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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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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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  • 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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