October 2010 - 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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  • U.S. Midterm Elections, Obama and Iran

    With midterm elections quickly approaching, the media is full of sordid details about candidates and good old-fashioned mudslinging. Few take a giant step back, and consequentially the high road, to recognize the big picture. As my friend George states in the piece below - whether we see overwhelming Republican victory or surprising Democratic saves next week, the end result is the same. Democrats will no longer hold a decisive majority, and any Republican majority will still face the presidential veto. Domestic politics are about to change.

    In the article, George - founder and CEO of STRATFOR, a global intelligence company - explores what President Obama's options are if he hopes to secure a second term. It's not a prediction of what Obama will do, but the options George presents are very, very interesting, and would have repercussions well beyond U.S. borders and 2012 elections.

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  • How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis

    I am in New York this afternoon attending and speaking at the Bank Credit Analyst Conference. I have to say that the panel on emerging markets gave me some real food for thought and an idea or two for a future e-letter. I have been a fan of emerging markets in general (with some exceptions) for some time but I should become even more so I think.

    For today’s Outside the Box I have something a little different. Michael Hudson has written a book called The Monster about the Mortgage industry, and specifically Ameriquest and Lehman. Someone sent me his introduction and I read it on the plane. I will buy the book. It made me angry. And the new financial regulations don’t address some of the real problem here.

    It is an easy read, well written and lots of great quotes and stories. I won’t say enjoy but do take the tine to read and then think about what you just read and about the culture in our country.

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  • O Canada!

    There are those who say the US is doomed, that there is no way out from our problems with deficits, future entitlement promises, and a dysfunctional political system. And in my darker moments I worry that they are right.

    I get the problems, probably more than most. But there is a way out. Hopefully, it does not entail collapse first, as some suggest. But it will require a lot of hard decisions. Some will be very hard.

    For example, many point to the unfunded Medicare liabilities of some $70 trillion. I don’t worry about them so much, as they will never be paid, at least not under the current system. LONG before we get to that point, there will be a crisis that will force us to deal with the issues. Rule: if something can’t happen, then it won’t. We can’t pay the Medicare bill, so it won’t happen. Something else will happen in the meantime. It may not be good or pleasant, but something will come along to change the rules. More taxes? Fewer benefits? That is up in the air. But the system as it currently stands will not be allowed to prevail. Ask Greece how that is working out for them.

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  • China and the Future of Rare Earth Elements

    My internet went out today, and after chewing out my service provider for a good half-hour, I got to thinking about how we accomplished work in the good old days, before the age of information, when a mouse was just a furry varmint chased by cats. My thoughts snowballed, as they often do, and I began considering technology - the hard reality that makes the soft, virtual world possible. What is a laptop made of?

    In a miracle I can't begin to understand, my connection to the world wide web was resurrected. Upon making my routine visit to STRATFOR.com to check out their latest geopolitical analysis, I stumbled upon this article on China's reported manipulation of the market of rare earth elements--used in the production of everything from petroleum to laptops to hybrid cars to radar--and how that will affect everything from importing nations to industries to consumers in the next 2-5 years.

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  • Time Loves a Hero

    As long time readers know, I am a big fan of Greg Weldon. This week he has very graciously allowed me to reproduce his client letter from last Thursday on some of the issues of Bernanke and Quantitative Easing 2. It prints a little longer than usual because of his format and all the charts, but this is one letter you should take the time to read.

    You can get a free trial (his service is not cheap but if you are a global macro fund or trader, you really should have it!) by going to www.weldononline.com.

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  • Insolvency Too

    As readers know, I was in Europe a few weeks ago, making a LOT of presentations. My London-based partners seem to feel that an hour or two of down time is wasted and only for sissies. I learn as much as I impart, and come away with lots of interesting information. Every now and then I learn something that gets into the category of what in the wide, wide world of (multiple expletives deleted) economics is going on? Subprime was like that when I first read about it. Could you really design CDOs that were so patently absurd and then sell them to the Europeans and Asians? Turns out you could.

    Last week, Niels Jensen (head of Absolute Return Partners) and I were talking with a variety of pension funds. They started telling us about this thing called Solvency II. Outside the arcane world of European pension funds and insurance companies, it is not on the radar screen of most people. But it may be one of the more explosive problems in our future. Cutting to the chase, the new rules require insurance companies and pension funds to buy more bonds to match their liabilities. But as yields go down they are required to buy yet MORE bonds and then yields go down some more. And so on. The possibility of serious defaults by these same pension funds in the wake of these new rules (setting aside whether it makes sense to actually require pension funds to set aside enough assets to pay their obligations) is all too real. And more pervasive than we now think.

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