Bill Gross of Janus warns financial markets have become 'a Vegas casino'

By Jennifer Ablan

NEW YORK Global central bank policy makers have turned world financial markets into a casino, thanks to their unprecedented monetary policies, bond investor Bill Gross of Janus Capital Group (JNS.N) warned on Tuesday.  

“Our financial markets have become a Vegas/Macau/Monte Carlo casino, wagering that an unlimited supply of credit generated by central banks can successfully reflate global economies and reinvigorate nominal GDP growth to lower but acceptable norms in today’s highly levered world,” Gross said in his latest Investment Outlook titled “Doubling Down.”

Gross, who oversees the $1.5 billion Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, recommended Bitcoin and gold for investors who are looking for places to preserve capital.

“At some point investors – leery and indeed weary of receiving negative or near zero returns on their money, may at the margin desert the standard financial complex, for higher returning or better yet, less risky alternatives,” Gross said.

Gross has been lambasting ultra-loose central bank policies for hindering global economies by keeping so-called “zombie” corporations alive and inhibiting “creative destruction.”

For several years, Gross and others have warned that zero and negative interest rates not only fail to provide an easing cushion should recession occur, but they destroy capitalism’s business models.

“A commonsensical observation made by yours truly and increasing numbers of economists, Fed members, and corporate CEOs (Jamie Dimon amongst them) would be that low/negative yields erode and in some cases destroy historical business models which foster savings/investment and ultimately economic growth,” Gross said.

He added: “Our argument is that NIMs (net interest margins) for banks, and the solvency of insurance companies and pension funds with long dated and underfunded liabilities, have been negatively affected and that ultimately, the continuation of current monetary policies will lead to capital destruction as opposed to capital creation.”

All told, Gross said central bankers have fostered a casino-like atmosphere that present “a Hobson’s Choice, or perhaps a more damaging Sophie’s Choice of participating (or not) in markets previously beyond prior imagination. Investors/savers are now scrappin’ like mongrel dogs for tidbits of return at the zero bound. This cannot end well.”

The Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund, which saw outflows of $87.7 million in 2015, has seen inflows of $221 million year-to-date as of Aug. 31. So far this year, the fund has returned 4.956 percent, putting it in the 33rd percentile, beating 67 percent of its peers, according to Morningstar data.

Janus Capital announced Monday that it was merging with London-based Henderson Group Plc to form a $320 billion asset manager.

In an emailed statement, Gross said: “Henderson obviously bought a great performing fund with Janus Global Unconstrained. Growth has far exceeded industry trends and absolute and relative performance is typical of my historical standards, at 400 basis points above the benchmark for the year, far better than Pimco. With the greater global scale of the combined Janus Henderson, investors who followed me to Janus would have benefited on multiple levels.”

(Reporting By Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Chris Reese)

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