By Bill Gross:
“Kill the umpire,” the fan cried to open the 1996 baseball season in Cincinnati, and eight pitches later, the man behind the plate, John McSherry, was dead, all 320 pounds of him screaming for more and more oxygen to feed his spastic heart. He’d been killed by a billion molecules of sink-clogging, Drano-resistant cholesterol that fed on his coronary artery and sucked up his life’s blood like a vampire in the heat of the night. The next day Howard Stern had characteristically railed that the antidote was obvious. It was the same for all fat people: “DON’T EAT,” he howled. As if the ump hadn’t known. The fact was, he couldn’t stop. He loved the taste of food – every sugary, fat-ladened, carbohydrated morsel. The first bite was a special ecstasy, as was the last, and everything in between. The man, it seemed, was a Cuisinart with four limbs.
Franz Kafka wove a tale 100 years earlier that was a mirror image of McSherry’s tragedy. His “A Hunger Artist” described a professional faster – a sideshow freak in 19th century Europe who attracted attention and spare coins by withering away inside a wooden cage. The gapers marveled at his shriveled skeleton, stuck their hands through the bars to nudge his boney ribs, and awed at his resolve to starve himself to the precipice of self-extinction. “I always wanted you to admire my fasting,” confessed the hunger artist, “but you shouldn’t have. The fact is, I have to fast, I can’t help it. I couldn’t find the food I liked. If I had found it, believe me, I would have made no fuss and stuffed myself like you or anyone else.”
..Investors who stuffed themselves on a constant diet of asset appreciation for the past quarter-century will now be enclosed in a cage featuring government-mandated, consumer-oriented fasting. “Non Appétit,” not Bon Appétit, will become the apt description for the American consumer, and significant parts of the global economy, including the U.S. Because this is so, short-term policy rates will be kept low for longer than cyclical norms, and the outlook for risk assets – stocks, high yield bonds, and commercial and residential real estate will involve just that – risk. Investors should stress secure income offered by bonds and stable dividend-paying equities. Consumer Cuisinart consumption is a relic of the past.