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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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    David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors (and our host at "Camp Kotok" for the annual "Shadow Fed" fishing expedition), leads off today's Outside the Box by meticulously dissecting the roadkill that is our federal government's process for deciding whether they will continue to pay their bills and federal employees' wages.

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  • US Birth Rate Hits New Low – A Nation of Singles

    Today’s OTB is not directly about the economy or investment, but rather about a key demographic shift that will certainly have a major effect on both. I have a somewhat different take on the shift than our author, my very-long-time friend Gary D. Halbert (founder of ProFutures and former business partner from the ’90s); and I will be writing about this next year. There is a significant transformation going on in my thinking about how the political world in the US (and, I suspect, much of Europe as well) impacts the economy.

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  • Hoisington First-Quarter Review and Outlook

    I am doing a road show for Bloomberg in San Francisco, with 8 meetings today and a few more tomorrow. Bloomberg is marketing a very high-end new service called Mauldin Research Trades. My partners Gary Habib and Peter Mauthe have assembled an all-star team of technical trading analysts (who between them have written about 20 books on technical trading), who give us "conviction" trades each and every week. We publish the letter on Sunday evening. I am very pleased with the results so far. If you are interested, contact your Bloomberg Tradebook representative or drop me a note and we will get them in touch with you.

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  • Weeks When Decades Happen

    My friends at GaveKal are uniquely positioned to help us think about where we have been in the past decade and where we are going in the next one. Their perch in Hong Kong lets them keep their fingers on China’s pulse, but they also have profound roots in Europe – the Gave family is French – as well as a thorough grasp of the US economy and culture. (Louis Gave, the author of today’s Outside the Box, is a Duke grad.)

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  • Working Out of Debt

    This week we look at a report called “Working Out of Debt,” about debt and deleveraging, from the McKinsey Global Institute. This is a well-done summary of their longer paper, which has been updated, called “Debt and deleveraging: Uneven progress on the path to growth.” I discussed the original paper both in my regular letter and in Endgame. It is one of the best, most definitive pieces on the topic I have read. For those trying to understand how the deleveraging process will affect their particular world, I think it is a must-read. I have been spending more and more time thinking about the whole process of deleveraging, and am coming to think deleveraging is the critical and fundamental factor shaping the economic environment and impacting every decision countries and businesses are faced with. This paper was done by Karen Croxson, Susan Lund, and Charles Roxburgh; and they are to be especially commended for their insight and work.

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  • Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook

    The "Quarterly Review and Outlook" from Hoisington Investment Management is one of the most significant pieces that crosses my desk – I try and drop everything else as soon as possible. This quarter's is no exception. The authors, Dr. Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington, get right down to brass tacks with their opening sentence: "As the U.S. economy enters 2012, the gross government debt-to-GDP ratio stands near 100%." They cite an influential 2010 historical study of high-debt-level economies around the world, by Professors Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, that concluded that when a country's gross government debt rises above 90% of GDP, "median growth rates fall by one percent, and average growth falls considerably more."

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  • The Covert Intelligence War Against Iran

    Today I offer a topic that might have missed your "news-net" coverage of the eurozone crisis, US debt insanity, and a possible global recession. Folks, we may have the modern-day equivalent of the Cold War on our hands.

    Go ahead and let go of the images of McCarthy at the podium, the Sputnik launch, and reel footage of schoolchildren ducking under desks; this cold war likens more to Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible than the original with Peter Graves. I'm referring to ongoing covert operations against Iran over its quest for nuclear capabilities, and its staunch position against the existence of Israel. After the defection of nuclear officials, the Stuxnet computer worm, and a few questionable "explosions," it is becoming increasingly clear that a cold war is being waged (and has been, since at least 2007) to ensure, simply put, some level of peace in the Middle East.

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  • Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook

    Dr. Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington of Hoisington Investment Management write a “Quarterly Review and Outlook” that is a must-read for me. This quarter they focus on US monetary policy, noting that “After peaking at 1.69 in the second quarter of 2010, M2 velocity declined for four consecutive quarters, and we estimate that a major contraction in velocity to 1.59 is likely for the third quarter.” (I mentioned the importance of the velocity of money in judging inflation vs. deflation prospects in this week’s e-letter, too.)

    They say, “If our analysis of a new contraction in GDP is correct, the U.S. economy should be viewed as operating in the midst of a long-term slump, regardless of terminology.”

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  • Is the US Monetary System on the Verge of Collapse?

    This week we take in a piece that is somewhat outside my own box. There are a number of people who feel strongly that the US (and world governments in general) cannot pull out of the downward spiral they are in, that monetary policy is fixed on printing ever more money, and that the problems of fiat currencies are now coming to the fore.

    I was interviewed last week by David Galland and Doug Casey of Casey Research. Those of you familiar with them know they (and especially Doug) have a strong libertarian bent and a distrust of government. Not all that unusual, of course, except that they work at finding ways to invest based on their philosophy. That has meant a lot of gold and natural resources, plus new tech, which has worked at rather well overall.

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  • Breakfast with Dave

    The question we will ask ourselves in 20 years is, “Where were you when they downgraded the US and the Fed?” This week’s Outside the Box is from David Rosenberg. He has made his letter public and graciously given me permission (at 34,000 feet ) to send it to you.

    I thought about writing an immediate response to this weekend’s events but decided to wait and meditate on what has transpired. Clearly, we are at the beginning of the Endgame. And that saddens me. The events of the weekend were hotly discussed at the Shadow Fed meeting in Maine. My youngest son, Trey, was paying attention this year. Last night he said, “Dad, it is good for you that you are right with your book, but I don’t think it’s good for the rest of us.” Out of the mouths of babes.

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