Bridgewater’s Ray Dalio Says Fed Doesn’t Need To Raise Interest Rates

Delivering Alpha - Season 2016
DELIVERING ALPHA -- Pictured: Ray Dalio, Founder, Chairman and Co-Chief Investment Officer, Bridgewater Associates, during The Global Opportunities panel at the 6th annual CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha Conference on Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at the Pierre Hotel in New York -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/CNBC)
Photograph by Heidi Gutman — CNBC

The head of the world’s largest hedge fund has some advice for the Federal Reserve and Janet Yellen: Go on vacation, a long one.

Ray Dalio, founder and chairman of Bridgewater Associates, says the Fed does not need to raise interest rates now. He also said that other financial executives such as JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon who have urged the Fed to raise rates have got it wrong. What’s more, Dalio said bond prices already reflect the fact that the Fed is likely to raise interest rates, which in turn has been digested by the stock market, he explained. That’s already keeping a lid on inflation, and may be somewhat keeping the economy from overheating.

“It’s a risky thing to raise interest rates more than is discounted in the curve,” he added.

Dalio offered his views on monetary policy Tuesday at the CNBC Institutional Investor Delivering Alpha conference in New York, where he spoke on a panel with former U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Dalio’s Bridgewater said this week it had raised $22.5 billion in new funds from investors recently, bringing the firm’s total assets to more than $150 billion.

The Federal Reserve has not raised interest rates at all this year, as fears around Brexit and slowing global growth dashed hopes of the rate hikes that had been expected to follow the Fed’s slight increase in late 2015. Wall Street now puts low odds on an interest rate hike in 2016.

“In my humble opinion, I think the Fed is putting too much emphasis on the business cycle and not enough on the debt cycle,” Dalio said. “And I don’t think they are paying enough attention to how markets react.”

Still, Dalio recognized that much of what has driven the stock market to new heights during the bull market of the last seven years has been the Fed’s monetary policy—including its since-suspended bond-buying program known as quantitative easing and low interest rates. That’s created a precarious position for investors, he said, because in the event of a market crash or economic recession, the Fed has little room to lower rates further, as they are already at historic lows.

“It also means that the risks are so much more to the downside,” Dalio said. “When you can’t lower interest rates. . .globally those forces that were behind are no longer behind us.”

Dalio has been struggling with mediocre performance this year, with Bridgewater’s largest fund, Pure Alpha, down 9.4% through August, while the S&P 500 has risen. But Dalio said that Bridgewater has built its reputation on performing well for investors during rough times when the market is at its worst, such as when it returned 14.5% in 2008 while most stock investors lost money. And based on the inflation of asset prices caused by Fed policy and indications that greater volatility is coming, Dalio expects the market to get rocky—and that Bridgewater will outperform.

“We’re in the middle of that cross-current right now, and the cross-current’s going to change,” Dalio said. “If there’s boring, then we’re in trouble.”

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