November 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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  • Reckless Myopia

    Long time Outside of the Box readers are familiar with John Hussman of the eponymous Hussman Funds. And once again he is my selection for this week's OTB.

    This week he touches on several topics, all of which I find interesting. As he notes:

    'We face two possible states of the world. One is a world in which our economic problems are largely solved, profits are on the mend, and things will soon be back to normal, except for a lot of unemployed people whose fate is, let's face it, of no concern to Wall Street. The other is a world that has enjoyed a brief intermission prior to a terrific second act in which an even larger share of credit losses will be taken, and in which the range of policy choices will be more restricted because we've already issued more government liabilities than a banana republic, and will steeply debase our currency if we do it again. It is not at all clear that the recent data have removed any uncertainty as to which world we are in.'...
  • Government Debt Spirals

    I have been writing about sovereign debt risk for some time. Japan, Spain, Italy and Portugal are all facing serious fiscal deficits and funding problems within a few years. But Greece may be the first country to hit the wall. In today's Outside the Box, we look at a short column by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph on the problems facing Greece. Greece will soon be faced with deciding which bad choice to make among a very small set of really bad, difficult choices.

    And then we turn to a piece by Edmund Andrews in the New York Times about the funding problem facing the US. The US is going to have to borrow at a minimum $3.5 trillion in the next three years according to Obama administration officials, and it is likely to be much higher. And rates are likely to be rising. As Andrews notes "Even a small increase in interest rates has a big impact. An increase of one percentage point in the Treasury's average cost of borrowing would cost American taxpayers an extra $80 billion this year." If interest rates were at the same level as a few years ago, interest costs on the debt this year would be $221 billion more than they actually were.

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  • Eclectica November Fund Commentary

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from England. My European partner Niels Jensen from time to time sends me some of the best letters he reads from the hedge fund world. He is an excellent filter for me, and this week's Outside the Box offering is no exception. Below is the November commentary from Eclectica fund manager Hugh Hendry. He challenges the current preoccupation with the falling dollar and China, and posits what would happen if that thinking is wrong? It offers some very thought-provoking ideas. You can contact them for more information at info@eclectica-am.com or visit their website: http://www.eclectica-am.com

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  • Video Dispatch: Israel and Intrigue at the White House

    The closed-door meeting is a prime indicator of unpredictability. It's one of the most difficult elements for even the most savvy investors to encounter and plan for - or against. Usually we know the preemptive measures we need to take in order to protect our assets, and even make a few dollars in auspicious instances. But what about the information we can't access?

    Luckily, we have options. Today I'm including an excellent video from my friends at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. They shed light on a closed-door meeting between the Obama administration and 3 top Israeli officials. When speculation is rampant, there's only one source I trust for reliable insight, and that's STRATFOR. I encourage you to watch this video. Also, sign up to get their two free weekly intelligence reports for more door-opening insights on critical issues.

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  • The Uncomfortable Dance Between V'ers and U'ers

    'Why' many ask, 'is the stock market going up when the bond market is telling us the recovery will be tepid? Isn't there a disconnect?' And the answer is that there is, and this week good friend and fishing buddy Paul McCulley of PIMCO fame discusses that very topic with his usual insight and wit. He poses the conundrum that those expecting a 'V' shaped recovery have pushed risk assets up quite high, and that the real risk to their position is that they in fact get a 'V' shaped recovery. And yet, they could go higher and into bubble territory....
  • Just Desserts and Markets Being Silly Again

    My long time readers are familiar with Jeremy Grantham of GMO as I quote him a lot. He is one of the more brilliant and talented value managers (and I should mention very successful on behalf of his clients). He writes a quarterly letter which I regard as a must read. I have excerpted parts of his recent letter, where the chief investment strategist really takes the current financial system follies to task. Typical of his great writing and thinking is the quote from this week's Outside the Box selection:

    'I can imagine the company representatives on the Titanic II design committee repeatedly pointing out that the Titanic I tragedy was a black swan event: utterly unpredictable and completely, emphatically, not caused by any failures of the ship's construction, of the company's policy, or of the captain's competence. 'No one could have seen this coming,' would have been their constant refrain. Their response would have been to spend their time pushing for more and improved lifeboats. In itself this is a good idea, and that is the trap: by working to mitigate the pain of the next catastrophe, we allow ourselves to downplay the real causes of the disaster and thereby invite another one. And so it is today with our efforts to redesign the financial system in order to reduce the number and severity of future crises.'

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