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  • Obama's Plan and the Key Battleground

    The hottest headline this week is President Obama's war in Afghanistan. After his speech Tuesday night, critics, pundits and beltway know-it-alls have been giving their two cents across the airways, printing presses and online. On issues such as this, I eliminate the noise and go straight to my favorite source of intelligence. In the article I'm sending, my friend, and STRATFOR CEO, George Friedman spells out the key to winning this war - and it's not a troop surge. U.S. forces and a U.S.-trained Afghan army will need solid intelligence to quash the Taliban.

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  • Video Dispatch: Israel and Intrigue at the White House

    The closed-door meeting is a prime indicator of unpredictability. It's one of the most difficult elements for even the most savvy investors to encounter and plan for - or against. Usually we know the preemptive measures we need to take in order to protect our assets, and even make a few dollars in auspicious instances. But what about the information we can't access?

    Luckily, we have options. Today I'm including an excellent video from my friends at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. They shed light on a closed-door meeting between the Obama administration and 3 top Israeli officials. When speculation is rampant, there's only one source I trust for reliable insight, and that's STRATFOR. I encourage you to watch this video. Also, sign up to get their two free weekly intelligence reports for more door-opening insights on critical issues.

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  • A Crisis in the Kremlin

    Earlier this week, I sent out a piece that talked about the dangers of ignoring the big picture - even for the 'bottom up' investor. Every once in a while, we all have to step away from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, housing prices and other indicators to look at what's going to influence these factors in the long term.

    Today I give you a video about Russia and how a plan to fix the economy might throw off the political balance of power. I regard Moscow's situation as a valuable lesson for our country - also in the throes of an economic crisis - and for investors affected by global markets. Watch this great video by my friends at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. You can also sign up to get free weekly intelligence from them, so you don't have to depend on my occasional mail-out....
  • Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 3

    Recently I had a discussion with a colleague about university athletes. I was previously unaware that NCAA colleges set up guidance programs that develop the well-roundedness of student athletes. 'Life coaches' ensure that these individuals balance their rigorous athletic commitments with personal and academic accomplishments. I'm not judging your ability to run a mile or catch a football, but well-roundedness is an element to being successful - whatever your area may be.

    To be a solid investor, it's important to consider a variety of markets, and you must be well-informed in a myriad of sectors. This is where having the best information comes in, and one of the better places for intelligence is STRATFOR. They offer a straightforward recipe of news about global affairs - causes, outcomes and what to expect next based on a rational, time-tested methodology.

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  • A German Pre-Election Win and Lingering U.S. Tensions

    You may not think that what happens in Kabul affects the sale of GM's Opel division -- but it's recognizing the connection between seemingly unrelated global events that puts you ahead of the game in investing. This week I'm sending you a video by my friends at STRATFOR. It links cars, jobs, German elections, and the situation in Afghanistan in a way that's truly insightful and informative.

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  • Brazil: Reactions to a Proposed Energy Law

    With the current financial crisis, we have to be even more astute in locating worthy investment opportunities. I've written lately about choices we're facing as a country – but we have choices as individuals as well: choices that demand solid insight to make well-informed decisions and recognize opportunities at a time when they're not as plentiful as they used to be. It's not enough to know what's happening on Capitol Hill or Wall Street, we must expand our investigations to a global perspective.

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  • Iraq Endgame

    As many of have heard, I had the pleasure of partaking in a weekend of fishing and intellectual jousting with some of today's most brilliant minds. We spoke of war, politics, and of course, the economy. Their interconnection seems somehow much clearer sitting on a Maine lake fishing for bass. This week I offer you an article that's key to understanding the U.S. role in Iraq. Futurologist and fellow aspiring fisherman George Friedman at STRATFOR lays out piece by piece U.S. options in the region. If your interests have anything to do with global energy markets -- and whose don't? -- it's enormously important that you grasp the relationships between various sectors in and around Iraq, and the possibilities moving forward.

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  • The Recession in Central Europe, Part 2: Country by Country

    This week I'd like to address the topic of currency. Flip through any business journal and speculation runs deep, though the ups and downs are far from predictable. A year ago everyone who thought they had half a brain and a pile of money comparable to Uncle Scrooge was threatening to transform all of their wealth into the seemingly unstoppable Yuan. Travel agents were pushing dirt-cheap excursions taking advantage of the near-worthless Icelandic krona to suburbanites with inquiries about sunny beaches and palm trees. And this year, if you're looking for a destination that won't hurt your pocket book, one might suggest Central Europe for that romantic second honeymoon.

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  • Russia, Ahmadinejad and Iran Reconsidered

    I've mentioned a couple of schools of thought before: those who look at the big picture and those who pore over the details. Often, the major product is the result of its minor pieces. If you use good meat, good buns, and good vegetables- you're going to turn out a pretty good hamburger. The same goes for cars, businesses and portfolios.

    One industry in which this methodology really doesn't seem to work is information. Mainstream sources of information almost always fail to connect the world's events. They do a great job telling you that former Iranian president Rafsanjani addressed his supporters, that anti-Ahmadinejad protestors outside chanted 'Death to Russia', and that Israel sent a submarine through the Suez Canal. But they don't show how the incidents fit together in the geopolitical landscape, nor what they mean for the relationships between global powers. They give you the meat, the buns and the vegetables, but there's no hamburger.

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  • The U.S.-Russian Summit Turns Routine

    This week saw a 2-day summit between the United States and Russia that looks to be the first in a trend of subtle push and pull that will shape economic agendas for both states. Just as at the height of the Cold War, these two superpowers are jockeying for global attention and prospective untapped markets. But while the communication between the two is at the same volume and frequency as it was back in the days of Kennedy and Khrushchev, the tone has taken on a different level - as Obama flexes his newly appointed muscle and plants a possible seed of discontent between Medvedev and Putin concerning the future of the former USSR.

    Hands-down the most important thing in Russia is energy. It's not the headline on CNN these days, but come less than 6 months from now the cold European winters will make natural gas supply lines and shipping an unavoidable talking point. Today's U.S./Russia relationship lays the groundwork for the future of global energy markets....
  • Iranian Elections, Israel and the United States

    In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.

    The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked - leading to defective analyses. Instead, underlying assumptions should be constantly vetted in the face of new facts. I'd encourage you to consider the intelligence produced by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR - a trusted source in forecasting future geopolitical trends....
  • The Geography of Recession

    One of the first things you learn about analyzing a company is how to dissect a balance sheet. What assets and liabilities can be deployed by a company to create equity over time? I've enclosed a fascinating variant on this process. Take a look at how STRATFOR has analyzed the "geographic balance sheets" of the US, Russia, China, and Europe to understand why different countries' economies have suffered to varying degrees from the current economic crisis.

    As investors, it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that can provide us profitable opportunities, and it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that makes STRATFOR such an important part of my investment decision making. The key to investment profits is thinking differently and thinking earlier than the next guy. STRATFOR's work exemplifies both these traits....
  • An Israeli Prime Minister Comes to Washington Again

    Occasionally I need a fast answer. So I'll run a Google search, and 2.54 MILLION responses later I've learned how to handle a Thanksgiving turkey-roasting crisis but nothing useful about Turkey's financial crisis.

    There's certainly no shortage of data these days. But what's in all-too-short supply is understanding. As investors, what creates opportunities isn't access to data but to ways of thinking about the world. I created Outside the Box precisely for this reason, to share with you some of the best thinkers in the world and some of the best ways to think about investments....
  • The Geopolitics of Pandemics

    If you ever look at the footnotes, you know that 'Past performance is no guarantee of future results.' That said, by the time you've gotten a bit of gray hair, you realize that there are few teachers as good as history. 'But this time it's different!' is the cry of people that are usually just about to lose a bunch of money.

    Read the analysis below from my good friend George Friedman at STRATFOR on the latest new thing, the swine flu outbreak....
  • Second Quarter Forecast 2009: Global Trends

    I've been in this business a long time. Some days it feels like a very long time. But never in all the years that I've been in the financial markets have I felt like business per se has less impact on my investment decisions. Let me explain.

    GM shares have gone from being a claim on earnings from car sales to being a call option on whether the US government will extend another lifeline. Banks' capital structures have gone from being the province of Boards of Directors and CFOs to the "expertise" of Congressional committees and appointed regulators. Used to be when I thought about Financial Centers New York and London came to mind. Instead now I have to think about Washington and Brussels.

    My friend George Friedman and his team at STRATFOR are where I turn when I need help thinking about these new realities. George's team provides me context and understanding of the environment in which financial developments are going to take place. I may tweak him about his ties, but if you saw George speak at my conference in La Jolla, you know that he's an absolutely compelling speaker. And it's small wonder that his latest book spent those weeks on the New York Times bestseller list too.

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