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"The Second Coming" Of Bill Gross Pulls A Hugh Hendry, Says Risk Assets To Outperform

Tyler Durden's picture




 

In the aftermath of the recent Wall Street Journal profile piece that, rather meaninglessly, shifted attention to Bill Gross as quirky manager (who isn't) to justify El-Erian's departure and ignoring Bill Gross as the man who built up the largest bond fund in the world, the sole head of Pimco was eager to return to what he does best - thinking about the future and sharing his thoughts with one of his trademark monthly letters without an estranged El-Erian by his side. He did that moments ago with "The Second Coming" in which the 69-year-old Ohian appears to have pulled a Hugh Hendry, and in a letter shrouded in caveats and skepticism, goes on to essentially plug "risk" assets.

To wit:

If the center holds, if global central bankers can convince investors that their abnormal policies can recreate a semblance of the old normal economy, then risk assets at the outer edges of our circle will have higher future returns than otherwise.

 

As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily. Show me a perpetually low policy rate at the center, tell me that falcon investors are listening and believe in their masters, and it is reasonable to forecast at least a 12-month future where risk assets on the periphery can outperform the safest assets in the center. In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash. If, however, the longevity and effectiveness of that artificially low policy rate comes into question, then the center is at risk – it may not hold.

At this point, Gross remembers that he runs a bond and not an equity "risk" fund, and suggests the following:

Most risk assets on the perimeter should provide positive returns relative to cash – in fact, an attractive strategy for alternative asset, unconstrained or even total return bond portfolios could be to slightly lever some of the safest carry trades

Because Bridgewater showed the world just how great "risk parity" with levered carry trades works at a time when there are doubts surrounding the infalibility of central banks...

Finally, unlike Hendry who refuses to look at himself in the mirror, Gross does leave one loophole: run if and when central bankers start losing control.

Continue to be mindful, however, of longer-term consequences. As quantitative easing ends in the U.S., liquidity in corporate bonds will be challenged. If inflation begins to appear as a result of five years of artificially low policy rates worldwide, then assets may indeed be mispriced. 2014 may be the last of the years in which falconer and falcon act in capitalistic unison. Our entire finance-based system – anchored and captained by banks – is based upon carry and the ability to earn it. When credit is priced such that carry can no longer be profitable (or at least grow profits) at an acceptable amount of leverage/risk, then the system will stall or perhaps even tip. Until that point, however (or soon before), investors should stress an acceptable level of carry over and above index levels. The carry may not necessarily be credit based – it could be duration, curve, volatility or even currency related (with limits). But it must out-carry its bogey until the system itself breaks down. Timing that exit is obviously difficult and perilous, but critical for surviving in a new epoch.

Well yes: we would think that in a world in which every market is centrally planned by the Marriner Eccles building, this conclusion would be rather intuitive and obvious by now - without the Fed to backstop every downtick in stocks one should indeed run. Then again, just how the Fed will allow that, or even how a business cycle can be allowed to return and the US economy suffer a controlled recession now that even the business cycle itself has long been hijacked by the monetary mandarins, remains an open mystery.

Full Bill Gross note - link:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

      — William Butler Yeats, 1919

Almost permanently affixed on the whiteboard of PIMCO’s Investment Committee boardroom is a series of concentric circles, resembling the rings of a giant redwood, although in this case exhibiting an expanding continuum of asset classes with the safest in the center and the riskiest on the outer circles. Safest in the core are Treasury bills and overnight repo, which then turn outwards towards riskier notes and bonds, and then again into credit space with corporate, high yield, commodities and equities amongst others on the extremities. The intent of the image is to constantly remind us as investors that higher returns are correlated with greater risk, and that portfolios that seek to maximize beta usually do so with increasing volatility and potential loss of principal. Conversely, investors who are risk-averse and move towards the safety of the center, sacrifice expected and in most cases historical returns in the process.

Yet there is more to our concentric circles of asset classes than meets the eye. If its only message were that risk and return were correlated, then we could simply write that on the whiteboard and be done with it. Instead, our visual schematic expresses a more complicated process of cause and effect that allows an investor to anticipate price changes instead of simply describing ex post returns and volatility. It provides the foundation for alpha generation, as opposed to simple beta summation, and therefore the potential to beat the market and outperform competitors.

This conceptual “cause and effect” is what brings life to our concentric circles – it is what allows us – if done properly – to make profitable choices between asset classes at the appropriate time; it is the heart of our active management process and our YGIA “Your Global Investment Authority” platform. Stated perhaps too simply, the primary “cause” is central bank monetary policy. The “effect” is an expanding or contracting array of asset prices that are dependent upon it. Change the price of credit at the center and you change the price of assets at the outer extremities. Simple really, although the timing and yield of price at the center is no easy matter as Yellen, Carney, Draghi and Kuroda would be the first to admit.

In addition to the changing policy rate at the center, asset prices on the outer circles are dependent on investor expectations and the confidence in policymakers and the effectiveness of their policies. The center must have credibility, the center must “hold” or else the entire array of asset prices at the extremities is at risk.

This focus on the center brings to mind the rather ominous poem of William Butler Yeats cited above. Not that his conclusion as to the evolution of human history applies equally to financial assets – he was a poet, not an investor – but the metaphorical similarity to PIMCO’s concentric asset circles is striking. Yeats describes a falcon, which in this metaphorical context should be assumed to be the investor, “turning and turning in the widening gyre,” moving outward and outward in PIMCO’s concentric circles in search of higher and higher returns. The falconer of course, in our cause and effect model, is the global central banker, training the vulturous investor to swoop down and snatch attractively priced assets on command. But can the falcon hear the falconer? Does the investor have confidence in the word and efficacy of the falconer’s artificially priced policy rate? Can the center hold?

It’s at this point where the metaphorical allusion and theoretical foundation of our concentric circles turn into strategy and potential alpha generation. If the center holds, if global central bankers can convince investors that their abnormal policies can recreate a semblance of the old normal economy, then risk assets at the outer edges of our circle will have higher future returns than otherwise. Presumably, the trickle-down wealth effect of appreciating assets will then lead to respectable growth rates and a reduction in unemployment worldwide. That of course is the presumption, the convincing of which will rely increasingly on what St. Louis Fed President James Bullard recently described as “ qualitative forward guidance” a shift from recent quantitative guidance that focused on unemployment rate thresholds that now are about to be breached. Not just in the U.S. but in the U.K., the new talk is centered on “quality,” not “quantity.” Will the “falcons” hear their master’s message?

PIMCO falcons are now turning and turning in the widening gyre with the following assumption: All financial assets are artificially priced if only because the policy rate at the center is artificially low. Historical models of fed funds and other global overnight yields suggest as much as a 2% artificially low yield, even when U.S. tapering is concluded. Importantly, however, these artificial pricings do not lead to the conclusion of current asset “mis”-pricings. As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily. Show me a perpetually low policy rate at the center, tell me that falcon investors are listening and believe in their masters, and it is reasonable to forecast at least a 12-month future where risk assets on the periphery can outperform the safest assets in the center. In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash. If, however, the longevity and effectiveness of that artificially low policy rate comes into question, then the center is at risk – it may not hold.

Investing is a combination of fundamental top-down/ bottom-up analysis as well as the critical element of timing. PIMCO’s concentric circles speak to the top-down, “cause and effect” correlation between policy rates, future policy rate expectations and risk asset pricing on the periphery. We have and have had a sense for several years now that ultimately central bank policy will be ineffective in promoting old normal economic growth rates and that asset pricing dependent on it will be low returning. In the short term, however, and to be specific for 2014, artificial prices will not be mispriced if circling falcons can be convinced of the efficacy of qualitative forward guidance. We believe that will be the case. Carry trades, then, in numerous forms should be profitable, although their information or Sharpe ratios may show that these positions provide historically low risk-adjusted returns once volatility is considered relative to lifeless cash. Most risk assets on the perimeter should provide positive returns relative to cash – in fact, an attractive strategy for alternative asset, unconstrained or even total return bond portfolios could be to slightly lever some of the safest carry trades. We would favor yield curve and investment grade credit spreads in this category, based on the assumption of 2% growth in the U.S. and steady rate falconers (central bankers) in developed economies.

Continue to be mindful, however, of longer-term consequences. As quantitative easing ends in the U.S., liquidity in corporate bonds will be challenged. If inflation begins to appear as a result of five years of artificially low policy rates worldwide, then assets may indeed be mispriced. 2014 may be the last of the years in which falconer and falcon act in capitalistic unison. Our entire finance-based system – anchored and captained by banks – is based upon carry and the ability to earn it. When credit is priced such that carry can no longer be profitable (or at least grow profits) at an acceptable amount of leverage/risk, then the system will stall or perhaps even tip. Until that point, however (or soon before), investors should stress an acceptable level of carry over and above index levels. The carry may not necessarily be credit based – it could be duration, curve, volatility or even currency related (with limits). But it must out-carry its bogey until the system itself breaks down. Timing that exit is obviously difficult and perilous, but critical for surviving in a new epoch.

Yeats’ “Second Coming,” when metaphorically applied to financial markets, has come and gone many times in the century since its writing – most often when highly levered economies failed to respond to their falconer’s command. Another “coming” is certainly in our future, but perhaps just not yet. Falcons, for now, can keep circling.

Second Coming Speed Read
 
1. Policy rates (fed funds) and future expectations for them, help determine all asset prices.
2. Central banks are now shifting to a “subjective” as opposed to quantitative assessment. They must convince private markets of their credibility.
3. If they can, 2014 should see risk assets outperform cash in PIMCO’s concentric circles framework, although Sharpe/information ratios may show them hardly worth the risk.
4. If central bankers lose “cred,” the center may not hold, markets may not outperform cash.
William H. Gross
Managing Director
 

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Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:30 | 4506367 Iam Yue2
Iam Yue2's picture

Simply tragic.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:39 | 4506392 zorba THE GREEK
zorba THE GREEK's picture

To follow Gross's advice would be gross negligence.

Buy silver instead and double or triple your investment

at least, in 2 years. There is little down side and potential

huge upside. 

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:46 | 4506409 idea_hamster
idea_hamster's picture

I stopped reading at "If the center holds...."

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:52 | 4506432 Rainman
Rainman's picture

Chumbawamba quote : " IF ... LOL "

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:11 | 4506569 Jannn
Jannn's picture

India Imported 6125 Tonnes Of Silver In 2013

 

http://www.ingoldwetrust.ch/india-imported-6125-tonnes-of-silver-in-2013

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:31 | 4506370 The_Ungrateful_Yid
The_Ungrateful_Yid's picture

One Giant target to blow the fuck up. Nice.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:32 | 4506373 TeamDepends
TeamDepends's picture

Paper promises

Knew you'd never keep

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:34 | 4506377 BandGap
BandGap's picture

Wow, fucking genius.

So let e get this straight - parking money in savings and/or other bank type deposits is less profitable than the stock or bond markets? Who would have thought such a thing is such hard economic times.

This is by fucking design, Bill. Thank me later.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:34 | 4506378 Yes We Can. But...
Yes We Can. But Lets Not.'s picture

Hope Bill isn't caught in the midst of a sneeze when the moment to sell all comes.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:11 | 4506559 Element
Element's picture

Depends which version you have. I hear good things with Bill_Gross v1.8.4 being much improved over Bill_Gross v1.7.8., which was a real stinker on the dump.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:39 | 4506393 Orwell was right
Orwell was right's picture

BandGap beat me to the punch.   Very 'wordy' article, that ends up saying  very little.    Basic idea is correct, but all that effort to pump up a single idea is more than care to wade thru on a cold Kansas Tuesday morning. 

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:44 | 4506397 Dr. Engali
Dr. Engali's picture

Seems to be a long winded way to say..... BTFD. On another note, it looks like people are rotating out of silver back into the Twitter safety trade.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:43 | 4506404 aleph0
aleph0's picture

Obviously trying to drive Hugh Hendry mad ... again.

Don't fall for it Hugh .. it's a Rigged Market , and you ain't in it -

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:44 | 4506405 q99x2
q99x2's picture

Government handout recipient.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:44 | 4506406 buzzsaw99
buzzsaw99's picture

Step away from the bong William.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:23 | 4506640 Cacete de Ouro
Cacete de Ouro's picture

Step away from Eugene Fama

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:49 | 4506424 Judge Crater
Judge Crater's picture

Following through on the bird (falcon) analogy, what happens when the economy quacks up?   

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:51 | 4506428 Downtoolong
Downtoolong's picture

In plain English – stocks, bonds and other “carry”-sensitive assets would outperform cash.

Which is really to say that stocks, bonds, and other carry sensitive assets might possibly hold their real value (but only before taxes on phony inflationary nominal gains and only if you can stand the volatility and Wall Street skimming) compared to cash money which is guaranteed to decline in value to zero thanks to Fed printing. And the punch-line is, the timeline isn’t that long.

What wonderful choices we investors now have. What a country.

 

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 10:57 | 4506462 infinity8
infinity8's picture

All aboard the Crazy Train!

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:02 | 4506497 Comte d'herblay
Comte d'herblay's picture

"......yada, Outperform Cash"????

wow......you can do that buying a car load of Hershey's Caramel Kisses, or some used condoms now, and selling them for a dollar or two more tomorrow.

For this he gets the Big FRNs??

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:10 | 4506557 NoWayJose
NoWayJose's picture

Bill has missed a lot of calls in the last few years, and probably should step aside. The only thing that has saved him the last few years has been QE which made the bonds he held worth more. But now that bonds all over the globe are paying next to nothing, and he has roll over into those low rates, he is no different than the other savers who are being screwed by Central Banks. The only future for bonds is currency devaluation or rising rates - the era of Gross is over.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:20 | 4506624 NOTW777
NOTW777's picture

lol - this has to make one pause - near a short term top?

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:21 | 4506628 NOTW777
NOTW777's picture

lol - he should pile into VIPS

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:23 | 4506644 Johnny Cocknballs
Johnny Cocknballs's picture

This was pretty long, I had to skim the second half.

So he's saying Bitcoin, come out to playeyaye?

Just wait until he gets to that baseball gang.

Hilarious!

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:26 | 4506663 moneybots
moneybots's picture

 "As long as artificially low policy rates persist, then artificially high-priced risk assets are not necessarily mispriced. Low returning, yes, but mispriced? Not necessarily."

 

Artificial = Mispriced

 

Mark to fantasy is not mark to market, no matter how much one wants to rationalize that it is.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 11:49 | 4506862 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

He is telling you it all depends on ZIRP.  When that starts to give way, the rest of the circles start to contract.  If I had to interpret what he is attempting to do here- he is telling the Fed in couched terms that they need to extend guidance for ZIRP out beyond the end of Obama's term.

Personally, I don't think the Fed will ever be able to raise the short term by design, though they may well lose control of it altogether at some point.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:13 | 4507030 sarahsloverlance
sarahsloverlance's picture

Here's a better way to get one hundred times the LIBOR:

Get a friend or relative in  Denver to buy 18 ozs of primo weed, then have her FEDEX it to you.  Take 2 ozs of the weed for your own consumption during the State of the Union propaganda speech or while tuning in to the Bill Maher for about 5 minutes, Ellen DeGenerate for one second, or bill O'reilly for a millisecond; take the other 16oz and sell it to just about any adolescent for $100 more than you paid for it.

Repeat this every quarter. 

You'll make Gross look like an Ounce.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 12:14 | 4507035 Dollar Bill Hiccup
Dollar Bill Hiccup's picture

Woe unto those greater fools ...

The man whose haircut is stuck in the 70s, may only be able to dance as well as the Prince in 2007, because he is doing the tango with the Fat Lady.

Brothers, Yogi was and always will be, correct.

It ain't over till the Fat Lady sings.

As the Stache points out, Jack is going to have to be very nimble when the bitch starts hittin the high notes.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 13:14 | 4507423 homiegot
homiegot's picture

Bill Gross: Just don't make eye contact with him.

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 14:44 | 4508025 alangreedspank
alangreedspank's picture

You're kind of late to the party Bill, 6 years into the new normal says you missed the boat...

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 15:11 | 4508222 Yancey Ward
Yancey Ward's picture

He has not missed the boat- he ran a bond fund that did quite well.  And I doubt he missed the stock bull either, but in his personal portfolio.

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