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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • When Career Risk Reigns

    We have entered an era of increasing correlation among what were once considered diversified investment classes. That would not be so bad, but overall returns have been reduced as well, almost across the board. As the song says, “Nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.” (For the younger generation, listen to the far superior version on YouTube, which was the original by Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, and not the noise of Korn or Caliban.)

    This week’s Outside the Box takes us on a tour of recent research, which shows that correlations among a wide variety of asset classes are increasing. It comes as no surprise to serious investors that it is getting ever more difficult to construct a diversified portfolio. My friend and partner Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London looks at half a dozen different research papers of recent vintage to give us some insights into today’s investment climate and offer a few modest suggestions. All in all, a very useful piece of work. You can see more of their writing and research at www.arpllp.com.

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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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  • The Commodities Con

    A quick introduction for this week's Outside the Box. This is from my London Partner Niels Jensen, talking about the problems with long only commodity funds. This is something I discuss frequently but have not written about in some time. Quite simply, many of the commodity ETFs do not deliver what they promise and in fact many of the inverse funds can lose you money even when you make the right macro call.

    Niels gives us a very good explanation of why this is so. So for those of you who have 'diversified' into commodity ETFs (not actively managed funds!) or are thinking about it you might really want to read this.

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  • If PIIGS Could Fly

    I wrote about Greece in last week's letter. Then I ran across this column in the Financial Times by my friend Mohammed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, and someone who qualifies to be introduced as one of the smartest men on the planet. It is short and to the point. (www.pimco.com)

    Then, somehow my London partner, Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners found the time to write a letter while we were running around Europe. As we had a lot of conversations with some very key players, and a lot of debate, the letter reflects a lot of what we learned, as well as further documents the serious straits that European nations face in the coming years due to their debt and deficits. It is not just a US or Japanese problem. I have worked closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know. You can see more of his work at www.arpllp.com and contact them at info@arpllp.com.

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  • Eclectica November Fund Commentary

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from England. My European partner Niels Jensen from time to time sends me some of the best letters he reads from the hedge fund world. He is an excellent filter for me, and this week's Outside the Box offering is no exception. Below is the November commentary from Eclectica fund manager Hugh Hendry. He challenges the current preoccupation with the falling dollar and China, and posits what would happen if that thinking is wrong? It offers some very thought-provoking ideas. You can contact them for more information at info@eclectica-am.com or visit their website: http://www.eclectica-am.com

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  • A Country for Old Men and a Bit of Samba

    We all know that a large wave of Baby Boomers in the US are approaching retirement. But what about the rest of the world? And what happens when those retirees need to spend out of savings? There is more than just a credit crisis and a government deficit crisis in our future. A rising level of retirrees to workers is happening even as I write. And the US is not, for once, the center of the problem. As this week's writer of your Outside the Box Niels Jensen explains, we cannot all export our way out of the problem. There is a global adjustment that must happen and when it does, it will have serious consequences for all. This week's letter is guaranteed to make you think. Set aside a few minutes to do so.

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  • Make Sure You Get This One Right

    There are those who sweat over every decision, worrying about how it will affect their lives and investments. Then there is the school of thought that we should focus on the big decisions. I am of the latter school.

    85% of investment returns are a result of asset class allocations and only 15% come from actually picking investment within the asset class. Getting the big picture right is critical. In this week's Outside the Box we look at a very well written essay about the biggest of all question in front of us today. Do we face deflation or inflation?

    This OTB is by my good friends and business partners in London, Niels Jensen and his team at Absolute Return Partners....
  • The $33,000,000,000,000 Question

    It has long been my contention that we are entering an extraordinary period of time in which using historical analogies to plot market behavior is going to become increasingly problematical. In short, the analogies, the past performance if you will, all break down because the underlying economic backdrop is unlike anything we have ever seen. It makes managing money and portfolio planning particularly challenging. Traditional asset management techniques just simply may not work. Buy and hope strategies may be particularly difficult to navigate.

    Part of the reason we are co challenged in our outlook is that we are experiencing a deleveraging on a scale in the world that is absolutely breath-taking in its scope. And to balance that, governments are going to have to issue massive amounts of sovereign debt to deal with their deficits. But who will buy it, and at what price? And in which currency? This week's Outside the Box gives us some very basic data points that illustrate the challenge very well. But the problem is that even though we can see the challenge, it is not clear what the final outcome will be, other than stressful volatility as the market reacts....
  • Europe On the Ropes

    This week we look at the European bank markets through the eyes of my London partner Niels Jensen, head of Absolute Return Partners. I continue to believe that this is a brewing crisis which could have far more significant implications for the global economy than the Asian Crisis of 1998. In this week's Outside the Box, Niels has compiled a sobering set of data that suggests that only massive government involvement in Europe on a scale that is unprecedented will keep the wheels from coming off in Europe and the global economy. I have worked closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know....
  • Can The Euro Survive?

    Milton Friedman famously predicted that the euro would not last past their first economic crisis. This week we look at commentary by Niels Jensen that explores the news from Euroland. Can the euro survive? He explores a number of options which are most definitely not on the radar screen for most investors. It is good to get a perspective from those outside of our own back yard. Note that when he says "our country" he is referring to Great Britain. Niels is the Managing Partner of Absolute Return Partners based in London (which is my European partner). I work closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know....
  • When the Chickens Come Home to Roost

    Can the credit crisis get any worse? In this week's Outside the Box my London partner Niels Jensen shows that it indeed can. Banks, and mainly European banks, have large exposure to emerging market debt of all types through both sovereign, corporate and individual loans. Just as banks have had to write down large losses from the subprime crisis and other related problems, next will come a wave of potential losses from yet another source. Niels then goes on to give us a look the size and problems with hedge fund deleveraging. Altogether, this is a very interesting letter and one that is written from a non-US point of view that I think you will find instructive....
  • Observations on a Crisis

    This week we look at a very solid piece of analysis on the world economy from my friends and London business partners Niels Jensen and Jan Wilhelmsen of Absolute Return Partners (www.arpllp.com). I find it is quite useful to read the considered opinions of those from outside the US and particularly from people who have developed keen insight from years in the trenches. Niels and Jan are certainly in that category. The world economy is clearly out of balance and they point out where some of the opportunities and problems lie. I think you will find this edition of Outside the Box quite useful. If you care to, you can write them at info@arpllp.com....
  • A Great Buying Opportunity?

    This week we look at yet another rather obscure credit market that is in essential lockdown as the subject of your Outside the Box. My London partner Niels Jensen, head of Absolute Return Partners, has written a very interesting piece on the leveraged...
  • Wagging the Fat Tail

    This week in Outside the Box, good friend and London business partner Niels C. Jensen further expands upon the fat tail dilemma I recently discussed in my "Black Swan" e-letter and why many of the risk metrics we use while in theory are useful...