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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  • Debt, Growth, and the Austerity Debate

    Two weeks ago I wrote about the current debate over the 2010 paper by Ken Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart (hereinafter referred to as RR) on the correlation between debt and GDP growth. I said that the most important part of their work, which is the construction of an enormous database on debt and financial crises over the last few hundred years, was to be found in their book This Time Is Different and elsewhere. And their fundamental conclusion: debt is not a problem until it becomes one. And then it reaches a critical mass and you have what they called the Bang! moment.

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

    Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington launch into their first-quarter "Review and Outlook," this week's Outside the Box, with a statement that some may find eye-opening: "The Federal Reserve (Fed) is not, and has not been, 'printing money'…" But given the facts of life about how money is really created (and destroyed), they are of course right: it's all about the acceleration – or deceleration – in the M2 money supply.

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  • Are Earnings Expectations Realistic?

    In today’s Outside the Box, Sheraz Mian, Director of Research for Zacks Investment Research, gives us a thorough overview of corporate earnings trends for the past several quarters, along with consensus expectations for this year and next. Then he asks,How realistic are these expectations?”

    Not very, he says, and proceeds to tell us why. If we accept his analysis – and he admits right up front that it runs counter to the consensus – then we should be asking ourselves, how does a potential falloff in earnings vs. expectations matter, and why is it important at this particular juncture? I’ll let Sheraz answer those questions, too – he does so convincingly – but I’ll just add that his analysis is a significant piece in the puzzle we’re all putting together here in this tipping-point year of 2013.

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  • Taking Distortion at Face Value

    Last Friday I was in Sonoma, California, for Mike Shedlock’s investment conference. The weather was grey and gloomy, but the conversation was animated and bright. I was fully engaged the whole day and never more than when John Hussman was speaking, commenting, or asking tough questions. John and I have talked on the phone and corresponded for years but had never met. What a consummate gentleman and scholar. We felt like we had been old friends for years and committed to finding opportunities in the future to get together and compare notes in person.

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  • Cyprus Has Finally Killed Myth That EMU Is Benign

    This piece from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is about as hard-hitting an analysis of Cyprus as I have read and really makes an interesting introduction to this week’s Outside the Box. No messing around:

    Capital controls have shattered the monetary unity of EMU. A Cypriot euro is no longer a core euro….

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  • Is The Government Lying To Us About Inflation? Yes!

    In today’s Outside the Box, Gary D. Halbert (my old and very dear friend and former business partner of many years) reminds us about a few significant facts concerning the Consumer Price Index (CPI) that mainstream economists and the media tend to ignore. The central question is whether the CPI is really indicative of the actual inflation rate. Not likely, says Gary, since the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which compiles the CPI, has engaged in methodological shenanigans over the past couple decades (as has been well documented by John Williams of ShadowStats, among others). The upshot of all their monkeying with the numbers is that the official rate of inflation may be two to four times lower than the actual rate (which is rather convenient if you’re a government bureaucrat trying to hold down interest costs and Social Security payments).

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  • Would the Real Peter and Paul Please Stand Up?

    As I sit here in Cafayate, surrounded by sumptuous beauty and enjoying a slower pace, I find myself reflecting on the magnitude of the human economic endeavor and our search for a path to sustainable investing in a world where central bankers seem hell-bent on changing the very nature of the medium of exchange. All in the name of helping us, to be sure, with the most positive of intentions; but if you are a retired person living on your lifetime of accumulated savings, you might be wishing for a little less of what they call help and a little boost to interest rates, to help you afford a safe and pleasant retirement.

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  • Out On A Limb: An Investor’s Guide to X-treme Monetary and Fiscal Conditions

    I landed in Buenos Aires early this morning and have a day layover before heading off to Cafayate; but it is time to send you this weekend's Outside the Box, and what a wonderful, powerful piece it is. I read John Hussman's latest on the way down and had to review it several times. There is just so much meat here. And more than his usual quota of those wonderful graphs he comes up with. Did you know there is a 94% correlation between the price of beer in Iceland and the S&P 500? This is a teaching moment we must heed!

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  • Fifty Trades of Grey

    I get so much broker research that I must admit I don’t usually read it or do so really fast. But the headline above caught my eye, and the piece turned out to be such a fun read, as well as truly thought-provoking and insightful, that I’ve made it today’s Outside the Box. The personalization of a “relationship” with the Fed gives us a decidedly delicious way to think about QE!

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  • The Keynesian Depression

    In today’s Outside the Box, Scott Minerd, chief investment officer of Guggenheim Funds, regales us with the not-always-happy history of Keynesian economics – we did what he said when we had to, but not always when we should have. Shoving fiscal and monetary stimulus down the throat of a recession is well and good, but how about the part where we’re supposed to be fiscally conservative during boom times? “What, raise taxes? No thank you!”

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  • Investing in a Low-Growth World

    I am personally doing a lot of thinking and research on this topic. I strongly suspect that other significant factors will arise to play havoc with projections, in both fantastically positive and uncomfortably dire ways. I am more and more seeing the future as very “lumpy,” that is, quite uneven as to how it will affect individuals and even entire countries. For those who espouse more equality in incomes and outcomes, this is not your optimal scenario. But even with all the “lumpiness,” the average person will be much better off in 20 years – though “average” will cover a much wider spread of outcomes than it does even today. But rather than launch into that book now, we’ll let Jeremy take over.

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  • 2013 Investment Themes

    Deleveraging of the financial and household sectors has created a terrific macroeconomic undertow since 2008, eroding growth. Gary argues (against many of the talking heads in the mainstream TV world) that the deleveraging process for both these sectors has several years to run before it returns them to the long-term trend. He notes that QE is having only temporary and limited impact, as each round of easing by the Fed has propped up stocks only until a crisis in Europe or the US undermines incipient recovery all over again.

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  • US Private-Sector Deleveraging: Where Are We?

    I was just in Greece with Christian Menegatti, and we had a good conversation about the piece he has sent along as today’s OTB. The case Christian and his coauthor David Nowakowski lay out regarding an incipient turnaround in US deleveraging (and therefore in economic growth prospects) is in some ways truly outside the box – I certainly wouldn’t call it the consensus view at this point. But they make the argument about as strongly as it can be made; so, if nothing else, they give us a solid piece of work off of which we can bounce counterarguments.

    For new readers: I often feature pieces in Outside the Box that make us think and that don’t reflect my personal bias or opinion. The point is that, if you only read what you agree with, you will miss the important changes and associated opportunities when they happen. And note that this piece is from Christian, who is head of research at Roubini Global Economics – not exactly a hotbed of bullishness. (By the way, Nouriel will be at my conference this year, more on which in a few weeks.)

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  • Hoisington Investment Management Quarterly Review, Q4 2012

    In their fourth-quarter 2012 Quarterly Review and Outlook – today’s OTB – Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington spell out the consequences of the so-called American Taxpayer Relief Act, as well as the even more egregiously named Affordable Care Act. They quickly conclude that the real effects of the tax increases on both individual taxpayers and the overall economy will be much greater than media reports have suggested.

    One of the more interesting impacts is that many corporations, large and small, borrowed multiple billions of dollars to make early or special dividend payments, or paid 2012 bonuses before the year turned over. This, the authors write, “… will cause the fourth quarter national income and product figures to be dramatically overstated and will provide no guide to the prospects for 2013. However … income should show a sharp decline early in 2013.”

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  • The Crisis of the Middle Class and American Power

    Thinking about the long term is all too rare a talent these days and one I really appreciate. When you take a longer view, it is easier to see how all the moving parts, the bits and pieces, fit together. And you can see other streams of action impacting your original line of thought.

    In today’s Outside the Box, my (and our) old friend George Friedman thinks about the future of employment and how it impacts the expression of American social order and geopolitical power. Sitting here in Stockholm tonight, that was the very point we were making in our dinner conversation with the management team of the Skagen funds. It is not just a US problem, although George looks at the US. This is a global issue as the gulf between the middle class and the upper income classes is widening, and it is widening for structural reasons. There are no easy answers. Dennis Gartman quotes PJ O’Rourke, who basically launched a shot from the right. It speaks for itself:

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