Thoughts From The Frontline

This highly acclaimed blog is primarily focused on private money management, financial services, and investments. John Mauldin demonstrates an unusual breadth of expertise, as illustrated by the wide variety of issues addressed in-depth in his writings.

Thoughts From The Frontline

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  • Shoot the Dog and Sell the Farm

    Greece is again all the buzz in the media and on the commentary circuit. If you’re like me, you are suffering terminal Greece fatigue. You just want Greece and its creditors to “do something already” rather than continually coming to the end of every week with no resolution, amid finger-pointing and dire warnings from all sides about the End of All Things Europe – maybe even the world.

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  • Public Pensions: Live and Let Die

    I am not sure if my heart was ever that much of an open book, but I like to think I’m still relatively young. Nevertheless, I must admit that sometimes I want to “give in and cry.” This is especially so when I look at our nation’s public pension funds.

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  • The People’s Republic of Debt

    The economic miracle that is China is unprecedented in human history. There has simply been nothing like it. Deng Xiaoping took control of the nation in the late ’70s and propelled it into the 21st century. But now the story is changing. Those who think that all progression is linear are in for a rude awakening if they are betting on China to unfold in the future as it has in the past.

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  • Cleaning Out the Attic

    Three weeks ago I co-authored an op-ed for the Investor’s Business Daily with Stephen Moore, founder of the Club for Growth and former Wall Street Journal editorial board member, currently working with the Heritage Foundation. Our goal was to present a simple outline of the policies we need to pursue as a country in order to get us back to 3–4% annual GDP growth. As we note in the op-ed, Stephen and I have been engaging with a number of presidential candidates and with other economists around the topic of growth.

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  • World War D—Deflation

    The flippant answer to all those questions is “Yes.” And that can be the correct answer as well, but it depends on what your time frame is and what tools you use to measure the markets and inflation. One of the newer members of the Mauldin Economics team is Jawad Mian, who writes a powerful global macro letter from his base in Dubai. He has been making the case for the “end of the deflation trade” (or more properly the return of a reflationary period) and the knock-on effects that would cause. Longtime readers know that I am in the secular deflation camp and ask me why there’s such a seeming difference my views and Jawad’s.

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  • The Third and Final Transformation of Monetary Policy

    The law of unintended consequences is becoming ever more prominent in the economic sphere, as the world becomes exponentially more complex with every passing year. Just as a network grows in complexity and value as the number of connections in that network grows, the global economy becomes more complex, interesting, and hard to manage as the number of individuals, businesses, governmental bodies, and other institutions swells, all of them interconnected by contracts and security instruments, as well as by financial and information flows.

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  • Living in a Free-Lunch World

    The world has been on a debt binge, increasing total global debt more in the last seven years following the financial crisis than in the remarkable global boom of the previous seven years (2000-2007)! This explosion of debt has occurred in all 22 “advanced” economies, often increasing the debt level by more than 50% of GDP. Consumer debt has increased in all but four countries: the US, the UK, Spain, and Ireland (what these four have in common: housing bubbles). Alarmingly, China’s debt has quadrupled since 2007. The recent report from the McKinsey Institute, cited above, says that six countries have reached levels of unsustainable debt that will require nonconventional methods to reduce it (methods otherwise known as defaulting, monetization; whatever you want to call those measures, they amount to real pain for the debtors, who are in many cases those least able to bear that pain).

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  • Never Smile at a Crocodile

    As I sit here on Friday morning, beginning this week’s letter, nonfarm payrolls have just come in at a blockbuster 295,000 new jobs, and unemployment is said to be down to 5.5%. GDP is bumping along in the 2%-plus range, right in the middle of my predicted Muddle Through Economy for the decade. US stocks are hitting all-time nominal highs; the dollar is soaring (especially after the jobs announcement); and of course, in response, the Dow Jones is down 100 points as I write because all that good news increases the pressure for a June rate hike. Art Cashin pointed out that, with this data, if the FOMC does not remove the word patient from its March statement, they will begin to lose credibility. The potential for a rate increase in June is back on the table, but unless we get another few payrolls like this one, the rather dovish FOMC is still likely to wait until at least September. Who knows where rates will be end of the day, though? Anyway, what’s to worry?

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  • Debt Be Not Proud

    Kicking the debt relief can down the road is going to require a great deal of dexterity. The Greeks haven’t helped their cause with their abysmal record of avoiding taxes and their rampant, all-too-easily-observed government corruption, including significant public overemployment.

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  • The Eurozone: Collateral Damage

    Now we’re watching another Greek drama that could have significant unintended consequences – far beyond anything the market has priced in today. Then again, maybe not. Maybe the market is right this time. When we enter unknown territory, who knows what we will find? Fertile valleys and treasure, or deserts and devastation? Today we look at the situation in Europe and ponder what we don’t know. Greece provides a wonderful learning opportunity.

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  • The Swiss Release the Kraken!

    If you want evidence that central bankers play by their own rules, regardless of what they say or what conventional wisdom tells us, last week’s action by the Swiss National Bank should pretty much fill the bill. My friend Anatole Kaletsky, in a CNBC interview not long after the announcement, quipped (with a completely straight face) that just as James Bond has a license to kill, central bankers have a license to lie.

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  • A Five-Year Global Financial Forecast: Tsunami Warning

    It is the time of the year for forecasts; but rather than do an annual forecast, which is as much a guessing game as anything else (and I am bad at guessing games), I’m going to do a five-year forecast to take us to the end of the decade, which I think may be useful for longer-term investors. We will focus on events and trends that I think have a high probability, and I’ll state what I think the probabilities are for my forecasts to actually happen. While I could provide several dozen items, I think there are seven major trends that are going to sweep over the globe and that as an investor you need to have on your radar screen. You will need to approach these trends with caution, but they will also provide significant opportunities.

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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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  • Macroeconomics Finally Gets Interesting

    Since I began writing this letter some 15 years ago, I’ve always done an annual forecast letter, generally in the first week of January. That letter is typically the most-read issue of the year, and I spend more time thinking about it than any other letter. I typically take the last week of the year off from writing just to concentrate on my research, and I often begin to compile my reading material the first week in December, which the calendar tells us is now. Helping me this year will be my associate Worth Wray and a few members of the Mauldin Economics team, and of course my many friends and readers.

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  • Is Bitcoin the Future?

    Bitcoin is a topic of discussion almost everywhere I go. My introduction to Bitcoin came when I was speaking at a gold conference in Palm Springs and three bright-eyed, bushy-tailed college students approached me with a video camera and asked for my thoughts on Bitcoin. Noting my confusion, they began to evangelistically espouse the virtues of Bitcoin and tell me how it would save us from the evils of the Federal Reserve. I kept from rolling my eyes (you do want to encourage passion in the young) and mentioned a meeting that I had to go to – at that very moment as it turned out.

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