November 2010 - 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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  • Recessions are on the Margin

    And the data out over the last few weeks tells us it is getting better. Does this take us out of the double-dip woods, even as the Fed is lowering its forecast? And what is a recession? Yes, we all know it's when the economy doesn't grow, but we are in a rather unique economic environment, this time. Maybe things are getting better, but is it enough to get us back on the road to full employment?

    Let's start off with what is going right. We had a slate of news over the past few weeks that was good. The ECRI weekly Leading Index, after some ugly downtrends, is showing signs of turning around. We have had small increases each week since October 15, and the annualized growth rate of the index is now only -3.1%, having increased for 12 weeks. Its recent low was in July. Yes, I know that a large part of that growth is in the financial sector, as the stock market is up and interest rates are low, but it does suggest that 2011 should not be a recession year.

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  • O Deflation, Where is Thy Sting?

    The CPI was out this week, and it showed a continued drop in inflation. There were those who immediately pointed out that this vindicated the Fed's move to QE2. We have to get ahead of this deflation thing, don't we? Well, maybe, depending on how you measure inflation/deflation. This week we look deep into the BLS website on inflation to see just exactly what it is we are measuring, and then take a walk down Nostalgia Lane. But first we look at what I think we can call The Sputtering Economy, because that will tie into our inflation discussion.

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  • First, Let's Lower the Bar

    China's currency is rising ever so slowly against the dollar. But is that hurting China? We will look at a very interesting chart and some research. And then we'll gain some more insight into why the employment numbers seemed to surprise. I guess if you lower the bar, it's easier to jump over. I also deal with the pushback from last week's Outside the Box! And Ireland is on my radar. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump in.

    I start this week's letter on a flight from Cleveland (where I was at the Cleveland Clinic meeting with my good friend and doctor Mike Roizen (of Oprah and the various 'YOU' books with Mehmet Oz) on some non-health-related business, and we talked last night about the state of health care. Mike keeps pointing out that much of our health-care cost comes from chronic diseases that are either directly or partially lifestyle choices. And he is right. The data shows it. Smoking, overeating, lack of exercise - all contribute to our health-care bills. And health care was on my mind.

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  • Thoughts on Liquidity Traps

    I am in London finishing my new book, The End Game, which will be out after the first of the year, as soon as Wiley can make it happen. Working with my co-author, Jonathan Tepper, we are making good progress. We intend to quit (a book like this is never finished) tomorrow afternoon.

    I am going to beg off from personally writing a letter this week, but will give you something even better. Dr. Lacy Hunt offers us a few cogent thoughts on the unemployment numbers. The headline establishment survey came in much better than expected, but the household survey was much weaker. In addition, Dr. John Hussman wrote a piece last week that I thought was one of his best, on liquidity traps and quantitative easing, and that's included here, too. We are embarking on a course through uncharted waters. No one (including the Fed) has any idea what the unintended consequences will be.

    I remarked a few weeks ago that the Fed is throwing an inflation party and not sure whether anyone will come. Last night at dinner, Albert Edwards of Societe Generale noted that not only do they not know whether anyone will come, they do not know what they will do if they do come, how much they will drink, or when they will leave.

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