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  • Stratfor Third Quarter Forecast

    There are plenty of forecasts out there, but today I send you one you can trust. Stratfor, a geopolitical analysis company, has one of the most rigorous methodologies out there, and their forecasts provide excellent insight into the outcome of world events in the coming quarter.

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  • China: Two Economic Models and the Ideological Divide in Chongqing

    There are political sides in America...and then there are political sides in the communist state of China. Here, it's a matter of the right and the left. In China, it's a matter of private enterprise and strong foreign investment versus highly centralized and debt-heavy state enterprise.

    According to the geopolitical analysis company Stratfor, the left may be losing ground in China, and Beijing may be headed down an economic path that focuses on private enterprise. If the trend becomes the national strategy in the long term, this could mean greater room for private business in China.

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  • China Security Memo: Looking into 'Reverse Mergers' on Wall Street

    The saying goes that you can learn something new every day. If you're paying attention that is - and more importantly if you know where to look. Today I was getting my morning fill of geopolitical intel from my friends over at STRATFOR (on everything from personal security to country economic profiles) and stumbled onto their weekly China Security Memo, this particular edition on Looking into Reverse Mergers on Wall Street. Is this another head-scratcher in the less-than-conventional foreign policy coming from China or a regulatory end-around by some enterprising Chinese companies?  Take a few minutes to read this report, which also goes through everything that happened in China this week that matters.

    This article discusses the SEC's ongoing investigation of the "reverse mergers" where questionable Chinese auditing allowed companies to list on U.S. stock exchanges despite their fraudulent accounts. The report is a superb example of the detail and insight STRATFOR gives its customers. If you're into the idea of learning something new on a daily basis (the desire grows with age, I believe...) you'll enjoy learning about the current state of Chinese regulations (or lack thereof) for companies that list on US stock markets, State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) that compete with American businesses, recent bank robberies, tensions with the Catholic church, and bottled water contaminated with E.coli. In other words, you'll definitely meet your novel knowledge quota for the day, all while getting the deepest insight on the security situation in China.

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  • Chavez's Health and Implications for Chinese Investment

    For those of you keeping up with the much-discussed energy deal between China and Russia, you know the many reasons, both geographic and political, why it's unlikely to pan out. The geopolitically savvy folks over at STRATFOR told us about it a couple of weeks ago, and have moved their forecasting on to an existing energy relationship, between China and Venezuela—now potentially uncertain due to Hugo Chavez's precarious position in a Cuban hospital.

    Whether Chavez gets better or not, a political transition is down the line somewhere, and China could lose its current preferential treatment as primary investor in Venezuelan oil. This is the kind of thing we have to know about as investors. Yes, we all know that Chavez is ill. But what, if anything, does that mean for the South American energy sector? What about the future of oil, China, the U.S., and so on? This is the kind of forward-looking analysis you get from a news publication like STRATFOR. It doesn't get any better than these guys.

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  • Looking to 2012: China's Next Generation of Leaders

    The Chinese have a bit of a challenge on their hands. One could reason that as the world's most populous country, China would also have the highest number of individuals living in poverty. However, I was shocked to learn that the number is over 600 million. Talk about a mess. If you do any sort of business, or just have a general interest in the Far East, I recommend you get a heads up on the leadership changes we'll see in the next year.

    Today I'm including an article and a video from STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. I watched the video first - it's an overview of China's new leadership and what that means for the next generation. If you want more analysis (which I definitely did), read the article below too. You'll learn about the deep structural reforms that may be required to prevent China's economy from overheating, as well as the rising influence of the military and how the new leaders will address the flaws in China's economic model.

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  • China's GDP and Questions of Strength

    Today I'd like us to think about sustainability. The Mayfly is a species of insect that goes from egg to death sometimes in as little as 30 minutes, and never more than a day. Take note, because as investors we have to be wary of the same rapid fluxes in economies. I'm of course speaking of the hype surrounding the Chinese economy lately. Everyone is talking about China this week, and rightfully so, as its GDP is nearing Japan's and could become the second largest in the world. But is it sustainable? Or a boom-and-bust similar to the Mayfly?

    I'm sending you an interview with a STRATFOR analyst who, unlike the hype, says China's economy is weak and unsustainable. Find out what indicators he's looking at by ««watching this video»». While you're at it, sign up to receive their free weekly intelligence reports. You'll enjoy the unique & global perspective.

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  • Dispatch: China Factors in U.S.-South Korean Relations

    The key to being a great chess player is to think ahead. True grandmasters think ahead not by just one or two steps, but a full game. The key to winning is determining the most likely moves of your opponent, among what seem at first glance to be hundreds of possibilities. The same can be said of finance. Knowing what to expect from key world players is critical to investing.

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  • China: Lending Restrictions and Beijing's Predicament

    China has long been a mystery to foreign investors. Deeply involved in trade and commerce since the ancient days of the Silk Road, China has continued to maintain the appearance of closed economic borders and, even past these hardened gates, undeniable risk. Like any investor, you've probably been tempted to look at the prospects, and you've probably been met with a barricade of warnings about corruption and internal strife that quickly bounces you away. In the case of this sleeping dragon, knowing isn't half the battle, the battle is in knowing.

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  • The China Files (Special Project): Real Estate

    Today I offer you an insightful look at China's real estate market - a 'burgeoning bubble' that deserves a close eye as the possibility for breaking increases. Remember the chaos in Japan after their own housing dreamscape got violently yanked back to earth? As investors, we have to recognize opportunities - and know what to avoid. With a global economic crisis - and now surging housing prices in China - investors in any global market need to keep watch on political and economic developments around the world.

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  • Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 3

    Recently I had a discussion with a colleague about university athletes. I was previously unaware that NCAA colleges set up guidance programs that develop the well-roundedness of student athletes. 'Life coaches' ensure that these individuals balance their rigorous athletic commitments with personal and academic accomplishments. I'm not judging your ability to run a mile or catch a football, but well-roundedness is an element to being successful - whatever your area may be.

    To be a solid investor, it's important to consider a variety of markets, and you must be well-informed in a myriad of sectors. This is where having the best information comes in, and one of the better places for intelligence is STRATFOR. They offer a straightforward recipe of news about global affairs - causes, outcomes and what to expect next based on a rational, time-tested methodology.

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  • 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....
  • China: Exports Drop

    When I read the headline, 'China: Exports Drop,' plastic toys, cheap sneakers and milk scandals come to mind. But the impact of China's financial health is more far-reaching than simply affecting the Wal-Mart consumer; China matters on a global investing stage. So that's why I don't just read headlines; I read STRATFOR. My friend George Friedman's team of analysts will take the numbers and explain to me what they mean and how they impact the country, without bias or partisanship. They don't make value judgments, they outline the full financial picture so I can make my own. Understanding China is critical to anyone with investments. In the following piece, STRATFOR graphically presents the decline in exports in a historical context, and outlines other critical measurements in the Chinese economy -- giving me the frame of reference I need. I highly recommend that you start reading STRATFOR for this kind of focused analysis....
  • On G-20 and GM: Economics, Politics and Social Stability

    The Big Three have a new customer, and it isn't you. As Detroit's former heavyweights fight for a slice of a $25 billion bailout package, more than humble pie is being eaten. If the automakers fail and take their companies into bankruptcy, Michigan as we know it ceases to exist economically. The trickle-down impact could rapidly become a waterfall: the seat supplier in Georgia loses three major customers. The factory worker who makes seats is out of a job. The bank who holds his mortgage takes another hickey. Commercial lending at that bank dries up. Ad nauseum. In the best of economic times, this would be a troublesome scenario. In today's economy, it's easy to see how policymakers are as worried about social stability as they are economics. No astute person thinks that the Big Three will be able to return to the business practices of last year. And no intelligent investor should be trying to evaluate portfolio decisions the same way this year either. We have moved from the realm of finance to political economy, and for that you need a different set of tools and a different mindset....
  • The New President and the Global Landscape

    In times of crisis, those with psychological fortitude discover opportunities that most people miss. A friend of mine in Houston tells me of unending piles of tree limbs broken down by the hurricane. The homeowner laments his disaster; the tree trimmer and the roofer order a new Mercedes. Most of the world sees a Wall St. meltdown. Buffett takes the opening to deploy billions from his cash hoard. They're all seeing the same thing, but they're reacting differently based on different visions of the future. I've included a piece today from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor about the landscape the next US President will face. This article is a perfect example of why I rely on Stratfor for my geopolitical intelligence. The newspapers and other media do better or lesser jobs of telling me about what's happening right now. But that's not what an investor needs. What I need - and I recommend for you - is an analysis of what we're going to be facing. That's where George and his team absolutely excel. For at least the next month, the public conversation is going to be completely dominated by the November election and the political maneuvering to address the financial crisis. There will be tremendous drama. There will be dizzying swings back and forth in emotions, expectations, and more than likely the markets. And if you focus on it, you'll miss the real opportunities to position yourself for the emergence....
  • Intelligence Guidance

    This week I want to share with you one of the more important tools in my arsenal for keeping up with what is going on in the world. As I've told you before, George Friedman and his team at Stratfor are my go-to guys for geopolitical intelligence. Their insights into this facet of the world are simply without peer. Now I want you to see their Intelligence Guidance which they publish each Friday for the upcoming week; last week's edition is below....