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  • The Doctor and the Dealman: An Energy Update

    It has been a busy day in Rome, doing the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's and the Trevi Fountain. But I have to find time to get you your Outside the Box and have I got a great one for you. David Galland of Casey Research was kind enough to let me use an interview he did with two of his energy research staff normally only available to his subscribers. A big thank you to David.

    This is a special treat for Outside the Box readers, as they talk about the future of the energy markets. I have been following their work for some time and I think they are the real deal if you are looking for an energy letter to regularly read....
  • The Commodities Con

    A quick introduction for this week's Outside the Box. This is from my London Partner Niels Jensen, talking about the problems with long only commodity funds. This is something I discuss frequently but have not written about in some time. Quite simply, many of the commodity ETFs do not deliver what they promise and in fact many of the inverse funds can lose you money even when you make the right macro call.

    Niels gives us a very good explanation of why this is so. So for those of you who have 'diversified' into commodity ETFs (not actively managed funds!) or are thinking about it you might really want to read this.

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  • February Economic Report

    Before we get to this week's Outside the Box, a quick note about my writing on Greece in last Saturday's letter. I made the point that if Greece defaults it does not necessarily mean they have to leave the EU, any more than if Illinois defaulted they would have to leave the United States. Greece could still use the euro and life could go on. EXCEPT. The markets would no longer lend the Greek government money at anything close to a livable rate. Greece would be forced to balance its budget. Since they are part of the euro, devaluing the currency is not an option. The results of controlling their fiscal deficit would not initially be pretty and would almost insure a serious prolonged recession or depression in the Greek area, with fall out in the region. It would be a sad decade for Greece. But in the long run, it is a better option than default.

    Further, and more important to the rest of Europe and the world, the results of a Greek default would be financial turmoil. 250 billion euros (and maybe 300!) of Greek debt is in international bond funds, pension and insurance companies, and above all at banks. Think German banks. Already undercapitalized banks. Also, think of all the investment banks who have been selling relatively cheap (given the apparent risk) credit default swaps on Greece, in an unregulated market, exposing their balance sheets. What should be a simple, if sad, matter for the Greeks, becomes a problem for the world, just as subprime debt in the US caused a world credit crisis. And the risk of contagion from Portugal, Spain, et al is serious. 2 trillion euros of debt could get downgraded by the bond market in very short order. It could be a replay of the last credit crisis, just with new actors as the prime problem....
  • 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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  • 2010 Investment Strategies: Six Areas To Buy, 11 Areas To Sell

    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 track record in this decade has been quite good. I want to thank Gary and his associate Fred Rossi for allowing us to view this smaller version of his latest letter....
  • Will The Three Trends of 2009 Prevail in 2010?

    Today I am speaking at a local conference here in Dallas for my friends Charles and Louis Gave of GaveKal along with George Friedman of Stratfor, and get to finally meet Anatole Kaletsky. They graciously allowed me to send their latest Five Corners report as this week's Outside the Box. I find their research to be very thought-provoking as they are one of the main sources of optimism in my ususal readings (except for their very correct and profitable views on the European debt of the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, [Ireland?], Greece and Spain).

    The GaveKal team is scattered all over the globe (and based in Hong Kong), and make my paripatetic travel schedule seem small change, not only being in scores of countries but talking to the movers and shakers in both finance and politics. This is an amazing advantage in information gathering. Thus they have a very global view of the world and tend to spot trends before most analysts have picked up on them.

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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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  • 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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  • A Country for Old Men and a Bit of Samba

    We all know that a large wave of Baby Boomers in the US are approaching retirement. But what about the rest of the world? And what happens when those retirees need to spend out of savings? There is more than just a credit crisis and a government deficit crisis in our future. A rising level of retirrees to workers is happening even as I write. And the US is not, for once, the center of the problem. As this week's writer of your Outside the Box Niels Jensen explains, we cannot all export our way out of the problem. There is a global adjustment that must happen and when it does, it will have serious consequences for all. This week's letter is guaranteed to make you think. Set aside a few minutes to do so.

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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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  • History lesson for economists in thrall to Keynes

    There is a debate in academic circles on the lessons of the current economic crisis. While most ivory tower debates are of little concern to our daily affairs, this debate should concern you, as it will inform those who hold central bank and political power. Remember, there is no playbook of rules for what to do in deflationary, deleveraging recessions. They are making it up as they go along.

    Today we have a short essay by Niall Ferguson published last week in the Financial Times. It speaks for itself, and you should take a few minutes to read it....
  • 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....
  • Long-Term Outlook: Slow Growth And Deflation

    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. You can learn more about his letter at http://www.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 for a year. Gary is good but not that good!) I trust you are enjoying your week. And enjoy this week's Outside the Box....

    And if you have cable and get Fox Business News, I will be on Happy Hour tomorrow Tuesday the 17th at 5 pm Eastern. Have a great week....
  • 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....
  • Where Will the Growth Come From?

    Today we read a piece sent to me by my friend Louis Gave of GaveKal (and who will be at my conference in April). It is entitled "Where Will the Growth Come From?" It reminds us of the lessons that Harry gave me. Each person and company is responsible for their own part of the recovery. You can't rely on mass statistics, or you miss the important lesson in individual responsibility. I don't think anyone can accuse me of being bullish the past few years. Interestingly, I get a lot of emails from people telling me the end of the world is coming, and deriding my longer-term optimism. They are convinced we are going into some deep national morass worse than the Great Depression (and such deflationary times will somehow make their gold go to $3,000!?!?). Yet they are working to make sure their own personal worlds are covered. I get no letters from people who are simply giving up. What company will keep a CEO who does not work hard to figure out how to keep the company alive? If you lose your job, do you not try and get another one or figure out how to make ends meet? Do you not put in extra hours to try and make your personal life or business or job better? Even if it is terribly difficult, the very large majority of people don't throw in the towel. Each of us, in our own way, gets up every morning to fight the good fight, even when the swamp is full of more alligators than we ever counted on. We just pick up a baseball bat, wade into the swamp, kill as many alligators as we can in one day, and then go home to get ready to fight the next day....