Tuesday, February 27, 2007

GaveKal

GaveKal is an international boutique economic research firm based in Hong Kong. According to GaveKal, the U.S economy is not on the verge of collapse as many bears proclaim by citing such gloom and doom factors as the bursting housing bubble, the debt-burdened consumer and the yawning US. current account deficit.

GaveKal’s thesis rests on the prospects of the “platform company” or “Sizzle Inc.”, as Barron’s characterized it, which has outsourced the volatile portions of its operations such as manufacturing to become leaner, more productive and, indeed, more profitable than ever. As discussed in a recent Wall Street Journal article, the resulting reduction in economic cycle volatility has been dubbed the “great moderation” by economists. GaveKal provides an in-depth analsyis of why what is happening really is 'different this time' in a must read book titled Our Brave New World co-authored by the firm’s founders.

Instead of building that next plant, corporations are spending more than ever on research and development, which by the way is considered an expnse and not an investment, to be on the leading edge of innovation. Then there is the supposed negative American household savings rate which conveniently fails to take into account spending on healthcare and education, not to mention the rising value of retirement and brokerage accounts. Indeed, contrary to the official figures reported in the press, the U.S. national wealth continues to grow. So is the world's for that matter. Notwithstanding the possibility, or perhaps the inevitability, of a slowdown (earlier today the Chinese stock market declined by 9% while the Dow, Nasdaq and the S&P were all taking a beating to the tune of more than 3% each), the U.S. will always offer the political and economic stability that has been so attractive to the inflow of foreign capital which so many are afraid will one day dry up, ceasing to support the U.S Dollar from a monumental crash.

I am not one to argue with the venerable Alan Greenspan who yesterday warned of a possible recession towards the end of 2007. But instead of trying to time Mr. Market, for those us with a long-term view, it may suffice to enjoy an afternoon coffee, reading GaveKal’s tome and contemplating how best to allocate our investments among GaveKal’s four recommended asset classes: 1. Cash or gold, 2. Emerging markets or commodities, 3. Platform companies and, 4. High quality government bonds. Hint: you should be overweight in platform companies. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) anyone?

1 comment:

Eclectic Contrarian said...

WMT has a 3% profit margin at the moment and sources its US business for the most part through China. One could say that it is a platform company. One could also say, though, that it has levered itself very highly to Chinese exports. If the Chinese currency were to appreciate 20% relative to the dollar over the next few years, and if we were to see the logical conclusion of the Chinese government's policy towards the export of low value-add, high resource intensive operations, WMT's cost structure would weaken considerably. Perhaps others will get hurt more I guess?

At the right price I'll buy anything, but I wonder if WMT is cheap relative to where it will be 3 years from now.