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Outside the Box, June 2009

A 20-Year Bear Market?

June 29, 2009

Long time readers know that I am a huge fan of the work of Neil Howe. His book, The Fourth Turning, was one of the seminal pieces of my reading over the last 30 years. And it has turned out to be stunningly prophetic. Uncomfortably so. A roughly 80 year cycle has been repeating itself for centuries in the Anglophile world, broken up into four generations or turnings. We have begun what Howe called many years ago The Fourth Turning.

Neil Howe is the co-author, with the late William Strauss, of...

A Tale of Two Depressions

June 22, 2009

This week's Outside the box looks at some very interesting research done by two economic historians, Barry Eichengreen of the University of California at Berkeley and Kevin O'Rourke of Trinity College, Dublin They give us comparisons between the Great Depression and today's downturn. They continue to update their data from time to time, the link to their work is at http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3421. I have not previously heard of www.voxeu.org, but it is a collection of the work of...

Iranian Elections, Israel and the United States

June 18, 2009

Dear Friends,

In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.

The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked...

Fear for a Lost Decade

June 15, 2009

Before we get into this week's Outside the Box, let me give you a few pieces of data that came across my desk this morning, which will help set the stage for the OTB offering.

Fitch (the ratings agency), in a downgrade of yet another 543 mortgage-backed securities of 2005-07 vintage, gives us the following side notes: "The home price declines to date have resulted in negative equity for approximately 50% of the remaining performing borrowers in the 2005-2007 vintages. In addition to continued...

History lesson for economists in thrall to Keynes

June 8, 2009

There is a debate in academic circles on the lessons of the current economic crisis. While most ivory tower debates are of little concern to our daily affairs, this debate should concern you, as it will inform those who hold central bank and political power. Remember, there is no playbook of rules for what to do in deflationary, deleveraging recessions. They are making it up as they go along.

Today we have a short essay by Niall Ferguson published last week in the Financial Times. It speaks...

The Geography of Recession

June 4, 2009

Dear Friends:

One of the first things you learn about analyzing a company is how to dissect a balance sheet. What assets and liabilities can be deployed by a company to create equity over time? I've enclosed a fascinating variant on this process. Take a look at how STRATFOR has analyzed the "geographic balance sheets" of the US, Russia, China, and Europe to understand why different countries' economies have suffered to varying degrees from the current economic crisis.

As investors, it's...