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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....
  • 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....
  • 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....
  • 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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  • Obama's Strategy and the Summits

    A long-time religious land bridge between the Islamic and Western worlds, Turkey now finds itself an economic gatekeeper, a US-backed contender for the EU and the only key that could unlock Europe from dependence on Russian resources. The value of your dollar is intrinsically linked to last week’s summits—the most important multinational summits in history.

    I’d like to share with you an article by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. It delves into the Summits (G20, NATO, bilaterals) and explores the connections between finance and geopolitics. In this case, it boils down to two string-holding puppeteers: Germany and Russia. Germany, the largest exporter in the world, is happy to up its production while the US spreads its dollar paper-thin by contributing to an IMF fund that will bail out countries who will in turn spend their money in Germany’s already tremendous export sector. Russia, the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe, too stands to benefit from US contributions to the IMF pot, as their slice of the pie gets bigger with the pan—as long as Turkey keeps her pipes closed....
  • The Obama Administration and the Former Soviet Union

    Who's afraid of the Russian bear? As Russia makes a grab for power and influence, the rest of the world watches to see how the United States and her still-new president will react. As an investor, it's important that you're aware of global politics, as the ramifications reach beyond diplomatic relations and straight into the markets.

    I've included a piece from my friend George Friedman's company, STRATFOR, on The Obama Administration and the Former Soviet Union. It's the seventh in a series that explores how key countries have interacted with the United States in the past, and how their relationships with Washington will likely be defined during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It's a must-read for informed investors.

    George has very kindly arranged for a special offer on a STRATFOR Membership just for my readers. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Now more than ever, you need a wide lens on the world, as politics shapes the economy. There's no one better than George and his team at Stratfor at telling you what you need to know and why. I know you'll find them as valuable as I do....
  • Global Trend: The Russian Resurgence

    If the Russian Bear has indeed emerged from its post-Soviet hibernation to regain global prominence, that means big things for your portfolio. From the punishingly obvious war with Georgia last summer, to the more subtle - but equally powerful - shut off of natural gas to Ukraine and Europe, Russia is making it abundantly clear that they want to be global players again. To get a read on how this is all going to play out, I turn to my friend George Friedman, the founder of global intelligence firm Stratfor....
  • The Next 100 Years

    Much of the world is focused on the next 100 days—what Obama is going to do. That's important. But today in a special Outside the Box from my good friend George Freidman of Stratfor We will look out a bit further George is just about to release his latest book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. (Even pre-release it's already at #11 on Amazon's non-fiction bestseller list!) Here's my quick summary; and to cut to the chase, it's just fascinating. What reads like a geopolitical thriller gives a thought-provoking glimpse into what the world will look like in the coming century. George's strength is his ability to take geopolitical patterns and use them to forecast future events, sometimes with startling and counterintuitive results....
  • EU Summit: What is Not Being Talked About

    There are plenty of sources out there that are happy to tell you what's happening in the world, and much of it matters. But oftentimes, what's much more important is the dog that didn't bark. Remember Enron's undisclosed subsidiaries? Or the off-balance sheet holdings of just about every financial services firm? Sherlock Holmes uses the dog that didn't bark to solve the mystery -- the dog had to know the intruder. My friend George Friedman's company, Stratfor, uses the dog that didn't bark to highlight issues that are equally critical to the global economy -- that aren't being discussed. Traditional sources let me mitigate known risks. Stratfor tells me about the risks and opportunities I might not even be aware of. I'm including an example below: Stratfor's EU Summit: What is Not Being Talked About. As this analysis demonstrates, normal reporting on what was discussed might be helpful, but it's the missing topics -- those that the media misses -- that you really need to think about....
  • Obama's Challenge

    With the election of a new US President, everyone is focused on the 'First 100 Days.' How Obama transitions into the presidency impacts not just the U.S. but the entire global system. What happens to U.S. relations with Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan? What's going to happen at Treasury and to all the programs addressing the financial crisis? What's going to emerge from the next G20 summit? You need to read the analysis below, written by my good friend George Friedman at Stratfor. He details the immediate issues facing the president-elect, including one of the stickiest: Europe's desire for a global banking regulatory regimen. How will Obama respond to European pressure? George has built his company Stratfor and its reputation on forecasting the future, and I'm amazed at how often he's right -- on broad themes and specific events....
  • Fourth Quarter Forecast 2008

    Really hear what I'm about to tell you. The center of gravity of the world economic system has moved from New York to Washington. Let me illustrate what I mean so you understand just how profound this is. Banks used to compete against banks. US carmakers competed against each other and the Japanese. And the New York financial markets told you how they're doing against each other. Understand what's happening now. The US Treasury has become the only "customer" that matters. The Treasury is now the customer—and investor -- with the $750+ billion checkbook. The Treasury is now the "investment banker" of last resort, arranging and financing mergers. Banks are competing against insurance companies for their slice of the bailout pie. Chrysler and GM (and the Michigan Congressional delegation) are looking to Washington, not Goldman or Merrill, to facilitate a merger. This is a seismic shift....
  • The New President and the Global Landscape

    In times of crisis, those with psychological fortitude discover opportunities that most people miss. A friend of mine in Houston tells me of unending piles of tree limbs broken down by the hurricane. The homeowner laments his disaster; the tree trimmer and the roofer order a new Mercedes. Most of the world sees a Wall St. meltdown. Buffett takes the opening to deploy billions from his cash hoard. They're all seeing the same thing, but they're reacting differently based on different visions of the future. I've included a piece today from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor about the landscape the next US President will face. This article is a perfect example of why I rely on Stratfor for my geopolitical intelligence. The newspapers and other media do better or lesser jobs of telling me about what's happening right now. But that's not what an investor needs. What I need - and I recommend for you - is an analysis of what we're going to be facing. That's where George and his team absolutely excel. For at least the next month, the public conversation is going to be completely dominated by the November election and the political maneuvering to address the financial crisis. There will be tremendous drama. There will be dizzying swings back and forth in emotions, expectations, and more than likely the markets. And if you focus on it, you'll miss the real opportunities to position yourself for the emergence....
  • The Russian Resurgence and the New-Old Front

    It's been a hell of a few weeks, so let's start with a little much-needed levity. Two friends, a Trader and an Investor, walk up to the roulette wheel in a casino. They watch a guy hogging the table hit on his first spin. Then his second. Third, boom. Four in a row! The guy has an enormous stack of chips which he lets ride again on a fifth spin. 00. He's wiped out and skulks off to the bar. The two friends are excited because now it's their turn. The Trader says he's going to follow exactly the same pattern as the guy they just watched, BUT he's going to pocket his money after four spins. The Investor tells him to hold off for a minute. He wants to first buy stock in the casino.... Like most good jokes, there's a kernel of truth. When everything is in turmoil, you can't focus on the instances; you have to focus on the underlying foundations. Roulette isn't about guessing red or black; it's about understanding statistics. Today in a Special Outside the Box, we look at some potential problems from Russia that could impact the US and Latin America. It comes from George Friedman's company, Stratfor, the source I rely on for my geopolitical analysis. Peter Zeihan is one of the very sharpest thinkers in George's shop, as you'll see. The basic definition of public capital markets in the US and Europe is fundamentally different than in a country like Russia. If you don't understand the geopolitical lens through which a state views its capital markets, then you're making roulette bets instead of investments....
  • Solzhenitsyn and the Struggle for Russia's Soul

    As we search for "the" driver of financial markets, we look at all kinds of things. We pore over government statistics, company financial statements, and analyst research, trying to find that one nugget that will give us a glimpse of the future. Today, though, we're going to turn to literature. Because it's in Solzhenitsyn's vision of Mother Russia that we find an almost chillingly accurate roadmap of how Russia is likely to reemerge onto the global stage. When President Bush famously looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul, what he saw - whether he knew it or not - was Solzhenitsyn's depiction of a true Russian leader. Read this obituary essay from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor. George puts Solzhenitsyn in historical context, using his life and writings to illustrate not just the evolution of the Russian/Soviet/Russian system but also the Western perception of Russia and what it says about future relations. It's uncannily ironic that Solzhenitsyn died just days before Russia forcefully punctuated its geopolitical prominence in going to war with Georgia. You can almost imagine Solzhenitsyn shrugging and asking, "What did you expect?" Over the Labor Day weekend, Russian President Medvedev used a press interview to lay out five points that will define Russian foreign policy going forward. Allow me to translate (loosely) from the Russian: "We're back."...