Economic Analysis

Unintended Consequences:  Iraq, Pensions and Index Funds

Thoughts from the Frontline

March 15, 2003

Each week, I typically sit down at noon on Friday to write this letter. Quite often I stare at a blank screen pondering what to write about. Last week, and this week, my task has been to decide what NOT to write about. There is just so much that is worthy of our attention: pensions, indexing, Iraq, the drop in gold and the rise in stocks, international turmoil, the misleading headlines in the investment media and more. I have to leave the office without fail at 5:30 (kids come first), so...

Deflating Europe, Housing Bubbles and Greenspan’s Amnesia

Thoughts from the Frontline

March 7, 2003

I am writing this week's e-letter early, as tomorrow I travel to speak at an investment conference in Florida. As I review the articles and reports of the last few weeks, I am struck by the number of very interesting topics which deserve their own letter. There is truly a lot happening, so like the billiards player trying to make a difficult four bank shot, we will go from one side of the table to another and hope we end up making the shot, or at least making a point or two.

The Muddle Through Middle: Why Stocks Drop While the Economy Grows

Thoughts from the Frontline

February 28, 2003

In most issues of this weekly letter, I spend our time together looking at specific trees and various flora, commenting upon how they affect the overall economic forest. Today, it is time to drop back and look at the forest as a whole, given that we may be on the precipice of events that could change the very character of the forest in which we live.

I am going to do so as a way to frame what I think of as the rationale for my economic world-view. I believe we are in a Muddle Through Economy...

Healthcare, Oil Shocks and Deflation

Thoughts from the Frontline

February 21, 2003

This week we have seen a lot of conflicting stories on the economy: worries about an oil shock leading to a double dip recession and more deflation, a surprise increase in the Producer Price Index but only a slight increase in the Consumer Price Index. Unemployment claims went up, while retail sales were down while the Wall Street Journal says they went up. We examine what these could all mean this year, as my Muddle Through scenario faces some stiff winds. We also look at the long term...

Greenspan Fiddles and the French Dance

Thoughts from the Frontline

February 14, 2003

Sometimes it is the small things that lead to big changes. Today we briefly look at one paragraph in Greenspan's latest speech, then move on to Europe and Iraq. I want to suggest some small things that could lead to changes in global politics and the world economy just as significant as the fall of the Berlin Wall. My theme for 2003 was Surprise and Transition." I think we are getting ready for our first true surprise. Again, there is a lot to go over, so let's get started.

The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Retirement

Thoughts from the Frontline

February 7, 2003

Today I discuss one of the most dangerous threats to your retirement and then we listen to a few seasoned pros tell us why the market is not going up. It should make for an interesting session, so let's get started.

I got the following email from a reader yesterday which so upset me I decided to make it the lead for this week's letter. Quote:

Truth in Advertising: The Fed Fails the Test

Thoughts from the Frontline

January 31, 2003

This week I had the pleasure of talking with Nobel Prize economist Dr. Harry Markowitz. We discuss that conversation, and how it ties in with my continued unease with deflation, Paul McCulley's recent essay, the lack of candor from the Federal Reserve, the implications of the dollar bear market, Iraq and more. It will make for a fast-paced e-letter this week, so let's jump right in.

Markowitz received his Nobel prize for a 1952 essay which marked the beginning of Modern Portfolio Theory....

The “All Iraq, All the Time” Economy

Thoughts from the Frontline

January 24, 2003

How, more than a few readers ask, can the economy continue to Muddle Through if I am right about the market eventually dropping another 40% before we get to the end of the secular bear market cycle? Won't such a massive destruction of wealth mean a depression? We look at that question, some thoughts on earnings, the world and a whole lot more this week.

Iraq, Oil and the Fed Printing Press

Thoughts from the Frontline

January 17, 2003

No sooner is my Muddle Through 2003 forecast out, than we get a barrage of data which gives cause for concern. Can we still Muddle Through with an increase in taxes (you read that right!), higher oil prices, more medical costs, and a slowing world economy? Is the Fed actually winning the War Against Deflation? We look at all that today, plus I answer a few critics of my forecast.

2003 Forecast

Thoughts from the Frontline

January 11, 2003

We cover the globe, currencies, the US economy, bonds, stocks, deflation, inflation, gold, oil and more!

For the last three years, making annual predictions has been relatively easy, at least as compared to this year. You try to discern the dominant theme for the year and then everything else usually flows from there. In 2000, it was an over-valued stock market. In August of 2000, the interest rate yield curve went negative, and as I wrote at length at the time, Federal Reserve studies...