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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Geopolitics and Markets

    Growing geopolitical risk is on everyone’s mind right now, but in today’s Outside the Box, Michael Cembalest of J.P. Morgan Asset Management leads off with a helpful reminder: the only time since WWII that a violent conflict has had a medium-term negative effect on markets was in 1973, when the Israeli-Arab war led to a Saudi oil embargo against the US and a quadrupling of oil prices. And he backs up that assertion with an interesting table of facts labeled “War zone countries as a percentage of total world… [population, oil production, GDP, etc.].”

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  • The State of the World: A Framework

    Companies issue state of the enterprise addresses, and presidents issue state of the union addresses ... but you've got to be pretty confident to address the state of the world. Luckily for us, Stratfor founder and CEO George Friedman is just that confident – and it's well-deserved.

    George is the expert in geopolitics, and his company is the best source out there for geopolitical analysis. Thus, his recent article, "The State of the World: A Framework," is well worth a thorough read. It identifies three distinct phenomena the world is facing: the European financial crisis, the Chinese export crisis, and Iran's rise to power in the Middle East.

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  • Dispatch: China Factors in U.S.-South Korean Relations

    The key to being a great chess player is to think ahead. True grandmasters think ahead not by just one or two steps, but a full game. The key to winning is determining the most likely moves of your opponent, among what seem at first glance to be hundreds of possibilities. The same can be said of finance. Knowing what to expect from key world players is critical to investing.

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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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  • U.S.: The Afghanistan Strategy After McChrystal

    While the U.S. was celebrating its World Cup victory over Algeria, another struggle was playing out in Washington that also grabbed the world's attention. In that instance, the loser was Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was forced by the president to resign his command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

    Since STRATFOR is more of an expert on geopolitics than the World Cup, I'm including an article from them on the current Gen. McChrystal shake-up. It's an example of the kind of behind-the-scenes intelligence reporting that makes them famous.

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  • Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion

    This week, we've seen a barrage of news and opinion pieces on Israel's attack on the Turkish aid flotilla headed for the Gaza strip. In the midst of myriad media discussions concerning the moral and strategic angles, my friend George Friedman from STRATFOR brings up an interesting point: '[The Israelis] seem to think that the issue is whose logic is correct. But the issue actually is, whose logic will be heard?'

    George puts the entire situation into the perspective of a war of public perception, which gives us a much more accurate idea of what may come of all of this. Give his article a read, and then join STRATFOR's free email list to receive more intelligence of this sort--they will keep you in the know like no one else can.

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  • 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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  • The Making of a Greek Tragedy

    Back and recovering from my Strategic Investment Conference this weekend (where I decided to give myself permission not to write my usual letter, but I promise I will be back at it this next Friday!) I have spent some time pondering what we learned. It was a fabulous conference. Lacy Hunt, Dr. Gary Shilling, David Rosenberg, Niall Ferguson, Paul McCulley, George Friedman, former Fed Senior Economist Jason Cummins (who is now Chief Economist for Brevan Howard, the largest European hedge fund, and who was quite impressive), Jon Sundt of Altegris, and your humble analyst were all in top form. I must admit with a little pride that I think this is the finest speaker lineup for ANY investment conference anywhere. We were given a lot to think about.

    Let me give you a few key points as an intro to this week's Outside the Box. First, there is a bubble building and it is in sovereign debt. It threatens to be a worse bubble than subprime or the credit crisis. Second, at one panel where we were asked what is our main worry, Paul McCulley said 'Europe,' which triggered an intense discussion, both in the panel and later that night over dinner. I agreed, of course, as I have written that very thing.

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  • Ecuador: Correa's Play for Greater Influence in the Oil Sector

    Today I'm sending you a piece on Ecuador's recent move to change the terms of its contracts with oil investors to keep more of the returns in the state. As we watch the world's energy market, political details like this are essential to know. The article explores the geopolitical implications of the move and the how key investors are likely to react.

    This is nothing short of the real world with real consequences on the amount the meter reads to fill up your gasoline tank, your investments abroad and the overall worth of those dollar bills in your wallet right now. You don't get this kind of information on your typical media news networks. The truth is, this event is one you may not have heard about - not only do you have to keep your ears to the ground, you've got to know where to look....
  • Mexico and the Failed State Revisited

    The United States' southern neighbors have always held a special interest for explorers. In particular Sir Walter Raleigh and his ill-fated quest for El Dorado comes to mind (I'm sure we can all relate). Modern day explorers, also known as investors, are still looking for the best place to stake their resources in search of riches. Thankfully, we have considerably more information at our disposal than a treasure map. But how do we know when X marks the spot, or if it's just another faulty lead?

    Intelligence, not just mass-produced information, is the key. For my global intelligence, I turn to the experts at STRATFOR. In this edition of 'Outside the Box', I've included a STRATFOR analysis on the situation in Mexico. It evaluates the drug wars in terms of the U.S. and Mexican economies. Give it a read and sign up for their free reports. You'll soon understand the value in intelligence, not just news.

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  • Brazil, Iran: A Troublesome Relationship for the U.S.

    World economies I get: currency, trading, deficits, surpluses... World politics is another story. I follow what happens: summits, policy changes, elections: but what does it mean for energy markets, potential threats, actual relations between countries? These situations define our future - financial and otherwise.

    Today I'm sending you a piece from STRATFOR on the relationship between Iran and Brazil - and what it means for energy, trade, U.S. sanctions, and this rising power in the South. STRATFOR is my go-to source for all things geopolitical. The great thing about it is that it's not just available to government agencies, Fortune 500 corporations and financial advisers such as myself. Rather, you too can access their content.

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  • A Defensive Buildup in the Gulf

    Sometimes when I read a newspaper article, it strikes me as a 'He said, she said' game. If I'm going to make an informed decision, I need analysis - not opinions from two sides, each with their own motive. You can find quotes from 'experts' anywhere, but they usually don't offer much insight, except into the agenda of the person quoted. For deeper insight, I turn to my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. STRATFOR publishes intelligence, not news. No journalists, no politicians - just analysts.

    I'm sending you a peek at the type of intelligence they provide for decision-makers like you and me.

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  • 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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  • The Year Ahead for Russia

    To continue with a week of global forecasts, today I’m sending you STRATFOR’s assessment of the year ahead for Russia. As I said earlier, we need to think of the world at large and how global events will affect us. Russia represents a huge piece of that puzzle....
  • Islamist Militants and the American Connection

    Where do business and geopolitical boundaries meet? As we've seen with the recent coverage of terrorism suspect David Headley, Mumbai is one node - but the possibility for others is extensive. As investors, we take risks every day, and sometimes it's not just our bank accounts but our safety.

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