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.
In the midst of an economic crisis, we are inundated with data - information that often, a few years down the line, turns out to be wrong. Forecasts are made based on a single month's set of data or previous trends, and the public often doesn't know how to read the fine print about margins of error.
The problem is faulty methodology. Most media and even government intelligence agencies assume the information they get from leadership figures is 100% correct, no questions asked - leading to defective analyses. Instead, underlying assumptions should be constantly vetted in the face of new facts. I'd encourage you to consider the intelligence produced by my friend George Friedman at STRATFOR - a trusted source in forecasting future geopolitical trends.
Click here to watch this video by George and his intelligence team. It looks beyond the current protests in Iran and delves into what policy changes could be on the horizon in this pivotal Middle Eastern state. George extrapolates what these recent events mean for President Obama's and Israel's options in terms of Iran and the peace process.
Anyone looking to gain a leg up in the world of finance needs to understand geopolitics and foreign investments. Take a look at STRATFOR, which offers a special deal for my readers. Barron's referred to them in a cover-story profile as the "Shadow CIA," but I would say that their methodology gives them much greater accuracy than their government counterpart.
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.
Dear Friends -
Occasionally I need a fast answer. So I'll run a Google search, and 2.54 MILLION responses later I've learned how to handle a Thanksgiving turkey-roasting crisis but nothing useful about Turkey's financial crisis.
There's certainly no shortage of data these days. But what's in all-too-short supply is understanding. As investors, what creates opportunities isn't access to data but to ways of thinking about the world. I created Outside the Box precisely for this reason, to share with you some of the best thinkers in the world and some of the best ways to think about investments.
To understand how geopolitical events impact your investments, there's simply no one better than my friend George Friedman and his team at STRATFOR. They couple objective facts with unbiased context and analysis so you know what it all means for you. This understanding is a critical piece of my investment formula, and I strongly encourage you to click here to take advantage of a special offer that George is offering my readers.
In the meantime, take a look at this article about Israel, the U.S., and the chance for peace in the Middle East. If you've ever wondered why this conflict doesn't have a simple, Hollywood resolution, you'll be blown away by the clarity George provides.
Dear Friends -
If you ever look at the footnotes, you know that "Past performance is no guarantee of future results." That said, by the time you've gotten a bit of gray hair, you realize that there are few teachers as good as history. "But this time it's different!" is the cry of people that are usually just about to lose a bunch of money.
Read the analysis below from my good friend George Friedman at STRATFOR on the latest new thing, the swine flu outbreak. A few points you ought to take away with you:
- while the situation is serious, it's not cause to become hysterical or irrational
- the way to evaluate the current threat is by benchmarking it against similar historical events
- and as investors, if we don't look outside the worlds of finance and economics, we can get painfully blindsided
These three points are precisely why I incorporate STRATFOR insights into my investment planning. STRATFOR provides the narrative of the future by studying the past. Those of you that got to visit with George in La Jolla know what I'm talking about. If you're looking for context and understanding of tomorrow's global events - and if you're not, you're really in trouble! - I heartily suggest you click here to take advantage of the special offer that George makes available to my readers for a STRATFOR Membership.
There aren't any guarantees in life. But there are good, solid principles that you ignore at your peril. That "there's nothing new under the sun" is a lesson to take to heart.
Your Gray(ing) Eminence Analyst,
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.
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.
When I read the headline, "China: Exports Drop," plastic toys, cheap sneakers and milk scandals come to mind. But the impact of China's financial health is more far-reaching than simply affecting the Wal-Mart consumer; China matters on a global investing stage. So that's why I don't just read headlines; I read STRATFOR. My friend George Friedman's team of analysts will take the numbers and explain to me what they mean and how they impact the country, without bias or partisanship. They don't make value judgments, they outline the full financial picture so I can make my own.
Understanding China is critical to anyone with investments. In the following piece, STRATFOR graphically presents the decline in exports in a historical context, and outlines other critical measurements in the Chinese economy -- giving me the frame of reference I need. I highly recommend that you start reading STRATFOR for this kind of focused analysis. George has kindly arranged a special offer just for my readers: a full year of Membership for just $199. Click here to take advantage of this offer today.
I read STRATFOR because I only want to know what's important and why.
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.
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.
The hottest media topic of the New Year is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in Gaza. And as I was reading the New York Times on Tuesday, I came across this sentence in one of the articles that was staggeringly truthful and more than a little unsettling in its implications for me as an investor.
"There are other ways to construe the context of this conflict of course. But no matter what, Israel's diplomats know that if journalists are given a choice between covering death and covering context, death wins."
Now, I'm NOT trying to get into a debate about the rights and wrongs of either side, but if you're an investor, and you're trying to make decisions about where this conflict might drive oil prices, for example, then context is everything. And according to the New York Times, if you're relying on journalists for context, forget it.
But you do have an alternative: my friend George Friedman's company, Stratfor, is the unbiased source for insightful analysis of global events. George and his team are all about context - and they provide it without bias or an agenda. If you're my age, you remember "Just the facts, ma'am." Whether it's the conflict in Gaza, the war between Georgia and Russia, or the mayhem and violence in Nigeria, when I need to know how geopolitics is going to hit energy prices, I turn to Stratfor.
I'm including today one of their analyses on the conflict: Iran: Using Oil as a Weapon, But Only Rhetorically. In it, Stratfor showcases its strengths: unbiased analysis--and in this case, of a situation mainstream media has barely even registered. George has kindly arranged a special offer for my readers. Click here, and you'll get 2 years of Membership for the price of 1 for just $349. Plus George is including a free copy of his new book coming out later this month (I'll be reviewing it for you in a couple weeks.)
Your all-about-context analyst,
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,
As various companies go hat in hand to Washington for a bailout, a recurring topic is what guaranty do the taxpayers get that they're not just throwing more money down a hole. Good question. Who wants warrants or preferred shares if the company is doomed anyway? What you're seeing take place are negotiated backstops between the US Government and pools of capital. A couple of examples:
The Big 3 may get a bailout. Financially the US taxpayer will get a stake - in what will surely be radically reshaped companies. Citibank just got a large infusion from Saudi Arabia's Prince al-Waleed bin Talal al-Saud - just days before a US government orchestrated rescue helped rocket the share price. Maybe these are just coincidental moves. Maybe not.
What we're witnessing isn't finance or investment as usual. We're watching a shift to a managed economic structure, where government officials determine who will live and who will die. It's a shift from investments to agreements, where having access to large pools of ready cash is the ultimately persuasive argument. And lacking access means doing whatever you're told.
I've long been encouraging you to read George Friedman's work at Stratfor, but it becomes more important every day. Stratfor is producing a series on Countries in Crisis, and I've enclosed the latest piece which is the exception to the rule, the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. This series is a fascinating look at how those with the gold get to make the rules. Unless you've got your own sovereign wealth fund, you'll probably want to read it...
As you're structuring your own portfolios, understanding the geopolitical drivers behind where the markets are going is now more important than ever. Because these insights are so important, I've arranged a special deal for you on a Stratfor Membership which also includes a free copy of George's new book, The Next 100 Years. Click here to take advantage of this offer today. These are the drivers for the coming year, and I encourage you to factor them in today.
The Big Three have a new customer, and it isn't you. As Detroit's former heavyweights fight for a slice of a $25 billion bailout package, more than humble pie is being eaten. If the automakers fail and take their companies into bankruptcy, Michigan as we know it ceases to exist economically. The trickle-down impact could rapidly become a waterfall: the seat supplier in Georgia loses three major customers. The factory worker who makes seats is out of a job. The bank who holds his mortgage takes another hickey. Commercial lending at that bank dries up. Ad nauseum. In the best of economic times, this would be a troublesome scenario. In today's economy, it's easy to see how policymakers are as worried about social stability as they are economics.
No astute person thinks that the Big Three will be able to return to the business practices of last year. And no intelligent investor should be trying to evaluate portfolio decisions the same way this year either. We have moved from the realm of finance to political economy, and for that you need a different set of tools and a different mindset.
I've enclosed an article by my friend George Friedman, the founder of global intelligence firm Stratfor. This is a fascinating, must-read piece that examines US policy options by looking at the Chinese as an example. The parallels are illuminating. I've stressed before the importance of reading Stratfor's intelligence in order to gain a clear understanding of the political and economic landscape you're investing in, but you need it now more than ever.
George has arranged a special offer just for my readers. And I'm excited to tell you that in addition to a Stratfor Membership, you'll also get a copy of his new book, The Next 100 Years.
Click here to take advantage of this special offer. You'll find George's new book as fascinating and insightful as Stratfor's daily work.
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.
Exhale for a moment, forget your losses for the time being, and try to appreciate the fact that you're living through the single most important development in global finance since Bretton Woods. This is a "tell the grandkids about it" moment, when governments all around the world have essentially decided in unison that it's time to rewrite the rules, the very framework, in which financial transactions take place. Stock trading, interbank lending, commercial paper, the very concept of private sector ownership are all up in the air right now.
The only thing I can tell you with certainty is that if you try to evaluate your investments using the same metrics you've always relied on - P/E ratios, market share, interest rates, etc. - you're going to be as successful as a football-turned-baseball coach evaluating a pitcher by the number of touchdowns he throws. The rules are changing, gentle reader, changing at least for awhile from market-driven inputs to government-driven inputs. If you try to apply what you know from the "old game" without understanding that you're playing a "new game," the rules might not make sense.
I'm sending you today a piece from my friend George Friedman on how his company Stratfor looks at economics. More precisely, this piece explains how they look at Political Economy. And from here on out, it's political economy that's going to be driving markets. If the old rule was "Never fight the Fed." It's now, "Never fight the Fed. And the Treasury. And the ECB. And the Bank of England. And the Bank of Japan...." You get my point.
George has very kindly arranged for a special offer on a Stratfor Membership for my readers. I strongly encourage you to click here to take advantage of this offer. Now more than ever, you need the kinds of insights that you can't get from traditional finance sources. You need a wider lens, and there's no one better than George and his team at Stratfor at this kind of analysis. I know you'll find them as valuable as I do.
Your Taking-It-All-In Analyst,