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  • Forecast 2014: The CAPEs of Hope

    South Africa's Cape of Good Hope is one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline anywhere in the world, where the warm Agulhas Current (also called the Mozambique Current), rushing down from the Indian Ocean, meets the cold Benguela Current, pushing up from Antarctica. The difference in water temperatures alone is a recipe for legendary storms, but the two opposing ocean currents just so happen to converge where the African Continental Shelf drops off into a deep abyss.

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  • A Lost Generation

    It is pretty well established that a tax increase, especially an income tax increase, will have an immediate negative effect on the economy, with a multiplier of between 1 and 3 depending upon whose research you accept. As far as I am aware, no peer-reviewed study exists that concludes there will be no negative effects. The US economy is soft; employment growth is weak – and yet we are about to see a significant middle-class tax increase, albeit a stealth one, passed by the current administration. I will acknowledge that dealing a blow to the economy was not the actual plan, but that is what is happening in the real world where you and I live. This week we will briefly look at why weak consumer spending is going to become an even greater problem in the coming years, and we will continue to look at some disturbing trends in employment.

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  • Skills, Education, and Employment

    It is graduation time, and this morning finds me swimming in a sea of fresh young faces as a young friend graduates, along with a thousand classmates. But to what? I concluded my final formal education efforts in late 1974, in the midst of a stagflationary recession, so it was not the best of times to be looking for work. It turned out that I had a far different future ahead of me than I envisioned then. But I would trade places with any of those kids who graduated today, as my vision of the next 40 years is actually very optimistic. With all the advances in healthcare, technology, and communications that have come and will come, they will get to embrace a world full of opportunity; and yet, this generation is starting out with more than just a minor economic handicap.

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  • The Unemployment Surprise

    The unemployment number surprisingly dropped to 7.8% last Friday, and the shoot-from-the-hip crowd came out in force. To say that the jobs report was met with skepticism would be a serious understatement. The response that got the most immediate airplay was ex-GE CEO Jack Welch (who knows a few things about making a number say what you want it to say) tweeting, "Unbelievable job numbers ... these Chicago guys will do anything ... can't debate so change numbers."

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  • A Graphic Presentation

    The US employment numbers came out this morning, and they were disappointing. But disappointing does not begin to describe the situation I read about today in Europe. I have just finished up with my conference in Carlsbad, California and am getting back to the room late. I have to get up in a few hours (4 AM is rather obscene) to fly to Tulsa to see my daughter graduate from university, but wanted to drop you a note as I normally do on Friday night. But given the time and the need for some sleep, tonight I will draw your attention to the writing of a few friends and some of the more interesting charts I saw at the conference. It will be a shorter letter than usual, but we will uncover a few real nuggets; and next week I will be back to a more normal writing schedule.

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  • It’s All About Jobs

    Today's employment numbers were decidedly soft, but the unemployment rate went down anyway, and that is about the best you can say. And this being a holiday weekend, it provides us an opportunity to look deep into the employment numbers, while we put off thinking about Spain for at least a week. And who knew that being an unmarried Asian-American in the US was a risk for unemployment? Plus a few other interesting items will make for an interesting letter.

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  • Where Will the Jobs Come From?

    Each month investors and politicians in countries all over the world obsess over the release of the monthly employment numbers. Even though these numbers are likely to be revised significantly from the original release, the markets can't help responding to the variations from the expected number. Why the focus on numbers that are likely to be proven wrong in the coming years? Because the single most important factor in the direction of an economy is employment. Consumer spending, personal income, tax revenue, corporate profits, and a host of other variables all swing on rising and falling employment.

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  • Who Took My Easy Button?

    Everyone knows by now that the US is facing difficult choices. Depending on what assumptions you use, the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare are between $50 and $80 trillion and rising. It really doesn’t matter, as there is no way that much money can be found, given the current system, even under the best of assumptions. Things not only must change, they will change. Either we will make the difficult choices or those changes will be forced by the market. And the longer we put off the difficult choices, the more painful the consequences.

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  • Time to Bring Out the Howitzers

    It is now common to use the termbazooka when referring the actions of governments and central banks as they try to avert a credit crisis. And this week we saw a coordinated effort by central banks to use their bazookas to head off another 2008-style credit disaster. The market reacted as if the crisis is now over and we can get on to the next bull run. Yet, we will see that it wasn't enough. Something more along the lines of a howitzer is needed (keeping with our WW2-era military arsenal theme). And of course I need to briefly comment on today's employment numbers. There is enough to keep us occupied for more than a few pages, so let's jump right in. (Note: this letter may print long, as there are a lot of charts.)

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  • Where Will the Jobs Come From?

    Where Will the Jobs Come From?
    Stupid Government Tricks
    Let’s Tax the Millionaires
    Kilkenny, Atlanta, DC, and Home

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  • It’s All About the Jobs… and Gold

    The Flat Earth (Employment) Society
    Let’s Do a Little Time Travel
    The Implications of an Older Workforce
    How Do We “Fix” the Employment Problem?
    Some Thoughts on Gold
    Europe, New York, Conferences, Etc.

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  • Kicking the Can Down the Road One More Time

    In This Issue:

    Kicking the Can Yet Again
    It’s Not Just Greece
    Who is Going to Buy that Debt?
    You Have to Admire the Commitment
    The Problem with US Employment
    Washington DC, Vancouver, NYC, Maine, and now Europe

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  • The Plight of the Working Class

    In This Issue:

    The Plight of the Working Class
    Can You Say Jobless Recovery?
    Drowning in Debt but Getting No Growth
    The Cancer of Debt
    New York, Portland and La Jolla

    Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
    Here I am, stuck in the Muddle Through Middle with you!
    –With thanks to Stealers Wheel

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  • A Random Walk Around the Frontlines

    In This Issue:

    An Improving Economy
    But Where Are the Jobs?
    Time for the Fed to Declare Victory and Go Home
    Home, Fed Friday, and Tokyo


    I am on yet another plane and writing, and I'll finish this letter in Phoenix. As I start, I am not sure of a theme for this week's letter, so (with a tip of the hat to my friend Burton Malkiel, who I will see at Rob Arnott's conference in a few months), today we do a Random Walk Around the Frontlines, surveying what's going on in the world. We'll start with the Fed and interest rates, look at inflation, and see how far we get. And I might get a little controversial, but long-time readers know that is not all that unusual.

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  • Forecast 2011: Better than Muddle Through

    It is time once again to throw caution and wisdom to the wind and actually make my 11th annual forecast. I have to admit this is the most stressful letter I write each year. I do at least 5-10 times more research and thinking about this issue than any other. On a positive note, this may be one of the more optimistic forecast letters I have done in a long time. But there are some asterisks, as always. We will survey the world, trying to peer through the fog of the future. There are some very interesting side trails we will want to explore. Did you know some events in Russia could have real ramifications for inflation in China, the US, and the world? I pay attention to the background details and bring them to you. So settle back as we tour the world.

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