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Outside the Box, February 2010

A Five-Step Guide to Contagion

February 22, 2010

I am in Tampa meeting with Raymond James Chief Investment Officer Jeff Saut, who graciously took us out on his boat yesterday in what I am told was the first good weather Florida has had in months. I need to get out like that more. It was good to take a weekend away with no computer. But I am back at it today, with your Outside the Box arriving on schedule.

We were all assured by Ben Bernanke that the subprime problem would be contained. In this week's Outside the Box, my good friend Todd...

The Meaning of Marjah

February 18, 2010

There is no lack of discussion about where we are right now - in terms of jobs, real estate, global economy, etc. Few get it right, and even fewer actually understand where we're headed. Once you find an information source that correctly predicts what's coming up, you hold on to it. For me, it's STRATFOR. It's not often that you find a news source with such a solid methodology.

Today I'm including a piece from STRATFOR on the Afghan war. It strikes me as one of their best pieces recently, and...

Is the Recession Over?

February 15, 2010

There is some debate about whether the recession is over. The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a non-governmental organization made up of economists, has a committee that meets and decides after the fact when recessions begin and when they end. Martin Feldstein, the former president of the NBER, focusing on the job market, said last November that "the current downturn is likely to last much longer than previous downturns ... We will be lucky to see the recession end in 2009."

I have...

February Economic Report

February 8, 2010

Before we get to this week's Outside the Box, a quick note about my writing on Greece in last Saturday's letter. I made the point that if Greece defaults it does not necessarily mean they have to leave the EU, any more than if Illinois defaulted they would have to leave the United States. Greece could still use the euro and life could go on. EXCEPT. The markets would no longer lend the Greek government money at anything close to a livable rate. Greece would be forced to balance its budget....

A Defensive Buildup in the Gulf

February 4, 2010

Sometimes when I read a newspaper article, it strikes me as a "He said, she said" game. If I'm going to make an informed decision, I need analysis - not opinions from two sides, each with their own motive. You can find quotes from "experts" anywhere, but they usually don't offer much insight, except into the agenda of the person quoted. For deeper insight, I turn to my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. STRATFOR publishes intelligence, not news. No journalists, no politicians - just analysts.

...

If PIIGS Could Fly

February 2, 2010

I wrote about Greece in last week's letter. Then I ran across this column in the Financial Times by my friend Mohammed El-Erian, chief executive of Pimco, and someone who qualifies to be introduced as one of the smartest men on the planet. It is short and to the point. (www.pimco.com)

Then, somehow my London partner, Niels Jensen of Absolute Return Partners found the time to write a letter while we were running around Europe. As we had a lot of conversations with some very key players, and a...