Browse by Tags

Thoughts From The Frontline

Blog Subscription Form

  • Email Notifications
    Go

Syndication

Have You Seen This?

Archives

  • Are We There Yet?

    Those of us who have taken young children on long road trips to somewhere they wanted to go are familiar with the plaintive question 'Are We There Yet?' As a nation and indeed the developed world, it is not unreasonable to be asking 'Are We There Yet?' about the road to recovery. The NBER, those self-appointed economists who are the official keepers of the score sheet of recessions and recoveries, have yet to tell us we are out of recession. Yet the economy is growing. Kind of. Today we look at the most recent data on second-quarter US GDP (which came out this morning), and even though it is backward-looking data, we'll see what we can discern that might help us chart the direction of the future. And then, if there is time, I'll highlight what is a very serious and growing problem for our state and local governments. There is a lot to cover and so, with no 'but firsts,' let's dive in.

    ...
  • 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...

    ...
  • Muddle Through, R.I.P?

    I first wrote about the Muddle Through Economy in 2002, and the term has more or less become a theme we have returned to from time to time. In 2007 I wrote that we would indeed get back to a Muddle Through Economy after the end of the coming recession. If you Google the term, at least for the first four pages more than half the references are to this e-letter. I get a lot of flak from both bulls and bears about being either too optimistic or too pessimistic. Being in the muddle through middle is comfortable to me.

    Last week I expressed my concern that we as a country are taking actions that could indeed 'Kill the Goose' of our free-market economy. I rightly got letters asking me how I could maintain Muddle Through in the face of that letter. I have given it a lot of thought and research. How likely are we to muddle through in the face of $1.5 trillion and larger deficits? Today we take another look at Muddle Through. It should be interesting.

    ...
  • 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.)

    ...
  • The Endgame

    Deflation? Stimulus? Deleveraging? Recession? A soft depression? A return to a bull market? With all that is going on, how does it all end up? When we get to where we are going, where will we be? In chess, the endgame refers to the stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board. The line between middlegame and endgame is often not clear, and may occur gradually or with the quick exchange of a few pairs of pieces. The endgame, however, tends to have different characteristics from the middlegame, and the players have correspondingly different strategic concerns. And in the current economic endgame, your strategy needs to consist of more than hope for a renewed bull market....
  • The Economy Gets a Margin Call

    As long-time readers know, my daughter Tiffani and I are interviewing millionaires for a book we will be writing called Eavesdropping on Millionaires. This has been one of the more personally impacting projects of my life, as the stories we hear are so very provocative. I hope we can transfer to readers of the book at least half of the impact we are personally experiencing. But at the end of each interview, we let the interviewee ask me questions. Often, they are along the line of 'Do you really think we will Muddle Through?' Sometimes they ask in need of assurance and sometimes they simply think that my stance is somewhat naïve. It is something of an irony that I am called a perma-bear in some circles and a Pollyanna in others. The Muddle Through middle has been lonely of late. So, this week I take another look at my Muddle Through stance. We look at some of the recent data on unemployment and retail sales, think about the implications of a falling trade deficit and a rising US government deficit, speculate about the potential for a serious stock market rally, and also comment on the potential for a GM bailout. There is a lot to cover, so let's jump right in. ...
  • A New Asset Class, Part Two

    Last week's letter was the first part of a speech I have been giving on what I think will be the rise of a new asset class. This week will be the second and final part. Let me set up this section with a few paragraphs from last week's letter and then a quick summary. If you want to read the entire letter from last week, you can go to the website archives. But first, a quick note. George Friedman from Stratfor was at my daughter's wedding rehearsal dinner last night. He had just found out about the invasion of South Ossetia by Georgia and was keeping track of the events over his Blackberry from his correspondents on the ground in Georgia....
  • 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....
  • The Muddle Through Question

    A few weeks ago I asked for readers to send me questions and said I would try and answer them while I was in Switzerland. Some of them were quite good and have given me ideas for whole newsletters but will require a lot of research. But a lot of them fell into two basic camps. This week we look at a number of questions from readers about my thoughts on the Muddle Through Economy....
  • More Thoughts on the Continuing Crisis

    There is so much that is happening each and every day as the Continuing Crisis moves slowly into month 8, so much news to follow, so many details that need to be followed up that it can get a little overwhelming. Where to begin? Maybe with a "minor" change of the rules on how we value assets, then a look at the proposed changes in regulations...
  • Muddle Through and Your Long Term Returns

    Muddle Through Gets A Boost Honey, I Vaporized My Customers Consumer Spending is Going, Going...South The Boomers Break the Deal Today we drop back to take a look at the economy and its long term effect on our portfolio returns. I am in Orlando this week...
  • What's That Hissing Sound?

    The BS from the BLS Help Me, Obi-John A New Program for All Investors 2,500,000 "Lost Jobs" and Counting Taking a Long-Term Perspective Leverage in Reverse Gear What's That Hissing Sound? A Response from Tiffani The official number for employment...
  • The Muddle Through Fed

    The Muddle Through Fed Risks to the Downside Consumers Gone Wild Leaving the Ballpark After All these Years This week the Fed offered us their forecasts for 2008-10 for the economy, inflation and employment. We will look at some of the details which I...
  • 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...
  • The Return of the Muddle Through Economy

    Introduction With each new slice of economic data the past few weeks, the bond market decided that the economy was getting softer and the potential for the Fed to start cutting rates was growing. Rates have been drifting down for the past few weeks. And...