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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

    In today's Outside the Box, the ever-philosophical Grant Williams introduces us to the ancient and profound art and science of alchemy – "the original 12-step program," as he calls it, the avid pursuit of übernerds from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton to (believe it or not) John Maynard Keynes, who referred to certain early works of econometrics as statistical alchemy (and some still are!). And we should not forget Carl Jung, who wrote the seminal workPsychology and Alchemy (for those who do not sleep or are looking for something to put you to sleep: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychology_and_Alchemy).

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  • The Tragic Decline of Gibraltar’s Spanish Neighbor

    I was on the ground in Spain a few weeks back, and then I ran into this piece in Spiegel Online about a small, struggling town on the Spanish border with (British) Gibraltar. This essay resonates in some of the same ways as the Michael Lewis piece on Greece. This is just one town, and Spain has many regions, some more prosperous than others; but in a country where there is 23% unemployment and 50% among youth, there is plenty of suffering everywhere. The general story is one of deep problems, especially with regard to inefficient labor laws.

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  • Necessary But Not Sufficient

    We woke up this weekend to a €100 billion "rescue" of Spanish banks, and the initial reaction of the market was relief. But did we not just see this movie, but with Greek subtitles rather than Spanish? Was this another of those "necessary but not sufficient" plot lines that Europe is so good at? Kick the can down the road and hope for a happy ending?

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  • The Pain in Spain

    I want to emphasize that I do not think Spain is hopeless. Rather, it has a narrow set of limited options that will require a great deal of austerity and economic pain on the part of Spain and significant help from the rest of Europe, combined with the forbearance and patience of the bond market or massive buying of Spanish bonds by the ECB for an extended period of time. I think it will need to be the latter, as the bond market is on the brink of breaking down on Spanish debt, failing a realistic path to economic balance and growth. The way ahead is most difficult and treacherous. It appears to me that at the end of the day only ECB participation can buy Spain the time it needs. If they give Spain the time, it can get through. But the pain will then be spread to the valuation of the euro and thus the entire eurozone.

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  • MACRO-EUROPE: The Titanic is SINKING

    This is a special Outside the Box. I got this letter from my good friend Greg Weldon last night and got permission to pass it on to you. I think it illustrates the problems that the world is facing from the sovereign debt crisis that is building in Europe.

    There are no good solutions here, only very difficult ones. In order to get financing, Greece must willingly put itself into a multi-year depression. And borrowing more money when it cannot afford to pay back what it has will not solve the problem. 61% of Greeks now favor leaving the euro. How has Greece responded? By banning short selling on its stock market for the next two months. That should make things better. Greeks are responding by rioting and going on strike. But you truly know when a country is dysfunctional when its AIR FORCE goes on strike. Yesterday Reuters reported that hundreds of Greek pilots called in sick in protest. The response from government? The Minister of Defense said he was 'profoundly disappointed.' Now that had to make the pilots feel bad.

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  • The European Union Trap

    Let me state upfront that this is not the easiest to grasp Outside the Box that I have sent you. But if you can get what Rob is saying, you will understand why the problems facing the world, and especially Europe, are so difficult. Everyone cannot export their way out of this crisis. Someone has to actually run a current account (trade) deficit.

    My suggestion is that you read this once through, and then read it again. If you see where Rob is going, it makes it easier to understand the second time. Warning: Rob Parenteau is an Austrian economist. In many circles, what he is saying is controversial, if not at least counter-intuitive. But it makes us think, which is the purpose of Outside the Box. If I get a response that is robust and thoughtful, I will run it in the future. The problem that Rob articulates is the center of the problems we face. There are no good or easy choices, as I have been writing for a log time.

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  • If PIIGS Could Fly

    I wrote about Greece in last week's letter. Then I ran across this column in the Financial Times by my friend Mohammed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, and someone who qualifies to be introduced as one of the smartest men on the planet. It is short and to the point. (www.pimco.com)

    Then, somehow my London partner, Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners found the time to write a letter while we were running around Europe. As we had a lot of conversations with some very key players, and a lot of debate, the letter reflects a lot of what we learned, as well as further documents the serious straits that European nations face in the coming years due to their debt and deficits. It is not just a US or Japanese problem. I have worked closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know. You can see more of his work at www.arpllp.com and contact them at info@arpllp.com.

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