Posted by Larry Doyle on July 3rd, 2010 7:31 AM |
Pimco’s Bill Gross, a Sense on Cents Economic All-Star, recently released his Investment Outlook for July 2010. In my opinion, Gross is an outstanding writer with an uncanny ability to communicate effectively on a host of financial, social, and psychological topics from both a macro and micro standpoint. Given those skills along with the fact that he manages the largest bond fund in the world, “sense on cents” dictates that we ponder his words of wisdom.
These words focus on the structural changes at work in the world today, and how investors should brace themselves for returns that are on the ‘threshold of mediocrity.’
Global financial market returns stand at the threshold of mediocrity. With bonds priced not for recession but near depression, most major global bond indices now yield less than 3%, surely a forerunner of returns to come. (more…)
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 14th, 2009 12:56 PM |
Looking beyond the liquidity provided by the Treasury and Federal Reserve to refloat our equity markets, what will be the drivers of our economy and markets going forward? While Uncle Sam may think he can leave rates at 0-.25% for an extended period, at some point even ‘extended’ runs out. Will the Uncle Sam economy have adapted and implemented the structural changes necessary to move on to a new phase of growth and prosperity?
I am very concerned and reiterate that our markets are masking significant embedded issues in our economy and overall fiscal health.
As much as I found Pimco to be challenging when trading with them, and question their integrity in handling their outstanding Auction-Rate Securities issuance, I respect their views on the markets and economy. In fact, I think Bill Gross and Mohamed El-Erian consistently provide a lot of “sense on cents.” What does Mr. Gross have to say about our economic landscape lately? He writes:
What is critical to recognize is that both California and the U.S., as well as numerous global lookalikes such as the U.K., Spain, and Eastern European invalids, are in a poor position to compete in a global economy where capitalism is morphing from its decades-long emphasis on finance and levered risk taking to a more conservative, regulated, production-oriented system advantaged by countries focusing on thrift and deferred gratification. The term “capitalism” itself speaks to “capital” – the accumulation of it and the eventual efficient employment of it – for growth in profits and real wages alike.
Regrettably, more and more capital here at home is being directed toward the servicing of our massive deficit. Additionally, taxes will surely increase to do the same. Over and above those two definites, I believe strongly that capital will increasingly look for opportunities outside our nation given the pressure on our greenback.
Gross touches upon an issue which I strongly believe is a MASSIVE drag on our current economy and our future well being, that is our secondary schools which rank 18th overall in the developed world. Gross writes:
What California once had and is losing rapidly is its “capital”: unquestionably in its ongoing double-digit billion dollar deficits, but also in its crown jewel educational system that led to Silicon Valley miracles such as Hewlett Packard, Apple, Google, and countless other new age innovators. In addition, its human capital is beginning to exit as more people move out of the state than in. While the United States as a whole has yet to suffer that emigration indignity, the same cannot be said for foreign-born and U.S.-educated scientists and engineers who now choose to return to their homelands to seek opportunity. Lady Liberty’s extended hand offering sanctuary to other nations’ “tired, poor and huddled masses” may be limited to just that. The invigorated wind up elsewhere.
Do the powers that be in Washington and in the state houses possess the necessary discipline to right our ship and set sail on smoother seas? If so, they will have to display a set of values and practices which are entirely inconsistent with how our government operates. While I remain bullish on those who want to educate themselves, practice discipline, and save for better days, I am bearish on people who think Washington or other entities can provide those necessary values. Gross is also cautious in concluding:
Now that our financial system has been stabilized, one wonders whether California’s “Governator” and indeed the Obama Administration has the capital, the vision, and indeed the discipline of its citizenry to turn things around. Our future doggie bags can hold steak bones or doo-doo of an increasingly familiar smell. For now investors should be holding their noses, their risk orientation, as well as their blue bags, until proven otherwise. Specifically that continues to dictate a focus on high quality bonds and steady dividend paying stocks that can survive, if not thrive, in our journey to a “new normal” economy of slower growth, muted profit gains, and potential capital destruction via default, abrogation of property rights, and dollar devaluation.
If we think a return to business as usual is the proper path, we will merely go in circles and end up right back in this same spot….if not worse.
I welcome comments from those who share or differ with these assessments.
Posted by Larry Doyle on October 5th, 2009 9:02 AM |
“Oh, come on, Larry, you are just ‘talking your book.'”
I can hear those sentiments ringing in my ears from many Wall Street salespeople with whom I dealt over the years. What trader doesn’t talk his book? For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it is used when a trader or money manager offers a heavily biased view of the market and economy. While it would be naive to think that individuals aren’t biased by their business in developing their opinions, the challenge for investors is to weigh the opinion in light of the bias. To do otherwise would be the equivalent of flying blind.
I see evidence of ‘talking one’s book’ in commentary provided by Bloomberg, Stock Seers Say Gross 5% May Only Be Normal In Debt,
Wall Street projections for the fastest U.S. profit growth in two decades are putting some of the biggest equity investors at odds with Bill Gross.
Money managers are betting that more than two years of declining earnings, the longest stretch since the Great Depression, will end in 2010 when net income rises 26 percent before expanding 22 percent in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Gross, who oversees the world’s biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., says the economy won’t grow fast enough to sustain the steepest rally since the 1930s and equity returns will be limited to 5 percent a year.
Both Gross and the equity managers are in a perpetual battle for investor assets, the lifeblood of any money management operation.
One would be ill advised not to study the opinions of those involved in managing the largest equity and bond funds in the markets. These funds can move markets given their very size. That said, we need to weigh the manager’s opinions in the context of a wide array of other vastly more important variables. What are these variables and how do they impact my thought process in making investment decisions?
I initially develop an opinion about the economy. From there, I think about respective weightings I would like to allocate to different segments of the market (equities, bonds, cash, real estate, alternative assets). At that point, I review money managers to select those whom I deem to be the best. Only at that juncture would I seriously consider the thoughts and opinions of the money manager so I can most effectively make investment decisions.
I will often immediately dismiss money managers who have never offered opinions which run counter to their business.
Talking one’s book is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I would seriously discount a money manager who is not able to make a compelling case for his business. That said, as investors we need to be able to minimize the static and eliminate the noise that comes from managers ‘talking their book.’
Posted by Larry Doyle on July 9th, 2009 2:27 PM |
Did Bill Gross just flip off Uncle Sam? It would appear that he did. While the U.S. Treasury is touting the official launch of the Public Private Investment Program (PPIP) as a noteworthy event, the most significant aspect is the absence of Mr. Gross and Pimco as one of the managers. As Bloomberg highlights, U.S. Treasury Opens Distressed-Debt Program Without Pimco:
The U.S. plan to help buy as much as $40 billion in assets from banks got started almost four months after it was proposed and without Pacific Investment Management Co., the world’s biggest bond manager and an early supporter.
The Treasury Department picked nine money managers yesterday for the Public-Private Investment Program, or PPIP, including BlackRock Inc. and Invesco Ltd. Pimco, which in March announced plans to apply, said it withdrew its application in June because of “uncertainties” about the initiative’s design.
Uncertainties? How about if we return to Mr. Gross’ May 2009 Investment Outlook, in which he cautioned us all about business dealings with Uncle Sam:
If the government indeed becomes your investment partner, you should keep the big Uncle in clear sight and without back turned.
Over and above Pimco’s absence, the other notable development within the PPIP is the fact that Uncle Sam plans on injecting 75% of the initial equity capital while the private managers inject 25%. Given that equity split, why wouldn’t the taxpayer receive 75% of the returns? In my opinion, Treasury is injecting more capital simply because a $20 billion or even $30 billion launch would render this initiative as nothing more than PPIP: A Virtual ‘Odd Lot’, as I had written the other day.
. . . ‘without back turned’ . . . ‘odd lot’ . . . two strikes before the game has even begun.
Mr. Gross’ absence speaks volumes!!
Posted by Larry Doyle on May 7th, 2009 5:30 AM |
Bill Gross provides a healthy perspective on the market in his May 2009 Investment Outlook. Gross is a seasoned professional. While many money managers blatantly display their biases, Gross is too polished not to shoot straight. I share his views in this piece including:
2007 was a screaming mimi with the subprimes – if only because the liar loans and no-money-down financing were reminiscent of a shell game, Ponzi scheme, or some other type of wizardry that was bound to lead to tears.
Stating the obvious here, but I appreciate the fact that a Wall Street pro will implicate those within his industry for effectively running a scam.
2009 is a similar demarcation point because it represents the beginning of government policy counterpunching, a period when the public with government as its proxy decided that private market, laissez-faire, free market capitalism was history and that a “private/public” partnership yet to gestate and evolve would be the model for years to come. If one had any doubts, a quick, even cursory summary of President Obama’s comments announcing Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing would suffice. “I stand with Chrysler’s employees and their families and communities. I stand with millions of Americans who want to buy Chrysler cars (sic). I do not stand…with a group of investment firms and hedge funds who decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout.” If the cannons fired at Ft. Sumter marked the beginning of the war against the Union, then clearly these words marked the beginning of a war against publically perceived financial terror.
I have defined the future of investing as a Brave New World. In a similar tone, Gross is highlighting the shot across the bow taken by President Obama. As an investor, one needs to be on guard and not turn our back on Uncle Sam.
The threat, of course, falls under the broad umbrella of “burden sharing” and is a difficult one to interpret and anticipate, if only because the concept is evolving in the minds of policymakers as well. But clearly, as this financial crisis has morphed from Bear Stearns to FNMA, Lehman Brothers, AIG and now Chrysler, the claims of stockholders and in some cases senior debt holders have suffered. Please hear me on this. That is the way it should be. Capitalism is about risk taking and if you’re not a risk taker, you should have your money in the bank, Treasury bills, or a savings bond, not the levered investment of a bank or an aging automobile company. Let there be no company too big, too important, or too well-connected to fail as long as the systemic health of the economy is not threatened.
Gross is making a stand here for capitalism and against the non-systemic government bailouts. I personally believe some basic tenets of capitalism have suffered excessively in the process of promoting Obama’s social agenda.
How does one invest during such a transition? Investors should recognize that this grassroots trend signals – most importantly – an increasing uncertainty of cash flows from financial assets. Not only will redistribution and reregulation lead to slower economic growth, but the financial flows from it will be haircutted and “burden shared” by stakeholders. In turn, the present value of those flows should reflect an increasing risk premium and a diminishing multiple of annual receipts.
Gross’ commentary here is telling us that with slower growth we should not expect rising equity markets (despite the recent rally). Look for wider bond spreads and/or higher rates given the increased risks and uncertainties in cash flows.
Slower growth can be a public good if it avoids the cataclysmic effects of double-digit unemployment, escalating foreclosures, and fear of financial insecurity. But the Obama cannon shot will have financial consequences. Do not be deceived by the euphoric sightings of “green shoots” and the claims for new bull markets in a multitude of asset classes. Stable and secure income is still the order of the day.
Gross is not pulling any punches in telling us not to “be deceived by the euphoric sightings of green shoots.” Gross is not buying the perceived improvements in the economy. Given his rapport with those in Washington, he would not make this statement publicly.
Sage advice from a seasoned pro.