While a number of experts have already warned that the impact of the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) on the United States is expected to be tremendously negative, a respected hedge fund manager sounded an even louder alarm on Wednesday.
In an interview with CNBC, Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, said that it is imperative President Donald Trump order the complete shutdown of the entire country for 30 days or else collapse is certain.
“What’s scaring the American people and corporate America now is the gradual rollout,” Ackman said. “We need to shut it down now… This is the only answer.
“America will end as we know it. I’m sorry to say so, unless we take this option,” he continued, noting that if the president does save the country from the ravages of coronavirus, he’ll get reelected in November for certain.
He also urged firms to end their buyback programs because “hell is coming.” His prediction came as U.S. banks stop repurchasing stocks so they could put their capital to use helping businesses and consumers instead.
Earlier, as USA Features Media reported, Ackman made similarly dire statements on Twitter.
“Mr. President, the only answer is to shut down the country for the next 30 days and close the borders. Tell all Americans that you are putting us on an extended Spring Break at home with family,” he wrote.
Mr. President, the moment you send everyone home for Spring Break and close the borders, the infection rate will plummet, the stock market will soar, and the clouds will lift. We need your leadership now!
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) March 18, 2020
“The moment you send everyone home for Spring Break and close the borders, the infection rate will plummet, the stock market will soar, and the clouds will lift,” he said. “We need your leadership now!
“No one defaults, no one forecloses. A 30-day rent, interest and tax holiday for all,” he added. “The shutdown is inevitable as it is already happening, but not in a controlled fashion which is extending the economic pain and amplifying the spread of the virus.”
No one defaults, no one forecloses. A 30-day rent, interest and tax holiday for all. The shutdown is inevitable as it is already happening, but not in a controlled fashion which is extending the economic pain and amplifying the spread of the virus.
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) March 18, 2020
‘Every hotel is going to be shut down’
In his interview with CNBC, Ackman said he felt that an economic “tsunami” was coming even before the outbreak of coronavirus.
“Beginning in late January I was getting increasingly bearish and I woke up with a nightmare,” Ackman said. “And my nightmare was you have this virus that replicates and infects incredibly rapidly.”
Getting emotional, Ackman also said that he went into lockdown a month ago to save the life of his father who is immunocompromised.
“The only shared sacrifice that is going on right now is the health-care community, the nurses, the doctors, the people taking care of patients. Those people are making enormous sacrifices,” said Ackman. ”[The president] is not saying storm the beaches of Normandy right now, he’s saying go home, go home, spend a month with your family.”
A White House official contacted by CNBC commented on Ackman’s statements.
“As President Trump has said, we are going to ensure that we take care of all Americans, including affected industries and small businesses, and that we emerge from this challenge stronger and with a prosperous and growing economy,” the official said.
Ackman also says he believes that all hotels around the country will eventually shutter as well.
“Every hotel is going to be shut down in the country. … If we allow this to continue the way we have allowed it to continue, every hotel company in the world is done. No business can survive a period of 18 months without revenue,” he predicted.
Already, the restaurant industry is predicting carnage. In a letter to congressional leaders on Wednesday, the National Restaurant Association said that the industry stood to lose $225 billion over the next three months, and between 5 and 7 million jobs, The Hill reported.
But because for every dollar spent in the restaurant industry generates $2 elsewhere, the real hit to the economy will be closer to $675 billion.