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John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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  • Hoisington Quarterly Review and Outlook – Second Quarter 2015

    In today’s Outside the Box, my good friend Lacy Hunt of Hoisington Investment Management reminds us that since the 1990-91 recession, the 30-year Treasury bond yield has dropped from 9% to 3%, a downward move nearly identical to the decline in the rate of inflation, which fell from just over 6% in 1990 to 0% today. Therefore, Lacy says, “(I)t was the backdrop of shifting inflationary circumstances that once again determined the trend in long-term Treasury bond yields.”

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  • Shovelin’ Schmitt Against the Tide

    There is an obsession in the marketplace over the date when the Fed will once again begin to raise rates. As if another 25 basis points is going to change the economics on tens of trillions of dollars of investments. But as we reflect on the issue more deeply, it becomes obvious that a minor bump in the fed funds rate will indeed change a great deal of economics all over the world.

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  • Why the Fed Is So Wimpy

    I’m in Washington DC today at a conference sponsored by an association of endowments and foundations. They have a rather impressive roster of speakers, so I have found myself attending more sessions than I normally do at conferences. Martin Wolf and David Petraeus headline a very thoughtful group of managers and economists, accompanied by an assortment of geopolitical wizards. I’ve learned a lot.

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  • Musical Chairs at the FOMC

    “You can’t tell the players without a program. Get your program here!” yelled the stadium vendors of my youth. In today’s Outside the Box I bring you an excellent piece of Fed watching by Nouriel Roubini and colleagues, a “program” of the new Fed members and where they rank on the hawk-dove scale. They point out that, with a new chairperson (Janet Yellen) and vice-chair (Stanley Fischer), and with higher than normal turnover on the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) – over the past year, 75% of the FOMC’s membership has changed – the Fed’s need for clear communications with regard to monetary policy and forward guidance is greater than ever.

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  • Notes to the FOMC

    Janet Yellen, the new Fed chair, has her admirers and her detractors. One unabashed admirer is my good friend David Zervos, Jefferies' chief market strategist, who during the past several months has taken to hollering "Dammit Janet, I love you!" He was at it again yesterday:

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  • WTF?

    It is a regular ritual for major US businesses: the end-of-the-quarter conference call in which the CEO dissects what just happened and gives us some insight on what to expect for the future of the company. My good friend Rich Yamarone, the chief economist at Bloomberg, is the creator of the Bloomberg Orange Book, a compilation of macroeconomic anecdotes gleaned from the comments CEOs and CFOs make on their quarterly earnings conference calls. He not only sits and listens to them present their views, he also picks up the phone and talks to them. He is very clued in on what's happening in the real world of business.

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  • Euthanasia of the Economy?

    Today's Outside the Box comes to us from my good friend and business partner Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners in London. Niels gives us an excellent summary of how QE has affected the global economy (and how it hasn't). I have found myself paraphrasing Niels all week.

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  • A Limited Central Bank

    This week’s Outside the Box is unusual, even for a letter that is noted for its unusual offerings. It is a speech from last week by Charles I. Plosser, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia at (surprisingly to me) the Cato Institute’s 31st Annual Monetary Conference, Washington, DC.

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  • How Fed Policy Has Devastated Three Generations of Retirees

    Retirement can be an unpleasant prospect if you’re not ready for it. This week’s Outside the Box is in in-depth report on Americans' retirement prospects, which comes to us from Dennis Miller, a columnist for CBS Market Watch, and editor of Miller’s Money Forever. It's not just the Boomers who are trying (often in vain) to retire this decade; it's also Gen-Xers, who are the most indebted generation (and the one that saw their assets depreciate the most in the Great Recession). The Millennials haven't been spared, either; in fact, over time they may be the hardest-hit, since near-zero interest rates are keeping them from compounding their savings in the early years of their careers, when the power of compounding is greatest. In addition, the difficult post-college job market and sky-high levels of student loans have kept most Millennials out of the stock market, and they are far less likely than previous generations to open a retirement savings account.

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  • What Has QE Actually Accomplished?

    As I’ve highlighted over the last few months, I’m pretty well convinced that there is something more fundamental going on. And that even bigger changes may be coming in the near future. This week we look at two pithy analyses of the likely effectiveness of Fed tapering and what it might portend.

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  • Following the Fed to 50% Flops

    John Hussman is one of the savviest investing minds I know, and so I never miss his Weekly Market Comment. This week he wrote about an interesting disconnect between what investors believe about "fighting the Fed" (i.e., don't do it) and the reality of S&P 500 returns, and I've made that piece today's Outside the Box.

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  • Fifty Trades of Grey

    I get so much broker research that I must admit I don’t usually read it or do so really fast. But the headline above caught my eye, and the piece turned out to be such a fun read, as well as truly thought-provoking and insightful, that I’ve made it today’s Outside the Box. The personalization of a “relationship” with the Fed gives us a decidedly delicious way to think about QE!

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  • A Little Chronic Deflation

    One of the questions I (and other analysts) get asked most frequently is whether I think there is deflation or inflation in store for the US. My quick answer is "Yes." A brief answer is that we are in a deflationary period and have been for over 30 years, but like all cycles it will come to an end. A great deal of the "when" depends on how the US deals with its deficit following the election. If we put the US on a realistic glide path to a balanced budget (over time) then that deflationary impulse will last longer than most observers think, even given QE3+++. If we do not deal with the issue, and try once again to kick the can to the next election, inflation could be a very real problem.

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  • What If the Fed Has It All Wrong?

    As long-time readers know, I get a large volume of research sent my way. I can't get to all of it every week, but I really do try. And today's Outside the Box, from a new (to me) source, hooked me from the first few paragraphs.

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  • Joan Sees Red

    It seems like the whole world is expecting Ben and Mario to ride in and save the day with yet more stimulus. But to what effect, I wonder. Is a short-term rise in the market a cure for the basic disease of too much debt? And, as today’s Outside the Box hilariously points out, it can even make things worse.

    Joan McCullough is perhaps my favorite curmudgeon. She writes so freely and with such style and feeling, but she also gives us such exquisite bits of information that no one else seems to find. Today, as I sat in a Denver hotel, I read her and just had to laugh a few times (mostly to keep from crying). She can be a tad hard on sensitive nerves, but we are all adults here, right? Be forewarned, though, that while she may pokes at someone you don’t like today, tomorrow she may be pointing out the issues with your guy. She is an equal-opportunity skewer.

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