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Should investors care about Bill Gross?

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On the face of it, there is little reason why investors should care about the departure of one US fund manager from one US fund management group.

Even if that fund manager is Bill Gross, formerly of Pimco, and he managed an eye-popping $220bn fund (roughly the GDP of the Philippines or Greece). However, his departure may just be significant enough to disrupt the portfolios of day-to-day investors in the UK.

The problem is that Mr Gross, who has departed for rival firm Janus, has built up quite a following over the years on the back of the strong performance of his funds. Lots of investors – rightly or wrongly – now want to follow him to his new company, or find an alternative manager, believing the new guard at Pimco may not be up to the job.

This has caused a few tremors in corporate bond markets. Around $23bn or so has already left the funds. That means that Pimco have to put $23bn of corporate bonds up for sale. As with all assets, when there is lots of supply, the price goes down. This has led to concerns about a slide in corporate bond markets, which were already considered vulnerable due to the high valuations and the imminent rise in interest rates.

Rob Harley, Senior Research Analyst at Tilney Bestinvest believes investors shouldn’t panic. He says: “On balance we believe those looking for a larger market reaction to this event alone, might be disappointed. However this is not to say that investors should remain complacent to the risk of price volatility in this market. Liquidity risk is now a greater and more permanent feature of the corporate credit markets – something investors will have to learn to live with going forward.”

So it may not be the time to panic sell corporate bond funds – not least because some corporate bond funds may be able to benefit from the fire sales at the Pimco portfolios. However, investors with holdings in the larger corporate bond funds should be aware that this is a risk and perhaps be rethinking their allocation.

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