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  • Random Europe

    It is a lazy summer day here in Texas, and the market and investment news front is rather quiet as well. But that will change before too long. We should enjoy the relative calm while we can, because Europe will soon be back in full crisis mode, coming off the summer. In today's Outside the Box we'll look at three brief pieces that may give us a preview of the near future, as well as an incisive retrospective on the recent past.

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  • Orders and Production: No Time for Complacency

    We have been assaulted with economic news of all sorts, from every corner of the globe, while trying to watch the Olympics and while we would rather be enjoying summer and decompressing (at least in the Northern hemisphere).

    But the data keeps coming. My friend John Silvia, the Chief Economist of Wells Fargo, has been with me in Maine this past weekend. And as we caught fish and shared our thoughts, we also both managed to get out our respective writing done. His note this morning is a particularly interesting analysis of US data, which has him wondering about his call for tepid growth but no recession

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  • Joan Sees Red

    It seems like the whole world is expecting Ben and Mario to ride in and save the day with yet more stimulus. But to what effect, I wonder. Is a short-term rise in the market a cure for the basic disease of too much debt? And, as today’s Outside the Box hilariously points out, it can even make things worse.

    Joan McCullough is perhaps my favorite curmudgeon. She writes so freely and with such style and feeling, but she also gives us such exquisite bits of information that no one else seems to find. Today, as I sat in a Denver hotel, I read her and just had to laugh a few times (mostly to keep from crying). She can be a tad hard on sensitive nerves, but we are all adults here, right? Be forewarned, though, that while she may pokes at someone you don’t like today, tomorrow she may be pointing out the issues with your guy. She is an equal-opportunity skewer.

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  • Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook

    The relationship between high total public debt and interest rates is controversial (to some); and in today’s Outside the Box Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management tackle the subject head-on, in their “Quarterly Review and Outlook” for Q2 2012. They bring important new evidence to the debate, citing three academic studies (including an April 2012 paper coauthored by Rogoff and Reinhart) and an historical retrospective that focuses on the debt-disequilibrium panic years of 1873 and 1929 in the US and 1989 in Japan. In their view, the onus of responsibility for the “Panic of 2008” falls on the sometimes-slumping shoulders of the Federal Reserve, for making money and credit too easily available, and then “[failing] to use regulatory powers to check the unsound lending and the concomitant buildup of non-productive debt.”

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  • The Futility of European Elections

    After I sent out this week's OTB on Germany, I remembered this very intriguingly titled piece by my friend George Friedman, founder of a geopolitical analysis company called Stratfor.

    The piece was written a few days ago, but when it comes to someone as ahead of the pack as George, who managed to write a book called The Next 100 Years, well, let's just say what he writes is pretty timeless.

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  • Flirtin’ with Disaster

    This week I offer a main course, a veritable piece de resistance, for Outside the Box readers, from my friend Rich Yamarone. Rich is Chief Economist for Bloomberg and one really sharp talent. He helps write Bloomberg Brief: Economics, a daily notebook that comes out every business morning with an all-encompassing view of what's happening and will happen.

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  • Necessary But Not Sufficient

    We woke up this weekend to a €100 billion "rescue" of Spanish banks, and the initial reaction of the market was relief. But did we not just see this movie, but with Greek subtitles rather than Spanish? Was this another of those "necessary but not sufficient" plot lines that Europe is so good at? Kick the can down the road and hope for a happy ending?

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  • Macro-EU: The Solution Illusion

    Nobody, in my book, slices and dices data more thoroughly or convincingly than Greg Weldon. In this week's Outside the Box, he first dispels the illusion that either of the two most-expected outcomes of the growing eurozone crisis is really any kind of a solution – neither expelling Greece nor keeping Greece in the club is going to work, he argues – and then, in a feat of legerdemain, he conjures up an alternative that just might work – and backs up his idea as only Greg can. But is this a rabbit he's pulled out of his hat, or is it ... a Black Eagle?

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  • The Pain in Spain

    I want to emphasize that I do not think Spain is hopeless. Rather, it has a narrow set of limited options that will require a great deal of austerity and economic pain on the part of Spain and significant help from the rest of Europe, combined with the forbearance and patience of the bond market or massive buying of Spanish bonds by the ECB for an extended period of time. I think it will need to be the latter, as the bond market is on the brink of breaking down on Spanish debt, failing a realistic path to economic balance and growth. The way ahead is most difficult and treacherous. It appears to me that at the end of the day only ECB participation can buy Spain the time it needs. If they give Spain the time, it can get through. But the pain will then be spread to the valuation of the euro and thus the entire eurozone.

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  • I’m Worried

    I debated with myself about what to send as this week's Outside the Box. I have decided on a recent short but important post from my friend David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors. He calls it "I'm Worried." There are some very thought-provoking ideas here, but what makes it particularly interesting is that I'm running into this sentiment more and more as I travel around the US; and when I'm abroad I also hear from people who are worried about the US. These are folks who rightly realize the world needs a strong US, both as an economic engine and as a leader –a chairman of the board, if you will –of a growing world. (Can the world grow and prosper without us? Of course, but not as easily, and the transition will not be pretty.)

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  • Hmmm… Holland

    For your Outside the Box today I treat you to another big, juicy slab of Grant Williams' Things That Make You Go Hmmm… I don't want to be all Grant all the time, but this is just so good I couldn't resist. This week, Grant is digging deep into the history and mystery of the European Union, taking us all the way back to the first inter-country treaty in April 1951 and then following the rather tortuous bureaucratic proceedings that led, by hook and by crook, to today's increasingly problematic eurozone.

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  • European Countries That Make You Go Hmmm…

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from Grant Williams, who covers the world from his perch in Singapore, in his always instructive and always entertaining Things That Make You Go Hmmm... I felt for him right at the outset today, because (like yours truly) he was trying really hard ... not to talk about Greece.And so, he announced, he was going to talk about Spain and about oil; but then, before he even made it through his opening paragraph, there was this:

    "... ahhhh NUTS! They did it AGAIN.... ok... the Greek restructuring. It's not as though I could ignore it, now, is it? ... Oil can wait until next time.... no doubt it'll be an issue then too."

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  • A Primer on the Euro Breakup

    It's one thing to say that peripheral eurozone countries are better off leaving the euro, but how, exactly? And how severe can we expect the consequences to be, not only for those nations but also for the entire eurozone – and for the rest of us, worldwide? To minimize fallout from the event(s), it would be helpful to have a solid foundation, based on an historical understanding of similar events, on which we could build a reasonable set of expectations.

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  • Sorting Out the Euro Mess

    I had the pleasure of spending the morning and part of the afternoon today with Louis Gave and Anatole Kaletsky at a seminar here in Dallas; and we shared a long lunch, where Europe and China were the topics of conversation. So, with their permission, here is their latest "Five Corners," in which Charles Gave and Anatole Kaletsky discuss last week's summit, and then engage in an internal debate about whether Italy really has a significant trade deficit with Germany. As I expect from GaveKal, it's not your typical analysis. And since I have to run to dinner – and glean more insights from their team (there will be homework when I get back!), this introduction to Outside the Box is short, and we can jump right into today's piece. Have a great week.

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  • Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

    What do the “Big Fitz,” the largest ship ever to sail the Great Lakes, and the Eurozone have in common? Hint: the former sank without a trace. Or, as Grant Williams so eloquently puts it, in his Things That Make You Go Hmmm… for Nov. 13 (this week’s Outside the Box), “One can’t help but think … that this week may well have brought us to the wall at the end of the road down which Europe has been kicking the can for quite some time now.”

    Grant inspects the SS Europe from bow to stern and concludes: “The smoke has pretty much cleared now and those in charge of the SS Europe are left with a stark choice – print money or allow the break-up of the Eurozone and the end of the common currency known as the Euro. At this point it really IS that simple.”

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