Gross: Life or death battle of weakest sovereigns

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Bill Gross, co-founder and co-CIO of PIMCO, is to my mind one of the top money men around. His monthly newsletter, this month entitled “Don’t Care”, therefore always makes for thought-provoking reading. (On a personal note, it does sound if he should get out more often!)

Here are the last few paragraphs:

“Government bailouts and guarantees such as those evidenced and envisioned in Dubai and Greece, as well as those for the last 18 months with banks and large industrial corporations across the globe, suggest a more homogeneous ‘unicredit’ type of bond market. If core sovereigns such as the US, Germany, UK, and Japan ‘absorb’ more and more credit risk, then the credit spreads and yields of these sovereigns should look more and more like the markets that they guarantee. The Kings, in other words, in the process of increasingly shedding their clothes, begin to look more and more like their subjects. Kings and serfs begin to share the same castle.

“This metaphor doesn’t really answer the critical question of whether a debt crisis can be cured by issuing more debt. The answer remains: It depends – on initial debt levels and whether or not private economies can be reinvigorated. But it does suggest the likely direction of sovereign yields IF global policymakers are successful with their rescue efforts: Sovereign yields will narrow in spreads compared to other high-quality alternatives. In other words, sovereign yields will become more credit like.

“When sovereign issues become more credit-like, as evidenced in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and a host of others, they move closer in yield to the corporate and Agency debt that supposedly rank lower in the hierarchy. That process of course can be accomplished in two ways: high-quality non-sovereigns move down to lower levels or governments move up. The answer to which one depends significantly on future inflation, the aftermath of quantitative easing programs, and the vigor of the private economy going forward. But the contamination of sovereign credit space with past and future bailouts is a leveler, a homogenizer, a negative for those sovereigns that fail to exert necessary discipline. Only if global economies stumble and revisit the recessionary depths of a year ago should the process reverse direction and place Treasuries, Gilts, et al. back in the driver’s seat.

“Investors should obviously focus on those sovereigns where fundamentals promise lower credit or inflationary risk. Germany and Canada are amongst those at the top of our list while a rogues’ gallery of the obvious, including Greece, Euroland lookalikes, and the UK gather near the bottom. PIMCO’s ‘Ring of Fire’ remains white hot and action, as opposed to cocktail blather, is required to maintain or regain trust in sovereign credits approaching the rocks. Just last week Bank of England Governor Mervyn King said that it would be difficult to cut government spending quickly, but that there needs to be a clear plan for doing so. Not good enough, Mr. King. Don’t care. Show investors the money, not vice-versa. An investor’s motto should be, ‘Don’t trust any government and verify before you invest.’ The careful discrimination between sovereign credits is becoming more than casual cocktail conversation. A deficiency of global aggregate demand and the potential impotency of policymakers to close the gap are evolving into a life or death outcome for the weakest sovereigns, with consequences for credit and asset markets worldwide.”

Click here for the full article.

Gross has also just been interviewd by Bloomberg on the above. The clip is below.

Bloomberg (via YouTube), March 1, 2010.

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