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  • Peak Oil or Peak Energy? – A Happy Solution

    A consistent theme in this letter has been the connections between items that may seem to be far removed from each other but are actually linked at the very core. If you push on one end you get a reaction in what would seem to be the most unlikely spots. Today we explore the connection between the fiscal deficit and energy policy. Everyone in Washington is starting to “get religion” about wanting to fix the deficit, with serious thinkers on all sides acknowledging that there must be reform and a path to a balanced budget. Burgeoning healthcare and Social Security costs are rightly pointed to as the problem, and entitlement reform will soon be front and center.

    But the fiscal (government) deficit in the US cannot go away unless we also deal with the trade deficit. As we will see, it is a simple accounting issue, and one based on 400 years of accepted accounting principles. And dealing with the trade deficit in the US means working with our energy policy.

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  • The Morality of Chinese Growth

    This week I am at a conference in Houston. I must confess that I don't attend many of the sessions at most conferences where I speak. But today, the guys at Streettalk Advisors have such a great lineup that I am there for every session. But it's Friday and I need to write. The solution? This week you get a 'best of' letter. The best ideas I've heard and the best charts I've seen at this conference. Then we close with two short but very thoughtful essays from Charles Gave and Arthur Kroeber of GaveKal on 'The Morality of Chinese Growth.' Lots of charts and something to make you think. Should be a good letter.

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  • Earnings and Mr. Bear

    "The stock market is a voting machine in the short run and a weighing machine in the long run." - Benjamin Graham -- The voting part of the equation is tempered by fear and greed. It is largely emotional, although investors like to think of themselves as rational players. That emotion is driven by views of the future. If you can be confident of large and growing returns, you are less likely to be swayed by the erratic movements of a stock. But as confidence wanes? Well, that is the stuff that bear markets are made of. Because at the end of the day, what the market weighs is earnings and the ability of a company to reliably produce them. This week we look at what earnings are likely to be over the next year and see if we can discern what that suggests for the markets. We also take a look at the energy markets, the possibility of a further drop in the price of oil, and muse on what a sane energy policy for the world would look like. There is a lot to cover, but it should make for an interesting letter....
  • Whip Inflation Now

    President Nixon instated price controls on the 15th of August, 1971. Inflation was a little over 4% at the time. Price controls manifestly did not work (resulting in shortages of all sorts and a deep recession) and were rescinded a few years later. President Ford went to Congress with programs to fight inflation that was running closer to 10% in October of 1974, with a speech entitled "Whip Inflation Now" (WIN). He famously urged Americans to wear "WIN" buttons. That policy too was less than effective, and the buttons, in a history replete with silly gestures by governments, should stand on anyone's top ten list of such silly gestures. This week we look at the cost of what could be a renewed effort to Whip Inflation Now, not just here but in countries worldwide. Will Trichet in Europe raise rates even as the European economy seems to be slowing down? If you think inflation is bad in the US and Europe, take a peek at Asia. And I ask, "What will Ben do?" It should make for an interesting letter....
  • The Problem with the Euro

    Last week I wrote that we could see a drop in the price of oil as speculators seemed to be storing oil in very large tankers and "slow steaming" them to port in a bet that prices would rise. When everyone is on the same side of the trade, the time is right for a reversal. This is especially true when there is a large potential supply sitting on the sidelines....
  • $250 Billion in Subprime Losses?

    $250 Billion in Subprime Losses? Is the subprime mortgage market collapsing before our eyes, or did we avoid a disaster as Bear Stearns stepped up to the plate with $3.2 billion to help its ailing funds? As we will see from the data, the problems in the...