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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Birthdays and Investment Risk

    “Tail risk (the risk of large losses) is dramatically underestimated by many investors and the tools we have available to manage such risks are hopelessly inadequate. Financial theory which is taught at business schools and universities all over the world is plainly wrong.”

    This week we turn to my friend Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London for our Outside the Box offering, in which he looks at tail risk, Modern Portfolio Theory, and a risk he identifies as Birthday Risk. It is a lively and easy read, which is also designed to make you think about your basic investment principles.

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  • Japan, the Persian Gulf and Energy

    The Prime Minister of Japan recently stated that his nation was facing its worst crisis since World War II. While most of the world is focused on tragic images of floodwater and rubble, and fixated on radiation levels, there is a bigger picture to be examined – one that also includes  energy, coal and the Strait of Hormuz.

    Human nature draws our focus to the present. We look for immediate repercussions to a devastating world event. But the real advantage lies in understanding the broader perspective. In order to get this deeper understanding, you could choose to spend endless hours scouring global new sources day and night, constantly questioning their legitimacy and bias. Or you could take a better approach and hire a team of geopolitical experts and uber-intelligent analysts.

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  • The Cognitive Dissonance of It All

    I get a lot of client letters from various managers and funds, as you might imagine. I read more than I should. But one that shows up every quarter or so makes me stop what I am doing and sit down and read. It is the quarterly letter from Hayman Advisors, based here in Dallas. They are macro guys (which I guess is part of the magnetic attraction for me), and they really put some thought into their craft and have some of the best sources anywhere. So today we take a look at their latest letter, where they cover a wide variety of topics, with cutting-edge analysis and sharp insight. I really like these guys, and suggest you take the time to read the entire letter.

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  • Want a New Cardiovascular System?

    This week’s Outside the Box is again a little unusual. Some of you will think, “There goes Mauldin again, dreaming of a brave new world of biotech.” Except this tine the brave new world is here. My friend Pat Cox of Breakthrough Technology Alert has written a piece for me on what he and I think is potentially one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last few decades. Normally I don’t mention specific companies, but in this case we can’t talk about the breakthrough mentioning the company name. Disclosure: I own a small number of shares I bought over a year ago. This is one of a number of companies I am buying as part of my biotech holdings for the very long term. Do not chase this stock if it starts to go up. Be patient.

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  • Eat People

    This week’s Outside the Box is a little unusual, even for me. But it will be fun, informative, and thought-provoking. My friend Andy Kessler has written another irreverent, gonzo book called Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs. He has graciously allowed me to copy his introduction as this week’s missive.

    Andy gives us 12 Rules and a Bonus Rule that characterize game-changing companies. They are: Scale, Waste, Horizontal, Edge, Productive, Adaptive, Eat People, Markets, Exceptionalism, Market Entrepreneur, Zero Marginal Cost, Virtual Pipe, and Highest Return. Find a company that embodies these rules early, and you get in on the ground floor of the next Apple or Microsoft.

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  • A Sideways View of the World

    Today's OTB features an excerpt from my friend Vitaliy Katsenelson's recently published The Little Book of Sideways Markets. Vitaliy is CIO at Investment Management Associates, a value investment firm in Denver, and he is a prolific and engaging writer (you can find and subscribe to his articles at http://ContrarianEdge.com). I had the pleasure of writing the foreword to Vitaliy's book, and here is a brief excerpt:

    "Markets go from long periods of appreciation to long periods of stagnation. These cycles last on average 17 years. If you bought an index in the United States in 1966, it was 1982 before you saw a new high – that was the last secular sideways market in the United States (until the current one). Investing in that market was difficult, to say the least. But buying in the beginning of the next secular bull market in 1982 and holding until 1999 saw an almost 13 times return. Investing was simple, and the rising markets made geniuses out of many investors and investment professionals.

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  • 2011 Investment Strategies: 9 Buys, 9 Sells

    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. In 2009 in his forecast issue he suggested 13 investment ideas, all of which were profitable by the end of the year. Last year he gave us 16 which the large majority hit the mark. 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, where he gives us 18 investable strategies for 2011

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  • The Three Stages of Delusion

    I am back from the Forbes cruise to Mexico and starting to deal with a thousand things, but first on the list is making sure you get this week’s Outside the Box. And a good one it is. In fact, it is two short pieces coming to us from friends based in London over the pond.

    Both of them have to deal with the unfolding crisis that is Europe, which is going to unfold for several years as they lurch from solution to solution. The first is from Dylan Grice of Societe Generale and reminds us why we should put no stock in what leaders say about a crisis. He has lined up the statements of leaders from one crisis after another. He finds a simple, repeating pattern. And shows where we are now.

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  • The Rational Optimist

    One of my great and increasing pleasures is the Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition. I have grown to really look forward to reading Peggy Noonan, maybe my generation’s most gifted essayist. That would be enough reason to pay the subscription price. To read her wordsmithery (is that a word?) is a sublime joy to this humble journeyman writer.

    And the Review section in the WSJ has become a revelation over the last few years. The essays are getting better and better. And the book reviews make me weep, because there are so many great books and I will just not be able to get to them all. But at least I can read the reviews and remind myself of what I should have learned. I spend a few hours every weekend trying to get through the treasure in those pages – on the treadmill, at the coffee shop, or at brunch. I commend it to you. And getting the Journal online here on the ocean is cool. (www.wsj.com)

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  • Market Still Deluding Itself That It Can Escape The Inevitable Dénouement

    One of my favorite analysts is Albert Edwards of Societe Generale in London. Acerbic, witty and brilliant. Emphasis on brilliant. The fact that he is a Doppelganger for James Montier (who long time readers are well acquainted with) is a coincidence (or he would say vice versa). I only kind of have permission to forward this note to you, but better to ask forgiveness… So, this week he is our Outside the Box. And a short but good one he is.

    I am in Amsterdam and it is late, but deadlines have no time line. Tomorrow more work on the book. It is getting close to the end. Most books are finished when the authors quit in disgust. How many edits can you do? I am close.

    I wonder late at night, with maybe a few too many glasses of wine, why I feel like a book is so much more than an e-letter. Really? The last ten years of what I have written are on the archives. Good (ok, sometimes really good) is there. But some are an embarrassment. What was I thinking?

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