Ray Dalio: A Beautiful Delevering

Ray Dalio’s hedge fund management company, Bridgewater Associates runs more than $120 billion. This is what he had to say in a recent interview with Barron’s.

The U.S. is experiencing a “beautiful delevering”:

A beautiful deleveraging balances the three options. In other words, there is a certain amount of austerity, there is a certain amount of debt restructuring, and there is a certain amount of printing of money. When done in the right mix, it isn’t dramatic. It doesn’t produce too much deflation or too much depression. There is slow growth, but it is positive slow growth. At the same time, ratios of debt-to-incomes go down. That’s a beautiful deleveraging.

What is going on in Europe:

We were very close to a debt collapse in Europe, and then the European Central Bank began the LTROs [long-term refinancing operations]. The ECB said it would lend euro-zone banks as much money as they wanted at a 1% interest rate for three years. The banks then could buy government bonds with significantly higher yields, which would also produce a lot more demand for those assets and ease the pressure in countries like Spain and Italy. Essentially, the ECB and the individual banks took on a whole lot of credit exposure. The banks have something like 20 trillion euros ($25.38 trillion) worth of assets and less than one trillion euros of capital. They are very leveraged.

What to expect in the markets:

At the moment, there is a tipping toward slowing growth and a question of whether there will be a negative European shock, and that will favor low-risk assets. But to whatever extent we have negative conditions, central banks will respond by printing more money. There will be a big spurt of printing of money, and that will cause a rally and an improvement in the stock markets around the world. It’s like a shot of adrenaline: The heart starts pumping again and then it fades. Then there is another shot of adrenaline.

Everybody is asking, “Are we going to have a bull market or a bear market?” I expect we will have both with no big trend. Typically, in these up and down cycles, the upswing will last about twice as long as a down swing. We are now in the higher range of the up-cycle.