In the WSJ’s February 24th exposé of the turmoil at the helm of Pimco, we saw a curious bit about tension at “the Beach” increasing in the summer of 2013. During this period, according to the Journal, conflict between then co-CIOs Bill Gross and Mohamed E-Erian became apparent to staff, and Gross restricted trading at the firm. We wanted to see what insights a quantitative analysis of Pimco Total Return Fund (PTTRX) could offer about the summer and Total Return’s recent performance, a topic of increasing scrutiny amongst the investment community.
In an overnight session that had little in terms of macro and news flow, the most notable event was that the Dollar-Renminbi finally crossed above 6.20 which as a reminder is the suggested "max vega" point beyond which even more max pain lies for levered accounts long the Yuan. However, in a world in which nothing is discounted and in which no news matters, the "market" broadly ignored this significant development (which as we explained further yesterday means an accelerated unwind of Chinese Commodity Funding Deals, and a potential drop in global commodity prices), and eagerly awaited today's non-event of an FOMC conference, where nothing new will be announced save for the novelty of it being Yellen's first appearance before the press as the head of the Fed. And of course the Fed will almost certainly scrap the 6.5% employment threshold, as the FOMC scrambles to make the economy appear worse than it is reported to be, in a stark reminder that the biggest optically manipulated tool meant to boost confidence in the recovery was nothing but a number meant to serve political purposes.
Unlike most trading sessions in the past month, when the overnight session saw a convenient algo assisted USDJPY/AUDJPY levitation, tonight there has been no such luck for the permabullish E-Trade babies who are conditioned that no matter what the news, the next morning the S&P 500 will open green regardless. Whether this is due to ever louder fears that what is happening in China can not be swept under the rug this time will be revealed soon, but as of this moment both the USDJPY, and its derivative, US equity futures, are looking at a sharp lower open, as gold continues to press higher, while the traditional tension points such as Russia-Ukraine, and ongoing capital flight from some of the more "fringe" emerging markets, continues. Expect more of the same today as people finally peek below the Chinese surface to realize just how profoundly bad the situation on the mainland truly is. And while we realize macro news are meaningless, especially in Europe where the ECB is now the sole supervisor of all asset classes, the fact that Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Portugal, are all in deflation, and many more countries lining up to join the club, probably means that absent a massive global credit impulse, we have certainly reached the upward inflection point from the most recent $1+ trillion injection of liquidity by the Fed, not to mention the ongoing QE by the BOJ.
It's that time in the quarter, when Jeff Gundlach takes the mic to walk everyone though his latest thoughts on the market, as well as the most recent capital allocation of his fund, DoubleLine, which like PIMCO, had a less than memorable 2013, although 2014 is certainly starting off on a far better foot for bond funds everywhere. Also who knows: with MBS guru, "convexity maven" Harley Bassman announcing today he is leaving Credit Suisse and joining Pimco, maybe Gundlach will shock everyone with an announcement that El-Erian is moving from Newport Beach and making Doubleline, and West LA, his new home?
As Bill Clinton once famously stated; "What is....is" and while the current market "IS" within a bullish trend currently, it doesn't mean that this will always be the case. This is why, as investors, we must modify Clinton's line to: "What is...is...until it isn't." That thought is the foundation of this weekend's "Things To Ponder." In order to recognize when market dynamics have changed for the worse, we must be aware of the risks that are currently mounting.
The global crisis that began in 2007/8 has unmasked many unsustainable economic dispositions. Unfortunately, the proper conclusions have still not been arrived at, as evidenced by the fact that the same old Keynesian recipes that have failed over and over again are being implemented on an even grander scale. One must not be misled by the claims of 'austerity' being imposed, as this has evidently little bearing on government spending as such, but is rather an attempt to squeeze more blood out of an already shriveled turnip, namely what remains of the private sector. Puerto Rico seems – at least so far – not any different in that respect.
The default cycle that should have occurred, given historical patterns of issuance cycles, has morphed (thanks to the Fed) into a refinancing cycle; but while DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach suggests that fundamentals are supportive, "the valuation of junk bonds as a category is at its all-time overvalued versus long-time treasury bonds." So despite Yellen exclaiming that she sees no bubbles, one of the world's largest bond fund managers has never seen corporate bonds (investment grade and high yield) more expensive. Gundlach goes on to note he has sold some Apple (but believes it will remain range-bound), is baffled by the valuation of Chipotle, and sees 10Y Treasury yields dropping to 2.5% or lower.
Back in the years just before the previous housing bubble burst (not to be confused with the current, even more acute one), one person did the math on subprime, realized that the housing - and credit bubble - collapse was imminent, and warned anyone who cared to listen - almost nobody did. That man was Kyle Bass, and because he had the guts to put the money where his mouth was, he made a lot of money. Fast forward to 2014 when subprime is all the rage again and the subprime bubble is bigger than ever: it may comes as a surprise to some that in 2013, subprime debt was one of the best performing fixed income instruments, returning a whopping 17% in a year when most other debt instruments generated negative returns. And this time, while Kyle Bass is busy - collecting nickels (each costing a dime) perhaps - it is someone else who has stepped into Bass' Cassandra shoes: that someone is Jeff Gundlach. “These properties are rotting away,”
Jeff Gundlach recently warned that the trade that could inflict the most pain to the most people is a significant move down in yields (and potential bull flattening to the yield curve). Citi's FX Technicals group laid out numerous reasons why this is entirely possible (technically and fundamentally) but despite this, investors remain entirely enamored with stocks and, as the following chart shows, Treasury Bond sentiment now stands at 20-year extremes of bearishness.
On the heels of his less-than-optimistic presentation, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach tells Europe's Finanz und Wirtschaft "he's concerned about the growing amount of speculation" and draws a parallel between today’s markets and the dot-com boom of the late Nineties. This excellent interview takes the themes of his recent conference call and extends them as he warns "In the over thirty years I’ve been in the financial investment industry, I don’t recall a single year where I saw the year begin with the consensus being so solidified in its thinking across virtually every asset class." His biggest worry (for investors, as opposed to his funds), "the most unthinkable things happen this year and that is a basic pain trade that forces people into treasury bonds."
"Bond King" Bill Gross may not have had a good year following over $40 billion in redemptions from his $250 billion Total Return Fund, but another aspirational Bond King, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach, had an even worse year on an relative basis, when his Total Return Bond Fund saw $6 billion in redemptions ending the year at $30.9 billion in AUM following seven consecutive months of withdrawals. So in his attempt to start the new year on better footing, here is his first webcast (as usual open to the public), titled "Let the Race Begin! 2014 Markets: Year of the Horse", in which as usual Jeff will discuss the economy, the markets and his outlook for the best investment strategiest of 2014. Let's hope that for bond fund manager, that 2014 is not just another "year of the donkey", as was the case in the past year which everyone managing duration would rather forget.
It's been one of the worst years for gold in a generation. A flood of outflows from gold ETFs, endless tax increases on gold imports in India, and the mirage (albeit a convincing one in the eyes of many) of a supposedly improving economy in the US have all contributed to the constant hammering gold took in 2013. Perhaps worse has been the onslaught of negative press our favorite metal has suffered. It's felt overwhelming at times and has pushed even some die-hard goldbugs to question their beliefs... not a bad thing, by the way. To us, a lot of it felt like piling on, especially as the negative rhetoric ratcheted up. This is why it's important to balance the one-sided message typically heard in the mainstream media with other views. Here are some of those contrarian voices, all of which have put their money where their mouth is...
At 4:15 pm Eastern, DoubleLine's Jeff Gundlach will be discussing the economy, the markets and his outlook for the future. Readers can register for the webcast at the following link, while for those stuck with phones can dial-in at (877) 407-6050 or (201) 689-8022 international.
End America’s central bank because it caused the crashes of 2008, 1987, and 1929 and will blunder again. That’s what many critics are saying about the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), which turns 100 on December 23. They note that on the Fed’s watch America has endured numerous bubbles, crashes, and inflationary cycles that have greatly devalued the dollar. The Fed, they say, has caused or aggravated several crashes. “If you say the goal of the Fed was to prevent calamities, then you have to say that it has been a failure,” says William A. Fleckenstein. “History and current experience,” Joe Salerno adds, “reveal to us that groups endowed with a legal monopoly over any area of the economy are prone to use it to the hilt to enrich themselves, their friends and allies.”
The third stage of bull markets, the mania phase, can last longer and go farther that logic would dictate. However, the data suggests that the risk of a more meaningful reversion is rising. It is unknown, unexpected and unanticipated events that strike the crucial blow that begins the market rout. Unfortunately, due to the increased impact of high frequency and program trading, reversions are likely to occur faster than most can adequately respond to. This is the danger that exists today. Are we in the third phase of a bull market? Most who read this article will say "no." However, those were the utterances made at the peak of every previous bull market cycle.