Gundlach: Trump Forcing Downturn to Save the Day Later; Don’t Rule Out Clinton in 2020
“Bond King” and DoubleLine Capital founder and CEO Jeffrey Gundlach is a Donald Trump fan who predicted the reality TV star’s 2016 presidential election victory a year in advance.
Gundlach is known for making audacious predictions (and there’s a big one coming later in this story about a certain 2016 candidate), but he said he just had a feeling Trump would win the highest office in the land.
“The first time I publicly predicted Trump would win was in the Barron’s roundtable, which was the first Monday in January 2016,” Gundlach said in a recent interview with Intelligencer. “And Trump at that point was like 500-to-1 or something in the betting odds — but I was absolutely sure he was going to win. I went through the candidates and … people wanted the dishes to get broken, you know?”
Gundlach’s latest prediction also is a bit of a doozy: Trump is intentionally forcing an economic downturn in order to right the ship just ahead of the 2020 election and come out the hero. But, Gundlach added, it’s a very dangerous game.
“I think maybe he’s playing a dangerous game of intentionally weakening the economy so the Fed cuts rates and monetary easings work with a lag,” he said. “Cutting rates now would probably be beneficial in the summer of next year, ahead of the election. Also if you put on tariffs, or scare consumers, then maybe you can take the tariffs off and you’re moving consumption from today until 2020.
“That’s potentially a strategy. As I say, it’s pretty dangerous. It’s hard to time the economy by, you know, blunt instruments. I don’t know, it seems like he’s working really hard to get the Fed to cut rates — and the bond market is certainly helping. You know the bond market is telling the Fed they’re completely on a different planet.”
Trump has indeed been screaming about the Fed for months, bashing it and Chair Jerome Powell for raising rates too fast, and then not dropping them fast enough. In July, the central bank dropped rates 0.25%, the first rate cut since the 2008 financial crisis.
Gundlach said he actually feels sorry for Powell.
“The amazing thing is Jay Powell — poor guy. I feel sorry for him because every meeting, he’s gotta totally change his messaging, ever since December,” Gundlach said. “Every meeting is totally different. And that ‘mid-cycle adjustment’ thing that he pulled out at the end of July? That was just a horrible idea. Nobody knows what that really means. But it makes it sound like you’re really intending on really hiking again.”
With more and more recession alarm bells going off seemingly each day, Gundlach puts his odds of a downturn in the next year or so at 75%.
“I give a 75% chance of recession prior to the election and have for months. I know that the markets and the rhetoric has come around to something close to that — but when I first said it, people thought I was crazy,” he said. “But now CEO surveys are getting a little bit shaky. CEO confidence is declining pretty sharply. It’s not at a recessionary scare level quite yet, but two thirds of CEOs surveyed expect a recession before the end of 2020 so that’s pretty close. I use the election as the end date but it’s about the same thing. The Fed model also shows pretty high probability now of a recession if you put it in the context of data since 1985.”
It’s not the first time he’s said it but Gundlach reiterated a pretty shocking prediction he’s made before: If a recession hits and it gets bad, Trump won’t seek reelection.
“But I can’t even imagine Trump running for reelection if there’s a recession in the summer of next year. I don’t understand what he could run on,” he said.
“Trump could pull a Lyndon Johnson and just say, I’m not running. Because he’d probably know he was going to lose. And you know, Trump doesn’t want to lose. That’s his reason for not running, he could do the most ridiculous thing ever. He could actually say in the midst of a recession, ‘I’ve completed my mission of making America great again, there’s no work left to do, so there’s no point in me running.'”
Gundlach said there’s a fair chance there could be a three-way race in 2020 if Michael Bloomberg decides to jump in as an independent.
But the kicker is he thinks … Hillary Clinton could resurface once again.
“I have the suspicion that we’ll see somebody new in this race. Bloomberg started to do interviews in the last couple weeks — which is interesting,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s just because he’s bored or what’s going on. In those interviews he categorically states that he’s not running for president, so it’s probably a stretch to think that this is some sort of a ramp-up phase. But if he’s going to run as an independent, he better file right now. If he’s going to run as a Democrat, he’s got more time — he can wait till Biden’s candidacy collapses or until, you know, something else odd happens.
“Also, I think Hillary … she could show up. She really could.”