Some days ago, Business Week pointed out that "Warren Buffett shortened the duration of bonds held by his Berkshire Hathaway Inc. after warning that deficit spending could force inflation higher." As the article further pointed out, twenty-one percent of holdings including Treasuries, municipal debt, foreign-government securities and corporate bonds were due in one year or less as of June 30, Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire said in a filing Aug. 6. That compares with 18 percent on March 31, and 16 percent at the end of last year’s second quarter. The conclusion: "It may be a sign that Buffett expects interest rates to start rising, maybe sooner than the conventional wisdom." Yet very curiously, as we pointed out, another capital markets titan, Bill Gross with his trillion+ in fixed income securities courtesy of Pimco's numerous asset managers, has done precisely the opposite. As the chart below demonstrates, Gross' flagship Total Return Fund has been doing the inverse of Buffett, and has been actively increasing the duration of his bonds over the past two years, with the current blended maturity profile being the most long-end weighted in years: in fact the percentage of bonds maturing in 3 years or less is now the lowest it has been since October 2008. Using the above logic, it would signify that, unlike Buffett, Gross is now more primed for deflation than ever. In the great inflation-deflation debate, this will be the primetime heavyweight cagematch to watch. Between Buffett's empire and Pimco's FI monopoly, one of the two will have to lose. Our question of the weekend is who will it be?
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