They say that natural gas is a more dynamic study in geopolitics than oil. Yes, petroleum is what makes the world go 'round. But, once you get it to a super-tanker, you can ship it anywhere. Natural gas, of which the world consumes 3,000 billion cubic meters per year, is much harder (and more expensive) to transport. You have to build miles and miles of expensive pipeline to get it to your buyer. So whatever countries your pipeline runs through, or to, you'd better stay friends.
Today I'm sending you a video by STRATFOR on the much-discussed potential energy deal between Russia and China. Ideology aside, the two countries would seem like a compatible couple (Russia is the world's largest exporter of raw commodities, China the world's largest importer). But are they ready to tie the knot with a pipeline that would takes decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build?
<<Watch the video here>> to get the full analysis. OTB readers can also access a discount on subscriptions to STRATFOR, plus get a free book. I read them daily, as they are the best source I've found for understanding geopolitical risk.
Today, I'm sending you a week-old article. Fear not, dear reader—though the news peg is several days gone, the significance is historic... and when this author says "pay attention," I do. Today's piece is from my friend George Friedman, founder & CEO of STRATFOR.
During the week of Palestinian protests and the IMF scandal, George chose to write about an obscure decision by Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary to form a battlegroup. Though you may wonder why, we're all about to care about the Visegrad Group.
The decision revolves around the new reality of a resurgent Russia, a weakened Europe and a fractured NATO. I don't think you'll wonder why you should care about Russia, Europe and NATO.
Read about this little-understood announcement and its meaning... then look for more of George & his team's writing with STRATFOR. Outside the Box readers get a 63% off discount on new subscriptions, which <<you can access here>>.
As you know, I'm an avid researcher when it comes to my own annual forecast, which you saw a couple of weeks ago. One of my favorite resources is STRATFOR, a global intelligence company founded by my friend George Friedman. Their focus is geopolitics, which means they cover political, economic and military developments all around the world. They have an annual forecast of their own, and George has been gracious enough to allow me to share it with you. As long-time OTB readers may know, STRATFOR's annual forecast can be very provocative.
Here are some examples of this year's themes:
- The U.S. is unlikely to withdraw from Iraq as promised in 2011.
- The U.S. economy will grow.
- In Europe, more countries will need bailouts. (A couple of names might surprise you.)
- Russian-German relations will strengthen.
- Japan will rot, but it will rot in seclusion.
Some of you may have seen STRATFOR's forecast if you took advantage of the deal I sent a couple weeks ago. For those that haven't, George's book, The Next Decade, comes out next week, so there's still time to <<buy it here for $16>>, and get a free three-month subscription to STRATFOR. For those of you already enjoying a subscription and wondering about your book: they start shipping next Tuesday. So finish up whatever you're reading now and get ready for a great read.
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.
To continue with a week of global forecasts, today I'm sending you STRATFOR's assessment of the year ahead for Russia. As I said earlier, we need to think of the world at large and how global events will affect us. Russia represents a huge piece of that puzzle.
Today's Outside the Box comes to us from England. My European partner Niels Jensen from time to time sends me some of the best letters he reads from the hedge fund world. He is an excellent filter for me, and this week's Outside the Box offering is no exception. Below is the November commentary from Eclectica fund manager Hugh Hendry. He challenges the current preoccupation with the falling dollar and China, and posits what would happen if that thinking is wrong? It offers some very thought-provoking ideas. You can contact them for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website: http://www.eclectica-am.com
Your wondering if we are all turning Japanese analyst,
Earlier this week, I sent out a piece that talked about the dangers of ignoring the big picture - even for the "bottom up" investor. Every once in a while, we all have to step away from the Dow Jones Industrial Average, housing prices and other indicators to look at what's going to influence these factors in the long term.
Today I give you a video about Russia and how a plan to fix the economy might throw off the political balance of power. I regard Moscow's situation as a valuable lesson for our country - also in the throes of an economic crisis - and for investors affected by global markets. Click here to watch this great video by my friends at STRATFOR, a global intelligence company. You can also sign up to get free weekly intelligence from them, so you don't have to depend on my occasional mail-out.
I've mentioned a couple of schools of thought before: those who look at the big picture and those who pore over the details. Often, the major product is the result of its minor pieces. If you use good meat, good buns, and good vegetables- you're going to turn out a pretty good hamburger. The same goes for cars, businesses and portfolios.
One industry in which this methodology really doesn't seem to work is information. Mainstream sources of information almost always fail to connect the world's events. They do a great job telling you that former Iranian president Rafsanjani addressed his supporters, that anti-Ahmadinejad protestors outside chanted "Death to Russia", and that Israel sent a submarine through the Suez Canal. But they don't show how the incidents fit together in the geopolitical landscape, nor what they mean for the relationships between global powers. They give you the meat, the buns and the vegetables, but there's no hamburger.
This week I'm sending you an article AND a video on the Iran situation, from my friend George Friedman and his team of intelligence analysts at STRATFOR. Click here to watch "Rethinking Iran" and read the article below (They complement each other nicely). George connects the pieces and draws conclusions – so you can make better-informed decisions regarding investments, assets and travels around the world.
This week saw a 2-day summit between the United States and Russia that looks to be the first in a trend of subtle push and pull that will shape economic agendas for both states. Just as at the height of the Cold War, these two superpowers are jockeying for global attention and prospective untapped markets. But while the communication between the two is at the same volume and frequency as it was back in the days of Kennedy and Khrushchev, the tone has taken on a different level - as Obama flexes his newly appointed muscle and plants a possible seed of discontent between Medvedev and Putin concerning the future of the former USSR.
Hands-down the most important thing in Russia is energy. It's not the headline on CNN these days, but come less than 6 months from now the cold European winters will make natural gas supply lines and shipping an unavoidable talking point. Today's U.S./Russia relationship lays the groundwork for the future of global energy markets.
I'm sending you an article by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR, a global intelligence firm, discussing what's really going on between the U.S. and Russia - at the summit and in the coming months. If energy markets matter to you - and they do, regardless of how you're invested - then you need to understand this pivotal global relationship. Also, STRATFOR is offering special rates to Outside the Box readers. Click here to read more and be sure to take advantage of these low rates for priceless intelligence to help you in your future financial planning.
One of the first things you learn about analyzing a company is how to dissect a balance sheet. What assets and liabilities can be deployed by a company to create equity over time? I've enclosed a fascinating variant on this process. Take a look at how STRATFOR has analyzed the "geographic balance sheets" of the US, Russia, China, and Europe to understand why different countries' economies have suffered to varying degrees from the current economic crisis.
As investors, it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that can provide us profitable opportunities, and it's precisely this type of outside-the-box thinking that makes STRATFOR such an important part of my investment decision making. The key to investment profits is thinking differently and thinking earlier than the next guy. STRATFOR's work exemplifies both these traits.
I've arranged for a special deal on a STRATFOR Membership for my readers, which you can click here to take advantage of. Many of you are invested in alternative strategies, but I want to make sure that you also employ alternative thinking strategies. So take a look at these different "country balance sheets" as you formulate your plans.
I've been in this business a long time. Some days it feels like a very long time. But never in all the years that I've been in the financial markets have I felt like business per se has less impact on my investment decisions. Let me explain.
GM shares have gone from being a claim on earnings from car sales to being a call option on whether the US government will extend another lifeline. Banks' capital structures have gone from being the province of Boards of Directors and CFOs to the "expertise" of Congressional committees and appointed regulators. Used to be when I thought about Financial Centers New York and London came to mind. Instead now I have to think about Washington and Brussels.
My friend George Friedman and his team at STRATFOR are where I turn when I need help thinking about these new realities. George's team provides me context and understanding of the environment in which financial developments are going to take place. I may tweak him about his ties, but if you saw George speak at my conference in La Jolla, you know that he's an absolutely compelling speaker. And it's small wonder that his latest book spent those weeks on the New York Times bestseller list too.
Below you'll find STRATFOR's 2Q Forecast. I hope you find it as helpful as I do in formulating my plans. What I can tell you with certainty is that if you're not taking into account the impact of geopolitical events on the markets, it's no different than trading agricultural futures without a weather forecast. George and his team provide their Members - myself included - with forecasts and on-going analysis that's invaluable in understanding the seachange in the global economy. And in exchange for me not teasing him any more, he's offering my readers a special rate on a STRATFOR Membership. Click here to join STRATFOR at this special rate and get access to a full year of the same geopolitical intelligence I use in my strategic planning. You'll be glad you did.
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.
Who's afraid of the Russian bear? As Russia makes a grab for power and influence, the rest of the world watches to see how the United States and her still-new president will react. As an investor, it's important that you're aware of global politics, as the ramifications reach beyond diplomatic relations and straight into the markets.
I've included a piece from my friend George Friedman's company, STRATFOR, on The Obama Administration and the Former Soviet Union. It's the seventh in a series that explores how key countries have interacted with the United States in the past, and how their relationships with Washington will likely be defined during the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama. It's a must-read for informed investors.
George has very kindly arranged for a special offer on a STRATFOR Membership just for my readers. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this offer. Now more than ever, you need a wide lens on the world, as politics shapes the economy. There's no one better than George and his team at Stratfor at telling you what you need to know and why. I know you'll find them as valuable as I do.
If the Russian Bear has indeed emerged from its post-Soviet hibernation to regain global prominence, that means big things for your portfolio. From the punishingly obvious war with Georgia last summer, to the more subtle - but equally powerful - shut off of natural gas to Ukraine and Europe, Russia is making it abundantly clear that they want to be global players again. To get a read on how this is all going to play out, I turn to my friend George Friedman, the founder of global intelligence firm Stratfor.
Stratfor just published its 2009 Annual Forecast, and I count on George's team of analysts because they're the very best in the business. And apparently the "secret" is getting out because I can't turn on CNN or read Forbes or listen to any of a dozen radio stations without hearing George being interviewed about his new book, The Next 100 Years. As an investor, I'm interested in both the near- and the long-term, and nobody matches the insights that George and his team provide.
I've included the "Russian Resurgence" section of Stratfor's 2009 Forecast below. Read it, and you'll see why you should join Stratfor and get the entire forecast as part of your Membership. George has also kindly offered my readers a free copy of his new book if you join now. I heartily recommend that you consider Stratfor for global intelligence for the next year and the next 100 years.
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.
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,
With the election of a new US President, everyone is focused on the "First 100 Days." How Obama transitions into the presidency impacts not just the U.S. but the entire global system. What happens to U.S. relations with Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan? What's going to happen at Treasury and to all the programs addressing the financial crisis? What's going to emerge from the next G20 summit?
You need to read the analysis below, written by my good friend George Friedman at Stratfor. He details the immediate issues facing the president-elect, including one of the stickiest: Europe's desire for a global banking regulatory regimen. How will Obama respond to European pressure? George has built his company Stratfor and its reputation on forecasting the future, and I'm amazed at how often he's right -- on broad themes and specific events.
As we move into the next 100 days, George is way ahead of us with a book called The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century. I've read an advance copy, and it's absolutely fascinating. In it, he maps out what geopolitical changes the world will see in the next hundred years: the rise of Mexico (and war with the U.S.!), Poland and Turkey returning to great-power status, and a second Cold War, among others. I can tell you, his arguments are as absolutely compelling as the conclusions are provocative.
George has arranged a special pre-publication offer for my readers. Click here to take advantage of a Stratfor Membership that also includes a free copy of George's new book. For insight into the next 100 days and the next 100 years, I'm relying on George Friedman and his team at Stratfor. I know you'll find as much value in George's forecasts as I do.
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.
In times of crisis, those with psychological fortitude discover opportunities that most people miss. A friend of mine in Houston tells me of unending piles of tree limbs broken down by the hurricane. The homeowner laments his disaster; the tree trimmer and the roofer order a new Mercedes. Most of the world sees a Wall St. meltdown. Buffett takes the opening to deploy billions from his cash hoard. They're all seeing the same thing, but they're reacting differently based on different visions of the future.
I've included a piece today from my friend George Friedman over at Stratfor about the landscape the next US President will face. This article is a perfect example of why I rely on Stratfor for my geopolitical intelligence. The newspapers and other media do better or lesser jobs of telling me about what's happening right now. But that's not what an investor needs. What I need - and I recommend for you - is an analysis of what we're going to be facing. That's where George and his team absolutely excel.
For at least the next month, the public conversation is going to be completely dominated by the November election and the political maneuvering to address the financial crisis. There will be tremendous drama. There will be dizzying swings back and forth in emotions, expectations, and more than likely the markets. And if you focus on it, you'll miss the real opportunities to position yourself for the emergence. George has made a special offer on a Stratfor Membership available to my readers, and I strongly encourage you to click here to take advantage of this opportunity. Now is the time to get positioned for future opportunities, while everybody else is wallowing in the here and now.
It's been a hell of a few weeks, so let's start with a little much-needed levity. Two friends, a Trader and an Investor, walk up to the roulette wheel in a casino. They watch a guy hogging the table hit on his first spin. Then his second. Third, boom. Four in a row! The guy has an enormous stack of chips which he lets ride again on a fifth spin. 00. He's wiped out and skulks off to the bar.
The two friends are excited because now it's their turn. The Trader says he's going to follow exactly the same pattern as the guy they just watched, BUT he's going to pocket his money after four spins. The Investor tells him to hold off for a minute. He wants to first buy stock in the casino....
Like most good jokes, there's a kernel of truth. When everything is in turmoil, you can't focus on the instances; you have to focus on the underlying foundations. Roulette isn't about guessing red or black; it's about understanding statistics. Today in a Special Outside the Box, we look at some potential problems from Russia that could impact the US and Latin America. It comes from George Friedman's company, Stratfor, the source I rely on for my geopolitical analysis. Peter Zeihan is one of the very sharpest thinkers in George's shop, as you'll see. The basic definition of public capital markets in the US and Europe is fundamentally different than in a country like Russia. If you don't understand the geopolitical lens through which a state views its capital markets, then you're making roulette bets instead of investments.
George is kind enough to have a special offer on a Stratfor Membership for my readers. I encourage you to click here to take advantage of this opportunity. Whether it's energy, public equities, or debt, the world's markets are inextricably intertwined. And that means you've got to understand the lay of the land. No one does a better job of providing the geopolitical drivers behind "the statistics" than Stratfor.