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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  • 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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  • Ending the Era of Ponzi Finance

    There is a level of (let's call it) discomfort among investors and business people everywhere I go in the world now. It is becoming increasingly palpable with each passing month. The overriding sentiment seems to be, "That which cannot be sustained will not be."

    We live in a world that is premised on economic structures that are now unsustainable, and that is a word we are going to hear used more and more this year. Unsustainable. It will be a theme in my writing, not only in my annual forecast issue, which will be out in a few days, but throughout the year. But just because things are unsustainable does not mean the end of the world for you and me. It is just that our world will change. Our job is to make sure that we manage the transition.

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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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  • Sorting Out the Decade

    In today's Outside the Box I bring you two pieces that, at first glance, may not seem to have much to do with each other. First, Bill Gross, PIMCO managing director, runs down the fierce structural headwinds that our hard-pedaling global economy faces over the next decade. I am going to deal at length with not only his GDP projections for the rest of the decade but those of Grantham and others in the last two Thoughts from the Frontline of this year. This is a challenging environment for traditional portfolio construction, but it’s par for the course as we slog through the secular bear market I was first writing about in 1999.

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  • Looming Crisis: State Budgets Soon to Be Under Siege

    Today in Outside the Box we explore the very sad fact that once again I was unduly optimistic. My good friend Ed Easterling shows that it is quite likely that the pension shortfalls are approaching $4 trillion. And the longer we wait to deal with the problem, the worse it will get.

    The biggest part of the problem, as I wrote back in 2003, is unrealistic assumptions about future investment returns. That has not changed. You can find consultants who will tell you there is “only” a $1 trillion problem. However, if you assume that interest rates will remain low and equity returns will look like they did the last ten years, then the underfunding might look more like $4.6 trillion.

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