- which writers he likes and why
- what he looks for in news reports
- the biggest lesson he has learned
To watch the first clip from this interview, please click here.
Can’t watch now? Read the transcript
Alex Steger: Who are the most influential investors for you along your career, maybe people you've worked with, read or anyone who you feel has shaped your views?
Jeffrey Gundlach: I don't read a lot of commentary. I think I learned the most from Richard Russell, who was a newsletter writer from 1958 and he did it continuously until a few years ago when he passed away in his late 80s. He had a lot of experience and a lot of ideas and methods and I learned a lot by reading those letters. I don't subscribe anymore. I think his children have taken over. But I really liked Richard Russell.
And I read Jim Grant’s Interest Rate Observer. Every now and then there's an issue with a real gem of an idea. Sometimes there isn't, but very few publications ever have a true gem. He has them in there.
I read the newswires more than anything else. What I'm looking for is these magical moments when the data doesn't change but the interpretation of it does. That's very interesting, because it tells you that something has shifted in terms of mood, or attitude, or emotion or sentiment. Then opposite happens to, which is equally interesting. That is that the data does change but people don’t realize it and the narrative stays the same. And that happens a lot too. So I always look for things that used to be true that are no longer true, but people don't realize it yet.
My biggest lesson that I've learned... I have the same flaw that every human being has and that is: As you're growing up and getting older, you believe that everybody's like you. You just extrapolate your personality traits and proclivities on other people. Then you start to realize increasingly, that that's not true. And I believed, therefore, that everybody was intellectually objective and honest and wanted to figure things out for themselves. And I didn't understand, for probably as long as 20 years, why I couldn't convince people of almost mathematically analytical arguments regarding markets. And it was finally after years of this that I realized that people actually want to be told what to think.
It took me a long time to understand that. Not me, see, I don't want to be told what to think. And so I figured nobody wants to be told what to think. But indeed, I think almost everybody wants to be told what to think. That creates a tremendous advantage in managing money. Because in that window of time between a fact and people being told what the fact means, you have a window if you're capable of figuring out what it means - and don't need to be told what it means – where you can actually act before other people and I found I've made a lot of money that way.
I remember when Ben Bernanke announced the Fed funds rate was going to stay at 0% for three years, and the markets didn't move. And I had my traders look for this asset class in the bond market that would be the primary beneficiary of rate staying at zero for three years. And I said, “How much of the prices up?” And they said, “They're not up at all.”
AS: What was the asset class?
JG: It’s’ very technical but basically zero interest rates for three years, guaranteed a massive profit for a certain sector of the bond market and the prices didn't move that morning. And I told my traders, “Buy every single one of them.” And two days later, they were about 20 points higher. So that's a classic example. Because people were like, "What does that mean?" Well, it means rates are zero. So it means that the things that benefit for rates being zero [will benefit]. I mean, it seems tautological that anybody wouldn’t have seen that but yet there's this gap in time when people want to make sure they read it on some crawler somewhere….that was telling them it's confirmed and it's safe that they’re not going to be wrong alone.