John Mauldin's Outside the Box

John Mauldin reads hundreds of articles, reports, books, newsletters, etc. and each week he brings one essay from another analyst that should stimulate your thinking. John will not agree with all the essays, and some will make us uncomfortable, but the varied subject matter will offer thoughtful analysis that will challenge our minds to think Outside The Box.

John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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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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  • Uttin’ On the Itz

    Last Thursday, prior to the FOMC announcement, I was having an early lunch with Kyle Bass so he could get back to the office in time for the announcement. As we were finishing up, I was invited to come sit with another group of friends and traders who also happened to be in the same restaurant. Everyone was sure there would be some type of tapering. That message had been clearly communicated to the markets. When the announcement came, the telephones went off and everyone erupted with various forms of surprise. I fully admit to being speechless. I kept waiting for some kind of explanation, and none came. The more we talked about it and the more I thought about it later, the more convinced I became that this was one of the more ham-handed policy announcements from the Fed in a very long time. Why would you go to the trouble of getting the market all ready for the onset of tapering, build expectations, and then jerk out the rug? What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on?

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  • The Need for a New Economics

    In today's Outside the Box, my good friend George Gilder, the well-known techno-utopian, attempts with some success to turn economics on its ear. "The economy is not chiefly an incentive system," he asserts, "it is an information system." And information, truly understood, is about the introduction of novelty, or "surprise," into a system. In the case of the economy, it's about invention and entrepreneurship. The new information that is injected gets converted into knowledge; and thus, says George, it is accumulated knowledge, rather than money or material, that constitutes true wealth.

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  • Advantage America

    Today's Outside the Box, which comes to us from good friend Gary Shilling, is unusual because that old confirmed bear is waxing positively bullish about the future prospects of the US. In doing so he mirrors my own views. It is just a matter of time before I go from being bearish on the US because of the dysfunctional US government to being an irrational perma-bull, at least for the next few decades. There is just too much upside potential with this country of ours — if we can muster the political will to handle our serious fiscal issues.

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  • How Fed Policy Has Devastated Three Generations of Retirees

    Retirement can be an unpleasant prospect if you’re not ready for it. This week’s Outside the Box is in in-depth report on Americans' retirement prospects, which comes to us from Dennis Miller, a columnist for CBS Market Watch, and editor of Miller’s Money Forever. It's not just the Boomers who are trying (often in vain) to retire this decade; it's also Gen-Xers, who are the most indebted generation (and the one that saw their assets depreciate the most in the Great Recession). The Millennials haven't been spared, either; in fact, over time they may be the hardest-hit, since near-zero interest rates are keeping them from compounding their savings in the early years of their careers, when the power of compounding is greatest. In addition, the difficult post-college job market and sky-high levels of student loans have kept most Millennials out of the stock market, and they are far less likely than previous generations to open a retirement savings account.

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  • Exit, Schmexit

    In last week's Outside the Box, which included a paper from the San Francisco Federal Reserve on the effectiveness of quantitative easing, I wrote, "What [authors] Cúrdia and Ferrero are really saying is that the latest round of QE, massive as it has been, has not had all that much effect on the economy, and that other factors should be taken into account. I'm sure this thesis is somewhat controversial, and I look forward to seeing what QE proponents like David Zervos over at Jefferies have to say about it."

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  • What Has QE Actually Accomplished?

    As I’ve highlighted over the last few months, I’m pretty well convinced that there is something more fundamental going on. And that even bigger changes may be coming in the near future. This week we look at two pithy analyses of the likely effectiveness of Fed tapering and what it might portend.

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  • The New Normal—Some Expensive Consequences

    Everybody talks about the weather, but there's not much we can do about it except make plans that take into account what mother nature may throw at us. For most of us that means planning for the next few days, but we should all be aware of climate patterns that are going to affect us for the next 20 to 30 years. And those patterns are changing not just because of global climate change but also due to long-term periodic changes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

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  • Mind the (Expectations) Gap: Demographic Trends and GDP

    For today's Outside the Box we have a very special research piece by Rob Arnott of Research Associates and his colleague Denis Chaves. Rob was with us at Leen's Lodge last week, and in the final evening discussion session he asked an interesting question having to do with demography and GDP growth. I was intrigued by it, but the group soon moved on without fully exploring Rob's idea; so I mentioned it to him again later, and he was good enough to send along the following paper.

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  • The Blip

    Dr. Robert Gordon is a professor of economics who has held a named chair at Northwestern University for decades; but as the author of this piece says, "[T]he scope of his bleakness has given him, over the past year, a newfound public profile." Gordon offers us two key predictions, both discomfiting. The first pertains to the near future, when, he says, our economy will grow at less than half its average rate over the last century because of a whole raft of structural headwinds.

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  • Hoisington Investment Management - Quarterly Review and Outlook, Second Quarter 2013

    Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington kick off their second-quarter Review and Outlook with a contrarian view: "The secular low in bond yields has yet to be recorded." And as usual, they have their reasons; but unlike most of the blabbermouth economic talking heads out there, they aren't interested in endlessly parsing the fitful utterances of Ben Bernanke and friends. Rather, they zero in on the fundamental reasons why long-term Treasury yields have probably not hit their low. Those reasons fall, they say, into four categories: (a) diminished inflation pressures, (b) slowing GDP growth, (c) weakening consumer fundamentals, and (d) anti-growth monetary and fiscal policies.

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  • The Mirror Cracks

    Michael Lewitt is one of my favorite credit analysts. If I want to know what is happening in the credit markets, one of my first calls is to Michael. He has been doing deep dives into some rather esoteric markets as well as traditional bonds over the course of his career, and he really understands what is happening under the surface.

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  • Bad Omens

    We have clearly been in a recent run of higher interest rates, with a looming "threat" that there might be less quantitative easing before the end of the year. It would appear now that Bernanke wants to leave his successor to implement what everyone knows must be coming at some point: a return to a normal interest-rate environment. While rising interest rates are bad for me personally (for another four months), a return to normalcy would be good for our future – though the transition is likely to be bumpy.

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  • How Gold Lost Its Luster, How the All-Weather Fund Got Wet, and Other Just-So Stories

    We have not revisited the topic of gold in Outside the Box recently, mostly due to the fact that nearly everything I read on the subject is derivative of what I have been reading for years. There hasn't been much that would cause me to think about gold in a different way, and that is the purpose of Outside the Box: to present new perspectives and make us think.

    I have recently started to read the work of Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory. His ideas are interesting in that he examines markets from a behavioral economics perspective, with ample doses of game theory and history, a combination that few people can bring to the table. (In a random but pleasant development, I will get to have lunch with him next week in Dallas when he visits my town. I look forward to it.)

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  • A Message from Lord Vader

    As long-time readers know, I have a very eclectic group of friends and associates. Colorful, opinionated, generally both fun and funny, they make for interesting times and discussions wherever I go. I am not certain why they associate with such a mild-mannered, soft-spoken, Muddle-Through Texan like me, but most agree that I am at least good for comic relief. Next week I will be in the midst of some unabashed bulls, but today I offer up for your reading pleasure a note from a friend who is on the Dark Side of the fence, though he is hardly what you could call a conventional bear. He is Rich Yamarone, Chief Economist for Bloomberg.

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