Fed will slash rates in first quarter to avoid ‘hard landing’: Ackman

Hedge fund titan Bill Ackman predicted the Federal Reserve will begin slashing interest rates as early as the first quarter to avert “a real risk of a hard landing” for the US economy.

Fed officials have unanimously decided to keep the benchmark federal funds rate at its current 22-year high, between 5.25% and 5.5%, for the past two policy meetings with little indication that they’ll slash interest rates following the next two-day meeting on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13.

Ackman told Bloomberg that if the Fed keeps rates around the 5.5% range while inflation trends below 3%, thats a very high real rate of interest.

Inflation, meanwhile, has been decelerating. October’s Consumer Price Index which tracks changes in the costs of everyday goods and services — rose 3.2%, a slowdown from September’s 3.7% advance, but a figure Fed Chair Jerome Powell has repeatedly reiterated is still above the Fed’s 2% goal.

Whats happening is the real rate of interest, which is what impacts the economy, keeps increasing as inflation declines, Ackman told Bloomberg.

I think theres a real risk of a hard landing if the Fed doesnt start cutting rates pretty soon, Ackman added, noting that hes seen evidence of a weakening economy.

Traders however, aren’t fully pricing in a rate cut until the end of 2024’s second quarter, in June, Bloomberg reported, citing swaps market data.

The chance of a cut happening in May is some 80%, the data showed.

Though Ackman didn’t elaborate on the “evidence” he sees that the US economy could be headed towards its first recession since 2007, last month’s surge in long-term Treasury yields stoked fears of a hard landing.

At the time, bond yields briefly surpassed 5%, making it more expensive for consumers and companies to borrow money, thereby undercutting the economy and increasing the risk of a recession.

Ackman, whose made his name building up Pershing Square Capital Management’s $17 billion portfolio, insisted to Bloomberg that he’s not convinced the US economy is headed for a “soft landing,” in which the Fed would be able to continue its tightening regime while staving off a recession.

He acted on this belief back in August, when he shorted 30-year Treasury bonds — a move that netted Ackman’s fund a profit of about $200 million.

Representatives for Ackman at Pershing Square did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Economists have also largely predicted that an interest rate cut is forthcoming, especially given a weaker-than-expected jobs report in October, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the US economy added 150,000 jobs.

The unemployment rate is now 3.9%, the agency said, above the Fed’s 3.8% year-end forecast.

Inflation has also trended weaker than central bankers’ estimates as Americans see some reprieve from the Fed’s aggressive tightening cycle, which began in March 2022.

Rates have since increased at a pace not seen in 40 years, and the Fed hasn’t cut interest rates in over a year despite falling inflation.