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Thoughts From The Frontline

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  • Oil, Employment, and Growth

    Texas has been home to 40% of all new jobs created since June 2009. In 2013, the city of Houston had more housing starts than all of California. Much, though not all, of that growth is due directly to oil. Estimates are that 35–40% of total capital expenditure growth is related to energy. But it’s no secret that not only will energy-related capital expenditures not grow next year, they are likely to drop significantly. The news is full of stories about companies slashing their production budgets. This means lower employment, with all of the knock-on effects.

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  • Where’s the Growth?

    It’s been more than five years since the global financial crisis, but developed economies aren’t making much progress. As of today, the United States, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom have all regained their pre-crisis peaks in real GDP, but with little else to show for it.

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  • Growth

    As I begin my 15th year of writing Thoughts from the Frontline – some 700-odd newsletters plus 400–500 editions of Outside the Box, 6 books, and scores of special reports – I decided to take a random walk back through some of my writings (and your comments!). With some glaring and notable exceptions that I would like to take off the internet (but won’t because to do so seems somewhat intellectually dishonest), the body of work has held together pretty well. My writing style has matured and so has my thought process – or at least it seems so to me. Writing this letter has been the best personal educational tool I have ever experienced, enriching my life far more than I have probably enriched yours. I’ve done my 10,000 hours. Plus. No college, no course or seminar, could provide me with the wide range of materials I’ve studied.

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  • Looking at the Middle Kingdom with Fresh Eyes

    One of the few consensus ideas that I took away from the Strategic Investment Conference is that China has the potential to become a real problem. It seemed to me that almost everyone who addressed the topic was either seriously alarmed at the extent of China’s troubles or merely very worried. Perhaps it was the particular group of speakers we had, but no one was sanguine. If you recall, a few weeks back I introduced my young colleague and protégé Worth Wray to you; and his inaugural Thoughts from the Frontline focused on China, a topic on which he is well-versed, having lived and studied there. Our conversations often center on China and emerging markets (and we tend to talk and write to each other a lot). While I’m on the road, Worth is once again visiting China in this week’s letter, summing up our research and contributing his own unique style and passion. I think regular TFTF readers are going to enjoy Worth’s occasional missives and will want to see more of them over time. Now, let’s turn it over to my able young Cajun friend.

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  • Forecast 2014: The Human Transformation Revolution

    It is that time of the year when we peer into our darkened crystal balls in hopes of seeing portents of the future in the shadowy mists. This year I see three distinct wisps of vapor coalescing in the coming years. Each deserves its own treatment, so this year the annual forecast issue will in fact be three separate weekly pieces.

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  • The Case for Going Global Is Stronger Than Ever

    In This Issue:

    The Case for Going Global Is Stronger Than Ever
    The US Markets Are Still In Trouble
    Undercapitalization
    Emerging Markets Still Undervalued
    Global Capital Shift Is Accelerating
    The Biggest Growth Will Be in the Most Obvious Places (and Sectors)
    Conventional Diversification Won’t Cut It Any Longer
    Risks (and there are plenty)
    Maine and QE3, Operation Twist, etc.?

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  • An Excerpt from Endgame

    In This Issue:

    The Burden of Lower Growth and More Frequent Recessions
    Three Structural Changes
    Lower Trend Growth
    Thailand, Phoenix, and Japan


    Tonight (Thursday) I am flying to Thailand and will 'lose' my normal Friday writing day, so I am going to give you a preview of my new book, Endgame, out and in the bookstores next month. This is the beginning of chapter four, and it stands alone quite nicely. It will print out a little longer than normal, as there are a lot of graphs. My co-author Jonathan Tepper and I deal with why there will be slower growth, more volatility, and more frequent recessions in our future.

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  • The Frog in the Frying Pan

    Tonight I am in Venice, but I have arranged for a special edition of Thoughts from the Frontline, written by Jonathan Tepper of Variant Perception, a research firm in London. I have been corresponding with Jonathan for some time, and we have had some solid, and lately quite frequent, conversations. I am very impressed with this young man, whose perceptions and insights I find quite thoughtful. We are working hard together to finish a book that will be called The End Game, which we hope to have out this fall. It deals with the end of the debt supercycle in the developed world and the consequences for economies around the globe. Depending on where you live, the investment implications can be very different. The book will be very global in scope, and our intention is to make it so simple even a politician can understand. In countries all over the world, difficult choices lie ahead. We hope to give people a framework for making those choices and understanding the consequences. Our situation is not pretty, but ignoring those choices would be the worst choice of all.

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  • There’s a Slow Train coming

    The question before the jury is a simple one, but the answer is complex. Is the US in a 'V' shaped recovery? Are we returning to the old normal? A great deal hinges on the answer, and this week we look at some of the evidence before us.

    But first, a follow-up thought to last week's letter. I wrote about why countries can reduce their private debt, reduce their public debt or run a trade deficit, but not all three at the same time. If a country wants to see its government run a fiscal surplus (or small deficit) and at the same time its private citizens want to reduce their leverage (common desires throughout the developed world), it must run a trade surplus. That's a simple accounting statement.

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