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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research November Call

    Anatole Kaletsky, Arthur Kroeber and Charles Gave presented their views on what a Donald Trump presidency means. Anatole outlined both positive and negative potential outcomes. On the positive side, US growth could see a boost from expansionary fiscal policy, but isolationist trade policies could threaten US firms and equity prices. Arthur warned of the geopolitical risk of a power vacuum should the US pull back from its treaty obligations....

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Arthur Kroeber: What A Trump Presidency Means

    This is an excerpt from Arthur Kroeber's presentation at Gavekal's Hong Kong seminar on November 10. In this video Arthur presents his initial thoughts on the changes in the political situation in the US, and what it means for the rest of the world.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump’s Bond Market Correction

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

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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Banknote Bombshell

    While the world’s attention was riveted on this week’s US election, India sprang a surprise.On Tuesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the immediate demonetization of all existing banknotes with denominations of INR500 and INR1,000—note issues which together accounted for nearly 90% of the total currency in circulation by value.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What A Trump Presidency Means For Global Investors

    The social and geopolitical implications of the Trump shock are much too complex and too charged with emotion for instant assessments to be worthwhile. Even in the case of ordinary presidential elections, the immediate first-day market reaction usually turns out to be wrong. I will therefore try to avoid moral judgements and confine myself largely to economic observations, dividing them into ten items of good and bad news from a strictly...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    President Trump And The Fall Of Davos Man

    For decades, all around the world but especially in Europe, the notion of the sovereign nation has been under fierce attack. Leading the assault have been the international bureaucrats and a clique of economists in league with those I have dubbed the men of Davos, all of them resolute proponents of crony capitalism (see Dissolving The People).

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    When Elites Fail

    Burkean conservative in me wants to agree with de Tocqueville: the passions unleashed by this election will hopefully once again, go back into their box for the next three and half years, only to be stirred up again the next time the electoral cycle comes around. Still, there are two elements of this week’s vote that do raise discomfort.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Deteriorating Price Momentum And Rising Political Risk

    As of Friday’s close the S&P 500 had recorded nine consecutive down days, falling back to its 200-day moving average. One can point the finger for this pull-back at any of several factors: broadly disappointing earnings (ex-financials), rising foreign exchange volatility (see Is Perfidious Albion Undermining The ‘Shanghai Agreement?’), higher long term interest rates and, of course, rising political risk. Unfortunately, none of these forces...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Will Denyer: Assessing US Recession Risk

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Good Bond Repricing, Anyone?

    Even after the recent move higher in yields, there is general agreement at Gavekal that long-dated bonds remain horribly overvalued. The question is whether the adjustment toward fair value happens in a disruptive manner, or through a smooth transition to a new growth cycle. Anatole tends to the view that US economic growth should pick up from here, while Will Denyer is on recession-watch. The Federal Reserve, for its part, is worried about...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    On The Brink Of Recession

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    When The Keynesian Multiplier Goes Negative

    Last week I published a paper whose main point was that Keynesian policies lead to an inevitable decline in an economy’s structural growth rate (see Is The Second Shoe About To Drop?). My immediate concern is that developed economies seem set to head off on another public spending binge as they try to slay “secular stagnation”. That piece stirred a number of questions from readers, so I am following up with an addendum that extends the argument...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    When The Facts Change, I Change My Mind

    After the Brexit vote, Anatole became deeply bearish, fearing that a populist insurgency could unleash a destructive retreat from globalization. With the US electorate seemingly set to reject that pathway on November 8, the likelihood of other nations following Britain by turning in on themselves is greatly diminished.

    17
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Goldilocks Scenario?

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Safety First In EMs

    After a steady rise in emerging market inflows over the last seven months, tighter US financial conditions have led to an abrupt reversal. On the back of inflation concerns and a stronger US dollar, the seven day moving average of daily portfolio flows to EMs, as of last Monday, had fallen to its lowest level since the renminbi-induced sell-off 14 months ago. EMs are vulnerable to an externally-induced pull-back, for even if key central banks...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Milton Friedman I Knew

    In the late 1970s, when beavering away at my own little research firm, I received a letter from a “senior research analyst” at the Hoover Institution, named Milton Friedman. In the letter Friedman wrote that he agreed with some of what I had written in a recent report, but other sections had problems. He had gotten the paper from one of my clients, and I’ll admit it sent me just a bit over the moon.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — October 2016

    Charles Gave, Joyce Poon, Tom Miller and Anatole Kaletsky outlined their views on issues ranging from the end of the Pax Americana, global asset allocation in the face of increasingly ineffectual monetary policy, India's growth potential, and the imminent uncertainty for markets in the face of political risk.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Next For Libor Rates?

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

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Strange Case Of The US Trade Deficit

    The last three years saw the US dollar move from being an undervalued currency to an overvalued one, and yet the US trade balance has barely budged. This contrasts sharply with past periods of dollar strength which produced huge US trade deficits that were a boon to global exporters, and also to financial markets which got a liquidity boost. The fear for emerging economies in particular is that this relationship has broken down and a reliable...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Rising Odds Of A US Recession

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

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The World's New Tax Haven

    In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, there was a sense that the systemic failures it revealed would spark a radical overhaul of the global financial architecture. Eight years on, that has not happened: an exception is perhaps offshore finance. The US led the way with its Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which targets US citizens with footloose money. A more ambitious initiative was launched in 2009 by the G20; it aimed for...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research October Call

    Will Denyer presented a newly minted dynamic asset allocation tool which was developed from an ROIC-based framework that has helped us to better map and predict US economic cycles. He then answered listener questions on these themes.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging From The Soft Patch

    Three weeks ago we asked whether the uniform weakness in US data—across manufacturing, services and home construction—signaled the start of a recession or merely a summer soft patch. At the time we concluded that what we were seeing was yet another soft patch. Thankfully, the latest round of data releases appears to confirm that conclusion, with the US economy now emerging from its summer doldrums.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Angela Merkel’s Catch 22

    Back in April, we pondered whether, with their negative interest rate policies, central bankers were showing themselves to be particularly incompetent by condemning commercial banks to years of unprofitability, or whether their greater design was to drive weaker banks to the wall to advance a consolidation of banking industries around the world under the umbrella of nationalization (see NIRP: Machiavellian Design Or Policy Mistake?). In other...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Wicksell's Guide To A Better Portfolio

    With the recent US economic data worryingly soft, and with no convincing drivers of earnings growth to be seen, how should investors position their portfolios? Will and KX set out their methodology for structuring a dynamic Wicksellian portfolio to generate superior returns at reduced levels of volatility, and determine the optimum allocation mix for the current troubled environment.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Singapore Seminar—September 2016

    Audio and video from the latest Gavekal seminar in Singapore is available here. Louis Gave explains why financial markets have recently behaved predictably, and why that is about to change. Andrew Batson explains why Chinese policy making is in a holding pattern until next year's party congress is settled. Udith Sikand explains why this year's emerging market outperformance is likely to continue, as bonds and especially equities have...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Will Low Volatility Get Trumped?

    As we enter the final stretch of the exhausting US electoral cycle, the single most important question confronting investors may well be whether the current low volatility environment for equities, bonds, and exchange rates is dependent on politicians or not. Clearly, with the VIX hovering around 12, and with volatility in exchange rates barely noticeable (see Forget Central Banks, Watch Foreign Exchange Volatility), financial market...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Debate: A Trump Win And The Dollar

    As the world seriously tunes into the US presidential election, four Gavekal partners debate the outlook for the US dollar should Donald Trump emerge victorious and set about his promised remaking of the international security order and global trading system.

    25
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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Count On US Profits Riding To The Rescue

    A funny thing happened to US equities once the dust cleared after the late June sell-off that was sparked by the UK’s Brexit vote. As yields of most income earning assets fell on hopes of yet more central bank easing, equity investors discarded growth concerns and engineered a multiple expansion which drove the market to new vertigo-inducing highs (see Real Yields In The Driving Seat). The big question now is whether a profits boost can keep the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Knowing Whether To Buy The Dip

    With all the current focus on the Federal Reserve and markets, it’s easy to overlook the increasingly ugly state of the underlying US economy. Throughout the long post-2009 recovery, when any one driver of US growth showed signs of stalling, the others continued ticking over nicely, which meant overall growth averaged out around 2%. Recent data releases signal that has now changed. Although none of our key indicators has shown a dramatic...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Watch Real Yields On Corporates

    There are increases in real rates, and there are increases in real rates. And by no means are they all equal in impact. In Tuesday’s Daily, Joyce and KX noted that global equity markets have been supported this year primarily by the world-wide decline in real bond yields. After bond markets approached over-bought territory over the summer, the sharp increase in real yields we have seen over the last couple of weeks naturally hit stock prices. If...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of A Bubble?

    Ask three economists for the definition of a financial bubble, and you will be lucky to get fewer than four different answers. Even in our little shop, we like to make distinctions between bubbles in productive assets (US railroads, the internet, fiber optic cables, shale gas wells...) and bubbles in unproductive assets (gold, tulips, Japanese land, Florida condos…). We also like to make distinctions on how bubbles are financed: equity (good) or...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Post-Impeachment Brazil: Not For Beginners

    When it finally came, Dilma Rousseff’s ouster by impeachment on August 31 was, in the harsh language of markets, all in the price. The question for investors, who may have (profitably) ridden the rumor of her demise since January, is whether they should now sell the fact. A reason to stick with the trade is that after a severe recession, Brazil’s economy is stabilizing. Confidence levels have perked up and 2Q16 saw industrial output and...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Real Yields In The Driving Seat

    Notwithstanding yesterday’s bounce, the stock market is a nervous place just now. After riding a post-Brexit rebound that saw both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite scale record highs on minimal volatility, investors are increasingly wondering about the extent of the potential near term downside, not just in the US but around the world

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Prepare For Hurricanes

    After months of contented lethargy, Friday’s big sell-off seemed to confirm the main points that Louis and I made in our conference call two days earlier. Firstly, the faith in “lower forever” bond yields is not a reason for reassurance, but a cause for concern. Secondly, political risks have not been eliminated by the summer’s market rally, merely ignored. Thirdly, what I call the “financial hurricane season” usually starts in early autumn—and...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The New Ineptocracy

    In times past, capitalist systems were organized on a simple premise. At the centre sat “money” as the medium to express all values. The primary operating dynamic of this system was that surplus money (savings) got channelled into economic activity, with a secondary effect that “unused”, or “left over”, money ended up in financial assets, usually equities, such that at times of great optimism a bull market resulted. After running for a year or...

    7
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    Gavekal Research Monthly Conference Call — September 2016

    In the inaugural Gavekal Research monthly conference call, Louis, Anatole and Arthur addressed the global growth environment and offered asset allocation suggestions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Better G-20 Communiqué

    Another year, another G-20, another yawn. Though the group of the world’s 20 biggest economies was useful in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, it has since degenerated into another global drawing room where leaders explain to one other how the world would be a better place if only it were a better place. This was a missed opportunity.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    I Must Admit That I’m Confused

    Friday saw the release of US jobs market data for August which had investors convinced of a continued “not too hot, not too cold” outlook for the world’s largest economy. This is at odds with the view that I have held for a while; namely, that the US has been on the brink of recession or may have even entered one. This prognosis was based on a hopefully not insubstantial analytical foundation, which may be worth reviewing.

    3
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    The Return Of US Fiscal Policy

    More than three years after the world fretted about the US economy falling off a “fiscal cliff”, there is suddenly much talk of government spending being used to gin up growth. Whatever their many differences, both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump favour a fiscal expansion, with a focus on upgrading the US’s aging infrastructure stock. At the same time Federal Reserve officials, led by Janet Yellen and John Williams, are arguing for more fiscal...

    3
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    The Fed’s Hawkish Stance

    For those who thought Janet Yellen a dyed-in-the-wool dove, her Jackson Hole speech on Friday gave pause as she endorsed fellow policymakers’ recent statements that the US economy was strong enough to warrant interest rate rises. Markets quickly adjusted. The implication for global asset markets is not altogether encouraging.

    0
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    Video: Yield Chasing—What Could Go Wrong?

    Louis outlines his view on this summer's unusual global economy and offers investment advice going forward into autumn.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Falling Natural Rate Is No Mystery

    As the high priests of global central banking congregate in Jackson Hole, much of the chatter ahead of the meeting has concentrated on the “mystifying” fall over recent years in the natural rate of interest, and possible reasons why it should have declined to such an extent. Having spent the last ten years attempting to apply the economic theories of the great 19th century Swedish economist Knut Wicksell, I have to say I am delighted with the...

    6
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    The Next EM Yield Play?

    With global growth having stabilized and central banks remaining in super-easy mode, the dash for yield is making emerging markets ever more interesting. In recent months a number of our Hong Kong-based writers have advised investors to play this trend through bonds not equities, with Udith chiming in on Monday (see Indonesia: Bet On Stability Not Growth). The question for those who expect this “not too hot, not too cold” phase to persist is...

    7
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    A Brexit-Induced Recantation

    Exactly two months have now passed since the Brexit referendum. It is now an appropriate time to review what has happened, and what hasn’t, since June 23. As a quintessential member of the elite that was angrily repudiated by a majority of British voters, this referendum was a profound emotional trauma. Therefore, my initial reaction turned out to be completely wrong.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Cheap For A Reason

    By most measures, US equities are not cheap. Yet many investors remain overweight, believing that in a world of ultra-low interest rates and negative bond yields, equity valuations should be higher because future cash flows are now discounted at a much lower rate than in the past. At first glance, the equity risk premium—the expected return on stocks over and above the risk-free rate—appears to support this belief. At more than one standard...

    0
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    The Dollar And The Next Crisis

    For a third straight month in June, foreigners unloaded US bonds, with “official institutions” leading the way on net sales of US$33.5bn versus a small rise in buying by offshore private investors. The interesting thing is that foreign central banks have been lightening their US dollar reserves for a while, but the contraction has now intensified to -5.6% year-on-year. Previously, such a decline in foreign holdings of the global reserve currency...

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Ripples In The Eurodollar Market

    The Eurodollar market is making waves. While most benchmark interest rates around the world have been stable or softening, US dollar Libor has bucked the trend. Over the last seven weeks three-month Libor has climbed by almost 20bp to a shade over 0.8%. Meanwhile the TED spread, which effectively measures interbank credit risk by tracking the spread between Eurodollar rates and three-month US Treasury bill yields, has shot to its widest since...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Irving Fisher, Debt-Deflation And The Bifurcated US Economy

    Many of our readers will be familiar with Irving Fisher’s great 1933 paper The Debt-Deflation Theory Of Great Depressions. The main point of this fascinating work is that if an economy suffers simultaneously from over-indebtedness and falling prices, then strange things start to happen. These include a fall in the velocity of money and a collapse in capital spending. And when it comes to interest rates, Fisher explained that things get really...

    3
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    The Last Free Lunch In US Markets

    Even as US equities hit new highs, this most policy-driven of bull markets remains unloved, with most investors we meet expecting an eventual collapse. US profits are declining, valuations are rich and the headwinds facing the industrial sector, in particular, show no sign of abating. On an economy-wide basis, the return on invested capital earned by US firms is falling, so edging the economy closer to recession (see A New Look At Capital:...

    1
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    Beware The “High Dividend” Lure

    Investors have been piling into US high dividend plays as they offer decent income and a “margin of safety” in an increasingly expensive equity market that, despite soft earnings, continues to make new highs. The chase for yield has been boosted by global central banks’ easing measures which have helped drive bond yields to pifflingly low levels; at the same time the S&P 1500 dividend yield has stayed steady this year at about 2%. Yet any...

    0
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    The Caveat In US Payrolls

    Notions of a US growth scare were apparently banished on Friday with a bullish payroll report for July helping drive US equities to a new high and causing the dollar to rally strongly. Some 255,000 jobs were added—far better than the expected 185,000—while a cycle-high average hourly earnings gain of 2.6% YoY points to strong domestic demand. So how to square this data with the far less cheery 2Q16 GDP report, released last week, which showed...

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    Video: Risks In US High Dividend Stocks

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Baleful Influence of Inventories

    The reason US second quarter GDP growth was so disappointing at 1.2% QoQ annualized was a deep contraction in US business inventories, which knocked -1.16pp off the quarterly growth figure. In itself, a fall in inventories need not be such a bad thing for longer term growth. If inventories get run down because companies are unable to keep up with a surge in demand, then a fall in inventories can foreshadow increased investment to expand business...

    0
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    Recession Or Stagnation?

    On Friday US GDP data for 2Q16 was released showing an expansion that looks ever more anemic and unconvincing. Is this just the new normal in an era of stagnant global growth or is the US more perilously poised? To answer that question, imagine the US economy having two parts in the shape of “consumer GDP”, which represents about three quarters of activity, and the remainder being the non-consumer “production” portion.

    3
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    There’s No Need To Fear A Tighter Fed

    While the US Federal Reserve left interest rates unchanged yesterday as expected, it did revise its statement to sound marginally more hawkish. Most notably, it added the line, “Near-term risks to the economic outlook have diminished,” while tweaking its language to reflect recent relatively solid data releases. The market took the announcement in its stride. The S&P 500 ended the day little changed. Yields on 10-year treasuries fell...

    7
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    The EM Equity Question

    Despite this year’s strong run-up, there remain good reasons to stick with emerging market assets. The twin impact of collapsed borrowing costs amid a renewed global hunt for yield, and greatly reduced exchange rate volatility has been the ideal environment for EM yield curve flattening trades.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Trump And The Prisoner’s Dilemma

    Let us assume that Mervyn King is right and the week-to-week strategy of major central banks has become to stop equity markets within their jurisdiction from going down. And let us further assume that markets are fully convinced of central bankers’ resolve to achieve this end. In the case of US equities, which sit at the center of the global system, such a proposition logically means that their price has two components: (i) the “intrinsic value...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Flow Through To EM Equities

    These are strange times for investors with bond yields in big developed markets plumbing new depths on dark concerns about never ending deflation and stagnation. Yet in a clearly related development, US equities are making new highs while corporate- and emerging market-bonds continue to rally.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    US REITs And The Rush For Yield

    One of the side effects of negative interest rates and central bank asset purchases in the eurozone and Japan has been a reach for yield which has seen foreign investors rush into relatively high-yielding US assets, compressing yields and spreads to an extent that appears at odds with the late-cycle stage of the US economy. Earlier this month the 10-year US treasury yield set a new low of 1.36%, while US Baa-rated corporate bond yields fell to...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Tools, Jewels And P/E Ratios

    There are two basic reasons why an asset has value and this understanding should be foundational knowledge for anyone running a portfolio. They can be prized for their efficiency (a tool) or desired because of their scarcity (a jewel). Investors preferences for jewels versus tools will shift through time, but what does not change is the fact that scarcity cannot lead to economic growth.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Post-Brexit Rally: Head Fake Or Game-Changer?

    Let’s face it, few expected the rally in global risk assets of the past ten days. Even investors who, like Charles, believed that Brexit was a fundamentally positive development did not expect positivity to erupt quite so suddenly. Yet, here we are, with the Nikkei up 10% since its post-Brexit low, the S&P 500 breaking out to new highs and the Shanghai benchmark above 3,000. Will it last?

    3
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    The Consumer Alone Can’t Avert A US Recession

    With a strong US job market auguring well for income growth, and healthy household balance sheets, many believe the growth of consumer demand will outweigh dismal exports and weakening capital spending, staving off recession. But close inspection of historical data shows the US can tip into recession even though consumption remains broadly stable.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    A Fundamental Assault On Freedom

    Of all basic freedoms, one of the most fundamental of all is the freedom of the individual to organize his or her relationship with time. The way we order our affairs with respect to the all too brief time allocated to us on this earth is a profound right that we all should be allowed to exercise unhindered. In short, everyone should be free to choose whether to be an ant or a grasshopper.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Politics Trumps Jobs

    So, it was a false alarm. By that I do not mean the Brexit vote, which remains, for reasons explained at the end of this note, the biggest threat to the world economy and to risk assets since the global financial crisis. The false alarm was the brief panic about a US recession caused by the slump in employment growth reported last month. As I said at the time there were four possible explanations for the shockingly weak May payrolls (see...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    US Bonds As A Hedge: It’s Complicated

    F. Scott Fitzgerald noted that the test of a first rate intellect was being able to hold two opposing ideas, yet still function. The same could be said of any investor who aspires to follow a rules-based portfolio management strategy. Inevitably, such rigor occasionally requires messy compromises with reality as is now the case in the US bond market. Such is my dilemma as I try to broadly follow three rules:

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    US Auto Sales: Shifting Down A Gear

    At first sight it was worrying last week when June’s number for US automobile sales came in at a disappointing 16.7mn annualized, well below the street’s expectations of 17.3mn. Auto sales are closely followed as a leading indicator of both US consumption growth and the overall business cycle, so at this stage in the cycle, when consumption is the only remaining driver of US economic growth, the undershoot was especially troubling. Worse,...

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    Positioning For Uncertain Times

    Regular readers will know that Gavekal is a broad church. And while the church choir only occasionally sings in perfect unison, the different singers can often hit harmonies that are all the more powerful for being unexpected. This may be one of those occasions. Yesterday, Anatole, Charles and Louis took part in a conference call in which they laid out their different views of Brexit and what it will mean for the economy and markets of the UK,...

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    Tax Receipts And US Recessions

    When kicking-off two days of Congressional testimony yesterday, Janet Yellen acted to sooth market nerves by declaring the US economy to be in reasonable health, while sounding sufficiently concerned about apparent labor market weakness to hose down worries of an imminent rate raise. To my mind, this is all noise for the simple reason that the question is no longer whether the US faces a recession in the future but more precisely if such a...

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    Beyond Brexit, A More Hawkish Fed

    After the Federal Open Market Committee yesterday revised down both its growth forecast and its projection for the future trajectory of US interest rates, market expectations of rate hikes have collapsed. Fed fund futures are now pricing the probability of a July rate hike at just 6%, down from 16% immediately before the FOMC’s meeting. In reaction, the yield on 10-year treasuries has dipped further below the 1.6% mark to 1.56%, the lowest since...

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    Populism And A New Financial Crisis

    The febrile behavior of financial markets ahead of Britain’s EU referendum shows that the voting on June 23 will influence economic and political conditions around the world far more profoundly than Britain’s share of 4% in global GDP might suggest. This outsize impact has at least three explanations.

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    Never Do On Monday What You Wish You’d Done On Friday

    The first rule of bear markets is never to do on Monday what you wish you had done on Friday. During bear markets, the constant stream of negative stories from the media leads to a build-up of anxiety among investors, anxiety that pours out first thing on Monday morning on trading floors everywhere.

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    Boomerang Kids Won’t Come Back To Hurt US Housing

    Hand-wringing features about “boomerang kids” have become a staple of the US media in recent years. Invariably they tell of a generation that left college with record student debts, only to find themselves looking for work in a depressed post-crisis employment market with little demand for newly-minted graduates. Unable to find jobs matching their qualifications, many ended up serving coffee in Starbucks, or doing other menial work on near-...

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    South China Sea Risks

    In the next few weeks the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will likely rule in favor of the Philippines in its dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing’s reaction will show to what extent China is prepared to defy international law to defend what it claims are “core interests”.

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    The Outlook For The US$ Vs The Euro

    When coming to investment decisions in the financial markets, I always try to be as “rules-based” as I possibly can. By that, I mean that I look as closely as I can at the available evidence to determine what has worked in the past—and what has not. This is difficult enough when analyzing the US bond market or the French stock market, but when it comes to exchange rates, the task reaches a whole new level of complexity. It is necessary to look...

    5
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    Another Take On The Payrolls

    The last two days have seen my colleagues offer erudite commentary on the meaning of the US non-farm payroll report for May (see Thinking Dark Thoughts and The Dissonance In Jobs). I would simply observe that things take time to properly coalesce and the message from the US labor market is consistent with recessionary signals dating back to the 1960s.

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    The Dissonance In Jobs

    This week has seen Gavekal senior partners reach a rare consensus of sorts, with Anatole acknowledging that May’s “pig ugly” US payrolls report upped the chances of Charles’s US recession scenario playing out (see Thinking Dark Thoughts). For me, the report offers a classic mixed signal: on the one hand the slowdown in US employment growth could stem from firms dialing back hiring in anticipation of trouble ahead, or alternatively it could be...

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    Thinking Dark Thoughts

    You can put lipstick on a pig, but there is no way of disguising that the US payrolls last Friday were pig-ugly. For those of us of the bullish persuasion, May’s job growth of only 38,000, the weakest monthly figure since the post-recession employment recovery began in October 2010, sent the first credible signal that Charles’s call for a US recession and full-scale equity bear market could be right after all.

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    On Populism

    The ruling class, which over the last 20 years has done so much to manage our decline, has found a new enemy in the shape of political “populism.” While acknowledging that times have been tough, what so annoys this elite is the realization that “we the people” do not recognize that a complicated world is being run in our own best interests. For this reason it is no great surprise that such ingrates have been labelled populists.

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    Much Ado About Nothing Much

    A quick glance through the financial media would lead the casual observer to conclude that the US currency has been, and remains, in a bull market. After all, with the Federal Reserve now supposedly back on a tightening track, how can the US dollar fail to rise? This almost universal belief makes the recent price action all the more interesting for, let’s face it, everything that could have gone right for the US dollar in the past year has gone...

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    Wicksell’s Portfolio

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

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    How Much Geopolitical Risk In Asia?

    With the global economy in the doldrums and most asset markets stuck in neutral, the last thing that is needed is a trade war or an armed confrontation in the world’s most vibrant region, East Asia. The risk of either is low, but inching up.

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    The Next Move In US High-Yield

    At the nadir of the market sell-off in February, the Federal Reserve offered more dovish than expected guidance on its monetary policy intentions and so backstopped the crumbling US high-yield bond market. Since then, high-yield bond prices have rallied back to their early-2015 level with the last month seeing a consolidation. Yet with the chances of a Fed rate hike in June on the up and the fundamentals of the US economy looking less than...

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    The Challenge For Equity Markets

    Given high valuations and a rock bottom risk-free rate, it is hard to see US equities moving higher without a pick-up in corporate earnings. Yet with the strong US dollar hurting exporters and domestic economic data coming in weak, US-based firms may struggle to deliver.

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    The End Of The US Credit Cycle?

    As a reflection of the US economy’s steady if unspectacular recovery, bank loan growth has averaged a solid 7.8% YoY since early 2015. The biggest recipients of this expansion have been commercial and industrial firms followed by real estate developers, with consumer lending sitting some way back. Since 3Q15, however, the Federal Reserve’s senior loan officer survey has signaled a sharp tightening in standards for both C&I and commercial...

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    Here Comes US Deflation

    Regular readers will be aware that I expect the next big move in prices to be down rather than up and that this shift will occur against the backdrop of a weakening US economy, possibly one that is contracting. Consider the chart below and my contention is that we may be close to that point.

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    Portfolio Construction For Fence-Sitters

    Just over six months ago, I published a Daily note in which I quoted the late American sage Yogi Berra: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” My thesis was simple. At the time, the world had reached the point when—in a normal cycle—investors would tend to sell the US market, preferring instead to buy into non-US markets (see The Gavekal Ethos).

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    Risk On? Maybe Not

    Equity and oil prices have rallied in true risk-on fashion since the February 11 market trough, and are now back near their highs of late last year. Given this apparent rebound in risk appetite, one might have expected US government bonds to sell off in equally dramatic fashion, with yields climbing back to the 2.2-2.3% levels seen at the end of last year. Instead, there has been no rebound at all. Today, 10-year treasuries yield 1.75%, much the...

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    Heading Passively To The Poorhouse

    It is astonishing the number of articles one can read all claiming to “show” that passive investments consistently outperform active money managers. Their conclusion is always the same: savers should invest in indexes or tracker funds rather than actively-managed funds, and that as a result they will be much better off. This claim has been repeated so often it has become received wisdom. Alas, in this case, as in so many others, the received...

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    Trump And The Tree People

    Recently I reada bookcalled Je n’ai plus peur (I am not afraid any more)by the French writer Jean-Claude Guillebaud. I do not know Guillebaud personally, but even though he is very much on the left of the French political spectrum, I must confess that I have read all his books, and that I have always liked what he has to say.

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    US Homebuilders Hit A Speed Bump

    Homebuilding has been a reliable contributor to US growth over recent years. Now tighter lending standards for new construction projects and commercial real estate loans are threatening a slowdown. But, as KX and Will argue, as long as mortgage rates remain low and demand robust, the sector should only hit a speed bump, not a wall.

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    Making Sense Of The Rally In Cyclicals

    By all accounts, 2016 has so far proved to be a challenging year for “market neutral” funds, and “smart beta” strategies, along with various quant funds. Before we have even reached the seasonally-challenging part of the year—sell in May and go away, and all that—a quick glance at year-to-date returns for “low volatility” hedge funds illustrates that the pain is pretty widespread. In a sense, this is surprising; after all, spreads are tighter...

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    Vertigo And The US Economy

    Regular readers will be familiar with my contention that persistently low interest rates lead not to economic growth and sunlit uplands, but instead to a structural decline in the growth rate and stagnation. Based on this analysis, I have for a while expected a US economic contraction. That one has not yet materialized means there is, however, an obligation to check whether I have been barking up the wrong tree.

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    NIRP: Machiavellian Design Or A Policy Mistake?

    In order to make money, Starbucks has little choice but to sell coffee. Ford must sell cars if it hopes to stay open. And Lockheed Martin better get orders for bombs, missiles and planes if it is to remain relevant. But banks do not need to make loans (their stated purpose) in order to make payrolls and pay shareholders a dividend, at least at certain points in the cycle. When the yield curve is steep, banks can borrow money cheaply at the...

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    The Sum Of All Fears

    As “China implosion” and renminbi devaluation fears have faded, risk assets around the world have enjoyed a sustained a rally led by “China sensitive” assets such as commodities, Asian equities and emerging market high-yield debt. In short, all the assets that were priced for a scenario just short of Armageddon. But following this rebound, what next? The most obvious point is that, with the pick-up in fiscal stimulus, the rebound in construction...

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    Rebalance Away From US Equities

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

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    Oil’s Busted Flush

    Buoyant expectations that the world’s major oil producers could agree a production freeze when they meet in Doha on Sunday have helped push the price of crude to a four-month high this week. The international Brent blend benchmark reached just shy of US$45/bbl, up 66% from its late January low of US$27, with at least some brokerage houses predicting the price could breach US$50 in the event of a deal. Maybe—but forecasts that the crude price...

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    Is US Manufacturing A Leading Indicator?

    There is a commonly held belief that US manufacturing leads the rest of the economy, so it is surely a worry that factory output has been flat since late 2014. And yet the broad economy kept growing—with GDP up 2% YoY in 4Q15, consumption up 2.7% YoY, and home construction by almost 10%. One explanation for this apparent decoupling is the US’s shift to a more service-intensive “knowledge economy” which has rendered metal bashing and more...

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    Updating The US Recession Indicator

    In January last year I penned a piece whose simple thesis was clear from the title (see Towards An OECD Recession In 2015). The idea was that each time the rentier owner of capital made more money than the entrepreneur (on a worldwide basis) in the previous 12 months, a recession in the OECD materialized some time in the next 12 months. Returns for the rentier were computed using the 12-month total return of 10-year treasuries and those for...

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    The Slowdown In Services

    Both the main leading indicators of activity in the US services sector—the ISM services PMI and the Markit services PMI—staged modest rebounds in March. But on the face of it, the pick-up in the headline numbers offers little encouragement for investors. At 54.5 for the ISM and 51.3 for Markit, both measures remain substantially below their 2015 averages of 57.2 and 55.9 respectively. Considering that services make up 70% to 80% of the US...

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