August 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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  • Spain: The Hole In Europe's Balance Sheet

    Today's offering for this week's Outside the Box starts off with a quote from Titus Maccius Plautus: 'I am a rich man as long as I don't pay my creditors.' Even 2200 years ago, it seems that problems of credit were an issue.

    I talked last Friday about the US being faced with a number of bad choices. But it is not just the US. Today we look at a piece from my friends at Variant Perception based on London. They are a relatively new institutional research house. I have been reading their material for some time and have begun to look very much forward to it. They do some very good in-depth analysis. I asked then to shorten a piece they did on Spain and Spanish banks for this week's Outside the Box. Spain will soon be faced with a number of very uncomfortable choices, but for now they appear in denial.

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  • Between a Rock and a Hard Place

    There is the strong possibility that policy makers in the US and UK will not time the transition from the current quantitative easing to a more tightened monetary policy. That is not because they are no competent. It is because the task is very tricky and there is no play book outlining the steps. This is not Tom Landry (former Dallas Cowboy coach) pacing the field with a play for every situation already planned and practiced well in advance.

    The odds favor they will either be too late or too early. Getting it 'just right.' The Goldilocks play, would be more than fortunate. In fact, there may be no right play to call. They may be forced to choose between a slower economy and/or inflation/deflation. And as this week's Outside the Box authors note, there is also the possibility of yet another asset bubble, making the choices even more risky.

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  • Iraq Endgame

    As many of have heard, I had the pleasure of partaking in a weekend of fishing and intellectual jousting with some of today's most brilliant minds. We spoke of war, politics, and of course, the economy. Their interconnection seems somehow much clearer sitting on a Maine lake fishing for bass. This week I offer you an article that's key to understanding the U.S. role in Iraq. Futurologist and fellow aspiring fisherman George Friedman at STRATFOR lays out piece by piece U.S. options in the region. If your interests have anything to do with global energy markets -- and whose don't? -- it's enormously important that you grasp the relationships between various sectors in and around Iraq, and the possibilities moving forward.

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  • Growth in Potential GDP

    This week I offer you two short pieces for your Outside the Box Reading Pleasure. The first is from my friends at GaveKal and is part of their daily letter. They address the real difference between those who think we will have a consumer led recovery (Keynesian) and those who think we will have a corporate profit led recovery (classical economics or Schumpeterian). This is actually a very important debate and distinction. I find that GaveKal pushes me to think almost more than any other group, as they constantly challenge my assumptions. (www.gavekal.com)

    The second piece comes from Dr. John Hussman of Hussman Funds (www.hussmanfunds.com). He offers us some very insightful analysis on the potential for growth going forward, which goes along with what I have been writing: We are in for a longer period of below trend growth, which does not bode well for corporate profits in the long run. I think you will get a lot out of these two items.

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  • Slow Long-Term Growth, And Government's Response

    This week I am really delighted to be able to give you a condensed version of Gary Shilling's latest INSIGHT newsletter for your Outside the Box. Each month I really look forward to getting Gary's latest thoughts on the economy and investing. Last year in his forecast issue he suggested 13 investment ideas, all of which were profitable by the end of the year. It is not unusual for Gary to give us over 75 charts and tables in his monthly letters along with his commentary, which makes his thinking unusually clear and accessible. Gary was among the first to point out the problems with the subprime market and predict the housing and credit crises. His web site is down being re-designed, but you can write for more information at insight@agaryshilling.com. If you want to subscribe (for $275), you can call 888-346-7444. Tell them that you read about it in Outside the Box and you will get not only his recent 2009 forecast issue with the year's investment themes, but an extra issue with his 2010 forecast (of course, that one will not come out until the end of the year. Gary is good but not that good!) I trust you are enjoying your week. And enjoy this week's Outside the Box.

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  • The Recession in Central Europe, Part 2: Country by Country

    This week I'd like to address the topic of currency. Flip through any business journal and speculation runs deep, though the ups and downs are far from predictable. A year ago everyone who thought they had half a brain and a pile of money comparable to Uncle Scrooge was threatening to transform all of their wealth into the seemingly unstoppable Yuan. Travel agents were pushing dirt-cheap excursions taking advantage of the near-worthless Icelandic krona to suburbanites with inquiries about sunny beaches and palm trees. And this year, if you're looking for a destination that won't hurt your pocket book, one might suggest Central Europe for that romantic second honeymoon.

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  • U.S. GDP Review -- Consumer, Where Art Thou?

    This week I am in the office for just one day, but I can rely on my friend Dave Rosenberg to give us solid insight on the latest GDP numbers for this week's Outside the Box. Dave slices and dices to show us what really happened. David was the former Chief Economist at the former Merrill Lynch (ah, Mother Merrill, we barely knew ye.) and is now Chief Economist at Gluskin Sheff + Associates Inc., which is one of Canada's pre-eminent wealth management firms. Founded in 1984, they manage $4.4 billion. David notes that the data gives us a mixed picture.

    I am in Maine later this week. It is likely I will be on CNBC, as they will be shooting live from our fishing camp. Also, they plan to do a one hour special with a number of interviews. I will let you know when it airs. A quick note from me: The third quarter is likely to be positive, especially given the success of the "Cash for Clunkers" program which it looks like our Congress is going to pass another round of spending which taxpayers (our kids) will get to pay off, or more likely pay $50 million per years for decades in interest. Sigh. Essentially, we are moving up car sales today which would have been made later, except that if you can get someone else to make your down payment, why not make that purchase today? A very reasonable response on the part of the consumer....