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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar June 2014 - Louis, Anatole & Andrew

    We held our summer seminar in New York on June 10, with Anatole, Louis and Andrew offering their take on the state of the world economy and financial markets. We were also joined by Henrik Christensen who is director of Robotics at Georgia Tech. Audio recordings of their discussions are available below:

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Investment Abroad — The Dragon Steps Out

    China is now the world's third biggest source of outward direct investment, and the things it is buying are rapidly changing. Gone are the days when Chinese outward investment was all about state-owned enterprises buying oil wells and iron ore mines. There are still plenty of state-driven resource deals, but 40% of Chinese direct investment is now conducted by private firms, who are mainly interested in consumer, technology and service...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Much Pain For How Much Gain In China?

    Xi Jinping and his colleagues have been running China for a year, and they face a crucial set of decisions. They have reined in runaway credit growth and intimidated opponents of structural reforms with an anti-corruption drive of remarkable ferocity. Now the economy is growing at its most sluggish pace in 15 years, and a further slowdown is certain. How much more economic pain are the leaders willing to endure, and how much structural gain can...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Culprits Behind The Housing Correction

    With this year’s correction in the Chinese housing market spreading, the search for the villain of the piece is on. Most market analysts were primed to expect problems in the numerous small, isolated cities that have overbuilt housing and are swimming in excess inventories. Both our own research and much other analysis has shown that smaller cities have serious problems, thanks to an unhappy combination of weak population growth and government-...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (14 May 2014)

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment:

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Clouds Gather Over Property Outlook

    China’s economic indicators for April showed growth holding steady, albeit at sluggish rates, in manufacturing and consumer spending. Exports are even picking up once the data problems are dealt with. But while growth may be stable for the moment the risks of a further downturn are rising, as sales and sentiment worsen in the housing market.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Hong Kong’s Diminished Prospects

    Even as Chinese growth has ebbed, Hong Kong has defied the downturn. The territory effectively has full employment and real wages have risen nicely. Over the last year, hot money flows continued to enter Hong Kong and tourists from across the border kept arriving. This, at least, was the case until recently when cracks started to appear in the prosperity of China’s preferred haven for tax-avoidance and luxury shopping.

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (30 April 2014)

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment, Arthur Kroeber considers the implications of Asian deflation. Will Denyer & Tan Kai Xian consider the strong rental market for US homes and wonder what this means for the broader housing sector. Nick Andrews looks up close at reduced liquidity in the eurozone’s financial system. Chen Long looks at a favorable convergence between national GDP numbers and the growth claims made...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Supply-Side Correction In Property

    The supply side of China’s property market is looking surprisingly weak. Indicators of property developers’ desire to expand future housing supply are turning down: construction starts have fallen outright by more than 20% YoY for each of the first three months of 2014, and land purchases swung to a sharp 17% decline in March from slow growth in earlier months. This deterioration in the supply side looks out of proportion to the more gentle...

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    Gavekal Research

    In Laos, All Roads Lead To China

    Two thousand years ago, in the days of the Roman Empire, it was said that “All roads lead to Rome.” Rome’s might was built on the back of metaled roads constructed by an army of 180,000 legionnaires, who pushed the expansion of the empire to its geographic limits. China’s expansion over its modern-day borders is primarily economic, not military. But as China’s massive domestic road-building program extends over its borders into Southeast and...

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    Gavekal Research

    A Good Scalping In Hong Kong

    Massive rains and golf-balls sized hail pelted Hong Kong this weekend, but the weather did not stop the throngs from showing up and cheering on the annual Rugby Sevens. Yet surely it was a tough year for the scalpers, who gather outside the stadium on game days to sell coveted tickets at huge mark-ups to official prices. The rain and dark skies must have given the buyers the upper hand in this year’s price negotiations.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: China And Japan

    In this issue, we focus on the increasingly tense relationship between China and Japan. Frictions over disputed islands in the East China Sea have stalled bilateral trade and driven the confidence of Japanese businesses in China to the lowest level ever. China's increasing assertiveness, and Japan's election of strongly nationalist leader Shinzo Abe, have sparked worries over a damaging Sino-Japanese conflict. Yet the news is not all...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Neither Boom Nor Bust For Housing

    The pattern has become all too predictable: when Chinese house prices rise, the media cries bubble. When prices slow, we are warned of a crash. In recent weeks the crash warnings have been piling up, as housing sales and price growth have decelerated. The more boring truth is that China’s housing market has its cyclical ups and downs. The year 2014 is shaping up to be cooler than the surprisingly torrid 2013. But collapse is not on the horizon,...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2014 - Data

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Tearing Down Mountains, Building Up Castles

    For buildings to go up, some buildings must also come down. As anyone who has walked down a city street in China can attest, the construction boom of the past decade was also accompanied by the destruction of many older buildings. But getting a handle on the precise scale of this activity has always been difficult. Our estimates based on census surveys suggest the volume of housing demolished over 2005-10 was much larger than we and other...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Hangover From China's Urbanization Boom

    As China’s leaders in recent weeks have laid out an ambitious agenda for market-driven economic reforms, one element has been strangely lacking: urbanization. Premier Li Keqiang made this his signature issue during his years as deputy to the former premier, and has frequently talked up the potential for urbanization to drive China’s future growth. Yet a coherent urbanization policy has been nowhere to be found, as Li’s desire for a healthier,...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly December 2013 - Internet Companies

    In the December issue of the China Economic Quarterly, we examine the state of the Chinese internet, with a focus on the Big Three internet companies: Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. Despite continued government crackdowns on online discussion, China’s internet is booming: 600m people are online, including approximately 450m using mobile devices, and ecommerce may account for close to 10% of total retail sales in 2013. Nearly all this economic...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q4 2013 - Urban Development

    For three decades China’s cities have grown by gobbling up fields and chopping down trees. But in a country that must feed one-fifth of humanity with just 8% of the world’s farmland, land is a scarce commodity. The government believes that it must maintain a minimum 120m hectares of cultivated land to ensure basic food self sufficiency. And since the current area is already very close to this so-called “red line,” cities must somehow grow...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q4 2013 - Property

    Forecasting future construction volumes is a tricky business, as any calculation must be based on a number of different moving parts. One of those parts is the volume of demolition: the more shoddy old flats that are torn down, the greater the volume of construction needed to replace them. Over the past decade, demolitions proved a significant driver of construction demand, as millions of home owners demanded newer and better apartments. But...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Property After The Plenum

    For ordinary Chinese, high housing prices remain one of their biggest concerns, and for economic analysts, the risk of a construction slowdown one of their biggest worries. For our part, we have argued that China’s housing market is moving into structural oversupply, after a decade of structural undersupply, and that significant adjustments are necessary. So it is surprising that the 60-point reform plan from the Communist Party’s Third Plenum,...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Interpreting Rates And Reform

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Corporations Underwrite A Consumer Recovery

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Passing The Growth Baton

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Growth Is Stronger, Time To Step Up Reforms

    China’s third-quarter GDP came in at 7.8% YoY, the fastest pace this year. The main driver of the pickup was expectations. In the first six months, companies ran down inventories on the fear that the new leadership planned painful structural reforms, including further property market curbs and sharp monetary tightening. Then at a conference in July, Premier Li Keqiang, while eschewing a major stimulus, nevertheless offered assurances that growth...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Housing & Construction Review 2013

    China’s housing market is in transition. After a decade of severe under-supply of housing, the market is now flirting with over-supply thanks to a redoubling of construction volumes. Urbanization is continuing, but its place is likely to slow, and all cities will not benefit equally. Yet housing prices continue to rise, and the government continues to try to restrict many types of purchases. To understand how all these different trends fit...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    What Happens When The Land Runs Out?

    For three decades China’s cities have grown by gobbling up fields and chopping down trees. But in a country that must feed one-fifth of humanity with just 8% of the world’s farmland, land is a scarce commodity. The government believes that it must maintain a minimum 120m hectares of cultivated land to ensure basic food self sufficiency. And since the current area is already very close to this so-called “red line,” cities must somehow grow...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Investment Kicks The Construction Habit

    In sharp contrast to better than expected industrial output and export growth in August, residential construction is spluttering. Construction starts fell -20% YoY and were largely flat in the 3Q13 period. Sales growth for both apartments and development land also decelerated. Given the importance of property construction to overall Chinese investment spending, the weakness implies one of two things: either the recovery will be short lived, or...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Hard Choices For Housing Policy

    China’s new leadership has tried for a fresh approach on many economic policies this year. But on the key issue of housing, they have opted for continuity. The so-called housing purchase restrictions, the key housing policy of the last administration, have been firmly in place since mid-2010. Applied in most major cities, these measures put penalties on new housing purchases by those households that already own a house. By limiting housing...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly September 2013 - Agriculture

    [LEFT]China is the world’s biggest producer of rice, wheat, pork, eggs, cotton, fruit and vegetables, and the second biggest producer of maize and poultry meat. It manages this with only 8% of the world’s farmland and 6% of its renewable water resources. Yet most of China’s farms are too small to be commercially viable and food-safety standards are poor. To raise productivity and meet the demands of more discerning consumers, China needs to...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q3 2013 - Property

    After a thoroughly disappointing first half of the year, China’s government has been busily announcing targeted policies to shore up growth. One of the most important is a new program of slum renovation. This will start work on 3.04m units of new housing in the rest of 2013, and a total of 10m units by 2017. Given that new construction has been extremely weak so far this year, a renewed public-housing push has the potential to make a real...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Reform Advances, Growth Steadies

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Growth Is In The Air (Maybe)

    Growth is in the air! This is the refrain we are hearing increasingly from Chinese government spokesmen, and there are a number of indicators that give credence to the official sanguinity. Construction starts rebounded strongly in July. A stabilization in the producer price index and steel and iron ore prices suggests destocking is ending. With Europe out of recession and US data improving, exports should provide another tailwind.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Mixing Growth And Austerity

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Social Housing Makes A Comeback

    After a thoroughly disappointing first half, China’s government now looks increasingly worried about growth. Premier Li Keqiang, who started his tenure in office with much fine rhetoric about the need for structural reform, has recently been talking about the “bottom line” for growth (7%, in case you wondered) and the need to maintain confidence. While the administration says there is still no need for looser monetary or fiscal policy, it has...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Cost Of The Credit Crunch

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Small Is Not So Beautiful

    There is a growing disconnect in China’s housing market. Sales have soared in big cities since the final quarter of 2012, but construction growth remains anemic. Developers for now remain reluctant to aggressively expand new construction, preferring instead to sell down their existing inventory. This behavior is consistent with our analysis that the housing market, after more than a decade of undersupply, swung into oversupply in 2012. Around...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - From Oversupply To Undersupply

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly June 2013 - Southeast Asia

    Deng Xiaoping used to say that the foreign policy breakthrough he was most proud of was the full normalization of China’s relations with the countries in Southeast Asia. In the 1980s, Deng’s policies helped China transform itself from a deadly enemy of its southern neighbors to a potential partner. Over the next two decades, China nurtured relationships in its backyard. Yet over the past few years many of these efforts have gone to waste: from...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q2 2013 - Property

    Something strange is going on in China’s property market. Sales have soared in big citiessince the final quarter of 2012, but construction growth remains anemic (see “Economicsurvey” on p3). The weak numbers suggest that we can no longer rely on sales todrive construction starts, and also point to a structural shift towards slowingdemand. This leaves one central question: if demand remains healthy in China’s70 largest cities, as the official...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - A Turn To The Supply Side

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Finding Investment's Future

    China’s investment growth is slowing, but that slowdown is not equally distributed. The huge investment surge of the past decade was primarily driven by a domestic housing boom, which in turn demanded big investment in industrial capacity to supply construction materials. But the volume of property construction will see at best very modest growth in coming years, as the growth in domestic housing supply is reaching a plateau (see Reaching The...

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    Gavekal Research

    Weaker For Longer

    China’s economic indicators for April confirmed that the weak recovery in Q1, and especially March, was not simply a blip. While growth in industrial value-added and other manufacturing indicators did tick up somewhat, the improvement was quite modest given the extremely low base set by the slowdown in April 2012. Credit continues to be very loose and housing sales are still doing very well, but these traditional leading indicators are taking...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Many More Times

    China’s growth has disappointed, again. GDP rose just 7.7% YoY in Q1, slowing from the 7.9% in Q4; in sequential terms, the slowdown was even worse, to an annualized 6.6% QoQ from 8.2%. The weak growth figure caught most observers, including ourselves, off guard, as a cyclical recovery—albeit a modest one—looked clearly underway as of the end of 2012. And with this unexpected soft patch in growth coming so soon after the last soft patch in 2Q12...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - The Bumpy Road To Rebalancing

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - What Goes Around, Comes Around

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    DragonWeek - Cutting Red Tape

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    Gavekal Research

    Crazy, But Not That Crazy

    Every so often we get worried calls from readers who have just seen a press report on “ghost cities” and wonder whether we have changed our minds and now agree that the Chinese property bubble is about to burst. The latest spate of calls followed a very scary piece by the US television program 60 Minutes featuring footage of miles upon miles of empty apartment blocks and shopping malls in Zhengzhou, Tianjin and Ordos.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Walking The Tightrope

    Is China’s growth too weak or too strong? Commentary on the confusing economic data for the first two months of 2013 has been understandably divided. Deciphering the signals is not helped by the usual distortions in the data from the Chinese New Year holiday. On the minus side, the key indicator of industrial value-added slowed unexpectedly, and retail sales were disappointing, an apparent casualty of Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign. On...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China Economic Quarterly March 2013 - The Reform Agenda

    Next week, China’s National People’s Congress will formally anoint the country’s new leaders. President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang—who are expected to remain in power for the next decade—know that the years of easy, investment-driven growth are over. Under their leadership, China must find a healthier development model that puts greater reliance on household consumption, uses capital more efficiently, and provides more citizens with a...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2013 - Land policy and development: How Asia Works

    Most people assume the world will continue to speed up. Yet the chances of seeing another developmental story like China’s are rather low. The era of transitions from poverty to wealth in only two generations, or 50 years, is probably over. The reason is that China—like Japan, South Korea and Taiwan before it, and Vietnam along with it—built its extraordinary developmental performance on land reform that enabled a transition to high-yield...

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