Mohamed El-Erian – Which Asset Classes are Most Vulnerable

Mohamed A. El-Erian is the chief economic advisor for Allianz SE. Before joining Allianz, Dr. El-Erian held positions as chief executive and co-chief investment officer of PIMCO and president and CEO of Harvard Management Company, the entity that manages Harvard’s endowment and related accounts. Dr. El-Erian was also a managing director at Salomon Smith Barney/Citigroup in London and spent 15 years with the International Monetary Fund in Washington, DC.

Dr. El-Erian has published widely on international economic and finance topics. His 2008 best-seller, When Markets Collide, was named a book of the year by The Economist, and one of the best business books of all time by The Independent (UK). He was one of Foreign Policy’s “Top 100 Global Thinkers” for four years in a row, and is a contributing editor for the Financial Times. His newest book – The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability and Avoiding the Next Collapse – is another New York Times best-seller.

He replied to my questions in an email exchange on November 15.

What is your assessment of the overall health of the U.S. economy? In particular, do you agree with the narrative that the low unemployment rate (4.1%) indicates that we don’t suffer from a lack of aggregate demand?

The US economy is gaining momentum, on a standalone basis and as part of a synchronized pickup in global growth. This process would be turbocharged were Congress able to work with the administration to pass pro-growth measures, including tax reform and infrastructure. And, on the demand side, it would be further aided by an increase in the labor participation rate and higher wage growth in response to the sharp decline in the unemployment rate.

Last month, you wrote that investors must consider whether they are placing implicit bets on three scenarios: endogenous economic and financial healing, long-awaited policy breakthroughs and bigger liquidity waves. I’d like to ask about each of these. You’ve expressed optimism that the U.S. and Europe are on a path to sustained growth. Are you as optimistic about China and Japan?