June 2009 - John Mauldin's Outside the Box

John Mauldin reads hundreds of articles, reports, books, newsletters, etc. and each week he brings one essay from another analyst that should stimulate your thinking. John will not agree with all the essays, and some will make us uncomfortable, but the varied subject matter will offer thoughtful analysis that will challenge our minds to think Outside The Box.

John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • A 20-Year Bear Market?

    Long time readers know that I am a huge fan of the work of Neil Howe. His book, The Fourth Turning, was one of the seminal pieces of my reading over the last 30 years. And it has turned out to be stunningly prophetic. Uncomfortably so. A roughly 80 year cycle has been repeating itself for centuries in the Anglophile world, broken up into four generations or turnings. We have begun what Howe called many years ago The Fourth Turning.

    Neil Howe is the co-author, with the late William Strauss, of a number of seminal works on the impact of generations on cycles of history. Howe is a founding partner of LifeCourse Associates (lifecourse.com) which provides research to institutions looking to capitalize on generational research.

    The June 2009 edition of The Casey Report, the flagship publication of Casey Research, featured a comprehensive 23 page interview with Neil Howe as well as suggestions on how to position your portfolio to profit during a Fourth Turning crisis. I persuaded my friend David Galland to at least summarize it for my Outside the Box this week, and he graciously did so. David is the managing editor of The Casey Report and has had a long career in the financial services industry; as a founding partner of the successful Blanchard Group of Mutual Funds and, before joining Casey Research, as a founding partner of EverBank, one of the big success stories in independent online banking....
  • A Tale of Two Depressions

    This week's Outside the box looks at some very interesting research done by two economic historians, Barry Eichengreen of the University of California at Berkeley and Kevin O'Rourke of Trinity College, Dublin They give us comparisons between the Great Depression and today's downturn. They continue to update their data from time to time, the link to their work is at http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3421. I have not previously heard of www.voxeu.org, but it is a collection of the work of well regarded international economists that seems quite interesting for those who enjoy readings in the dismal science.

    This week's OTB will print long, but it is primarily charts. Please note that I have re-arranged some of the new charts to cut down on space because of some duplications. Word count is not all that much and it reads well. I will be referring to their work in future letters as well. Have a great week!...
  • Iranian Elections, Israel and the United States

    In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.

    The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked - leading to defective analyses. Instead, underlying assumptions should be constantly vetted in the face of new facts. I'd encourage you to consider the intelligence produced by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR - a trusted source in forecasting future geopolitical trends....
  • Fear for a Lost Decade

    Before we get into this week's Outside the Box, let me give you a few pieces of data that came across my desk this morning, which will help set the stage for the OTB offering.

    Fitch (the ratings agency), in a downgrade of yet another 543 mortgage-backed securities of 2005-07 vintage, gives us the following side notes: 'The home price declines to date have resulted in negative equity for approximately 50% of the remaining performing borrowers in the 2005-2007 vintages. In addition to continued home price deterioration, unemployment has risen significantly since the third quarter of last year, particularly in California where the unemployment rate has jumped from 7.8% to 11%... The projected losses also reflect an assumption that from the first quarter of 2009, home prices will fall an additional 12.5% nationally and 36% in California, with home prices not exhibiting stability until the second half of 2010. To date, national home prices have declined by 27%. Fitch Rating's revised peak-to-trough expectation is for prices to decline by 36% from the peak price achieved in mid-2006. The additional 9% decline represents a 12.5% decline from today's levels.'...
  • History lesson for economists in thrall to Keynes

    There is a debate in academic circles on the lessons of the current economic crisis. While most ivory tower debates are of little concern to our daily affairs, this debate should concern you, as it will inform those who hold central bank and political power. Remember, there is no playbook of rules for what to do in deflationary, deleveraging recessions. They are making it up as they go along.

    Today we have a short essay by Niall Ferguson published last week in the Financial Times. It speaks for itself, and you should take a few minutes to read it....
  • The Geography of Recession

    One of the first things you learn about analyzing a company is how to dissect a balance sheet. What assets and liabilities can be deployed by a company to create equity over time? I've enclosed a fascinating variant on this process. Take a look at how STRATFOR has analyzed the "geographic balance sheets" of the US, Russia, China, and Europe to understand why different countries' economies have suffered to varying degrees from the current economic crisis.

    As investors, it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that can provide us profitable opportunities, and it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that makes STRATFOR such an important part of my investment decision making. The key to investment profits is thinking differently and thinking earlier than the next guy. STRATFOR's work exemplifies both these traits....