It has been a busy day in Rome, doing the Vatican Museum, St. Peter's and the Trevi Fountain. But I have to find time to get you your Outside the Box and have I got a great one for you. David Galland of Casey Research was kind enough to let me use an interview he did with two of his energy research staff normally only available to his subscribers. A big thank you to David.
This is a special treat for Outside the Box readers, as they talk about the future of the energy markets. I have been following their work for some time and I think they are the real deal if you are looking for an energy letter to regularly read. You can subscribe at here.
I am going to sign off as the "kids" are waiting. One quick observation. Stop lights in Rome seem to be more of a suggestion than an actual statement. Oh, but what a city!
Your in the city of restaurants analyst,
World economies I get: currency, trading, deficits, surpluses... World politics is another story. I follow what happens: summits, policy changes, elections: but what does it mean for energy markets, potential threats, actual relations between countries? These situations define our future - financial and otherwise.
Today I'm sending you a piece from STRATFOR on the relationship between Iran and Brazil - and what it means for energy, trade, U.S. sanctions, and this rising power in the South. STRATFOR is my go-to source for all things geopolitical. The great thing about it is that it's not just available to government agencies, Fortune 500 corporations and financial advisers such as myself. Rather, you too can access their content. Sign up here for STRATFOR's free weekly intelligence reports. I highly recommend it for investors at any level.
Nearly everyone I talk with has the sense that we are at some critical point in our economic and national paths, not just in the US but in the world. One path will lead us back to relative growth and another set of choices leads us down a path which will put a very real drag on economic growth and recovery. For most of us, there is very little we can do (besides vote and lobby) about the actual choices. What we can do is adjust our personal portfolios to be synchronized with the direction of the economy. The question is "What will that direction be?"
Today we are going to look at what I think is a very clear roadmap given to us by Dr. Woody Brock, the head of Strategic Economic Decisions and one of the smartest analysts I have come in contact with over the years. This week's Outside the Box is his recent essay, "The End Games Draws Nigh." For those who have the contacts in government, I urge you to put this piece into the correct hands so that Woody's very distinct message gets out. I think this is one of the most important Outside the Box letters I have sent out.
Woody normally does not allow his work to go beyond the circles of his clients, but I suggested to him that this piece was quite macro in cope and important for both individuals and policy makers everywhere to understand. In my own simple terms, trees cannot grow in some unlimited manner to the sky. Families cannot grow debt without limit beyond the growth of their incomes. And countries have the same constraints. While growth of debt in the short term is viable, growth of debt faster than the growth of GDP is not viable over the long run. This is not debatable. It is a simple fact. Therefore, as Woody says, it is important that you get the growth side of the equation right as you increase the debt side. Without the proper balance, you are heading for disaster.
From his intro:
"We weave these three concepts together so as to make possible an extension and generalization of "macroeconomic policy" as normally understood. Central to this extension is the need for policies that drive down the nation's Debt-to-GDP Ratio over time. Accordingly, we identify 15 policies that jointly reduce the growth of federal debt and increase the growth of GDP over time. Doing so not only points to a new set of policies for exiting today's quagmire, but also permits an appraisal of the Obama administration's current policy proposals. Regrettably these proposals do not fare well with respect to growth. Furthermore, the extension of macroeconomics we propose applies not only to the US economy, but to most all others as well. It should thus be of interest to readers everywhere."
This is longer than the usual Outside the Box, and will require you to put on your thinking cap. But you need to digest this, and especially the conclusions. But it is very important that you understand the principles and concepts Woody discusses. We are at a very critical juncture, and the paths we choose will have profound impacts on our lives and fortunes. I cannot overemphasize the point. If we choose a path of growing debt faster than we can grow GDP, the negative implications for many traditional asset classes are enormous.
Let me again thank Woody for allowing me to send this on to you. And for those who post this letter on various sites, just be sure to include a link to Woody's website, www.sedinc.com. For those interested in his subscription service you can contact Woody at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website.
I send you Outside the Box each week not to make you comfortable but to make you think. Usually it is on some financial topic, but life is more than investments. Economics is not an isolated discipline (more like an art form I think) so we have to have a real understanding of the world around us. This week I offer two essays which made me both think and reflect. We live in a world which wants easy solutions to complex problems, and wish as we may, will not get easy solutions which will work.
The first essay is by Pewter Huber on the reality of energy production. We all want to be able to "go green." How realistic is that? The second is by my friend George Friedman on torture and US intelligence failures.
Peter Huber is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and the coauthor, most recently, of The Bottomless Well. His article develops arguments that he made in an Intelligence Squared U.S. debate in January. George is well known to OTB readers. He is president of Stratfor and was with the CIA (as was his wife Meredith) before they founded Stratfor, what I think of as the premier private intelligence agency in the world.
I suggest you put on your thinking caps and take some time to read both of these very important essays, and enjoy your week. I am off to Orlando and the CFA conference.
As a boy with a slingshot, killing two birds with one stone meant I was either the best shot in the land or the luckiest -- and rewarded by neighborhood fame and the good fortune of the affection of the girl next door.
As I read a piece sent to me by George Friedman, founder of STRATFOR, entitled 'Obama's Energy Plan: Trying to Kill 3 Birds With 1 Stone,' it dawned on me that reading STRATFOR is the same maximization of my opportunities: not only am I getting information about three important aspects of global affairs -- economics, politics, and military movements -- but I'm getting information I can use to invest, to make business decisions, and to share at cocktail parties. I'm getting neighborhood fame and that girl's affection all over again.
At a time when your investments are earning less and less, getting more and more for your money is more important than ever. STRATFOR continues to give you more intelligence, analysis, and forecasts on more countries, regions, and continents but for the same low price. In the piece I've included below, STRATFOR's expert analysts lay out how Obama plans to address three energy issues with one ten-year plan. It's more in-depth than anything else out there, offering a clear-cut explanation of complicated energy policies and projects spanning the next decade.
Click here to go to STRATFOR where you'll find a chart that elaborates on the energy piece, as well as a special offer just for my readers: you get 2 years for the price of 1. I encourage you to kill those three birds with one stone by joining STRATFOR and getting more economic, political, and military intelligence, analysis, and forecasts.
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.
This week in a Special Outside the Box good friend George Friedman of Stratfor, in an unconventional piece, addresses the conundrum that equates low interest rates with market illiquidity, postulating on what may be the underlying cause of such an event. George seems to specialize in Outside the Box thinking, and this piece is no exception.
Stratfor continues to provide insightful and pertinent research on economic and geopolitical events and their respective ramifications. Stratfor continues to generously provide significant savings to readers of Outside the Box, for further information please click here. For those like me who seek objective analysis of world affairs, Stratfor is a daily necessity.
This week in Outside the Box, Louis-Vincent Gave, Charles Gave, Anatole Kaletsky, and company of GaveKal Research delve into the underlying misconceptions that presumes money velocity is and will remain constant, in the equation that says MV = PQ (Money*Velocity = Prices*Quantity) when M is increased. GaveKal Research strive to show that in application this relationship does not hold, and that investors ought to look to velocity to rebound to gauge market recovery or further deterioration. This is an important concept and holds major implications for the inflation debate.
GaveKal venture on to address the Banking crisis in England, how Mervin King & Co. at the BoE responded to the Northern Rock debacle, and why the appropriate response was hindered by political malaise than by BoE incompetence, though mind you there was some to speak of. Furthermore, the Fed 50bps reduction is taken to light on account of the uncertainty of whether such (and potentially further) reductions will prevent the economy from falling into recession.
GaveKal further discusses how the dollar breaching record lows, will affect the inflationary pressures in China, and how the dollar is affecting the oil markets, which happen to be denominated in dollars. I have attached below graphs of the Euro/Dollar conversion rate, and the current (WTI) cost of oil.
Finally, my publisher is running an advertisement for my friends at International Living. I normally don't think abut the ads, but this one is interesting in that it is two years for the normal one year price for a publication that I enjoy. If you travel or think about living somewhere else, this is a good place for information, or to just dream. Enjoy your week.
This week's Outside the Box will be one of the longer ones that have been featured, even despite the current length being approximately half of what it originally was. Now that's no cause for alarm, yet rather a measure of how important I feel this article to be. In his article "How to Make Big Money: 11 Time-Tested Strategies, "Gary Shilling writes about the methods people have used for wealth creation. We are talking about ways to actually make money.
This is one of the more interesting and thought-provoking pieces that I've come across as of late. Gary provides an excellent and comprehensive overview on many of the strategies that people have used to both create and grow their personal net worth. Some are common sense and some are insightful...but all of the points he makes are proven ways of which fortunes have been made. You can check out more of Gary's work on his website www.agaryshilling.com.
I trust that you will enjoy this exceptional piece.
Today's "Outside the Box" will be one of the more controversial pieces that I have sent out over the past year. My long-term readers are well aware of my views on oil and energy, yet despite my beliefs, I find it valuable to read thoughts from those who have different views. These challenging view points come from my good friend, the very intelligent and always thought-provoking Charles Gave.
Charles is one of the co-founders of GaveKal, a global investment research and management firm that provides an array of financial services worldwide. They are best known for their study of monetary policy, fiscal policies, secular trends, technical analysis and asset class valuations which they use to form a unique perspective on the relationship between the financial markets and the global economy. In his article, "Oil: Will the Malthusian View Carry the Day?" Charles postulates that the price of oil could fall over the next several years. He defends his position with some teaching on the dynamics of energy, a review of historical cycles, and some thoughts on alternatives. I agree that there will be large energy substations, for which he makes a solid case, but I disagree with his conclusion that the price of oil will permanently drop. I think that the growth of the world GDP and thus the need for energy and oil will offset the energy substitution he outlines.
Charles goes on further to describe a commodity of which has been far less volatile than oil and has never had a down month since 2001 and one in which he thinks has great potential in the future. (I won't spill the beans on what it is just yet.)
My aim is that you will broaden your understanding and gain insight as a result of reading a contrarian's perspective. Enjoy this week's Outside the Box.