Saturday, January 9, 2010

Bill Gross Talking Political Reform…

Bill Gross, Managing Director of one of the world’s largest bond management companies, Pimco, spoke out about the need for political reform in his latest Investment Outlook for 2010. I view this as quite ironic as Gross and Pimco are themselves huge special interests that have advocated taking tax payer money and using it to back some of the very instruments he holds and he sells. Keep in mind that “The Bond King” buys and sells DEBT. That what bonds are.

Now, however, he is stepping out on a limb in favor of some of the very proposals in Freedom’s Vision. Has he finally seen the light? Regardless of his motivations, his thinking is spot on in his latest article and I will gladly use his words to back my own Quixote push for reform. What follows are excerpts from his work, please follow the link to read all his comments including charts:
Bill Gross Investment Outlook 2010

"Question: What has become of the American nation? Conceived with the vision of liberty and justice for all, we have descended in the clutches of corporate and other special interests to a second world state defined by K Street instead of Independence Square. Our government doesn’t work anymore, or perhaps more accurately, when it does, it works for special interests and not the American people. Washington consistently stoops to legislate 10,000-page perversions of healthcare, regulatory reform, defense, and budgetary mandates overflowing with earmarks that serve a monied minority as opposed to an all-too-silent majority. You don’t have to be Don Quixote to believe that legislators – and Presidents – often do not work for the benefit of their constituents: A recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll reported that over 65% of Americans trust their government to do the right thing “only some of the time” and a stunning 19% said “never.” What most politicians apparently are working for is to perpetuate their power – first via district gerrymandering, and then second by around-the-clock campaigning financed by special interest groups. If, by chance, they’re ever voted out of office, they have a home just down the street – at K Street – with six-figure incomes as a starting wage.

"What amazes me most of all is that politicians can be bought so cheaply. Public records show that combined labor, insurance, big pharma and related corporate interests spent just under $500 million last year on healthcare lobbying (not much of which went to politicians) for what is likely to be a $50-100 billion annual return. The fact is that American citizens have never been as divorced from their representatives – and if that description fits the Democratic Congress now in control – then it applies to Republicans as well – past and present. So you watch Fox, or is it MSNBC? O’Reilly or Olbermann? It doesn’t matter. You’re just being conned into rooting for a team that basically runs the same plays called by look-alike coaches on different sidelines. A “ballot box” pox on all their houses – Senators, Representatives and Presidents alike. There has been no change, there will be no change, until we the American people decide to publicly finance all national and local elections and ban the writing of even a $1 check for our favorite candidates.

"If 2008 was the year of financial crisis and 2009 the year of healing via monetary and fiscal stimulus packages, then 2010 appears likely to be the year of “exit strategies,” during which investors should consider economic fundamentals and asset markets that will soon be priced in a world less dominated by the government sector. If, in 2009, PIMCO recommended shaking hands with the government, we now ponder “which” government, and caution that the days of carefree check writing leading to debt issuance without limit or interest rate consequences may be numbered for all countries."

…Germany, in fact, has just passed a constitutional amendment mandating budget balance by 2016. If these trends persist, the simple conclusion is that interest rates will rise on a relative basis in the U.S., U.K., and Japan compared to Germany over the next several years and that the increase could approximate 100 basis points or more. Some of those increases may already have started to show up – the last few months alone have witnessed 50 basis points of differential between German Bunds and U.S. Treasuries/U.K. Gilts, but there is likely more to come.

The fact is that investors, much like national citizens, need to be vigilant and there has been a decided lack of vigilance in recent years from both camps in the U.S. While we may not have much of a vote between political parties, in the investment world we do have a choice of airlines and some of those national planes may have elevated their bond and other asset markets on the wings of central bank check writing over the past 12 months. Downdrafts and discipline lie ahead for governments and investor portfolios alike. While my own Pollyannish advocacy of “check-free” elections may be quixotic, the shifting of private investment dollars to more fiscally responsible government bond markets may make for a very real outcome in 2010 and beyond. Additionally, if exit strategies proceed as planned, all U.S. and U.K. asset markets may suffer from the absence of the near $2 trillion of government checks written in 2009. It seems no coincidence that stocks, high yield bonds, and other risk assets have thrived since early March, just as this “juice” was being squeezed into financial markets. If so, then most “carry” trades in credit, duration, and currency space may be at risk in the first half of 2010 as the markets readjust to the absence of their “sugar daddy.” There’s no tellin’ where the money went? Not exactly, but it’s left a suspicious trail. Market returns may not be “so fine” in 2010.

William Gross
Managing Director

I have never agreed more with Mr. Gross than in this article and will be discussing it more in my next Freedom’s Vision piece on Political reform. Hey, good song choice, Bill, you are exactly right – “There’s no tellin’ where the money went!”

Robert Palmer – Simply Irresistible: