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  • A War Between Two Worlds

    The terrorist attacks in Paris have fixated the world’s attention on the contrast between competing worldviews and what constitutes acceptable behavior in modern society. What are the principles by which society should be organized and run? Who gets to set those rules, and to what standards should others who do not believe in them be held?

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  • The Burning Questions For 2015

    This week, for your Outside the Box reading, I bring you one of the more thought-provoking pieces I’ve read from Louis in some time. In Thoughts from the Frontline I have been looking at world problems we need to focus on as we enter 2015. Today, Louis also gives us a piece along these lines, called “The Burning Questions for 2015,” in which he thinks about a “Chinese Marshall Plan” (and what a stronger US dollar might do to China), Abenomics as a “sideshow,” US capital misallocation, and whether or not we should even care about Europe. I think you will find the piece well worth your time.

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  • Calling Into Question

    A note has been circulating among economists, calling into question the wisdom of another group of economists who wrote an open letter to the Federal Reserve a few years ago suggesting that one of the risks of their quantitative easing program was increased inflation. Since we have not seen CPI inflation, this latter group is calling upon the former to admit they were wrong, that quantitative easing does not in fact cause inflation. To no one’s surprise, Paul Krugman has written rather nastily and arrogantly about the lack of CPI inflation.

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  • Why the Fed Is So Wimpy

    I’m in Washington DC today at a conference sponsored by an association of endowments and foundations. They have a rather impressive roster of speakers, so I have found myself attending more sessions than I normally do at conferences. Martin Wolf and David Petraeus headline a very thoughtful group of managers and economists, accompanied by an assortment of geopolitical wizards. I’ve learned a lot.

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  • Poverty Matters for Capitalists

    Every US recession that I can recall was preceded by a fall in long rates, and I doubt the next will be much different. As such, do not expect the next US downturn to arise from the Federal Reserve pushing rates higher, an overvalued dollar or even mal-investments. Expect it to result from a decline in the income of the working poor. Early warning signs are likely to show up in the shopping aisles of stores such as Walmart, average driving miles, and the price of houses at the cheaper end of the market. I suspect the lesson that will eventually be learnt is that in a modern industrialized economy there are few worse things a central bank can do than deliberately attack the spending power of the poor.

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  • Don’t Ignore the Anecdotes

    Whenever I'm in New York I make a point of calling a number of my economist and investor friends and arranging a “dinner with interesting people.” Thankfully, Rich Yamarone is almost always at the table, because his insights into what's happening in the real economy, beyond Wall Street, are unrivaled.

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  • Hoisington Investment Management – Quarterly Review and Outlook, First Quarter 2014

    In today’s Outside the Box, Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington of Hoisington Investment have the temerity to point out that since the Great Recession officially ended in 2009, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has been consistently overoptimistic in its projections of US growth. They simply expected QE to be more stimulative than it has been, to the tune of about 6% over the past four years – a total of about $1 trillion that never materialized.

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  • The United States: Are the Seeds Already Sown for the Next Macro-Market Deflation Crisis?

    Greg Weldon has long been my favorite slicer and dicer of data – his charts and insights on charts really help me keep my eyes peeled. But in order to get across to us the drastic state of the economy as we plunge headlong into 2014 – a year that we all know will be pivotal – Greg has felt it necessary to resort to a rather trenchant metaphor from the year just past. Yes, says Greg, the economy is... Breaking Bad.

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  • Knowledge and Power

    In last week’s Thoughts from the Frontline I talked about the Age of Transformation, attempting to refute Robert’s Gordon rather stark and gloomy view of the future growth potential of the economy. That letter generated a rather significant amount of reader response, both pro and con, as not everyone agrees with my decidedly optimistic long-term view of the future. It might be fun and thought-provoking, in fact, to do a letter that deals with some of the issues you raised. I really do have some of the smartest readers of any economics and investing letter out there.

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  • WTF?

    It is a regular ritual for major US businesses: the end-of-the-quarter conference call in which the CEO dissects what just happened and gives us some insight on what to expect for the future of the company. My good friend Rich Yamarone, the chief economist at Bloomberg, is the creator of the Bloomberg Orange Book, a compilation of macroeconomic anecdotes gleaned from the comments CEOs and CFOs make on their quarterly earnings conference calls. He not only sits and listens to them present their views, he also picks up the phone and talks to them. He is very clued in on what's happening in the real world of business.

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  • Euthanasia of the Economy?

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from my good friend and business partner Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London. Niels gives us an excellent summary of how QE has affected the global economy (and how it hasn't). I have found myself paraphrasing Niels all week.

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  • Life-Extending Biotechnologies: Creating and Solving Our Economic Problems

    Straightforward solutions to complex problems: they're nice in theory, but they're rare. Think of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, for instance. It tries to address the complex problems of expanding access to healthcare while simultaneously controlling its skyrocketing costs. But, sadly, there is no simple solution, and certainly not one that is not contentious in the extreme.

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  • Default?

    David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors (and our host at "Camp Kotok" for the annual "Shadow Fed" fishing expedition), leads off today's Outside the Box by meticulously dissecting the roadkill that is our federal government's process for deciding whether they will continue to pay their bills and federal employees' wages.

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  • Bad Omens

    We have clearly been in a recent run of higher interest rates, with a looming "threat" that there might be less quantitative easing before the end of the year. It would appear now that Bernanke wants to leave his successor to implement what everyone knows must be coming at some point: a return to a normal interest-rate environment. While rising interest rates are bad for me personally (for another four months), a return to normalcy would be good for our future – though the transition is likely to be bumpy.

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  • A Message from Lord Vader

    As long-time readers know, I have a very eclectic group of friends and associates. Colorful, opinionated, generally both fun and funny, they make for interesting times and discussions wherever I go. I am not certain why they associate with such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, Muddle-Through Texan like me, but most agree that I am at least good for comic relief. Next week I will be in the midst of some unabashed bulls, but today I offer up for your reading pleasure a note from a friend who is on the Dark Side of the fence, though he is hardly what you could call a conventional bear. He is Rich Yamarone, Chief Economist for Bloomberg.

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