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    Gavekal Research

    Maritime Silk Road Or “String Of Pearls”?

    China’s strategic expansion into the Indian Ocean is causing jitters in both Washington and Delhi. This week Xi Jinping pledged to finance a whopping US$46bn of investments in Pakistan, a large chunk of which will fund a 3,000km “economic corridor” from the Arabian Sea to northwest China. The route will begin at Gwadar, a Chinese-run port near the Iranian border, which Indian security experts fear will become a strategic base for the Chinese...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (22 April): Global Trade

    Overview: Charles Gave argues that an era of globalization and expanding world trade is coming to an end. On balance, he says this is no bad thing. United States: The negative impact of the strong dollar on US exporters will become clear once disruption from the early year port strikes on the US West Coast clear up according to Will Denyer and Tan Kai Xian. Europe: Europe’s huge trade surplus is purely a German issue. François-Xavier Chauchat...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Trembling Giants

    Political and public pressure is building for an overhaul of China’s state-owned oil companies. China National Petroleum Corp. and Sinopec Group, formed in the 1980s from government departments, are among the largest companies in China and their influence is difficult to overstate (two other state energy firms, CNOOC and Sinochem, are smaller and less powerful). Nevertheless the political winds are now blowing against them and a change of some...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: No Mourning For The Death Of Outsourcing

    What is China doing about the loss of a big driver of export growth? Back in the days when total exports were growing at a 20%-plus annual rate, up to half of that growth came from the outsourcing of manufacturing assembly to China (we use processing trade, a customs arrangement used by many outsourcing factories, as a proxy). But the outsourcing boom of the 1990s and 2000s has faded lately. Since 2012, processing trade has essentially stopped...

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    Gavekal Research

    Fuel To The Fire

    As if the flames under Chinese equities weren’t hot enough already, Beijing is busy throwing fuel on the fire. Yesterday the People's Bank of China said it would cut the reserve requirement ratio for banks by 100bp, with an extra 100bp cut for small rural institutions. This is the greatest reduction in RRRs since November 2008 in the depths of the global financial crisis, and unlike the previous cut in February it is not intended merely to...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Why The Coming Collapse Of World Trade Should Be Celebrated

    Sustained economic growth has always gone hand-in-hand with a big rise in communications infrastructure. To explain why, assume that a country has two cities, named A and B. At the point that a modern communication infrastructure is built (road, trains, internet) then, in each case, a single line of communication is needed. Three cities implies the need for three lines; a fourth city means six lines. Ultimately, if all the cities are to...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Crocodile Mouth About To Close

    What is the most significant macro event thus far in 2015? Most of our clients would likely answer the collapse in oil prices. Or perhaps the European quantitative easing program and the fall of the euro. Others, more bearishly inclined, may highlight the relentless and tedious process towards Grexit, the underwhelming US macro data or the devastating Middle-Eastern civil war. These are all perfectly valid answers—in fact, we made a number of...

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    Gavekal Research

    Slumping Growth, Booming Market

    The gap between China’s booming stock markets and slumping economic growth just got a lot wider. Figures for the first quarter published today showed a picture of nearly unrelieved gloom, with most growth readings at their weakest since the first quarter of 2009 when China was suffering from the global financial crisis. This poor performance is not surprising, given the structural slowdown in the housing market, falling corporate profits, anemic...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Perils Of Leadership

    Around 50 countries have signed up to join China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. A year ago, when Beijing began to draw up plans for a new multilateral lender, no one could have guessed that it would cause such a global stir. We first wrote about China’s attempt to provide an alternative to the US-dominated system of global development finance last June (see [China] A Chinese Bretton Woods?). But it is too early to conclude that the...

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    Gavekal Research

    The Best Of Both Worlds In Hong Kong

    My mother often said that the main reason she pushed Charles to return to work following the sale of his previous business in the mid-1990s was that having a retired husband was the worst of both worlds: “Less money and more husband”. On this measure, Hong Kong should be happy today. In its troubled marriage with mainland China, it looks very much as if Hong Kong is about to get “more money and less mainlanders” out of its conjugal partner. In...

    1
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Developers Fatten Up For The Long Winter

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

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    Gavekal Research

    Buy On China Skepticism

    Widespread skepticism about the power of monetary policy at the outset of easing cycles can provide great investment opportunities. Despite clear lessons about the effects of central bank activism in the US in 2009, Japan in 2012 and Europe in 2014, international investors still doubt the quality of the bull run in China’s onshore stock markets ignited by the People’s Bank of China. As a result, even though the Shanghai A-share market has...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (8 April): The Outlook For Bank Earnings

    Overview: With banks’ earnings squeezed on one side by flat yield curves, and on the other by tech companies encroaching on their traditional consumer-facing business lines, Louis wonders where the banking sector will generate future earnings growth United States: Doing More With A Flatter Yield Curve: Now consumers have deleveraged, and with strengthening demand set to drive a pick-up in corporate investment, Will argues that earnings growth...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Short Tale Of Iron Ore's Long Fall

    Commodity prices boom when supply is slow to respond to surging demand, and collapse when supply finally catches up. The iron ore market is clearly in the second phase now, with global supply surging just as Chinese demand slows. In this piece we outline the fundamentals for iron ore, which mean that prices will remain lower for longer.

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    Gavekal Research

    One Belt, One Road, One Grand Strategy

    In what can only be described as a triumph for Chinese financial diplomacy, some 48 countries had defied US disapproval to sign up for Beijing’s new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank by yesterday’s deadline. The applicants included not only Europe’s big four economies, but staunch US allies such as Saudi Arabia, geopolitical rivals like India, and even Taiwan, which China does not recognize as a separate country.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C China: The Worst Is Yet To Come

    China’s banks are going through their toughest times since the central government bailed them out at the end of the late 1990s banking crisis. After 10 years of double digit growth, the earnings of China’s five largest banks grew by only 6.5% in 2014. Fourth quarter profit growth was actually negative. China’s smaller banks have performed better than their larger counterparts, but even so their profit growth has also slowed significantly. What’...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Relevance Of Bank Reserve Cuts

    China is set to make further cuts in the extraordinarily high reserve requirement ratio it imposes on its banks. In early February the People’s Bank of China reduced RRRs for the first time since May 2012, cutting the ratio for all financial institutions by at least 50bps (with a bigger cut for selected banks). However, even after February’s cut, the RRR for big banks remains at 19.5%, a punishingly high level by international standards,...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Exogenous vs Endogenous Shocks

    Markets can be hit either by endogenous shocks (they collapse suddenly because of the build-up of internal excesses—think the 2000 tech bubble, the 2008 US mortgage crisis, or the 2011-12 eurozone crisis) or by exogenous shocks (9/11 in the US, or the price of oil shooting up from US$100/bbl to US$150/bbl in 2008 following the Sichuan earthquake and preceding the Beijing Olympics). This raises the question how investors should view...

    4
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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...

    0
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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...

    0
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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...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    Managing The Disappointment In Housing

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

    0
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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...

    0
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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.

    0
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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...

    0
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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.

    0
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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...

    0
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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....

    1
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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.

    0
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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...

    0
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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...

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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?

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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.

    0
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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)

    0
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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.

    0
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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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