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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  • Running through a minefield, backwards

    Before we get into today's Outside the Box I want to clear up a few ideas from this weekend's letter. There have been posts on various websites equating my piece on deflation with Paul Krugman. They say I am advocating kicking the can down the road and not reducing the deficit.

    Wrong. What I have been trying to point out for several years is that we have no good choices. We are down to bad and very bad choices. The very bad choice (leading to disastrous - think Greece) is to continue to run massive deficits. The merely bad choice is to reduce the deficits gradually over time. As I try to point out, reducing the deficits has consequences in the short term. It WILL affect GDP in the short term. Krugman and the neo-Keynesians are right about that. To deny that is to ignore basic arithmetic.

    I am not for kicking the can down the road. Not to begin to deal with the deficits, and soon, risks an even worse problem. But - and this is a big but - I don't want to stomp on the can, either.

    Now, let's get into this week's Outside the Box. I offer you a very intriguing essay by those friendly guys from Bedlam Asset Management in London. They argue that Belgium's sovereign debt should be suspect, and is the country that could be a 'sleeper' problem. This is a very interesting read, with a lot of history. It is not too long and very interesting. Enjoy....
  • All QE2, All the Time

    Everywhere I turn is another article about Quantitative Easing Part 2. Will they or won’t they? My question last week was will it make any difference? After I sent my letter out, I came across this missive from the always fascinating Ed Yardeni. I like to read Ed because he is not afraid to take an out of consensus call. He is his own man, something of a rarity in the world of economists.

    He highlights a report from the Fed on the problem with the money multiplier. It has gone away. (Really? You think?) If you took Econ 101 this was a basic staple.

    He writes: “Fed officials are clueless about how quantitative easing is supposed to impact the economy. They aren’t even sure if it has any effect on the economy. The Fed study cited here confirms this known unknown.”

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  • The Geography of Recession

    One of the first things you learn about analyzing a company is how to dissect a balance sheet. What assets and liabilities can be deployed by a company to create equity over time? I've enclosed a fascinating variant on this process. Take a look at how STRATFOR has analyzed the "geographic balance sheets" of the US, Russia, China, and Europe to understand why different countries' economies have suffered to varying degrees from the current economic crisis.

    As investors, it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that can provide us profitable opportunities, and it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that makes STRATFOR such an important part of my investment decision making. The key to investment profits is thinking differently and thinking earlier than the next guy. STRATFOR's work exemplifies both these traits....
  • A 20-Year Bear Market?

    Long time readers know that I am a huge fan of the work of Neil Howe. His book, The Fourth Turning, was one of the seminal pieces of my reading over the last 30 years. And it has turned out to be stunningly prophetic. Uncomfortably so. A roughly 80 year cycle has been repeating itself for centuries in the Anglophile world, broken up into four generations or turnings. We have begun what Howe called many years ago The Fourth Turning.

    Neil Howe is the co-author, with the late William Strauss, of a number of seminal works on the impact of generations on cycles of history. Howe is a founding partner of LifeCourse Associates (lifecourse.com) which provides research to institutions looking to capitalize on generational research.

    The June 2009 edition of The Casey Report, the flagship publication of Casey Research, featured a comprehensive 23 page interview with Neil Howe as well as suggestions on how to position your portfolio to profit during a Fourth Turning crisis. I persuaded my friend David Galland to at least summarize it for my Outside the Box this week, and he graciously did so. David is the managing editor of The Casey Report and has had a long career in the financial services industry; as a founding partner of the successful Blanchard Group of Mutual Funds and, before joining Casey Research, as a founding partner of EverBank, one of the big success stories in independent online banking....
  • Quarterly Review and Outlook - Third Quarter 2009

    I look forward at the beginning of every quarter to receiving the Quarterly Outlook from Hoisington Investment Management. They have been prominent proponents of the view that deflation is the problem, stemming from a variety of factors, and write about their views in a very clear and concise manner. This quarter's letter is no exception, where they once again delve into the history books to bring up fresh and relevant lessons for today. This is a must read piece.

    Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $4-billion under management, composed of corporate and public funds, foundations, endowments, Taft-Hartley funds, and insurance companies. And now let's jump right in to the essay....
  • In Defense of the “Old Always”

    Long time readers of Outside the Box are familiar with the name of James Montier, who is now with GMO in their London office. Today, James, with his usual acerbic wit, takes on the notion of the “New Normal” and offers us a defense of the “Old Always.” James is a value investor and sees mean reversion as still alive and kicking, where some proponents of the New Normal think we should throw out all of the old aphorisms. While I am in the New Normal camp, I also agree with James. This makes for some quick and thought–provoking reading.

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  • Hoisington Fourth-Quarter Report

    Long-time readers of Outside the Box are familiar with the names Dr. Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington. They are a regular feature here, as quite frankly, anything that Lacy writes or says I pay serious attention to. This is their regular quarterly report, where they outline seven things that are likely to retard US growth. An easy read, but take the time to think this through.

    Hoisington Investment Management Company (www.hoisingtonmgt.com) is a registered investment advisor specializing in fixed-income portfolios for large institutional clients. Located in Austin, Texas, the firm has over $4 billion under management, composed of corporate and public funds, foundations, endowments, Taft-Hartley funds, and insurance companies.

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  • Debt and Deflation

    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. I have made the comment more than once that is it unusual for two major bubbles to burst and for the conversation to be all about rising inflation and not a serious problem with deflation.

    As Niels Jensen pointed out last week, the most important question that an investor can ask is whether we are in for deflation or inflation. And this week we read a well reasoned piece on deflation. This is one of the more important essays I have sent out. You need to set aside some time to absorb this one.

    Van Hoisington and Dr. Lacy Hunt give us a few thoughts 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....
  • Intelligence Guidance: The Situation in Egypt

    When protests started in Egypt last week, mainstream news outlets cried "democracy!" and compared the situation in Egypt to the Berlin Wall and Tienanmen Square. Meanwhile, STRATFOR (an intelligence company I've followed for years) spoke of a different possibility.  At the time it may have been counter-intuitive for most institutions to draw parallels to 1979 Iran, but my friend and the company's founder George Friedman produced an internal document that raised that possibility.   Days later, news outlets began asking questions about groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and realizing there could be other forces behind the unrest than simple calls for Western-style democracy.

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  • The Confidence Game

    This week’s Outside the Box is a little different. It’s a stroll down history lane and thoughts on confidence, from Grant Williams, in the form of an introduction to his letter Things that Make You Go Hmmm. Grant currently resides in Singapore, and I find him a very thoughtful read and a wonderful resource. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.

    And for those interested, I think I am scheduled to be on Marketplace on your local NPR Radio station on Tuesday, which is today for most readers. Good to be back home for a few days! And now, let’s think about confidence in a little different way.

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  • Want a New Cardiovascular System?

    This week’s Outside the Box is again a little unusual. Some of you will think, “There goes Mauldin again, dreaming of a brave new world of biotech.” Except this tine the brave new world is here. My friend Pat Cox of Breakthrough Technology Alert has written a piece for me on what he and I think is potentially one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the last few decades. Normally I don’t mention specific companies, but in this case we can’t talk about the breakthrough mentioning the company name. Disclosure: I own a small number of shares I bought over a year ago. This is one of a number of companies I am buying as part of my biotech holdings for the very long term. Do not chase this stock if it starts to go up. Be patient.

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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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  • 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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  • Euthanasia of the Economy?

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from my good friend and business partner Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London. Niels gives us an excellent summary of how QE has affected the global economy (and how it hasn't). I have found myself paraphrasing Niels all week.

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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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