Gross, Grantham blast Fed's asset buying

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two top asset managers, Bill Gross, co-founder of Pacific Investment Management Co., and Jeremy Grantham, chief investment strategist at Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo & Co., lambasted the Federal Reserve’s loose monetary policy and said renewed asset purchases are in danger of becoming ineffective.

The U.S. central bank’s bond asset purchasing program “is in fact inflationary, and, if truth be told, somewhat of a Ponzi scheme,” Gross wrote in his monthly investment outlook posted on Pimco’s website on Wednesday.

“It raises bond prices to create the illusion of high annual returns, but ultimately it reaches a dead end where those prices can no longer go up,” said Gross, who manages the world’s largest bond fund.

The Fed is expected to announce another round of large-scale asset purchases when it holds its next policy meeting on November 2-3, after already deploying $1.7 trillion to pull the economy out of the financial crisis.

Gross said the United States is in “‘a liquidity trap,’ where interest rates or trillions in asset purchases may not stimulate borrowing or lending because consumer demand is just not there.”

Gross’s views came a day after Grantham, who helps oversee over $100 billion at Grantham Mayo Van Otterloo & Co., said Fed policy has resulted in “extraordinary destructiveness” and “ruinous cost.”

“I would force (the Fed) to swear off manipulating asset prices through artificially low rates and asymmetric promises of help in tough times -- the Greenspan/Bernanke put,” Grantham wrote to clients on Tuesday. He referred to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and his predecessor, Alan Greenspan.

“It would be a better, simpler and less dangerous world, although one much less exciting for us students of bubbles,” Grantham wrote in a report titled “Night of the Living Fed,” in a play on the traditional scary Halloween season.

Gross, who helps oversee more than $1.1 trillion in assets at Pimco and runs the $252 billion Total Return Fund PTTRX.O, said the resumption of asset purchases by the Federal Reserve would squelch the bond market.

“The Fed’s announcement will likely signify the end of a great 30-year bull market in bonds and the necessity for bond managers and, yes, equity managers to adjust to a new environment,” he said.

Gross said Treasury rates may be “rock bottom,” but there are “safe spread” securities that are attractive.

He and Grantham both see value in emerging markets, with Gross exposed to emerging market debt and Grantham moderately overweight in emerging market equities.

Grantham said he still sees compelling value in U.S. quality companies. “For good short-term momentum players, it may be heaven once again” as they are “so cheap,” he said.

Gross said he also is exposed to high-quality global corporate bonds and U.S. agency mortgages, which are yielding 200 basis points “more than those 1 percent Treasuries.”

Gross did include a caveat: “While our ‘safe spread’ terminology offers no guarantees, it is designed to let you sleep at night with less interest rate volatility.”

Reporting by Jennifer Ablan, Editing by Leslie Adler