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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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    Gavekal Research

    Battered But Still Standing

    Battered by terrorist attacks and crippling strikes, France has hardly been having a good time of it. These problems were amply reflected in second quarter growth data which stalled after a mildly encouraging 0.7% QoQ rise in the first quarter. Yet a decent flash PMI for August—which rose to a 10-month high of 51.6—suggests an underlying resilience, which may render the 2Q16 soft patch a blip on a modest, but concerted, economic upturn of the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Renzi’s Great Gamble

    Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has bet his premiership on a referendum over constitutional reform. It is a high stakes gamble. Renzi’s promise to step down if there is a “No” vote has turned the referendum into a vote of confidence in the government, its Europhile policies, and Italy’s membership of the eurozone itself.

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    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

    Video: Italy's Constitutional Referendum

    Nick presents what's at stake in Italy's upcoming constitutional referendum, and what it could mean for the European Union

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Video: The Politics Of Italy's Referendum

    Stefano Capacci On The Politics Of Italy's Referendum

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Euro And Mean Reversion

    Among my long-standing decision rules is one that generally proved reliable in the past. If two developed and open market economies trade freely with each other, then over the long run the return on invested capital in each economy will tend to be the same. In turn, this implies that over the long run, the ratio of total returns from each stock market will exhibit no trend in common currency terms. This makes intuitive sense—if one market...

    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

    Eurozone Equities Ride Again

    Eurozone equities have been sucked higher in the post-Brexit global rally, but with earnings showing a mild pick-up and fears of a populist political contagion fading, the hope is that a 15 month downtrend has been broken. On a technical level the MSCI EMU’s 200-day moving average has flattened out nicely, and with the DAX on Tuesday hitting a high for the year, German stocks look as if they could break out. As to whether the broader market can...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Behind The BoE’s Positive Thinking

    Yesterday the Bank of England rolled out the artillery it plans to deploy against the UK’s fast-materializing post-referendum slowdown. Yet for all the effect they are likely to have, the Bank’s big guns might as well be peashooters. Although the Bank’s new forecasts suggest the UK is heading for a period of stagnation, rather than outright economic contraction, all the latest forward-looking indicators point to a severe recession starting in...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Cracks Begin To Appear

    Backward-looking data has held up surprisingly well in the UK since June’s Brexit vote. It is not that second quarter GDP growth came in ahead of expectations at 0.6% QoQ; only one week of 2Q fell after the referendum. However, despite dire warnings of the damage June’s “Leave” vote would inflict on the UK’s all-important property market, home prices proved remarkably resilient in July. The Nationwide house price index rose 0.5% MoM, an...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    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

    One Certainty In An Uncertain World

    In an uncertain world, in which Brexit, the US presidential elections, the future of the eurozone, are all strewn with wild cards whose potential impact is impossible to quantify, investors are left grasping for certainties. One is that whatever happens in the near term, the European Central Bank will continue to buy financial assets, including corporate debt.

    0
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    The Way Ahead For Italian Banks

    On Friday, the European Banking Authority will publish the results of its 2016 stress tests. Although 51 banks from across the European Union have been tested, attention will focus most closely on the results of the five Italian banks covered. With Italy’s banking system widely identified as the most likely locus of a new eurozone crisis, bankers, politicians and investors are all hoping for the “best” likely result. This would see all the banks...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Constraints Of ECB Stimulus

    Already fragile, eurozone confidence has taken a further beating in the last four weeks. In one of the first data releases since last month’s Brexit vote, the ZEW index of German economic sentiment plunged to -6.8 yesterday from 19.2 in June, its steepest fall since 2012. With growth in the eurozone’s principal economic driver likely to soften as confidence deteriorates, expectations are mounting that the European Central Bank will respond by...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Brexit Still May Not Happen

    With a newly installed British prime minister gravely intoning that “Brexit means Brexit” and having just appointed a cabal of Brexiters to run the UK’s exit strategy from the European Union, it would look to be game-over. Anatole would beg to differ and explains why there remains a strong likelihood that the UK government will change tack in the face of different circumstances than prevailed at the time of last month’s referendum.

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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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    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

    Sterling’s Automatic Stabilizer

    As international investors question the ability of a post-Brexit UK to attract the capital inflows needed to finance its hefty current account deficit, the pound is tumbling. Yesterday cable briefly dipped below US$1.28, its lowest since the summer of 1985 just ahead of the Plaza Accord to weaken the super-strong US dollar. And many analysts believe the pound’s fall has further to run, with several houses targeting exchange rates of US$1.20, US$...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Can The Russian Bear Turn Into A Bull?

    This month Russia’s Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company delivered two 100-seater passenger airplanes to the regional Irish carrier CityJet, and has orders for 13 more over the next year. The news caught our eye as it is the first time the Russian plane maker has broken into the European aviation market. As economists rather than aviation experts, it got us wondering whether Russia is finally curing itself of a decade-long bout of “Dutch disease” as...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Options For Italy

    In the wake of the Brexit vote, investors fearful of contagion have woken to the slow-burn banking crisis in Italy. It should have been news to no one that Italy’s banks are sitting on non-performing loans. Yet with the sector index down -30%, banks are suddenly front and center in investors’ minds as the next source of European uncertainty.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Italian Problem

    The British were recently asked if they wanted to leave the European Union and to the establishment’s horror, they chose to do just that. Italy will host Europe’s next big referendum in November with Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatening to resign if his package of constitutional reforms isnot passed. Such a dénouement in Europe’s most indebted big economy would trigger a political crisis and require fresh elections. The issue with referendums...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    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,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Towards A Fiscal Union By Stealth

    Unlike most fish, sharks possess no swim bladder, which means they rely on dynamic lift to maintain their buoyancy. If they stop moving forwards, they sink. In that much, at least, Europe resembles a shark. Following the UK’s Brexit vote, if the EU does not press forward with closer union, it risks sinking under the weight of the forces dragging it into the abyss.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    History Moves Again, Again

    Back in September 1989 as it became clear that big forces were shaking up the Cold War status quo, I wrote a research piece that aimed to place these convulsions in a broader context. It borrowed from a core idea of the great historian Arnold J. Toynbee that a driving force of history is what he dubbed “missionary ideas”, which tend to find their inspiration in religion (see History Moves Again). In the post-enlightenment era there have been...

    28
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    Gavekal Research

    Coping With Brexhaustion

    Among all the different questions investors have had to confront in the past 72 hours, only one really matters: have we just witnessed a “Lehman moment”? At the risk of sounding like a Jesuit priest, I will answer this vital question with a bunch more questions. The first is: have the financial market’s core beliefs now been shattered?

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Everything Just Changed

    There are moments in history when the impossible becomes inevitable without ever passing through improbable. The period after the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy was such a time. Last night’s unexpected repudiation by British voters of 40 years of European Union membership is another. The outcome of the referendum is a shock fully comparable to the Lehman collapse. Rarely, if ever, has a G7 currency fallen by -10% in a single trading session, as the...

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe: Ready To Be Reborn From Its Own Ashes?

    Over the past decade, global investors would have been wise to largely ignore eurozone equities. Their underperformance has not been constant, but intermittent policy-driven rallies have become weaker and shallower. Eurozone stocks outperformed for two years after Mario Draghi’s 2012 promise to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro, yet by the time the European Central Bank got around to launching its asset-buying program in 2015 the benefit...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Never Mind The Brexit, Look At Eurozone Mid-Caps

    Recent releases of hard and soft macro-economic data point to a cyclical eurozone recovery whose domestic drivers are increasingly robust. On the back of stronger consumption and investment, GDP growth was just revised up to 0.6% QoQ for 1Q16. Unemployment continues to fall and, after a weak start to the year, economic sentiment indicators have rebounded—the ZEW released yesterday for June leapt to 20.2 from 16.8 in May. This improvement is...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Brexit Tail Wags The Dog

    If anyone still doubted the claim expressed here on May 25 that politics is now driving global financial markets far more than economics (see The Brexit Vote As Harbinger Of A Populist Age, Or Not), those doubts should have been dispelled by Monday’s trading. From the moment that currency trading started in the New Zealand morning, through the Nikkei and Hang Seng openings in Asia, to the main forex business in London and finally the stock...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Fear Not Brexit

    The UK political class is all in a flutter as the latest European Union referendum polls show an apparent rising tide of support for “Leave”. Having orchestrated the great and good into warning of catastrophe should a Brexit materialize, it would seem that “project fear” is not cutting through. I tend to have strong political convictions and perhaps for this reason I have a lousy record of guesstimating election outcomes. Since the UK referendum...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    The ECB Embraces Total QE

    The European Central Bank pushed further into uncharted territory this week, when it made its first foray into the corporate bond market. Three months after announcing its new initiative, the ECB added the Corporate Sector Purchase Program, or CSPP, to its alphabet soup of monetary operations. Under the CSPP, the central bank will make purchases of investment grade non-bank corporate debt, to go with the sovereign debt, covered bonds and asset-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The French Investment Pick-Up

    France may be racked by strikes and edgy about terrorist threats as a major soccer tournament it is hosting kicks off today, but the eurozone’s second biggest economy has a decent story to tell. Consumer confidence is at a post-2007 high, recent GDP readings have surprised on the upside and even jobless claims hint at an improvement in the labor market (see Is France Getting Better?). All of this perhaps explains why French investment for 1Q16...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    A Backdoor Resolution For Greece, And The Eurozone

    A Greek crisis was avoided last week after European creditors agreed to a €10.3bn disbursement to Athens without the International Monetary Fund contributing funds. The idea is for the Europeans and the IMF to thrash out a compromise that grants Greece sufficient debt relief to make its program sustainable. On one level this mucky deal seemed just another case of the can being kicked down the road, yet on another there is now a “back door”...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Risks For Equities—Populism And The Dollar

    Even as markets nudge higher, investors are unnerved by a rising tide of populist politics whose tangible expression will be tested on June 23, when UK voters must choose between Brexit or a less than perfect status quo inside the European Union. Investors are also concerned that the US dollar will strengthen further as the Federal Reserve mulls the question of whether to raise interest rates. In this monthly our writers weigh these big issues...

    0
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    The Death Knell For The French Left

    To outside observers the latest round of strikes and demonstrations to sweep France must seem a case of déja vu all over again. For the fourth time in a little over 20 years, left wing trade unions have called mass walk-outs to protest against proposed government reforms of France’s notoriously rigid labor market. As before, the transport system has been thrown into chaos, with air traffic controllers en grève, and blockades of the country’s oil...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    When Rules Are There To be Broken

    It has become an article of faith for Europe-watchers that the one thing holding together the single currency area is super easy monetary policy. Yet in light of Brussels deficit policing bureaucracy having recently been revealed as a toothless tiger, expansionary fiscal policy can perhaps be added to the list. It is hardly news that Europe is back-tracking from German-dictated austerity, but for the first time officials are openly admitting...

    3
  • Gavekal Research

    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.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The German Consumer Lives

    By most measures, the eurozone remains unbalanced, with a competitive north eating the lunch of a productivity-challenged Latin periphery. Germany’s current account surplus stands at 8.6% of GDP and its banks are stuffed with excess deposits, suggesting that thrift remains the Teutonic economic passion of choice. Yet look closer at Germany and it is clear that domestic demand, not exports, is driving growth—household spending accounted for about...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Calm Before The European Storm

    A deal with Turkey to ease Europe’s refugee crisis is close to collapse, Greek bailout negotiations are set to test German political resolve and Britain’s referendum on European Union membership is too close to call. Europe’s “project” has been held together since 2012 by extraordinary monetary policy which has spurred a mild economic recovery, observable in the latest data. The concern now is that growing centrifugal forces—mostly political in...

    0
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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.

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Disaster Averted Is Not Success

    This week Atlante, Italy’s new private sector bail-out fund, swung into action for the first time, supporting an equity issue by the troubled Banca Popolare di Vicenza. But although Atlante’s market debut could be said to have averted a potential systemic disaster, it was hardly the success either the politicians of Rome or the financiers of Milan had been hoping for.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Is France “Getting Better”?

    He was not quite Reaganesque in his cheery optimism, but in a recent primetime television appearance President Francois Hollande did declare to France that life was “getting better”. He could point to growth rising to 1.1% last year from a meagre 0.2% in 2014. Unfortunately, the French jobless total hit a new record of 3.6mn in February contributing to a public response of general derision, not to mention rioting at proposed labor market reforms...

    5
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    A European Sinner Repents

    When Brussels implemented new solvency rules for European insurance companies in 2014, it committed one of the five cardinal sins of government: over-regulation. Of course, stricter rules were always likely following the financial follies of the pre-crisis era, but when they drew up the new “Solvency II” regulations, the European Union’s generals were so focused on fighting the last war, they failed to realize the danger posed by their own...

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  • Gavekal Research

    Time To Bet On Sterling And Against Brexit

    If Britain votes to remain a member of the European Union, the moment when the tide turned against Brexit will probably be remembered as Barack Obama’s London press conference on Friday. With a single phrase Obama demolished the Brexiteers’ most powerful economic argument when he noted, with a friendly but remorseless grin, that if Britain chose to detach itself from Europe it would wait “at the back of the queue” for any special US trade deal....

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Time Alone Is Not Enough For The ECB

    Stung by attacks on his negative interest rate policy, Mario Draghi yesterday hit back at his critics in Berlin, and pleaded for patience. “Our policies work,” insisted the European Central Bank president. “Just give them time.” Draghi’s plea is unlikely to placate German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, who earlier this month blamed negative rates and the harm they have inflicted on savers’ incomes for the success of right-wing populists in...

    2
  • Gavekal Research

    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...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    0
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    Eurozone Reform Update 2016

    Last February we published a detailed score card of the structural reform efforts undertaken by Europe’s battered peripheral economies (see Assessing ‘Thatcherite-Keynesianism’). The last year has seen small improvements, but not enough change to warrant another box-ticking exercise. Our assessment in 2016 mostly focuses on the key relationship between the labor markets and national competitiveness. Inevitably such changes are slow moving and in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Relief For European Banks

    Yesterday a consortium of Italy’s healthier banks and financial institutions agreed to put up €5.7bn to finance a private sector bailout fund for the country’s weaker banks. The deal, which was cobbled together by Italy’s Finance Ministry, is clearly intended to circumvent European Union rules limiting state aid to the banking sector. Details remain sketchy, however it is difficult to see how the agreement can restore confidence in Italy’s banks...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    European Disunion

    The grand old men who conceived of a united states of Europe knew that a successful single currency demanded a modern federation with integrated monetary, fiscal and political institutions. Such a leap into the unknown was politically impossible in the 1990s, and their assumption (and perhaps hope) was that the less than optimal eurozone would suffer periodic crises, so creating the conditions for reform and a centralization of powers. Since the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Fade The Emerging Market Rally

    In defiance of conventional wisdom the oil price has tumbled -10% in the last two weeks despite a weak US dollar. For emerging markets investors, the breakdown of this correlation raises tricky questions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For Sterling

    What was the weakest major currency in the world in the first quarter? It was not the Brazilian real nor the Australian dollar nor any of the other usual suspects among the emerging market and commodity currencies. That accolade went to the British pound, which managed to depreciate by -4%, from US$1.48 to US$1.42, even while the dollar itself fell another -5% on its trade-weighted index.

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  • Gavekal Research

    Things Fall Apart

    Over the past century periods of social breakdown have swung the pendulum of power from markets to governments and back. Each crisis ended with a transformation in economic and political thinking. Today, voter anger is a response to the 2008 breakdown of deregulated capitalism. This time, argues Anatole, politicians must reconsider the market fundamentalism that has prevailed in recent decades and design a new system of checks and balances to...

    12
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    Gavekal Research

    Europe’s Reflation Trade

    Yesterday’s awful events in Brussels offer a stark reminder of our personal vulnerability in an unstable world and our hearts go out to the victims. They also reinforce liberal Europe’s vulnerability to hate-based ideology and highly motivated terrorists. However, we at Gavekal are economic analysts rather than geopolitical experts, and today want to focus on a more constructive view of Europe—namely, its equity market. After a knee-jerk sell-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Dollar Liquidity And Its Dependents

    One of our long-standing rules of thumb has been that a deteriorating US trade balance is good news for the rest of the world, and especially for emerging markets. It is thus a positive sign that the ex-energy, ex-China trade balance shifted from surplus to a deficit in 2015, sending US$150bn to the world outside of China and the oil exporters. The overall trade balance is likely to continue worsening through late 2017, thanks to the lagged...

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    The Road To Reflation

    For the last ten years or so, ever since the Hartz reforms to the German labor market, Germany has been by far the biggest driver of overall eurozone growth. Indeed, for much of 2012, Germany was the only driver of eurozone growth. This has not been a healthy phenomenon. With German savings rates high, and domestic consumption sluggish, much of Germany’s own growth was propelled by its net exports of goods to the rest of the world beyond the...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Super Mario: Hero To Zero To Hero

    As markets plunged following Thursday’s European Central Bank meeting, it seemed as if Super Mario had turned into Dumb Draghi.But by Friday morning Draghi had again gone from Zero to Hero, with risk-on assets racing ahead in virtually every market around the world.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of The Road

    The European Central Bank pulled the trigger but the bazooka misfired. European stocks peaked half an hour after yesterday’s new easing measures were announced, but investors quickly focused on the broader significance of the action.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Draghi’s Difficulty

    When the European Central Bank’s governing council meets tomorrow, Mario Draghi and his colleagues will find themselves facing a dilemma. With growth sluggish, and inflation elusive, the consensus expects the ECB to ease its already ultra-loose monetary policy further. Likely steps include cutting the central bank deposit rate by 10bps to -40bps, increasing bond purchases to €70bn a month from €60bn, and extending the program of purchases beyond...

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    A Diagnostic Tool For Bear Markets

    One of the most vexing moments in a money manager’s career comes when one of the team—usually the young intern—asks the question: “So, are we in a bear market or not?” Immediately, everybody on the investment committee jumps into the discussion, and without fail everyone has a strong opinion on the matter. A vigorous debate ensues, and when everything is said and done, a lot more has been said than done—and neither the intern nor anyone else on...

    7
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    Too Quiet On The Southern Front

    Since the euro crisis kicked off six years ago, policy decisions affecting banks have had two main goals. Whether it be monetary policy, the 2014 asset quality review or moves toward both a banking and capital markets union, the objective has been to boost confidence in the system and reduce the fragmentation of credit markets. A -20% fall in eurozone bank shares YTD on concerns about the impact of negative interest rates shows that the first...

    0
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    Sweden And The NIRP Trap

    Swedish GDP growth for 4Q15 was just reported at 4.5% YoY, the fastest pace since 2011 and the tenth straight quarterly gain. This makes Sweden by far the best performing developed economy in the post-2008 period. So given that it led the way with negative interest rates, an interesting question is whether the Swedish experience represents a vindication for NIRP.

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    Video: On Wicksellian Theory

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    New European Crisis, Same Problem

    Almost every year since 2008 has been marked by a “crisis” in Europe. Last year’s big headache centered on Grexit, 2014 saw Russia’s land-grab in Ukraine and this year the worry is Brexit and a collapse of the Schengen open border system. European stocks are down -13% YTD and 10 year bunds yield 0.15%, a decline of 48bp. But are these falls justified given that the bigger concern in global markets is centered on emerging economies and a possible...

    0
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    No More Curve To Roll Down

    Since the Bank of Japan introduced a negative deposit rate on January 30, Japanese bank shares have collapsed, falling -21% in yen terms and -15% in US dollars. The first question to ask is this: why were Japanese bank shares derated so dramatically after the policy change? Here are a few explanations, which are not mutually exclusive:

    4
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    Why Brexit Won't Happen

    Among the multiple existential challenges facing the European Union this year—refugees, populist politics, German-inspired austerity, government bankruptcy in Greece and perhaps Portugal—one crisis is well on its way to resolution. Britain will not vote to leave the EU.

    24
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    Gavekal Research

    Down The Negative Rate Rabbit Hole

    “Curiouser and curiouser,” as Alice remarked on falling down the rabbit hole and entering Wonderland. Released yesterday, the minutes of the European Central Bank’s January meeting strongly hinted at further monetary easing measures when the governing council next meets in March. Already committed to €60bn in asset purchases per month until March 2017 and charging a negative interest rate of -0.3%, the ECB now looks likely to push its deposit...

    0
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    Having Your Cake, And Eating It

    Is the world really facing a 2008-style economic and market meltdown all over again? If it is, then the prescription for investors is clear: load up on long-dated US treasuries in expectation of a continued slide in yields, leaven your portfolio with exposure to gold, and prepare for the apocalypse. But what if the end of days is not imminent? In that case, investors face a trickier call.

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    Crisis? What Crisis?

    Two weeks ago I published an article dissenting from the near-universal view among my Gavekal colleagues, and also probably among our clients, that the global equity markets had entered a severe bear market (see Is Wall Street In A “Bear Market”?). Since I expressed this relatively optimistic view on January 27, the S&P 500 has fallen another -2.7%, the world MSCI-ex US by -3% and the Nikkei by a whopping -8.5% in yen terms. It may therefore...

    4
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    Europe's Banking Rout

    Following yesterday’s rout in European banking stocks, there is one thing that we can say for certain: the proximal cause of the sell-off had nothing to do with China. With Chinese markets closed for the lunar new year holiday, beleaguered investors in Europe had been hoping for a little breathing space this week. In the event, the sell-off in European bank shares only intensified, with the Euro Stoxx banks index sliding -6.4% on Monday,...

    3
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    No More Shock Absorbers?

    Things have come to a pretty pass when the heads of two of the world’s three leading central banks come out with all guns blazing in an attempt to persuade markets that they will do whatever it takes and more to ease policy—and their currencies promptly strengthen by two big figures. Yet that is exactly what has happened this week. On Monday Mario Draghi dropped a heavy hint that the European Central Bank is preparing to push interest rates even...

    2
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    Tools Or Jewels?

    An asset can have value for reasons of scarcity (a jewel, or gold), or because it is useful and productive, and so over time generates positive cash flows (a tool). In the long run, tools tend to go up more in value than jewels like gold. Tools also have a terrific advantage in that projecting their future productivity and discounting their future cash-flows allows them to be objectively valued. By contrast, valuing jewels like gold is a...

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    Red Herrings, Margin Calls And Heart Attacks

    Most recent commentary we have read suggests that January’s turmoil can be blamed on either the slowdown in China or the fear of an impending US recession. But let us suggest an alternative: these are red herrings which only distract from the real analytical challenges faced by investors.

    4
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    Symptoms Of Dysfunction

    If bank shares are the canary in the global economic coalmine, they are currently singing a very alarming tune. In Japan bank shares have cratered -10% since Friday’s decision by the central bank to move to negative interest rates, even though the new -0.1% rate will only apply on the margin to additional deposits at the Bank of Japan. Elsewhere, in Europe, the banking component of the Euro Stoxx index has slumped -16.8% year-to-date, while the...

    0
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    Learning To Love A Weak Ruble

    The oil price may have bounced in recent days and with it the ruble, but Russia’s financial situation looks increasingly perilous. The economy is struggling through a second year of recession and Russian corporates must roll over US$120bn of foreign currency debt by mid-2017. Moreover Russia’s central bank seems to have embraced a policy of benign neglect toward the ruble as it tries to preserve a reduced pile of foreign exchange reserves.

    0
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    Anatomy Of The Bear

    I wish I shared Anatole’s degree of conviction. In yesterday’s Daily he set out his belief that the current sell-off in financial markets is not the start of “a structural ‘bear market’, still less a structural Ursus Magnus likely to last for many years” (see Is Wall Street In A ‘Bear Market’). I am not so sure. I suspect that what we are witnessing may indeed be the emergence of an Ursus Magnus, the sort of bear market so deep and prolonged...

    2
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    The Overlooked Risk In Italy

    What is the biggest threat to European stability this year? The continent’s migrant crisis? The chance that the British will vote in a referendum to leave the European Union? Or the danger of contagion from China’s slowing economy and fragile financial markets? All of these do pose risks, but it is possible that the greatest threat to Europe this year could come from a different quarter altogether: Italy’s banking sector. At first the danger...

    4
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    Looking For The Bright Side

    By most measures, the first two weeks of 2016 have been the worst-ever start of the year for risk assets. With the MSCI All-Countries index down nearly -20% from last May’s high, we are now in a global bear market.

    1
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    Unintended Consequences

    Forget the Brazilian real and the Chinese renminbi. The world’s worst performing major currency over the last month is actually the British pound, which has fallen a painful -4.95% against the US dollar since mid-December. The beating has been especially brutal in recent days. After data released yesterday showed British manufacturing output is still languishing not just below its 2008 level, but even below its 1997 level, sterling slumped...

    0
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    Stronger Macro, Sinking Stocks

    The latest macro indicators leave little doubt about the general direction of the eurozone economy. Both hard and soft data suggest that growth re-accelerated from a meagre 0.3% QoQ (1.2% annualized) in 3Q15, probably to 0.4%-0.5% (1.6%-2.0% annualized) at the turn of the year. Eurozone unemployment declined to a four-year low in December, and the economic sentiment indicator compiled by the European Commission from business and consumer surveys...

    2
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    Forget About Oil And China, Look To The US In 2016

    On the whole, 2015 was a year for investors to forget. US bond and equity prices were both flat, equity gains in Europe were mostly wiped out (for US dollar investors) by the fall of the euro, and commodity plays and high-yield issues crumbled. China sparked a brief panic after a clumsy intervention to cushion a stock-market collapse and an unexpected currency devaluation, but by the end of the year the Shanghai index was still up nearly 5% in...

    0
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    New Economic Realities

    As we close the book on 2015, it is worth sifting through our research to find the patterns that are likely to influence events in 2016 and beyond. Three stand out.

    0
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    The French Patient

    As a Frenchman visiting Italy last week, I had the strong sense that for the first time in decades France was lagging its transalpine neighbor. Italian business and consumer confidence has picked-up over the last two years, and unemployment has declined for four straight quarters. France, by contrast, is the only European country that saw rising unemployment during 2015. Political confidence has evaporated as reinforced by last weekend’s rather...

    0
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    The Clash Over Fossil Fuels

    Over the weekend in Paris, the leaders of 195 nations announced a landmark deal to address climate change that its more optimistic supporters say heralds “the end of the fossil fuel era.” But both market action and many government policies point in the opposite direction. Crude oil prices continue to tumble towards the US$30 mark, and coal prices have also collapsed—both moves that reflect abundant global supplies of fossil fuels. The Paris...

    4
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    The Cure For Low Prices Is Low Prices

    What is the latest rout in commodity prices telling us? Certainly, China’s demand for many commodities is weak—but everyone knows this. The most important signal is rather on the supply side: low prices are finally pushing commodity producers to cut output. It is this restructuring that will eventually bring stability to commodity prices.

    0
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    What A Brexit Means For Markets

    This week David Cameron has been on the road in Eastern Europe arguing that British voters will vote for “Brexit” unless it gets a new deal with the European Union. As polls suggest that Britons are pretty much split down the middle on the issue, the prospect of the UK bidding adieu to Brussels is getting more real by the day. Indeed, with the negotiation expected to reach a head early next year, the question of a British exit is likely to...

    0
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    The Apex Of Market Stupidity

    In some 40 years of watching financial markets, my dominant emotion has been a mixture of curiosity, amusement and despair. It seems the stock market must have been invented to make the maximum number of people miserable for the greatest possible amount of time. The bond market, meanwhile, has just one goal in life: to make economists’ forecasts for interest rates look even more silly than their other predictions.

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    Gavekal Research

    A Year-Defining Week

    Four hugely important events occurred last week which between them have largely determined the course of the world economy in the year ahead: the strong US payrolls, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries’ decision not to reduce production, the European Central Bank’s escalation of monetary stimulus and the inclusion of the renmimbi in the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights basket. While all these events were...

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    Video: On Brexit

    Nick Andrews discusses the possibility of a "Brexit"

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    On Course Through The Squall

    The market reaction to the European Central Bank’s announcement yesterday of additional monetary easing—including a -10bp cut in the ECB’s deposit rate to -30bp and an extension of its €60bn a month program of bond purchases to at least March 2017—suggested that the central bank’s moves were a massive disappointment. Instead of letting off a firework, the ECB seems to have set fire to the house. In the immediate aftermath of the announcement,...

    0
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    Equities And The Euro

    It is likely that 2015 will be remembered as a strong year for eurozone equities. With only a few weeks of normal trading activity remaining, the MSCI EMU has delivered a solid 17% total return in local currency terms (the benchmark small and mid-cap index is up 24%). Still, we doubt that many investors will be celebrating a bumper year. The standard view was that the European Central Bank’s huge asset purchase program, which started in March,...

    0
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    Osborne’s Masterful Tack

    “Since 2010, no economy in the G7 has grown faster than Britain,” boasted George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, presenting his autumn public spending review yesterday. Indeed it is true that, according to the latest estimates, GDP in both Britain and the US has increased by exactly the same number, 12.4%, since the first quarter of 2010.

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    Financing Europe’s Soaring Defense Costs

    François Hollande has rightly made it clear that France is at war (see France Under Attack). And wars cost a lot of money, as keeping an army in the field and airplanes in the air is expensive. There is a reason for the military adage “amateurs talk strategy; professionals talk logistics”. Moreover, fighting a terrorist organization involves both military costs and large domestic security costs. As such, the increase in security spending for the...

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    Stick With The Dollar

    With the US set to raise interest rates and the eurozone more likely to ease policy, a long-dollar, short-euro position has been an obvious bet. Yet as the DXY inches closer to its March high, the question is whether a breakout is feasible. After all, the long US dollar trade looks crowded, with the world and its dog convinced that Janet Yellen and Mario Draghi will soon be travelling quite different monetary pathways. Such a comfortable...

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