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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Popular Delusions: The bull case for safe havens

    I am sending this OTB from the Lindbergh Terminal of the Minneapolis–St. Paul Airport, on my way back from Bismarck, ND. I have now been to 49 states, with only South Dakota to go. The Bakken oil field is amazing and the helicopter tour was eye-opening. I am going to write about it this weekend as part of looking at the larger picture of energy and change.

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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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  • Where Are Rates Headed And Why?

    This week we look at two brief essays for your Outside the Box. The first is my friend Barry Habib talking to us about where mortgage rates are headed. Barry gives us a very simple, but logical analysis on why rates are headed up. Then we jump to Spencer Jakab writing in the Financial Times about the problems in the municipal markets. Seems we may be under funded on our public pensions by about $3.5 trillion.

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  • An Attempt to Think Through the Greek Crisis

    Today I am sitting listening to Robert Merkle lecture on nanotechnology, part of a 9 day long series of lectures on how accelerating change in technologies of all types will affect our world. 15 hour days and intense discussions are stretching my brain, but I still have to make sure you get your Outside the Box. Fortunately, I came across today's OTB last week from my friends at GaveKal, where they offer a way to think about the Greek crisis and what it means for all European bonds.

    There is a lot of allegations about manipulation of the European bonds. Its those nasty traders. GaveKal shows us data that bond yields are actually quite logical given the debt of various countries. But they also, as part of their conclusions, warn us.

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  • Debt and Deflation

    There is a reason I call this column Outside the Box. I try to get material that forces us to think outside our normal comfort zones and challenges our common assumptions. I have made the comment more than once that is it unusual for two major bubbles to burst and for the conversation to be all about rising inflation and not a serious problem with deflation.

    As Niels Jensen pointed out last week, the most important question that an investor can ask is whether we are in for deflation or inflation. And this week we read a well reasoned piece on deflation. This is one of the more important essays I have sent out. You need to set aside some time to absorb this one.

    Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a few thoughts on why they think it is deflation that will ultimately be the problem and not inflation we are dealing with today. This week's letter requires you to think, but it will be worth the effort....
  • Quarterly Review and Outlook - First Quarter 2009

    There is a reason I call this column Outside the Box. I try to get material that forces us to think outside our normal comfort zones and challenges our common assumptions. And this week's letter does just that. I have made the comment more than once that is it unusual for two major bubbles to burst and for the conversation and our experience to be rising inflation and not a serious problem with deflation.

    Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a seminar on why they think it is deflation that will ultimately be the problem and not inflation we are dealing with today. This week's letter requires you to think, but it will be worth the effort.

    Now, if you put all of the various inputs together, Hoisington and Hunt show that theory suggests we will soon be dealing with deflation. It's counter- intuitive to what we hear today, which is why the Bank for International Settlements used the stagflation word in a recent report. The transition that is coming will not be comfortable....
  • A Great Buying Opportunity?

    This week we look at yet another rather obscure credit market that is in essential lockdown as the subject of your Outside the Box. My London partner Niels Jensen, head of Absolute Return Partners, has written a very interesting piece on the leveraged...
  • Quarterly Review and Outlook: Second Quarter 2007

    Introduction This week in Outside the Box, we take a closer look at the bond market and its underlying drivers. HMIC's Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt anticipate lower inflationary pressures on account of faltering consumer spending and further deterioration...
  • Grim Reality

    Introduction As I glanced over at the TV in my office this morning, the latest news on the ticker wire was that American Home Mortgage Investment Corp. (AHM) is trading down over 16%. While the company is not of any particular importance to me, it spurred...
  • Quarterly Review and Outlook - Fourth Quarter 2006

    Introduction On Friday, I wrote my annual forecast, " The Goldilocks Recession ," on what investment themes I expect in the coming year. This week's Outside the Box will follow up on the subject with an excellent piece written by Van Hoisington...
  • Inflation, Bond Yields, And The Market

    Introduction Today's "Outside the Box" will be a combination of 2 different writings. The 1st is an email that I received from Research Affiliates Chairman Rob Arnott in response to my letter last Friday, "Honey, I Created a Bubble...
  • Pyrrhic Victory

    Introduction Readers know that Paul McCulley of Pimco, and his cohort Bill Gross, are two of my must read economic analysts. Pimco is in Newport Beach California and oversee more than $400 Billion in assets, predominately in fixed income. This is Paul...