Bill Gross is out with his February market outlook. Read the full piece here.
Investment management is a privileged profession – not just for being paid by X-times what you’re really worth to society, but from the standpoint of longevity. If you’re good, and you at least give the impression that you still have most of your faculties, you can literally hang around forever. James Carville, the well-meaning but evil-lookin’ guy from the Clinton Administration once remarked that in his next life he’d like to come back as a bond manager. He had part of it right – the influence, the wealth, and even fame – but there was no need to imagine himself as some cryogenically preserved Wall Street version of Ted Williams – he was young enough at the time to make the leap and still have a 20-year career ahead of him. Other professions do not afford such opportunities – the gold watch at 65 is not only symbolic, but a statement in most professions that says you are more or less washed up. Athletes have at most 20 years and musicians seem to have that brief window of creation as well. The Beatles, for instance, were done after a decade’s time. Paul is still writing songs, but the magic clearly disappeared in the 70s and now his concerts are “garden parties” of remembrances as opposed to creation.
What I think is close to unique about investment management is that it’s really about the stewardship of capital markets, and that time weeds out the impostors, leaving the aging survivors to appear as wise and capable of guiding clients through the next crisis – whatever and whenever it might appear. That assumption has some logic behind it, but critically depends on the investor truly enjoying the game and – of course – holding on to at least a few billion brain cells that keeps him from being obviously senile or at least being accused of having “lost it.” An investment manager at 65 fears both. I remember having met John Templeton on the set of Wall Street Week nearly 20 years ago. I was a young buck and he was – well – on the downside of his career. About the only thing he could tell Rukeyser, it seemed to me, was to cite the rule of 72 and proclaim that stocks and the Dow would be at 100,000 by 2030 or something like that. Now, approaching that same age, I’m a little more understanding and a little less young-buckish. If that was his only lesson, then it was a pretty good one I suppose – Dow 5,000 and the New Normal notwithstanding. And despite the strikingly premature departure of Peter Lynch and the transition of George Soros to philanthropic pursuits, there are some great examples of longevity in this business. Warren Buffett, of course, comes immediately to mind, as does Dan Fuss of Loomis Sayles, who may wind up as the Bear Bryant or Adolph Rupp of the bond business. Peter Bernstein, who passed away but a few months ago, was a brilliant writer and commentator on the investment scene well into his 80s. So there’s hope for you still, James Carville, and, I suppose, for me as well. It’s quite a privilege to be a “steward of the capital markets,” to have done it well for so long and to still be able to walk up to the plate and face a 95-mile-an-hour fastball. Or, is it a curve? Time will tell.
Read the full piece here.