I am attending the Global Interdependence Center’s latest conference here in Philadelphia, writing you from the Admiral’s Club on my way to Boston. The chatter last night at dinner and between sessions was focused on the risks in Europe. I did an interview with Aaron Task on Yahoo’s Daily Ticker, where I noted that European leaders are starting to use the word contained when they talk about Greece. Shades of Bernanke and subprime. This too will not be contained.
And that brings us to this week’s Outside the Box. Greg Weldon has graciously allowed me to use his latest missive on Europe’s woes. A teaser:
“The EU, like the US, suffers from what we might call the 'Cyrenaic Syndrome', a dynamic linked to the ancient Greek philosophers Aristippus and Hegesias of Cyrene, who, in 3rd and 4th Centuries BC, hypothesized that the goal of life was the avoidance of pain and suffering. Addicts accomplish this thru substance abuse. The EU is trying to accomplish this thru pure denial, and an outright refusal to accept that austerity, like sobriety, is the ONLY way to actually deal with the problems it faces.”
Greg is my favorite slicer and dicer of data. And he (as a registered CTA) has real skin in the game, as he runs money; so his work is not just some guy drawing lines on charts. He has to draw real-world conclusions, for real-world trades. For those who have NOT had a free trial of Weldon’s three research publications, visit www.Weldononline.com and sign up for a free trial.
And for the record, the euro will not fall out of bed until I have exchanged my last dollar in the third week of June. But what’s a little exchange-rate issue when you are talking Tuscany? I can’t complain too much. Have a great week.
Your wondering if Bernanke will ever say the word contained again analyst,
This week’s article comes from my friend George Friedman, founder of the intelligence company STRATFOR. In this stop on his trip through the Black Sea Basin, he explores Ukraine, a borderland that separates Europe and Russia.
Imagine your nation torn between two completely unique languages, cultures, political systems - between East and West. I've always considered Texas a borderland, so I relate to a home that stands between two different worlds. With a geopolitical eye, the article methodically analyzes the history, current events and catalysts for options Ukrainians have about their nation now. Yet George also lends a personal touch as his family hails from this tumultuous region. This is a longer, but very pleasurable read. You’ll get your dose of geopolitics while enjoying George’s mosaic writing style.
I encourage you to join STRATFOR's << free email list here>> to follow him through the rest of his trip.
I have been writing about sovereign debt risk for some time. Japan, Spain, Italy and Portugal are all facing serious fiscal deficits and funding problems within a few years. But Greece may be the first country to hit the wall. In today's Outside the Box, we look at a short column by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the London Telegraph on the problems facing Greece. Greece will soon be faced with deciding which bad choice to make among a very small set of really bad, difficult choices.
And then we turn to a piece by Edmund Andrews in the New York Times about the funding problem facing the US. The US is going to have to borrow at a minimum $3.5 trillion in the next three years according to Obama administration officials, and it is likely to be much higher. And rates are likely to be rising. As Andrews notes "Even a small increase in interest rates has a big impact. An increase of one percentage point in the Treasury's average cost of borrowing would cost American taxpayers an extra $80 billion this year." If interest rates were at the same level as a few years ago, interest costs on the debt this year would be $221 billion more than they actually were.
We are not yet Greece or Japan. But we are working on it given the current direction. At some point the bond market is not going to "go along" for the ride. Read these pieces and think about them.
As I often write, if something cannot happen then it won't. Greece cannot go along the same path they are on. While today we are blithely ignoring the debt problem, the US cannot continue with massive deficits without serious consequences.
With that being said, for those in the US, I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving. My intention is to write a letter this Friday as usual, assuming I can roll out of bed after the feasting. I am told by very reliable sources that thanksgiving calories do not count, and I intend to take advantage of that.
Your still hopeful we will find a way to Muddle Through analyst,
A long-time religious land bridge between the Islamic and Western worlds, Turkey now finds itself an economic gatekeeper, a US-backed contender for the EU and the only key that could unlock Europe from dependence on Russian resources. The value of your dollar is intrinsically linked to last weekâ€™s summitsâ€”the most important multinational summits in history.
Iâ€™d like to share with you an article by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR. It delves into the Summits (G20, NATO, bilaterals) and explores the connections between finance and geopolitics. In this case, it boils down to two string-holding puppeteers: Germany and Russia. Germany, the largest exporter in the world, is happy to up its production while the US spreads its dollar paper-thin by contributing to an IMF fund that will bail out countries who will in turn spend their money in Germanyâ€™s already tremendous export sector. Russia, the largest supplier of natural gas to Europe, too stands to benefit from US contributions to the IMF pot, as their slice of the pie gets bigger with the panâ€”as long as Turkey keeps her pipes closed.
The decisions made and policies enacted at the Summits trickle down to you and me. To make sense of it all, I encourage you to read STRATFOR. George has arranged a special offer for my readers: click here to take advantage of a 2-for-1 deal; you get a 2-year Membership for the 1-year price of $349. STRATFOR is the best global intelligence service in the world, and their unbiased coverage of the G20, NATO, and other extracurricular summits is unmatched by anyone else.
This week we look at the European bank markets through the eyes of my London partner Niels Jensen, head of Absolute Return Partners. I continue to believe that this is a brewing crisis which could have far more significant implications for the global economy than the Asian Crisis of 1998. In this week's Outside the Box, Niels has compiled a sobering set of data that suggests that only massive government involvement in Europe on a scale that is unprecedented will keep the wheels from coming off in Europe and the global economy.
I have worked closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know. You can see more of his work at www.arpllp.com and contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Milton Friedman famously predicted that the euro would not last past their first economic crisis. This week we look at commentary by Niels Jensen that explores the news from Euroland. Can the euro survive? He explores a number of options which are most definitely not on the radar screen for most investors. It is good to get a perspective from those outside of our own back yard. Note that when he says "our country" he is referring to Great Britain.
Niels is the Managing Partner of Absolute Return Partners based in London (which is my European partner). I work closely with Niels for years and have found him to be one of the more savvy observers of the markets I know. You can see more of his work at www.arpllp.com and contact them at email@example.com. The numbered footnotes are at the end of the letter.
There are plenty of sources out there that are happy to tell you what's happening in the world, and much of it matters. But oftentimes, what's much more important is the dog that didn't bark. Remember Enron's undisclosed subsidiaries? Or the off-balance sheet holdings of just about every financial services firm?
Sherlock Holmes uses the dog that didn't bark to solve the mystery -- the dog had to know the intruder. My friend George Friedman's company, Stratfor, uses the dog that didn't bark to highlight issues that are equally critical to the global economy -- that aren't being discussed. Traditional sources let me mitigate known risks. Stratfor tells me about the risks and opportunities I might not even be aware of.
I'm including an example below: Stratfor's "EU Summit: What is Not Being Talked About." As this analysis demonstrates, normal reporting on what was discussed might be helpful, but it's the "missing topics" -- those that the media misses -- that you really need to think about.
George has arranged for a special offer on a Stratfor Membership just for my readers. Click here to join now, and you'll get Stratfor's 2009 Annual Forecast as part of your Membership. Plus George has a new book (and it's fascinating!) coming out in January which he'll send you as well. I highly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.
Your dogged by bear-markets analyst,