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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Macro Update: A Broader And Deeper Slowdown

    2015 is off to a soft start for China. The housing downturn in 2014 led to economic pain that was concentrated in regions and sectors that supplied steel and other construction materials. But now the slowdown is spreading through the rest of the economy, with corporate profits and consumption starting to show weakness. Monetary policy will continue to ease in response, though neither a strong surge in credit growth nor a big depreciation of the...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Divergence In Market Action

    After yesterday’s trading action, the S&P 500 is now broadly flat for the year so far, and stands at the same level as on November 21. Interestingly, over the past 26 days since February 17, the US index has not managed to string together two consecutive days of gains. In other words, US equities are now adding more volatility and less returns to portfolios. That’s hardly the combination that most investors are looking for. In contrast, the...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    China Update: A Rare Bond Market Bright Spot

    The rule of thumb in all of our fixed income models used to be that the nominal yield on ten-year government bonds for a given country should be equal to the country’s ten-year average inflation rate plus the structural real growth rate of its gross domestic product (i.e. demographic growth + productivity gains). So, for example, if the US were to see 2% GDP growth (1.2% productivity gains and 0.8% demographic growth) and 2% inflation, then the...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (25 March): Where To Find Value

    Overview: Louis deconstructs the cycle across different regions to work out what investment strategies should work best, and where. North America: David Hay argues that the Canadian dollar may be nearing its trough, and if so, that Canadian REITs offer compelling value. Europe: Turkish assets have suffered recently. But with cheaper oil and a recovery in European demand emerging, Cedric makes the case for an impending rebound. China: With yields...

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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

    5C China: A Rare Bond Market Bright Spot

    The rule of thumb in all of our fixed income models used to be that the nominal yield on ten-year government bonds for a given country should be equal to the country’s ten-year average inflation rate plus the structural real growth rate of its gross domestic product (i.e. demographic growth + productivity gains). So, for example, if the US were to see 2% GDP growth (1.2% productivity gains and 0.8% demographic growth) and 2% inflation, then the...

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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Three Regions, Three Strategies

    Fundamentally, there are three ways to make money in financial markets: Momentum trades: ideally buying high and selling higher. Return to the mean trades: ideally buying low and selling higher. Carry trades: borrowing short to lend long.

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    Gavekal Research

    All 21st Century Roads Lead To...

    With trillions of US dollars’ worth of transactions every day, the G7 foreign exchange markets are supposed to be the most liquid, least prone to manipulation, markets out there. Even so, the five day rate of change of the EUR-US$ exchange rate has lately fluctuated in the +5% to -3% range usually only seen at times of deep market crisis. As a result, most investors, or companies looking at their budgets and sales projections for the second...

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    Gavekal Research

    London Seminar March 2015 - Anatole, François, Andrew & Charles

    We held our main spring seminar in London on March 17 with Anatole, François, Andrew and Charles offering their views of the global economic pulse and recent market and central bank developments.

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    Gavekal Research

    Asia Is Not So Scary

    One reason we have received push-back on our call to overweight Asian equities has been the risks associated with a major US dollar spike. Asia has not racked up foreign currency debt at the rate seen in recent years since just before the region’s financial crisis in 1997. Still, we would argue that there are sufficient differences this time around to think that Asia can generate strong performance on lower volatility over the coming year.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Who Gains When The Fed Hikes?

    The Fed has lost patience in words only, not in deeds. In its statement yesterday the Federal Open Market Committee dropped its linguistic backstop—the word “patient”—indicating that the first rate rise since 2006 could come as early as June (remember, Fed chair Janet Yellen defined “patience” as meaning there would be no rate hike for at least two meetings after the word’s use). But the underlying message the market took away yesterday is that...

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    Gavekal Research

    Don’t Bet On A Renminbi Depreciation

    A number of clients have asked recently when we think the renminbi will start to weaken against the US dollar, and how far we expect it to fall. With the euro and the yen having both recorded double digit percentage falls against the US currency over the last six months, and with the Taiwan dollar down -4% and the Korean won now down -7% after the Bank of Korea cut interest rates last week to a record low, the renminbi is a glaring exception....

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    Gavekal Research

    A Petty And Short-Sighted Hissy Fit

    The UK’s decision to join China’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank is turning into a diplomatic triumph for Beijing and a disaster for Washington. France, Germany and Italy say they will follow the UK’s lead. South Korea and Australia, which the US urged not to sign up when the bank was established last October, are reconsidering. Even Japan, the most stalwart US ally in Asia, is rumored to be wavering.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Let's Watch That Movie Again

    The beginning of the year can be a sleepy time for China watchers, what with the short daylight hours, long holidays and a dearth of economic data releases. In this season, even the most earnest reader of tea leaves can be forgiven for dozing off for a bit. But if you fell asleep watching the China economy channel, you didn’t miss much: it was just playing reruns.

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (11 March): Currency Wars

    Overview: Charles Gave wonders whether Japan might surprise by affecting an appreciation of the yen. United States: With the US dollar rampant, Will Denyer runs the numbers against the euro and yen and finds decisively in favor of the yen. Europe: Francois Chauchat argues that as a major trading currency, the euro was never going to be driven just by trade flows. However in the final analysis the strong external position of euroland will make...

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    Gavekal Research

    Aluminum: Coping With Excess Capacity

    The commodity super cycle is finished. After massive and sustained increases during the early part of this decade, prices for most metals are now thoroughly depressed. The one exception to this trend is aluminum—not because its price is not low, but because it never went up strongly during the heights of the commodity boom. In fact this exception only proves the rule that China and supply-side discipline were the key factors behind the boom in...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015

    Growth momentum will slow further. Headline GDP growth was steady at 7.3% in the fourth quarter of 2014, and the full-year figure barely missed the target of 7.5%, but most indications are that growth is headed lower in 2015. The government’s cut in this year’s official growth target, to 7% from 7.5%, acknowledges this reality.

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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: A Slowdown In Currency Internationalization

    As the renminbi’s once-steady appreciation against the US dollar has lost steam, so has the pace of currency internationalization. After doubling in size from early 2013 to early 2014, thanks to strong growth in Taiwan and South Korea, total offshore renminbi deposits have barely increased in recent months. In January, renminbi deposits actually declined by more than 2% in Hong Kong, the currency’s largest offshore center.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - The Price Of Reform Without Openness

    For years, increased openness was the companion of reform. Xi Jinping believes openness is dispensable, and is clamping down on the internet, academia and civil society. His program may work, but bodes ill for the hope that China can become an innovation hub.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - China's Climate-Change Turnaround

    China was blamed for the failure of the last big climate-change talks, in Copenhagen in 2009. Will it be able to take credit for the success of the next round, in Paris this year?

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - How China Will Gain From Lower Oil Prices

    China has surpassed the US as the world’s biggest oil importer. The plunge in crude prices gives it new leverage in its quest to diversify its sources of supply.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - The Great Gas Price Conundrum

    For years, China’s problem has been finding enough new supplies of natural gas to satisfy its voracious demand. Now, the critical issue is to get prices right.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - King Coal's Long, Slow Decline

    Just a few years ago, the notion that China’s coal use might soon stop growing was laughable. Now it seems likely that peak coal demand is imminent.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2015 - When Realism Bleeds Into Paranoia

    The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury (Henry Holt, 2015)

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Energy And Climate Change

    This issue of the CEQ explores the dramatic and sometimes contradictory changes in China's energy picture. China is now the world's biggest importer of oil and by far the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. But the economic slowdown and pollution reduction policies are also starting to bite, sharply curbing growth in energy consumption.

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    Gavekal Research

    The New Normal Will Not Be 7% Growth

    How far have China’s famously growth-obsessed leaders really dialed back their growth expectations? We fear not quite enough. China has given up on pursuing 10% growth, but still wants to keep growth of at least 7%. We do not think this is possible, for at least three reasons: history, housing and leverage.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Oil Bubble Implosion

    Since the late 1980s, oil prices have only collapsed by -50% or more over a six month period on two occasions: during the 2008 crisis and in the period since last August. In itself, this begs some interesting questions: does the sudden drop in the WTI and Brent price mean that the world economy is falling apart? Or that oil is set to bounce back? Or finally, that oil was in a bubble which has now imploded? At this juncture, the first option...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Investing Along The New Silk Road

    In China, political slogans matter. They help to set the agenda, acting as political weather vanes. In recent months, “One Belt, One Road” has become a signature slogan of Xi Jinping’s administration. A contraction of “Silk Road Economic Belt” and “21st Century Maritime Silk Road,” “One Belt, One Road” describes Beijing’s policy of financing and building transport infrastructure across Eurasia, the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean—aka the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (March 2015)

    Our latest monthly report shows that the modest recovery in growth indicators, which started last month, has continued. Since central banks are engaged in aggressive easing action on a number of fronts, it would be surprising if this improvement does not continue. In addition, our velocity indicator has rallied and hovers at a six month high, which mirrors the low level of the VIX index. Such readings point to a “risk-on” environment, but we...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    From Managing Growth To Managing Debt

    China’s central bank has announced another interest-rate cut—but how many more is it prepared to deliver? The latest move reduced benchmark lending and deposit rates by 25bp, after last November’s 40bp cut, a response to the growing pressure to ease the financial strain on companies from falling prices and weak growth. Indeed, we think monetary policy decisions in China are increasingly driven not just by the classic issues of growth and...

    0
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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...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: The Importance Of Property

    Property, both residential and commercial, is the world’s oldest investment and, in the long run, the most reliable and profitable store of economic value. Like the world’s oldest profession, however, it operates in the financial shadows. Property lacks the transparency of mainstream asset classes such as equities, bonds and currencies, with no completely objective price benchmarks to measure returns reliably even in sophisticated markets such...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Property's Supply-Side Correction Continues

    Over the past few months, the long-running decline in China’s housing sales has clearly bottomed and started to improve. December’s sales decline was just 4% YoY, compared to the 16% drop in July. But while this kind of improvement in previous cycles would have translated into a similar turnaround in construction activity, that has not been forthcoming this time.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Hong Kong's Pro-Cyclical Property Roller Coaster

    Nowhere is the US Federal Reserve’s eventual decision to raise interest rates awaited with greater trepidation than in Hong Kong’s property market. The territory’s currency board link to the US dollar means that Hong Kong had no choice but to import US interest rates when the Fed cut its own benchmark short term rate to zero at the end of 2008. With safe haven funds flooding into the city’s financial system, Hong Kong banks cut their residential...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Oil Insecurity Is Not Going Away

    For the world’s second-largest buyer of crude oil, the collapse in oil prices is a great bargain: the import bill for the 6mn barrels of oil shipped to China every day has halved in the space of a few months. But does now-cheap oil mean that the billions of dollars China spent buying oil assets abroad, or on loans to friendly governments of oil-producing countries, have been a waste? We doubt China’s policymakers are losing much sleep over this...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Sheep In Goat’s Clothing

    In the West, ‘sorting the sheep from the goats’ is a common metaphor for separating the good from the bad. The Chinese language, however, does not differentiate between the two species. So as the year of the sheep (or goat) approaches, it is perhaps understandable if some investors are asking which sort of beast China’s offshore dim sum bond market represents. With China’s growth slowing, with the renminbi down -2.3% against the US dollar in the...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Can The New Silk Road Revive China’s Exports?

    The various New Silk Road initiatives add up to one of the biggest and most elaborate export-promotion plans in history. Yet even this new brand of checkbook diplomacy may struggle to reverse the global economic forces that have been weighing on Chinese exports.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (11 February): The Earnings Squeeze

    Overview: Charles contrasts US companies' strong accounting profits with the less impressive numbers reported in the national accounts and asks some hard questions. United States: The latest earnings season revealed a tale of two markets with multinationals and energy firms lagging while domestics surge ahead. Will and KX ask whether this can last. Europe: François argues that if eurozone GDP growth picks up to the degree that the...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Will The Middle-Class Consumer Please Stand Up?

    The big beneficiaries of China’s tight job market have been lower-income rural migrant workers. This is no bad thing, but these households account for a very small share of total consumption. The real drivers of consumer spending in China, as elsewhere, are the middle classes—and their income growth has been slowing.

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    China: More Pain Than Gain

    China is in for a rough year. The economy is in its most fragile state since 1998, at the nadir of the Asian financial crisis. Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of just 6.1% in the last quarter of 2014, and most key indicators suggest that the first half of 2015 is unlikely to be much better. Industrial profits are weakening sharply, which is likely to dampen wage growth and consumption—the two bright spots over the last couple...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    More Pain Than Gain

    China is in for a rough year. The economy is in its most fragile state since 1998, at the nadir of the Asian financial crisis. Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of just 6.1% in the last quarter of 2014, and most key indicators suggest that the first half of 2015 is unlikely to be much better. Industrial profits are weakening sharply, which is likely to dampen wage growth and consumption—the two bright spots over the last couple...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: Big Dark Cloud, Small Silver Lining

    With commodity prices collapsing, the profits of China’s industrial sector are in free-fall (see [China] Profits Under Pressure). Since heavy industrial corporations make up a sizable proportion of China’s publicly-traded sector, this is bad news for listed company earnings. State-owned banks, which make up another large portion of China’s stock market indexes, also face earnings pressure as expected interest rate cuts hurt their margins and bad...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Peak Coal Is Nigh

    Here’s some good news for China’s smoggy skies: the nation’s consumption of coal fell outright in 2014, for the first time since 1998. This decline—the result of a severe downturn in the most energy-intensive industries—has upended some long-held assumptions about China’s future trajectory of energy use. Last year’s unexpected combination of 7.4% GDP growth and just 2.2% growth in energy consumption means it is now very likely that China is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why RMB Stability Vs The US$ Matters

    In China’s onshore market the renminbi is trading within a whisker of the weak side of its permitted trading band against the US dollar. Meanwhile in the offshore market the renminbi hit a two year low last Friday. Against the backdrop of a strong US dollar—in trade-weighted terms the US currency rose 9% over the three months to the end of January—these moves have prompted a number of clients to ask whether Beijing is about to steer a...

    3
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Profits Under Pressure

    China looks like it should be a winner from falling commodity prices, as it is a large importer of raw materials. Unfortunately, the truth is almost exactly the opposite: lower commodity prices mean that its own energy, mining and metals firms are suffering. Add in the construction slump, and 2015 is shaping up to be a horrible year for industry.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Asia’s Encouraging Currency Stability

    Three months ago to the day, the US Federal Reserve ended its outright purchases of treasuries. Three months before that, the ECB instituted negative interest rates. And whether by coincidence or causation, most commodity prices chose the past six months to unravel. The combination of these events has led to some sharp exchange rate moves. Over the past three months, commodity currencies have been taken to the woodshed: the Russian ruble is down...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (28 January): In Central Banks We Trust

    Overview: When central banks led a war on inflation in the late 1970s and 80s they kept on fighting long after the enemy was beaten into submission. They are likely to take the same approach of using overwhelming force in today’s fight against deflation, says Anatole. United States: The Swiss may have given forward guidance a bad name, but the Fed should be taken at its word, argues Will Denyer. Unlike Anatole, he thinks that interest rate...

    3
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For A Real Chinese Bull Market

    This report makes the case for a secular improvement in returns from Chinese equities. It does so by a political economy analysis of long-run equity market performance in the three East Asian developmental success stories most akin to China: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. The basic argument is that when a high-growth economy shifts from policies of “financial repression” to a more liberalized financial system, a sustained period of improved...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Chinese Equities: A Guide For The Perplexed

    The 60% rally in China’s main onshore stock market was clearly one of the big stories of 2014. Whether this bull market can continue is obviously one of the big questions for 2015. As attentive readers will have noticed, we at Gavekal have formed a wide range of views on this subject. This note is an effort to summarize and, we hope, clarify our various opinions.

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: The PBOC Loves To Be Feared

    With consumer inflation modest, producer prices falling, and many other central banks in easing mode, the People’s Bank of China looks set to cut interest rates further this year following last November’s reduction (see Five Macro Questions For 2015). At the same time the central bank also seems intent on maintaining the pace of financial reform after last year’s moves to widen the renminbi’s permitted trading band and liberalize deposit rates...

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