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    Gavekal Research

    Time And Risk

    The financial world is organized around two axes: time and risk. If some authority manipulates the time axis, the effect will be to compromise the risk axis. This is not an abstract formulation. It has the potential to threaten portfolios and the solvency of major institutions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Q&A On The Coronavirus Situation

    Louis spent last week meeting with clients in the US and discussions centered on the coronavirus situation. His starting point is that the Chinese authorities now have every incentive to overstate, rather than understate, the severity of the viral outbreak. He explores the impact on growth in the rest of the world and asset price movements.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Risk Of Falling Behind The Epidemic Curve

    China’s government was slow off the mark in responding to the initial outbreak of the new coronavirus. Although the government is now fully mobilized to fight the outbreak, it risks falling behind the curve again—this time in responding to the economic damage wrought by its extended shutdown of normal life and business activity.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lingering Impact On Property

    While the 2003 SARS outbreak had only a transitory impact on China’s housing market, the 2020 coronavirus episode is proving to be much more serious. In this piece, Rosealea argues that the big hit to housing sales will leave developers short of cash and limit their ability to keep projects going. This points to a lingering drag on construction.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Back To Work, Not Back To Normal

    China’s businesses are starting to get back to work, but the economy is still very far from normal. On Monday, the extended holiday declared by the government to help contain the coronavirus outbreak came to an end (except in Hubei province). But most businesses still face great difficulty in resuming their normal activities.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Quant View Of The Wuhan Virus

    There is now enough data on the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus to permit a useful quantitative analysis of its likely evolution. In this paper, Didier notes that while the spread of the virus continues to accelerate, the “jolt” of that acceleration is now slowing. This suggests the outbreak is likely to peak by early March.

    11
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Long And Short Of The Wuhan Flu

    There is now enough information available to begin to make useful judgments about both the short term and long term impact of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. In this extensive analysis, Arthur examines the health risks posed by the virus, its economic impact, and likely political fallout.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    How Sturdy Are The Zeitgeist's Five Pillars?

    The investment zeitgeist can be thought of as a set of assumptions that investors hold about structural growth drivers, key prices and policy approaches. An investment manager should understand what makes up the zeitgeist and how it is changing. Louis outlines five foundational pillars that he considers integral to the current situation.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Year Of Many Targets

    2020 is a big year for China’s central planners. Beijing has set a wide range of targets to be achieved by the year’s end, and the policies enacted to meet these objectives have had far-reaching effects. In this report, the Dragonomics team examines seven such targets, the policies implemented to reach them, and the consequences for China’s economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Mortgage Rate Reset

    China’s central bank is moving forward with its interest-rate reforms, ordering mortgages to be reset based on the new loan prime rate. Rosealea explains that this shift will make monetary policy more transparent and effective by re-linking mortgage rates to official policy rates, but it does not herald a cycle of major cuts in mortgage rates.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Brexit The Midwife To A New Investment Environment?

    With the confirmation of a conservative victory in the UK election, and a long awaited trade deal between the US and China, the pieces are falling into place for a weakening of the US dollar and a continuation of the global reflation trade. Already, both sterling and the euro have strengthened in response to the reports of a Tory victory.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Our 2019 Holiday Reading List

    “So many books,” lamented the late Frank Zappa, “so little time.” For readers wondering which of the 130mn books published since the invention of the printing press they should curl up with over the coming break, hopefully Gavekal’s annual holiday reading picks may help.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Crackdown On Developer Financing

    China’s financial regulators are squeezing funding for property developers in order to discourage land speculation and cool down property prices. In this piece, Rosealea argues the crackdown has been fairly successful, and does not pose a big risk to construction. Slightly easier demand-side policies will help offset tough supply-side restrictions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Questions On The Changes Of The Past Two Months

    Recent weeks have seen a turn in the investment environment, with global equities outperforming those in the US, cyclicals outperforming growth stocks, a steepening US yield curve and a stall in the US dollar’s rally. Louis recently met with a lot of US clients and outlined his explanation for these shifts. He got some push-back and this report is the product of those deliberations.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Financing Squeeze Spreads To Corporate Bonds

    The corporate bond market was once promoted as a better way to finance China’s private firms. Instead, as Xiaoxi explains in this piece, it has turned into another source of financial pressure. The corporate bonds of private firms are now maturing faster than they can issue new ones, creating a financing squeeze that could last through 2021.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing & Construction Review 2019

    China’s property market has held up surprisingly well in 2019, but will that strength last? In her annual chartbook, Rosealea examines key market trends and explains the outlook for 2020. Flexible policy can probably continue to avoid a deep decline in housing sales, but construction activity and materials demand are almost certain to slow.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Bills Come Due In Tianjin

    On paper, the northern port city of Tianjin was once the richest place in China. But now its financial center lies empty, its statistics have been exposed as falsified, and the local government and firms are close to running out of cash. In this report, Ernan explains why Tianjin’s long-running problems have finally burst into the open.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Age Of Range Trading

    It is a Gavekal adage that 10-year treasury yields, crude oil prices and the US dollar exchange rate are “master prices” that have an outsized impact on economic activity and financial markets. Yet as Louis notes, in recent years, these three prices have shown little by way of a structural trend. In this piece, he seeks to understand the meaning from this range-trading phenomenon.

    6
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    This Old House

    China’s government has launched a new program to renovate older residential compounds, which some are touting as a massive new investment stimulus. As Rosealea explains in this piece, such hopes are misplaced. But the new spending will help cushion the impact of the cutbacks of the subsidies delivered through the slum redevelopment program.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing's Conflicted Easing

    As prospects for a quick resolution of the US-China trade conflict fade, and the data continue to soften, expectations for Chinese growth are getting marked down. As if on cue, the government has sent signals of more decisive policy support for growth. While encouraging, this does not presage a shift in China's macro policy of "selective" easing.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Surge In Anti-Fragile Assets

    The latest round of data releases appears to confirm fears that the world is facing another synchronous global downturn. If so, it will be different from other slowdowns, in that it will not have been caused by rising interest rates or higher energy prices. What’s more, it will be setting in when there is little prospect of a globally coordinated response, when monetary policy appears to have lost traction, and when asset prices are looking...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    Hong Kong Q&A (Part II)

    The success of Hong Kong’s protesters in shutting down the city’s airport on Monday, talk from Beijing of “terrorism”, and the apparent massing of mainland paramilitary forces across the border from Hong Kong have led to a deluge of questions from clients about what is likely to happen next, and the potential investment implications. In this paper, Louis attempts answers some of the most frequent questions.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Read My Lips: No Housing Stimulus

    The world’s major economies are seemingly united on the need for a fresh round of stimulus—except for China. And hopes for a more aggressive approach were dashed by the latest Politburo meeting, which declared that China would not boost the housing market to revive growth. In this piece, Andrew explains what’s behind China’s policy stance.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Hong Kong Gambit

    Following more violent protests in Hong Kong, Beijing reiterated its support for the city’s embattled chief executive in a first-ever press briefing on Hong Kong’s affairs. While the conflict shows no signs of resolution, the example set by Paris shows that Hong Kong can be both a dependable financial center and a hotbed of political dissent.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Policy Turns Cautious

    Housing policy in China has taken a cautious turn, with policymakers more concerned about potential overheating in prices than worried about a downturn in sales and construction. In this piece, Rosealea explains how this shift is playing out through cuts in housing subsidies and changes to local policies, and evaluates the risks to the market.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Change In The Market Mood

    Thursday was an ugly day for global equity markets, with losses that brought total returns on US equities almost back to their January 2018 level, and non-US equities to the brink of bear market territory. It is hard to shake the feeling that the investment environment has changed. What lessons should we draw from the tumultuous trading session?

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case Of The Missing Inflation: The Changing Demographic Picture

    Demography, it is said, is destiny. If so, then the finger of destiny may be pointing at a more inflationary future for the world economy. Louis reviews the slow shifts in demographic profile which govern trends in consumption and savings, and so propel the forces of inflation and deflation over the very long term.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Beijing's Most Effective Trade Tool

    In response to the escalation of the US-China trade war, Chinese policymakers are likely to step up their easing measures. This should help support domestic demand. But as Chen Long argues in this piece, the effect of policy easing, coupled with the impact of increased tariffs on China’s exports, will add to downward pressure on the renminbi.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Series: The Case Of The Missing Inflation

    As the Federal Reserve launched the second round of its quantitative easing, the fear was that the Fed’s unorthodox monetary policy would ignite a new round of inflation throughout the world, with dramatic effects on asset prices. After all, most asset prices are driven by the interaction of inflation and economic activity. But inflation failed to materialize, and even fell from more than 3% globally in 2010 to negative territory in 2015. These...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Q&A On The Hong Kong Dollar Peg

    The recent publication of a letter on the future of the Hong Kong dollar peg by Gavekal’s good friend Kyle Bass has triggered a flood of questions on the topic from clients. Now, Louis admits that there may be some home bias to this conviction that the Hong Kong dollar peg is not under threat. But in this paper, he sets out his answers.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Property Cycle Perks Up

    China’s property market data has been surprising on the upside. Thanks to easier credit and looser administrative restrictions, sales volumes picked up in March and prices rose. In this paper, Rosealea examines whether the upturn can last, and assesses what it means for land sales, construction activity, materials prices and the broader economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Sunset Of Housing Subsidies

    China’s local governments are cutting back their slum redevelopment plans, which points to lower government subsidies for housing in 2019. As a result, Rosealea argues, housing sales are likely to have a deeper decline this year, although Beijing will manage the phase-out of subsidies with a careful eye on how it affects the market.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    It’s Not 2015 All Over Again

    The profits of China’s industrial sector are turning down—but as Thomas argues in this piece, a repeat of the traumatic downturn of 2014-15 is not in the cards for 2019. Heavy industry will hold up better this time around, but consumer-facing sectors will do worse. This downcycle will be more broad-based, but less severe, than the last one.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Long Plateau In Housing Demand

    While many forecasters had expected China’s steel demand to enter long-term decline as housing construction peaks, in fact it has stayed surprisingly strong. In this piece, Rosealea revisits her housing model, and finds it is consistent with recent trends. Construction should peak in 2020-22, so steel demand can stay elevated for a few more years.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    It's Not All Bad News In Property

    China’s property market keeps delivering bad news: declines in housing sales, land sales and prices have deepened in recent months. But Rosealea sees some positive signs in easing local government policies, lower bank funding costs, and strong momentum in construction. In this piece, she explains why she is not joining the property-market bears.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China And The US Still Hold The Keys To Markets' Fate

    In 2018 liquidity tightening in the US and China combined with trade war fears to make a miserable year for markets. In 2019 the same forces will be at work but the outcomes may differ. The key questions are: can the US and China work out a trade deal? How bad is the Chinese slowdown and how will Beijing respond? And how much will the Fed tighten?

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing & Construction Review 2018

    China’s property market has had a record-breaking run, but where is it headed next? In this concise chartbook, Rosealea delivers her annual overview of the key drivers of housing sales and construction activity and explains the outlook for 2019. An overdue correction in sales is coming, but construction should hold up relatively well.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Policy Constraint From Property

    The hot property market is one of the major constraints on Chinese policymakers’ freedom to stimulate: surging prices and construction do not need more juice. In this piece, Rosealea explains why more decisive stimulus is very unlikely before the property market weakens significantly, and even then will not be as large as in previous cycles.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Hidden Leverage In Hong Kong

    Last month, for the first time in 12 years, Hong Kong banks raised their prime lending rates. This increase, coming at a time when the Hong Kong government has pledged to boost housing supply, has prompted fears that rising mortgage rates and falling home prices could expose a dangerous accumulation of hidden leverage in the local property market.

    1
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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

    Digging In For A War Of Attrition

    Donald Trump’s administration has upped the ante in its trade war with China, imposing tariffs on an additional US$200bn of Chinese imports. The tariffs will take effect on September 24 at a rate of 10%, rising to 25% at the beginning of 2019 unless some kind of a deal can be worked out with Beijing. The chances of a deal are vanishingly small.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Property Slowdown That Wasn't

    While China’s government is talking tough about containing its frothy property market, the market does not appear to be listening. Housing sales are still growing, price rises are accelerating and construction activity is robust. In this piece, Rosealea explains why property has outperformed, and updates her outlook for the rest of 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Choosing The Trajectory For Household Debt

    Regulators and investors are getting more concerned about China’s household debt after its sharp rise in recent years. In this piece, Chen Long breaks down the rise in leverage and explores the policy options. It would be plausible and prudent for China to now slow the buildup of household debt—but this may not mesh with the easing of policy.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Inventories Hit Bottom

    The long decline in China’s housing inventories—the key factor driving the recovery in construction—now seems to have ended. After falling in 2015, 2016 and 2017, housing inventories are now on pace to end 2018 slightly higher. In this piece, Rosealea explains why this change will not spell the end of the construction cycle just yet.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Biggest Winners In Real Estate

    China’s real-estate developers are getting hammered in stock and credit markets. But the largest of these firms are well-placed to ride out current strains, and are the main beneficiaries of accelerating consolidation and government policy. As the Chinese property market matures, the winners are likely to be a small group of the largest companies.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Rethinking Of Housing Subsidies

    China's government, worried about continued rapid growth in housing prices, is now reconsidering a major program for subsidizing housing sales. As Rosealea explains, this policy change shows the government is still more focused on curbing frothy housing prices than on boosting growth, and will weigh on housing sales in the rest of 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Tightening Is Back

    Chinese government policy for the property market is turning tighter, a shift that will weigh on housing sales and construction activity in the rest of 2018. But Rosealea cautions against overreacting, arguing that the downcycle in property is still likely to be a shallow one, and that policy will loosen again once market conditions weaken.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Trade Wars: A China Expert Roundtable

    Last week’s sharp equity market sell-off followed the US effectively threatening China with a trade war. In this report, Arthur, Long and Andrew address China’s capacity to strike back and explore what it means for the relationship between the world’s two biggest economies.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Cold Weather, Hot Data

    China’s first data release of 2018 delivered a couple of surprises, with a big jump in industrial value-added and a pickup in real-estate investment. But neither amounts to a convincing signal that the economy is actually re-accelerating. The most likely outcome is still a moderate growth slowdown driven by a shallow downcycle in property.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Property Tax Is Back

    A property tax is back on the Chinese government’s agenda: after being postponed in 2017, the long-discussed tax was brought up again at this week’s legislative session. The draft law could come in 2018, with actual taxes being levied by late 2019 at the earliest. But Rosealea expects this to be largely a non-event for the property market.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is Construction Preparing An Upside Surprise?

    Since markets reopened after the Chinese New Year holiday, the prices of commodities tied to China’s construction cycle have been picking up. This optimism could be justified: construction fundamentals are solid and policy interventions are mostly positive. In this piece, Rosealea explains the upside risks for construction activity in early 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Our 2017 Holiday Reading List

    History, far from being over, looms large in this year’s Gavekal holiday reading list. From failing empires in the Middle East to Europe’s ceaseless struggle for dominance and Asia’s inability to bury ghosts, our writers consider how the past is shaping our future. As befits a research firm, we have lots of economics with a tour of the stagnation debate and an assessment of the threats and benefits offered by artificial intelligence. We consider...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Rental Housing Solution

    China’s government has a new priority for the housing market: boost the quantity and quality of rental housing. As more middle-class Chinese are priced out of top-tier cities, promoting rentals is a new attempt to address housing affordability. In this piece, Rosealea explains the latest policy push and how it will affect property developers.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing & Construction Review 2017

    In her annual overview, Rosealea summarizes the outlook for the housing market and construction activity in China. This concise chartbook reviews the drivers of growth in 2017, digs into the key indicators and explains the core scenario for 2018: a modest correction in housing sales and prices, and a gradual slowdown in construction activity.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Restrained Boom In Land Sales

    Even as China’s housing market has cooled, the market for land has been heating up. Land sales to developers are up 10% so far in 2017, after declining for the past three years, and prices are up 50-100%. In this piece, Rosealea argues that such signs of froth are deceptive: land sales are still historically low and developers quite conservative.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Prices Set To Slowly Cool

    Housing prices have had a wild ride in China this year, but with sales now cooling, prices are also losing steam. In this piece, Rosealea argues that the coming correction in housing prices will be a moderate one—probably about half of the 10% nationwide decline in 2014—as inventories are still low and policies are not particularly tight.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Mortgages Take A Bite Out Of Consumption

    Despite the recovering economy, household consumption in China has slowed this year rather than accelerated. As Ernan explains in this piece, the culprit is the surge in mortgage debt, which has meant a sharp increase in the burden of mortgage payments on household budgets. While income growth is solid, less of the gains are available to spend.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Slow Exit From Reflation

    China’s first monthly data for the second half of 2017 showed growth momentum softening. While reflation peaked in the first half of 2017, the story is still that the exit from reflation will be very slow and gradual. Economic policy will be largely on hold in this period: tightening has peaked, but the switch to easing is still a long way away.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Government Becomes A Home Buyer

    It’s no secret that managing the housing market is a core part of China’s economic policy. But as Rosealea explains in this piece, government’s role in supporting housing sales is now even greater than most realize. The government is buying millions of unsold housing units directly from developers, and the scale of the program is only increasing.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Central Pillar For Housing Sales

    China’s housing market is proving quite resilient this year, with sales growth perking up in May. In this piece, Rosealea argues the current sales recovery is broad-based: growth is strong in both central and coastal provinces. While restrictions on speculative purchases are spreading to some smaller cities, this should have only a moderate impact.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Figuring Out Where The Ball Will Be

    Rugby players fall into one of two categories: the forwards, who typically go where the ball is (and in the process put their heads in places most sane people wouldn’t put their feet), and the backs, who try to go where the ball will be, which enables them to look good and keep their kit clean, but earns them the scorn of the forwards. Peter FitzSimons, the first Aussie to play for a French club (Brive), once remarked: “Come the revolution, the...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Long Can The Construction Rebound Last?

    Chinese growth prospects look quite good in 2017, thanks to the recovery in construction, but how long can it last? In this piece, Rosealea unpacks the inventory dynamics behind the rebound. Given the strong start to 2017, it now looks like low inventories can support growth in construction not just in 2017, but also well into 2018.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Healthcare—Crisis Or Opportunity?

    China’s growing economy has brought its people longer lives, but also a new set of health problems. Though the government is trying to improve coverage, change is happening slowly. So there is a growing opportunity for private companies to fill the gap. This issue of China Economic Quarterly investigates the nation’s health problems, and solutions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    On Borrowed Time In Hong Kong

    Last month, home prices in Hong Kong’s secondary market climbed to a record high, up more than 150% from the depths of the financial crisis. At the same time, Hong Kong’s stock market has been among the world’s strongest major markets so far this year, comfortably outperforming the S&P 500. The buoyancy of Hong Kong assets owes more than a little to investor enthusiasm for the global reflation trade, and to inflows of Chinese money. But more...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is It Finally Time For The Property Tax?

    After more than a decade of debate, could China finally be ready to start imposing a property tax? In this piece, Rosealea argues that political will and technical preparations point to progress toward a tax in 2017. While some fear the impact on prices, the gradual rollout of a narrowly focused tax should be mostly a non-event for markets.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Lost Promise Of Urbanization

    China’s government has been ramping up its focus on urbanization and rural land issues, promoting new policies as breakthroughs that will keep driving growth for decades to come. But for all the rhetoric, the new policies are not fundamentally liberalizing. And the incentives they create could slow rather than accelerate rural-urban migration.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Drawing Meaning From 2016, And A Roadmap For 2017

    Having experienced a rough 2016, the temptation for most investors is to clean the slate and start again. Unfortunately, life in financial markets does not allow for such neat endings. In one of his biggest reports in years, Louis argues that after such a complex and tumultuous year, it is essential for investors to draw a breath and derive some understanding of what just happened. Only then should they try to sketch out future scenarios.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Is China Ready For A Trade Shock From Trump?

    China reported an acceleration in its economic growth on Friday, just hours before Donald Trump was sworn in as US president. But growth could take a hit if Trump makes radical changes to tax and trade policy. And while China has plenty of weapons to fight a trade war, those measures are unlikely to completely offset a sudden shock to its exports.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Gavekal Monthly: Our Top 12 Questions For 2017

    For our first Monthly of the year, we depart from our normal format to offer our thoughts on the dozen most important questions investors must face this year. Not surprisingly, the issues that rose to the top were the impact of the new Trump administration's policies on the dollar and US bond yields, and whether the eurozone will spend the year tearing itself apart. Also,oil prices, the risk of financial implosion in China, and where to...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Macro Questions For 2017

    For our first China research piece of the new year, we offer a guide to the economic outlook in the form of short answers to some big questions: Will China be as boring as consensus forecast imply? Will the central bank hike interest rates? Will the housing market correct sharply? Will it be a good year for Chinese equities? Will the labor market hold up?

    7
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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of The Housing-Commodity Nexus

    Early sales data confirm that China’s property cycle took another step down in November. Yet no one seems to have told the commodity markets: even as property sales have cooled off, prices have heated up, with domestic futures for steel, copper, and coal jumping 20-40% in November. In this piece, Rosealea explains how to read these mixed signals.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Don't Blame The Property Speculators

    Is a love of speculation sapping firms’ appetite for real investment? As Chinese companies slow spending on fixed assets, they are buying more investment properties—sparking concern about a “hollowing out” of the economy. Thomas says the blame is misplaced; property speculation is an effect not a cause of firms slowing capex as the economy cools.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The New Reality Of Housing Prices

    The wild ride of Chinese housing prices is a sign of how the housing market has become more speculative and policy-driven as fundamental demand has peaked. Policies intended to help small cities have only made prices in the largest cities frothier. Rosealea thinks this policy-driven volatility in prices will continue even as the cycle turns down.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Equality Engine Is Stalling

    For all its leaders’ talk of a “new normal,” China has not weaned itself off the “old normal” of housing and investment-led growth. That model was in fact a powerful engine for reducing regional inequality, so it has much political support. The engine has now stalled—but rather than swap in a new one, the government keeps revving the old one.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Big Fish Eat The Little Fish

    China’s housing sales may have plateaued, but the largest real-estate companies still have plenty of room to grow by consolidating an enormous and fragmented market. A multiyear boom in M&A has strengthened the market position of the largest developers, who are still easily raising huge sums from capital markets that can fund future deals.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing Takes A Breather; More Stress On The Way

    July was a weak month for China’s economy, as investment, industrial production and retail sales all slowed. An important exception was the property market, where sales ticked up and buyer sentiment seems strong. Nonetheless, housing activity will continue to slow over the rest of the year, if at a gentler pace than the plunge in May and June.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Housing Cycle Is Aging Rapidly

    The latest up-cycle in China’s housing sales has probably reached its peak. Major cities saw a marked step-down in sales growth in May, and absent major new stimulus national data will follow suit. Housing sales are still on pace for full-year growth of over 10%, but will slow to single digits later in 2016, and 2017 will see a deeper correction.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Despite The Bounce, Housing Has Peaked

    The rebound in China’s housing sales early this year raises the obvious question of whether we were too quick to proclaim the peak in housing demand. Housing sales in 2016 are indeed on track to surpass 2013, but this is a stimulus-driven bounce. The long-term trend still points to a 10-20% decline in annual construction volume by 2025.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Migrant Housing Solution

    In hundreds of smaller cities around China, rows of apartment blocks lie unsold. Can this inventory ever be absorbed? The government hopes migrant workers, long too poor to urban property, will be part of the solution. On a recent trip to southwest China, I did find signs that migrants are becoming a factor at the low end of the housing market.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Long Can This Keep Going On?

    Has China salvaged growth only by inflating a housing bubble? How much tolerance the government has for a surge in housing prices and mortgage debt is a crucial question for judging how long the new construction cycle can last. History suggests the price gains are now strong enough for the government to start cooling things down at the margin.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Regional Guide To The Property Recovery

    The rebound in real-estate investment is behind China’s growth stabilization, but flies in the face of still-high inventories of unsold housing. The regional pattern is very mixed: some genuine improvement, and a lot of government stimulus. Construction in 2016 will be better than expected, but the lack of destocking will drag on future growth.

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    From Black Hole To Muddling-Through

    Over the past few months, sentiment towards China has shifted dramatically. Fears that China was a black hole at the heart of the global financial system have morphed into mild optimism, as growth indicators have stabilized. There remain plenty of longer-term problems, but muddling through rather than collapse is the likely scenario for 2016.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Turn Too Soon

    The biggest surprise in China’s latest data was the rally in property: housing sales surged and real estate investment picked up in the first two months of 2016. But this improvement is unlikely to be sustained: the turn in property has come far earlier than fundamentals warrant, and suggests the government does not have a firm grip on the market.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Embracing Housing Debt

    China’s latest wave of supportive policies for the housing market won’t generate a huge bounce, but they do show the government is happy to use easy credit to keep housing sales going. Helping the market digest the oversupply of new housing is clearly a major priority. But the consequences will be rising household leverage and frothy prices.

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    Hong Kong Finally Rolls Over

    One of the world’s great bull markets may finally be rolling over. In the 12 years to August 2015, Hong Kong’s residential property prices climbed 557%, with most of the increase occurring since the 2008 financial crisis as prices surged on the back of plentiful liquidity and ultra-low mortgage rates. Now evidence is mounting that the market has peaked. Over the last three months, secondary market prices have slipped by -5%. With the US Federal...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Housing Recovery Is Fading

    One of the few recent bright spots in China’s economy has been the recovery in housing sales. Unfortunately, a number of indicators show that recovery losing steam: gains in sales and prices will slow in coming months. This turn in the cycle reinforces our view that construction activity will be weak in 2016, and that more rate cuts will come, says Rosealea.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing & Construction Review 2015

    Our annual overview of China’s housing and construction markets summarizes the short- and long-term outlook for these crucial economic drivers. In this concise chartbook, Rosealea explains the structural challenge from stagnant demand, the new focus of housing policy, and the role of inventories in shaping the construction cycle.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    When Will Construction Rebound?

    Given the huge role that real estate plays in China’s economy, we can’t expect growth to rebound much until construction recovers. In this piece we propose scenarios for how this could happen, focusing on the inventory cycle. We conclude that construction starts will decline again in 2016, with a cyclical rebound not arriving until 2017 or 2018.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Spreading The Urban Wealth

    President Xi Jinping is promoting a plan for integrating Beijing and Tianjin with poorer Hebei province, ev even declaring it a national strategy to drive future growth. If successful, the plan will spread some of the resources in central Beijing more evenly around the region. This in turn will push up property prices in suburbs and smaller cities.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taking The Pulse Of The Construction Cycle

    China’s housing-driven industrial cycle is stuck in low gear, but has not worsened dramatically. What is getting worse are the parts of the economy that had been doing better earlier in the year: exports, consumer spending and finance. The result will be headline GDP growth that (finally) falls below 7% in the third quarter.

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    Is The Bull Market Over? (I)

    Is the bull market in equities over? As our readers might imagine, this is a question we have been asked more than once over the past few weeks. Notwithstanding the bounce of the last two days, the simple fact that clients are wondering about the answer is troubling in itself. Their doubts are embodied by three ominous developments:

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    The RMB, The HKD And A Flood Of Cash

    If nothing else, yesterday’s announcement that China spent US$94bn of its foreign reserves in August to prevent the renminbi from falling against the US dollar should convince the doubters that China has no intention of being a mercantilist “currency warrior”. As a result, any bearish case against the renminbi should not rest on the government’s intentions—in spending its US$94bn, the People’s Bank of China has made it clear that it will hold a...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Housing: From Suppression To Support

    After two rounds of relaxing housing policies, China’s authorities have almost run out of ammunition within the existing policy framework. As a result, the authorities are eyeing new tools to support demand: a greatly expanded market in mortgage-backed securities and a housing policy bank to help finance home purchases.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Inventories Still Weigh On Housing

    Many Chinese cities are still working off the overbuilding of recent years, so developers have little reason to start new housing. Until this is resolved, improving housing sales will do little to boost the economy. This excess supply will continue to weigh on construction for at least another year.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Turning Cautious On Land Reform

    The Chinese leadership’s recent enthusiasm for “modern agriculture” featuring large, mechanized farms has waned in recent months, as abuses mount and efficiency gains fail to appear. The evolution of land reform policy is thus an excellent lesson in how reformist ambitions do not always survive an encounter with China’s messy reality.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Responds To Treatment

    Although China’s economic data for April were generally mediocre, property was a bright spot. National property sales rebounded to a 7% YoY gain, after 1% decline in March, marking the first positive growth in 15 months. The latest interest rate cut is likely to further fuel the recovery, and indeed preliminary data point to continued sales gains in May. Broad-based monetary easing has proved a more effective remedy for weak housing demand than...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property Is Still Too Big To Let Go

    While the share of China’s economy driven directly and indirectly by real estate and construction has declined over the past three years, it is still substantial at roughly one-third. This means that the government cannot afford to be relaxed about the housing market as fundamental demand starts a long-term decline.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Developers Fatten Up For The Long Winter

    China’s beleaguered property developers are finding their way to a new strategy. While the real-estate boom of the past decade rewarded those who could build the most the fastest, the structural slowdown in housing demand that is now underway (see Housing’s Next Decade) calls for a different approach. Consolidation not expansion is the order of the day: in 2014, developers sharply increased their spending on mergers and acquisitions, even as...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Managing The Disappointment In Housing

    China’s housing market has gotten off to a very bad start for the year, with housing sales falling 18% YoY in January and February, the worst decline since 2009. The terrible data are another reminder that we have entered a structural downward trend in housing demand, which means that sales are more likely to undershoot than to overshoot. But the negative trend also means that previous government concerns about overheating housing prices and...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (25 February): Global Property Wrap

    Overview: Property gets a bad rap from macro-economists as an “unproductive” asset. This mistakes its true value in modern economies, argues Anatole Kaletsky. United States: Despite recent soft housing data, the US housing market is ready to rip, say Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian. Europe: Francois Chauchat argues that Europe’s housing market may have entered a gently rising cycle for the first time since 2007. China: Property sales have picked...

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