Explaining Southern California's economy

How can you profit from Apple's decline? Listen to Jeff Gundlach

Asia Reacts to the Death of Steve Jobs

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Dark days have arrived for Apple, as its stock prices falls from 2012 highs. One investor was bearish on the the stock when its was riding high, however: L.A.'s Jeff Gundlach.

Last year, Jeffrey Gundlach, the CEO of Los Angeles-based DoubleLine Capital, lay out what some called the most contrarian Apple trade imaginable. In spring of 2012, Apple was riding high, climbing to almost $640 per share in early April. It gave some of that back over the summer, but by September, it made all-time highs above $700 and Apple observers started seriously talking about it as the first $1,000 per share/$1 trillion company. 

Back in the spring, Gundlach predicted, in effect, that Apple's run was over. He put himself in the mind of a risk-craving hedge fund trader — his reputation is as a solid manager of bond investments, although his exit from his previous employer, TCW, was controversial — and recommended betting that Apple's share price would collapse. He paired that bet, his short position, with a call to go long on natural gas, so cheap at the time that it was practically free: around $2 per million BTUs. 

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DoubleLine Capital's Jeff Gundlach says housing recovery has a ways to go (Chart)

DoubleLine Capital's CEO, Jeff Gundlach, doesn't see a robust housing recovery in 2013, the "Year of the Snake."

DoubleLine Capital's Jeff Gundlach presented his 2013 market outlook on Tuesday. DoubleLine, based in Los Angeles, is a fast-growing financial start-up. It has amassed more than $50 billion in assets under management (AUM) since CEO Gundlach left rival TCW — also L.A. based — in 2009, under controversial and eventually litigious circumstances. 

With Newport Beach based PIMCO, DoubleLine and TCW form what I call a Southern California "bond triangle" — together the trio manages more than $2 trillion, dealing mostly with fixed-income investments (although PIMCO and DoubleLine have been edging toward equities as a greater portion of their portfolios).

Add in Pasadena-based WAMCO, with $450 billion under management, and you have a constellation of bond funds with portfolios that surpass the annual economic output of the entire state of California, which is about $2 trillion.

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Bond kings chase returns in a low-interest-rate world

A short sale home in the Spring Valley a

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A recovering housing market has yielding big returns for Southern California bond funds that have invested in risky assets.

Heather Perlberg and Pierre Paulden at Bloomberg have a good piece Wednesday about what I call Southern California's "bond triangle" - and its investment managers' relentless quest for returns when interest rates are at historic lows. 

The major players in the story are PIMCO, the nearly $2 trillion fixed-income colossus based in Newport Beach; TCW, with $135 billion in assets under management and in the process of being taken over by the Carlyle Group, a big private-equity firm; and DoubleLine Capital, run by former TCW trader Jeff Gundlach and one of the fastest-growing financing startups in history, with more than $50 amassed in assets in three years. ( TCW and DoubleLine are based in L.A.)

Here's Perlberg and Paulden on how these firms' investment in a risky category of debt has paid off big time:

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In SoCal's Bond Triangle, the Carlyle Group hits some trouble

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The Carlyle Group, a huge private-equity firm, has hit snag with its purchase of a majority stake in TCW, one of the big bonds finds headquartered in California.

Reuters ran a dense "exclusive" Monday about some financial gyrations that are making potential trouble for private-equity colossus the Carlyle Group's deal to buy a chunk of TCW, one of the biggest bond funds in the world and a part of what I call the Southern California Bond Triangle. It also includes PIMCO and DoubleLine Capital.

PIMCO is the biggest bond fund in the world, with $1.8 trillion under management. TCW has around $135 billion on its books. DoubleLine has been growing at a furious pace since CEO Jeff Gundlach established it after a controversial departure from TCW. It has taken on nearly $50 billion in under three years. 

You could also throw Pasadena-based WAMCO in there, creating a Bond Quadrangle. WAMCO has around $450 billion under management and has tried in recent years to regain its competitive mojo versus PIMCO.

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Jeff Gundlach shows why US economic growth has become very expensive

The U.S. has added a huge amount of debt since the financial crisis, but it hasn't yielded higher levels of growth.

Southern California is home to a trio of important bond funds: PIMCO, TCW, and DoubleLine Capital. All of these have executives who routinely comment on the global financial system, although PIMCO and DoubleLine usually get most of the attention.

At Newport Beach based PIMCO, which manages $1.8 trillion, co-Chief Investment Officer Mohamed A. El-Erian acts as a sort of wise man for both his firm and for a variety of blue-chip news outlets (and the co-CIO and founder Bill Gross is a regular on CNBC and other financial broadcast outlets). 

Bond fund managers tend to be very macroeconomic and global in their outlook. They can see wheels within wheels and large-scale patterns because bonds are how countries, states, cities, and companies all fund themselves. If something is going right, bond markets can tell you. And if things are going to go wrong, bond markets can send the signals. Just ask Greece. Or California, which has one of the lowest credit ratings of any of U.S. state.

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