Howard Marks Says Fed Moves Have Had Coercive Effect on Markets

Howard Marks, co-chairman and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Group LLC, speaks during the Bloomberg Year Ahead Summit in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. The summit addresses the most important trends, issues and challenges every executive will need to consider in 2020 and beyond.
Howard Marks, co-chairman and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Group LLC, speaks during the Bloomberg Year Ahead Summit in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. The summit addresses the most important trends, issues and challenges every executive will need to consider in 2020 and beyond.

(Bloomberg) -- Federal Reserve rate actions have had a coercive affect on the markets and forced investors to move into risk assets, according to Oaktree Capital Group co-founder Howard Marks.

“‘This has required people to invest because they don’t want to sit around with their cash,” Marks said Tuesday in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “They don’t want Treasuries at less than 1% or high-yield bonds at 2%.”

Global credit and equity markets have staged a dramatic rebound since March, when the Fed first took unprecedented steps to steady the economy amid the Covid-19 outbreak. This dramatically cut the amount of distressed debt outstanding and propped up companies that were ailing even before the pandemic hit, depriving value-oriented investors like Oaktree of new targets.

Marks said the current market highs don’t jibe with events in the U.S.

“Why is the market making new highs every day if we have these problems,” he said. “The political division in the country is a terrific one but the greatest one of course is the pandemic.”

Discussing Tesla Inc.’s meteoric rise, Marks said the stock may be too high.

“If you describe an individual not of great needs, he should take some profits,” Marks said. “If he bought Tesla two years ago, he probably has a huge gain. It’s probably a very disproportionate amount of his financial net worth. He should absolutely cut back.”

Oaktree is one of the largest distressed-debt investors in the world, with more than $19 billion committed to credit from troubled companies. The Los Angeles-based fund has thrived in times of economic stress, when prices on bonds of companies in danger of defaulting fall to deep discounts.

(Adds comments on Tesla in sixth paragraph.)