Paradigm Shift

    The Federal Reserve is debating a fundamental shift in its inflation targeting. Right now it's targeting 2% inflation no matter what it has been in the past, a so-called "bygones" policy. In this video interview Will discusses the consequences of switching to price-level targeting, where the aim is to keep average inflation over time at 2%.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Productivity To The Rescue, For Now

    On first reading, Friday’s US payroll report for February made grim reading for most investors. The screeching slowdown in non-farm hiring seemed to point to a US economy that is flirting with recession. To compound matters, wage growth seemes to point to a very tight labor market. On closer inspection, however, a less concerning picture is revealed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Modern, Not About Money, And Not Really Much Of A Theory

    Charles has had enough of all the talk going round about Modern Monetary Theory. In this forceful polemic he lets fly with both barrels at the proponents of MMT, arguing that they have no knowledge of financial history, little understanding of the nature of money, and are clueless about what constitutes a theory.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    An Investor's Rough Guide To Modern Monetary Theory

    Modern Monetary Theory—the idea that governments can spend as much as they want, free from funding constraints—is attracting more and more attention. Will examines the precepts of the theory, explores whether it really brings anything new to the table, and outlines some of the implications for investors should it ever be applied as practical policy.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Shifting Sands At The Fed

    The US Federal Reserve has said it is likely to end its process of balance sheet “normalization” sooner than previously planned. This sounds like an obscure monetary technicality, but it has important implications for investors. In this video interview Will explains why.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Get Ready To Buy The Dip

    With the S&P 500 up a nifty 18% from its Christmas eve low, propelled by the Federal Reserve’s dovish turn and hopes of a US-China trade truce, it is natural to wonder if US stocks are due for a correction. The question for investors is whether they should fade the rally now before it is too late, or stay invested and look to buy the dip should a correction occur.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The US Technology Control Toolbox

    The US and China appear to be moving toward a trade deal that will at least halt further hikes in tariffs. But as Dan shows in this piece, the US still wants to constrain China’s technological rise, and has many tools it can use. US-China technology exchanges are becoming politically and legally fraught, causing collateral damage on both sides.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trouble With Price Level Targeting

    The Federal Reserve is talking about changing the way it targets inflation. Currently it tweaks policy in an attempt to zero in on a specific inflation rate: 2%. Under the framework it is discussing, instead it would aim to hit a price index level consistent with a particular long term average inflation rate. The distinction might sound subtle, but by targeting a price level, the Fed would compensate for any undershooting by attempting to...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    What To Expect From Trump-Kim II

    The the eight months since Trump and Kim's historic handshake in Singapore has seen no progress on North Korea’s denuclearization, with the two sides still leagues apart. Although their second meeting this week will do nothing to bridge the gap, Trump’s determination to be seen as a peacemaker will further reduce tensions in North East Asia.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    After A Trade Deal, Then What?

    So far, so predictable: President Donald Trump’s weekend tweets extending the deadline for US-China trade talks past March 1 made clear his intention to get a deal done, most likely in the second half of March when Xi Jinping pays a visit to Mar-a-Lago. A deal is now almost certain to happen; the live questions are what will be in it and what impact it will have.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Mystery Of The Missing Stimulus

    Since late 2016, the US trade deficit has been widening. Usually, when the US trade deficit expands, the effect is stimulative for the rest of the world. However, this time around there have been no signs that non-US economies are enjoying a resulting pick-up. In this report, KX examines possible explanations for the failure of this longstanding relationship.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Back To The Barbarous Relic

    Going back to the mid-1980s, I have worked on the assumption that the US economy has been in the “deflationary” lower half of my four quadrants framework. My fear is that we may be moving into the inflationary top quadrants. If so, this means that in the bust phase of the cycle equities will have a positive correlation with bonds, and those bonds will offer much lower returns

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    A Catspaw, Not A Tailwind

    The publication of minutes from FOMC’s January meeting confirmed that the Fed has executed an about-turn in its policy stance and is now in dovish mode. More specifically, the minutes confirmed that the Fed is planning to halt the contraction of its balance sheet later this year, putting an early end to the quantitative tightening that began in October 2017.

    0
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    Video: What Kind Of US-China Deal?

    In recent weeks, the US dollar has rallied, emerging markets have been strong and gold seems to be breaking out to the upside. That is an unusual combination, and in this video Louis outlines three possible explanations for the moves. Most provocatively, as the US-China trade talks get critical, he wonders if China is gearing up to accept a one-off revaluation of the renminbi.

    0
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    Three Odd Things

    Reserves held by foreign central banks at the Fed are shrinking, which implies there aren’t enough US dollars in the system. This would make sense: the Fed has been draining excess US dollars for the past couple of years. So with shrinking central bank reserves and a shrinking US monetary base, the US dollar should be going up, and most risk assets should be hurting. Oddly, this isn’t happening.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Biggest Investment Story Of 2019

    Now that stock markets around the world have recovered from the year-end panic of December 2018, it is worth returning to the question I posed here on the first trading day of 2019: was the disappointing performance of equities and other risk assets in 2018 the prelude to a deep and protracted bear market, or a contrarian opportunity to “buy the dip”?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Containing China's Tech Ambitions

    More constructive rhetoric suggests the US and China may be about to strike a truce on tariffs and market access. However, that does not mean they are about to bury the hatchet. Powerful groups in Washington want to contain China’s rise as a technological power, and the US has many tools at its disposal even if it drops tariffs.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The QT Endgame

    A voting member of the FOMC said yesterday that the Federal Reserve should quit shrinking its balance sheet later this year. This was the clearest indication yet that the US central bank will end quantitative tightening one or two years sooner than the 2020-2021 estimate put forward by Chairman Jay Powell last July. I suspect Brainard will get her wish.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Fear Not The ‘Earnings Recession’

    US earnings growth is clearly slowing. As global growth ebbs and the effect of last year’s US tax cut wears off, 1Q19 will be worse according to US analysts who in aggregate are predicting EPS to fall -1.4%. Some commentators are even declaring an “earnings recession.” Time to take profits for the year and run to the hills? I’d say “no”.

    5
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Long Arm Of US Export Controls

    While investors eye the progress of US-China talks to avert tariff hikes, the US is mobilizing on another front. In this piece, Dan explains how the US is preparing for more aggressive use of export controls to disentangle the US and Chinese tech sectors. This can certainly hurt Chinese firms, but will also affect US and other tech companies.

    2
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    Three Separate Battlefronts In The Unfolding Cold War

    As the clash between China and the US intensifies, Louis notes the primacy that Mao Zedong’s guerrilla tactics would have had in forming the current Chinese leadership’s political consciousness and setting a template for the way they handle conflict. As such, he sees the struggle between the two superpowers playing out on three distinct fronts.

    19
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    Gavekal Research

    The Global Car Industry Catches Chinese Flu

    If the auto industry is a bellwether of global economic health, then much of the world is looking sick. The second half of 2018 was painful for carmakers in all the major auto markets, and 2019 is shaping up to be as bad. Is this just a passing malady that carmakers will soon shrug off, or a chronic condition they will have to manage for years to come?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    A Looser Fed And Tighter Banks

    News flow from the US and beyond over recent months has pointed to an easing of financial conditions. A notable exception has, however, emerged: US commercial banks have stopped loosening lending standards and have started to tighten them—just a touch. I remain constructive, but have gotten more cautious about US risk assets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Conflicting Signals From The US Labor Market

    The US labor market is sending apparently contradictory signals. On one hand the unemployment rate ticked higher in January. On the other, job creation was much stronger than expected. Will looks behind the latest data points to examine the labor market’s underlying trends, and concludes they spell relatively bullish news for the US economy and risk assets over the coming months.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Vital Portfolio Construction Lesson

    I am a rules-based investor, and over the years few financial relationships have been more useful to me in reading the economic cycle than the yield spread between long-dated US corporate bonds and 30-year US treasuries. Going back to the late 1970s, no US bear market has unfolded with key spread being below 200bp. It is now 210bp.

    2
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    Fed To The Rescue

    It was no surprise on Wednesday that the US Federal Reserve promised to be “patient” about further interest hikes and flexible on the pace and extent of its balance sheet reduction. The Fed’s more dovish stance had been clearly signaled in a series of speeches ahead of yesterday’s policy meeting. As Fed chairman Jay Powell explained, with US inflation data subdued and other major economies slowing, it makes good sense for the Fed to take a “wait...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Recession Of 2019: Revisited

    Six months ago Charles posited the idea of a global recession starting in and around March 2019. He revisits that idea in this piece and concludes that there is clear evidence of the global system suffering a marked slowdown. Here, he seeks to identify the source of the problem by a process of elimination (spoiler alert, the problem isn’t China).

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Don't Fear Corporate Leverage (Yet)

    With Brexit, the US-China trade war and a synchronous global slowdown, these are anxious times for investors. But apparently, all these concerns pale in comparison with worries about US corporate leverage. According to a BofAML survey this month, corporate indebtedness is the biggest single worry among fund managers. We beg to differ.

    17
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    Gavekal Research

    A Huawei-Scale Problem

    The charges that US prosecutors have now filed against telecom equipment supplier Huawei are similar to those thrown at two other Chinese tech firms last year. The eventual outcome is likely to be similar: the imposition of export controls that will threaten Huawei’s survival and force it to accede to a restrictive deal with the US government.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Favor Local Bonds Over EM Equities

    After a dismal year for emerging market assets in 2018, emerging markets have started 2019 on a positive note, with equities rising 6.5% and local currency bonds up 3% year-to-date. On Friday, Louis looked at shifts in the US dollar, long term US interest rates, credit spreads and the oil price, and concluded they favor emerging market assets through the rest of 2019. Broadly I agree, but I would take a slightly more nuanced stance. The shifts...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Four Prices That Matter

    It is Gavekal’s longstanding mission to develop simple principles that investors can use to navigate complicated financial markets. In this vein, one of our core tenets is that four prices matter more than all others, and together these determine the level of global economic activity and of investor risk appetite. Let us see where they stand as we head deeper into 2019.

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bull Case For US Housing

    As the US government shutdown drags on, US-China tariff talks stutter, the Chinese growth engine slows, global trade slumps and GDP forecasts get cut, the stream of macro-misery in recent days has seemed relentless. On Tuesday, the US National Association of Realtors added its voice to the dirge, reporting that sales volumes for existing homes fell -10% year-on-year to a three year low in December. With new home sales and construction equally...

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Mexico 1, Brazil 0

    When Brazil met Mexico in last year’s football world cup, the Brazilian team walked away the victors by two goals to nil. In financial markets too, Brazil has lately been beating Mexico. In recent weeks each country has installed as its president a fiery populist—although they hail from different ends of the ideological spectrum. In Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro is an unabashed right-winger, while his Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: Beyond The Government Shutdown

    As the US government shutdown threatens to enter its fifth week, Will looks back at previous shutdowns to weigh the likely impact on America’s economy and financial markets, against the backdrop of an aging economic cycle, flattening yield curve and tighter financial conditions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump's Next Trade Target

    Just when the risk from trade politics seemed to be dying down, it’s getting complicated again. Trade talks between the United States and China are in full swing, but just as important are imminent negotiations between the US and the European Union, which are clouded by the US threat to impose tariffs on cars and car parts.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Good News Story From The US

    As the record government shutdown denies Americans vital services and federal workers paychecks, the US has hardly been putting its best foot forward. While we don't expect this political impasse to change the growth trajectory, it does weigh on the market mood. Against such a dour backdrop, we think a good news story from the US economy can be easily missed.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Big Questions For 2019

    The last quarter of 2018 proved to be something of a horror show for most investors and despite this year starting with a firmer tone, the investment landscape looks to have changed in a fairly profound way. In this report, Louis considers the major shifts in the investment environment and asks whether these conditions will persist through 2019.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: The Hope-Vs-Despair Smackdown Of 2019

    The massive sell-off in December left global equities on the precipice of a real bear market. Hope and despair are finely poised, but we find a bit more reason for hope. The US and China will both slow, but the US should avoid recession and Chinese growth should stay above 6%. Political and trade-war risk is lower, and liquidity pressures will ease. US equities and EM assets, especially local-currency bonds, both promise positive returns.

    0
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