“Bond king” Jeff Gundlach, the CEO of $118 billion DoubleLine Capital, made a case that bonds are “not attractive.”
On Tuesday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond kissed a high of 3% for the first time since January 2014.
During an investor presentation in New York later that day, Gundlach said that there’s a “weird argument” that U.S. bonds are “wickedly attractive” relative to European and Japanese bonds, which boast much lower yields.
“Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. It couldn’t be more wrong,” Gundlach said, adding, “Our bonds are not attractive.”
While the nominal yield is higher, foreign buyers have to hedge the currency, which is “very expensive,” he added.
“Don’t expect foreigners to be clamoring into the bond market unless the hedge costs radically change,” he later said.
The critical question for the bond market is, “Who is the big buyer?”
In response to a question from a reporter, Gundlach acknowledged that China is a major purchaser of U.S. debt, but they may decide not to continue doing that.
“China has been a voracious buyer of U.S. debt. And you may not know this, but our president is saber rattling on trade wars with China, which might motivate them to buy less, I don’t know if they will. But, if I were president for life of China, I would probably be like, ‘I’m not incrementally motivated to buy your debt.’”
During his talk, Gundlach noted that the 10-year note broke the downtrend “two long years ago.” DoubleLine turned “maximum negative” on the 10-year on July 6, 2016 around the time the low yield of 1.32% was touched. Gundlach has remained in a “bearish posture” on rates since then.
It’s a “terrible time” to be selling bonds
If the 10-year breaks above 3% decisively and has a couple of closes above that level, there’s “nothing but air” above the yield level until it approaches 3.5% or 4%.
“If the 10-year was a great short at 2.99% then it was a great short at 3.6%. Let the market do the talking,” he said.
Though, he added that his conviction on breaking above 3% is low.
“I don’t think you need conviction. Let the market prove your opinion.”
From a trading perspective, this is a “terrible time” to be selling bonds, Gundlach said.
“On margin, if you forced me to put a trade on, I would not be buying bonds. I remain defensive on rates, but that’s not terribly convictive.”
When it comes to conviction, on a scale of 1 to 10, Gundlach said he’s at a 6.
Julia La Roche is a finance reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.