Billionaire Oaktree Capital founder and stock market guru to the stock market gurus Howard Marks said recently he doesn’t support the Federal Reserve’s cutting of interest rates while the economy is still strong and expanding.
As a general rule of thumb, while an economy is doing well you should raise rates so you can cut them when growth slows. And if you’re already near zero — where President Donald Trump wants the rates to be — and a recession hits, there’s nowhere to go other than negative, which the U.S. has never had.
“Our economy is the best performing in the world of major economies. So I’m happy with it and I don’t think I’d be stimulating at this time,” Marks told CNBC. “Ten years later, do you want to cut rates to extend an economic expansion which is the longest in history? Some question — I question whether that’s a legitimate goal.”
Marks attributed the economy’s strength to the U.S. consumer and when asked whether he thought a recession was imminent, Marks said he doesn’t think so at this point.
“It doesn’t feel to me like a recession is imminent,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to go five years without it, so some time, two years from now — something like that.”
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates in July — which also marked the 121st straight month of economic expansion, a record — for the first time in over a decade, and then followed up with a second rate cut in September, despite some members voting against it because they thought rates should remain where they were.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard was the lone member who thought the central bank didn’t go far enough and should have cut rates 0.5%.
Now the Fed is caught in a conundrum: Economic data remains strong but the global economy is slowing from the U.S-China trade war and Brexit, so it wants to get out ahead of things before they begin to weigh on the U.S. economy and cause a recession.
But, as Marks notes, preventing a recession isn’t the Fed’s job — which is to control inflation and seek maximum employment.
“But this idea of preventing the next recession is neither of those two things,” Marks said, “and it is a job that the Fed seems to have taken on now.”