The Federal Reserve, with its bargain-basement interest rates and money printer always on standby, is manipulating financial markets and crushing capitalism, bond king Bill Gross said in his latest broadside against the U.S. central bank.
In a letter to clients, Gross addresses Fed Chair Janet Yellen directly, saying the policies she has pushed "have deferred long-term pain for the benefit of short-term gain."
The criticisms come as the Fed is weighing whether to raise interest rates after years of keeping them anchored in efforts to stimulate the economy and create inflation. Instead, Gross said, the Fed has merely inflated asset prices while actually harming the economy.
Yellen and other global central bankers "all have mastered the art of market manipulation and no — that's not an unkind accusation — it's one in fact that Ms. Yellen and other central bankers would plead guilty to over a cocktail at Jackson Hole or any other get together of PhD economists who have lost their way," Gross wrote.
Directing his comments to Yellen specifically, he said, "Capitalism, almost commonsensically, cannot function well at the zero bound or with a minus sign as a yield. $11 trillion of negative yielding bonds are not assets — they are liabilities. Factor that, Ms. Yellen into your asset price objective."
Some $11.4 trillion of global sovereign debt, primarily in Europe and Japan, carry negative yields , according to recent estimates from Fitch Rating Service. U.S. yields remain well below historical norms, and the Fed has been weighing enacting only the second rate increase in more than 10 years.
Economic growth has been sluggish. The U.S. has not seen full-year gross domestic product gains of more than 3 percent since the end of the Great Recession, and the rest of the world hasn't fared much better. Financial asset prices, though, have surged, with the S&P 500 (^GSPC) up more than 225 percent since the March 2009 low.
Gross has been a frequent critic of keeping rates so low, and has said investors will begin to pay the consequences. In his July letter, he advised clients to avoid both stocks and bonds and invest in gold and other tangible assets. Stocks and bonds broadly have traded flat for August.
In this letter, he begins, as is often the case, with a seeming non-sequitur, this time about golf. He used the game, though, to emphasize where investing trends are heading.
"Investors should know that they are treading on thin ice," he wrote. "This watch is ticking because of high global debt and out-of-date monetary/fiscal policies that hurt rather than heal real economies. Sooner rather than later, Yellen's smooth shot from the fairway will find the deep rough."
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