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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bill Gross' bet on "the New Normal"

Bill Gross is buying long-term government treasuries and he expects slower growth and low interest rate in coming years (source: Bloomberg).




Bill Gross, who runs the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co., said he's been buying longer maturity Treasuries in recent weeks as protection against deflation.



"There has been significant flattening on the long end of the curve," Gross said in an interview from Newport Beach, California, with Bloomberg Radio. "This reflects the re- emergence of deflationary fears. The U.S. is at the center of de-levering as opposed to accelerating growth."

Gross had said during the midst of the credit crunch that Treasuries offered little value as investors seeking a refuge from turmoil in global financial markets drove yields to record lows in December. He boosted the $177.5 billion Total Return Fund's investment in government-related bonds to 44 percent of assets, the most since August 2004, from 25 percent in July, according data released earlier this month on Pimco's Web site. The fund cut mortgage debt to 38 percent from 47 percent.

"We've exchanged our mortgages for the government's check" as the Federal Reserve winds down purchases of agency debt, Gross said today. "Mortgages are expensive compared to Treasuries and other vehicles."

Fed policy makers last week committed to complete their $1.45 trillion in purchases of mortgage securities and extended the end of the program to March from December.

Policy Reversal

Pimco's Total Return Fund handed investors a 17.85 percent gain in the past year, beating 94 percent of its peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The one-month return is 1.94 percent, outpacing 57 percent of its competitors. Pimco is a unit of Munich-based insurer Allianz SE.

Pimco in July reversed a policy to steer clear of U.S. debt when it said it would buy five- to 10-year Treasury securities.

"With Treasury yields near the top of our expected range, Pimco plans to overweight duration and take exposure to the five- to 10-year portion of the yield curve," the firm said July 20 in a report on its Web site.

On that day, the yield on the 10-year note touched an intra-day high of 3.72 percent and a low of 3.57 percent. The note yielded 3.29 percent at 10:36 a.m. today in New York.

Gross said intermediate- to long-term bonds will perform well as long as policy rates and inflation remain low, after minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee's Aug. 11-12 meeting was released on Sept. 2.

'New Normal'

Officials at Pimco have forecast a "new normal" in the global economy that will include heightened government regulation, lower consumption and slower growth. The economy will likely expand at a 2 percent to 3 percent rate going forward, Gross said.

The world's largest economy shrank at a 1.2 percent annual rate from April to June, more than the originally reported 1 percent contraction, according to a Bloomberg News survey before the Commerce Department's Sept. 30 report. The jobless rate climbed to 9.8 percent this month, from 9.7 percent in August, according to a separate Bloomberg survey before the Labor Department reports figures on Oct. 2.