September 2008 - John Mauldin's Outside the Box

John Mauldin reads hundreds of articles, reports, books, newsletters, etc. and each week he brings one essay from another analyst that should stimulate your thinking. John will not agree with all the essays, and some will make us uncomfortable, but the varied subject matter will offer thoughtful analysis that will challenge our minds to think Outside The Box.

John Mauldin's Outside the Box

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    • Haste Makes Waste

      The purpose of Outside the Box is to present views which cause us to think through our basic assumptions. This week our old friend Michael Lewitt of Hegemony Capital Management gives us a view as to why the bailout bill going down may not be as bad as I think it might. There is much we agree on, however. And part of our agreement is that a deeper recession is in our future. Let me be clear. Muddle Through is now at risk. I have talked with my publisher, and for the next few weeks of The continuing Crisis, we are going to send more than one OTB per week, and I may also add some short commentary. These are extraordinary times, and I know a lot of you (as I can tell from phone and emails) are worried and are interested in analysis that is not biased with either a perma-bull or perma-bear stance. I will call it as I see it, as always, and forward you material from my best sources. That being said, we will get through this, one way or another. Sanity and clarity will return, as it always does after times of crisis. I wish you the best in your situation....
    • Observations on a Crisis

      This week we look at a very solid piece of analysis on the world economy from my friends and London business partners Niels Jensen and Jan Wilhelmsen of Absolute Return Partners ( I find it is quite useful to read the considered opinions of those from outside the US and particularly from people who have developed keen insight from years in the trenches. Niels and Jan are certainly in that category. The world economy is clearly out of balance and they point out where some of the opportunities and problems lie. I think you will find this edition of Outside the Box quite useful. If you care to, you can write them at [email protected]
    • The Russian Resurgence and the New-Old Front

      It's been a hell of a few weeks, so let's start with a little much-needed levity. Two friends, a Trader and an Investor, walk up to the roulette wheel in a casino. They watch a guy hogging the table hit on his first spin. Then his second. Third, boom. Four in a row! The guy has an enormous stack of chips which he lets ride again on a fifth spin. 00. He's wiped out and skulks off to the bar. The two friends are excited because now it's their turn. The Trader says he's going to follow exactly the same pattern as the guy they just watched, BUT he's going to pocket his money after four spins. The Investor tells him to hold off for a minute. He wants to first buy stock in the casino.... Like most good jokes, there's a kernel of truth. When everything is in turmoil, you can't focus on the instances; you have to focus on the underlying foundations. Roulette isn't about guessing red or black; it's about understanding statistics. Today in a Special Outside the Box, we look at some potential problems from Russia that could impact the US and Latin America. It comes from George Friedman's company, Stratfor, the source I rely on for my geopolitical analysis. Peter Zeihan is one of the very sharpest thinkers in George's shop, as you'll see. The basic definition of public capital markets in the US and Europe is fundamentally different than in a country like Russia. If you don't understand the geopolitical lens through which a state views its capital markets, then you're making roulette bets instead of investments....
    • The Fall of Lehman and The Terrible Lessons of Bear Stearns

      The weekend has brought us events that can only be described in large, over-the-top terms. The Fed agreeing to take equity on its balance sheet? How bad can things really be? Clearly much worse than most people thought last Friday. Moral Hazard has been re-introduced as Lehman is allowed to go down. I will admit to being surprised. I thought Paulson and Bernanke would put it in the too big too fail category. I think they did the right thing by refusing taxpayer money for a bailout, but it is clearly going to roil the credit markets for weeks and months. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts....
    • This Crisis Is Not Over

      What a momentous weekend. I was pounding the table about the need to move quickly on Fannie and Freddie in my last few letters, and especially this last letter. And then they did it. There are a lot of details that have yet to come out, and it is likely to be far more expensive the Savings and Loan crisis was for the US taxpayer, but it did get done. Hopefully, we can get some real regulation for part of our costs, as well as get rid of the implicit guarantees by US taxpayers so that something like this never happens again. The fact that it did was the fault of the regulatory environment and Congress. They fired the heads of Fannie and Freddie (with multi-million dollar parting gifts), but sadly, the truly responsible parties will be re-elected to perpetrate yet more frauds....
    • Solzhenitsyn and the Struggle for Russia's Soul

      As we search for "the" driver of financial markets, we look at all kinds of things. We pore over government statistics, company financial statements, and analyst research, trying to find that one nugget that will give us a glimpse of the future. Today, though, we're going to turn to literature. Because it's in Solzhenitsyn's vision of Mother Russia that we find an almost chillingly accurate roadmap of how Russia is likely to reemerge onto the global stage. When President Bush famously looked into Putin's eyes and saw his soul, what he saw - whether he knew it or not - was Solzhenitsyn's depiction of a true Russian leader. Read this obituary essay from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor. George puts Solzhenitsyn in historical context, using his life and writings to illustrate not just the evolution of the Russian/Soviet/Russian system but also the Western perception of Russia and what it says about future relations. It's uncannily ironic that Solzhenitsyn died just days before Russia forcefully punctuated its geopolitical prominence in going to war with Georgia. You can almost imagine Solzhenitsyn shrugging and asking, "What did you expect?" Over the Labor Day weekend, Russian President Medvedev used a press interview to lay out five points that will define Russian foreign policy going forward. Allow me to translate (loosely) from the Russian: "We're back."...