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Ending of the Super Bull Market

Published on: May 04 2015
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Bill Gross, now of Janus Capital, writes in his latest monthly essay on the end of the credit supercycle that propelled investment returns since 1981. He cites other successful investors who also have stated this view recently. All agree that investors should be looking forward to lower average returns in coming years than have been experienced in the secular bull market. Gross gives some tips on how to deal with this, such as using leverage to purchase safe low-yielding assets.

Many prominent investment managers have been sounding similar alarms, some, perhaps a little too soon as with my Investment Outlooks of a few years past titled, “Man in the Mirror”, “Credit Supernova” and others. But now, successful, neither perma-bearish nor perma-bullish managers have spoken to a “sense of an ending” as well. Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted. They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date. To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date. Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.

Policymakers and asset market bulls, on the other hand speak to the possibility of normalization – a return to 2% growth and 2% inflation in developed countries which may not initially be bond market friendly, but certainly fortuitous for jobs, profits, and stock markets worldwide. Their “New Normal” as I reaffirmed most recently at a Grant’s Interest Rate Observer quarterly conference in NYC, depends on the less than commonsensical notion that a global debt crisis can be cured with more and more debt. At that conference I equated such a notion with a similar real life example of pouring lighter fluid onto a barbeque of warm but not red hot charcoal briquettes in order to cook the spareribs a little bit faster. Disaster in the form of burnt ribs was my historical experience. It will likely be the same for monetary policy, with its QE’s and now negative interest rates that bubble all asset markets.

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