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    Gavekal Research

    The Winding Road To Vassalage

    No one much likes Theresa May’s compromise deal that would leave Britain as a rule-taking, semi-detached appendage to the European Union. That, however, is the most likely outcome after the UK cabinet yesterday approved an exit deal that sets up a November 25 summit, where EU leaders will be asked for their assent. Shortly afterwards, the UK parliament will have its say, and despite challenging math in the House of Commons a “national interest”...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Doom Loop Tightens

    The stand-off between Rome and Brussels over Italy’s 2019 budget claimed its first casualty on Monday. Italy’s major banks were forced to club together to support an emergency bond issue by Banca Carige, after the rise in Italian government bond yields triggered by the budget battle eroded the mid-sized lender’s capital base, pushing it to the brink of collapse.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The True Story Of Eurozone Equities

    Since the financial crisis, European equities have proven serial duds compared to their transatlantic cousins. Cedric argues this divergence is simple reflection of the higher earnings-per-share achieved by US firms. Looking forward, however, he says it will be almost impossible for US firms to maintain this profits gap.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Germany, And Europe, After Merkel

    All political careers end in failure. Doubtless Angela Merkel is already feeling the sting. Even as the long-serving German chancellor stands up on Tuesday to address the European parliament in Strasbourg, political observers and investors are looking beyond Merkel’s term in office to the identity of her successor. That is likely to be decided on December 7, when Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union is set to elect a new party chairman, so...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar — October 2018

    At Gavekal’s seminar in London last month Charles Gave and Anatole Kaletsky presented on whether the world is breaking up into three different monetary zones, and whether this is a correction to, or an end to, the long-running global bull market. Micahel Clendenin of Gavekal RedTech explained how they conduct research on the Chinese technology and internet sector.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What's Changed In The Oil Market

    “Sanctions are coming,” proclaimed Donald Trump in a tweet last week, three days before the imposition of the latest US embargo on Iranian oil exports. The oil market was not impressed. Since late September, when crude hit four-year highs, the Brent price has slumped -16.7% from US$86.29 to US$71.91, with WTI falling -19.1%.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It's Finally Safe To Buy Sterling

    The pound rose 2% yesterday after a statement from the British government that a Brexit deal could be expected by late this month. That has since been rowed back. Nevertheless, the UK is moving into an endgame where the most plausible outcomes are either a "soft Brexit", or a new referendum which results in the UK remaining in the EU. Both would be good news for sterling.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Yes, We're Still In A Bull Market

    Anatole and Will believe that continued exposure to US equities makes sense, since underlying corporate profitability remains strong. So long as one avoids the most rate-sensitive sectors, US portfolios should be 70-75% in stocks, with the rest mainly in cash. Moreover, they argue that the period of EM underperformance is now done, and emerging markets are poised for a significant rally.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Has Oil Set Its High For This Cycle?

    With the price of WTI crude oil now back below its 200-day moving average, Louis puts himself in the shoes of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and imagines what sort of leverage he could exert over Donald Trump, what this means for the enforcement of sanctions against Iran, and what that implies for the oil price going forward.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Another Weight On The Euro

    The bear flattening of the US yield curve while European short rates remain anchored in negative territory means that it no longer makes sense for euro-based investors to hedge the currency risk of US bond purchases. Their hedging costs have risen to a level that wipes out the yield they would get on a 10-year US treasury. For US dollar investors, the opposite is true.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Listen To What Italians Say

    Among the factors rattling global markets this week has been the brewing dispute between Brussels and Italy’s populist government over its blowout budget proposal.The fear is that Italy gets into a vicious circle of tightening credit markets and faltering growth that could end with a resumption of the euro crisis and ultimately its exit from the single currency.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    World Trade And A Troubling Signal

    As Donald Trump has ramped up tariffs on US imports from China, investors have understandably grown anxious about the impact on world trade. Few significant effects have shown up in the data so far. Nevertheless the outlook is alarming—although not necessarily in the way many might think.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    How The Brexit Stalemate Breaks

    As the Brexit negotiations enter their endgame, a stalemate has become the most likely outcome. Theresa May’s Conservative Party is now in open rebellion against her leadership, with Britain’s weekend press reporting that her government is just 72 hours from collapse. And a “No Deal” Brexit “car crash” is now described as a 50-50 probability by many politicians and commentators in both Britain and Europe. Yet the pound has maintained its value...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

    Louis investigates six of the most incongruous sets of relationships that have held sway this year and offers alternative explanations. In particular, he focuses on the strange case of China’s response to US trade hostility and argues that understanding Beijing’s game plan may hold the key to whether the long US bull market in equities can stay the course.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Softly, Softly, Mr. Draghi

    Last week was an ugly one for equity markets on both sides of the Atlantic. But there was a crucial difference. US stocks are down from an all-time high set as recently as last month, with the S&P500 closing on Friday above (just) its 200-day moving average. In contrast, eurozone equities have been trending continuously lower ever since the end of January.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Politics (And Economics) Of A Multi-Polar Europe

    This weekend’s election in Bavaria saw voters deal parties in Germany’s ruling coalition a bruising rebuff that further erodes Merkel’s authority and effectively kills off Macron’s plan for the EU to integrate at a faster pace. In light of such a changed environment, Nick and Cedric introduce a new framework to explain how political bargaining will work in an increasingly multi-polar Europe.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Bonds' Failure To Rally

    Given all the bad news for markets this year, one would be forgiven for thinking that US treasuries and German bunds would have been a good investment. But even as emerging markets have sold off and the US dollar has risen against almost every emerging market currency out there, US treasuries (and to a lesser extent bunds) have been an absolute dog of an investment.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Audio & Transcript — Gavekal Research Call October 2018

    In this month’s Research Conference Call Louis-Vincent Gave examined the present bad tidings from markets and asked whether the global bull market faces a denouement. Anatole Kaletsky argued that this sell-off will likely prove to be a temporary setback for emerging markets and that the global bull market may have further to run. However, he warned that the outcome will depend heavily on where the oil price goes from here.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why I Love The Euro

    By now surely almost everyone, except perhaps Jacques Delors and Jean-Claude Trichet, must accept that the euro is the greatest monetary mistake governments have imposed on their unsuspecting populations since then Chancellor of the Exchequer Winston Churchill took Britain back onto the gold standard in 1925.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Bottoming Out In France

    It has been a tough summer for the French economy, and a difficult rentrée—as the French call September’s return to classes at the start of the school year—for the government of president Emmanuel Macron. France’s growth rates have fallen of a cliff this year, with GDP growth falling to just 0.2% quarter-on-quarter in the first and second quarters, from an average of 0.7% in 2017. And after household spending actually contracted in 2Q, consumer...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: Are We Still In A Bull Market?

    At the start of the year, markets seemed poised for a rotation out of US equities into non-US assets. In fact, US equities and cash are the only assets to have delivered positive returns this year. Louis examines the reasons why and concludes that portfolio managers should stay defensive, while looking for buying opportunities in oversold emerging markets, and in European assets in non-euro countries such as the UK, Sweden and Switzerland.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy’s Inevitable Endgame

    Just over a year ago, with the optimism towards eurozone stock markets, and Italy in particular, riding high, I wrote a paper expressing the view that none of the eurozone’s underlying problems, nor Italy’s, had been solved. One year later, the situation is now looking very dangerous indeed.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    More Trouble Ahead For Italian Yields

    The market gave an unequivocal two thumbs down to Italy’s budget deficit forecast announced on Friday. In proposing a deficit target for each of the next three years of 2.4% of GDP, finance minister Giovanni Tria was perceived to have bowed to pressure from Italy’s populist coalition for spending increases and tax cuts, and to have relegated debt reduction to a back seat. In response, Italy’s 10-year government bond yield jumped 26bp to 3.14%,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Deal Could Mean No Brexit

    After European Union leaders rejected Theresa May’s Chequers deal, the UK government is left with only two alternatives, argues Anatole. If Parliament in November is confronted with No Deal or No Brexit, the most likely outcome would be a new referendum and a vote to remain. The result will be a massive appreciation of sterling and a rally in many UK domestic assets.

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    Why The US Cannot Win A Trade War

    The US has made a fundamental policy mistake in pursuing a trade war against China. A Keynesian macroeconomic analysis shows that the US will likely be worst affected by the conflict, while China should escape unscathed and several other emerging markets could be clear gainers. This sell-off may be an ideal opportunity to "buy the dip" in EMs

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Populist Wave Peaks

    Since the migration crisis of 2015, nationalist-populist movements have been on a tear across Western Europe. Sunday saw the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats boost their ranking, and even claim to be the election’s real winner. Yet look closer and what stands out over the last two years has been such parties’ failure to fully break through.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Exit From A Liquidity Squeeze

    If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. By the same token, if central bank reserves are shrinking, the US dollar is rising, and emerging market currencies are cratering, we probably face a liquidity squeeze. None of this should be surprising, as the drains on US dollar liquidity have come from all directions this year.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Against Eurozone Stocks

    The eurozone may not face the kind of liquidity crunch roiling US dollar-based emerging economies, but its equity markets remain on a grinding downward trajectory. The MSCI EMU index is within 1.0% of this year’s low and a range of technical indicators make for ugly reading. I would advise global investors to generally avoid the single currency area, but for those who must be there I will slightly surprise myself by arguing that the eurozone’s...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Getting It Wrong

    Louis went into 2018 with a set of assumptions about how growth and markets around the world would play out. It hasn’t exactly worked out as expected and in this mea culpa he seeks to understand how he got it wrong and what comes next. He concludes that a key driver of the changed investment environment was not so much the strength of the US dollar but China’s decision to allow a renminbi devaluation.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    Strategy Monthly: A Simple Guide To US Asset Allocation

    We synthesize four years of work on asset allocation and present a model portfolio built around analysis of the cost of and return on capital; the real rate of return on equities, bonds and cash; and the ideal duration of fixed-income holdings. Today we recommend that US portfolios hold 75% in equities, 25% in cash, and shun bonds.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Italy’s Chaotic Tendency To Stabilize

    Italian debt holders have been spooked by a leading figure in the country’s populist government threatening a fiscal blowout. Such rhetoric threatens the relatively benign scenario that I advocated in July and has investors fretting about another eurozone crisis. While Italian politics will remain febrile, such concerns are probably overdone.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Whimpering Economic Cycle

    As with most of the developed world, the eurozone has seen a breakdown of the Phillips Curve link between inflation and unemployment. The 2008 crisis and ensuing double-dip recession created a sclerotic environment where labor market dynamics had little impact on general prices. This is another way of saying that Europe’s economy has remained stuck a in low-growth funk. Last year that seemed to have finally changed, with cyclical forces driving...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Tail Risks That Worry Me

    Yesterday I made the case that emerging markets should be superior performers in a global bull market, which I characterized as the most hated in history. What that analysis left out was the relative prospects of the other big blocks in the global equity universe; namely, Europe and Japan. My core point yesterday was that trade wars do more harm to economies that close their markets than those countries which supply them, and on this score...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Last Place In The FX Beauty Contest

    In mid-August, the US dollar hit a 12-month high against developed country currencies, and a multi-year high against emerging market currencies. Two weeks on, the burning question for investors is whether those highs represent a turning point, whether the dollar strength that prevailed from mid-April to mid-August has now played out, and whether the US currency is about to resume the softening trend that predominated through 2017. As always,...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    Trouble With Monopsonies II: Joan Robinson Versus David Ricardo

    Among the discussion topics at this week’s Jackson Hole meeting of world central bankers will be whether the market power of giant corporations is so great it allows them to hold down workers’ wages at the global level. Charles has no doubt, arguing in this paper that the development of platform companies into labor monopsonies accounts for what has been misunderstood as “secular stagnation”.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    A Step Back From War On All Fronts

    Events of the past few weeks have lowered the risk of the worst-case scenario of a trade-war-on-all-fronts that Arthur laid out earlier this summer. But although officials in both the US and China are eyeing a truce, no bilateral deal can be nailed down until the two countries’ presidents meet in November, after the US midterm elections. That leaves time for the Trump administration’s trade hawks to regain the upper hand.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    More Than Collateral Damage

    Among the collateral casualties of Turkey’s lira crisis have been European bank shares. Over the last week, as the lira plunged, the SX7E index—the EuroSTOXX banking index—slumped -7% on fears about banks’ exposure to Turkish borrowers. But Turkey is not the only concern weighing on European bank stocks. The sell-off over the last week is just the latest in a series of downlegs that together have seen the SX7E fall -19.7% over the last six...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Italy The Whale?

    Markets have an end-of-an era feeling to them as the US’s exit from easy money causes the dollar to rise, emerging markets to crater and strongmen to cry blue murder . Louis yesterday concluded that we are not yet seeing the kind of event that marks a cycle’s denouement. I agree but wonder if we did just glimpse a big beast breaking the surface in the shape of Italy, which judging by yesterday’s 12bp rise in BTP yields may already be in play.

    16
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    Gavekal Research

    Turkey Is A Big Fish, But No Whale

    The meltdown unfolding in Turkey is not a surprise (see A Turkish Vortex). However, it does raise the question of where we go from here, and whether the Turkish crisis is a symptom of a change in the investment environment.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Biggest Question Of The Day

    Should we take Donald Trump literally when he says he wants to eliminate the US trade deficit? In this paper, Louis examines the different ways the US might hope to cut its trade deficit, including its bilateral deficit with China, and explores why the outlook for risk assets depends enormously on the US administration's real aims in launching its international trade war.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    When Non Means Non

    The UK government is on the offensive trying to sell a “Chequers” plan that would leave it with a semi-detached trading and administrative relationship with the European Union. The negotiating position, has won few plaudits at home, and over the last week got a courteous, but non-committal response on the continent. Cedric is doubtful that the intended "divide and conquer" approach will bear fruit.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Bullish Logic Of Trump’s U-Turns

    The news on Wednesday that Donald Trump’s administration is considering imposing tariffs of 25%—rather than 10%—on an additional US$200bn of Chinese goods might appear to be an aggressive escalation of its trade conflict with China. But there is a high probability the proposed tariffs will never be implemented. Trump has a track record of talking tough, only to back down before it comes to the crunch; a pattern of behavior that may help to...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    No Exit From Brexit

    On Friday, Anatole set out his view that a second Brexit referendum is likely, and that in all probability it will reverse the original 2016 vote. Exercising his right to reply, today Charles explains why no second referendum is possible, why a no-deal, hard Brexit is increasingly likely, and why this will present a great buying opportunity in UK assets.

    15
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    Gavekal Research

    Stabilizing, Not Slumping

    After a rocky first half of the year, in which a clutch of key indicators deteriorated steeply, recent signs indicate that eurozone growth is stabilizing rather than rolling over. Without doubt, there are still formidable downside risks. However, on balance the latest batches of data point to a continuation of above-potential growth, albeit in a lower gear than in 2017.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Arithmetic Of Brexit

    If a country votes to make two plus two equal five, that “democratic decision” will eventually be overwritten by the rules of arithmetic. Anatole reckons this is what’s playing out in Britain, as Theresa May’s government struggles to get a parliamentary majority for any realistic Brexit plan. If the situation persists, the only alternative will be another referendum—only this time the choice would be between remain and a far less attractive, but...

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    No Cause For Celebration

    The US-EU trade truce announced by President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday is good news for the world economy. Yet it is still far too early to write off global macro risk from a generalized trade war. US tariffs on steel and aluminum imports remain in place, as do the EU’s retaliatory tariffs on US goods; and the threat of American levies on US$335bn in car and car part imports has been...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    What US Auto Tariffs Would Mean For Europe

    Last week’s public hearings in Washington heard a chorus of industry opposition to the US administration’s proposed import tariffs on cars and car parts. But in Europe at least, markets appear to be coming around to the view that the tariffs will go ahead regardless. After Friday’s fall, the auto and auto parts sub-index of the Stoxx 600 has slumped -15% since late May when the US Commerce Department announced its Section 232 investigation,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Tri-Polar Disorder

    Having been at odds with each other for at least three years, the empire is striking back against an upstart member. The European Union on Thursday said it will sue Hungary for its unfair treatment of asylum seekers. A few years ago, such a stand-off would have been assumed to have only one outcome: a win for the dispensers of patronage in Brussels. That is no longer the case and this tells us much about how the EU’s traditional power brokers—...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Allez Les Bleus!

    A year into Emmanuel Macron’s presidency, the French have finally invaded the streets in huge numbers. It was not, however, to man the barricades and defy his reform agenda, but instead to engage in a massive national celebration after Les Bleus won their second football World Cup in 20 years. Having suffered the confidence-sapping impact of 12 major terrorist attacks since 2012, Sunday’s win against Croatia has blown away the cobwebs and as one...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Real Italian Story

    The big worry about Italy is that its new populist government adopts policies that spark another eurozone crisis, and even a breakup of the European Union. This view is almost certainly wrong, for despite the government this week announcing a roll-back of labor market reforms, it will struggle to implement its radical agenda in any systematic way. This is due to constitutional checks that inhibit radical changes, and the fraught political logic...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Recession Of 2019

    Over the last three months, I have become increasingly concerned that a recession will hit the world economy in 2019. In this paper, I shall explain why. My reasoning is simple, and is based on the behavior of an indicator I have long followed, which I call the World Monetary Base, or WMB. Every time in the past that this monetary aggregate has shown a year-on-year decline in real terms, a recession has followed, often accompanied by a flock of...

    17
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    Gavekal Research

    The Message From Eurozone Credit

    Should we worry that eurozone corporate bond spreads have doubled since late January? After all, bond yields are rising globally and as deflationary risks have ebbed the European Central Bank has signaled its intent to normalize monetary policy. Yet, looking back at the eurozone’s last cycle, policy was tightened without spreads blowing out. My concern is that the present squeezing of financial conditions is sending a darker message, and will...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Buy Brexit Britain

    “Will the Brexit agony never end?” Anatole asked in mid-June. It now seems that the agony may end much sooner than expected. Following last Friday’s decision by prime minister Theresa May to blur all her “red lines” in negotiations with the EU, and—paradoxically—the subsequent resignation of hard-Brexiteer cabinet minister David Davis, the time to start buying cheap British assets may have come.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Hard Yards For Emerging Markets

    Emerging markets have been hit by the combined effect of a stronger US dollar, tighter international liquidity and rising trade tensions, causing their currencies to fall more in the last few months than in the 2013 “taper tantrum”. The big fear for EMs is that the end of easy money globally creates a giant margin call. As a firm, we have tended to be upbeat on their prospects in this cycle, and it may be that a huge buying opportunity has...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Trade War And The US Cycle

    How will the US administration’s trade disputes affect the US economic cycle? In the worst case scenario, if Donald Trump follows through on all his threats the disruption to global supply chains could be great enough to push the world economy into recession. At this point, the greatest impact flows from the high degree of uncertainty about future actions.

    0
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    Strategy Monthly: The Four Roads Ahead

    The first half of the year was not a great one for global equities, and the second half is clouded by risks: slowing growth, rising inflation, renewed political stress in the eurozone, and most of all the threat of massive protectionism by the United States. Louis Gave offers four scenarios of how things could play out, and Arthur Kroeber explains why it's time to start seriously worrying about a worst-case trade scenario.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Could Turn The Tide?

    The global equity bull market is increasingly looking like the German soccer team: old, tired and getting slow, having reached its peak a while back. Even the “captain” of the bull market, the S&P 500, last made new highs five months ago. Since then, the asset classes that have delivered positive returns have been as few and far between as German goals. Year to date, investors have lost money on US investment grade bonds, on emerging debt,...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Slower Eurozone Growth Ahead

    Wednesday was another grim day for European bank stocks, which are now down almost -24% from their late January peak. Yesterday Louis looked at the reasons behind the slump in bank shares globally, and attempted to find a silver lining to the dark cloud of their underperformance (see The Message From Bank Stocks). When it comes to Europe, however, the fall in bank shares is just one more reason to feel pessimistic.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind European Underperformance

    Amid Monday’s trade-war-inspired risk-off, it is significant that European equities underperformed. Sure, Europe had already closed when White House trade advisor Peter Navarro emerged to reassure investors that the US administration is not proposing blanket investment restrictions. Even so, European markets suffered disproportionately. That should be no surprise, considering that the current global trade uncertainties have arisen against a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil After The OPEC Meeting

    Let us start with a simple reality: assuming the world economy avoids a 2008-type implosion, then global demand for oil should approach 100mn barrels per day by the year’s end. That represents an increase in global demand this year of roughly 1.5mn bpd—more or less the same pace of increase the world has had to deal with in recent years.

    11
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    Gavekal Research

    The Investment Scenarios Ahead

    The interaction of three prices—the US dollar, long-dated US interest rates, and oil—tend to determine the behavior of most other asset values, and so far this year, all three have moved higher. Investors have adjusted to this new reality with some trepidation: among major markets, only the US (S&P 500) and Japan (Nikkei 225, barely) are up year-to-date in US dollar terms.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Why US Long Rates Aren’t Going Up

    The behavior of US long rates presents something of a puzzle just now. The US economy is humming along nicely for this late in the cycle, and is even booming following last year’s tax cuts. Inflation is ticking higher. And short rates are rising. As a result, I would normally expect long rates to be climbing towards the top of the reasonable valuation band dictated by my bond market model (seeBond Market Risks). But they are doing no such thing...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe Through Rose-Tinted Specs

    If the European Central Bank had a dot plot, on Thursday it would have shifted downwards. The ECB’s dovishness stood in contrast with the Federal Reserve, which just a day earlier moved its own dot plot projection of future interest rates upwards. If the market retained confidence in Europe’s relative growth and returns, this divergence of rate expectations probably would not matter greatly. But with European growth softening, and political risk...

    0
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    The Terms Of Betrayal

    Will the Brexit agony never end? Theresa May managed this week to remove troublesome amendments attached by the House of Lords to her legislation for taking Britain out of the European Union. But she was immediately in even deeper political trouble. These problems show just why I have been advising clients to avoid any big bets in sterling assets, whether long or short.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe's Cyclical Blues

    When they meet on Thursday, European Central Bank policymakers face a dilemma. As wage and price pressures rise across the eurozone, they are expected to outline an exit from quantitative easing policies. At the same time, growth indicators are weakening, raising the specter of a eurozone recovery (again) being cut off in its infancy. The essential point is whether Europe’s turnaround has become self-sustaining. We think the answer to that...

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    A Revolution In Switzerland?

    This weekend the people of Switzerland vote in a referendum that could upend their country’s monetary system in ways never seen before. If the “Vollgeld” initiative is approved, it will be a major event in world economic history. And even if rejected, the growing groundswell in favor of similar proposals elsewhere in the world means it is worth paying attention to.

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    A War On All Fronts

    I have previously argued that Trump Administration trade policy—and specifically policy on China—should be understood as a volatile reaction among four forces: the president, the trade warriors, the national security hawks, and the business community. While all four forces are still hard at work, it’s clear that President Trump has the upper hand—as a result of which the US now seems committed to waging trade war on all fronts.

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    Whether To Buy Italy (And The Euro)

    On Wednesday, Louis argued that the Italian president’s rejection of a proposed coalition finance minister was “worse than a crime, a mistake”. Anatole and Cedric are not so sure. In this paper they examine the two conditions—one political, one financial—that will signal a major buying opportunity in Italy.

    2
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    Worse Than A Crime

    On hearing that Napoleon Bonaparte had ordered the execution of a Bourbon-family duke, the arch realpolitik practitioner Charles Maurice de Talleyrand reputedly exclaimed: “This is worse than a crime. It’s a mistake”. Fast forward a few centuries and it’s not hard to imagine what Talleyrand would make of Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella. In a move that will likely spur fresh elections and put Euroskeptic parties firmly in the ascendancy,...

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    The Incredible Shrinking Krona

    With the US dollar pushing towards its 2017 high, it may be time to scout out value in the currency markets. One option is the Swedish krona, which is down -7.2% against the dollar this year, making it the worst performing G10 currency. Three weeks ago Charles argued that the krona was so cheap that Swedish assets offered a “heads I win, tails I don’t lose” type of trade. I don’t disagree, yet in the intervening period, the krona has...

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    What Bothers Me About The Eurozone

    With Italy facing a constitutional crisis and likely fresh elections within months, attention is set to again focus on Europe’s single currency system. One effect of the euro is that it distorts self-correcting price adjustments, which regulate normal market-based economies. Understanding this dynamic is crucial, argues Charles, if equity investors are not to be pulled into value-traps, of the type which are now presenting themselves.

    1
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    Europe’s Italian And Turkish Troubles

    On the face of it, the collapse on Sunday evening of attempts in Italy to form a coalition government comprising the populist and Euroskeptic Five Star and Lega parties should be good news for European assets and the euro, at least in the short term. On Friday, fears of a populist government in Rome, coupled with the prospect of a no confidence motion and general election in Spain undermined both the euro and peripheral debt. Also down were...

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    My Kind Of Safe Haven

    Long and sometimes bitter experience of financial markets has taught me that when the organically-produced fertilizer hits the rotary ventilation device, a few assets go up in price, while the vast majority go down. The first list is a short one, but on it you will always find the Swiss franc. Historically, the problem with this Swiss-franc-as-safe-haven idea was that the gnomes’ currency usually tends to be something of a collector’s item....

    3
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    Giuseppe Who?

    The leaders of Italy’s Five Star and Lega political parties on Monday nominated little-known law professor Giuseppe Conte to be the country’s next prime minister. Assuming president Sergio Matarella accepts their choice, Conte will be tasked with leading a coalition government whose disparate members have little in common except populism, euroskepticism, and expansionary fiscal plans.

    2
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    The Resurgence Of Political Risk

    Political risk is now the main driving force of financial markets. In 2017 investors learned—or thought they had learned—that political upheavals just create noise, with no lasting effect on market trends that are set by economic fundamentals. But in 2018 this relationship has been reversed. Wherever we look today—at oil prices, global trade flows or conditions in Europe—politics seems to overwhelm economic fundamentals and set the market trends.

    2
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    A UK Consumer Reckoning

    This week saw the release of moderately good news for the Brexit-bound UK economy, as wages rose the most in almost three years. With inflation moderating, real incomes have edged higher, giving hope that consumption can again fire up growth. The problem is that the UK—like the US—increasingly displays late cycle characteristics, as shown by a tight labor market and falling profit growth.

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    Oil As A Party Spoiler

    I have tended to see oil not so much as an asset in which to build a position as a party spoiler that can wreak havoc on a portfolio. Yesterday saw the price of Brent break above US$80 a barrel for the first time since November 2014 and the pain is visible in a range of emerging markets that run big external deficits. To be sure, most of my colleagues remain sanguine about EM prospects and do not expect a generalized crisis (see The Refuge In...

    2
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    The Next Phase Of Eurozone Reform

    During last year’s French presidential election, Emmanuel Macron opened a debate by asking “what do we want to do with the euro?” His answer was more political integration and burden sharing. Those plans must get traction at the June 28-29 meeting of European Union leaders if they are not to be crowded out by a likely messy end to the Brexit process and next year’s European Parliament elections. Right now, this seems a long shot and attention...

    0
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    The Outcomes In Italy

    Political uncertainty isn’t always bad news. It is now 10 weeks since Italian voters went to the polls in a general election, and still Italy’s bickering political parties have not managed to form a stable coalition government. That hasn’t proved an obstacle for investors. Since the election, Italian equities have gained 9.7% in euro terms, 6.4% in US dollar terms, making Italy the world’s best performing major stock market over the year to date.

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    Time To Stop Thinking

    In a long career spent trying to formulate reliable investment rules, here is one I have found to work time and again without fail. If two assets show no historical trend, and if in the past their relative price has always reverted towards its historical mean, then when that relative price reaches two standard deviations away from its mean, it is time to stop thinking and just play the mean reversion. Now is one of those times.

    3
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    Europe’s Coiled Spring Currency

    There was a neat circularity to yesterday’s press briefing by Mario Draghi. The European Central Bank was happy to stick with its monetary accommodation as growth data had softened and the euro was pleasingly weaker. Hence, as German exporters go through one of their periodic bouts of angst and confidence readings pull back across the eurozone, the logic runs that the euro could now slide further. This would especially seem to be the case as...

    3
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    Still Bond Bears

    Matching its 2013 peak, the world’s most-watched interest rate—the US 10-year treasury yield—yesterday touched 3%. Concerns are now high that it will soon move higher, perhaps much higher. For perspective, the US 10-year hit 3.75% in 2011, 4% in 2010 and 5% in 2007. In this cycle, we think yields will break above 3% and then march upwards. In short, we remain bond bears and continue to recommend keeping duration short. Today, we want to...

    0
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    Emerging Markets And Energy

    We all know, don’t we, what defining characteristics the emerging markets have in common? Of course we do. Emerging markets are developing countries on course to become advanced economies, typically with the assistance of powerful demographic tailwinds. But although they enjoy rapid growth over the long term, their institutional architecture is still under construction. As a result, emerging equity markets are more volatile than those of the...

    0
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    No Time To Give Up On Europe

    Even as winter descended in January, the economic climate seemed decidedly balmy. Eurozone growth for 4Q17 came in at 2.7% YoY, while the year’s first PMI peaked at a post-2006 high of 58.8. Investors liked the idea of deflation finally being slain and a possible earlier-than-expected normalization of monetary policy. Alas the fun didn’t last as a series of data disappointments punctured an equity rally that had been led by financials. My bet is...

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    Hong Kong Seminar — April 2018

    At Gavekal’s seminar in Hong Kong this week, Arthur Kroeber, Rosealea Yao and Nick Andrews presented their latest views on the brewing trade war between the US and China, Chinese growth and the property market outlook, and how to capture European growth.

    0
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    La France En Grève

    Once again, French public sector workers are en grève—on strike. In the last couple of weeks, railway workers, air traffic controllers and teachers (and their students) have walked out in protest against Emmanuel Macron’s structural reforms. Inevitably such broad opposition to official policy has prompted memories of 1995, and even 1968. But as Cedric explains, times have moved on, and today the public is more ready than ever before to...

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    After Constructive Engagement

    Separating signal from noise in the ongoing US-China trade dispute continues to be a thankless task. Trade war fears rose late last week thanks to an offhand threat from President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on another US$100bn of imports from China. They ebbed early this week when Trump reversed course and said a deal was likely soon, and Chinese president Xi Jinping delivered a speech promising a reduction in automobile tariffs and market...

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    Reasons To Buy The Dip

    After spending many years as Gavekal’s equity permabull, I joined Charles and Louis last December in warning of the risks to what was then a roaring, and accelerating, bull market. But my way of thinking about these risks was rooted in a different analytical framework, and so I have come to a different conclusion about how investors should respond to this latest sell-off (for Louis’ take, see Following Yesterday’s Pullback). With the lows of mid...

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    Ready For A Further P/E Derating

    I see but through a glass darkly. Sometimes, however there are glimmers of light. Four months ago, in early December, I examined the signals being broadcast by the various investment rules I have long followed and concluded that: “While global markets have been stable for the past 18 months, we may soon be entering a period of greater instability.”

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    Following Yesterday’s Pullback

    Two weeks ago I looked back at Enron’s collapse in 2001 and asked whether a crash-and-burn at Tesla or Uber would be this cycle’s catalyst for a fundamental re-assessment of business models. But perhaps my sights were set too low, as this roll-over was triggered not by a cash-burning profligate flaming out, but by turmoil engulfing the Facebook gorilla, and by extension the likes of Google and Snap, which rely on “the user being the product”.

    2
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    On Protectionism

    As the US toughens up its negotiating stance on trade, it seems that ghosts from the Great Depression haunt the land. The men of Davos can be heard to intone gravely that President Donald Trump is aping Herbert Hoover, and as in the 1930s, the global economy may go into a tailspin. I am struck that our cherished elites have discovered a form of government intervention that they do not like, especially given their support for so many other “...

    2
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    London Seminar — March 2018

    In our seminar in London this week Charles pondered the investment consequences of the US moving back into an inflationary period. Tom discussed Chinese politics in light of Xi Jinping’s elevation. Cedric presented on how investors can best benefit from the diversity of the European economy. Anatole explained why the long-running global bull market is likely to continue, but also where the risks are buried.

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    Legitimacy Versus Legality

    France’s top central banker yesterday called for the nations of the eurozone to cease bickering over ideological questions, and instead get things done. National leaders should stop wasting time on “theoretical debates” that pitted “risk reduction against risk sharing”, said Francois Villeroy de Galhau. They should, instead, tackle real problems like the half-built capital markets union. It was the authentic voice of the European technocracy and...

    2
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    A Fork In The Road For European Equities

    In the first half of last year making money in European stocks was easy as benchmarks steamed higher on hopes that less political risk would allow an economic surge into sunlit uplands. It has not exactly worked out that way. Such has been the loss of momentum that both the MSCI EMU and broader MSCI Europe indexes have plunged below their 200-day moving averages (just as worrying for tea leaf readers, the 50-day moving average for the narrower...

    3
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    Playing Russia’s Continued Recovery

    The result of this weekend’s Russian presidential election is not in doubt. But investors in Russia face considerable uncertainty. Despite monetary policy and exchange rate liberalization, Russia has made little progress towards the structural reforms needed to boost its potential growth rate above rock-bottom levels. Nevertheless, cyclical tailwinds mean there are still some attractive pockets of opportunity for international investors.

    0
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    What A Trade War Means For Europe

    The departure of free-trader Gary Cohn from the Trump administration has investors rightly concerned that a global trade war may loom. Markets rallied yesterday on reports that the US may carve out exclusions for its steel and aluminum tariffs, but President Donald Trump seems set to announce a punitive package as early as today. The European Union has taken a tough stance against the US threat, and yesterday added orange juice and peanut butter...

    1
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    Another Finest Hour

    At Gavekal, we have no house view, but in recent weeks something of a united front has formed among my erudite colleagues on the subject of Europe and her politics. Just to be sure that clients don’t conclude that we have all imbibed the Brussels-dispensed Kool Aid, let me offer my take on the situation and the implication for financial asset values.

    1
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    Change And Stasis In Italy

    In Italy’s general election on Sunday, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement emerged as the largest single party in each chamber of parliament, and the populist Lega eclipsed Silvio Berlusconi’s Forze Italia to dominate the right of Italian politics. Following these changes, it is hard to see how any plausible combination of parties can secure a stable majority in both houses of parliament. As Cedric and Anatole explain, the most likely...

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    Time To Stop Worrying About EU Political Risk

    Is it time for investors to finally forget about “political risk” in the eurozone? Judging by the weekend’s events in Germany and Italy the answer is an emphatic “Yes”. The big event was the overwhelming vote by Germany’s Social Democratic Party to participate in a “grand coalition” with the center-right. This means that Angela Merkel will be reappointed for a fourth term as chancellor. Thus Germany will have a stable government with no serious...

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    Strategy Monthly: Trading On European Diversity

    The European economic recovery has matured into a sustained, broad-based expansion, and the risks from politics and ECB policy normalization are modest. But eurozone equity indexes have not done well. In relative terms, they started trading sideways after Macron's victory in the French election last May, and for the past several months they have underperformed. The fault lies in the indexes, not in Europe's corporate sector. The...

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