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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  • The Thinking Behind the Stimulus and Bailout Programs

    It is important to understand the thinking of those who are in fact making the decisions at the Fed and Treasury. In today's Outside the Box, Paul McCulley, Managing Director at PIMCO, gives us some insight into the thinking that is driving the massive stimulus and bailout programs. Whether or not you agree, it is important to have a handle on what is actually happening and the thinking behind it.

    As a bonus, let me give you a link to David Kotok's excellent and very clear analysis of the Public-Private Investment Program (PPIP). The PIPP is basically a call option financed by the US tax-payer. David shows us why as tax-payers we should be concerned....
  • Roadmap To Inflation And Sources Of Cheap Insurance

    What happens when inflation once again returns. As this week's Outside the Box writer, James Montier, writes, we may want to start thinking now about inflation insurance and he mentions a few ways to do so. But this letter is a must read for his bringing to light a speech by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke in 2000 given to the Japanese, where he suggest inflation targeting:

    'In the speech, he laid out a menu of policy options that are available to the monetary authorities at the zero bound. First, aggressive currency depreciation, as per Romer's analysis of the end of the Great Depression. Second on Bernanke's list is the introduction of an inflation target to help mould the public's expectations about the central bank's desire for inflation. He mentions the range of 3-4%!'

    I think you will find this week's OTB to be exceptionally thought provoking. Montier is one of my favorite economic thinkers (and a good friend). He works for Societe Generale in London in their Cross Asset Research group....
  • Quarterly Review and Outlook - First Quarter 2009

    There is a reason I call this column Outside the Box. I try to get material that forces us to think outside our normal comfort zones and challenges our common assumptions. And this week's letter does just that. I have made the comment more than once that is it unusual for two major bubbles to burst and for the conversation and our experience to be rising inflation and not a serious problem with deflation.

    Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a seminar on why they think it is deflation that will ultimately be the problem and not inflation we are dealing with today. This week's letter requires you to think, but it will be worth the effort.

    Now, if you put all of the various inputs together, Hoisington and Hunt show that theory suggests we will soon be dealing with deflation. It's counter- intuitive to what we hear today, which is why the Bank for International Settlements used the stagflation word in a recent report. The transition that is coming will not be comfortable....
  • Second Quarter Forecast 2009: Global Trends

    I've been in this business a long time. Some days it feels like a very long time. But never in all the years that I've been in the financial markets have I felt like business per se has less impact on my investment decisions. Let me explain.

    GM shares have gone from being a claim on earnings from car sales to being a call option on whether the US government will extend another lifeline. Banks' capital structures have gone from being the province of Boards of Directors and CFOs to the "expertise" of Congressional committees and appointed regulators. Used to be when I thought about Financial Centers New York and London came to mind. Instead now I have to think about Washington and Brussels.

    My friend George Friedman and his team at STRATFOR are where I turn when I need help thinking about these new realities. George's team provides me context and understanding of the environment in which financial developments are going to take place. I may tweak him about his ties, but if you saw George speak at my conference in La Jolla, you know that he's an absolutely compelling speaker. And it's small wonder that his latest book spent those weeks on the New York Times bestseller list too.

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  • China: Exports Drop

    When I read the headline, 'China: Exports Drop,' plastic toys, cheap sneakers and milk scandals come to mind. But the impact of China's financial health is more far-reaching than simply affecting the Wal-Mart consumer; China matters on a global investing stage. So that's why I don't just read headlines; I read STRATFOR. My friend George Friedman's team of analysts will take the numbers and explain to me what they mean and how they impact the country, without bias or partisanship. They don't make value judgments, they outline the full financial picture so I can make my own. Understanding China is critical to anyone with investments. In the following piece, STRATFOR graphically presents the decline in exports in a historical context, and outlines other critical measurements in the Chinese economy -- giving me the frame of reference I need. I highly recommend that you start reading STRATFOR for this kind of focused analysis....
  • The Geopolitics of Pandemics

    If you ever look at the footnotes, you know that 'Past performance is no guarantee of future results.' That said, by the time you've gotten a bit of gray hair, you realize that there are few teachers as good as history. 'But this time it's different!' is the cry of people that are usually just about to lose a bunch of money.

    Read the analysis below from my good friend George Friedman at STRATFOR on the latest new thing, the swine flu outbreak....
  • The $33,000,000,000,000 Question

    It has long been my contention that we are entering an extraordinary period of time in which using historical analogies to plot market behavior is going to become increasingly problematical. In short, the analogies, the past performance if you will, all break down because the underlying economic backdrop is unlike anything we have ever seen. It makes managing money and portfolio planning particularly challenging. Traditional asset management techniques just simply may not work. Buy and hope strategies may be particularly difficult to navigate.

    Part of the reason we are co challenged in our outlook is that we are experiencing a deleveraging on a scale in the world that is absolutely breath-taking in its scope. And to balance that, governments are going to have to issue massive amounts of sovereign debt to deal with their deficits. But who will buy it, and at what price? And in which currency? This week's Outside the Box gives us some very basic data points that illustrate the challenge very well. But the problem is that even though we can see the challenge, it is not clear what the final outcome will be, other than stressful volatility as the market reacts....
  • The End Game Draws Nigh - The Future Evolution of the Debt-to-GDP Ratio

    Nearly everyone I talk with has the sense that we are at some critical point in our economic and national paths, not just in the US but in the world. One path will lead us back to relative growth and another set of choices leads us down a path which will put a very real drag on economic growth and recovery. For most of us, there is very little we can do (besides vote and lobby) about the actual choices. What we can do is adjust our personal portfolios to be synchronized with the direction of the economy. The question is 'What will that direction be?'

    Today we are going to look at what I think is a very clear roadmap given to us by Dr. Woody Brock, the head of Strategic Economic Decisions and one of the smartest analysts I have come in contact with over the years. This week's Outside the Box is his recent essay, 'The End Games Draws Nigh.' For those who have the contacts in government, I urge you to put this piece into the correct hands so that Woody's very distinct message gets out. I think this is one of the most important Outside the Box letters I have sent out....
  • A Short Covering Rally

    How do you spell short-selling rally, gentle reader? In this week's Outside the Box we look at several short items (pardon the pun) from various sources, which paint a not pretty picture. The first hit my inbox this morning from Art Cashin (of CNBC fame and also Head Floor Trader for UBS). "Deconstructing The Rally - The sharp rally that sprang from the new short sale restrictions has been spiky and, in several ways, very powerful. The impact of the short rule change was evident. As Barron's notes, the 150 stocks with the heaviest short interest rallied a stunning 15%. The stocks with the smallest short positions rose only 2%. That may be a function of existing shorts scrambling to cover to pass the new, belated, scrutiny. That thesis got added weight from a couple of areas. The Merrill Lynch results got mostly panned by several analysts and TV pundits. Nonetheless, the stock closed 24% above its lows for the week. Also, the financial sector ETF rose nearly 25% from the lows. "All of the above suggests that the rally is based on the two pronged government move. First, put a safety net under the financials, especially Fannie and Freddie. Second, restrict opportunities to sell the financials short. We'll wait to see if those efforts have further legs this week."...
  • The Geopolitics of Iran

    For nearly 30 years, long before it was a charter member of the "Axis of Evil," Iran and the US have been locked in a hate-hate relationship. Walk down the street any Friday afternoon, and you're as likely to hear "Death to America!" as "Hi Ali, how are you?" Three decades of animosity, an externally opaque society, and no trade relations between the two countries mean that many of us have just the barest understanding of what's really going on over there. But whether it's a negotiated settlement with the US over Iraq, or a war-risk premium for crude oil, to threats and counterthreats with Israel and the US, Iran's decisions have enormous impact on the global economic system. All of the sudden, the picture of the "mad mullahs" you get from the papers seems expensively inadequate....
  • Quarterly Forecast: Third Quarter 2008

    As we begin the new quarter, now is an excellent time to take stock of your basic investment thesis. Ask yourself if your allocations still reflect what you think the world is going to look like over the next several months. And as part of that process, I'm here to tell you that making "financial" decisions based solely on "financial" inputs grossly oversimplifies the way the world really works. As I've said before, investing in debt, equity, or commodity markets without geopolitical intelligence is like trading juice futures without getting a weather forecast. You can do it, but good luck to you. I get my geopolitical intelligence from Stratfor. My friend George Friedman and his team have just published their 3rd Quarter Forecast. I got George to give me a copy I can share with you in this Special Edition of Outside the Box. As a Stratfor Member, you can get the 3Q Forecast - as well as their other forecasts and daily analyses - at a preferential rate available to my readers by clicking here. I strongly encourage you to add this valuable weapon to your investing arsenal....
  • A Kind Word for Inflation

    This week's Outside the Box will challenge a few of your base assumptions. Paul McCulley, the managing director at PIMCO, offers us a kind word for inflation and the reasons that the Fed will be on hold for a lot longer than the markets currently think. And part of that is to avoid a real recession or even a depression. Getting this debate right is important. These are indeed interesting times we live in. I look forward to being with Paul at the end of July on our Maine fishing expedition, where he can defend his proposition to the group of economists and analysts gathered there. Have a great week....
  • Intelligence Guidance

    This week I want to share with you one of the more important tools in my arsenal for keeping up with what is going on in the world. As I've told you before, George Friedman and his team at Stratfor are my go-to guys for geopolitical intelligence. Their insights into this facet of the world are simply without peer. Now I want you to see their Intelligence Guidance which they publish each Friday for the upcoming week; last week's edition is below....
  • The End of the Inflation Scare?

    I mentioned in last Saturday's letter a report by Louis Gave of GaveKal fame on whether inflation may be waning and its importance. Louis gave me permission to use it as this week's Outside the Box. It is typical of the thoughtful analytical work they do. Louis and his partners and associates at GaveKal write some of the more thought-provoking material I read. They really challenge my position on numerous matters, causing me to look at many items from a different view. That of course, makes this particular piece good for Outside the Box. Whether you agree or disagree, you need to know why you hold a position. If you can't articulate the "against," how can you be sure you truly understand the "for"? I think given the current debate on inflation, this week's Outside the Box is a must read....