Thursday, February 4, 2010

Bill Gross Makes It Clear

The monthly Investment Outlook from Bill Gross has been on my reading list for a long time. He is insightful and I think his letters are sometimes candid enough to be helpful. He walks the line of a politician too and so at other times that creates a dense fog in his writing. This month is called "The Ring of Fire" and I highly recommend it. I also recommend skimming quickly over the first couple of paragraphs to get past the monthly self-adulation.

Here is a small taste of his message...
What then is an investor to do? If, instead of econometric models founded on the past 30–40 years, an analysis must depend on centuries-old examples of deleveraging economies in the aftermath of a financial crisis, how does one select and then time an investment theme that can be expected to generate outperformance, or what professionals label “alpha?” Carefully and cautiously with regard to timing, I suppose, but rather aggressively in the selection process under the assumption that it’s never “different this time” and that history repeats as well as rhymes. Reinhart and Rogoff’s book, if anything, points to the inescapable conclusion that human nature is the one defining constant in history and that the cycles of greed, fear and their economic consequences paint an indelible landscape for investors to observe.

...Of all of the developed countries, three broad fixed-income observations stand out: 1) given enough liquidity and current yields I would prefer to invest money in Canada. Its conservative banks never did participate in the housing crisis and it moved toward and stayed closer to fiscal balance than any other country, 2) Germany is the safest, most liquid sovereign alternative, although its leadership and the EU’s potential stance toward bailouts of Greece and Ireland must be watched. Think AIG and GMAC and you have a similar comparative predicament, and 3) the U.K. is a must to avoid. Its Gilts are resting on a bed of nitroglycerine. High debt with the potential to devalue its currency present high risks for bond investors. In addition, its interest rates are already artificially influenced by accounting standards that at one point last year produced long-term real interest rates of 1/2 % and lower.