Federal Reserve

Fed 'safety net' on stocks is shrinking: El-Erian

El-Erian: Fed feels obliged to support asset markets

As the Federal Reserve taper talk heats up around a possible December start, Pimco's Mohamed El-Erian told CNBC on Thursday that the "safety net" on risk assets like stocks is diminishing.

"[But] the Fed cannot get to its economic objectives without going through the asset markets," he said in a "Squawk Box" interview. "So the Fed feels obliged to continue to support the asset markets; not as an end in itself but a means to an end. The economy."

(Read more: Confused about Fed tapering? Don't be)

The minutes from the Fed's October meeting—released Wednesday afternoon—intensified speculation in the market that the central bank might begin to scale back its $85 billion monthly bond purchases when policymakers meet next month.

(Read more: Bullard: December taper 'on the table')

El-Erian said he doesn't know exactly when the Fed will taper. But he thinks it will happen in the next 12 months, and it will be gradual.

Against that backdrop, the Pimco CEO and co-CIO said to look at the bond yield curve trade. "The front end of the yield curve is protected [by the Fed]. And you can make money going long the front-end, short the long-end."

By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC.