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  • Some Thoughts on Market Timing

    I am neither a market timer nor the son of a market timer. I left my office in the Texas Rangers ballpark this year, and they went to the World Series. I bought Dallas Cowboys season tickets for the first time in 50 years, as they went down in flames. But I do know a few very good timers, and they are sending out warnings. Today, we look at a few of these, as it might pay to hedge some of your equity portfolio as we go into the New Year. I also answer some questions as to my view of the municipal bond market, given the 60 Minutes report of last week. The answers may surprise you. And as we approach the end of the year, I suggest a place where your help is most needed. I will try to keep it shorter, as there are more important things at this time of the year than the markets.

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  • Between Dire and Disastrous

    The news is somewhat 'All Greece, All the Time,' but most of the pieces miss the more critical elements, and in today's letter we will look at what I think those are, as well as at the important point that Greece is a precursor of a new era of sovereign risk. Plus, we glance at a few rather silly recent comments from economists. It will make for a very interesting discussion.

    A few weeks ago I mentioned my friend Sir Walt Ratterman, who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake. Long-time readers know that every Christmas I ask you to make a donation to Knightsbridge and projects that Walt runs. You have been very generous over the years. Tragically, they have found Walt's body. For those interested, I will provide a few details about this true hero, toward the conclusion of the letter.

    Before we get into the meat of the letter, I want to give you a chance to register for my 6th (where do the years go?!) annual Strategic Investment Conference, cosponsored with my friends at Altegris Investments. The conference will be held April 22-24 and, as always, in La Jolla, California. The speaker lineup is powerful. Already committed are Dr. Gary Shilling, David Rosenberg, Dr. Lacy Hunt, Dr. Niall Ferguson, and George Friedman, as well as your humble analyst. We are talking with several other equally exciting speakers and expect those to firm up shortly.

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  • When the Fed Stops the Music

    Last week we delved into the problems of uncertainty that face us, and make forecasting for 2010 problematical. Will the government actually increase taxes as much as they say with unemployment still likely to be at 10%? Or will cooler heads prevail? Will such an increase cause a recession? Will the markets anticipate the affect of such a major increase in advance? How will the mortgage market react when the Fed stops buying mortgage securities at the end of March? There are so many things in the air, and today we explore more of them, as I continue to (perhaps foolishly) try and peer into what is a very cloudy crystal ball.

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  • The Age of Deleveraging

    This is the season when pundits feel compelled to make annual forecasts. I will make mine, as I traditionally do, in the first letter of January. But already we have seen a wide range of forecasted outcomes. Are we going to grow at 5-6% or at 1-2% or dip back into recession? Why such disparity? I think part of the reason is a basic disagreement on the nature of the just-lapsed recession. Today we explore that issue. Then I point you to a way to help those who are desperately in need and only wish they had our problems. For those interested, I enclose a picture of my new granddaughter.

    And finally, I start the process of getting ready, after ten years, to actually buy some stocks. Yes, it is true. Am I throwing in the towel and becoming a bull, or do I just see an opportunity? Stay tuned.

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  • The Law of Unintended Consequences

    Rules have consequences. And sometimes they have unintended consequences. If I told you that the US government was going to give multiple tens of billions of taxpayer dollars to hedge funds and private investors, you would justifiably not be happy. I think the word angry would come to mind. But that is exactly what is happening, as a result of rules that were written for a time and place seemingly long ago and far, far away. Further, we are looking at potentially much larger sums being lost in the bank bailout (can we say hundreds of billions?), a reduced lending capacity at banks and, in general, a worsening of the very problems at the core of the crisis. The good news is that it can be fixed, but the authorities need to get a sense of urgency. As Steve Forbes writes today in the Wall Street Journal, Obama is continuing with the worst of Bush's policies, making the crisis far worse than it should be. It is as if we are giving all 13-year-old kids a 'F' in math because one kid failed....
  • I Meant to Do That

    The Fed has taken interest rates to zero. They have clearly started a program of quantitative easing. What exactly does that mean? Are we all now Japanese? Is the Fed pushing on a string, as Japan has done for almost two decades? The quick answer is no, but the quick answer doesn't tell us much. We may not be in for a two-decades-long Japanese malaise, but we will experience a whole new set of circumstances. In what will hopefully be a shorter holiday version of the e-letter, I will tackle these questions and more....
  • The Slow Motion Recession Re-visited

    It was only five years ago that the central bankers of the world, and especially the Fed, was worried about deflation. Ben Bernanke was introduced to the world at large with his famous helicopter speech about how the Fed could deal with a deflationary environment. Who would have thought that what passed as humor to a group of economists would be taken so seriously by the rest of the world? Today the worry on the mind of investors and central bankers is inflation. It is causing havoc with the markets. In this week's letter, we look at whether we should be worried about inflation, take a mid-year check on the economy, muse on the malaise in the stock market and offer a very contrarian possibility for a positive shock to the world. It should make for a thought-provoking letter....
  • Whither the Price of Oil?

    Why has the price of oil risen so much in the past few months? Is it a supply and demand issue as some believe; or is it because of an out-of-control futures market driven by the proliferation of commodity index funds and rampant speculation, as everyone tries to get in on the rise in commodity prices? This is a very complex issue, with a lot of emotion attached to it....