Gross’s Unconstrained Fund Cut From Morningstar ‘Prospects’

  • Janus fund’s returns have been ‘so-so’ compared to indexes
  • Gross took on fund sole management after Palghat move

Bill Gross’s Janus Global Unconstrained Bond Fund was removed from a list of up-and-coming strategies compiled by Morningstar Inc. because of performance and questions about the fund’s management, the Chicago-based researcher said Tuesday.

The fund was taken off the list “because returns have been so-so versus major bond indexes, and there are questions about the resources behind Gross following the removal of Kumar Palghat as the co-manager,” Morningstar said in a note about its third-quarter 2016 prospects list.

The $1.68 billion Janus fund has returned 4.2 percent since Gross started managing it in October 2014 after his acrimonious departure from Pacific Investment Management Co., where he built the Pimco Total Return Fund into the largest mutual fund with a peak of $293 billion in 2013.

The Janus Global Unconstrained fund is up 5.2 percent this year, outperforming 63 percent of its peers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Morningstar didn’t define “so-so” performance. Its website compares the Janus fund to the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, which is up 5.02 percent this year and 6.93 percent since Gross took over.

Janus spokesman Taylor Smith declined to comment.

Management Changes

Morningstar chooses funds for its prospects list each quarter, selecting ones that are usually less than three years old, small and have new managers or distinctive investing strategies. Funds are taken off the list because they graduate to full coverage based on their growth and performance record or because they were removed following a change, such as new management or different strategy “that lowers our confidence,” according to the report.

Janus Capital Group Inc. announced in July that Gross assumed sole management of the fund after Palghat, who had been brought in to assist in 2015, was put in charge of a new exchange-traded fund. Palghat was also named head of fixed-income in October for Janus and London-based Henderson Group Plc, which announced that they were merging.

Investors added about $90 million to Janus Unconstrained in October, based on the change in assets not accounted for by performance or reinvested dividends, according to Bloomberg estimates. It was the eighth consecutive month of net inflows at a time investors are directing more money from actively managed funds to lower-cost indexed funds.

Gross is “the best fixed-income investor on Planet Earth,” Janus Chief Executive Officer Richard Weil said on an earnings call last month. He also said the unconstrained bond fund category is small compared with other strategies.

Morningstar also removed the Vanguard Emerging Markets Select Stock fund from its prospects list while adding five other new strategies, according to the report. The new additions are: American Beacon AHL Managed Futures Strategy, American Beacon SGA Global Growth, Moerus Worldwide Value, Perkins International Value and Eagle Mid Cap Growth.

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