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Thoughts From The Frontline

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  • Thinking the Unthinkable

    Last week, in the first part of my annual forecast, I suggested that 2011 would be better than Muddle Through, with GDP growth in the US north of 2.5%. World GDP growth should be even better. This week we look at what I see as the real downside risks to that prediction. Oddly enough, the risks are not in the US but on the other side of both our oceans, in Europe and China. Plus, we will visit a few other items, assuming we have space (Bernanke’s recent speech just screams for some comments).

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  • The Problem with Pensions

    Sadly, I find myself with more than enough time to compose yet another Thoughts from the Frontline in an airport, as a flight booking error has me at JFK for six hours instead of fishing in Maine. Details for those interested or amused at the end. But it does allow me to offer you a peek into a very sobering report on how badly underfunded public pension are. The situation is worse than you think. Then we will close with a eye-opening report on China from the gracious Simon Hunt, who is allowing me to reprint his latest missive in toto. You really want to read this one. And we start with this rumor from Reuters, just in. Read this and weep.

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  • The Threat to Muddle Through

    If the Chinese allowed the renminbi to rise, would that make the USA better off? That is the contention of a cabal of critics from Senators to Nobel laureates. Paul Krugman wants to see a 25% tariff on Chinese goods. Today we examine that idea, and look at the real problems that we face. If only it were so easy. The numbers just don't add up. The fault, dear Brutus...

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  • The Statistical Recovery

    A lot of bullish commentators are talking about a recovery being in the works, and they may very well be right. But it is not going to look like any recovery worthy of the name. This week we look at what I will call The Statistical Recovery. But first, we take a look at what China is doing, as we continue our look at the rest of the world and ponder if it is time to brace ourselves for an extended bout of the Muddle Through Economy*. (And yes, there is an asterisk.)

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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....
  • The Swiss Start Their Engines

    This week we look at the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan is going through major upheavals, and they will have consequences all over the world. And what are those wild and crazy Swiss central bankers up to? It's time for another round of competitive devaluation. And of course I have to look at the recent Barron's cover story, about how stocks are cheap. There's a lot to cover. But first, and quickly, I just wanted to take a moment and remind you to sign up for the Richard Russell Tribute Dinner, all set for Saturday, April 4 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego - if you haven't already. This is sure to be an extraordinary evening honoring a great friend and associate of mine, and yours as well. I do hope that you can join us for a night of memories, laughs, and good fun with fellow admirers and long-time readers of Richard's Dow Theory Letter. The room is filling up and there will be a very large crowd....
  • Time for a Reality Check

    It is not just the US that is in recession. The world is slowing down, and rapidly. This week we quickly survey the rest of the world, and then come back to the US. We follow up with the implications for corporate earnings worldwide, and specifically address my speculations about earnings forecasts for 2009. Let's start with some charts from my friend Simon Hunt, out of London. The following chart shows World Merchandise Export Values and World Industrial Production falling off a cliff. This is the worst such period since the end of World War II. And as the data we will examine next indicates, it is likely to get worse....
  • Whatever Happened to Decoupling?

    The old mantra was that if the United States sneezed, the rest of the world would catch a cold, as the US was seen as the main driver of world growth. That was then. Economists and analysts began to argue that China and the developing markets were starting to provide a consumer base for the world. And Europe's new and growing markets would be able to stave off problems from abroad and stay on their own growth path. The world, we were assured last year, would not suffer from problems in the US economy. Today, we look at evidence that this might not quite be the case. And if it is not, those who look for diversification in global markets may be disappointed. Also, I quickly look back at my January forecasts and feel it may be time for a mid-course correction. It seems I may have been a little too optimistic. It should make for an interesting letter....
  • The Return of Muddle Through

    The Return of Muddle Through The dollar reaches new lows. The housing market shows no sign of a bottom. Oil almost touches $84 before backing off. Interest rates go up after the Fed cuts. So naturally the stock market keeps climbing. But then, consumer...
  • Do Trade Deficits Matter?

    Introduction "I don't know whether change will come with a bang or a whimper, whether sooner or later. But as things stand now, it is more likely than not that it will be a financial crisis rather than a policy foresight that will force change...