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  • The Dark Side of Deficits

    In the pre-crisis days, I used to write about things like P/E ratios, secular bull and bear markets, valuations, and all of the things we used to think about in the Old Normal. But what about those topics as we begin our trip through the New Normal? It's time to reconvene class and think through what might change and what will remain the same. I think this will be a fun read - and let me tip my hand. I come out on the side of a new secular bull that gets us back to trend - but not just yet. The New Normal has to have its turn first.

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  • The Best of Times

    What's a Fed to do? We get talk about tightening and taking away the easy credit, but we got the fourth largest monetization on record last week. This week we examine the elements of deflation, look at some banking statistics that are not optimistic, and then I write a reply to my great friend Bill Bonner about why it's the best of times to be young. I think you will get a few thought-provoking ideas here and there.

    But before we get to the main letter, I want to recommend a book to you. I am on a 17-day, 12-city speaking tour. It is rather brutal, but I did it to myself. However, one of the upsides of traveling is that I get quiet time on airplanes to read books. I am working my way through a very large stack of books on my desk. One that caught my eye - and I'm glad it did - is a book by Tom Hayes called Jump Point: How Network Culture is Revolutionizing Business. Hayes writes about how we are getting ready to experience a cultural change every bit as profound as the Industrial Revolution. He argues that as the 3 billionth person gets online sometime in 2011, it will shift the dynamic of how we interact as businesses and consumers. We get to 5 billion by 2015. The mind boggles.

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  • The Trend May Not Be Your Friend

    Two weeks ago I presented my thoughts on the current economic situation at my 6th Annual Strategic Investment Conference in La Jolla (co-hosted with Altegris Investments). The speech was well-received, at least to judge from the comment forms. So this week and next, we are going to revisit that talk (with a few edits). Let's start with a little set-up to explain the first few paragraphs.

    My speech was Saturday morning. On Friday, I wore a nice grey suit with a Leonardo tie. For those who know about Leonardo's, they are 'statement' ties. I should note that Tiffani picked the tie out for me about ten years ago and persuaded me to wear it. It took some getting used to. It is 16 silk-screened colors, bright blues and pinks and grays, the central feature of which is a very vivid parrot. It is not subdued.

    When my good friend George Friedman of Stratfor gave his speech on Friday, he commented rather derisively about my taste in ties, which got him a few laughs. This did not bother me too much since, while George is a brilliant geopolitical analyst, his sense of sartorial style is not exactly top-drawer. So now, let's jump into the speech....
  • Leverage Is an 8 Letter Word

    Leverage is an eight-letter word, which the markets now regard as twice as bad as the two four-letter words debt and pain (or fill in your own four-letter words). This week I try to give some insight into what is happening in the credit markets, some of it below the radar screen of most analysts. We will look at the potential for deflation and the Fed's response. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump right in. I talked with a friend who runs a collateralized loan obligation fund, or CLO. There are a lot of these funds in the Shadow Banking System. Typically they buy certain types of debt, with a lot of it in the bank loan space. In the old days of the last few years, banks would make loans to corporations and then sell them to CLOs and other institutions, making a spread on the loan and a profit on the servicing business. Some funds would typically leverage up somewhat and make a decent return....
  • Electing the Janitor-in-Chief

    This week we survey the economic landscape that the new president will inherit. It is a polite understatement to say that he will be getting a serious mess. In reality, the US goes to the polls this next Tuesday to elect a Janitor-in-Chief. He will face a task that rivals that of Hercules in cleaning out the Stygian stables (legendary huge stables that had not been mucked out for ten years). However, there are no convenient rivers at hand for a probable President Obama to redirect that will quickly be able to clean out the mess left in the stables of our economy. This will indeed be an Herculean task and one that will take most of the first term of the next administration. So, let's look at what will face the next president. It should make for an interesting, even if not optimistic, letter....
  • The Economic Blue Screen of Death

    This week I am in California giving two speeches to the Financial Planning Associations of San Diego and Orange County. This and next week's letters will be the broad outline of the speech. We will look at how the retreat of the American consumer will affect the stock market. Has the recent drop (can we say crash, gentle reader?) in stock market valuations given us an opportunity to find value? We look at some very powerful evidence that suggests that may be so. Then we look at the counter to that view. Are we at the bottom, or is there more pain? And given the current state of affairs, how should we then invest? Where do we put our money to work when the dust settles, as it surely will. As I noted above, this will be a two-part letter, finishing up next week. It will also print out a lot longer than normal as I have a lot of PowerPoint slides that are really important for you to see. A note to the 25% of my one million-plus readers who are outside the US: I am using illustrations from the US stock market to discuss timing and valuations, but the principles will translate to markets worldwide. In fact, considering that most stock markets worldwide are down even more than the US markets, they may be even more applicable. The time to become bullish on a lot of markets may be closer than we think. Let's jump right in....
  • Where Do We Go From Here?

    I have been writing for almost a year that the next shoe to drop on US banks would be commercial construction lending. Today we look at some hard numbers. We look across the pond to sort out the problems in Europe. We look at the consequences of the losses stemming from Lehman. Then we look at one of the more serious consequences of the banking crisis, one that will bring the crisis home to you. Finally, we look at what the various governments of the world must do in response. It may not be fun, but it should be interesting. And it is important. Feel free to forward this letter to anyone who asks why we not only need the bailout but will need even more coordinated government action....
  • Additional Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    We are entering the next stage of the credit crisis, and one which is potentially more troubling than what we have seen over the past year, absent some policy reactions by the central banks and governments world wide. The crisis was started by an intense run-up in leverage by financial institutions and investors world wide, investing in increasingly risky assets such as subprime mortgages and then the realization that leverage could hurt. The deleveraging process started to intensify last year about this time. The easy part of that process has been just about done. Now is the time for the really hard work. It will not be pretty. In this week's letter, we look at the process and think about its implications for the markets and the economy, and visit some data on the housing market and unemployment....
  • 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....
  • 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....
  • $1.6 Trillion in Losses and Counting

    It seems that with each passing month the estimates for losses in the international banking system keep rising. This time last summer the largest estimates (from credible sources), if memory serves me correct, were around $400 billion, give or take a few months. By the end of the year it was in the neighborhood of twice that. Then last quarter we saw estimates approaching $1 trillion. Last week, the number being broached was $1.6 trillion, by Bridgewater Associates, one of the top, and more credible, analytical firms in the world. In this week's letter we look at the implications of that projection, analyze recent lending patterns by banks, briefly touch on the implications of the recent unemployment numbers, and end with a few comments on the bear market. It will make for an interesting letter. Warning: remove sharp objects from your vicinity before reading....
  • More Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    There is so much that is happening each and every day as the Continuing Crisis moves slowly into month 8, so much news to follow, so many details that need to be followed up that it can get a little overwhelming. Where to begin? Maybe with a "minor" change of the rules on how we value assets, then a look at the proposed changes in regulations...
  • Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis Margin Clerks of the World, Unite! Where Do We Find New Sources of Credit? In Defense of Alan Greenspan What Now for Gold, Oil, Etc? Baseball, Mexico, and Travel Costs My essay in Outside the Box last Monday seemed to...
  • Stagflation and the Fed

    How Do You Spell Stagflation? Memo from the Fed: Inflation? What Inflation? The Fed Will Cut and Cut Again Damn the Inflation Torpedoes! Full Speed Ahead! Apple, Sprint, AT&T, and Going to the Dark Side This week's topic was inspired by a discussion...