If you have been seeking unequivocal proof that the 30 year bull market for bonds is over, look no further than this WSJ headline: Bond-King Pimco Plans to Push ‘Alternative Funds’.
Think about what this means: From 1980 to 2013, PIMCO enjoyed three decades of rising bond prices — read falling interest rates — and accumulated a massive pool of over $2 trillion in assets under management (AUM). Founded in 1971, the firm rode the bond Bull better than anyone else. The bond bull also led them to manage the world’s largest mutual fund, their Total Return Fund, which has amassed $242.7 billion in assets.
To me, the fact that PIMCO is embracing alternative investments signals the end of the bond bull market. While some folks may want to blame a change in culture due to Allianz acquiring PIMCO, let me remind you that was almost 14 years ago.
The WSJ notes the impact of the hilariously misnamed JOBS Act:
“Douglas Hodge, Pimco’s chief operating officer, called alternative investments “a very important area for us” in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. He said the firm is responding to increased demand from investors of all types, as well as to changing regulations.
But the push into riskier, more-complex products marks a shift for the firm, whose bond funds have long been seen as some of the safest and most reliable on the market.
The SEC moved last month to lift a restriction prohibiting hedge funds, private equity firms and other businesses from publicising shares in private offerings as part of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, effective September 23. That allows Pimco and others to pitch alternative products more directly to institutional investors as well as wealthy individuals.”
I thought PIMCO had jumped the shark when Bill Gross blackmailed Treasury into guaranteeing Fannie & Freddie’s paper. Note that these were not government owned entities but rather were publicly traded firms. The implied guarantee was forced to become an actual guarantee, costing taxpayers 100s of billions of dollars so far.
So too are the days of PIMCO as a purveyor of “safe and reliable investments.” The embrace of riskier, more-complex products can only mean higher costs and lower returns for PIMCO. Say it with me: 2 & 20 generates plenty!
The loser in this are the institutional investors who have come to rely on the “bond king” for safety and security. The winner? The new bond king, Jeff Gundlach’s and his firm Doubleline. We swapped some holdings form PIMCO to Doubleline last year; I suspect that we will eventually move the rest in that direction.
Here’s a fun bet: Who wants to guess how much AUM Doubeline takes away from PIMCO over the next decade…?
Bond-King Pimco Plans to Push ‘Alternative Funds’
WSJ, August 28, 2013