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Pimco's Gross sees low, mid-single digit returns in 2014

Pacific Investment Management (PIMCO) founder and co-chief investment officer Bill Gross plays golf on the first hole at Pebble Beach Golf L
Pacific Investment Management (PIMCO) founder and co-chief investment officer Bill Gross plays golf on the first hole at Pebble Beach Golf L

By Jennifer Ablan and Sam Forgione

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund at Pimco, said on Thursday that asset returns will be in the low- to mid-single digits this year despite relatively positive economic growth.

Expectations on return for all unleveraged assets and diversified portfolios that attempt to reduce risk and maximize return will be in the low- to mid-single digits, Gross said in his monthly letter to investors.

Gross said Pimco recommends overweighting credit, particularly corporate credit maturing within 1 to 5 years as it "should hold current levels if inflation stays low."

The flagship Pimco Total Return Fund, which saw a net $3.1 billion of outflows in March and lagged 95 percent of its peers on the month, according to preliminary Morningstar data, has been significantly underexposed to corporate credit in recent months. The flagship Pimco Total Return Fund has $232 billion in assets.

In his letter, Gross mentioned Harry Markowitz, one of the pioneers of modern portfolio theory and a 1990 Nobel prize winner, who recently claimed that alternative investments such as hedge funds rarely offer the diversification benefits sought by their investors.

"Overall, because 2014 should be a relatively positive growth environment, carry trades in credit, curve and volatility should produce attractive sharpe (ratio)/information ratios," Gross said. "Return expectations however, for all unlevered assets and Markowitz generated portfolios will be in the low- to mid-single digits."

Eric Jacobson, senior analyst at Morningstar, said the Pimco Total Return portfolio began struggling in February as the fund was "very underweight U.S. investment-grade corporate bonds. That would have been a detriment given that the overall investment-grade corporate index returned 104 basis points for February, and returns were better the farther down you went in quality."

Pacific Investment Management Co, a unit of European financial services company Allianz SE , had $1.91 trillion in assets as of December 31, according to the firm's website.

(Reporting by Sam Forgione and Jennifer Ablan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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