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Beijing’s Dilemmas

Ranked by population, the United States is the world’s third largest country, behind China and India. But the gap is greater than the ranking implies. According to Worldometer, as of 2020 China had 1.44 billion people, India 1.38 billion, and the US 331 million. In...

Year of the Bookends

If you are a booklover like me, you probably have many shelves. On some of those shelves you probably have bookends holding the books in place. They come in opposing pairs—similar but reversed. What if the COVID-era economy has bookends? I think that may be what’s...

Coming to America

This week is a little bit different than your usual Thoughts from the Frontline. It is Christmas Day as this is sent out, so not the time to ramble on about inflation and the markets. Instead I’ll share a story from my good friend Vitaliy Katsenelson. He immigrated to...

Inflation by the Numbers

Milton Friedman famously said inflation is “always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon.” He was right but that short statement doesn’t fully explain how inflation works. It has other causes, too. The period in which he did his most famous research showed inflation...

What Really Caused Inflation

You won’t be surprised to know I disagree with recent Federal Reserve policy choices. The Fed’s future choices are more important, though. Debating what they should do is one thing. Anticipating what they will do is critical. Today we’ll “war game” what the Fed is...

Back up the Truck to buy INVU shares

“Back up the truck to buy INVU shares” has been exclusively available to ShinyPennyStocks.com subscribers since November 29, 2021. “Back up the truck” is an old saying that is used by professionals on Wall Street on rare occasions.  Another is “buy it with both...

Capital Excess

Why do we invest? Everyone has their reasons, but funding retirement may be the most common one. Whenever the time comes, we want to relax in comfort and security. Yet this whole “retirement” idea is really quite new. For most of human history, almost everyone worked...

Blowout quarter for Investview

Investview (INVU) reported their financial results for their quarter ended September 30, 2021.  The blowout results were, as I had anticipated.  Operating and free cash flow results came in as expected.  For more highlights covering financial results see Investview...

Worth a Thousand Words

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone had a good holiday. I’m writing this issue early in the week while enroute to join family in Dallas. Today will be different and I hope you like it. The charts and comments below are drawn from the “Clips That Matter” feature of...

Shortages Are Relative

In some simplistic economic theories, shortages never happen. Supply and demand for any particular good are always perfectly balanced in a given time and place. If you can’t get what you demand at that moment, you pay a higher price or you demand something else. But...

Energy Complexity

If I had to describe my last 500 letters in one word, it would be “complexity.” The older I get, the more I realize problems I once thought had reasonably straightforward solutions are, in fact, hideously complicated. That doesn’t make them unsolvable but it reduces...

Trick or Treat Economy

To Jerome Powell and the Fed: It’s a lesson too late for the learning,Made of sand, made of sand.In the wink of an eye, prices are risingIn your hand, by your hand. Are you going away with no word of farewell,Will you leave your inflation behind?You should have...

When Tools Stop Working

Because I believe in the division of labor, I rarely use hand tools today. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, I had two 4 x 8 pegboards on my garage wall full of tools along with my large Craftsman toolbox. I had the right tool for every job around the car, house, and yard. I...

Logistical Sandpiles

At the risk of overusing a favorite metaphor, today we’ll talk about sandpiles. My past sandpile stories focused on financial crises. The same principle holds in any complex system, though. Everything works until suddenly it doesn’t. As Minsky said, stability breeds...

Xi’s Changing Plan

Six months ago, few Americans had heard of Evergrande. Now many worry this Chinese property developer’s downfall will start an economically devastating chain reaction. They’re right about the chain reaction part, but I don’t think it will “devastate” anyone outside...

What Could Go Wrong?

I have written several letters on the theme that the best investment posture is cautious optimism. Pessimism and bearishness never get you in the game, while untamed optimism means that at some point, you’ll have a serious setback. The cautiously optimistic investor...

The Return of Stagflation

I have been writing this letter for 22 years. Sometimes I look into the future and other times merely try to explain the present. Today I’m going to look at several possible futures. There are forces at work in both Congress and the Federal Reserve that could take us...

Human Capital Losses

Remember math class? Let me give you a quick refresher. In the equation 3 x 5 = 15, the 3 and 5 are factors, and 15 is the product. You can’t have a product without factors. In economics we talk about “factors of production.” If you want to produce something, you need...

Perfect Storms

Having been Puerto Rico residents for almost three years now, Shane and I have learned a few things about living in the tropics. In Dallas, we didn’t often think about hurricanes, though we did have tornadoes and severe thunderstorms. Ditto for earthquakes. North...

COVID Consumer Headache

If you look just at 2021, it seems the US economy is tearing higher. Real GDP grew an annualized +6.5% in the second quarter, the Commerce Department estimated last week. This follows a similar +6.3% first quarter, and a pandemic-interrupted 2020 that turned out not...

Federal Reserve Folly

Great news: The US economy is officially out of recession. We know this because the National Bureau of Economic Research’s official recession-calling committee said so this week. The economy has been in an expansion phase since last April, making this the shortest...

Xi’s Big Mistake

I have mixed feelings about China. On the plus side, I think the country’s massive economic transformation may be one of the most impressive events in human history. Bringing hundreds of millions from primitive rural lives into relatively prosperous cities within a...

TINA Is Stupid

In the 1980s, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher liked to say, “There is no alternative” to her market-driven economic reform ideas. She said it so much people began abbreviating it as “TINA.” Whatever you think of Lady Thatcher’s policies, the slogan was...

The New Inquisition

It is as essential to democracy that the minority should voluntarily submit to the measures adopted as it is that the majority should voluntarily approve them. Democratic government rests upon the principle that it is better to count heads than it is to break them....

Long Humanity

“At the end of the day” is a trite figure of speech, but it sometimes fits. It signals you’ve used all your time, and now you’ll wrap up and begin thinking about tomorrow. I like to say designing the Strategic Investment Conference agenda is my personal art form....

Politics with No Labels

You can’t always get what you wantBut if you try sometime you findYou get what you need There’s no way around it: Investing in public companies is always political. Corporations exist because governments charter these artificial entities and legally shield the owners...

Technology Rules

Macroeconomic forecasting is too politicized. I don’t mean that in a partisan sense, though it may be so. The bigger problem is that forecasters spend most of their time thinking about central bank decisions and government policies. In the long run, those aren’t the...

Deflation Talk

If you could ask the world’s top central bankers what really terrifies them, I think the honest answer would usually be “deflation.” It is their greatest nightmare. They think a little inflation is good (thus the 2%+ target), and they’re confident they can subdue it...

Expecting Inflation

The annual whirlwind is over. SIC was once again a mental overload. This year our virtual schedule spread it over almost two weeks, which was actually nice. The in-between days let the ideas settle a bit before the firehose opened again. Fifty powerful, thoughtful...

A Giant Consumptive Force

The SIC was in full swing this week. I am finishing this on Friday morning, a few hours before the start of the last official day and then a “Plus Day” on Tuesday. My mind is swimming with new connections and revelations. While the live events are mostly over now,...

This Kind of Duality

We’re midway through the SIC 2021, and as I expected, it’s shaping up to be the biggest and best Strategic Investment Conference I’ve ever hosted. So far, all of our presenters and panelists have given stellar performances... and attendees seem to agree with that...

Anomaly of a Recovery

We did the first Strategic Investment Conference 18 years ago. I remember one of the partners in the firm that cohosted the event telling me as I walked up to the stage, “John, it doesn’t get any better than this. Don’t screw it up.” He was wrong. Every year the...

Stumbling to Scarcity

In economic forecasting, reality is usually somewhere between the extremes. The best-case and worst-case rarely happen. That’s why, when they do happen, markets react so quickly to the “missed expectations.” I saw this early in my career. Realizing we will “muddle...

Tsunami Warning

A tsunami is a wall of water that wipes out everything in its path, typically caused by earthquakes. But first, the water actually disappears from the usual shoreline, leaving land where there should be sea. A tsunami is a wall of water that wipes out everything in...

Tiny Housing Bubbles

Recently I searched the Thoughts from the Frontline archives to see how often I used the word “bubble.” It was more than I thought, and I wasn’t quoting Don Ho. The bubbles I talked about were anything but tiny. Most of them subsequently popped, too. For most people,...

The Exponential Ride

The last year brought exponential growth in, among other things, use of the word “exponential.” It is now the go-to term when you want to say something is “growing super-fast.” I've got to admit it's getting better (Better)A little better all the time (It can't get no...

The 1970s Never Ended

Big economic storms are rare and usually end quickly, but they tend to have long-lasting effects. Today I want to talk about a storm 50 years ago that still affects us now. Important things happened in the 1970s. I personally remember that decade well. I was in my 20s...

Broken Debt

Modern technology is amazing but our ancient forebears built some wondrous things, too. Long-ago historians organized them into “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.” (Of course, their “world” was the Mediterranean and Middle East. Other wonders existed elsewhere.)...

Inflation Is Broken

I have been writing for many years that the US in particular and the Western “developed” world in general were approaching a time where none of our choices would be good. We have arrived. Any choice the government and central banks of the US and the rest of the world...

Everything Is Broken

Broken CreditBroken RetirementBroken StocksBroken DataBroken Unemployment SystemPuerto Rico, Vaccines, and Some Good News Broken lines, broken strings,Broken threads, broken springs,Broken idols, broken heads,People sleeping in broken beds —Bob Dylan, “Everything is...

Overstimulation Risk

Among the many strange, unforeseen changes of the last year is a new respect for Keynesian economic theory. Practically everyone in power now agrees that deficit spending produces GDP growth. They differ only on its expected magnitude and duration. The few exceptions...

Controlling the Curve

If time is money, then interest rates are the price of time. The most important interest rates in the world are for US Treasury securities. This is why I’ve long said it makes no sense for a committee to set those rates. The markets could do just fine without that...

The Grip Tightens

This is part two of my 2021 forecast series. I began last week (you can read it here) discussing a three-handed alien race envisioned by science fiction writers Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. They had two regular hands and a third “gripping hand,” which though less...

Year of the Gripping Hand

This week’s letter is the first part of my 2021 forecast. There is simply too much to cover in one letter, and today we’ll start with the most important factor, a known unknown, that I think will be the driver for 2021. Before beginning, I want to make two points, one...

Waiting For The Last Dance

Executive Summary The long, long bull market since 2009 has finally matured into a fully-fledged epic bubble. Featuring extreme overvaluation, explosive price increases, frenzied issuance, and hysterically speculative investor behavior, I believe this event will be...