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Economics Team

Dominic White
Head of Economics
Ben Blanchard
Economist
Michael Hessel
Political Economist
Raphael Olszyna-Marzys
Economist

Economics Research

Economics Products: Economics Quarterly, Economics Weekly, Newsflow Monitor, Weekly Wrap, Absolute Strategy Weekly.

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ASR Investment Weekly - 25th January 2018
25 Jan 2018
: Ian Harnett, David Bowers, Chris Turner, Stefano Di Domizio, David McBain, Dominic White, Ben Blanchard, Michael Hessel, Raphael Olszyna-Marzys
Equity Strategy
Don’t Bank on the CANNS as Rates Rise and China Slows
The ASR CANNS (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden) may only account for 3.2% of Global GDP but, we believe, will be highly important for global investors to monitor in 2018. High house prices, a build-up of household debt post-GFC, and (for Canada, Sweden and Australia) Banking sectors that are more than 20% of local market cap and 13% of Global Banks, make these markets likely sources of financial market instability in the year ahead. Higher rates, or slowing growth, especially if it is triggered by a China slowdown, will expose their fragility. Despite being a small share of Global GDP, we believe that these markets will provide a strong ‘early warning’ of potential systemic risks for Global markets.
Multi-Asset
Loonie tuned for weaker 2018
In December’s Monthly we discussed the outlook for the currencies of countries perceived to have seen unsustainable housing booms in recent years – what ASR has termed the ‘CANNS’: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. In a week in which our economists have expanded their suite of leading indicators to include Canada and Sweden, this piece updates our FX calls from December. We view CAD as the least attractive near-term and NOK as the least vulnerable. Meanwhile, we close our long SEK basket recommendation from a year ago as the Riksbank’s dilemmas intensify.

Economics
CANNS slowdown to ease tightening pressure
• Housing market fragility is a concern for policymakers in the ‘CANNS’ economies
• To help us understand the dynamics, we’ve created two new leading indicators (LIs) – for Canada and Sweden.
• Along with our Australia LI, our new indicators suggest the industrial cycle is close to a peak.
• This should ease pressure on CANNS policymakers to accelerate the pace of policy tightening.
Economics Weekly - CANNS slowdown to ease tightening pressure
23 Jan 2018
: Ben Blanchard, Dominic White, Michael Hessel, Raphael Olszyna-Marzys


• Housing market fragility is a concern for policymakers in the ‘CANNS’ economies

• To help us understand the dynamics, we’ve created two new leading indicators (LIs) – for Canada and Sweden.

• Along with our Australia LI, our new indicators suggest the industrial cycle is close to a peak.

• This should ease pressure on CANNS policymakers to accelerate the pace of policy tightening.

ASR Weekly Wrap from Verity
19 Jan 2018
: Verity Hunt

Research, News & Views from ASR for the week to January 19th, 2018

ASR Economics Weekly
Why protectionism’s bite is worse than its bark from Michael.
Trade policy could become a key issue for investors in 2018. In Q1 we could see the NAFTA negotiations end in failure, the Article 50 Brexit negotiations will come to their ‘business end’ and we might even see a trade war between the US and China. Trump’s State of the Union address at the end of January could outline his trade plans. What could the impact be?
•   The growth of Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) has lowered ‘at the border’ trade barriers, helping reduce the cost of cross border trade. Protectionism’s impact is often assumed to be the reverse of free trade. But we think this approach is flawed.
•   RTAs have encouraged greater trade integration and specialization with each economy exploiting its competitive advantage. Disrupting two integrated economies is more damaging than the reverse.
•   Imposing trade barriers is disruptive but trade in services is very important for advanced economies and it has been removing non-tariff barriers (NTBs) liked harmonized regulations that has allowed services trade to flourish. For example, the NTBs facing US companies wanting to do business in the EU is equivalent to a 14.7% tariff. For the UK any deal that does not involve staying in the single market (ie no services integration) is a hard Brexit.  
•   Any prospect of retaliation or other multilateral agreements like WTO falling apart would multiply the impact.
•   Trade policy could become an important investment theme as asset prices are sensitive to sudden changes in terms of trade while many corporates, dependent on long thin supply chains will also be vulnerable.

Absolute Surprise. Positive hard data has closed the hard-soft gap in the US. Consensus has reacted to this, pushing up 12m forward GDP forecasts. Data in Asia ex Japan has surprised to the downside in the past 3 months - the Korean and Taiwan ASI are down sharply. 

ForecastsGenerally, we are higher than consensus on inflation forecasts across the board. We also remain higher than consensus on EZ growth in particular: consensus has seen upgrades to 2.2% for 2018 and 1.8% for 2019 whereas we look for 2.5% and 1.9%.

Multi Asset Weekly
Technical challenges facing bond and USD bears from David McBain.
We focus on bonds and the dollar from a technical perspective.
Key levels. In an echo of a year ago, US 10y yields are heading to re-test 2.6% which is a notable resistance level: a break above 2.6% would point to a re-test of 3%. Of course, 3% is a key level long-term level – a point which breaks or sustains the 35-year US bond bull market. 
•   The emergence of stretched pessimism in US and German bonds is consistent with deeply negative relative sentiment on Utilities and Telcos. It chimes with stretched optimism on Crude vs Gold.
•   The role of activity and inflation surprises in driving bond sentiment is also increasing: of the two, activity surprises have the stronger correlation with the US 10y yield. The potential for macro surprises to provide a catalyst for swings in US bond sentiment is increasing.
What happened historically following similar strong Activity Surprises and a similar 3m performance by US 10y bonds, Gold and Crude? According to the Market Scenario Analyser (TRIAL here)
•   Positive 3m returns on energy and precious metals
•   Positive returns by US and German bonds
•   A weak performance by Lumber and STOXX 50.
Bond positioning and sentiment.  Specs’ positioning in US 10y bonds is not extended, as it is on US 2y, 5y and 30y bonds but sentiment is stretched and in the past 10 years, a move back below an SBI of 95 has been followed by a fall of 11bps over the next 30 days. A similar picture applies to German bunds. Clearly bond momentum is negative but sentiment indicators are consistent with near-term contrarian support emerging for US and German bonds against a backdrop of stretched pessimism.
As for USD, the BOE trade-weighted US dollar index is also dropping to 12m lows, close to an important technical level. It is not far from stretched pessimism levels – near to levels that see a bounce in the dollar index over the next 1-2 months and a consolidation on a 6-month view. USD momentum and sentiment are very negative, but history suggests that this degree of pessimism may be misplaced for H1. 

Strategic Asset Allocation Weekly
Equity Valuations are at risk of macro disappointments by David Bowers.
•   As Ian argued last week – HERE- equity valuations are in expensive territory, especially in the US: our composite valuation metrics are overvalued, the % of sectors on over 15x or 20x is elevated and US equities look stretched vs a 2.5% 10y Treasury yield.
•   But valuation does not give you timing. Overvalued markets can get, and stay, more overvalued, especially in a world awash with liquidity.  The challenge is how long to run with it. High valuations can be sustained by positive macro surprises but if the macro disappoints, then markets are at risk.

What tool can we use to target those macro surprises and the markets’ attitude to them? The ASR Reflation Trade Diffusion Indicator (RTDI - see HERE for the primer).  Why?
•   The RTDI is a multi-asset composite of ten classic reflation trades. When the RTDI scores +10, all reflation trades have worked over the past 6 months and vice versa. What is clear is that if the RTDI balance remains positive and positive surprises continue, stocks outperform bonds.
•   Where to now? The RTDI hit 8 in December. Looking at history, it is more likely to be lower than higher in 6 months and it is plausible - if not inevitable - that it falls into negative territory.
•   It is rare for the RTDI to pull back without a period of negative activity surprises. Given expectations have been raised, the risk of disappointment has also increased.
•   The RTDI also has a good relationship with the diffusion indicator of the Manufacturing PMI: the RTDI stays positive when there is a broad-based improvement on the PMIs and vice-versa. We believe, however, that is not the level but the rate of change that matters and the risks from current heady PMIs is that they will not last as the EZ business cycle gets challenged by the appreciation of the euro and China growth moderates - as is becoming evident in already soft ASEAN PMIs.
•   The most compelling fundamental macroeconomic indicator that suggests the breadth of the global recovery could deteriorate over the next 6 months is global M1 growth: the chart suggests our PMI diffusion indicator could fall significantly by and the RTDI could be in negative territory by mid-year.

Links between the RTDI and Markets from Dorothee.
We use the RTDI to gauge the breadth of the reflationary mindset in markets, to confirm or challenge our views and spot anomalies. Not surprisingly, the RTDI has a strong relationship with the ASR Composite Newsflow indicator, with the Global ERP, with the shifts between Cyclicals vs Defensives. Historically it has had a close relationship with Industrials vs Retail and our Global Sector proxy but in both cases, they have rolled down while the RTDI remains elevated.

Absolute Essentials from David McBain
•   Bond pessimism is becoming stretched – see above. Investors should not discount the risk of a near-term bounce in bonds.
•   FX Vol has become oversold- EUR/GBP 3M vol has dropped to 12M lows with pre-Brexit 2013/14 vol lows the next target. Current SBI levels are followed historically, by a 16% rise in vol over 65D. 
•   Equity optimism is stretched on several fronts. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index SBI last week hit levels that have been followed by an average 3.2% fall over the next 30D on 81% of occasions. Overbought HSCEI also looks stretched vs the KOSPI.
•   Other equity markets in stretched optimism include FTSE 100, the S&P 500, while optimism is high on EuroSTOXX and on the Nikkei 225. On sectors, optimism on Materials, Retail and Capital Goods looks stretched; pessimism is extreme on Food & Beverages, Household Products, Real Estate and Utilities.
•   USD sentiment is deeply negative. GBP vs USD is close to stretched optimism as specs increased net longs in GBP as well as CAD and AUD: specs are already substantial net EUR long and net short in JPY.
•   Oil optimism remains extended and is high on Gold and Copper. Specs’ copper net longs remain substantial.

Best regards, Verity

ASR Investment Weekly - 18th January 2018
18 Jan 2018
: David Bowers, Dorothee Deck, Chris Turner, Stefano Di Domizio, David McBain, Dominic White, Ben Blanchard, Michael Hessel, Raphael Olszyna-Marzys
Equity Strategy: Equity Valuations at Risk of Macro Disappointment
• Equity valuations are extreme but could be sustained with further positive macro surprises. If those hopes are misplaced, then markets are at risk.
• It is plausible – but not inevitable – that our Reflation Trade Diffusion Indicator (which peaked at plus 8 in December) is in negative territory in six months’ time.
• For our RTDI to go negative, activity surprises would need to swing from positive to negative … and the broad-based pick-up in the global business cycle would also need to narrow.
• We think that the strength in the eurozone business cycle is set to be challenged by the 10% appreciation in the euro trade-weighted index over the past two years. We think China could also disappoint as last year’s housing boom unwinds.
• But the biggest threat to the current macro optimism lies in the deceleration of global real M1 growth, which suggests this broad-based recovery could be undermined over the next six months.

Multi-Asset: Technical challenges facing bond and USD bears
This week we focus on bonds and the dollar from a technical perspective. While the multi-decade bull market in bonds is being challenged by a less supportive central banks narrative, sentiment indicators are consistent with near-term contrarian support emerging for US and German bonds. Longer-term history also suggests the US dollar downturn may soon be set to take a rest.

Economics: Why protectionism’s bite is worse than its bark
• NAFTA break-up, US-China trade disputes and ‘hard’ Brexit all loom large in 2018
• The costs of protectionism outweigh the benefits of free trade
• Non-tariff barriers, supply chain disruption, and the prospect of retaliation all worsen the potential impact
• Asset prices could be highly sensitive to its short-run impact
Economics Weekly - Why protectionism’s bite is worse than its bark
15 Jan 2018
: Michael Hessel, Dominic White, Ben Blanchard, Raphael Olszyna-Marzys


• NAFTA break-up, US-China trade disputes and ‘hard’ Brexit all loom large in 2018

• The costs of protectionism outweigh the benefits of free trade

• Non-tariff barriers, supply chain disruption, and the prospect of retaliation all worsen the potential impact

• Asset prices could be highly sensitive to its short-run impact

 

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