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A Chance for Normalcy

Last week I talked about the polls misleading us. I, for one, didn’t see a high probability of a Biden presidency combined with a Republican Senate. But, pending recounts, legal actions, and some run-off elections, that’s probably what will happen. We will muddle...

Complexity Wins Again

Here in Puerto Rico we are now an hour ahead of Eastern Time, as we don’t do daylight savings time. I stayed up much later than normal on election night to watch the returns. I knew fairly early, when Florida and North Carolina looked so close, we weren’t going to see...

What Will Not Change

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” If you feel a bit overwhelmed, you’re not alone. A lot is happening right now. The US has a big election next week. We’re all on edge about the pandemic, which appears to be getting worse again,...

The Green Shoots of 2020

Appearing on 60 Minutes, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke said the recession’s end was in sight because the Fed’s asset purchases were generating “green shoots.” They turned out to be slow-growing shoots. The US unemployment rate kept getting worse for seven more months...

Caught in a Debt Trap

We're caught in a trapI can't walk outBecause I love you too much baby Elvis Presley’s rendition of Suspicious Minds topped the record charts in 1969. The lyrics portray a romance that couldn’t work, but was also impossible to escape. That’s also a good way to...

Timeline to the New Normal

Like everyone else, I am weary of this pandemic mess. I want to travel freely, enjoy dinner with friends, hug, and shake hands. And, of course, I want everyone who lost jobs and businesses to get them back. I wasn’t thrilled with the economy a year ago, but I’d take...

Debt Bugs and Windshields

"There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion." —Ludwig von Mises Economic recovery is coming, we are told, because the economy has found a new equilibrium. We are supposedly adapting to the new-normal pandemic world,...

Stall Speed Economy

When Cornwallis surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown in 1781, tradition has it that the British band played an old English children’s folk tune, “The World Turned Upside Down.” Painting by John Trumbull If buttercups buzz’d after the bee,If boats were on land,...

Inflation Virus Strikes Fed

One little-noted aspect of central bank policy is how rarely “policy” happens. Officials at the Federal Reserve and elsewhere long ago learned how to achieve their goals without actually doing anything. Creating perceptions is often enough to modify people’s behavior....

Light in the COVID Tunnel

If you ever think you just can’t win, I know how you feel. I’m labeled both a doomsayer and a Pollyanna—sometimes in reaction to the same letter. In fact, I am neither. I used to be the “muddle-through” guy who acknowledged difficulty but expected eventual success....

Yellow Flag Jobs Data

As I file this letter Friday morning, people are reacting to the July jobs report. My own reaction: The headline report is absurd. I will explain further at the end of this letter. But first, I have another topic. Regular readers know I worry about debt, mainly that...

European Resurgence

One of COVID-19’s many less-than-obvious consequences is the way it makes us look inward. Facing mortality has always done that, of course. West Texas Judge Roy Bean reportedly said, “Nothing focuses the mind like a good hanging.” For the vulnerable and those of us of...

Valuation Inflation

“In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.”             —Benjamin Graham You may have noticed a bit of manic activity in the stock market. You may have also noticed inflation (as measured by various government...

Small Business Blues

Politicians love saying small businesses are important to the economy. In this case, it isn’t just rhetoric. The millions of little companies with a handful of workers are, collectively, more important than the few hundred large enterprises we see in the news. That’s...

The Blacker Swan

“A similar effect is taking place in economic life. I spoke about globalization in Chapter 3; it is here, but it is not all for the good: it creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words, it creates...

A Recession Like No Other

We just spent the better part of a decade wondering when the next recession would strike. The last two months we stopped wondering. It’s here and a grand council of esteemed economists has confirmed it. On June 8, the Business Cycle Dating Committee of the National...

Where We Go from Here

Predictions are difficult, especially those about the future. That old proverb (often attributed to Yogi Berra) is right but you can’t live without making certain presumptions. You presume your car will start, your refrigerator will stay cold, the lights will turn on...

Economics in Orbit

The history of humanity, at least as taught in most schools, is really about two seemingly opposite forces: human innovation and human conflict. The same intelligence that lets us accomplish great things also sets us against each other. But sometimes, we rise above...

Rewinding the Tape

We finished the Virtual Strategic Investment Conference yesterday. I can honestly say it was simply the best conference I have ever attended or been privileged to host. The ability to bring together so many exciting speakers, something schedules would not have allowed...

Reflection Week

I knew this letter’s topic months ago. It was going to be a review of the Strategic Investment Conference, which would have just concluded fabulously in sunny Scottsdale. Well, something intervened. Coronavirus precautions kept us from having an in-person conference....

Five Viral Lessons

We live in truly historic times. “There are decades when nothing happens, and weeks when decades happen,” says a quote usually attributed to Vladimir Lenin. It certainly fits now. For thousands of years, people who lived through what we call “history” didn’t realize...

The Figure-It-Out Economy

Market sentiment reflects human sentiment, which lately has been quite negative—understandably so, given the great uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. A month ago, we didn’t know where all this was going but it was potentially serious. I can almost begin...

Viral Thoughts

We are looking at a world with parameters bounded by pure imagination; where we go from here is anyone's guess. —Will Thomson and Chip Russell, Massif Capital Today’s letter will be another hop-around review of the crisis landscape. I’ll touch on several topics...

Bull & Bear Tracker Notice

The good news is that the cumulative gains for conservative traders trading the inverse SH ETF last week was 1.9% and for aggressive traders who traded the inverse SPXS last week was 6%.The bad news is that due to extremely volatile market conditions the signals in...

Repricing the World

The viral fog is starting to thin. US coronavirus case growth appears to be slowing, albeit at a tragically high level. Governments and businesses are thinking about the next stage. On the other hand, fog tends to return when the weather is right. Might this virus...

Bending the Inflation Curve

“Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output. … A steady rate of monetary growth at a moderate level can provide a framework under which a...

Notes from Lockdown

In times of change learners inherit the earth; while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. —Eric Hoffer Greetings from Puerto Rico, where this frequent traveler is evidently home for an unusually long time. I want...

The Beacons Are Lit

In the film version of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, there’s a three-minute scene you should watch or re-watch. It is relevant to our situation today. Gondor needed to light the beacons for aid. Click here for video. At the other end of the beacons,...

Stock market, a buy at October lows

Glass Bead Capital Management (Glass Bead) warned our readers and investors on January 23rd that the market was vulnerable to a correction and that it would be wise to take profits. We had deduced that the probability was fairly high that the market would provide a...