I am in Minnesota this morning doing a speech, but do have a very good candidate for this week’s Outside the Box. Tony Boeckh just published a piece by George Magnus on demographics and the markets that I think is very thought-provoking. Demographics is something I think about a lot and you should too. I will let Tony do the introduction of George.
Have a good week. My goal is to write this Friday’s letter a little early so that I can get in some fishing time. And when you look at today’s ISM number, look past the headline number, which is just fine, and look at the weakness in the leading indicators. New orders declined by 5 points to 53.5, its lowest level since June 2009. Also, imports slowed noticeably, which is a bad omen for domestic demand. Overall, the ISM index suggests that real GDP and factory output slowed early this quarter.
Your concerned about the lack of growth analyst,
Much of the world is focused on the next 100 days—what Obama is going to do. That's important. But today in a special Outside the Box from my good friend George Freidman of Stratfor We will look out a bit further George is just about to release his latest book, The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. (Even pre-release it's already at #11 on Amazon's non-fiction bestseller list!) Here's my quick summary; and to cut to the chase, it's just fascinating.
What reads like a geopolitical thriller gives a thought-provoking glimpse into what the world will look like in the coming century. George's strength is his ability to take geopolitical patterns and use them to forecast future events, sometimes with startling and counterintuitive results.
For example, he forecasts:
- By the middle of this century, Poland and Turkey will be major international players
- Russia will be a regional power - after emerging from a second cold war
- Space-based solar power will completely change the global energy dynamic
- The border areas between the US and Mexico are going to be in play again, like 150 years ago
- Shrinking labor pools will cause countries to compete for immigrants rather than fighting to keep them out
I confess when George first told me about these ideas, I raised an eyebrow. But after reading the book, and going through the analysis, I find myself sometimes nodding in agreement and other times not being sure what I was reading. But like all the analysis reviews I do, I pay as much attention to the methods, the logic, and the arguments as the conclusions. Do that, and what seems hard to believe all of a sudden makes sense.
Don't let short-term fears blind you to long term opportunities. George's company, Stratfor, is my source for this kind of geopolitical analysis on an on-going basis. I've included the full introduction to the book below; and I heartily recommend that you click here for a special offer on a Stratfor Membership that includes a copy of George's upcoming book.
Can the credit crisis get any worse? In this week's Outside the Box my London partner Niels Jensen shows that it indeed can. Banks, and mainly European banks, have large exposure to emerging market debt of all types through both sovereign, corporate and individual loans. Just as banks have had to write down large losses from the subprime crisis and other related problems, next will come a wave of potential losses from yet another source. Niels then goes on to give us a look the size and problems with hedge fund deleveraging. Altogether, this is a very interesting letter and one that is written from a non-US point of view that I think you will find instructive.
Really hear what I'm about to tell you. The center of gravity of the world economic system has moved from New York to Washington. Let me illustrate what I mean so you understand just how profound this is. Banks used to compete against banks. US carmakers competed against each other and the Japanese. And the New York financial markets told you how they're doing against each other.
Understand what's happening now. The US Treasury has become the only "customer" that matters. The Treasury is now the customerâ€”and investor -- with the $750+ billion checkbook. The Treasury is now the "investment banker" of last resort, arranging and financing mergers. Banks are competing against insurance companies for their slice of the bailout pie. Chrysler and GM (and the Michigan Congressional delegation) are looking to Washington, not Goldman or Merrill, to facilitate a merger. This is a seismic shift.
As investors, we have to start looking at the world in a completely different way, and getting our information from different sources. A company's 10-K is almost irrelevant if all it includes is financial statements and market outlooks. What matters now are the "exogenous" factors: government guarantees of the commercial paper market, currency interventions, direct capital infusions, etc. And how does a company describe in its Management Outlook that "Yes, our company is too big to fail."
In this environment, it's more important than ever to read unbiased geopolitical intelligence and analysis of government moves, and that's what my friend George Friedman at Stratfor offers. I'm enclosing below his team's Fourth Quarter Forecast. George's team analyzes US government policy as well as the moves that are being taken by central banks and governments around the world as the private sector gets taken public all across the globe. You will not be able to understand market moves if you don't understand who the real movers are now.
I'm sending you Stratfor's Fourth Quarter Forecast, and I strongly encourage you to join Stratfor and get access to all their daily intelligence. George has arranged a special offer on a Stratfor Membership for my readers: click here to take advantage of this opportunity. In this new era, I use Stratfor daily to give me a wide-lens, global view of politics and economics. I know you'll gain as much from reading Stratfor as I do.
The G-7 countries now have what amounts to access to the US Fed's window for dollars for their banks. But what of the rest of the world? Brad Setser, an analyst who writes a blog for the Council on Foreign Relations, ask some very interesting questions and points out some big holes in the world economic landscape. If you can't get dollars what does that do to your currency? This contributes to the rise in the dollar against some emerging market currencies. Setser asks: "Where is my swap line? And will the diffusion of financial power Balkanize the global response to a broadening crisis?"
You can read some of his other material at http://blogs.cfr.org/setser/. Setser is an applied international economist with experience at the U.S. Treasury and the International Monetary Fund. Currently examining central bank reserve growth, sovereign wealth funds, and the political implications of emerging market financing of the United States. Author of the recent Council Special Report, Sovereign Wealth and Sovereign Power.