PIMCO’s Bill Gross has his July commentary up on the web and his perspective is, as always, no-nonsense and interesting. He begins by graphically describing the circumstances that led to the obesity-related death of a baseball umpire as his set up:
“Kill the umpire,” the fan cried to open the 1996 baseball season in Cincinnati, and eight pitches later, the man behind the plate, John McSherry, was dead, all 320 pounds of him screaming for more and more oxygen to feed his spastic heart. He’d been killed by a billion molecules of sink-clogging, Drano-resistant cholesterol that fed on his coronary artery and sucked up his life’s blood like a vampire in the heat of the night. The next day Howard Stern had characteristically railed that the antidote was obvious. It was the same for all fat people: “DON’T EAT,” he howled. As if the ump hadn’t known. The fact was, he couldn’t stop. He loved the taste of food – every sugary, fat-ladened, carbohydrated morsel. The first bite was a special ecstasy, as was the last, and everything in between. The man, it seemed, was a Cuisinart with four limbs.
And then he gives us PIMCO’s rendition of The New Normal, a concept we’ve discussed here on TRB before.
Our economy’s lights, if not switched off in a rehash of the 1930s Depression, have certainly been dimmed in a 21st century version likely to be labeled the Great Recession. Much like John McSherry, U.S. and many global consumers gorged themselves on Big Macs of all varieties: burgers to be sure, but also McHouses, McHummers, and McFlatscreens, all financed with excessive amounts of McCredit created under the mistaken assumption that the asset prices securitizing them could never go down. What a colossal McStake that turned out to be. Now, however, with financial markets seemingly calmed and an inventory-based recovery in store for the balance of 2009, there is a developing optimism that we can go back to the lifestyle of yesteryear. PIMCO’s driving thesis however, if not a juxtaposition, is succinctly described as a “new normal” where growth is slower, profit margins are narrower, and asset returns are smaller than in decades past based upon the delevering and reregulating of the global economy, which in turn should substantially inhibit the “gorging” of goods and services that we grew used to in decades past.
Like the engorged ump in Gross’s missive, the US consumer may recover, but what that recovery looks like may be a far cry from what we thought “normal” was. Gross is looking for something closer to 2% GDP growth, not the 3.5% we grew accustomed to.
There are those who worry that Gross and his ginormous bond fund PIMCO, like BlackRock, may have a bit too much influence in DC right now as the feds try to figure out what to do with their brand new hedge fund they’ve reluctantly created.
Regardless of how you feel about this influence, Gross’s stuff is always a good read. I don’t mind someone talking their book as long as they admit that they’re doing just that.