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Archive for March, 2012

 

Subject: Charlotte and Jonathan – Britains got talent 2012 auditions BU

Britains got talent 2012 auditions – Charlotte and Jonathan duet

Being judged by Simon Cowell, Carmen Electra, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams.

http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=oaalBHEuTTA&feature=player_embedded

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Get a Wealth of Financial Information with YoBucko

YoBucko

Eric Bell wants his company to become the trusted source of financial information for Generation Y. With information on saving money, managing debt, and investing for the future YoBucko just might be it.

Young people are going online more often to shop for financial services, but there isn’t a single place where they can learn about money and shop for financial services that target their needs. Plenty of companies out there are creating financial tools like Mint or HelloWallet, but who is the Suze Orman for young adults?

YoBucko is a personal finance guide with a wealth of information. Users can sign up for free to gain access to financial education on everything from paying off student loans to investing in a mutual fund. Through easy-to-comprehend articles and surprisingly interesting videos, users get a ton of advice on how to manage their money. YoBucko even offers tools like net worth worksheets and over a dozen financial calculators to help users plan and save. The best part about the site is the Ask YoBucko feature, which helps users get to the bottom of tricky financial questions.

Founder and CEO Bell has a passion for finance – that’s right, for finance. “I love helping people learn about managing their money,” he told me in an interview.  “It’s kind of a weird interest for a 28-year old, but it is something I’ve been doing since I started an organization to teach young people about investing in college.”

After spending a few years in New York and Washington, D.C. at the Citi Private Bank, Bell decided to pursue this passion for financial education full-time by starting YoBucko. He’s learned a lot in the last eighteen months.

According to Bell, entrepreneurs should never assume people want their product. “If there is one thing I’ve learned, it is that assumptions of market potential are simply that – assumptions,” he said. Bell believes assumptions were made to be tested. “Rather than spending all of your time and money building something people don’t want (or use), build a simple prototype or version one, test it, and validate your assumptions before investing more money or time.”

Bell also advises against going it alone:

This has been one of the hardest things for my company – finding partners.  If you are a solo entrepreneur, like me, you can go a little crazy sometimes because you lock yourself in the basement and work twenty four hours a day.  Eventually, you start to forget that other people go through this too and you don’t have to do everything by yourself.  I’d recommend finding a partner to bring in from the beginning, and if you cannot, find organizations like Tech Cocktail or a local incubator where you can connect with other entrepreneurs.  One of the best things I’ve done yet is joining NVTC’s FastTrac program.

Finally, Bell likens entrepreneurship to a rollercoaster and suggests entrepreneurs prepare themselves for the ride.

Running a startup comes with a lot of highs and lows.  If you aren’t  prepared or don’t love what you do, it is easy to call it quits.  Make sure to have money set aside to cover your expenses for twice as long as you think you’ll need, and assume that it will take as much money as you plan for.  Also, if you have a spouse or partner, make sure they understand that they are going to take the ride with you.  Perhaps setting some reasonable expectations up front would be a good idea.

Bell sees a bright future for his company. “YoBucko has the potential to help a lot of young people get their financial lives started out on the right foot,” he said. “If we are able to provide reliable financial information in a way that young people relate to, it has the potential to educate and equip them with the knowledge and tools they need for lifelong financial success.”

YoBucko is one of our featured startups at the Tech Cocktail DC Winter Mixer tonight.

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By Patric Carlsson – Gerbsman Partners BOIC advisor and CEO of Flexolvit.

Smart meters, datamining and cost awareness is driving the release of new, smart software that enables massive cost savings on energy for commercial property owners and private consumers alike. Companies like OPOWER, FuelFirst, Possitive America and Clean Urban Energy are leaning on the SaaS business model and behavioural and social science to enable 5 – 25% savings on private and commercial customers

New web based services, data minings and smart meters enables for a large, and concrete investment and M&A opportunity in the marketplace. Owning the direct dialog with the customer will enable scalable and profitable business models and incentive-based payouts on meassured results.

In the spring of 2011, the Boston-based OPOWER had approx. 600 000 active customers thorugh their service as launched in partnership with regional and national energy corporations. Using familiar strategies of get customers first and find ways to bill them later have generated interest of investors and media alike. With the modest ambition of increase cost effectiveness ranging from 1.3 to 5.4 cents per kilowatt-hour, the untapped potential of submetered promises in commercial building of around 20 % of total consumption and cost – the mere scratch on the surface OPOWER has made is very indicative.

FirstFuel, another Saas energyefficiancy company has chosen instead to focus on commerical properties. Using similarlly sociall and analytical webbased solutions, they act as samrt suggestions for “quick-fix” solutions lowering energy usage and cost around 7-10% for larger commercial property owners. The list of competitors and innovators is rapidly growing, companies like Clean Urban Energy and veteran company EnergyCap to mention a fed also uses the same set-up – use software to identify patterns that will save energy och money.

At the center of this emerging market segment is insight that draws on evidence from behavioural economics and psychology and social networks. Statistics has shown that Social, comparative energy consumption drives motivation and actual behavioural change. Collective purchasing and Social norms encourage broad-scale energy efficiancy though these new kinds of social networks. It also leans on the direct-feedback loop theory by crafting direct suggestions from statistics and incentives thorugh immediate rewards, rather then long-term payback. As user interface now is at the center of the web evolution, the simple touse, direct suggestions and incentives, actually meassure and validate a reduction of energy consumption and does save money.

What does it all mean?

Long established companies like Siemens, Schneider Electric, GE and Hitatchi has tradtitionally dominated the techical systems segment of the commercial property market by installing their stearing and monitoring systems. With these new competitive services that are being launched, The old-fashioned modell of installing isolated system in each building, focusing on the property management and stearing functions of each building or propery portfolio are struggeling to keep up on customer demand.

Large scale propery owners, as well as and private consumers for that sake, are seeing increased economic pressure from rising energy prises, increased demand of profits and marketshares from shareholders. Combined, the industry now are at a important threshold of old getting mixed and ourcompeted by these new kind of services. Energy corporations are much in the same situation – the lack of ability to communicate with each user generates a distance and disconnect.

Maturity of a cleantech segment.

Looking back a few years, green tech and cleantech segments have seen quite a shakeout in the infrastructure layer. The mautrity of winning concepts are settling in and new core technology have broadly started to replace old, in-efficient and polluting solutions. With the emergence of webbased services, connected stearing systems and smart meters a new highly scalable, and potentially profitable opportunity is quickly getting visable.

Likely scenarios and a large opportunity!

As a industry indsider, my views are colored. In some settings that might actually be a negative thing – here I view it as a blessing. The launching of a smart analysis SaaS company on the Scandinavian market during the last 24 months have given me the inside look of the severity of the situation for these large corporations that have dominated this segment for the last 25 years. Here are som points that I feel being the underlaying reason why there is an M&A opportunity in the near future.

  • They lack the vision of what the web is capable of. Having relied on onsite installation and maintainance of each individual building, the connecting of each system has proven to be a giant challenge, To now launch webbased, userfriendly, smart solutions is proving to be more difficult then predicted. Old patterns and comfort is hard to shred. Innovatros are launching in rapid pace and prove that new concepts and simplicity makes greatest impact. The end-user, corporate or individual is willing to get the information presented in a easy-to-use way.
  • Open standards and social networks generate large knowledgebases. Smart meters, open protocols for datatransmission and SaaS principles pushes the technology out to the individual that will make the difference in saving monety and energy. The new generation of companies are not held back by legacy systems and legacy contracts. The SaaS model is proving to be beneficial for energy corporations that struggles with public profile and direct dialogue with its users. The database driven services enables for broad statistical comparissons previously only available to power companies and such – service portals like those mentioned above harness large amounts of data to generate automatic analysis on patterns. This is a whole new ballgame for the older competitors
  • Evolving business models are likely to generate a shakeoutLets face it, we know that every business needs to make moeny. Facebook and others have proven that there is a twist to it, attract vast numers of users and slowly but clearly insert business models on users interactions or results – and the income will start grow beyond what was previously possible. Looking at OPOWER and FirstFuel, the game of scale is in full swing. If you look at the european markets, who has had smart meters for 10 years readlly available for same kind of services – there is a plehtora of service and software vendors offering their services. The last 2 years the EPC (Energy Performance Contract) model is more and more making its entry. In short, service vendor and customer engage with a SaaS program over a defined period of time and verified savings are spilt between user and company. The scalability have proven to be enormously successful. Its a hit and miss market where skilled analysis can generate vast income in short amount of time on a very undeveloped market. The M&A discussions are very present on the european markets allready where smaller technology and service packaging is getting rolled into older structures to renew customer engagements in new ways.

Conclusion

With a such a clearly defined need as this, both from the corporate and government sida, as well as the private consumerside – its a scramble to reach for customers by the new, and purchase innovation to keep the customers from the old – the cycle is very familiar. The emergence of large property analysis organisations and the emergence of smart software with verifyable results is to hot to miss – there are billions of dollars up for grabs from those who can visualize the consumption and generate savings for all users.

To reach Patric Karlsson please email at patric@flexolvit.se

About Gerbsman Partners

Gerbsman Partners focuses on maximizing enterprise value for stakeholders and shareholders in under-performing, under-capitalized and under-valued companies and their Intellectual Property. Since 2001, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in maximizing value for 69 Technology, Life Science and Medical Device companies and their Intellectual Property,, through its proprietary “Date Certain M&A Process” and has restructured/terminated over $800 million of real estate executory contracts and equipment lease/sub-debt obligations. Since inception, Gerbsman Partners has been involved in over $2.3 billion of financings, restructurings and M&A transactions.

Gerbsman Partners has offices and strategic alliances in Boston, New York, Washington, DC, Alexandria, VA, San Francisco, Orange County, Europe and Israel. For additional information please visit www.gerbsmanpartners.com.

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HuffPost Social Reading  by John Backus Managing Partner, New Atlantic Ventures 

Reclaiming Your Online Privacy Posted

Face it. Everything you do online is visible to someone and can be used without your approval or agreement. You leave details of your online activity in your browser, on your desktop, in your smartphone. All the while, companies, your employer, advertisers and the government are picking up those traces, and piecing them together to make a more perfect profile of – you!

If you aren’t scared now about what organizations know about you, you should be.

Companies have a voracious appetite for your information. The more they know about you, the more they can charge advertisers to micro-target you. The most recent and worrisome real world example is happening as you read this — Google! They just changed their privacy policy, under the faux auspices of “simplicity across sites” to be able to track the content of the emails you write and receive in Gmail, what you search for on Google, what you watch on YouTube, and where you are looking to go on Google Maps. And that goldmine of data wasn’t enough for them. In addition, they specifically and intentionally bypassed Safari’s private browsing mode on your iPhone and iPad to learn more about you.

And, Apple let application developers exploit a flaw in iOS to see all of the contacts in your address book.

Facebook settled with the FTC last fall over its own questionable privacy policies and is now rumored (though they deny it) to be tracking the contents of your text messages from their smart phone app. “Like” something on a website? Facebook knows exactly what you were looking at. Think of every “Like” button on a web page as a Facebook cookie. And remind your friends that “Like” is simply a sneaky way for you to give more personal, valuable information to Facebook.

Your employer knows everything you do at work. They archive your emails – and the court has ruled that company emails are company property — not personal property — and that employees should not have an expectation of privacy when using company resources. Employers also know every website you visit, what pages you see, and how long you spend on each site. You have no privacy when you are working in the office, out of the office but online on your company’s VPN, or doing anything on your company-provided smartphone, tablet or laptop. What you say and where you go belongs to your employer.

Advertisers have an insatiable appetite for user-specific information. Let me share my personal story (and you can try this yourself) Using Firefox, I went to preferences, privacy, and clicked on the underlined text that says “remove individual cookies.” I was taken to a box that showed all of the cookies on my machine. I had over 1000 cookies, most advertiser-related. AND, I use Adblockplus, Betterprivacy, and had checked the privacy box titled “Tell websites I do not want to be tracked.” The same thing happens with Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari. Scary. With much fanfare last month, the Government announced the “Do Not Track” browser button, which 400 companies have agreed to honor. Don’t be fooled. This provides limited privacy at best — and only from specific types of advertising, and only certain advertisers have agreed to use it.

Governments want to know more about you as well. The Electronic Frontier Foundation released a report entitled Patterns of Misconduct, which outlined the FBI’s ongoing violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. If not for an aggressive, last-minute online campaign by an unofficial coalition of Internet freedom fighters, Congress was about to pass the SOPA legislation (Stop Online Privacy Act), which would have allowed (and perhaps in some cases required) the government and ISPs to inspect the contents of every packet of information sent across their networks. And Europe isn’t far behind with SOPA’s ugly cousin, ACTA, (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) which entrepreneurs in the EU have just started fighting against.

What can you do to reclaim your privacy? There is only one thing to do:

Go invisible. That’s why our venture firm invested in Spotflux. Started by two Internet freedom fighters that have more than a decade of experience solving large-scale security challenges, Spotflux is a free privacy application for consumers, which works by encrypting your Web connection. It downloads in less than a minute on any Windows or Mac computer, anywhere in the world. Spotflux ran a beta test and in less than a year, attracted 100,000 users in 121 countries. It launches globally today.

Spotflux encrypts everything that leaves your desktop, pushes the data through their privacy-scrubbing service, and sends it along. To a website, you are not you — you are Spotflux. And you are invisible unless you choose to login to a website, like your bank, Google, Twitter or Facebook. Even then, companies only know what you do on their site. When you log out, they don’t see where you are on other sites. Better yet, Spotflux’s HTTPS security means no one can eavesdrop on your conversation over a public Wi-Fi connection. And you can surf just as freely overseas as you do in the U.S. Want more? Spotflux also strips out annoying ads and injects real-time malware detection into your browser. Consumers, policy makers and activists are fighting the privacy issue hard but they often face a daunting and cumbersome process. It shouldn’t have to be this way, which is why we think Spotflux is on to something.

Weigh in here with your own privacy horror stories and what you think can be done to reclaim our lost privacy online. Follow John Backus on Twitter:

http://www.twitter.com/jcbackus

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Article from Outside the Box by John Mauldin

an article By Louis Gave

“Talking about the Russian Revolution, Lenin once said that there are decades when nothing happens and there are weeks when decades happen.” The last quarter of 2001 looks in retrospect like one of those exciting periods: three events occurred which set in motion the main economic trends of the ensuing decade. Successful investors latched on to at least one of these trends. The problem is, all three trends are now over. The investment strategies that worked over the past decade will not continue to work in the next. What comes next?

The three big events of 2001 were:

• The terrorist attacks of 9/11. This unleashed a decade of bi-partisan “guns and butter”policies in the US and produced a structurally weaker dollar.

• China joined the WTO in December 2001. China’s full entry into the global trading system signaled a re-organization of global production lines and China’s emergence as a major exporter. Export earnings were recycled into the mother of all investment booms, which drove a surge in commodity demand and a wider boom in emerging markets.

• The introduction of euro banknotes. The introduction of the common currency unleashed a decade of excess consumption in southern Europe, financed unwittingly by northern Europe through large bank and insurance purchases of government debt.

But today, all three trends have stalled—and this perhaps accounts for the discomfort and uncertainty we find in most meetings with clients. Indeed:

• US guns and butter spending is over. For the first time since 1970, real growth in US government spending is in negative territory:

• Chinese capital spending is slowing. China still needs to invest a lot more, but future growth rates will be in the single digits.

• Excess consumption in southern Europe is done. Money is clearly flowing out to seek refuge in northern Europe.

Thus, like British guns in Singapore, investors whose portfolios still reflect the above three trends are facing the wrong way. Instead of lamenting over the past, investors should be coming to grips with the trends of the future: the internationalization of the RMB, the rise of cheaper and more flexible automation, and dramatically cheaper energy in the US.

1- The internationalization of the RMB

China is now the centre of a growing percentage of both Asian, and emerging market trade (a decade ago China accounted for 2% of Brazil’s exports; today it is 18% and rising). As a result, China is increasingly asking its EM trade partners why their mutual trade should be settled in US dollars? After all, by trading in dollars, China and its EM trade partners are making themselves dependent on the willingness/ability of Western banks to finance their trade. And the realization has set in that this menage à trois does not make much sense. Indeed, for China, the fact that Western banks are not reliable partners was the major lesson of 2008 and again of 2011.

As a result, China is now turning to countries like Korea, Brazil, South Africa and others and saying: Let’s move more of our trade into RMB from dollars” to which the typical answer is increasingly Why not? This would diversify my earnings and make our business less reliant on Western banks. But if we are going to trade in RMB, we will need to keep some of our reserves in RMB. And for that to happen, you need to give us RMB assets that we can buy”. Hence the creation of the offshore RMB bond market in Hong Kong, a development which may go down as the most important financial event of 2011.

Of course, for China to even marginally dent the dollar’s predominance as a trading currency, the RMB will have to be seen as a credible currency—or at least as more credible than the alternatives. And here, the timing may be opportune for, today, outshining the euro, dollar, pound or even yen is increasingly a matter of being the tallest dwarf.

Still, China’s attempt to internationalize the RMB also means that Beijing cannot embark on fiscal and monetary stimulus at the first sign of a slowdown in the Chinese economy. Instead, the PBoC and Politburo have to be seen as keeping their nerve in the face of slowing Chinese growth. In short, for the RMB to internationalize successfully, the PBoC has to be seen as being more like the Bundesbank than like the Fed.

Following this Buba comparison, China has a genuine opportunity to establish the RMB as the dominant trade currency for its region, just as the deutsche mark did in the 1970s and 1980s. But interestingly, China seems to consider that its “region” is not just limited to Asia (where China now accounts for most of the marginal increase in growth—see chart) but encompasses the wider emerging markets. How else can we explain China’s new enthusiasm in granting PBoC swap lines to the likes of the Brazilian, Argentine, Turkish and Belorussian central banks?

China’s attempt to move more of its trade into RMB is interesting given the current shifts in China’s trade. Indeed, although the US and Europe are still China’s largest single trade partners, most of the growth in trade in recent years has occurred with emerging markets. And China’s trade with emerging markets is increasingly not in cheap consumer goods (toys, underwear, socks or shoes) but rather in capital goods (earth- moving equipment, telecom switches, road construction services, etc; see China Bulldozes a New Export Market). In short, yesterday China’s trade mostly took place with developed markets, was comprised of low-valued-added goods, and was priced in dollars. Tomorrow, China’s trade will be oriented towards emerging markets, focused on higher value-added goods, and priced in RMB.

This would mark a profound change from China’s old development model: keeping its currency undervalued, inviting foreign factories to relocate to the mainland, transforming 10-20mn farmers into factory workers each year, and triggering massive labor productivity gains—gains which the government captures through financial repression and redeploys into large-scale infrastructure projects. But China’s change in development model may be less a matter of choice than of necessity.

2– Virtue from necessity: the rise of robotics

The first harsh reality confronting China is that the country is now the world’s single largest exporter. Combine that impressive status with the reality that the world is unlikely to grow at much more than 3% to 4% over the coming years and it becomes obvious that the past two decades’ 30% average annual growth in exports just cannot be repeated.

Beyond the limits to export growth, the other challenge to China’s business model is the second step, namely the transforming of farmers into factory workers. Not that China is set to run out of farmers (see The Countdown for China’s Farmers). But the coming years may prove more challenging for unskilled workers as robotics and automation continue to gather pace. Over the coming decade, cheap labor may not be the comparative advantage it was in the previous decade, simply because the cost of automation is now falling fast (see The Robots Are Coming).

Of course, factory and process automation is hardly a new concept. What is new is the dramatic recent shift from fixed automation to flexible automation.For decades we have had machines that could perform simple repetitive tasks; now we have machines that can be reprogrammed easily to perform a wide range of more complicated functions. With improved software and hardware, robots can do more, in more industries; and the purpose of automation has shifted from improving crude productivity (making more of the same things at lower cost) to more sophisticated targets like adaptability across product cycles, and improved quality and consistency.

One consequence of cheaper and more flexible automation is that some manufacturing that fled the developed world for cheap-labor destinations like China may return to the US, Japan and Europe, as firms decide that the benefits of low-cost labor no longer outweigh the advantage of better logistics and proximity to customers. Even if this does not occur, factories in places like China may become ever more automated (e.g.: electronics assembler Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier and one of the world’s biggest employers with some 1mn workers, has started to talk about building factories manned with robots). This then raises the question of what China’s hordes of manufacturing workers will do should Chinese factories automate and/or re-localize to the developed world. One obvious conclusion is that China’s leaders will thus have to deal with slowing growth through further deregulation, rather than stimulus and currency manipulation. The remedies of 2008 (large fiscal and monetary stimulus) will not work again.

This dilemma implies that the robotics trend dovetails with the RMB internationalization trend. To understand just why, it is important to recognize one aspect of policymaking which makes China unique: the country’s leaders wake up every morning pondering how to return China to being the world’s number one economy and a geopolitical superpower in its own right (few other world leaders harbor such thoughts). And ever since Deng Xiaoping, the answer to that question has typically been to sacrifice some element of control over the economy in exchange for faster growth.

Today, China faces the imperative of making just such a trade-off between control and growth: the old model of cheap labor and vast capital spending is near exhaustion, so the only way to sustain growth is to go for more efficiency, especially through financial sector reform. For China’s leaders, reform will be painful but the cost of missing out on the global power that comes with further growth would be even more painful. Hence we are convinced Beijing will eventually bite the financial reform bullet, and RMB internationalization is the leading edge of that reform. In that light, the creation of the RMB offshore bond market is an event of much greater significance than is currently acknowledged by the general consensus.

3– Cheap US energy

Along with the possibility of manufacturing returning to the developed world from China and other low labor-cost countries, another key trend of the coming decade should be the gradual achievement of energy independence by the US. Given the discoveries of the past few years in the exploitation of shale gas and oil, and assuming the existence of political will to invest in reshaping US energy infrastructure, such a development is now within reach.

These large natural gas discoveries have two potential global impacts. First, the combination of low-cost automation and low-cost energy could encourage manufacturers to locate their plants not in countries with the lowest labor cost, but in those with the lowest energy cost. For example, on a recent visit to Germany we kept hearing how chemical plants would have a tough time competing with American plants if the price of US natural gas stayed below US$2.50. In fact, with Germany having decided to pull away from nuclear and bet its future on high-cost wind power, energy- intensive industries in the country could be in for a challenging decade.

Second, the return to manufacturing and energy independence should lead to sustained improvement in the US trade deficit. Energy imports account for around half of the US trade deficit (while the other half is broadly manufactured goods from China). Today the US, through its trade deficit, sends roughly US$500bn worth of cash to the rest of the world every year. This money helps grease the wheels of global trade since more than two-thirds of global trade is still denominated in dollars. But what will happen if, in the next ten years, the US stops exporting dollars, thanks to its new strengths in manufacturing and cheap energy? In such a scenario, the dollars would run scarce.

In fact, this may already be happening. This would explain why the growth of central bank reserves held at the Fed for foreign central banks has been in negative territory for the past year—and why, over the past two quarters, the Fed has been exceptionally generous in granting swap lines to foreign central banks (notably the ECB).

This does not make for a stable situation. And given that the RMB is unlikely to replace the dollar as the principal global trading currency for many years to come (see History Lessons and the Offshore RMB), the likely combination of expanding global trade and a shrinking US trade deficit should mean that either the dollar will have to rise, or US assets will outperform non-US assets to the point where valuation differnces make it attractive for US investors to deploy dollars abroad (since US consumers won’t).

4– Conclusion

Obviously, we do not claim to have identified all the big trends of the coming decade. The next several years will doubtless deliver many more important changes and investment opportunities (monetization of Japan’s debt and a collapse in the yen? Demographic challenges in numerous countries? Reform and modernization in the Islamic world? Political upheaval and regime change in Iran? Water shortages in China, India and other Asian countries? Possible energy independence for India through thorium-based nuclear energy plants?). But we are nonetheless confident on these main points:

• The three key macro trends of the past decade have come to a screeching halt. This explains why financial markets seem to lack conviction and direction.

• The internationalization of the RMB and the birth of the RMB bond market is likely to be one of the most important developments of the decade. The closest analogy is the creation of the junk bond market by Michael Milken in the 1980s. Interestingly, just as in the early 1980s, few people are taking the time to work through the ramifications of this momentous event. Understanding this new market will prove essential to understanding the world of tomorrow.

• The likely evolution of the US from record high twin deficits to much smaller budget and trade deficits should help push the dollar higher over the coming years. And this in turn will have broad ramifications for a number of asset prices.”

Contact john at: JohnMauldin@2000wave.com.

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