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Billionaire Bill Ackman says there’s ‘a real risk’ the economy will suffer a hard landing if the Fed doesn’t cut interest rates soon

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman is betting the Federal Reserve will begin cutting interest rates sooner than markets are predicting.

The Pershing Square Capital Management founder said such a move could happen as soon as the first quarter. Traders are fully pricing in a rate cut in June, with the chance of a cut happening in May priced at about 80%, according to swaps market data. 

The Fed began aggressively raising rates in March 2022, leading to the fastest pace of rate increases in 40 years. The central bank has yet to cut rates even as US inflation has broadly slowed this year.

“What’s happening is the real rate of interest, which is what impacts the economy, keeps increasing as inflation declines,” Ackman said in an upcoming episode of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations.

Ackman said that if the Fed keeps rates in the roughly 5.5% range when inflation trends below 3%, “that’s a very high real rate of interest.”

Ackman, 57, founded Pershing Square in 2004. The firm, which manages about $17 billion of assets, made its name in shareholder activism, but Ackman said he prefers to think of his team as “engaged owners” of businesses rather than hard-charging activists.

The firm has made a number of macro bets over the years. Last month, Ackman moved the market when he tweeted that the firm had covered its short bet on US Treasuries.

Ackman told Rubenstein he’s not convinced the US economy is headed for a so-called soft landing, a scenario where the Fed raises interest rates without triggering a recession. 

“I think there’s a real risk of a hard landing if the Fed doesn’t start cutting rates pretty soon,” said Ackman, noting that he’s seen evidence of a weakening economy.

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