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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  • When the Future Becomes Today

    First, I want to express my shock and quiet despair over the events in Dallas this weekend. The shock comes from this actually happening in Dallas. If anything, Dallas police are accommodating and work with the community as well as any police force in the country. But this event is a reminder that tragedies don’t just happen somewhere else. All it takes is one or two lone actors, and the world of somewhere else lands on your doorstep. This sad spectacle is part and parcel of what we will be discussing today: a world where common sense and reasonable discourse are breaking down, leaving us with social outcomes that only a few years ago would have seemed impossible. As Buffalo Springfield sang, “There’s something happening here; what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

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  • Generational Chaos Ahead

    I had that thought in mind when I asked Neil Howe to be our kick-off speaker at the Strategic Investment Conference and invited Niall Ferguson to wrap it all up three days later. As historians, they both gaze back through time to identify patterns and draw lessons. They were the bookends who framed the wide-ranging discussions in between. They have both been very influential in helping me develop my understanding of the world.

    As I said two weeks ago, the experts I brought to the conference, even the ones I expected to be raging bulls, were mostly bearish. The surprise was Niall Ferguson, who has become the new raging bull. That’s pretty much the one thing you can count on at my conference: surprises! But you can see that even Niall is deeply concerned about much of what is happening in the world.

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  • Hot Summer Economic Weirdness

    As I wrote last month, the protected/unprotected schism increasingly drives both politics and economics. Maybe it has always driven them, and we’re just now recognizing it. In either case, we find ourselves in increasingly weird circumstances. I certainly see parallels with the 1930s. And a number of those circumstances will collide with one another over the next few months.

    My intention this week had been to revisit some of the powerful ideas that were discussed at my Strategic Investment Conference two weeks ago. But events are looming in Europe that absolutely demand our attention. The powerful macroeconomic and investing ideas will still be there next week – and at the end of today’s letter I will discuss an informal poll I’ve conducted on the timing of the next recession.

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  • Life on the Edge, Continued

    At the conclusion of my conference yesterday, I did a number of interviews and then made my way a few miles home, collapsed into my favorite chair, and thought back over the myriad of ideas, the whirlwind of friends, and the just general all-around fabulous time I had experienced over the past four days.

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  • Welcome to the Pale Gray Dot

    The aging of the world’s population is already having profound effects on the global economy, and it is only getting started. Today we’ll consider those changes, drawing partly from research conducted by the intrepid volunteers for the demographics chapter of my new book.

    (This letter will print a bit longer because of the large number of charts and graphics. And I apologize for the late delivery of what is supposed to be a weekend letter. I was somewhat distracted by life. My intention is to be better in the future.)

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  • The Fed Prepares to Dive

    This week’s letter has two parts. The first deals with some of the practical aspects of negative rates and what the Fed is really signaling. The second part, which is somewhat philosophical, deals with why the Fed will institute negative rates during the next recession. This letter is longer than usual, but I think it’s important to understand why we will see negative rates in the world’s reserve currency (and the currency in which most global trade is conducted). This policy trend is truly a foray into unexplored territory.

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  • $100 Trillion Up in Smoke

    The ongoing oil price collapse is having a severely negative impact on the wealth of those who own oil reserves. The numbers, as you will see below, are almost incomprehensibly big. They are so big, in fact, that many analysts have simply tuned out. The attitude seems to be, “These numbers blow up my models, so I will ignore them.”

    Today we’ll stop dancing around the truth and call the oil collapse what it is: global wealth destruction of epic proportions.

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  • The Gig Economy Is the New Normal

    An already-confusing employment environment grew even more complicated this past week. Many readers responded to my “Crime in the Jobs Report” letter with their own stories. Some confirmed what I wrote, while others disputed it. Some of the stories I read from readers who are stuck far from where they want to be in this job market were very moving. I think everyone agrees the labor outlook is uncertain. I sense a lot of nervousness, even from those who have secure jobs that pay well. In today’s letter, I’m going to respond to some of the observations and data that came in this week on employment.

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  • Unhealthy, Not Wealthy, and Far from Wise

    In this week’s letter we’re going to take another look at healthcare trends. Healthcare is roughly 20% of the economy and every bit as impactful as the energy and food sectors.

    Two years ago this week I wrote “The Road to a New Medical Order” with my friend and personal physician, Dr. Mike Roizen of the Cleveland Clinic. That letter was an attempt to calmly discuss the Obamacare launch and the changes it would bring. Rereading it now, I see that we missed some points but were on target with others. (Mike is the Chief Wellness Officer and head of The Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. He is one of the premier antiaging doctors of the world. He has sold over 12 million books (including numerous bestsellers), has written 165 peer-reviewed publications, holds 14 patents, and serves on all sorts of FDA committees and boards. His awards are numerous. He has often appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show with “Dr. Oz.”)

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  • Recession Watch

    I think it’s pretty much a given that we’re in for a cyclical bear market in the coming quarters. The question is, will it be 1998 or 2001/2007? Will the recovery look V-shaped, or will it drag out? Remember, there is always a recovery. But at the same time, there is always a recession out in front of us; and that fact of life is what makes for long and difficult recoveries, not to mention very deep bear markets.

    The problem is that our most reliable indicator for a recession is no longer available to us. The Federal Reserve did a study, which has been replicated. They looked at 26 indicators with regard to their reliability in predicting a recession. There was only one that was accurate all the time, and that was an inverted yield curve of a particular length and depth. Interestingly, it worked almost a year in advance. The inverted yield curve indicator worked very well the last two recessions; but now, with the Federal Reserve holding interest rates at the zero bound, it is simply impossible to get a negative yield curve.

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  • Balloons in Search of Needles

    I love waterfalls. I’ve seen some of the world’s best, and they always have an impact. The big ones leave me awestruck at nature’s power. It was about 20 years ago that I did a boat trip on the upper Zambezi, ending at Victoria Falls. Such a placid river, full of game and hippopotamuses (and the occasional croc); and then you begin to hear the roar of the falls from miles away. Unbelievably majestic. From there the Zambezi River turns into a whitewater rafting dream, offering numerous class 5 thrills. Of course, you wouldn’t want to run them without a serious professional at the helm. When you’re looking at an 8-foot-high wall of water in front of you that you are going to have to go up (because it’s in the way); well, let’s just say it’s a rush.

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  • Merkel Opens the Gates

    It wasn’t a shock that the Federal Reserve did not raise rates. Even the most inside of insiders said the odds were at most 50-50. Those Wall Street Journal reporters who have an “inside ear” at the Federal Reserve all indicated there would be no rate increase. The IMF and the World Bank were pounding the table, declaring that it was inappropriate to raise rates now, and although most FOMC members give lip service to the fact that Federal Reserve policy is to be based solely on domestic considerations, global concerns may well have played a role in their decision.

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  • Weapons of Economic Misdirection

    This week’s letter will deal with the problems of determining what GDP really is, and I’ll throw in a few quick remarks on what the recent GDP revision means for the Fed and whether they’ll raise rates.

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  • Riding the Energy Wave to the Future

    Today I’ll tell you about some big shifts in the energy industry. These shifts are about as positive as can be, unless you need high oil prices to run your country. In the long run, these changes are bullish for the whole world, which I think this will surprise many of you. And though we’ve been used to thinking about energy and technology as two different facets of modern life, today they are inextricably linked.

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  • When China Stopped Acting Chinese

    Much of the world is focused on what is happening in Greece and Europe. A lot of people are paying attention to the Middle East and geopolitics. These are significant concerns, for sure; but what has been happening in China the past few months has more far-reaching global investment implications than Europe or the Middle East do. Most people are aware of the amazing run-up in the Shanghai stock index and the recent “crash.” The government intervened and for a time has halted the rapid drop in the markets.

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