Gundlach betting against stocks because of bond yields and bitcoin

Key Points
  • "Bond king" Jeffrey Gundlach predicted stocks would end the year negative due to pressure from rising yields on government debt.
  • In addition, the DoubleLine Capital founder said bitcoin has been a leading indicator for the market's direction, with its slump a bad omen for equities.
Jeff Gundlach's bond call

The era of low volatility is over and it's stock market investors who will have to pay, "bond king" Jeffrey Gundlach said Wednesday.

Rising bond yields and the plunge in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are providing signs that have led Gundlach to expect stocks to end the year in negative territory.

The DoubleLine Capital founder conceded that his bet against the market suffered in December and January, "but it was so obvious to me that bitcoin is the dot-com of our world today, and this mania is so similar to where we were in 1999."

In addition to betting against stocks generally, Gundlach has been long equities in his flagship fund as he expects the return of volatility to change the investing landscape.

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"We're in a volatility regime that is completely, obviously different from what we experienced in 2017. It's payback time," Gundlach told CNBC's "Halftime Report" in an interview. "2017 was the easiest investment year of all time. The risk-adjusted returns for the stock market were probably the best in history."

Rising government bond yields have put pressure on stock prices, he said. Specifically, a 2.63 percent yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note marks a line in the sand for stocks, which are currently in correction territory.

"The stock market can't take higher bond yields," he said.

Gundlach spoke on a day when stocks tumbled at the open but regained most of their losses through the course of the day. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq briefly turned positive in afternoon trading, while the Dow industrials remained negative.

Volatility has indeed surged in 2018 after lingering around historic lows in the previous year.

One sign Gundlach pointed to is bitcoin — the cryptocurrency had peaked in 2017 along with stock prices, while its slumps this year have preceded downturns in stocks.

"Bitcoin very clearly leads risk assets," he said.


WATCH: Gundlach says 2018 is payback time

Jeff Gundlach: 2018 is payback time