2013 has been a wild year so far for bond investors, with rates hitting two year highs in Friday's trade. While it's easy to make money in bonds when interest rates are falling, the true test of a bond fund manager is if they are able to earn a return for their investors, or at least minimize losses, when interest rates rise sharply. Let's have a look at how two of the most well known bond managers in the world, PIMCO's Bill Gross and DoubleLine Capital's Jeffrey Gundlach, have performed so far in 2013.
While both managers participate in other funds as well, they are known for their lead portfolio manager positions on their flagship funds. For Bill Gross that is the PIMCO Total Return Fund and for Jeffrey Gundlach that is the DoubleLine Total Return Fund.
Jeffrey Gundlach 2013 Performance
Introducing first, fighting out of the blue corner, is DoubleLine Capital's founder and CEO Jeffrey Gundlach. After acting as one of the top performing bond fund managers in the world at the Helm of the TCW Total Return Fund, Gundlach formed his own firm Doubleline Capital in 2010.
DoubleLine Total Return Fund Year To Date Returns: -.89%
While he has a loss for the year, Gundlach has outperformed his benchmark (the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index AGG) by 1.79% and the average intermediate term bond fund by 1.51%. That puts Gundlach in the top 6% of intermediate term bond fund managers for 2013 according to Morningstar.
Bill Gross 2013 Performance
Introducing next fighting out of the red corner is PIMCO founder and CEO Bill Gross. His PIMCO Total Return fund is the largest mutual fund in the world with more than $260 Billion under management.
PIMCO Total Return Fund Year To Date Returns: -2.91%
This is a pretty stinging loss for the reigning champion, which is down more than three times as much as Gundlach's Total Return Fund over the same time period. Gross's Total Return fund has underperformed its benchmark (the Barclay's U.S. Aggregate Bond Index) over this time period by .23% and the average intermediate term bond fund by .51%. This puts him in the bottom 1/3rd of intermediate term bond funds for 2013 according to Morningstar.
How Did Gundlach Knockout Gross in 2013?
One word: Duration. Duration measures the interest rate sensitivity of a bond meaning that, all else being equal, the higher the duration of a bond fund, the more it will lose when interest rates rise.
As we talked about earlier this year when we ranked Gundlach's DoubleLine Total Return fund the top pick in our core bond fund category in 2013, Gundlach has kept the duration his fund much lower than Gross, and was thus not hurt as badly when interest rates rose.
A note on fund size
Unlike in the ring, size in the mutual fund world is generally a disadvantage. With this in mind, one could argue that Bill Gross is at an extreme disadvantage to Gundlach. With over $240 billion in assets Gross's total return fund is around 6 times the size of Gundlach's DoubleLine Total Return fund.
Those who follow the bond market closely will likely bring up the fact that Gross also manages the PIMCO Total Return ETF (NYSEARCA:BOND) which has a mere $4 Billion under management. However, although performance has diverged in the past, BOND is supposed to be simply an ETF version of the PIMCO Total Return Mutual fund and therefore likely employs a very similar strategy.
We think Gundlach will continue to outperform Gross for the rest of 2013 and are therefore reiterating the DoubleLine Total Return Fund as our top core bond fund pick for 2013 and beyond. What do you think?
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.