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  • How Change Happens

    "To trace something unknown back to something known is alleviating, soothing, gratifying and gives moreover a feeling of power. Danger, disquiet, anxiety attend the unknown – the first instinct is to eliminate these distressing states. First principle: any explanation is better than none… The cause-creating drive is thus conditioned and excited by the feeling of fear …"

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  • Time to Row, or Sail?

    Note to readers: Due to internet connection problems from the Shadow Fed fishing camp in Maine, important information that John wanted to include in this week's letter did not get out in time for the original deadline, and so we are reposting the letter.

    A few weeks ago, Ed Easterling and I updated the work we published almost ten years ago about secular bear and bull markets in chapters 5 and 6 of Bull's Eye Investing. This week I am in Maine at the annual Shadow Fed fishing trip (for those of us whose invitation to Jackson Hole keeps getting lost in the mail). Ed has graciously agreed to do another piece with me on the earnings, or business, cycle, which is different in timing than the secular stock market cycle but is part of the total warp and woof of the markets. When you combine them, you get a much clearer picture of the markets.

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  • Gambling in the House?

    The latest scandal du jour seems to be about what is now called LIBORgate. But is it a scandal or is it really just business as usual? And if we don’t know which it is, what does that say about how we organize the financial world, in which $300-800 trillion, give or take, is based on LIBOR? This is actually just the second verse of the old song about derivatives, which is a much larger market. Which of course is a problem that was not solved by Dodd-Frank and that has the potential to once again create true havoc with the markets, whereas LIBOR can only cost a few billion here and there. (Sarcasm intended.)

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  • The Lion in the Grass

    "In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series of effects. Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen. The other effects emerge only subsequently;they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.

    "There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.

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  • The Beginning of the Endgame

    About this time two years ago I began to seriously work with Jonathan Tepper on our book Endgame: The End of the Debt Supercycle and How It Changed Everything. It came out the following March. I remember vividly that in November of that year, as crisis after crisis hit Europe, and the first of about 20 summit meetings which were supposed to solve the crisis was convened, that Jonathan and I worried that the book would not be out in time to actually catch the Endgame before it happened (at least in Europe).

    Ah, such naiveté from your humble analysts. While we predicted (in general) pretty much everything that has happened so far, from Greece to Spain to Italy, the problems with "austerity" in times of crisis, the even larger eventual problems of postponing the day of reckoning, etc., we now must stand back and shake our heads in awe and wonder at the ability of European leaders to kick the can down the road. Given the serious nature of the problems, it is amazing (to us at least) that they have been able to keep the wheels from coming off. In the face of the powerful centrifugal forces that should have torn Europe apart, we must pause and give serious thought to why they have not done so already.

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  • Bull’s Eye Investing (Almost) Ten Years Later

    It's been almost a decade since I co-authored with Ed Easterling of Crestmont Research some research in this letter that later became chapters five and six ofBull's Eye Investing. Although the ten-year anniversary of the book is actually 2013, the current vulnerabilities in the markets encouraged us to revisit the material a bit early, to prepare you for what lies ahead. Reflecting back to yesteryear gives us the opportunity to assess the accuracy of our insights.

    I am in Tuscany at the moment, watching the sun set over the Tuscan hills; so I will thank Ed for doing the heavy lifting in this letter while I get to relax, although there is so much going on and I am such a junkie that I am forced to get my current-events fix every day. I must say, the news certainly provides some very pure adrenaline rushes. But more on that at the end. For now we take the longer view of the stock market that I first wrote about at the end of the last century, and to which Ed added some real meat in early 2003.

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  • Daddy’s Home

    I have often said that when someone is appointed to be a member of the Federal Reserve, they are taken into a back room and given a complete DNA change. They simply are not like you and me once they step out of that room, with the exception of Fisher and Lacker and a few colleagues who seem to be able to resist the infection. This week we will look at the recent action of the Fed and use that as a springboard to think about how effective Fed policy can be in an age of deleveraging. And if there is time, we simply must look at Europe. I started this letter in Texas and will finish it this morning in Spain.

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  • The Bang! Moment is Here

    "Perhaps more than anything else, failure to recognize the precariousness and fickleness of confidence– especially in cases in which large short-term debts need to be rolled over continuously – is the key factor that gives rise to the this-time-is-different syndrome. Highly indebted governments, banks, or corporations can seem to be merrily rolling along for an extended period, when bang– confidence collapses, lenders disappear, and a crisis hits.

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  • Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

    It is simply hard to tear your eyes away from the slow-motion train wreck that is Europe. Historians will be writing about this moment in time for centuries, and with an ever-present media we see it unfold before our eyes. And yes, we need to tear our gaze away from Europe and look around at what is happening in the rest of the world. There is about to be an eerily near-simultaneous ending to the quantitative easing by the four major central banks while global growth is slowing down. And so, while the future of Europe is up for grabs, the true danger to global markets and growth may be elsewhere. But, let’s do start with the seemingly obligatory tour of Europe.

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  • Dr. Frankenstein’s Europe

    "Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race."

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  • Waving the White Flag

    For quite some time in this letter I have been making the case that for the eurozone to survive, the European Central Bank would have to print more money than any of us can now imagine. That the sentiment among European leaders was that they were prepared for such a move was clear – except for Germany, which is haunted by fears of a return to the days of the Weimar Republic and hyperinflation.

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  • A Little Bull’s Eye Investing

    Bull's Eye Investing was the book that really helped establish this letter. It dealt with a host of investing ideas, secular market cycles, value investing, alternative investing, and more. It is still in print some nine years later and has had a very positive response. Today I can share that I have taken that material, updated it, and written a new book, part of the Little Book series done by Wiley, called The Little Book of Bull's Eye Investing – Finding Value, Generating Absolute Returns, and Controlling Risk in Turbulent Markets.

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  • All Spain All the Time

    Last Monday I was in Paris and was asked to do a spot on CNBC London. I arrived at the studios an hour early due to a misunderstanding of the time zones, so while trying to catch up on the news I listened to CNBC. I had just written about Spain in last week's letter and guessed that was what they wanted to talk to me about, but for the full hour before I got on it seemed like every guest wanted to talk about Spain. When I had my turn and indeed got the Spain question, I smiled and noted that we were now in a period when it would be "All Spain All the Time," for at least the next year. I should have noted that there would be brief interruptions where we glanced at Portugal and perhaps Ireland, but the real focus would be on Spain.

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  • A Random Walk Through the Data Minefields

    This Friday finds me sleeping later than I planned … in the lounge at the airport in Stockholm, on my way to Paris. To the great applause of readers all over the world this may be the shortest letter in 12 years. I will write here and on the plane and quit when I land so I can be with friends this evening. No time for exhaustive research, so we will march through random topics that caught my attention this week until it is time to hit the send button. In no particular order, let's jump in.

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  • The Answer We Don’t Want to Know

    2012 will be the 11th time in my short life that I will be able to participate in the choosing of a president of the United States. While it may just be me, it seems like each and every election is cast as the most important election of our time and a defining moment for the American Experiment. The future of the Republic was being weighed in the balance, and only the proper outcome (which would of course be the election of the candidate you supported) would assure its survival. This week we will continue our meditations on the economic choices that confront the world, this time focusing on the US.

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