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    Gavekal Research

    South China Sea Risks

    In the next few weeks the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague will likely rule in favor of the Philippines in its dispute with China over territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing’s reaction will show to what extent China is prepared to defy international law to defend what it claims are “core interests”.

    5
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Fast Is China’s Debt Really Growing?

    The latest debate about Chinese statistics centers on debt: are the figures capturing the size of the latest stimulus? Official credit growth is now 12-13%, but total credit is actually rising by 16-18% due to government debt and new forms of shadow finance. Yet regardless of the exact measure, China’s national leverage is still rising rapidly.

    14
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    Gavekal Research

    Reduced Chance Of Renminbi Storms

    The recent strength of the dollar has pushed the renminbi back down to the lows of January. And the renminbi could make new lows if Fed rate hikes trigger a run-up in the dollar—a big if, with the dollar still stuck in a trading range. But such moves are unlikely to trigger anything like the global volatility caused by previous depreciations.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Risk In The Service Sector's Rise

    The rising share of services in China’s GDP is often touted as a positive change to a more sustainable structure. But this change is less positive than it appears, since the fastest-growing part of the service sector in recent years has been finance. The rapid financialization of the economy is a process that increases rather than reduces risk.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How Much Geopolitical Risk In Asia?

    With the global economy in the doldrums and most asset markets stuck in neutral, the last thing that is needed is a trade war or an armed confrontation in the world’s most vibrant region, East Asia. The risk of either is low, but inching up.

    3
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The End Of The Migrant Miracle?

    China’s growth has long been driven by the shift of millions of people from low-paid farm work to better urban jobs. But latest survey of migrant workers shows the flood of rural labor slowing to a trickle. So is the migrant miracle ending? Not quite. Slower economic growth is curbing migration, but other causes of the slowdown are more benign.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No More Easing Likely

    The latest dump of monthly Chinese economic data was generally soft, but what grabbed headlines was an apparent sharp slowdown in broad credit growth. In fact, a closer inspection shows that the pace of credit expansion remained robust in April and the real issue looking forward is whether policymakers respond by dialing back stimulus policies.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Chinese Debt Resolution

    China’s chosen development approach of investment-led industrialization meant it was fated to face an eventual debt crisis. Like Taiwan 30 years ago, China has moved from an export-driven economy to one motored by domestically-focused investment spending. Its challenge has been to “rebalance” toward consumption and in the process stop an escalating build-up of debt which funds projects with ever lower returns. Yet so long as China has a...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Glory Days For Affluent Consumers

    While China’s economy is slowing, growth in some consumer markets is booming. The cause is what we call the “acceleration phenomenon” of rapid growth in affluent households, which is driving surging sales of goods and services they favor. The flipside of the affluent growth story, however, is that more mass-market consumer goods are slowing down.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Is The Rumpus In The Bond Market Over?

    After a long rally, China’s onshore bond market has finally had a correction. Corporate bonds are experiencing a repricing of credit risk after a recent jump in defaults, and this could go on for a while. But the rise in government bond yields should be a buying opportunity, as China’s interest rates are still headed down over the medium term.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    AMCs Are Back: More, Smaller, Shadier

    As the bad loans of China’s banks mount, many wonder how the government will deal with the problem. In the 1990s, four big asset management companies led the bank cleanup, and recently a new crop of smaller local AMCs has emerged. Yet these AMCs do not seem to be helping banks resolve bad loans, but instead are helping them hide problem debts.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Making Sense Of The Rally In Cyclicals

    By all accounts, 2016 has so far proved to be a challenging year for “market neutral” funds, and “smart beta” strategies, along with various quant funds. Before we have even reached the seasonally-challenging part of the year—sell in May and go away, and all that—a quick glance at year-to-date returns for “low volatility” hedge funds illustrates that the pain is pretty widespread. In a sense, this is surprising; after all, spreads are tighter...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand (II)

    Stockpiling has become a key driver of China’s crude oil imports, as Beijing builds up its strategic petroleum reserve and as state-owned oil companies add to their own inventories. But constraints on the capacity to store these stockpiles mean that this boost to oil imports will likely stall within the next two to three years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Asian Plowshares Into Swords

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe invested time and prestige in a failed bid to supply Australia with 12 new attack submarines and service them for the next 50 years. It was announced yesterday that the approximate US$38bn contract was scooped by a rival French bidder due to its technical competence, but also after a strong lobbying effort by China which does not want to see a resurgent Japanese defense sector. Canberra’s decision represents a...

    0
  • Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future Of China’s Oil Demand (I)

    While China’s demand for coal and other basic commodities has gone into decline, its consumption of crude oil has continued to climb. Rosealea projects the GDP intensity of different oil products to conclude that China’s demand for crude oil is set to continue rising over the next five years, despite the slowdown in many sectors of the economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The End Of Asian Equity Market Underperformance?

    With Asian equities having underperformed their global equivalents by almost 40% since 2011, the past five years have not been much fun for regional investors. Encouragingly, however, just as the panic over a possible China currency crisis and economic implosion reached its apex last summer, Asia’s underperformance seems to have abated. Over the following eight month period or so, Asian equities have held their own with a number posting decent...

    1
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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.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Sum Of All Fears

    As “China implosion” and renminbi devaluation fears have faded, risk assets around the world have enjoyed a sustained a rally led by “China sensitive” assets such as commodities, Asian equities and emerging market high-yield debt. In short, all the assets that were priced for a scenario just short of Armageddon. But following this rebound, what next? The most obvious point is that, with the pick-up in fiscal stimulus, the rebound in construction...

    0
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    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.

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Jaws Begin To Close

    China’s growth divergence in 2015 was dramatic. But that divergence is narrowing in 2016, with industry picking up as services slow. While markets have welcomed the stabilization, it’s largely the result of short-term stimulus—and it’s also becoming harder to tell a positive story about the “good” growth drivers of services and consumption.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Oil’s Busted Flush

    Buoyant expectations that the world’s major oil producers could agree a production freeze when they meet in Doha on Sunday have helped push the price of crude to a four-month high this week. The international Brent blend benchmark reached just shy of US$45/bbl, up 66% from its late January low of US$27, with at least some brokerage houses predicting the price could breach US$50 in the event of a deal. Maybe—but forecasts that the crude price...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The End Of Deflation Is Nigh

    China’s growth slowdown has been much worse in nominal terms than in real terms—and often, nominal matters more. So it is good news that both consumer and producer price indexes are picking up in early 2016. And even if commodity prices do no rally further, China’s GDP deflator is likely to turn positive by the second half of this year.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    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 Research

    Debt Swaps Are No Panacea For China

    To help troubled borrowers, China’s government is embracing debt-for-equity swaps. But while such swaps will reduce the burden on indebted companies and avoid an abrupt deleveraging, they will also load more stress onto bank balance sheets. Beijing will still eventually have to come up with a workable plan to recapitalize banks; this is not it.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - Powerhouse, Menace, Or The Next Japan?

    Two popular narratives about China are that it will either reform its economy and become the next superpower, or fall victim to a dramatic financial crisis. There is a third and perhaps more likely scenario: gradual stagnation, along the lines of 1990s Japan.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - China's Impending Minsky Moment

    The Chinese authorities have given up even trying to geta handle on the country’s spiralling debt problem.This means that a financial crisis and severe growth downturn are likely by 2020.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - The Fall Of Productivity And The Rise Of Debt

    Productivity of capital is falling, and debt is rising. Does this mean China is headed for low-growth, high-debt stagnation? Not necessarily. Economy-wide returns on capital remain solid; the biggest problems are an inefficient state enterprise sector, and excessive infrastructure debt. Strong state enterprise reforms could enable growth to stabilize at a high level.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - Excess Capacity, Zombie Companies, And Debt Deflation

    The story goes that excess capacity and debt-ridden ‘zombie companies’ will drag down China’s economy. But the problems are mainly confined to steel, coal, and other construction-related industries—and are less dire than in the 1990s. A long, slow restructuring is possible, though perhaps not ideal.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - What We Learned From The Stock Market Crash

    The mess that are China’s stock markets cost securities regulator Xiao Gang his job in early 2016. Sacking him was the easy task. The real work remains to be done if the country’s financial markets are ever to fulfil a real role as an allocator of capital.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2016 - The End Of Non-Interference

    China’s Strong Arm: Protecting Citizens and Assets Abroad by Jonas Parello-Plesner and Mathieu Duchâtel (International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2015)

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Avoiding The Japan Trap

    Growth is slowing, debt is rising, and the government is openly talking about "zombie companies" in key industries. This is China today, but there are also echoes of 1990s Japan. This issue of the CEQ examines the similarities and differences, and handicaps China’s chances of dodging a Japanese scenario of low-growth, high-debt stagnation.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Big Is The Zombie Army?

    China’s economy is reportedly being dragged down by an army of “zombie” companies—unprofitable firms clinging to life through subsidies. In fact, the data show only about 10% of Chinese firms are truly financially troubled. “Zombies” look less like a huge systemic problem and more like a normal effect of the downturn in housing and heavy industry.

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    The China Factor In The Fed’s Equation

    Janet Yellen yesterday confirmed that uncertainty over the global outlook was why the Federal Reserve scaled back expected interest rate hikes. But just what happened in the world to change her mind? Rather than slightly weaker global growth prospects, market turbulence is the more likely culprit—in particular the stress over China’s currency.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: Of Stimulus And Stability

    Our quarterly overview of China’s economy reviews the eventful start to 2016 and reassesses the outlook. The renminbi has returned to relative stability, property is picking up again, and stimulus is continuing. But growth is still reliant on state spending, national leverage is still rising, and services and consumption are set to weaken.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    No Worries From China's Rebalancing?

    For a country that gained so much from China’s commodity boom, Australia seems quite sanguine about the bust. Mining investment may be falling, but optimism on tourism is rising. So has Australia already switched from the old commodity-driven to the new consumer-driven China? And will this rebalancing also be painless for the rest of the world?

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Trends From The Five-Year Plan

    What to make of China’s five-year plan? The 13th and most recent plan has lost some uniqueness: it is now just one of Xi Jinping’s many long-term plans, strategies and initiatives. So figuring out what is new and important can be even more challenging. To cut through the clutter, we highlight five important trends for next five years.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    Dollar Liquidity And Its Dependents

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

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    China’s Buying: It’s A Good Time To Sell

    A flurry of big cross-border mergers and acquisitions by Chinese companies has left many people scratching their heads. Announced Chinese international acquisitions are on track to exceed US$100bn in the first quarter—almost as much as in the whole of 2015. What is driving this torrent of cash?

    1
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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

    What To Make Of Industrial Layoffs

    When China’s labor minister said the troubled coal and steel industries could shed 1.8mn jobs, the news provoked a lot of excited commentary. But this is not 1998 all over again. The government’s layoff plan does not mean China is about to be swamped by a wave of unemployed workers, nor that officials are “getting serious” about excess capacity.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Parsing The Decline In China’s Reserves

    After falling by almost US$300bn in the three months to January, China’s foreign reserves showed signs of stabilizing in February. The slower pace of decline is certainly welcome news for the central bank. But the reduced stress owes a lot to recent dollar weakness, and it is too early to say Beijing is fully in control of its new currency regime.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Papering Over The Credibility Gap

    The aura of technocratic competence that once surrounded China’s leadership is tarnished these days. A recent burst of transparency from top officials has not done much to change that. The bigger problem is that the government has locked itself into a growth target that is not credible, which makes all economic policy less credible.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Not Yet The Buy Of A Lifetime

    With emerging market equities up 13% over the last three weeks, and outstripping developed markets over the year to date, the notion is gaining traction that after four years of underperformance emerging markets are now “the buy of a lifetime”. Investors should be cautious. While it is indeed possible that emerging markets could continue to rally over the next few months as the US dollar tops out and commodity prices stabilize, the longer term...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Where Is The Value In A-Shares?

    With the Shanghai market down by nearly half from its peak, are Chinese A-shares starting to get cheap? Unfortunately no: most stocks other than banks are still highly valued. But technology and healthcare firms, many of which trade in Shenzhen, are still good growth stories, and are cheaper relative to the market than they have been for years.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Keeping Control Of The Interbank Market

    When the central bank cut reserve requirements this week, in its first policy move in four months, confusion resulted. Analysts wondered whether the PBOC’s main priority is supporting the currency or stimulating the economy, and which tools it wants to use. We think its top priority now is maintaining low and stable interbank interest rates.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Avoidance Of Debt Traps

    Yesterday saw Asia’s two big emerging economies adjust economic settings to deal with their respective debt problems. China cut the required reserve ratio that banks must hold by 50bp and India’s government rolled out a cautious budget. Both countries' actions, while different in nature, reflect sensible responses to testing circumstances.

    0
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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.

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    A New Forex Driver?

    Foreign exchange markets are serial monogamists. The currency exchange rate between two economies can be driven by factors such as differences in their respective interest rates, monetary policies, purchasing parity levels, return on invested capital, current account deficits, trade balances and inflation rates. But at any point in time, only one single factor is likely to be the primary driver of performance, which is why currency markets tend...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    No Rush As China’s Bond Market Opens

    The opening of China’s domestic bond market to global investors announced yesterday is a milestone event, which will lead, over time, to a large influx of foreign capital. But in the near term, policy uncertainty and concerns about the currency outlook are likely to outweigh high Chinese yields, so the impact on capital flows will be modest.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Seeing The Chinese Forest, Not The Trees

    I do not know as much as I should about China, but I would beg readers’ indulgence as I have some general knowledge of how economies work, and some particular insights into economic history. My fairly unoriginal starting point is that the first phase of China’s development, starting in about 1990, required a focus on building infrastructure and this caused particular rules to be adopted. Since the essential roads, bridges, power plants and...

    7
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Doubting Debt Deflation

    After four years of declines in the PPI, there are growing concerns that China has a structural deflation problem. And when debts are high, deflation can make that burden even heavier. Indeed, China’s commodity producers have been experiencing a debt-deflation cycle for years. But this dynamic is not spreading to the rest of the economy.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Chasing The Recession In Shaanxi

    We all know that big swaths of China are suffering, especially areas dependent on the declining coal and steel industries. Matt spent his Chinese New Year break in a poor county of Shaanxi province to see what things are like on the ground. He did not find what he expected: conditions are neither as dire as he feared nor as good as he hoped.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Is It Supply Side Or Demand Side?

    The signals from Chinese policymakers are mixed. In recent months official rhetoric has taken a harsh turn, with praise for deleveraging and calls for money-losing “zombie” companies to be shut down. At the same time, officials are promising yet more infrastructure spending, and new data show a record surge in bank loans in January. So which is it?

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Having Your Cake, And Eating It

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

    0
  • Gavekal Research

    Crisis? What Crisis?

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

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    How Good Are Those Service Jobs?

    China’s housing-led slowdown is clearly taking a toll on jobs, with troubled industrial firms laying off millions of workers. Offsetting these losses is the very rapid pace of job creation by the service sector, a fact the government regularly trumpets. But a closer look reveals that most new service jobs are at low-paying small businesses.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    No More Shock Absorbers?

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

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Capital Flows And The Currency Endgame

    Concerns are rising about China’s big capital outflows, which topped US$700bn in 2015. Yet our analysis shows that China is not experiencing massive capital flight. Unfortunately, this does not matter much to markets. The real problem is that China’s currency regime is losing credibility, and outflows erode its ability to steady the renminbi.

    10
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Say Goodbye To Coal Imports

    China’s coal imports dropped a stunning 30% in 2015—and all signs indicate more declines are coming. Imported coal is taking the brunt of the adjustment in the nation’s energy demand, as the domestic transportation bottlenecks that made imports attractive have eased. We think China will stop being a major net importer of coal in about two years.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Is Yen Weakness ‘Good’ But Renminbi Weakness ‘Bad’?

    When the yen falls, global markets think it is A Good Thing, and risk appetite increases. But market moves early in January demonstrated that the opposite applies to China: when the renminbi falls, markets think that is A Bad Thing, and risk appetite vanishes. So why do investors like a weak yen but fear a weak renminbi?

    1
  • Gavekal Research

    Red Herrings, Margin Calls And Heart Attacks

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Is Wall Street In A “Bear Market”?

    Charles has boldly defined a serious bear market as a downtrend in which investors who buy at the top do not recover their money for four years or more. By contrast, he dismissed a -15% to -20% decline lasting less than 18 months as a mere bear cub that could equally well be described as a “pause that refreshes”. In my view the present decline it looks rather more like “cub” than an Ursus Magnus.

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Another Grim Year For Profits

    For Chinese industry, 2015 was a year of unrelieved pain—and there is little prospect of any turnaround in 2016. Although demand for consumer goods is solid, the heavy industry sector is just clinging on until the construction cycle picks up. Our base case is for a 1% decline in industrial profits this year.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Time To Choose, PBOC

    Some calm has returned to China’s exchange-rate market—but for how long? For the past two weeks, the renminbi’s value has been relatively stable against both the US dollar and its official trade-weighted basket. But questions about the future trajectory of the renminbi have not gone away. Despite the central bank’s massive recent interventions, many market participants view the current “peg to a basket” as a temporary tool that will, at some...

    5
  • Gavekal Research

    Who Is The Marginal Buyer?

    Notwithstanding yesterday’s equity market rally (carried over into the Asian morning), the behavior of risk assets over the past month begs the question of whether a big financial actor is seriously “sick”. The constant plunge in commodities, the relentless rise in spreads and an inability of all major equity markets to hold on to a rally suggests that someone, somewhere, is just “puking” a massive portfolio (as AIG did in 2008).

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Debate Over Renminbi Policy

    One of the core tenets of Gavekal’s philosophy is that we embrace open debate. Rather than concealing the diversity of our analysis beneath a single suffocating “house view”, we strongly believe that conducting our —often animated—discussions about the big topics of the day out in the open adds value for our readers. And few of our recent debates have been as lively as the one over Beijing’s renminbi policy. Joyce’s view is that the Chinese...

    10
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    Gavekal Research

    No Need To Fear For The HK Dollar

    In times as volatile as these, a currency move of 0.8% in a week hardly sounds remarkable. But when the currency is the Hong Kong dollar, people sit up and pay attention. As sentiment towards China’s renminbi has turned deeply bearish over the last few weeks, the Hong Kong dollar has moved away from the strong side of its HKD7.75-7.85 convertibility band against the US currency. In early trading on Wednesday, the Hong Kong dollar reached HKD7....

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Two Speeds, Both Slower

    China’s “two-speed” economy coasted to a moderate slowdown in 2015, with rapid gains in services helping offset a downturn in industry. But industry will worsen further in 2016, and the recent strength in services will prove to be cyclical. We think this slowdown will be gradual, but are watching risks in the financial sector and the job market.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Turning Point For Excess Capacity

    2015 saw historic declines in China’s output of coal and steel—which are far from over. Falling commodity prices have brought the excess-capacity sectors to a turning point, finally forcing them to cut output. More producers will cut in 2016, at a pace similar to or faster than in 2015; the government is talking tough but prefers a gradual process.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Looking For The Bright Side

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

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Retreating From An International Renminbi

    Behind the recent turbulence in markets lies an important shift in China’s longer-term currency strategy. The drive to internationalize the renminbi, which required keeping the currency strong, has run out of steam. Now that the central bank has gotten much of what it wanted, internationalization is no longer driving currency policy.

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    China: Still Off Course

    We began 2016 thinking that China’s policymakers had learned some lessons from last year; obviously, last week’s mayhem proved us wrong. But the real problem with the missteps on the currency and the stock market is not that collapse is imminent. Rather, it is that the leadership is not setting a clear course toward a more market-driven economy.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    It’s About The Dollar, Not The Renminbi

    In my 50 year career working in financial markets, I have never seen the money supply of one country move across the border to another country. Hence I must confess to being perplexed when reading recent commentary fretting about “capital flight” from China. Never mind that China’s highest denomination bill is RMB100, meaning that a fleet of trucks would be needed to move any meaningful sums into Hong Kong, but the country still has foreign...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Going Down With The Renminbi

    Emerging markets have faced significant headwinds ever since the “taper tantrum” of mid-2013 when investors began to factor in tightening moves by the Federal Reserve. Their headache got much worse last summer when China allowed a mini-devaluation of the renminbi, and 2016 is hardly starting well. The root problem is that most emerging markets are over-geared and need to ease policy if growth is to be kick-started. Unfortunately, easing is...

    4
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Clearing Up The Currency Confusion

    China’s currency has once again grabbed the spotlight. Big falls against the dollar have raised fears that China is embarking on a major competitive devaluation, or that it has lost control of the financial system. We do not think these fears are correct, but the central bank’s failure to explain a new currency policy is causing much turbulence.

    6
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Five Macro Questions For 2016

    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 derail the global economy? Will the government step up policy easing? Will housing prices collapse? Will industrial profits recover? Will troubled companies lay off more workers?

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Day One Carnage

    “Well, that was an oddly timed report,” one of our long-suffering clients remarked yesterday, with justice. Right after we pressed send on our outlook for the year ahead, assuring readers that China fears and commodity prices would not play as big a role in markets in 2016 as they did last year, the Shanghai index collapsed by -7%, and oil prices had a volatile ride thanks to growing tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Have we been proved...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    ASEAN Could Yet Matter

    Until the Asian Financial Crisis of the late 1990s, Southeast Asia’s export-led development was driven by ethnically-Chinese entrepreneurs who ran dispersed production that mostly supplied the garment, electronics and consumer goods sectors. By the mid-2000s these relationships had greatly simplified, with the economies of the Association of South East Asian Nations either slotting into the Chinese manufacturing supply chain, or alternatively...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

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

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New Economic Realities

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: A Cloudy Outlook For 2016

    Our latest quarterly overview of China’s economy outlines the prospects for 2016. Growth will slow further, as industry stays weak and the performance of services fades. More moves to support growth are also certain, with the focus switching to fiscal from monetary policy. Meanwhile, pressures on the financial system and labor market are rising.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Year Of Peak Everything

    2015 should go down as a turning point in China's economic history: coal demand is having its biggest drop for 15 years, steel for 20, cement for 25. The previous declines in materials use were one-offs that were quickly forgotten in the ensuing boom; this time, they will be longer lasting.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    The Clash Over Fossil Fuels

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

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    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...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Cure For Low Prices Is Low Prices

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

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Taiwan And China: Can The Uneasy Truce Last?

    After seven years of relative quiet, Taiwan is back in the spotlight. Next month’s elections are all but certain to bring the opposition DPP, which China dislikes, back to power. So could one of Asia’s oldest frozen conflicts start to heat up? In fact there are reasons to think that ties between Taipei and Beijing will not break down completely.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Cash Hogs On The Loose

    There are many privileges that come with being a state-owned enterprise in China. One of them, apparently, is the freedom to not pay your bills. We find that SOEs are delaying payments to their suppliers, in order to hoard the cash they need to pay their large debts. This does help SOEs avoid defaults, but at the expense of smaller private firms.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Year-Defining Week

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

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Chinese Consumer: Outlook & Trends

    As the downturn in China's investment-driven economy deepens, ever more hope is being placed on consumer spending. But the dynamics of Chinese household spending remain poorly understood. In this concise presentation, we outline the macro factors driving the growth of consumption, as well as the key structural changes.

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Finding The Missing Coal

    This year statisticians decided China has actually been using about 600mn more tons of coal than previously estimated. The news is a bit awkward for official pledges to cap coal consumption and carbon emissions. But actually these new figures only reinforce our conviction that China is already very close to its peak level of coal demand.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Are Emerging Markets Cheap?

    On the face of it, the valuation of emerging markets looks compelling. After declining -30% from its 2011 high, the MSCI Emerging Markets index is now at a forward P/E ratio of 12, a third cheaper than the S&P 500. As a result, the valuation premium of developed over emerging equity markets is close to its highest in more than ten years. What’s more on average, emerging-market currencies are now below fair value against the US dollar,...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    What Now For The Renminbi?

    It’s official: the IMF has confirmed that the renminbi will join the SDR currency basket. Now that China has achieved this goal, attention will turn to the renminbi’s exchange-rate outlook. The reality, however, is that SDR inclusion is largely irrelevant to the trajectory of the exchange rate; what happens to the US dollar will be the key.

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Bringing The World To China's Doorstep

    Chinese consumers love global brands, but hate their high prices. So well-off Chinese have often shopped for them abroad rather than pay inflated domestic prices. These days, though, Chinese consumers can import foreign goods over the internet at much lower prices. This trend will wreak havoc on middlemen, but will also create new opportunities.

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    No Savior On The New Silk Road

    Over the last year China has stepped up its efforts to build an informal empire in Asia. This “One Belt, One Road” initiative has the potential to boost regional development and strengthen China’s geopolitical heft. But in the shorter term, can Beijing’s grand plan absorb China’s industrial overcapacity and revive commodity demand? Sadly, no.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    A Less Distorted Mirror

    China’s stock markets reflect its economy as in a funhouse mirror: consumer and service sectors shrink to midget proportions, while finance and industry swell to giant size. The process of correcting these distortions speeded up in 2015 as industry slumped and services held steady. Progress will likely slow some in 2016, but the trend is clear.

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Breaking Down The Services Cycle

    With China’s industrial sector in a deep slowdown, the services sector has been generating most of the good economic news in 2015. But there is no economic law that makes services immune to the business cycle. Services have their own ups and downs, and while that cycle has helped growth this year, it will provide less of a boost in 2016.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Benefits Of Membership

    The renminbi’s path to becoming the fifth sovereign currency in the SDR is now clear, with IMF chief Christine Lagarde endorsing the move on Friday. This is a diplomatic coup for China and a victory for its central bank. But we do not see SDR inclusion as a game-changer for capital flows into China, though they will continue to rise.

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