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Bill Gross: Investors are ‘Seriously Threatened’

In his latest monthly outlook, Gross says central banks have lured investors into a false sense of security.

  • Staff

Financial markets are “increasingly at risk” – and investors should be wary of chasing yield, Bill Gross warned in an investment outlook Tuesday.

The Janus Henderson Investors portfolio manager said that factors including high debt levels, an aging population, and the replacement of human labor with machines have pushed investors to pursue gains in the “financial economy” as opposed to the “real economy” – in other words, “making money with money.”

According to Gross, quantitative easing and low interest rates have boosted returns without boosting the underlying drivers of economic growth, such as productivity, which has risen only 1 percent annually since 2000. But asset prices and their growth rates are “ultimately dependent on the real economy,” Gross added, and money needs to be channeled into the “real economy” to keep the financial economy profitable.

“Investors have discovered that making money with money is a profitable enterprise and have exchanged the support of central banks for the old-time religion of productivity growth as a driver of their strategy,” he wrote in his outlook. “The real economy has been usurped by the financial economy.”

Gross, the former bond king who left Pacific Investment Management Co. for Janus in 2014, said that the real economy’s growth rate has become “stunted” by secular forces that even monetary and fiscal policies “seem unable to reverse.”

“Capitalism’s arteries are now clogged or even blocked by secular forces,” which when combined with low or negative yielding “safe” assets, “promise to stunt U.S. and global growth far below historical norms,” he wrote.

Soon the “financial economy” will be “seriously threatened,” forcing investors to acknowledge the limits of making money with money, according to Gross, who says the ultimate winners will be those who focus on risk reduction rather than relying on central bank policy.

“Don’t be mesmerized by the blue skies created by central bank QE and near perpetually low interest rates,” Gross warned. “All markets are increasingly at risk.”