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Bond guru Jeffrey Gundlach: Brexit not going to happen

The UK is not going to vote to leave the European Union, according to Jeffrey Gundlach, the influential bond investor.

The founder of DoubleLine Capital, which manages more than $84bn of assets, added that any investors who are hedging themselves against such an outcome of theBrexit referendum are wasting their money.

In a freewheeling interview at the Los Angeles headquarters of his firm, Mr Gundlach expounded on the UK and US political landscapes and on topics ranging fromnegative interest rates to collecting art.

"It's not going to happen," Mr Gundlach says, definitively. "People like to complain, they like to say what's wrong but then when it comes down to actually pulling the lever they sit there and they say, 'what exactly am I doing here, what is going to happen?' The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. Look at what happened with Scotland. People aren't going to pull a lever for Brexit, so I don't even think that's worth considering in the present time."

Jeffrey Gundlach
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Jeffrey Gundlach

Brexit

The cost of buying protection against a fall in the value of sterling has risen towards the high seen in 2010 after the UK general election that resulted in a coalition government. Mr Gundlach says investors are being foolish pushing up the cost of such insurance.

"Remember all the tail risk insurance that pension plans put on in 2009? What a waste of money." Same with Brexit insurance, he says. "The odds are less than what people have embedded into their protection so it's likely to lose money. And nobody knows what would happen under a Brexit anyway; so often things go the opposite way from what people expect. Maybe your hedge is actually in the anti-hedge."

Donald Trump

Donald Trump and Jeffrey Gundlach
Rebecca Cook | Reuters; David A. Grogan | CNBC

"Trump is the unconstrained bond fund of the political arena," Mr Gundlach says, referring to the newly-popular kind of fund whose manager does not have to adhere to any bond market benchmark.

"Unconstrained bond funds became popular because traditional alternatives were deemed to be unattractive. With an unconstrained bond fund I have no idea what I'm going to get but it's better than getting something I know I don't like."

Mr Gundlach recalls how he told DoubleLine's traders, on the day that Mr Trump announced his candidacy to widespread derision, that "the greatest long in the entire world is Trump's odds to win the presidency". DoubleLine cannot play the political betting market, but Mr Gundlach predicts Trump will win the White House if his nomination is confirmed at the Republican convention, and reckons defence stocks will do well as a result.

"Trump is very squishy on ideas and offers different, even contradictory ideas week-to-week. But two things that he has said clearly and consistently are build a wall and build the defence. I think that Trump would have much higher deficit; he talks about leaving social security completely alone, cutting taxes and spending a lot of money. Donald Trump's a debt guy, he knows about borrowing a lot of money."

Negative interest rates

Expectations of low interest rates are so embedded in financial market assumptions that it smacks of "complacency", Mr Gundlach reckons, and investors could get burnt if it becomes clear the Federal Reserve will not follow the lead of other central banks in considering negative rates as a cure for the next downturn.

"I think the odds are very low that the US will go to negative interest rates, not based on some great economic growth belief, but rather on the failure of negative interest rates in both Europe and Japan," he says.

"Those central banks will have to get out of it, but what is the path out? Raising interest rates against the global economic backdrop seems hard to justify. So it's like the old phrase: women, you can't live with them, you can't live without them."

Terrorism

The one thing that Mr Gundlach concedes could shake his Brexit stance is if there is more terrorism that inflames concern about the free movement of people within the EU — but he says he takes a grim comfort from the fact that there have not been more deadly attacks.

"I am surprised how ineffective these guys are when they commit to these acts. They don't optimise them very well."

More from the Financial Times
DoubleLine investor Gundlach issues junk bond warning
Leaving EU is the safer option, says Michael Gove
Reality check: the FT dissects pro and anti-Brexit claims

Art

Mr Gundlach has long been a passionate collector of modern and contemporary art, adorning his home with works from the likes of Jasper Johns, Cy Twombly and Piet Mondrian — even naming his firm after Mondrian's famous double lines — but just maybe he has bought his last painting.

"I have no desire to add any art to my house. You can't have everything looking like a museum," he says. In fact, an Andy Warhol car crash picture had to come down to make room for his last purchase, which was a painting by a pioneer of abstract expressionism, Clyfford Still.

Another reason the Still may be the final purchase? "As you get older you realise that you can't will it to anybody because no one can afford the taxes. They would have to sell it. So you have to either sell it or give it away."