Bill Gross: Expect Fed Funds To Hit 3.5%

by: Articles About Bill Gross

From PIMCO Managing Director Bill Gross's monthly market commentary for November 2007:

[B]oth old-fashioned banks and their derivative, conduit-fed shadow counterparts will be growing their balance sheets a lot more slowly in future months and quarters. That rather immediately translates into a slower economy and the need for government assistance in the form of lower interest rates or liquidity pushes like Treasury Secretary Paulson’s “Super SIV.” Whether Paulson’s “Committee to Save the World – Part II” will succeed like Bob Rubin’s original during the Long Term Capital crisis is debatable. The idea, first of all, is counterproductive because it continues to hide subprime asset prices in the “shadows.” Secondly, Rubin confronted no regulatory headwinds back in 1998, nor did he have to deal with today’s behemoth shadow banking system in the process of losing its brave face. Rubin in fact, along with his all-star committee featuring Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers, had a near hurricane force tailwind with 24 months more of dotcom IPOs yet to come. No wonder that Chairman Greenspan needed to cut short rates by only 75 basis points before stabilizing the economy nearly a decade ago.

Ben Bernanke has no such luxury. While he does have the backstop of a global economy powering on at a 4-5% annual clip, today’s U.S. IPOs were more a creation of leverage and the shadow banking system’s ability to create productivity gains through finance, as opposed to technological innovation. With banks and their shadows in retreat and modern day “world saving committees” relatively impotent, Bernanke must do some heavy lifting as opposed to the light housework required of Alan Greenspan in 1998. An increasingly recessionary looking U.S. economy will likely require 1% real short rates and 3½% Fed Funds in order to stabilize a potential growth contraction in lending not witnessed since the early 1970s or, to be honest, Roosevelt’s depressionary 1930s. We can only hope that Bernanke, Paulson, and their cohorts recognize the danger and that the music keeps playing with the lights still turned on.