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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Flirtin’ with Disaster

    This week I offer a main course, a veritable piece de resistance, for Outside the Box readers, from my friend Rich Yamarone. Rich is Chief Economist for Bloomberg and one really sharp talent. He helps write Bloomberg Brief: Economics, a daily notebook that comes out every business morning with an all-encompassing view of what's happening and will happen.

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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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  • Macro-EU: The Solution Illusion

    Nobody, in my book, slices and dices data more thoroughly or convincingly than Greg Weldon. In this week's Outside the Box, he first dispels the illusion that either of the two most-expected outcomes of the growing eurozone crisis is really any kind of a solution – neither expelling Greece nor keeping Greece in the club is going to work, he argues – and then, in a feat of legerdemain, he conjures up an alternative that just might work – and backs up his idea as only Greg can. But is this a rabbit he's pulled out of his hat, or is it ... a Black Eagle?

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  • Simon Hunt November/December Economic Report

    I have been reading and talking with Simon Hunt for a long time. He is a very thoughtful Brit who spends a lot of time in China and thinks about copper and commodities and cycles. He has enough seasoning to have seen a few cycles himself. This piece summarizes rather well the view that he has expressed for some time. And while I am generally skeptical of relying too much on cycles for specifics (they work until they don't), I think Simon has some very powerful conclusions. From his summary:

    "The world is in a balance sheet depression which will make a second and perhaps more dangerous credit crisis almost inevitable. That should break out next year or in 2013.

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  • It’s All Greek To Me

    Long-time readers will be familiar with Michael Lewitt, one of my favorite thinkers and analysts. He has gone off on his own to write his letter, and I am encouraging him to write even more. I call Michael a thinker because he really does. He reads a lot of thought-provoking tomes and then thinks about them. And then writes, making his readers think. The world needs more Michael Lewitts.

    Today, he roams the world, commenting as he goes, starting of course with Europe. I have permission to use the first half of this most recent letter as today’s Outside the Box, leaving off the investment recommendations that he shares with his subscribers. If you are interested you can subscribe at www.thecreditstrategist.com.

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  • Europe: The State of the Banking System

    In the last six months, the eurozone has faced its biggest economic challenge to date - one sparked by the Greek debt crisis which has migrated to the rest of the monetary union. But well before the sovereign debt crisis, Europe was facing a full-blown banking crisis that did not seem any closer to being resolved than when it began in late 2008. With investors and markets focused on European governments' debt problems, the banking issues have largely been ignored. However, the sovereign debt crisis and banking crisis have become intertwined and could feed off each other in the near future.

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  • Print baby, print ... emerging value and the quest to buy inflation

    This week I thought I would give you an Outside the Box with a more European flavor, as I am in Tuscany at the moment and on to Paris later this week and then back here for a working weekend with partners. Life is tough. :-)

    Dylan Grice of Societe Generale (based in London) is fast becoming one of my favorite writers. This thought-provoking piece makes us meditate on whether central banks will print money in response to the fiscal crisis in the developed world countries. I am not certain that all central banks will print with abandon, BUT we need to think about what happens if they do.

    I need to hit the send button now, as we are off to watch Italy in the World Cup in a little village (Montisi) where they have set up screens in the town square. My first connection with European football live with crazy fans and all! Should be fun!

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  • Germany, Greece and Exiting the Eurozone

    The cause célèbre these days is the potential reconstitution of the eurozone: ie, Germany leaving it, or Greece getting kicked out. To look a little deeper, today I'm sending you STRATFOR's take on these two scenarios. STRATFOR explores the geography of the continent and the historical context of the EU to understand what a German exit or a Greek expulsion might mean for the rest of the region....
  • The Global Crisis of Legitimacy

    From my friend George Friedman, founder & CEO of STRATFOR, here's my newest favorite quote concerning economic recessions: 'Like forest fires, they are painful when they occur, yet without them, the forest could not survive. They impose discipline, punishing the reckless, rewarding the cautious.' The thin line of where risky becomes reckless is something I'd like to focus us on today. No matter the risk-level of your portfolio, if you are reading this you are probably smart enough to know that when you play with fire you may get burned. You have to know how to look for smoke, or signs of a potential catastrophe, so you know not to grab the doorknob with both hands.

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  • Was the Demise of the USSR a Negative Event?

    Let's have a thought game. What if the Eurozone breaks up? My friend and very serious philosophical thinker Charles Gave (of GaveKal) thinks that would be a positive event. To quote his conclusion:

    'But we return to the most simple of questions, namely: Was the end of the USSR a negative event? When Americans stopped wasting capital building empty condos in Florida or Arizona, was that bad news? If, like us, our reader answers 'no' to the above questions, then the Greek crisis should be seen as a reason for hope, rather than despair.'

    Now, that is a truly Outside the Box proposition and one which I found very compelling. His partner, Anatole Kaletsky, elsewhere argues that the ECB will enlarge their mandate to try and save the day by printing enormous sums of money, ultimately making things worse....
  • Has Germany just killed the dream of a European superstate?

    While the US was focused on the health care drama over the weekend, over across the pond events are rapidly deteriorating in euro land. For this week's Outside the Box I offer two columns, one from the Financial Times and another from the London Telegraph. Both describe the problems that the eurozone faces. It is not pretty.

    I was sent this note from a Steve Stough who translated this from a German TV news show' It is a nice set-up for the two short columns.

    I was reading an interview with Germany's most-quoted economist and then, all of a sudden, his face pops up on a TV show (a panel discussion on Germany's version of Fox Business News) at the same time, so I paid close attention. Hans-Werner Sinn's remarks are apparently listened to as closely as are the Federal Reserve Chairman's remarks in the US.

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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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  • 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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