This week I take great pride and pleasure in being able to bring you a recent letter from my very good friend Peter Bernstein. I asked him to let me publish this, as I think this is one of the more important, thought-provoking pieces I have read in a very long time. I am grateful for that permission, as you will be when you read this. I would take the time to read it through several times. Read this paragraph from the beginning of the letter to get an idea of the thought path down which Peter is going to take us:
"As Goldilocks shreds, we have to start thinking about what kind of long-term environment is going to replace it. Shifts to new environments are always attenuated. They are also rare across time, which means most of us have limited experience with this phenomenon. New environments often tend to sneak up on us and do not announce themselves with a fanfare. Most of us are unaware of what has happened until enough time passes to provide good perspective."
Peter argues persuasively that we are getting ready to enter a new economic and investing environment as profoundly different as the 80s were to the 70s. As I said earlier, take your time and think through the implications of his thoughts.
Peter writes Economic and Portfolio Strategy and has done so for decades. He has won numerous honors, edited some of the most prestigious financial journals and has been at the center of economic thought for six decades. At 87, he is still writing material that makes those of us who are his junior simply stand in amazement and applaud. His book, "Against the Gods - The Amazing Story of Risk" - is on my list as one of the five most important books on economics and finance. You can get it a Amazon.com. And while you are there, get his latest book, "Capital Ideas Evolving" or the important "Power of Gold."
For those interested in his letter or more information about Peter, you can go to www.peterlbernsteininc.com.
The credit markets are in turmoil. This week I have asked Michael Lewitt of Harch Capital in Florida to tell us what is going on from his perspective. Michael has been watching the credit markets from the inside for a long time. So, this week we have a sort of insider's Outside the Box.
Michael is one smart guy with a deep understanding of the markets, especially the credit markets, and how they work. I really look forward each month to getting Michael's insights. The firm manages domestic and offshore debt and equity hedge funds and separate accounts. This may get more technical for some readers, but keep reading, as you can get a sense of what we are really facing.
This week in Outside the Box we turn our eyes on Japan and as promised offer a report by macro-maven and good friend Greg Weldon. Japan is the world's second largest economy and a major source of liquidity. While China has captured the headlines in Asia, Japan is still the big economic dog and supplier of capital on the block.
Greg argues that there is the potential for another asset bubble popping in Japan at the same time as we see our housing market and subprime mortgages implode. That could have considerable implications for world wide liquidity and the yen carry trade.
While this prints out longer than usual, it is mostly charts, as Greg likes to illustrate his thinking with lots of graphs. Follow his logic and reasoning. He is pointing out a potential problem that no one else I know is paying attention to. At the end is an offer for a trial subscription to his work, which I find quite valuable.
This week in a very special Outside the Box we have an investment outlook tour de force. My friend and South African business partner Dr. Prieur du Plessis gathered a group of some of the more interesting investment managers in the industry, along with your humble analyst, and let us have the opportunity to opine on what is driving various markets and their respective implications.
We begin with the U.S. economy, addressing the underlying implications of the real estate market, interest rates, liquidity, and the ever precipitously depreciating dollar, procuring an assessment of these collective market drivers and their respective effects on the U.S. economy, the stock market, bond market, and commodities market.
Thereafter, we incorporate macroeconomic drivers that will impact our respective outlooks be they the influence of the Asian Tiger economies, Yen Carry Trade, and the ample liquidity derived from vast foreign currency reserves on account of currency manipulation, and the respective consumption patterns of the developing countries on the global economy.
We conclude with an assessment of the risks to domestic and global economies from the market drivers and offer advice we have humbly been forcefully taught throughout the years by the always hard task-master, the market.
This week's Outside the Box is comprised of 2 smaller articles that I believe will, collectively, provide you with some interesting information to digest. The 1st article will be a follow up piece to last week's Outside the Box where I featured a commentary by Morgan Stanley's Chief Economist Stephen Roach titled "The Missing Link to Global Rebalancing." Kathleen Camilli, the President of Camilli Economics, has weighed in on some of Roach's views by providing a quasi-rebuttal of her own. While her article "Household Wealth and the US Savings Rate" does not address the structural current account deficit that Roach points out, it does address the low savings rate/Asset Economy issue. You can reach here at www.camillieconomics.com.
And secondly, I quoted some excerpts from Jeremy Grantham's latest letter to investors in my weekly publishing of "Thoughts from the Frontline." Many people have since expressed curiosity about this letter so we've decided to reproduce the whole letter for you to read.
Each article provides some thought-provoking commentary and insight that I believe you will thoroughly enjoy.
Today's Outside the Box will feature one of the better pieces written in the last few years by my good friend Paul McCulley. In his article "The Plankton Theory Meets Minsky," Paul shows the importance of why the problem with sub-prime mortgages will affect the entire housing market rather than just a small sector of it. He goes on to further point out that the excess liquidity in housing and the ability to borrow against home equity over the last couple of years was more than just the doing of the Fed as the loosening of credit lending standards played a significant role. This topic is important because it is at the heart of why I think a housing slowdown will affect the nation's economy.
For a little background on Paul, he is a Managing Director at PIMCO where he writes a monthly commentary titled "Global Central Bank Focus." He is a very intelligent thinker but what I enjoy the most about Paul is his ability to take seemingly complex data and transform it into an easy to understand analysis.
The sub-prime sector has been a hot topic as of late but I trust that you will find this piece to be an "outside the box" take on how it happened and what it will affect in the coming year.
Every month I read the outstanding commentary by Bill Gross, Paul McCulley and others at PIMCO. This month they have comments by Chris P. Dialynas, Managing Director, Portfolio Manager and Senior Member of PIMCO's Investment Strategy Group.
Dialynas offers his views on the flat yield curve, the new Bernanke era and the theory of a global glut of savings. He sees a global economy awash in liquidity due to the increased risk of investment and the Chinese currency being pegged to the US Dollar. This has caused inflation to show up in some places and the imbalances in the world give Bernanke an extraordinary challenge and that is why it was picked for this week's Outside the Box.