Bill Ackman, founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Investor Bill Ackman said the new omicron variant of the Covid-19 virus could actually give U.S. stocks a boost if symptoms turn out to be less severe.
“While it is too early to have definitive data, early reported data suggest that the Omicron virus causes ‘mild to moderate’ symptoms (less severity) and is more transmissible,” Ackman said in a tweet Sunday evening. “If this turns out to be true, this is bullish not bearish for markets.”
The founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management added that it would be bullish for the equity market and bearish for the bond market.
First detected in South Africa, the new Covid strain has now been found in more than a dozen countries, causing many to restrict travel from southern Africa. The World Health Organization labeled the omicron strain a “variant of concern” on Friday when the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 900 points to suffer its worst day since October 2020.
Covid symptoms linked to the omicron variant have been described as “extremely mild” by the South African doctor who first raised the alarm over the new strain.
Still, the WHO said it will take weeks to understand how the variant may affect diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines.
Ackman’s comments have been widely watched throughout the health crisis and the market’s turbulent ride over the past two years. At the height of the Covid-19 crisis in March 2020, Ackman came on CNBC to warn investors that “hell is coming” and urged President Donald Trump and corporate America to shut down the country for 30 days to contain the outbreak, calling it the only option to rescue the economy.
Days after the interview, Ackman revealed his firm exited the short positions just as the S&P 500 bottomed, pocketing more than $2 billion in bets against markets that month.
In July when Wall Street was grappling with the delta Covid variant, Ackman said it doesn’t pose a significant threat to the economic reopening and he sees interest rates rising on the back of the big comeback.
More recently at the end of October, the hedge fund manager called for the Federal Reserve to begin reining in the support it has provided for the economy during the pandemic. He said the central bank should “taper immediately and begin raising rates as soon as possible.”
Pershing Square manages about $13 billion in assets and the hedge fund is up 27.2% through October and 21.6% net of fees, according to the company’s statements. It followed a banner 2020 during which the fund returned a whopping 70.2% on net.
Ackman has been betting big on a rebound in the restaurant, retail and hotel industries. His top holdings at the end of the third quarter included Lowe’s, Hilton, Restaurant Brands and Chipotle. He picked up Domino’s Pizza shares earlier this year following a pullback.