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  • Gavekal Research

    The Myth Of Secular Stagnation

    When the European Central Bank meets today, discussion will center on whether it should expand quantitative easing in an attempt to stave off deflation and support the eurozone’s painfully slow growth. In Japan too, talk is about whether the Bank of Japan needs to step up its stimulus efforts. And in the US, the Federal Reserve last month decided to delay calling an end to its own zero interest rate policy amid evidence that US growth is in...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Long And Short Of Liquidity

    Charles sometimes likes to say that investing is simple: all one needs to do is figure out whether there is “more money than fools”, in which case risk assets rise, or “more fools than money”, in which case equity markets struggle, since they are one of the world’s main reservoirs for excess liquidity. Alas, what Charles fails to say with this quip is that working out whether there is more money than fools, or the reverse, is no easy job. What’s...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Excerpt From Anatole Kaletsky's Hong Kong Seminar Presentation

    Excerpt From Anatole Kaletsky's Hong Kong Seminar Presentation

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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Seminar

    This is the full recording from Gavekal's October Hong Kong seminar featuring Joyce Poon, Andrew Batson and Anatole Kaletsky as well as a Q&A session.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Dollar, Deflation And US Equities

    Is the threat of US deflation really receding? Far from it—for a large segment of the US stock market deflationary pressure is set to intensify, rather than abate, over the coming months. Sure, data for September released yesterday showed an uptick in core inflation (ex-energy and food) to 1.9% from 1.8%, raising expectations that that overall US consumer prices are poised for a moderate uptrend driven largely by housing and healthcare costs....

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Ominous Signal In Inventories

    One of the characteristics of a recession is an overhang in inventories, which must then be sold off or written down before growth can recover. The overhang results from overproduction during the final stages of the preceding boom, an unexpected collapse in demand, or both.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Real Respite In Brazil

    Dilma Rousseff yesterday won a temporary reprieve from a threatened impeachment and Brazilian assets promptly took a beating. Investors seem to be hoping for a presidential ouster as an end to the political turmoil which has killed any chance of fiscal consolidation or structural reform. With an emerging market bounce seemingly ebbing, Brazilian assets do not offer an appealing risk-reward profile—even after yesterday’s sell-off, the real has...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Could Volkswagen Save Europe?

    Volkswagen's stock price has rebounded more than 20% since its early October low, but there remains uncertainty about the firm’s future. Since news of the diesel polluting scandal broke, US$30bn has been wiped off VW’s market value, and you do not need to be conspiratorial to see a scenario that has the value of the German carmaker’s equity going to zero.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Position For A Pick-Up In US Inflation

    Everyone agrees that US inflation, if not actually dead, is unlikely to gain a new lease on life any time soon. With oil prices down -48% over the last 12 months and the US dollar up 11%, inflation as measured by personal consumption expenditure is just 0.3%, while core inflation (ex-food and energy) is down to 1.3% year-on-year. What’s more, investors expect no acceleration in price rises over the medium term. The implied breakeven inflation...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fallacy Of Containment

    Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hailed this week’s deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership as evidence that “the curtain is finally rising on a new Asian century.” The TPP is the biggest trade agreement for 20 years, its 12 members accounting for a full 35% of global trade (see The Big Winner From The TPP). Yet it is hard to get excited about a trade deal that deliberately leaves out the world’s biggest trading nation: China. The TPP is designed...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Birth Of A Pain Trade?

    The question we have received most in recent days is whether this week’s counter-trend rally in commodities, deep cyclicals and emerging markets can morph into a “melt-up” akin to that seen in 4Q98. Seventeen years ago the blowback from the Asian Financial Crisis culminated in late September with the failure of Long Term Capital Management. Within days of a hurriedly agreed creditor bailout, the Federal Reserve had made the first of three...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Does Slower Job Growth Signal A Coming US Recession?

    There’s no getting away from it: last week’s US employment report was unequivocally weak. According to the latest estimates, the US added only around 140,000 jobs in each of August and September—a marked slowdown from the average growth rate of 260,000 in 2014. So what is going on? There are three possibilities:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not The Obvious Payroll Conclusion

    Is the US economy sliding towards recession? After six years of steady expansion, it would not be unusual for the business cycle to start rolling over. This possibility, suggested by Charles’s time-tested recession indicators (see Positioning For A US Recession), caused equities and the dollar to swoon right after Friday’s unexpectedly weak payroll report. Until this release it was tempting to dismiss such historic cyclical indicators that rely...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Financing Gap, Creative Accounting And US Recessions

    The pithy aphorism that there are “lies, damned lies and statistics” is attributed to Benjamin Disraeli. Having spent the better part of my adult life torturing data to prove points, I would certainly agree. But in my view, the British Prime Minister missed a beat, for surely the most predictable form of officially sanctioned lying is the type overseen by accountants.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Positioning For A US Recession

    Since the end of last year I have been worried about an “unexpected” slow-down, or even recession, in the world’s developed economies. In order to monitor the situation on a daily basis, I built a new indicator of US economic activity which contains 17 components ranging from lumber prices and high-yield bond spreads to the inventory-to-sales ratio.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Worrying Set Of Signals

    Regular readers will know that we keep a battery of indicators to gauge, among other things, economic activity, inflationary pressure, risk appetite and asset valuations. Most of the time this dashboard offers mixed messages, which is not hugely helpful to the investment process. Yet from time to time, the data pack points unambiguously in a single direction and experience tells us that such confluences are worth watching. We are today at such a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Libor Not Lehman

    With shares in Volkswagen down -28% since the diesel emissions rigging story broke last Friday, VW bond yields up sharply, and the securities of other European automakers hit hard by the news, investors face some uncomfortable questions. Is the risk posed by the scandal idiosyncratic, with the fallout likely to be confined largely to VW itself? Or could the risk prove systemic, with potentially catastrophic implications for the broader European...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What The VW Scandal Could Mean

    Last year as Europe tightened economic sanctions on Russia for its role in fomenting the Ukrainian conflict, German business confidence readings took a bath. This was not surprising as German exports to Russia—a one time key growth market for Teutonic metal bashers—have shrunk by about €9bn in two years. However, once the dust settled on 2014 it became clear that far from being decimated, Germany’s highly diversified exports had actually risen...

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  • Gavekal Research

    Philosophical Dominance, Profits And Stocks

    Let us start with a simple idea, which also happens to be validated by the data: stock market returns and corporate profits over the long term have the same growth rate.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Wrong End Of The Fed’s Stick

    Friday’s market action spoke volumes about the jitteriness of investors. After the Federal Reserve decided on Thursday not to raise US interest rates, at least for the time being, the S&P 500 sold off -1.6% in the following day’s trade. The reaction in Europe was even more extreme, with the Euro Stoxx 50 falling -3%. Rather than taking the Fed’s dovishness as a positive sign, it seemed that equity investors instead asked what bad news...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed Throws EMs A Lifeline

    The Federal Reserve’s decision to keep on procrastinating over a rate hike should have come as no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to the comments of Janet Yellen. And indeed it didn’t come as much of a surprise to the markets, to judge by their reaction yesterday. After a brief flurry of activity following the announcement, the US equity market closed little changed on the day. Currency and bond markets proved a bit more excitable, but...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Does China Really Matter?

    How much does China’s slowdown really matter to the rest of the world? At first this might sound like a silly question. After all, China is home to a fifth of humanity, it is the world’s second largest national economy and its second largest importer, and in recent years has contributed between a quarter and a third of global growth. What’s more, the recent volatility in China’s stock markets and exchange rate caused shockwaves around the world...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The China Panic Abating?

    For the past six weeks, global markets have been in a China-centric panic, sparked partly by bad economic data, but mostly by policy bungling from China’s policymakers. Having spurred a huge expansion in equity margin debt, regulators turned tail in June and cracked down on the practice. As an equity market crash unfolded, policymakers took to swinging a big stick: price-keeping operations were tried, stock trading was halted and speculators...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Fed’s Opportunity For Lift Off

    There are many problems in the world today, but too-high a cost of capital is not among them. This is not going to change if the Federal Reserve hikes short rates by a quarter of a percent this week, or in December. We have no particular insight as to when the Fed will make its move, but there are good reasons for it pull back on the “lift off” lever before the end of the year. Recent ructions in global markets are not likely to deter Janet...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Has The Fed Missed The Boat?

    It is decision week at the Federal Reserve. At its meeting this Wednesday and Thursday, the Federal Open Market Committee must decide whether the US labor market has now tightened enough to warrant the first interest rate increase since mid-2006, even though inflation is subdued and financial market sentiment remains fragile following the summer’s bout of heightened volatility. It is an unenviable decision—all the more so since the recent...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    I Know, I Know...

    ...the US economy is doing fine and after the longest run up in history, may be on the verge of achieving take-off velocity. So why am I so worried? The problem is that my US recession indicator has entered negative territory, after literally collapsing in the last 6 months. Today I will try and explain my concerns about the US, when all others seem fixated by China. It should be acknowledged that since about 2002 the US economy has been managed...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Bull Market Over? (II)

    Yesterday we examined the three big fears that—in the absence of any markedly negative news from the OECD economies—lie behind the recent equity market sell-off, and which have prompted many investors to ask “Is The Bull Market Over?”

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Is The Bull Market Over? (I)

    Is the bull market in equities over? As our readers might imagine, this is a question we have been asked more than once over the past few weeks. Notwithstanding the bounce of the last two days, the simple fact that clients are wondering about the answer is troubling in itself. Their doubts are embodied by three ominous developments:

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The US Current Account Deficit And World Markets

    Spotting turning points in the US current account is central to Gavekal’s research method, as such shifts impact all other economic relationships. When the US dollar is strong the US tends to run a big current account deficit, providing the world with lots of “earned dollars.” Conversely, a weak dollar eventually leads to a shrunken US current account deficit and more incentive to borrow in dollars. Big moves in the dollar exchange rate create...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Termaillage And The Renminbi

    For years I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness, monitoring central bank reserves as an important determining factor of what I loosely call “international liquidity”. Suddenly I’ve got company. In the last few weeks everyone has been focusing on the topic, and “experts” by the dozen have penned reports about it. Naturally, I’ve read everything that has passed across my screen, and—sad to say—I’m appalled by the results: an egregious...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What To Do With US Bonds

    Given the recent turmoil in financial markets and an intensifying focus on the Federal Reserve’s forthcoming policy decision, it seems a good time to update readers on our thinking about the proper positioning of a US fixed income portfolio. As a starting point, it is worth restating the two main determining factors that influence the yields on longer-dated treasuries.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse

    Markets are entering bear market territory and what vexes Charles and Louis is whether the root cause is a liquidity crunch, a solvency crisis or a deflationary bust. In this wide ranging chart book they explore the problem through the revelatory prophecy of four riders whose presence marked the coming of judgement day. We don’t mean to pile on the misery in what is shaping up as a tough week and the moderately good news is that the-end-of-times...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The World Monetary Base And The Dollar

    If the supply of US dollars is declining then, all else being equal, the value of the dollar should rise, and vice versa. This truism can be checked by comparing the annual growth rate of the “world monetary base” with changes in the JP Morgan trade weighted dollar. Regular readers will recall that the WMB is simply the sum of the US monetary base and foreign exchange reserves deposited at the Federal Reserve for the account of foreign central...

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    Portfolio Construction Towards The End Of The Cycle

    Buy into the rebound or position for the real sell-off still to come? It is a tough question at this point. Most investors are confident we are considerably more than half way through the cycle, but they are far from certain the end is nigh (especially after yesterday’s big upward revision of US GDP). For the bamboozled, the summer sell-off of 1998 offers some interesting parallels.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Message From Oil

    Violent swings in oil prices are destabilizing economies and financial markets worldwide. When the oil price halved last year, from US$110 to US$55 a barrel, the cause was obvious: Saudi Arabia’s decision to increase its share of the global oil market by expanding production. But what accounts for the further plunge in oil prices in the last few weeks—to lows last seen in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis—and how will...

    18
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    Gavekal Research

    A Solvency Crisis Or A Liquidity Crisis?

    Over the past five years, critics of zero-interest rate policies have typically fallen into one of two camps:

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse

    In almost every good movie battle scene, the heroes must face attacks on several fronts at once. Invariably, as losses mount, the defensive perimeter shrinks until, with American movies at least, (Saving Private Ryan, Fury…) the cavalry arrives in the nick of time, and our heroes are saved. If the movie is French (La 317eme Section) the position gets overrun and, like in Camerone or Dien Bien Phu, a glorious disaster ensues. Right now, many...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Build A Reserve Currency

    A store of value, a unit of account and a medium of exchange—these are the three essential characteristics of any proper currency. Needless to say a reserve currency must possess all three. But they are far from enough. A reserve currency must have at least six other attributes too, as Jacques Rueff and Robert Triffin did so much to establish.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bright Spot In The US Market

    Even though US home prices have risen by more than a third in the last three years, the residential construction sector has been a persistent disappointment, showing little meaningful recovery. That is finally changing. On Monday the National Association of Homebuilders’ Housing Market Index hit its highest level since 2006, while July data released yesterday showed housing starts closing in on an eight-year high at an annualized 1.2mn rate....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What About The Dollar?

    Often as not the crucial signal offered by markets is what, at a particular juncture, they did not do. This is especially the case when events unfold, that, on the face of it, add credence to a consensus view. With this in mind consider a few key market developments from last week.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strong US Data Confirm Underweight

    Data released on Friday reaffirmed the robust health of the US domestic sector. Paradoxically, this only strengthened our conviction that investors should underweight US equities in favor of other markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Long Live US Productivity Growth!

    The contrast between last Friday’s strong US employment report and the very pedestrian GDP figures published three days earlier draws renewed attention to the greatest paradox of the post-2008 economic recovery. GDP growth since 2008 has indicated the weakest cyclical expansion on record, but employment growth has been roughly as strong as usual, at least in the US and Britain. Post-crisis US employment has grown fairly steadily at a rate of 1.5...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Stop Worrying And Learn To Love Cheap Oil

    In almost every financial cycle there comes a point when the publicly expressed views of analysts and investors diverge completely from market behavior. Occasionally this can be what George Soros has called a moment of truth, when investors suddenly realize that a financial boom has wildly overshot economic fundamentals and is about to turn to bust. But often it turns out that the markets have grasped a message that has not yet been consciously...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Tech As A Commodity

    Technology equities have been a solid performer in the post-2008 crisis era, which is perhaps not surprising as the sector tends to do best in periods of innovation-fueled “creative destruction” and strong deflationary forces. Yet with the tech sub-index having outperformed the S&P 500 by more than 15% over the last two years, there are clear indications that this phase may have played out. Not only are the cyclical drivers ebbing, but the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (August 2015) – by Pierre Gave

    Our latest monthly indicators look to have taken on a somewhat schizophrenic character. On the growth side, our main indicator of global economic activity is perking up, implying a stronger second half of the year. But our diffusion index of OECD leading indicators is clearly heading south, as are commodities. A similarly bifurcated story can be seen on the risk-appetite side. Our velocity indicator has registered improvement and short term...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    More Cautious Than Ever On US Stocks

    Exactly six months ago, we declared we were Turning Cautious On US Equities. At the time we noted that while US domestic demand was healthy, US stocks no longer looked cheap, the US dollar was no longer competitively valued, and the Federal Reserve was moving unambiguously towards tightening monetary policy. Half a year later, the S&P 500 has risen 4.3% and the Nasdaq Composite 9.2%. On the face of it those look like respectable returns; not...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Who Killed US Productivity Growth?

    Four and a half years ago, in February 2011, I published one of my first pieces of Wicksellian research, entitled The High Cost Of Free Money. In it I wrote that negative real interest rates were going to cause a sustained decline in the productivity growth of US labor, which in turn would lead to a deterioration in the structural growth rate of the economy. In making these observations, I was merely following the logic of 19th century Swedish...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Three Ugly Charts

    I would never claim to be an accomplished technical analyst, but I do know how to use a ruler when looking at charts of prices in the markets.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (July 29): The Slowdown In Trade

    Overview: After years in which the world’s major governments have been busy manipulating prices, Charles Gave finds it astonishing that anyone should be surprised by the current slowdown in global trade.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Three Risk Factors For US Growth

    In the run-up to the meeting this week of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee and the release on Thursday of second quarter gross domestic product data, confidence in the strength of US economic activity is deteriorating. It is not just that most market participants now expect 2Q growth to be modest relative to last year, with the consensus looking for an annualized QoQ figure of 2.7% compared with 4.6% for 2Q14 (see Not Déjà Vu Again...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: Who Gains From The Widening US Trade Deficit?

    After four years of US dollar real effective exchange rate appreciation, the US trade deficit is finally showing signs of widening. Both exports and imports have slumped heavily in value terms, largely because of a combination of weak oil prices and US dollar strength. Trade volumes paint a clearer picture, with exports down -0.5% year-on-year in May, while imports rose by 3.5%. As a result, the US trade deficit has expanded from 2.5% of GDP in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Why The Surprise At Slowing Trade?

    I am afraid I am rapidly turning into Gavekal’s resident bear—asleep half the time, grumpy the rest. In particular, I am amazed how some people have suddenly discovered that world trade is going nowhere, and that they are so bamboozled by this strange pattern. Where exactly have they been for the last 15 years?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Signal In Silver (Part II)

    Last year I came up with a chart (shown below) that I found rather intriguing. It showed that on every occasion in the last 100 years when the price of silver dropped more than 25% year-on-year, consumer price inflation in the US took a nose-dive soon afterwards.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Typology Of A Deflationary Bust

    In the summer of 1998 I wrote the first report for a new venture that was eventually to become Gavekal Research. It was called The Typology Of A Deflationary Boom. My contention at the time was that the US was in a deflationary boom and in the report I tried to explain to the tiny handful of readers we then had how to manage money in such a period. Booms and busts tend to be byproducts of the interest rate policies followed by central banks. The...

    18
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    Gavekal Research

    What Price US Growth Stocks?

    Ever since US equities bottomed in March 2009, glamour stocks such as Google, Amazon and Netflix have been at the forefront of the rebound, leading the Nasdaq composite to an all time high this week. While we continue to prefer other markets over the US (see Turning Cautious On US Equities), recent moves in mega-cap US growth stocks have set us wondering how long the outperformance of growth stocks over value stocks can last. After all, even...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Black Days In Brazil, But No Black Swan

    The end is not yet in sight for Brazil’s dreadful recession. The seasonally-adjusted economic activity index was down –3% YoY in June, and the current consensus forecast for full-year GDP growth is –1.7%, against +0.5% in January. Continued tightening of monetary and fiscal policy, coupled with lackluster external demand, makes possible a second year of economic contraction in 2016. The Brazilian real has lost -16.5% against the dollar this year...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (July 15): Deflation Redux

    Overview: When governments interfere with the price discovery mechanism, most people believe the inevitable result is runaway inflation. On the contrary, argues Charles Gave, official manipulation of prices threatens to plunge us all into deflation. United States: Tan Kai Xian examines the marked divergence between goods prices and services prices and ponders what it means for the overall US inflation outlook. Europe: As the eurozone inches its...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: The Divergence In Inflation Rates

    Following last year’s collapse in oil prices, US inflation declined from 2.1% in May 2014 to zero in May this year. Close followers of the US economy will know, however, that this zero rate masks a sharp bifurcation in prices. The slowdown in headline inflation has been propelled entirely by goods prices, which slumped -9.6% YoY in May thanks to modest international price pressures and the strong US dollar. In contrast, services prices, which...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Purpose Of The Stock Market

    When you’ve been around for as long as I have, you can’t help but come to a few conclusions—most of them unhappy. My first conclusion is that the stock market was invented to make as many people as possible as miserable as possible for as much of the time as possible. In this sense the stock market is a roaring success.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (July 2015)

    With the drama in Athens casting a pall over markets, what is the message from the Gavekal dashboard of economic and risk indicators? Overall, reasonably positive. Our main growth indicator suggests that the momentum of economic activity should pick up in the second half of the year. If correct, this would mark a repeat of the pattern seen in the last few years. Still, given the uncertainty associated with the Greek situation, there has been a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Payrolls Are Running Out Of Juice

    Later today we will publish our Growth & Markets Monthly, updating Gavekal’s dashboard of essential economic and risk indicators. The markets side of the equation is relatively straightforward this month: although investors have not switched into full risk-off mode, with the outlook for Greece’s eurozone membership as uncertain as ever ahead of this weekend’s referendum, there has been a clear diminution in their appetite for risk. What of...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (July 01): Manufacturing Machinations

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that the manufacturing sector remains the last bastion of proper economic data in the US, and the message being sent is not good. United States: Tan Kai Xian somewhat demurs from Charles and argues that the US manufacturing sector is unlikely to be the fountainhead of the next US recession. Europe: Central Europe has emerged as the manufacturing powerhouse of Europe at the expense of France and the southern...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Manufacturing And Recessions

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C United States: Will Weak Manufacturing Derail Growth?

    Marching into the second half of 2015, the US economy is gradually recovering after another weak start to the year. The majority of forecasters are now expecting a rebound in the US second quarter gross domestic product growth. This makes sense as domestic demand remains strong, supported by lower oil prices, a strong job market and deleveraged household balance sheets. However, while we have seen a robust rebound in most economic data series,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Fret (Yet) About US Housing

    In the summer of 2013, a sharp rise in US bond yields driven by the taper tantrum derailed the US housing market. Will the upward spike in 10-year treasury yields from 1.7% in February to 2.4% today do the same? So far, the market is showing no signs of fear. Despite a 40bp increase in mortgage rates, monthly housing sales and prices remain highly encouraging, as do the weekly numbers for mortgage applications. Meanwhile, US homebuilder stocks...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Gauging The Chances Of A US Recession

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

    1
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    The Fed And Dollar Depreciation

    So no surprises. A slightly more dovish Federal Open Market Committee stuck to the script of future monetary policy moves being data dependent. Since the US central bank yesterday scaled back its 2015 GDP growth forecast to 1.8%-2%, the implication is that rate increases, even if they start in September, will be a gradual affair. Investors liked what they heard as this suggests that Goldilocks lives, and a “not-too-hot, not-too-cold” scenario...

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    Five Corners (June 17): Bond Market Shakeout

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that the lack of market-making capacity in the financial sector means that the next big market move could be highly disorderly. United States: 10-year Treasuries look overvalued on a fundamental basis, but don’t expect an immediate correction says Tan Kai Xian. Europe: German bond yields have had a roller coaster ride of late so François Chauchat checks in to reassess their valuation anchors. China: From a standing...

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    Switch In Favor Of US Multinationals

    In recent weeks the US dollar has grown increasingly sensitive to changes in expectations for US interest rate hikes, with the currency’s DXY index fluctuating daily in response to every shift in sentiment about the precise timing of the US Federal Reserve’s first upward move. But while the exact date of the lift-off is crucial to the short term trajectory of the foreign exchange market, over the longer run the US dollar’s upside looks limited.

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    5C Overview: Efficiency, Capital And Bond Market Spreads

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

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    5C United States: Treasury Yield Normalization

    The trigger for the recent jump in 10-year treasury yields from 1.9% to 2.4% was leveraged investors unwinding long positions on European government bonds. This is not surprising as a “deflating” eurozone was a key reason for last year’s decline in global bond yields. Today, the outlook has improved as the single currency area looks to be enjoying a modest recovery. Absent a Greek-inspired contagion, Europe is likely to be less of a factor...

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    Oil At Its Ceiling, Not Floor

    With oil prices rebounding strongly this week, despite the non-event of last Friday’s meeting of the Organization Of Petroleum Exporting Countries, it seems appropriate to re-examine the case for cheaper oil that we have been presenting since late last year. Specifically, our view in December that US$50/bbl was more likely to be a ceiling than a floor for the Brent oil price in the long term has been contradicted by market actions of recent...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Protect And Survive

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

    3
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    To Cheer Or Fear US Wage Growth?

    Is the US equity market merely taking a breather before the next upward leg of the bull run? Or has it reached a worrying plateau, marking US stocks out for a protracted period of underperformance? With domestic profit margins facing a squeeze between the strong US dollar on one hand, and stirrings of wage growth on the other, we are worried it is the latter. As we argued on Tuesday, the US dollar’s strength means that any rewards US firms...

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    Will The Buyback Craze Ever End?

    Scientists tell us one of the things that sets us humans apart from other mammals is our relatively large prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that allows us to resist the lure of instant gratification and instead sacrifice ephemeral pleasures for solid long term gains.

    6
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    The Spat In The Spratlys

    It is typhoon season once again in the South China Sea. Last May, China ignited a storm of violent protest across Vietnam when it started drilling for oil off the Vietnamese coast. This year the squall is further south in the disputed waters of the Spratly Islands, where the US has demanded that China halt its land reclamation efforts. Ordered to leave the area by the Chinese military last week, a US Navy surveillance aircraft ignored the...

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    Five Corners (3 June): Shifting Capital Flows

    Overview: Louis Gave traces China’s rejection of planned economy shibboleths over the last 30 years and contends that Beijing is charging full tilt toward the final frontier: the liberalization of capital itself. United States: With the strength of the US dollar favoring imports over US-made goods, the US current account balance is set to deteriorate. This, argues Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian, will mean a bigger supply of US dollar liquidity in...

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    Not Déjà Vu Again For The US

    With the mid-point of 2015 approaching it looks to be a case of “déjà vu again” for a US economy suffering early year blues. As with other “soft patch” periods, there are plausible explanations for this stodginess that don’t just involve beating up on statisticians for their seasonal adjustment techniques. The US indeed had a cold winter and the West Coast port strike disrupted trade flows. But the real question for investors is whether the US...

    1
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    Growth & Markets Monthly (June 2015)

    This month saw a clear deterioration of our growth indicators. The pattern of the last few years with a weaker than expected first half of the year appears to be holding up. The question is whether 2015 will see the habitual pick-up in the second half of the year? On the inflation front, things remain quiet. US breakeven inflation rates, which looked as if they may have been breaking upwards last month, are now heading south again. Given the...

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    5C United States: The Rising Supply Of 'Earned' US Dollars

    The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency, which means the US can settle its current account deficit by issuing more US dollars. As Charles says, this means any contraction in the US current account deficit means fewer US dollars flowing abroad (see The US Current Account And Vanishing Global Liquidity). Naturally the reverse is also true. Following the strengthening of the trade-weighted US dollar index over the past four years, the...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Question Of When, Not If

    The cacophony emanating from China can be disorientating. On the one hand, China’s domestic stock markets are in the throes of a vigorous bull run. Locally-listed equities are up 140% in the last 12 months, with repeated government support measures and rising openness to international fund flows sustaining the momentum. On the other hand, China’s economic growth continues to slow, while the geopolitical drumbeat is increasingly daunting. With...

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    Towards A US Recession?

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

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    Five Corners (20 May): Assessing Oil's Comeback

    Overview: In light of the rebound in oil prices Anatole Kaletsky questions his own view that the oil market is becoming driven by “marginal cost producers”, rather than classic monopoly dynamics.

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    What Could Spur US Equities

    A common bias for investors is to assume that relationships between the market and economy in one phase must persist in the next. For example, since 2009 US firms have mostly grown profits by expanding margins—i.e. cost-cutting. Hence, the logic runs that if wages start to rise, profit margins must fall, leading to weak profit growth, and hence lower equity prices. Implicit in this logic is an assumption that margins must drive profits. There is...

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    The Untimely Demise Of US Productivity

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

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    The Dissonance In Markets

    Perhaps the biggest challenge confronting investors today is the disconnect between financial markets and economic data. Indeed, despite weak readings from the growth locomotives of the global economy (China and the US), recent weeks have seen bonds selling off, commodities going on a tear, and deep cyclical equities experiencing huge rebounds. In short, while economic data is pointing towards a mediocre global growth outlook, markets are...

    1
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    5C United States: Why So Calm After The Oil Price Collapse?

    After oil prices halved, profits in the sector look to have followed suit—S&P 500 energy firms in 1Q15 saw an eye watering -55% YoY plunge in earnings. Given this backdrop, it was to be expected that gory tales would emerge from the oil fields of Texas and North Dakota of bankruptcies, mass layoffs, forced sales and shotgun marriages. To be sure the oilfield services space has seen a bit of this, but generally an eerie calm prevails.

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    5C Overview: Regime Change In The Oil Market Only Just Starting

    Since late last year, when the battle for oil market share broke out between OPEC and the US frackers, we have argued that this is not just a contest between rival groups of producers, but between distinct pricing regimes, based on very different economic principles (see Will US$50 Be Oil’s Floor, Or Its Ceiling? and The Macro Dividend From Oil).

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    Bull Market, What Bull Market?

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

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    New York Seminar May 2015 - Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will

    We held our US spring seminar in New York on May 11, with Anatole, Louis, Joyce & Will offering their views on the most important developments in the global economy.

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    When Bond Markets Become Silly

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

    2
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    Why Brazil Trumps India

    The last year has been tough for emerging market investors—a recent survey showed that only 20% of actively managed EM funds beat their benchmark compared to an average 60-70% over the past five years. Recent weeks have not provided much respite with out-of-favor, commodity-rich markets like Russia and Brazil going on a tear, while much loved darlings such as India have taken a pounding.

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    More Tantrum Than Crash

    Nothing lasts forever, not even bond market bubbles operating under the tutelage of ultra-dovish central banks. Despite the promise of limitless financial repression in the eurozone and Japan, bond-buyers look to be going on strike. Long-dated US yields have crept higher over the last month, while yesterday’s market action saw investors throw in the towel on the eurozone’s peripheral bond markets. We even got the odd sight of the Australian...

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    Five Corners (6 May): The Weakness In Wages

    Overview: Charles Gave wonders why in spite of policymakers having the best of intentions, their efforts have caused declining productivity, lower median incomes and fewer quality jobs. United States: The labor market is no longer a clear indicator of the US economic cycle, says Will Denyer, who looks for new insights into what variables may guide the Fed in its policymaking. Europe: Although jobless numbers have fallen across much of the...

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    Growth & Markets Monthly (May 2015)

    While our growth readings ticked higher last month, the big shift came with a sharp rise in our risk appetite indicators. We also note an easing of deflationary pressure with the US breakeven inflation level registering a nine-month high. On the liquidity side, the European Central Bank has cranked up its expansionary efforts and its balance sheet is rising at 16% YoY. Taken together, these moves have benefited equity markets (notwithstanding...

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    5C Overview: The Real Message From Labor

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

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    5C United States: Forget Payrolls, Watch Out For Wage Growth

    Not so long ago most of what the savvy investor needed to know about the US economic cycle could be gleaned from a casual perusal of the labor market. Sadly for those seeking a simple life, those days have passed. For example, key measures of labor market slack offer mixed messages; the participation rate is stuck below the trough of the last two cycles which points to the working age population being under-utilized. Yet, a greatly reduced...

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    Beware Of Crowds, And False Prices

    The world’s largest economy is on the cusp of a deflationary depression—at least according to yesterday’s US GDP report. Real growth was up a mere 0.2% annualized in the first quarter, while nominal growth was even lower, at just 0.1%, due to a -0.1% drop in prices. Yet the markets largely looked past this “shocking” report. There were some notable moves yesterday, but not because the market was pricing in economic disaster—far from it.

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    Whither US Manufacturing

    US economic data has started to surprise on the downside, and much of this can be attributed to the manufacturing sector. This is worrying since the sector often leads the general economy. Hence, the $64,000 question is whether we should be bracing for an unscripted recession? Our answer is no, but investors should underweight the US manufacturing sector. In the near term, price adjustments, largely stemming from the energy and commodity price...

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    No One Likes To Pay Taxes

    No one likes to pay taxes, and a good few try to find a way around it. Perhaps this is why the US tax code and associated practice notes runs to 74,000 pages. Pretty much everyone feels better equipped to spend their own money than the government, and rightly so (anyone who pretends differently is a hypocrite; or did not earn their money themselves). This is why as people pay more tax there is demand for a clear accounting of the services...

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