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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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%.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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...

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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    Gavekal Research

    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.

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    Gavekal Research

    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.

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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”?

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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.

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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”.

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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.

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    Gavekal Research

    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.

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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?

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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.

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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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    Gavekal Research

    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).

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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.

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