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    Gavekal Research

    Iron Ore’s Battle Of Attrition

    Iron ore prices in China are down almost 30% this year, and have languished below US$100 a ton for three months—an unusually protracted downturn in a volatile market. Last year I argued that the iron ore price would stay around US$120 for the next three years, with a relatively high floor set by the rising production cost of Chinese ore, and the reluctance of global miners to invest in new supply capacity. Is this year’s price plunge a temporary...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (20 August): Velocity Of Money

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment we focus on the velocity of money and the credit cycle in the major economic regions: Overview: Charles Gave notes with concern the downturn in the Gavekal Velocity Indicator. US: Will Denyer looks where the US is in the credit cycle and argues it looks more like 2004 than 2007. Europe: François Chauchat argues that contrary to popular belief Europe’s long credit crunch is...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Spectacular Eur-Asian Divergence

    Financial markets are nothing if not a real time survey of real people playing with real money. Hence, no one can seriously doubt that markets contain a huge amount of highly pertinent information. The problem for the investor is how can this be profitably extracted?

    6
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    Gavekal Research

    Japanese Reflation's Broken Link

    Japan’s gross domestic product shrank -6.8% in annualized terms in the second quarter; a reflection of the contraction in domestic demand following the hike in Japan’s sales tax from 5% to 8% at the beginning of April. The good news is that the headline figure was not quite as bad as economists expected. But the list of bad news is a long one. The second quarter saw the biggest decline in output since the 2011 earthquake, and the slowdown in...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Japan, India And The Velocity Of Money

    There are two ways to look at the evolution of monetary velocity: (1) how much additional GDP can you get for each additional unit of currency circulating in the economy; and, (2) market responses to the change of velocity, which can be measured by, for example, bank shares’ relative performance. The latter can be viewed as a more timely velocity indicator.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Momentum Shifts From Europe To Asia

    European equity markets have taken a beating in the last 50 days. The average eurozone stock is down 6%, while Portugal and Austria are both down more than 10%, putting them in correction territory. Germany and France are not far behind, down almost 9%. However, this broad underperformance masks a lot of intense individual pain: 20% of eurozone companies have fallen more than 20%. As always with a large sell-off, there are two approaches one...

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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (6 August): Central Bank Balance Sheets

    In our latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment, we examine the bloated balance sheets of the world’s major central banks. We ask what exit strategies the central bankers have prepared to slim them down again, or whether expanded balance sheets are here to stay. If so, how will central bank bloat will affect investors in the coming years? Overview: Anatole Kaletsky argues persuasively that the US Federal Reserve and other...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (August 2014)

    This month saw a further improvement, albeit a small one, in our growth indicators. Risk appetite, on the other hand, now looks much more mixed compared with last month’s strong positive tendency. Also noteworthy is the recent spike in our diffusion index of US CPI components, which highlights the abatement of US deflationary pressures. On the asset side, government bonds continue to look expensive, especially in France. Meanwhile, equities are...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Wider Spreads And Weaker Equities

    Over the past five weeks, the spread between US high yield debt and US Treasuries has widened by almost a full percentage point. Admittedly, this move could be dismissed as an overdue correction after spreads for high yield debt narrowed to unsustainably tight levels. Unfortunately, it seems that equities markets are no longer in such a forgiving mood. In the past week, the widening of high yield spreads has weighed heavily enough on equity...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Japan: No Turning Back

    Caught in a liquidity trap and beset with chronic deflation, Japan cannot rebound because real interest rates are too high. To escape the trap, policymakers must reverse expectations of price declines. This is why a credible Bank of Japan, fully committed to its 2% inflation target, is the first plank of Abenomics.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Monetary Policy Is No Threat To Markets

    In the first two articles of this series, I argued that the US economy has now clearly reached ‘escape velocity’ and that, with little prospect of a renewed recession in the next year or two, investors are forgetting their earlier fears of secular stagnation and becoming increasingly confident about the extraordinary monetary and fiscal policies adopted by all the major world economies (see The Case For A Structural Bull Market and The Global...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Central Banks Are Happy With Their Balance Sheet Bloat

    With the end of the US Federal Reserve’s QE3 round of quantitative easing scheduled for October, this is a good time to consider the ‘exit strategies’ central banks might follow as they think about normalizing monetary policy. While the technicalities of each country’s monetary management are different, there are two broad questions that all central banks have to answer: Can monetary policy rely solely on interest rate management, as in the pre-...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    No Honeymoon For Indonesia's Jokowi

    In the next few days Indonesia’s Constitutional Court will rule on a challenge mounted against Joko Widodo’s victory in this month’s presidential election. All the indications are that the court will dismiss the complaint filed on Friday by defeated candidate Prabowo Subianto, who alleges massive electoral fraud. Yet if the court does throw out Prabowo’s challenge for lack of evidence as expected, Joko’s difficulties will not be over. In all...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Playing Emerging Asia's New High

    Some 18 months after US stocks regained the ground lost in the 2008-09 crisis, emerging Asia has finally made a new high. Yesterday the MSCI emerging Asia US dollar total return index closed above its 2007 peak for the first time, having risen 10% year-to-date. That makes emerging Asia the best performing major regional market in the world so far in 2014. If you invest equally in the countries in the index’s universe, your gains are even better...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    The Future History Of China’s Deleveraging

    If there’s one thing almost everyone can agree about on China, it’s that its rise in debt has been very rapid, and is not sustainable. But where does China go from here? In this chartbook, we use historical examples to think about how a future deleveraging process might occur.

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    Gavekal Research

    Buy Indian Dips

    A week ago India’s much hailed reforming government unveiled its first budget and everyone yawned. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh got it about right when he said that the new finance minister’s program could just as easily have been presented by his own maligned Congress-led administration. For investors the problem was the absence of a credible fiscal consolidation plan or a road map to curtail boondoggles such as India’s vast subsidy...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Emerging Asia's Leverage Problem

    Aggregate debt levels in Asia (ex-China) are back to levels seen just prior to the 1997-98 Asian Financial Crisis. This does not pose a near term macro-economic risk since most Asian economies have large foreign currency reserves and run flexible currency regimes. Indeed, this was the mercantilist lesson most Asian economies learnt from the late '90s crisis. Still, Joyce and KX show in this chart book that the likes of China, South Korea...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: The Most Mispriced Risk

    When we are asked what is the most under-appreciated risk in Asia, one asset class jumps out: Japanese government bonds.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (9 July 2014)

    Nothing should stay the same and so we are tweaking the format of Five Corners to make the whole report focus on a key thematic issue that impacts all major centers of the global economy. We kick off with an in depth look at inflation which is again rearing its head even as the specter of deflation continues to haunt the most growth-challenged regions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Political Trigger In Tokyo?

    Japan’s investment outlook was transformed in 2013 after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised a program for national renewal that relied upon “three arrows”: huge monetary expansion, fiscal stimulus, and structural reform. Phase one aimed to enrich Japan’s corporate sector through a yen devaluation and investors did not have to be geniuses to pick the coming equity rerating. The problem is that this profit-driven equity rally is stretched, and the...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (July 2014)

    Having watched our growth indicators soften over recent months, we are now witnessing a momentum shift since our economic activity indicators have perked up markedly. Moreover, the velocity of money has risen rapidly, while our price indicators continue to show lessening deflationary pressure. Hence, it was not surprising to see that bonds are getting more expensive. Unfortunately, equities are not cheap, and this makes it a challenging...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Indonesia's Make Or Break Election

    When Indonesians head to the polls on Monday to elect a new president, voters will decide what looks on the surface like a contest between two very different front-running candidates. On one hand, they have ‘son of the soil’ modernizer Joko Widodo, or Jokowi as he is popularly known. On the other, there is self-styled strongman and former army general Prabowo Subianto. Yet though the election appears to be a clear choice between much-needed...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Gold & inflation

    An investor who bought gold upon Arthur Burns’ arrival at the Federal Reserve and held it up until the day Ben Bernanke announced the second round of quantitative easing would have done about as well as someone who bought-and-held US equities (using the S&P 500 total return as the proxy). Both assets compounded at a little over 10% a year between February 1970 and August 2011. Amusingly, most gold-bugs reacted to QE2 (and then QE3) with glee...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Cost-Push Versus Demand-Pull Inflation

    All inflation is not equal, and it is important to distinguish between the two types of price pressure: demand-pull inflation and cost-push inflation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    An Indian Rupture

    For decades there has been a familiar rhythm to Indian policymaking. In the wake of an exogenous shock such as poor monsoon rains (the case this year) or an oil price spike, the cry goes up that vulnerable groups must be protected. Prices are controlled either through an expansion of subsidy programs or explicit trade barriers. The central bank may warn of inflation threats, but the political discourse is dominated by industrialists carping...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    Perilous Seas

    Across Asia, Xi Jinping’s much-vaunted “Chinese Dream” looks more and more like a Chinese nightmare. Last week, China unveiled an official map showing the South China Sea as an integral part of the country. The new map, which is designed to enhance awareness of China’s territorial claims stretching down the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines, deepens concern that the China Seas are beginning to resemble central Europe in the early...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Buried Krugerrands Or Outperforming Emerging Markets

    Approaching 2014’s half-way mark most major asset classes have returned between 3% and 6% over the year to date. There are two outliers: Japan, which has lagged other markets following 2013’s gains, and precious metals, which have outperformed. So far this year gold is up 9.4%.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (25 June)

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Rising Velocity Is Driving Markets

    As we approach the half-year mark for 2014, it is remarkable how well asset markets have performed this year. Pretty much every major asset class has registered decent gains. US bonds? The long end of the US government bond market is up by 10%, even after the recent mild sell-off. Commodities? The CRB index is up by 8.6%. Global equities? The world MSCI is up by 6%.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: The Liquidity Risk Premium On Emerging Market Debt

    The quest for yield in a low volatility, low interest rate world has provided a favorable environment for capital flows into emerging markets. Last year’s ‘taper tantrum’ temporarily interrupted the momentum, but course corrections by EM policymakers coupled with promises of “lower for longer” from developed market central banks helped investors to shrug off their concerns. In May, portfolio flows into emerging markets reached their highest...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Indonesia Ups The Ante On Resource Nationalism

    The China-driven resource boom over the past decade has created great wealth in developing countries with big mining industries. It has also created a move toward “resource nationalism,” as countries seek to capture more of the value of their natural resources by clamping down on exports of raw ores and forcing investment in domestic smelting and processing plants. The poster child for this movement is Indonesia, which banned exports of many...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Japan's Momentum Trade

    The combination of a broadly stable macro-economic backdrop, plentiful central bank liquidity and low market volatility has been kind to investors this year. The year-to-date performance of most major equity markets has converged, regardless of any divergence in fundamentals or profit trends. If nothing rocks the boat, there is no reason to believe that the current momentum cannot continue. In that case, will Japan, which lagged other major...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    New York Seminar June 2014 - Louis, Anatole & Andrew

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Chinese Bretton Woods?

    Even as it plants offshore oil rigs and rams foreign vessels in disputed waters, China is wooing its neighbors with infrastructure investment. Its next step is to create new multilateral banks whose twin goals are to allay fears about Chinese expansionism and to provide an alternative to the US-dominated system of development finance.

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Volatility RIP

    Having weathered fears of depression, a systemic euroland failure and most recently the specter of deflation, investors can be excused for their insouciant attitude to risk. We may not be in sunlit uplands, but for the first time since 2008 the global growth trajectory looks fairly secure and the big central banks have their monetary policy settings in sync. Hence, it is not surprising that volatility across most asset classes is making new lows...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Hop Aboard The Momentum Train

    Far from worrying about policy risks or soft patches in growth, investors suddenly seem to see nothing ahead but clear blue skies—the perfect environment for momentum investing.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Overcoming The Macro Breakdown

    The financial crisis of 2008-2009 heralded a golden age for macro investors. As the wholesale market crash rendered the relative value judgments of stock pickers irrelevant, macro investors enjoyed a boom time—especially ones who had had the foresight to short US housing, global financials, or eurozone peripheral debt. Now, as the crisis recedes further into the rear view mirror, macro investors are struggling to adapt to a world in which...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (June 2014)

    Having watched our growth indicators soften over recent months, we are now witnessing a momentum shift since our economic activity indicators have perked up markedly. Moreover, the velocity of money has risen rapidly, while our price indicators continue to show lessening deflationary pressure. Hence, it was not surprising to see that bonds are getting more expensive. Unfortunately, equities are not cheap, and this makes it a challenging...

    0
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: Investment Abroad — The Dragon Steps Out

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    India’s Interregnum

    Narendra Modi stands as India’s most powerful prime minister in 30 years with a mandate to pursue a pro-economic growth agenda. The reason to stay with the most compelling trade in emerging markets is that a clear reform impulse has been articulated while the capital spending cycle is showing signs of life. The problem for investors is that key choices on fiscal consolidation and specific reform initiatives may not be announced until a budget...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (28 May 2014)

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Mean Reversion In Japan

    You did not have to be an investment genius to make a positive call on Japanese equities last year. That was because corporates stood to win from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s chosen program, regardless of whether it was successful or not. Enriching Japan’s corporate sector, which has high operating leverage and so is sensitive to any yen depreciation, was effectively a transition phase of Abe’s big plan. The hope was that richer companies would...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    The Earnings Expectations Paradox

    When it comes to global equity investment, all markets are not equal. Over the last couple of years, investors have evolved distinctly different attitudes about how to discount trends in profit growth in each of the four major equity market regions.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Thailand Is The Odd Man Out

    In the mid-1990s Thailand’s over-built and excessively geared economy provided a clear early warning signal for the troubles about to engulf the rest of emerging Asia. But having now suffered two military coups in eight years Thailand is less a bellwether than a regional outlier that seems to have given up serious development in favor of a struggle to subdivide existing wealth and power. The good news from Asia is that ascendant political...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Keeping China In Check

    How much should we worry about China’s increasing assertiveness beyond its borders? Provocations continue to pile up in maritime Asia, most recently a spat over a Chinese oil rig in what Vietnam considers to be its waters. And last week’s Xi Jinping-Vladimir Putin summit in Shanghai, capped by the signing of a long-delayed US$400 bn gas pipeline deal, conjured the specter of a Sino-Russian concert enabling both countries to defy the United...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Less Confidence In A More Confident Bank of Japan

    The message from Haruhiko Kuroda is clear: the Bank of Japan has done enough to reach its 2% inflation target. By extension, we should expect weak yen policies to take a back seat in driving future reflation.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    How To Lose The Eastern Front

    Russia, it appears, has emerged victorious in Ukraine. After the unofficial referendums organized by pro-Russian groups in Ukraine’s eastern regions, Kiev knows it must negotiate with the separatists to avoid national disintegration. A deal on autonomy for parts of Donetsk and Luhansk will have to be made on terms acceptable to Vladimir Putin.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    India: Stay Or Go?

    The world’s largest democratic election is all over, bar the shouting, and results will be announced tomorrow. Polls point to a decisive win for the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party which is pro-business and promises a clean sweep of policy. Equity investors have duly jumped on the bandwagon since India is one of the few emerging markets with a decent growth story. But with the market having consistently made new highs over the last...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For (Some) Emerging Markets

    Investors in emerging markets need to focus on three main things: nominal GDP growth in US dollar terms, valuations and leverage. The problem is that over the last decade, most EMs enjoyed very strong nominal growth in US dollar terms, in which valuation and currency played a bigger role than real growth. That game has run its course and the key to success in the coming period is identifying those markets with strong real growth prospects that...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (14 May 2014)

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    EM Carry Trade Looks Vulnerable

    Over the last two months, emerging markets have delivered a handsome rally, with the MSCI emerging markets index recording a 7% return in US dollar terms, compared with just 1% for the developed markets. The trouble is that this rally has been driven primarily by investors’ growing enthusiasm for carry trades in an environment of declining global volatility. Experience teaches this is an engine which can all too suddenly be thrown into reverse

    5
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    Gavekal Research

    After The Repositioning

    After publishing each Quarterly Strategy Chart Book Gavekal partners and analysts book as many client visits as possible, to present the materials and also get fresh ideas for the coming months. And so having just gone around the world to meet investors, we were reminded of Groucho Marx’s words that “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it”. Indeed, most of the clients we met with (but especially those who had had a perfectly...

    2
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: Hong Kong’s Diminished Prospects

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    A Supply-Sider’s View Of Japan

    Two years ago respectable opinion had it that the United Kingdom’s economic outlook was pretty bleak. After all, the Conservative-led government had adopted a policy of public spending cuts, which every right minded person knows must lead to insufficient aggregate demand and a descent to oblivion. My somewhat unfashionable take was that these spending cuts had laid the ground for a sustainable pick-up in private sector activity (See An...

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Why Are Bond Yields So Low?

    As long as men continue to age, they will probably complain that “things were better in their day” and that “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket”. Ignore for a moment that the proportion of undernourished people fell from 23% of the developing world in 1990-92 to under 15% in 2010-2012, that more than two billion people gained access to improved sources of drinking water in the past decade, and that never in history have so many people...

    9
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    Gavekal Research

    Growth & Markets Monthly (May 2014)

    For a second straight month, our growth indicators have weakened, suggesting the possibility of another summer lull. The outlier is US employment, as evidenced by last week’s very decent non-farm payroll report. We were also intrigued by the recent pick-up in US 5-year inflation expectations, which does not seem to fit with the narrative of constant deflationary pressures. Combined with recent US wage growth, could this imply that there is a...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (30 April 2014)

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

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    What Ails The Dollar

    A curious brew of cheap money, a grinding cyclical recovery and “new economy” verisimilitude has helped drive Wall Street to new highs. And yet even as equity investors have scaled the wall of worry, the dollar has remained uninspired. The unit arguably started a structural upswing in 2008 but the recent performance has been lackluster with the DXY index at the bottom of its trading range.

    4
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    Gavekal Research

    Indian Reform: Facts On The Ground

    When Raghuram Rajan took over the reins of India’s central bank last September he faced a weakening economy and persistent capital outflow. His contrarian solution was to jack up interest rates and propose an accelerated internationalization of the long cosseted rupee. This program was not exactly popular, but it seems to have worked. Eight months on India’s foreign exchange reserve buffer is back above US300bn and the currency has strengthened...

    1
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    Gavekal Research

    The Japanese Value Trap

    Equities around the world have enjoyed a modest rebound over the last week, with encouraging signs of buy-on-dips behavior and the leadership rotation that we believe was the main driving force behind early April’s sharp setback (see The New Rotation Into Value). But there is one major market that is a glaring exception to the generalized shift from growth to value: Japan.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Asia: A Low Beta Korean Won

    The Korean won has defied expectations over recent months by retaining its strength despite last year’s upward spike in emerging market volatility. This resilience confounds traditional perceptions of Korea as a high beta market. Some observers have even argued that the won is now behaving like a classic safe haven currency.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: How Much More Asian Deflation?

    The latest news from Asia’s biggest economies is uninspiring. China’s growth grinds lower, and the renminbi has declined by 3% against the US dollar since January. Japan is suffering the anticipated effects of this month’s consumption tax hike, and Anatole has predicted that the BoJ will respond later this year with a fresh round of money-printing which could push USD/JPY well above its established level of 102 to the dollar.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Five Corners (16 April 2014)

    In the latest bi-weekly review of global economics and investment, Charles Gave explains why it still pays to run a balanced portfolio, despite the market’s rotation. Will Denyer argues that outlook for US consumption remains favorable, even though consumer cyclicals have taken a beating. François-Xavier Chauchat examines the reasons behind the euro’s persistent strength. Andrew Batson looks at Beijing’s new focus on jobs and finds the...

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    5C Overview: Why A Balanced Portfolio

    Last August I suggested moving from a fully invested position in equities to a “balanced portfolio” with equities hedged by high quality government bonds. What underlay this recommendation was a simple reality: the global consumer price index had by that point dipped to about 3.3% and the G7 core CPI measure was down to 1.1%.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    Stay With The JGB Short

    The short JGB trade has a reputation among investors as a widow maker; its devotees live brief unhappy lives and expire early. The prevailing view is that Japan is on the edge of an deflationary abyss. Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda appears sanguine for now, but should the economy falter, the market is looking for fresh BoJ support.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    The Case For Shorting JGBs

    The short JGB trade has a reputation among investors as a widow maker; its devotees live brief unhappy lives and expire early. The prevailing view is that Japan is on the edge of an inflationary abyss. Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda appears sanguine for now, but should the economy falter, the market is looking for fresh BoJ support.

    0
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    Gavekal Research

    In Laos, All Roads Lead To China

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

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    No Bridgehead Too Far In China’s Expanding Empire

    For centuries, China’s borders expanded and contracted as dynasties rose and fell. With its star in the ascendant, the Chinese empire is expanding once more. This expansion is based on economic power—trade and investment—not military conquest. But it will nevertheless reshape the geopolitics of Asia.

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    London Seminar April 2014 - Anatole, Arthur, Louis & Francois

    We held our spring seminar in London on April 2, with Anatole, Arthur, Louis and Francois offering their take on the state of the world economy and financial markets. Audio recordings of their discussions are available below:

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    Growth & Markets Monthly (April 2014)

    Please find the latest monthly review of our models and indicators. In this edition we note two important changes. First, our growth indicators have taken a turn for the worse, and second our indicators on risk appetite have deteriorated. Since we have seen no significant rises in market spreads, this is probably more a sign of a slightly overextended rally, then a real erosion of financial conditions. Could the rally in risk assets be about to...

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    Bet On Europe Vs The US-EM Axis

    Following decades of European economic integration, euro coins and notes were introduced with great fanfare in January 2002. Equity investors barely noticed as their attention was focused on the emerging trans-Pacific economic relationship between the US and China. Initially, this axis relied on the buying power of the US consumer and the production capabilities of the Chinese factory lands. But as the decade wore on this simplified “ChinAmerica...

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    How To Treat The Fall In Velocity

    Debate continues to rage in our office as to the sustainability of the US economic recovery. On the plus side of the ledger, we can book factors such as decent bank loan growth (both for households and corporates), rising wage growth, falling unemployment and solid business surveys. On the negative side, we find a weakening housing sector (which has been the lynchpin of the US recovery), intensifying disinflationary pressure, and long bond...

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    Will Thailand Ever Smile Again?

    Despite having suffered more than a dozen coups since adopting a constitutional monarchy in 1932, Thailand has largely been a model development story. Annual growth averaged more than 7.5% between 1970 and 1996, and then around 5.5% in the 1998-08 post Asian crisis period. So although the latest political standoff in Bangkok suggests that a deeply divided country is becoming ungovernable, the feeling is also that we’ve been here before—some kind...

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    5C Asia: Cyclical Prospects Favor India Over Indonesia - Udith Sikand & Joyce Poon

    Differences in the way macroeconomic adjustment has affected Brazil, India, Indonesia, South Africa and Turkey have shown that lumping disparate economies together with tags like the “Fragile Five”, “BRICS” or “MINT” does little to illuminate the risk-reward trade-off for EM investors.

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    What Happened To The Asia Beta-Bounce?

    Identifying an Asian upturn or downturn used to be straight forward. One just had to look at cyclical indicators in the developed economies, because Asia would be sure to follow. Yet the bounce in Asian exports promised by recent business surveys in the West has failed to materialize. China, Korea, Indonesia, Thailand—these and other Asian countries have released disappointing trade data so far this year. This is worrisome on a number of levels...

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    One Last Flicker Before The Japan Trade Goes Out

    Most of us at Gavekal have been enthusiastic devotees of Abenomics since late 2012. But Anatole suddenly showed his true Keynesian colors by turning negative on Japan in September, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his decision to implement a controversial fiscal tightening planned by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) from April 2014. And indeed, the Nikkei has underperformed the S&P 500 by 15% since the consumption tax was announced on...

    2
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    Indonesia's Political Lottery

    If global investors were looking for a reason to go back into Indonesia’s hard-hit market, Joko Widodo has supplied it. The immensely popular governor of Jakarta, who is widely perceived to be a reformer and an efficient administrator, has been confirmed as his party’s nominee in the presidential elections to be held in July this year.

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    The Sword Is The Axis Of History

    As Anatole recently argued, we can all breathe a sigh of relief that the tussle over the Crimea has likely been resolved without serious bloodshed and at minimal cost (see All Over Bar The Annexation). But in the longer term it is clear that these events may cast a long shadow over international relations for years to come. Indeed, as British politician Ernest Bevin famously said, “don't open this Pandora’s box, it is full of Trojan horses...

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    5C Asia: Japan - Politics vs Economic Reality

    There is, theoretically, a virtuous cycle of growth embedded in Abenomics. Japanese companies are making more money and are expected to share the wealth through wage increases. This in turn would boost inflation expectations, consumption and aggregate demand. As growth veers away from a dependency on external demand, Japan’s revitalization will become sustainable.

    2
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    Japan’s Self-Defeating Mercantilism

    In the 16 months since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe launched his bold plan to reflate Japan’s shrinking economy the yen has depreciated by 22% against the dollar, 28% against the euro and 24% against the renminbi. The hope was to stimulate trade and push the current account decisively into the black. Yet the reverse has occurred. Japan’s external position has worsened due to anemic export growth and a spiraling energy import bill: in...

    2
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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ: China And Japan

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

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    5C Asia: Confession Time For Emerging Markets

    These days we often hear that emerging markets are suffering through no fault of their own. To test this theory we thought we would put on our priest collars and take the confessions of Asian EMs. Charles Gave has long identified five “cardinal sins” that, when committed, inevitably lead to a purgatory on returns for investors. These are protectionism, tax increases, burdensome regulation, monetary policy mistakes and war. Are Asian EMs guilty...

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2014 - Japanese Business in China-Alive In The Bitter Sea

    Growing belligerence by China’s government and populace has driven Japanese companies’ confidence in the China market to its lowest level ever. An increasing number are hedging their bets by investing more in Southeast Asia. But some still find ways to win in hostile territory.

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    Gavekal Dragonomics

    CEQ Q1 2014 - Shinzo Abe's Master Plan To Re-arm Japan

    International media celebrate Shinzo Abe for his economic stimulus and reform package. But ‘Abenomics’ is just a fig leaf for Abe’s true aim: an aggressive nationalist plan to re-militarize Japan in response to the rise of China. Can anything stop him? Most likely, Abenomics will.

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    After Ukraine, Russia Risks Losing The New Great Game

    Russian president Vladimir Putin sat stony-faced through yesterday’s closing ceremony in Sochi. The Winter Olympics were supposed to convince the world that a confident and modern Russia is once again rising as a great power. But after a stunning reversal of fortune in the burning streets of Kiev, Ukraine appears to be slipping from Putin’s grasp.

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    An Indian Counter Revolution?

    An Indian economy mired in stagflation and failing political responses bears some resemblance to the US of the late 1970s. But just as American decline was arrested by the tough medicine dispensed by Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker and the supply-side reforming Ronald Reagan, so India plausibly may soon have its own team of consensus busters. Since taking over India’s central bank in September Raghuram Rajan has made the eradication of...

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    Asia Ducks The EM Crisis

    Janet Yellen’s first proper outing on the international stage is set for this weekend when she attends the G20 finance ministers shindig in Australia. She will encounter grumpy emerging market counterparts who blame fickle US monetary policy for capital outflow that has sent growth tumbling. This is likely all the EMs will agree upon since it is increasingly clear that this is not a generalized crisis of big developing economies, but a shake-out...

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    5C Asia: When Bad Is Good In Japan

    The “bad is good” phenomenon may have waned elsewhere, but it is alive and well in Japan, home to the only major central bank that is still aggressively expanding its balance sheet. And since Japan has had plenty of bad news to choose from lately, it came as no surprise that the Bank of Japan took dovish action at yesterday’s policy meeting.

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    The Great Pacific Gas Arbitrage

    Severe winter weather in the US has driven gas prices higher, forcing power firms to impose sizeable fuel bill hikes on consumers. But those who think that the low-cost US energy revolution is about to be dashed on the rocks of rising production costs are wrong. US shale gas still trades at a near 60% price discount to Asian liquefied natural gas (LNG) benchmarks, and the gap is unlikely to close quickly. As the US faces no meaningful constraint...

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    Japan: A Shelter From Deflation

    One key cloud over the global economic landscape is very weak corporate pricing power. After last week’s European Central Bank meeting, we saw Mario Draghi peppered with more questions about deflation than about the traditional euro-crisis bugbears. The US recovery faces a similar challenge. The all-around fear is that deflation will prevent the OECD’s struggling economies from reaching escape velocity. Is there an exception? Yes, in Japan—the...

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    The US Current Account And Vanishing Global Liquidity

    The US dollar is the world’s reserve currency which in simple terms means that the United States is the only country which can settle a foreign deficit by issuing its own money. As such, any “improvement” in the US current account balance means that fewer dollars show up outside of the US, while the reverse holds true in the event of a deterioration.

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    Central Bankers Can Still Be Trusted

    The rout in risk assets last week has generally been attributed to emerging markets—and looking at Argentina, Turkey and Ukraine, there has been plenty for investors to panic about. On the other hand, why should the dollar/yen exchange rate or the value of US equities be so sensitive to just another devaluation in Argentina or the shakiness of or incompetent regimes in places such as Ukraine?

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    Who Will Gain From Thailand's Loss?

    With growth flailing across much of the developing world, even as the developed world gets stronger, 2014 is likely to see a trend of investors prioritizing the political cycle over the economic cycle in emerging markets. A number of key EMs including India, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa will hold elections this year; it is no coincidence that the “fragile five” have witnessed headline grabbing mass protests in recent years, as...

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    Indonesia: Life After Commodities

    Indonesia is one of the developing world’s surprise success stories. After a severe crash in 1997 and a subsequent period of economic and political turmoil, it emerged during President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s nine years in office as a model of stable prosperity. Annual real GDP growth has averaged a solid 5.9% since 2004, and democracy has been strengthened, with political power regularly changing hands in provinces and cities. Devolution has...

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    5C Asia: Is Japan Facing Constraints On Yen Devaluation?

    Usually a 20% currency devaluation would have a country feeling about that much poorer. But Japan, as we all know, is feeling richer after last year’s 20% devaluation, and this is not just because of exporter gains. Japan is a creditor nation with large overseas assets which get revalued upwards as its currency moves downwards.

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    Asian Markets: A Ranking

    Investors in Asian markets have been frustrated by the poor returns over the past couple of years. To that frustration we can now add anxiety about the potential for a broad sell-off in emerging markets, including emerging Asia, if the China slowdown proves more severe than expected or if Turkey provokes panic by blowing up, as seems ever more likely.

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    The Easy Japan Trade Gets A Little Harder

    We stuck to our guns on Japan throughout last year, even at times when investors were clearly blinking. This was not because we thought Abenomics would solve all of the country’s problems, but simply because Japan exposure offered defined downside risks, against huge upside potential. This “asymmetry” still exists—which is why we still like Japan. But admittedly, the risk-reward profile has worsened somewhat.

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    5C Asia: Anyone For Recoupling?

    Last year saw Asia engage in a “re-coupling” but it was the wrong type: rather than an economic recoupling that captured something of the sunnier outlook for developed markets, Asia revealed its continued dependence on financial conditions in the big centers. Asian markets (excluding China and Japan) were hammered due to their reliance on foreign capital to lubricate trade and their financial systems.

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    The Sun Hasn't Set On Asia

    People in markets, nervous folks, always need something to worry about. In 2012 the big anxiety was whether Europe would fall apart; in 2013 it was whether the Federal Reserve would start cutting back on its asset purchases. Now that Europe has crept from despair to stagnation and the Fed has anchored expectations that it will steadily reduce its asset buying while holding rates near zero, the anxiety-vane is likely to spin towards Asia.

    2
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    Energy Buyers Are In Charge

    After months of wrangling, Mexico has dramatically passed its long-awaited energy reform bill, amid fistfights and shouts of “treason” in Congress. Mexico’s oil sector opening—significantly more liberal than the initial proposal circulated in August—will be a boon to the country’s sagging growth rate and an opportunity for the oil majors who have been locked out of the country for decades. But it is also another sign of the times—with fuel...

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