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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. The spread between 10-year BTPs and bunds has widened to 282bp, exceeding the May 30 level when the latest coalition was formed in chaotic circumstances. Such rhetoric threatens the relatively benign scenario that I advocated in July and has investors fretting about another eurozone crisis. While Italian politics will...

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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,...

    8
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    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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    Gavekal Research

    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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