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  • Inspiration from the World of Sports

    One of the most successful investors in the world is Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital Management. One of the things I look forward to every quarter is the letter he writes to his clients – it goes right to the top of my reading list. Not only is it always full of generally brilliant investment counsel, Howard is also a really great writer. He has an easy style that pulls you through his letter effortlessly.

    I have never sent his letter to you as an Outside the Box, as the copies I get are clearly watermarked and copyrighted. So I was surprised and delighted to learn that the letter is free when I listened to a speech by Howard in which he encouraged everyone to get it. Unlike another hundred-billion-dollar hedge fund company that shall go unnamed, Oaktree evidently thinks that brilliance should be shared.

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  • Germany’s Immigration Challenge

    This immigration crisis in Europe is a big deal, and it’s a bigger deal for Germany than for any other European country. Germany is directly in the firing line, both geographically and in terms of how many of the migrants want to settle there. Nearly 40% of migrants choose Germany as their preferred final destination, while the only other nation that is chosen by more than 10% of migrants is Hungary, at 18%.

    Daniel Stelter is a very wired German economist and business thinker. He wrote to me a couple days ago, said he had read my remarks on Germany and the immigration crisis in last week’s Thoughts from the Frontline, and recommended to my attention a couple of articles he had just written on the issue. They are today’s Outside the Box.

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  • A War Between Two Worlds

    The terrorist attacks in Paris have fixated the world’s attention on the contrast between competing worldviews and what constitutes acceptable behavior in modern society. What are the principles by which society should be organized and run? Who gets to set those rules, and to what standards should others who do not believe in them be held?

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  • The Burning Questions For 2015

    This week, for your Outside the Box reading, I bring you one of the more thought-provoking pieces I’ve read from Louis in some time. In Thoughts from the Frontline I have been looking at world problems we need to focus on as we enter 2015. Today, Louis also gives us a piece along these lines, called “The Burning Questions for 2015,” in which he thinks about a “Chinese Marshall Plan” (and what a stronger US dollar might do to China), Abenomics as a “sideshow,” US capital misallocation, and whether or not we should even care about Europe. I think you will find the piece well worth your time.

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  • The World’s Dumbest Idea

    In today’s Outside the Box the redoubtable James Montier of GMO lifts his lance to prick the underbelly of the Mighty SVM. (That’s Shareholder Value Maximization, for you newbies.) “The world’s dumbest idea” (among many candidates in the world of finance), says James, citing none other than “Neutron Jack” Welch in support.

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  • Notes on Russia

    For today’s Outside the Box we have two pieces that deliver deeper insights into the situation with Russia and Putin. The first is from my good friend Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group and author of Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World. You probably caught my mention of Ian’s presentation at the institutional fund manager conference where we both spoke last weekend. He had some unsettling things to say about Russia; and so when he followed up with an email to me on Monday, I asked if he’d let me share the section on Russia with you. Understand, Ian is connected, and so what you’re about to be treated to here is analysis from way inside. (He’ll be presenting at our Strategic Investment Conference again next April, too.)

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  • Future Bull

    In a conversation this morning, I remarked how rapidly things change. It was less than 20 years ago that cutting-edge tech for listening to music was the cassette tape. We blew right past CDs, and now we all consume music from the cloud on our phones. Boom. Almost overnight.

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  • Finest Worksong

    I had dinner last night with my good friend Richard Howard, who, besides being a charming young Australian lad, is also the wickedly brilliant chief economist of Hayman Advisors, the hedge fund outfit run by my friend Kyle Bass. We try to get together every few months at one of the local eateries and hash out the world. And yes, for those interested, the recent action in Japan has both of us smiling a “we told you so” sort of smile. But also thinking that the magic will last for Abe-sama a little while longer. Actually, we talked about why this trade could take a lot longer than most yen bears expect.

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  • An Independent Scotland?

    The United States is just starting to think about the upcoming elections (for whatever reason, the vast majority of people don’t focus on politics until after Labor Day), but there is another election happening “over the pond,” where the polls have just made everybody do a double-take. I am of course referring to the referendum on Scottish independence, which will be held next week. Voters opposing the measure were a clear majority for months, but their numbers began slipping a few weeks ago; and as of last few days the contest is basically even, with the election probably to be decided by the undecided.

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  • Employers Aren’t Just Whining: The “Skills Gap” Is Real

    Paul Krugman and other notables dismiss the notion of a skills gap, though employers continue to claim they’re having trouble finding workers with the skills they need. And if you look at the evidence one way, Krugman et al. are right. But this week an interesting post on the Harvard Business Review Blog Network by guest columnist James Bessen suggests that employers may not just be whining, they may really have a problem filling some kinds of jobs.

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  • Networks and Hierarchies

    I have a big-picture piece for you today from a big-time thinker, my good friend Niall Ferguson. This is a little bit different for Outside the Box, but then isn’t that what this letter is supposed to be? Something to make us think and to come at a problem with a little bit different viewpoint?

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  • Dare to Be Great II

    I can’t tell you how many thousands of hours I have spent, over the years, thinking about, reading about, and talking about how to be a consistently successful investor; but I can tell you this: I’m still working at it. And once in a while – less frequently as the years pass, it seems – I come across investment advice that strikes me as fundamentally strong, innovative, and worth assimilating.

    I feel that way about today’s Outside the Box. It’s a client memo sent last week by Howard Marks, founder and chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. He calls it “Dare to Be Great II,” since it’s a follow-up to the famous memo by that name he wrote in 2006.

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  • Hollow Men, Hollow Markets, Hollow World

    I’m sitting in the British Airways lounge at Heathrow terminal 5, or in other words in my usual office, and trying to catch up on my reading. I was particularly intrigued by my good friend and economic philosopher Ben Hunt’s latest Epsilon Theory post, which he calls “Hollow Men, Hollow Markets, Hollow World.” As he points out, an increasingly smaller portion of trading in the markets is between individuals looking to actually own a fractional portion of a public company for the long term. Instead, trading is gravitating to machines competing with each other in milliseconds and for a profit of milli-cents.

    In today’s OTB, Ben Hunt doesn’t really focus all that much on high-frequency trading but rather on the fact that so much of economics and investing itself is hollow. Our job, he says, is to find the signal amidst all the noise. This is an Outside the Box that you will need to think through as opposed to merely read.

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  • Euthanasia of the Economy?

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from my good friend and business partner Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London. Niels gives us an excellent summary of how QE has affected the global economy (and how it hasn't). I have found myself paraphrasing Niels all week.

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  • Taper Capers

    Michael Lewitt has long been one of my favorite thinkers and writers on matters economic. He's incisive, thorough, and, well, pithy. No holds barred. Today's Outside the Box features an extended excerpt from the October issue of Michael's The Credit Strategist, which he has kindly allowed me to pass on to you.

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