Gross: Zero-Bound Rates Will Cause Big Trouble

PIMCO bond guru Bill Gross is reiterating his belief that zero-bound interest rates will become a major problem for the economy, and markets.

“Books such as ‘Stocks for the Long Run’ or articles such as ‘Dow 36,000’ captured the public’s imagination much like a Montana to Jerry Rice pass that always seemed to clinch a 49ers victory,” Gross writes in a football-analogy-heavy issue of his investment commentary, discussing the climate of falling interest rates and rising asset prices that has dominated the past few decades. “Yet an instant replay of these past few decades would have shown that accelerating asset prices weren’t due to any particular wisdom on the part of academia or the investment community but an offensively minded Federal Reserve and their global counterparts who were printing money, lowering yields and bringing forward a false sense of monetary wealth that was dependent on perpetual motion.”

Gross says near-zero interest rates decrease household incomes and lower profit margins — and the yield spreads that drive credit expansion. That means deleveraging and slower growth, he says, which means investors should switch from offense to defense.

What is PIMCO’s defensive strategy? “Recognize zero bound limits and systemic debt risk in global financial markets. Accept financial repression but avoid its impact when and where possible,” Gross says. And that means emphasizing “income we believe to be relatively reliable/safe”; de-emphasizing “derivative structures that are fully valued and potentially volatile”; and combining those two plans with “security selection to seek consistent alpha with admittedly lower nominal returns than historical industry examples.”