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  • Pushing on a String

    This week the Fed altered their end-of-meeting statement by just a few words, but those words have a lot of meaning. It seems they are paving the way to a new round of quantitative easing (QE2), if in their opinion the situation warrants it. A trillion dollars of new money could soon be injected into the system. Tonight we explore some of the implications of a new round of QE. Let's put our speculation hats on, gentle reader, as we are moving into uncharted territory. There are no maps, just theories, and they don't all agree. (Note: this letter may print a little long, as there are a lot of charts.)

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  • The Multiplication of Money

    The economy grew in the fourth quarter by 5.9%, the most in years. The adjusted monetary base is exploding. Bank reserves are literally through the roof. The Fed is flooding money into the system in an effort to get banks to lend. An historically normal response by banks (to increase lending) would have been massively inflationary, causing the Fed to stomp on the brakes. Despite raising the almost meaningless discount rate (as who uses it?), this week Ben Bernanke assured Congress of an easy monetary policy, with rates remaining low for a long time. Many ask, how can this not be inflationary?

    This week we look at some fundamentals of money supply and the economy. If you understand this, you won't get misled by people selling investments, telling you to buy this or that based on some chart that shows whatever they are selling to be what you absolutely have to have to protect your portfolio and/or make massive profits. And we touch on a few odds and ends. And yes, I can't resist, a few more thoughts on Greece. It will make for an interesting letter, as I'm writing on a plane to San Jose. And it will print a bit longer than usual, because there are a lot of charts.

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  • The Rise of A New Asset Class

    This week I am in Maine on vacation with my son, and next week is my daughter Tiffani's wedding, so for the next two weeks I am going to send an updated version of a speech I have been giving the past few months on what I think is the likely potential for the rise of a brand new asset class. It is too long to be sent as one letter, so we will start with the first part today and finish with the second part next week. This first part can be read as a standalone letter. I think we're at a watershed moment, what Peter Bernstein defines as an "epochal event," with the very order of the investment world changing as it did in 1929, in '50, in 1981, where a number of things came together - it wasn't just one thing but a number of events happening that conspired to change the nature of what worked in the investment world for the next period of time. It took most people a decade after 1981-2 to recognize that we were in a different period, because we make our future expectations out of past experience. It's very hard for us to recognize a watershed moment in the process. We're going to look back in five or ten years and go, "Wow, things changed." As we will see, it's going to be a change that's going to cost people in their portfolios and in their retirement habits....
  • 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....
  • Lies and Other Statistics

    If we are to believe the government statistics, the GDP of the US grew by 0.6% in the first quarter of this year. And unemployment actually fell. And there were only 20,000 job losses. This week we do a quick review of why the statistics can be so misleading. We also look at why I was wrong about the housing number last week, and I highlight what could be a very serious Black Swan lurking in the agricultural bushes....
  • Sea Change at the Fed

    Sea Change at the Fed "Of his bones are coral made: Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea change Into something rich and strange" (The Tempest - Shakespeare) The term "sea change"...
  • The Mortgage Pig in the Python

    The Mortgage Pig in the Python Inflation is Baked into the CPI Numbers The Mortgage Pig in the Python Housing Starts Look to Stop A Few Thoughts on the Recent Credit Crisis Half of All Hedge Funds Gone? Golf, Weddings, and Europe With the economy increasingly...
  • Capital Keeps Falling on My Head

    Introduction Are we overbought and overvalued? Maybe. Is inflation coming under control? Maybe not. Did housing construction rebound last month? No. The only rebound was in the statistics. (I know readers will be shocked to learn that some statistics...
  • Party Like It's 1999

    Introduction The stock market liked both the retail sales and the inflation numbers that were released over the last two days, with the Dow posting successive all-time highs. This week we look behind the headlines and a little deeper into those numbers...