Bill Gross: the new normal means investors should shun risk

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PIMCO, the world’s largest bond fund, has a new investment outlook by Founder Bill Gross. In it he says that we are in a long-term lower growth pattern as the asset-based economy of yore has melted away.  He warns that this means risky assets should not be one’s investments of choice.

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Here are a few choice snippets of his article.

Our economy’s lights, if not switched off in a rehash of the 1930s Depression, have certainly been dimmed in a 21st century version likely to be labeled the Great Recession. Much like John McSherry, U.S. and many global consumers gorged themselves on Big Macs of all varieties: burgers to be sure, but also McHouses, McHummers, and McFlatscreens, all financed with excessive amounts of McCredit created under the mistaken assumption that the asset prices securitizing them could never go down. What a colossal McStake that turned out to be. Now, however, with financial markets seemingly calmed and an inventory-based recovery in store for the balance of 2009, there is a developing optimism that we can go back to the lifestyle of yesteryear. PIMCO’s driving thesis however, if not a juxtaposition, is succinctly described as a “new normal” where growth is slower, profit margins are narrower, and asset returns are smaller than in decades past based upon the delevering and reregulating of the global economy, which in turn should substantially inhibit the “gorging” of goods and services that we grew used to in decades past…

…The fact is that American consumers have suffered a collapse in wealth of at least $15 trillion since early 2007. Global estimates are less reliable, but certainly in multiples of that figure. And when potential spenders feel less rich by that much, the only model one can use to forecast the future is a commonsensical one that predicts higher savings, lower consumption, and an economic growth rate that staggers forward at a new normal closer to 2 as opposed to 3½%. There’s no magic in that number, and no model to back it up, just a lot of commonsense that says this is how people and economic societies behave when stressed and stretched to a near breaking point.

I was impressed this weekend by an article in the Op-Ed section of The New York Times by staff writer Bob Herbert. “No Recovery in Sight” was the heading and his opening sentence asked, “How do you put together a consumer economy that works when the consumers are out of work?” That is really all one needs to ask when divining our economy’s future fortune. Unless an optimist can prescribe how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again and shuffle him/her back to work then there can be no return to an “old normal.”…

Investors who stuffed themselves on a constant diet of asset appreciation for the past quarter-century will now be enclosed in a cage featuring government-mandated, consumer-oriented fasting. “Non Appétit,” not Bon Appétit, will become the apt description for the American consumer, and significant parts of the global economy, including the U.S. Because this is so, short-term policy rates will be kept low for longer than cyclical norms, and the outlook for risk assets – stocks, high yield bonds, and commercial and residential real estate will involve just that – risk. Investors should stress secure income offered by bonds and stable dividend-paying equities. Consumer Cuisinart consumption is a relic of the past.

Source

"Bon" or "Non" Appétit? – Bill Gross, PIMCO

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