Economic Analysis

15 Surprises for 2015

Outside the Box

December 31, 2014

It’s that time of year when people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions and investment planning for the future. It’s also the time of year when analysts feel more or less compelled to offer up forecasts. My friend Doug Kass turns the forecasting process on its head by offering 15 potential surprises for 2015 (plus 10 also-rans).  But he does so with a healthy measure of humility, starting out with a quote from our mutual friend James Montier (now at GMO):

(E)conomists can't forecast...

The US Dollar and the Cone of Uncertainty

Thoughts from the Frontline

December 22, 2014

Currently we have an international monetary non-system. Nobody has to follow any rules. Everybody does what they consider is in their own short-term best interest. The real difficulty is: What is in their short-term interest – for example, following ultra-easy monetary policy – could well backfire somewhere. It might be not in their long-term best interest. And as the easy monetary policy influences the exchange rates, it influences other countries. Almost every country in the world is in...

The Burning Questions For 2015

Outside the Box

December 18, 2014

Louis Gave is one of my favorite investment and economic thinkers, besides being a good friend and an all-around fun guy. When he and his father Charles and the well-known European journalist Anatole Kaletsky decided to form Gavekal some 15 years ago, Louis moved to Hong Kong, as they felt that Asia and especially China would be a part of the world they would have to understand. Since then Gavekal has expanded its research offices all over the world. The Gavekal team’s various research arms...

Oil, Employment, and Growth

Thoughts from the Frontline

December 16, 2014

Last week we started a series of letters on the topics I think we need to research in depth as we try to peer into the future and think about how 2015 will unfold. In forecasting US growth, I wrote that we really need to understand the relationships between the boom in energy production on the one hand and employment and overall growth in the US on the other. The old saw that falling oil prices are like a tax cut and are thus a net benefit to the US economy and consumers is not altogether...

How the Rising Dollar Could Trigger the Next Global Financial Crisis

Outside the Box

December 11, 2014

This week’s Outside the Box continues with a theme that I and my colleague Worth Wray have been hammering on for some time: the very real potential for a rising dollar to trigger the next global financial crisis.

We are concerned about the consequences of multi-speed economic growth around the world and the growing divergence between major central banks. In our opinion, if these trends persist, they likely mean (1) a major US dollar rally, (2) a rapid unwind of QE-induced capital flows to...

Macroeconomics Finally Gets Interesting

Thoughts from the Frontline

December 7, 2014

“The future is already here – it's just not very evenly distributed.”

– William Gibson, Hall of Fame science fiction writer

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...

The World’s Dumbest Idea

Outside the Box

December 4, 2014

In today’s Outside the Box the redoubtable James Montier of GMO lifts his lance to prick the underbelly of the Mighty SVM. (That’s Shareholder Value Maximization, for you newbies.) “The world’s dumbest idea” (among many candidates in the world of finance), says James, citing none other than “Neutron Jack” Welch in support.

After noting that taking on SVM “is a little like criticizing motherhood and apple pie,” James sets right to work, tracing the monster’s birth to an editorial by Milton...

Is Bitcoin the Future?

Thoughts from the Frontline

November 30, 2014

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...

Stray Reflections

Outside the Box

November 26, 2014

Today’s Outside the Box is special, because I’m about to give you a preview of things to come at Mauldin Economics. For months now I have been saying to my partners that we need to develop a service for the professionals who read me – the financial advisors, portfolio managers, family offices… you know who you are. And I’m excited to tell you that we are very close to making this service a reality. It will be called Mauldin Pro, and it will feature global macro and geopolitical research and...

On the Verge of Chaos

Thoughts from the Frontline

November 23, 2014

“Great powers and empires are, I would suggest, complex systems, made up of a very large number of interacting components that are asymmetrically organized, which means their construction more resembles a termite hill than an Egyptian pyramid. They operate somewhere between order and disorder – on “the edge of chaos,” in the phrase of the computer scientist Christopher Langton. Such systems can appear to operate quite stably for some time; they seem to be in equilibrium but are, in fact,...