It really does seem to be All Spain All the Time, but there is a reason. Unlike Greece, Spain makes a difference to the eurozone. It may be both too big to allow to fail and too big to save. Last week I came across a very informative 50-page PowerPoint on the situation in Spain from Carmel Asset Management. It is too big to send, but I asked Jonathan Carmel to draft a smaller document with some of the key points. I find it compelling. You can access the entire PowerPoint on my website. If you are not registered with me, you will need to enter your email address and, if you would, your zip code or country. There is a lot if information and data in the report. It will certainly make you think.
I want to emphasize that I do not think Spain is hopeless. Rather, it has a narrow set of limited options that will require a great deal of austerity and economic pain on the part of Spain and significant help from the rest of Europe, combined with the forbearance and patience of the bond market or massive buying of Spanish bonds by the ECB for an extended period of time. I think it will need to be the latter, as the bond market is on the brink of breaking down on Spanish debt, failing a realistic path to economic balance and growth. The way ahead is most difficult and treacherous. It appears to me that at the end of the day only ECB participation can buy Spain the time it needs. If they give Spain the time, it can get through. But the pain will then be spread to the valuation of the euro and thus the entire eurozone.
Is a new fiscal compact a possibility? One with nations giving up control of their budgets and a euro-wide bond issue by which all the nations guarantee the others' debt? Or is there some middle option? Anything is possible and everything will be discussed, as the cost of a eurozone breakup would be massive.
This week's Outside the Box shows some of the reasons why the task is so daunting. Not to mention Italy. And the election results in France suggest a new government may be coming in May, whose leader has promised to renegotiate the recent eurozone agreement, although the details of what that really means are quite murky. And of course France is only a few years from its own crisis, if its deficit is not brought under control. Hollande has said no more austerity yet has not proposed a plan that promotes real growth.
We will soon plunge into yet more last-minute crisis meetings and summits, in which will be hatched yet more "plans." The German Bundesbank will complain about ECB largesse, but they don't control the ECB, as they once thought they did. They are toothless. But any pan-European plan that requires more German pledges (taxes and debt) must get through their legislature. And the Bundestag is most definitely NOT toothless. Can Merkel tame them once again? It will be difficult if the ECB ignores the Bundesbank warnings. You can only push so much.
A very narrow and treacherous path indeed. And it wends all through Europe, not just Spain.
I write this on my iPad from the train to Philadelphia, as I have managed to fry my computer. Somehow, the coffee spilled on the keyboard this morning did not seem to do it any good. Oh well. I get a backup laptop tomorrow. No data lost, just time and money. Sigh.
Your feeling like a rookie traveler analyst,
I debated with myself about what to send as this week's Outside the Box. I have decided on a recent short but important post from my friend David Kotok, Chairman and Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors. He calls it "I'm Worried." There are some very thought-provoking ideas here, but what makes it particularly interesting is that I'm running into this sentiment more and more as I travel around the US; and when I'm abroad I also hear from people who are worried about the US. These are folks who rightly realize the world needs a strong US, both as an economic engine and as a leader – a chairman of the board, if you will – of a growing world. (Can the world grow and prosper without us? Of course, but not as easily, and the transition will not be pretty.)
So this "worried" theme is one I hear, read, and see firsthand more and more each passing week. It's that gnawing feeling that things are just not going right and that our leaders are simply not up to the task of setting the ship on a steady course, even as they almost universally acknowledge we are on the wrong course and assert that the deficit must be dealt with. As with David, this concern is most vivid for me at the close of the day as I review my own thoughts and think on the future of my family and friends.
This deficit of ours is the single most important political and economic question of our time. How we address it, or fail to address it, will set an economic course that can once again turn vibrant and hopeful, or one in which we find ourselves sideways to some monster waves, and capsize. We watch Greece and Spain and worry as we look askance at our own fiscal situation and wonder whether we will be able to kick the can around the deck for "just one more year," before our ship is on the rocks. There is a growing sense that the last one more year may be fast approaching, through the fog. Europe is already there. Can our own denouement lie very far ahead?
I have known Kotok for the better part of a decade now. Mostly, he is a quite bullish and optimistic fellow; and, as he notes, he is fully invested in his client accounts and has caught the latest ride. He organizes the annual Maine fishing trip that has become quite the gathering of economists and writers. There, he has often chided me in the wonderful Maine evenings for what he perceives as my bearish views, although last year with Nouriel Roubini there I was at least not the most bearish of the group.
My main view, say a 60% probability, is that we do in fact deal with the deficit here in the US in 2013. I will enjoy becoming bullish once again and telling my kids to look to the future with hope. But like David I am worried. What should be just a bump in the road for the US and the free-market world can become mountainous if we do not face the real problems before us, if we do not recognize that "We have met the enemy, and he is us."
I choose to remember that David, in his brighter moments, is not quite so brooding. A good night's sleep may help. And yet, he voices a concern that is moving from the backs of our minds to the forefront with increasing urgency, across the full political and social spectrum. The drumbeat is becoming insistent that something must be done, and soon.
(You can read more of David's commentaries at www.cumber.com.)
I was in New York last Wednesday, and Tom Keene of Bloomberg TV was kind enough to invite me on his show for an extended interview and thoughtful exchange, not the usual two-minute drill. You can see that interview on johnmauldin.com. The link is on the left side of the page.
Have a great week. I think I will write to my friend Louis Gave and tell him to send me something bullish for next week's Outside the Box. I can usually count on him to find the silver lining. And now if someone can just arrange for some sun in San Francisco this weekend, I am sure I will get more positive about the world. David, maybe we should invite Louis to Maine to perk us up?!
Your really believing we Muddle Through analyst,
For your Outside the Box today I treat you to another big, juicy slab of Grant Williams' Things That Make You Go Hmmm… I don't want to be all Grant all the time, but this is just so good I couldn't resist. This week, Grant is digging deep into the history and mystery of the European Union, taking us all the way back to the first inter-country treaty in April 1951 and then following the rather tortuous bureaucratic proceedings that led, by hook and by crook, to today's increasingly problematic eurozone.
Grant then zeroes in on the ever-stalwart Dutch, who, it now appears, are in something of a pickle. He notes that the Dutch "were signatories to the Treaties of Paris and Rome and to every major European Treaty since and are staunch supporters of a unified Europe as well as having a reputation for being amongst the more fiscally disciplined members of the EU." And in September of last year, the Dutch prime minister and his finance minister penned a rather incendiary little diatribe on eurozone behavior that built, with eminently sensible Dutch logic, to the conclusion that "Countries that do not want to submit to this [new, rigorous fiscal] regime can choose to leave the eurozone. Whoever wants to be part of the eurozone must adhere to the agreements and cannot systematically ignore the rules. In the future, the ultimate sanction can be to force countries to leave the euro."
How unfortunate, then, that a mere six months later – and just days after Spain's unilateral decision to favor its own budget projections over those dictated by Brussels, who did we find but the Dutch confessing that they too would violate, by a mile, the fiscal deficit limit imposed by the EU's new treaty. And to make matters worse, Geert Wilders, head of the far-right-wing Freedom Party and a key player in the right-of-center coalition that now governs Holland, has been making noises about a Dutch referendum on continued eurozone membership.
Grant then jumps right across the Channel to catch us up on the antics of the English government, whose much-ballyhooed austerity program appears to be anything but, depending as it does on some rather figmentary revenue assumptions and other fiscal legerdemain. I haven't included that portion of this issue of Hmmm…, because I want to keep the focus this week on eurozone woes (England is not in the euro and didn't sign the new EU treaty, arousing much Continental ire), and to mention that I'm in Paris, attending a very powerful conference on central-bank monetary policy and strategies for dealing with sovereign debt. Organized by the Global Interdependence Center (GIC), the conference could hardly be more timely. I'm here with good friend (and long-time GIC supporter) David Kotok, who mentions today in his own commentary that:
"Our private meetings here involve bankers, central bankers, investors, and money managers – the gamut of those interested in financial markets and economics. We find that one theme persists. All of them are watching the credit spreads involving Portugal and Spain. They realize the market is sending a message of concern. The market is saying that the episode with Greece is not over, and the contagion is spreading in spite of the massive liquidity injections of the European Central Bank. They observe and discuss the use of collective action clauses and how they have to adjust their portfolios now that a government has inserted itself in a retroactive forced alteration of a debt structure. In public, they are polite, but they dissect the risks strenuously. In private, the debates become fierce." (You can read David's whole piece on the Cumberland Advisors website.)
He's right: the tension here, both behind closed doors where the "players" assemble and in public, between the European leadership and their increasingly disgruntled constituencies, is palpable.
And yet, after a tough winter, Paris is bursting with the hopeful energy of spring, and I'm very glad to be here.
Your learning a lot and loving it analyst,
Today's Outside the Box comes to us from Grant Williams, who covers the world from his perch in Singapore, in his always instructive and always entertaining Things That Make You Go Hmmm... I felt for him right at the outset today, because (like yours truly) he was trying really hard ... not to talk about Greece. And so, he announced, he was going to talk about Spain and about oil; but then, before he even made it through his opening paragraph, there was this:
"... ahhhh NUTS! They did it AGAIN.... ok... the Greek restructuring. It's not as though I could ignore it, now, is it? ... Oil can wait until next time.... no doubt it'll be an issue then too."
But he's determined to talk about Spain ... so let's talk about Spain. But ... (What is this? Why is Greece such a strange attractor?) on his way to the pain that falls mostly on the plain in Spain, Grant just can't help sharing with us this wry factoid:
"... some 2,400 years after 10 Greek municipalities became the first sovereign entities to default when they stiffed the temple of Delos, birthplace of Apollo."
But Spain, Grant! Yes:
"Spain's GDP of $1.4 trillion, somewhat surprisingly perhaps, puts it just behind oil-rich Russia and Canada and people-rich India. Spain is a big country. Spain matters.
"Spain is now about to become the country everyone cares about all over again and, when the world's focus returns to the Iberian Peninsula, it will realise that the large, grey shape in the corner of the room was a Spanish elephant."
Spain's public debt-to-GDP ratio is a relatively appealing 68%, Grant notes (that's just a little over half of Italy's, at 120%), but here's the rub:
"As manageable as Spain's public debt would appear to be at face value, her private debt is an altogether different story – standing at a staggering 227% of GDP and, according to McKinsey, Spanish corporations hold twice as much debt relative to their output as US companies and, in comparison to Germany, that number goes up to six times....
"As Spain reduced its deficit in accordance with the EU's Growth & Stability Pact, it meant an increasing reliance on private debt was needed in order to prolong the enormous construction boom that had been ongoing in Spain since the 1970s but which really picked up steam in the 90s and 00s. The outcome of that reliance? A tripling of average household debt."
Throw in the part about the Spanish unemployment rate skyrocketing toward the 25% mark this year (and twice that for those under 25) and the bit where the new Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, draws a line in the sand by unexpectedly announcing that his government's budget deficit would be 5.8% of GDP in 2012, more than 30 percent higher than the 4.4% agreed on with his supposed masters in Brussels, and we have all the makings for quite a spicy little paella.
But stop reading at about the middle of page 10 if you just don't think you can stomach another helping of spanakopita.
I did something rather fun this morning. The wonderful people at the Commonfund were kind enough to invite me and my co-author of Endgame, Jonathan Tepper, who lives in London, to update their attendees on the sovereign-debt crisis we predicted in our book. This was the first time we had done a full-on presentation together. It was fun and came off rather well, and I think the attendees appreciated our combined views. We both agreed we need to do it more. Jonathan is a very brilliant young man. He makes me look good (I will take whatever help I can get). Enjoy the week!
Your losing my taste for Continental cui$ine analyst,
It's one thing to say that peripheral eurozone countries are better off leaving the euro, but how, exactly? And how severe can we expect the consequences to be, not only for those nations but also for the entire eurozone – and for the rest of us, worldwide? To minimize fallout from the event(s), it would be helpful to have a solid foundation, based on an historical understanding of similar events, on which we could build a reasonable set of expectations.
In the following piece, Jonathan Tepper, my Endgame coauthor, gives us the cornerstone of just such a foundation. With his London firm, Variant Perception, he has prepared a 53-page report with the very confident title "A Primer on the Euro Breakup: Default, Exit and Devaluation as the Optimal Solution."
He reminds us that "during the past century sixty-nine countries have exited currency areas with little downward economic volatility." He makes the case that "The mechanics of currency breakups are complicated but feasible, and historical examples provide a roadmap for exit."
The real problem in Europe, he says, is that "EU peripheral countries face severe, unsustainable imbalances in real effective exchange rates and external debt levels that are higher than in most previous emerging market crises."
The way through? "Orderly defaults and debt rescheduling coupled with devaluations are inevitable and even desirable. Exiting from the euro and devaluation would accelerate insolvencies, but would provide a powerful policy tool via flexible exchange rates. The European periphery could then grow again quickly with deleveraged balance sheets and more competitive exchange rates, much like many emerging markets after recent defaults and devaluations (Asia 1997, Russia 1998, and Argentina 2002)."
We'll need this sort of robust thinking and a willingness to meet the challenge head-on if we're going to get through not just this eurozone crisis but the Endgame in which the whole world finds itself, in the final throes of the Debt Supercycle.
You can see the entire report on the Variant Perception blog – http://blog.variantperception.com/2012/02/16/a-primer-on-the-euro-breakup/ – or download it as a PDF.
Your confident that we will master the Endgame analyst,
Companies issue state of the enterprise addresses, and presidents issue state of the union addresses ... but you've got to be pretty confident to address the state of the world. Luckily for us, Stratfor founder and CEO George Friedman is just that confident – and it's well-deserved.
George is the expert in geopolitics, and his company is the best source out there for geopolitical analysis. Thus, his recent article, "The State of the World: A Framework," is well worth a thorough read. It identifies three distinct phenomena the world is facing: the European financial crisis, the Chinese export crisis, and Iran's rise to power in the Middle East.
One of his most interesting points, and one that I'm inclined to agree with, is that the most powerful country in the world – the United States – is currently unprepared to deal with this new reality. Something to keep in mind as we enter election season ...
Some of you may know that Stratfor was hacked several weeks ago. While they rebuild some infrastructure, they've got an open-house website – you can access the content that's usually only available to subscribers. You may want to take advantage of this opportunity by visiting www.stratfor.com before they lock up the house again. I particularly recommend their 2012 Annual Forecast.
Your wondering whether I'll have Greek, Chinese, or Iranian food tonight analyst,
For whatever deeply embedded psychological reason – and your humble analyst is profoundly guilty – we humans seem prone to picking out a particular point in our space-time continuum (read: the New Year) to think about the future and new beginnings, rather than running the exercise every week or month. Maybe so much introspection and thinking is just too exhausting, so we only do it on an annual basis. I am deep in my reading as I research my annual forecast issue, which I will write Friday. I am thinking of being especially foolish (and anyone who makes predictions is foolish) and going out to a five-year time frame. It should be challenging.
But back to today. One of the most fun things I have read recently is from Grant Williams, who writes Things That Make You Go Hmmm... from Singapore. This year he has somehow managed to leap ahead on his own space-time continuum to share with us his December 2012 letter, where he looks back and discusses the year that was. While I will draw some different conclusions this Friday, Grant does make me think, and he is a fun read. I look forward to meeting him in a few weeks in Singapore.
Quick housekeeping note. Last week's letter had a link at the end to a page where the team from Boston Consulting Group gave their thoughts on how businesses should plan for various contingencies in 2012. The response was so large it blew up our server (!); so we have added bandwidth, and I'm ready to give you the link to "The Year(s) Ahead Report" again. It's http://www.johnmauldin.com/frontlinethoughts/the-years-ahead-report-0112 .
I am hard at work trying to clear the decks for 2012, as I do at the beginning of each year. I really should consider doing it more often, as it does help in organizing things; but then again, maybe we can only deal with so organization...? We humans are such complicated creatures.
In any event, let me wish you a wonderful start to 2012 (and if you are reading this in the Chinese translation, then here are early New Year's wishes for you! For my Western readers, Chinese New Year is January 23rd this year, and it's the Year of the Dragon.)
Your thinking of the paths to our future analyst,
I had the pleasure of spending the morning and part of the afternoon today with Louis Gave and Anatole Kaletsky at a seminar here in Dallas; and we shared a long lunch, where Europe and China were the topics of conversation. So, with their permission, here is their latest "Five Corners," in which Charles Gave and Anatole Kaletsky discuss last week's summit, and then engage in an internal debate about whether Italy really has a significant trade deficit with Germany. As I expect from GaveKal, it's not your typical analysis. And since I have to run to dinner – and glean more insights from their team (there will be homework when I get back!), this introduction to Outside the Box is short, and we can jump right into today's piece. Have a great week.
Your feasting on information analyst,
Europe is rapidly approaching the denouement, the Endgame, of its currency experiment. The outcome is not clear, at least to your humble analyst, as the debates rage and there are huge pluses and minuses the 17 nations must decide upon. But the proverbial road down which the can is tumbling and clattering, kicked along haphazardly, is coming to its end, and soon a rather sharp turn, either to the left or to the right, will be required. Let us hope they choose wisely.
Today's Outside the Box is a rather philosophical debate between my friends at GaveKal, which they have graciously shared with us. It is important to note that Charles Gave, Louis-Vincent Gave and Francois-Xavier Chauchat are French. Louis served in the French army, studied at Duke, and has lived in Hong Kong for over a decade. Charles (his father) is the quintessential French patriot and patrician right from central casting, whose voice has the authority of God. Anatole Kaletsky is supremely British and one of the most influential economic thinkers in Europe. He is Editor-at-Large and Principal Economic Commentator of The Times, for which he writes a thrice-fortnightly column on economics, politics, and financial markets. These are Europeans vigorously debating the European future as only good friends can.
What we have is an email exchange among them on the future of the euro and the inherent philosophical tensions that are faced by European leaders. I have read it three times and will read it several times more. (Do not feel bad if you need Google to keep up with some of the references. When Anatole refers to Sedan, for instance, he is not talking about cars but a major battle the French lost to the Germans in 1870. Interesting Wikipedia page for you history buffs.)
Let me give you a taste, from so many great lines. Here's Louis (who I will see Monday in Dallas – more below):
"Above, Charles focuses on the philosophical hurdles to any mass intervention. And while I subscribe to Charles' reading of the German institutional framework, my concerns are far less intellectual and far more practical. Basically, we have to remember that the average sovereign debt buyer is not a hazardous investor. The guy who buys a government bond is looking for a very specific outcome: he gives the government 100 only so he can get back 102.5 a year later. That's all the typical sovereign debt investor is looking for. Nothing more, nothing less.
"But now, the problem for all EMU debt is that the range of possible outcomes is growing daily: possible restructurings, possible changes in currencies, possible assumption of other people's debt, possible mass monetization by the central bank etc. Given this wider range of possible outcomes, and the consequent surge of uncertainty, the natural buyer of EMU debt disappears. Again, the typical sovereign investor is not in the game of handicapping possible outcomes; he is in the game of getting capital back!
"... Even if the Bundesbank did agree to monetization (which is hardly a foregone conclusion), the window for this to work may now have closed."
I will be with Louis and Anatole this coming Monday morning in Dallas at a seminar for money managers and accredited investors. If you would like to attend, drop me a note and I will get you an invitation.
And you can find out more about GaveKal consulting services and funds at www.gavekal.com.
What fascinating times. What an interesting period in which to live. And don't we all want to get through this and have more certainty, in place of the roller-coaster ride we are now on? I will be glad to get back to long-term investing, but in the meantime we should appreciate the fascinating spectacles. It will make for interesting stories to tell our grandkids. Have a great week, and in the midst of spectacle enjoy the holiday season.
Your amazed to finally see it all happening analyst,
What do the “Big Fitz,” the largest ship ever to sail the Great Lakes, and the Eurozone have in common? Hint: the former sank without a trace. Or, as Grant Williams so eloquently puts it, in his Things That Make You Go Hmmm… for Nov. 13 (this week’s Outside the Box), “One can’t help but think … that this week may well have brought us to the wall at the end of the road down which Europe has been kicking the can for quite some time now.”
Grant inspects the SS Europe from bow to stern and concludes: “The smoke has pretty much cleared now and those in charge of the SS Europe are left with a stark choice – print money or allow the break-up of the Eurozone and the end of the common currency known as the Euro. At this point it really IS that simple.”
So come on along as Grant takes us on an eye-opening and at times jaw-dropping ride – there are some real insights here. From his perch in Singapore he sees the same problems I do, just from the other side of the globe. And that perspective is worth your time.
As you read this, I am on my way to Capitol Hill to meet with a member of the Super-Committee. If there is anything I can report, you will get it this weekend. I hope I can bring good news at some point. Then it’s back to the UBS Wealth Management Conference in time to hear Ken Rogoff (and Alan Greenspan) on a panel. I am looking forward to that. Tomorrow night in my own bed again. And be looking for a special note from me on Thursday.
Your trying to figure out how we get out of this mess analyst,
Long-time readers will be familiar with Michael Lewitt, one of my favorite thinkers and analysts. He has gone off on his own to write his letter, and I am encouraging him to write even more. I call Michael a thinker because he really does. He reads a lot of thought-provoking tomes and then thinks about them. And then writes, making his readers think. The world needs more Michael Lewitts.
Today, he roams the world, commenting as he goes, starting of course with Europe. I have permission to use the first half of this most recent letter as today’s Outside the Box, leaving off the investment recommendations that he shares with his subscribers. If you are interested you can subscribe at www.thecreditstrategist.com.
I am back from the Kilkenomics Economics Festival in Ireland, where there was a lot of attendee angst about their banks. They are not happy about taking on private debt with public money, and the mood in Ireland is to tell the ECB to take their debt and (insert your favorite personal expletive). Clearly, the rest of Europe wants the Irish to pay.
I told them to be patient. When the rest of European banks are upside down sometime next year and France, Spain, et al. have to pay, the mood among voters everywhere will be quite different. I said they could probably default on their bank debt at that point and no one would notice, amidst the massive debts that are going to implode on the Continent. My remarks excited a measure of schadenfreude-tinged laughter from the crowd.
Michael Lewitt agrees. Noting this interview with Oliver Sarkozy, the half-brother of France’s Nicholas Sarkozy, he says:
“Institutional funding has a three-year average life, so European banks need to generate more than $800 billion each month to fund maturing institutional borrowings. This is, in Mr. Sarkozy’s words, unsustainable. And the markets are saying so. The CDS market for European banks is back at or above the peak levels seen during the 2008 financial crisis. While Mr. Sarkozy does not come out and say it, TCS will – the likely future for European banks is Dexia SA, which was nationalized by France and Belgium when it ran aground a couple of weeks ago.”
I will write more about what I learned in Kilkenny later this week, but Europe is getting ever closer to imploding, one way or another. There is no end of problems for the markets to focus on. I can only hope that we in the US will observe the increasingly sad state of affairs in Europe and become sufficiently motivated to fix our own problems. If we do not, we will end up in an even worse condition, which will then be worse for the entire world. I remain somewhat optimistic that we will fix what ails us, as not doing so is just too horrible to contemplate.
On that bright note, have a great week. I am off to Atlanta tomorrow and then DC this Sunday, and then home for a few months (more or less).
Your seeing too much to worry about analyst,
This week's Outside the Box will be unusual. Rather than one essay, I give you a number of short ones, and links that are representative of the confusion that is Europe, along with a little history. As I noted this weekend, last week's Eurozone announcement was short of details, and very little of the real work had been done. Merkel has to get her own country on board, keep the other nations that are in trouble from demanding haircuts, and keep the markets from trashing Italian and Spanish debt. Berlusconi has to figure out how to get the Italian budget balanced while staying out of jail and "balancing" his social calendar. Maybe he can dollar-cost average with a 70-year-old date? (Sorry, that was snarky, but it is so easy.)
Europe's problems will visit shores all over the world. China will not come to the rescue, at least not cheaply. It is becoming increasingly unclear where they will get the money without ECB participation, but that is VERY euro bearish.
I don't want to seem like I am piling on Euroland, but they are the crisis du jour. And it's just a matter of time until it's the US. Sigh.
And lest I forget again, let me say a special thanks to Joan McCullough for pointing me last week to Mike Masters, who was very helpful in understanding the intricacies ofcredit default swaps and their implications.
Another busy week and lots of airplanes. It will be my first time ever on Aer Lingus, as I fly to Ireland. This weekend will be fun, and even though I will do a few speeches, it will b a very different crowd than I normally speak to. No PowerPoints, just explanations of how the world works to average people – while professional stand-up comedians try and keep me honest! We shall see how that works.
Your keeping it simple analyst,
In my letter earlier this week, our guest writer, Grant Williams, gave Europe about the same odds of escaping crisis as a pitcher throwing a perfect game in baseball. That's 40,000 to 1. Take a look at this decision tree on Europe (below) from STRATFOR, a private intelligence company. Looks like they give Europe something more like the odds of a major-league pitcher leading in home runs. Not gonna happen.
With a serious impending crisis on our hands, we need to understand it from all angles, starting with geopolitical risk. So I'm sending you this insightful two-part series from STRATFOR, written just prior to the meeting of the Eurozone Finance Ministers last Friday Oct 21. STRATFOR starts with a full assessment of the problem: sovereign debt, bank centrality, housing, foreign currency, etc. Then, Part 2 gives you a look ahead at recapitalization options and the EFSF. By the way, the Finance Ministers ended their meeting by punting the problem to no fewer than three subsequent meetings.
To get more than the occasional analysis like this that I pass along to you, I recommend you become a STRATFOR subscriber. They've got the best geopolitical coverage of global affairs I've seen. Plus, OTB readers get a <<hefty discount on subscriptions plus a free copy of their founder's bestseller, The Next Decade>>.
As I write this, the Rangers lead 3-2 ... Let's see what game six brings.
Your truly impressed with Nolan Ryan (no matter the outcome) analyst,
Do we need a law that makes it illegal to push a moose out of a moving aircraft? In baseball, what are the odds of a perfect game? How difficult will it be to solve the problems of the Eurozone? These and other issues are meditated upon by Grant Williams in his Things That Make You Go Hmmm… letter, which is this week’s Outside the Box. Maybe it was the baseball set-up (as my Rangers battle the Cardinals in the World Series) or that I keep getting asked about Europe here in New Orleans at the 2011 Oppenheimer Wealth Management Roundtable, but Grant really pulled me through his weekly missive when I got started, and I believe you will enjoy it as well. Long and short, Grant lays out the problems that we face in a very realistic assessment. I will also point out that he makes me look like a euro-optimist.
I am working on recovering from this past weekend, as this was the first time in 12 years I missed a letter due to simply not feeling well. But I guess that means I should be grateful I am not sick all that often. I hated to not write. The spirit was willing but the flesh was weak. It seems like I was “gifted” by my granddaughter with a nasty bug, which decided to show itself while I was in South Africa. Aaah, the joys of being a grandfather. Another round of catching nasty stuff from your progeny.
Your ready for some rest and baseball on TV analyst,
Folks, you hear a lot about the eurozone crisis, but what you don't run across very often is a coherent idea on how to move forward. My friends at STRATFOR, a private intelligence company, have done us all the courtesy of saying out loud what everyone else shies away from: Eject Greece from the eurozone.
It's not pretty. It belies the lovely concept of a unified and prosperous Europe. And the worst part: it comes with a big fat price tag, of the 2-trillion-euro variety. But it may be the only way to steer the train before it derails completely.
Today I have the privilege of sending you two pieces from STRATFOR. If you have a couple of minutes now, <<watch this video on preparing for Greece's (inevitable) failure>>. Then check out the written piece below, a deeper dive into the crisis as a whole. If you're interested in following all of STRATFOR's geopolitical analyses, as an OTB reader you can get a hefty discount off their subscription rate, plus a free copy of the NY Times bestseller by George Friedman (my buddy, and STRATFOR's founder).
Your hoping the Rangers take it all analyst,
This week your Outside the Box offers two views, one from the US and one from Europe, both dealing with banks and financing. First, back in July, my friend Chris Whalen at Institutional Risk Analytics wrote an important comment about how the situation in the housing market is blocking efforts by the Fed to stabilize the US economy. IRA is a rating agency that follows every US bank and consults for a number of large commercial and governmental institutions on bank performance and risk.
(You can see the IRA reports of all the failed banks since 2008 on their website. The folks at IRA have a retail website (www.irabankratings.com) that allows you to follow your bank’s performance for just $50 per year or subscribe to see all US banks for $1,000 per year. Many large corporations, investment advisors, insurers, and banks use the retail IRA bank ratings for counterparty risk management and other bank credit tasks. It is a great value for people who want to sleep soundly at night with reliable knowledge about their banks.)
One of the things that Chris has been writing about for the past several years is how the policies followed by the top four banks – Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America – plus Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, are preventing millions of American homeowners from refinancing their homes. While banks and corporate issuers of debt have benefited greatly from the Fed’s low-rate policies, consumers have been locked out. At long last, we now see President Obama and other politicians talking about the need to refinance American homeowners. Chris and his colleagues in the mortgage market, like Alan Boyce, are largely responsible for educating policy makers on this issue. Hopefully they are not too late to make a difference.
The second and shorter part of today’s OTB is two articles from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard of the Telegraph, on the current crisis in Europe. You need a scorecard to keep up with the latest developments, and he certainly provides one. Things could get very volatile, if he is even close to correct.
Have a great week, and my sympathies to all my friends who have “issues,” as in no power, etc., in the Northeast. Makes 100+ degrees seem like nothing.
Your waiting for cooler weather in Texas analyst,