August 2008 - Thoughts From The Frontline

This highly acclaimed blog is primarily focused on private money management, financial services, and investments. John Mauldin demonstrates an unusual breadth of expertise, as illustrated by the wide variety of issues addressed in-depth in his writings.

Thoughts From The Frontline

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  • Who Holds the Old Maid?

    When is the credit crisis going to end? How will we know? The credit crisis is getting ready to enter its second phase. This week we examine what that means, and what the economic environment will look like over the coming quarters. We also (sadly) re-visit Freddie and Fannie and examine the risks that they put into the markets. Risks, by the way, that were sanctioned by regulators and encouraged by a Congress that took in hundreds of millions in campaign contributions and lobbying fees. We (the US taxpayer) have taken on a huge risk and potential loss for that paltry few hundred million. Sadly, those who encouraged that risk will by and large be voted back into office rather than ridden out of town on a rail (an old US custom, rather barbaric, but one which should maybe be revived for this purpose). It should make for an interesting letter as we count down the last days of summer....
  • It's more than Fannie and Freddie

    Yet another crisis confronts us, as we will have to deal with the aftermath of a rather large number of bank failures over the next year, which is likely to overwhelm the ability of the FDIC to insure your bank deposits. Today we look at the banking system, the FDIC, and Freddie and Fannie. It's not pretty, but as realists we must know what we are facing. But first, I just want to say I am glad that Richard Russell is doing fine. For those who do not know, he suffered a mild stroke last Friday. I talked to him yesterday, and he was a little tired but doing better. He has decided to cut back his writing schedule and relax a bit more, which is a good thing. At 84, he has written a daily (and sometimes lengthy) commentary and has been writing the monthly Dow Theory Letter since 1958. He is the dean of newsletter writers. He has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about the markets....
  • Whatever Happened to Decoupling?

    The old mantra was that if the United States sneezed, the rest of the world would catch a cold, as the US was seen as the main driver of world growth. That was then. Economists and analysts began to argue that China and the developing markets were starting to provide a consumer base for the world. And Europe's new and growing markets would be able to stave off problems from abroad and stay on their own growth path. The world, we were assured last year, would not suffer from problems in the US economy. Today, we look at evidence that this might not quite be the case. And if it is not, those who look for diversification in global markets may be disappointed. Also, I quickly look back at my January forecasts and feel it may be time for a mid-course correction. It seems I may have been a little too optimistic. It should make for an interesting letter....
  • A New Asset Class, Part Two

    Last week's letter was the first part of a speech I have been giving on what I think will be the rise of a new asset class. This week will be the second and final part. Let me set up this section with a few paragraphs from last week's letter and then a quick summary. If you want to read the entire letter from last week, you can go to the website archives. But first, a quick note. George Friedman from Stratfor was at my daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner last night. He had just found out about the invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia and was keeping track of the events over his Blackberry from his correspondents on the ground in Georgia....
  • The Rise of A New Asset Class

    This week I am in Maine on vacation with my son, and next week is my daughter Tiffani's wedding, so for the next two weeks I am going to send an updated version of a speech I have been giving the past few months on what I think is the likely potential for the rise of a brand new asset class. It is too long to be sent as one letter, so we will start with the first part today and finish with the second part next week. This first part can be read as a standalone letter. I think we're at a watershed moment, what Peter Bernstein defines as an "epochal event," with the very order of the investment world changing as it did in 1929, in '50, in 1981, where a number of things came together - it wasn't just one thing but a number of events happening that conspired to change the nature of what worked in the investment world for the next period of time. It took most people a decade after 1981-2 to recognize that we were in a different period, because we make our future expectations out of past experience. It's very hard for us to recognize a watershed moment in the process. We're going to look back in five or ten years and go, "Wow, things changed." As we will see, it's going to be a change that's going to cost people in their portfolios and in their retirement habits....