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A roundup of what The Globe and Mail's market strategist Scott Barlow is reading today on the Web

I've been assessing the degree to which I've been chasing pagehits with this column as 2017 comes to a close, and I'm not liking what I'm seeing.

I have a column in print this morning choosing what I believe is the most important chart to follow for 2018. There's no "this stock is set to soar," no "things will never be the same after [this not that interesting market event]."

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I actually don't expect it will get much attention, but it's an example of a market debate – the extent of central bank market manipulation - that truly interests me.

There will be changes in 2018, although probably subtle. I wouldn't look too hard for me on Twitter either - The Discourse has become straight poison.

"This will be the most important chart for investors in 2018" – Barlow, Inside the Market

"@SBarlow_ROB See also" – (additional chart relating to column) Twitter

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The OECD is warning of rising risks to Canadian economic growth as household debt continues to climb,

"'Household and corporate debt in many advanced and emerging market economies is high,' the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development said Thursday in a pre-released section of a report to be presented next week. 'While higher indebtedness does not necessarily imply that problems are just around the corner, it does increase vulnerability to shocks … With the global economy showing its most even expansion since the financial crisis, debt levels and credit quality are among the risks that could trigger a downturn. Consumer debt tops 100 percent of gross domestic product in Canada, with South Korea and Britain both above 80 percent.'"

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"OECD Warns on Rising Debt Risk as Canadians Most in the Red" – Bloomberg

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Deutsche Bank analysts join the chorus of energy experts predicting higher U.S. oil supply for 2018,

"Whether the new mood in the US is the result of a new corporate credo or simply lagged WTI prices is uncertain. We should have our answer over the next three to four months as we watch for a moderate recovery in US drilling activity, but for now we should remind ourselves that tight oil is not out for the count. The US tight oil resource is both extensive and economic at a relatively low cost, and cost reinflation has been limited so far."

"@SBarlow_ROB DB on oil: Back to oversupply" – (research excerpt) Twitter

"Oil Trades Above $58 as U.S. Stockpile Draw Boosts OPEC Optimism" – Bloomberg

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Chinese markets got drilled overnight. As I've noted previously, returns for investors in commodity sectors are dependent on the Chinese economy to a significant degree, and this trend, although local authorities are likely to step in and calm markets, is worth following,

"What Analysts Are Saying About the Sudden Drop in Chinese Stocks" – Bloomberg

"Investors Have Gotten Too Complacent on China Debt" – Wall Street Journal

"China's $3.4 Trillion Corporate Bond Market Faces Rocky 2018" – Bloomberg

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I'm mostly dismissing this as a struggling industry "talking their book," but when a strategist calls ETFs and passive investing "worse than Marxism" it's hard to ignore it completely,

"Two stand out. One argues that passive investing is, in the phrase of analysts at Sanford C. Bernstein, "worse than Marxism". A key role of the financial markets is to allocate capital to the most efficient companies. But index funds do not do this: they simply buy all the stocks that qualify for inclusion in a benchmark. Nor can index funds sell their stocks if they dislike the actions of the management. The long-term result will be bad for capitalism, opponents argue."

"Criticism of index-tracking funds is ill-directed" – The Economist

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Tweet of the Day: "@katie_martin_fx In charts: how US retailers fared as Amazon powered ahead - ft.com/content/d17a1d… " – Twitter (chart)

Diversion: "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions – Redux" – Contrarian Corner

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About the Author
Market Strategist

Scott Barlow is The Globe's in-house market strategist. He is a 20-year veteran of Canadian investment banks, including Merrill Lynch Canada, CIBC Wood Gundy and Macquarie Private Wealth (MPW). He was a highly ranked mutual fund analyst for 10 years and then, most recently, the head of a financial adviser support team at MPW. More

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