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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Running through a minefield, backwards

    Before we get into today's Outside the Box I want to clear up a few ideas from this weekend's letter. There have been posts on various websites equating my piece on deflation with Paul Krugman. They say I am advocating kicking the can down the road and not reducing the deficit.

    Wrong. What I have been trying to point out for several years is that we have no good choices. We are down to bad and very bad choices. The very bad choice (leading to disastrous - think Greece) is to continue to run massive deficits. The merely bad choice is to reduce the deficits gradually over time. As I try to point out, reducing the deficits has consequences in the short term. It WILL affect GDP in the short term. Krugman and the neo-Keynesians are right about that. To deny that is to ignore basic arithmetic.

    I am not for kicking the can down the road. Not to begin to deal with the deficits, and soon, risks an even worse problem. But - and this is a big but - I don't want to stomp on the can, either.

    Now, let's get into this week's Outside the Box. I offer you a very intriguing essay by those friendly guys from Bedlam Asset Management in London. They argue that Belgium's sovereign debt should be suspect, and is the country that could be a 'sleeper' problem. This is a very interesting read, with a lot of history. It is not too long and very interesting. Enjoy....
  • A Closer Look at the Second Leg Down in Housing

    Quickly, I will be on Larry Kudlow's show tonight (Tuesday, June 28), which is at 7 pm Eastern. Larry has promised that we will spend some quality time on some of the current issues facing us. See you there! And now, let's jump in to this week's Outside the Box.

    Last January 2009, the Outside the Box featured FusionIQ's quant models that blend both fundamental and technical metrics to determine the strength of 8,000 equities as well as the overall markets (Trading With the Big Boys).

    You may recall that CEO Barry Ritholtz, (and good friend and Maine fishing buddy) had been bearish throughout 2008, and was still negative on stocks back in January 2009. Relying mostly on the FusionIQ metrics, Ritholtz flipped bullish on March 2009, and stayed bullish the rest of the year. The firm began raising cash in Q1 of 2010, and by the time the first quarter was over, was only 50% long. They sold more stock in April, and in a bit of good timing that Ritholtz will tell you was 'dumb lucky' went to 100% cash on May 5, 2010 – the day before the 1,000 point flash crash.

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  • What's the point of macro?

    I am back in Tuscany and will head to Milan tomorrow early, give a speech at the Bloomberg offices and then back home. But it is Monday and that means it is time for another Outside the Box. And I have found a most excellent offering. Dylan Grice from Societe Generale in London wrote on value for an OTB a few weeks ago, and he follows that up with more thoughts on the use of macro trends versus value investing. This is a real think piece, and worthy of more than one read.

    I have to hit the send button, as my last dinner in Italy awaits (and real Italian food has been a revelation, and the wines! I am something of a chardonnay snob, and usually turn my nose up at Italian and French whites, but I found some local Tuscan chardonnays that were up to the best in California. And at reasonable costs.).

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  • The Ultimate Hedge in Economic Crisis

    This week we have a really counter-intuitive Outside the Box. I was talking with the editor of Breakthrough Technology Alert, Patrick Cox about health care costs and he made some very interesting observations from new research about health care. It seems healthy people pay more for health care than sick people. I asked him to do a write-up for us. Despite the new health care bill that passed, health care costs are going to go up, not down. And that's a good thing, as Pat explains. You really want to read this.

    Some of you may not be aware that a few months ago I wrote that I was buying stocks for the first time in 12 years, and specifically smaller, transformational biotech stocks. As I wrote at the time, I think that we could see a real bubble in biotech in the latter part of this decade, and just once, please God, I want to be at the beginning of a bubble.

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  • US stock market returns – what is in store?

    It has been some time since we have looked at stock market valuations and expected future returns. I made a large point in Bull's Eye Investing that long term returns are closely correlated with the valuation of the stock market upon entry. In fact, I argue that secular bull and bear markets should be viewed in terms of valuation and not prices. The market clearly goes from high valuations to low and back to high again over very long periods of time. The average length of a secular bull or bear cycle is 17 years.

    Based on valuations, we are still in a secular bear market. But clearly we are in a bull phase, which within long term secular bear cycles are quite normal. They make for good trading opportunities. But should you invest now with a view to holding for 10-20 years?

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  • 2010 Investment Strategies: Six Areas To Buy, 11 Areas To Sell

    This week I am really delighted to be able to give you a condensed version of Gary Shilling's latest INSIGHT newsletter for your Outside the Box. Each month I really look forward to getting Gary's latest thoughts on the economy and investing. Last year in his forecast issue he suggested 13 investment ideas, all of which were profitable by the end of the year. It is not unusual for Gary to give us over 75 charts and tables in his monthly letters along with his commentary, which makes his thinking unusually clear and accessible. Gary was among the first to point out the problems with the subprime market and predict the housing and credit crises. His track record in this decade has been quite good. I want to thank Gary and his associate Fred Rossi for allowing us to view this smaller version of his latest letter....
  • The Coming BioTech Bubble

    In last Friday's letter, I said that I had not bought any single stocks in the last decade, preferring funds and managers, and in general I still do. However, I am now going to start buying a specific asset class this month and currently plan to add to those holdings at least every quarter for several years. This is the high risk portion of my portfolio, so it will not be all that large a percentage. (Do not write and ask me what the right percentage is. It will be different for everybody. For some of you the answer will be none, as you need to be taking very little risk. Consult your investment professionals.).

    Let me state emphatically that I am not going to become a stock picker. My regular letter will remain focused on the macro economic environment and investments in general. This is not my recommended advice to you but what I am doing as an individual investor. I simply know that many readers are interested in what I am doing personally and in my investment ideas. If this doesn't make sense to you, then by all means hit the delete button later. With that thought, let's dive right in.

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  • Reckless Myopia

    Long time Outside of the Box readers are familiar with John Hussman of the eponymous Hussman Funds. And once again he is my selection for this week's OTB.

    This week he touches on several topics, all of which I find interesting. As he notes:

    'We face two possible states of the world. One is a world in which our economic problems are largely solved, profits are on the mend, and things will soon be back to normal, except for a lot of unemployed people whose fate is, let's face it, of no concern to Wall Street. The other is a world that has enjoyed a brief intermission prior to a terrific second act in which an even larger share of credit losses will be taken, and in which the range of policy choices will be more restricted because we've already issued more government liabilities than a banana republic, and will steeply debase our currency if we do it again. It is not at all clear that the recent data have removed any uncertainty as to which world we are in.'...
  • The Dash To Trash And The Grab For Growth

    This week we look at a very thoughtful essay by an old Outside the Box friend James Montier. James is now working at Societe Generale in London. He is one of the truly great minds on the psychology of investing, as well as proving great research on how...
  • The Relative Performance Derby And Other Evils Of Modern Investment

    Introduction This week in Outside the Box we take a gander at the always-insightful research of good friend James Montier, who poignantly addresses the pertinent topic of portfolio diversification and the pitfalls that ensue on account of benchmarking...
  • Why the Big Money in Gold Shares Still Lies Ahead

    Introduction This week in Outside the Box we take a quizzical gander at the gold market, its growth-to-date, and potential future investment opportunity. We have witnessed a significant rise in the gold market from a July 1999 price of $252 an once, to...
  • Asia: Hot Market or Frenzy?

    Introduction The data from the companies which analyze where investors are putting their money tells us there is a lot of money flowing into international funds and especially Asia. This week's Outside the Box we look at a short but thoughtful piece...
  • An Optimistic Route to a Poor Market Outlook

    Introduction Value is a big and well-known strategy within the investment world. Many analysts and investors alike rely heavily on the P/E ratio as a metric to determine the value of a stock, indices or other form of security. But just as with any other...
  • Household Wealth and the US Savings Rate

    Introduction This week's Outside the Box is comprised of 2 smaller articles that I believe will, collectively, provide you with some interesting information to digest. The 1st article will be a follow up piece to last week's Outside the Box where...
  • Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

    Introduction Today's Outside the Box is by James Montier of Dresdner Kleinwort. Quite frankly, the research that James discusses surprised me. In his article "Meaty beaty big and bouncy," James dispels what he calls an urban myth that small...