The annual Sohn Investment Conference, held at New York’s Lincoln Center Wednesday, is more about picking stocks than presidents. In his 20-minute presentation at the event, DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach managed to do both.
The legendary bond investor whom Bloomberg annointed the “new bond king” last year began his presentation talking about art, negative interest rates and historic campaign slogans. Flipping through slides of presidential candidates’ tag lines (“Feel the Bern,” for example) interspersed between slides about the economy, Gundlach meandered his investing advice, which was simple: “My investment recommendation is you sell the utility index that has been flocked to and go long mortgage REITs, which haven’t done very well.”
But the mortgage bet was hardly the main point of Gundlach’s presentation, which he segued to by saying, “Let’s go back to politics and slogans that are absolutely the opposite of what people are about.” After running through the current presidential election’s erstwhile GOP candidates (once suggesting that Jeb Bush’s “Jeb!” campaign slogan would have been better as “WTF?” then pointing out Ted Cruz’s resemblance to Grandpa Munster), Gundlach ventured his own prediction for the presidential election.
“I think Trump is going to win,” Gundlach said. “I just have a feeling that he’s going to win. I think you need to prepare for a Trump presidency.”
It’s not the first time Gundlach has expressed his bullishness on a Donald Trump victory in the 2016 presidential election, but his forecast takes on much greater weight now that the other Republican candidates, John Kasich and Cruz, have dropped out of the race in the last 24 hours. In March, Gundlach said “You have to entertain the hypothetical,” of a Trump presidency. That was after he told Bloomberg in February that he “kind of” thought Donald Trump would win, “but I find it hard to believe.”
Now, Gundlach has much more conviction in his President Trump prediction, and he made his case at the conference as he might for an investment recommendation.
Addressing concerns that Trump isn’t a true Republican or conservative enough, Gundlach explained that he puts Donald in a political category to the far right of the GOP, which he called “the reactionaries.” “‘Make America great again’ is a reactionary statement,” Gundlach said, referencing Trump’s campaign motto. He then likened Trump to 1980s Republican president Ronald Reagan: “People say [Trump] is not really conservative, but look at Reagan,” Gundlach said, in front of a slide showing Reagan’s ‘80 election campaign button, bearing the tagline, “Let’s Make America Great Again.”
“Trump has a gift for finding the soft spot in people and exploiting it pretty effectively,” Gundlach continued. While he didn’t actually endorse Trump for president or say who he personally would vote for, he also criticized Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, saying her campaign logo, with an arrow to the right, was apt: “With Hillary you’re going sideways.”
All of that, of course, was Gundlach’s long way of getting back to discussing his bread and butter—debt. Posting a slide of U.S. debt to GDP ratios, Gundlach offered his main punchline for betting on Trump for president: “Let’s face it, Donald Trump is extremely comfortable with debt.”
Despite all Trump’s promises to slash the nation’s trillions of dollars debt, Gundlach thinks President Donald would actually end up increasing the U.S. deficit, inevitably taking on more debt to spur economic growth. “I say this is going to go higher,” Gundlach said.